10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Conference of the Union for the Protection of Industrial Property held at the Hague, October-November, 1925 - Report by LieutenantColonel Chas. V. Watson, D.S.O., Commissioner of Patents, representing the Commonwealth Government.
Northern Territory - Ordinance. No. 14 of 1926 - Police and Police Offences.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
-If and when the establishment of such an air-ship service is decided upon, consideration will be given to the steps necessary to ensure efficient connexion between the point of arrival in Australia and the other portions of the continent.
Bill returned from the House of Representatives, with amendments.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill provides for the insertion in section 51 of the Constitution of a new paragraph (v) a. - “Protecting the interests of the public in case of actual or probable interruption of any essential service.” It is a necessary power for the Commonwealth to possess, because neither the Commonwealth Parliament nor the Government has constitutional power to take any action when the economic life of the country is threatened by an actual or probable interruption of essential services. Profiting by the experience of other countries, and realizing that the Commonwealth Government has not the power effectively to intervene, even should the very existence of the people be endangered, it must be admitted that there is necessity for an amendment of the Constitution in this direction. Nationally, the Commonwealth must be empowered to ensure the noninterruption of essential services, and that is the aim of this proposal. Without such power no Government can be deemed to be national. Essential services are services upon which industries are dependent for the continuance of their operations without interruption. There can be no doubt as to the meaning of the term. It is conceivable that, internally, a position might arise as disastrous as external war ; yet the Commonwealth authority has now no power to intervene for the protection of the nation. This bill seeks power to deal with abnormal circumstances. Under the Crimes Act of 1926, the GovernorGeneral is empowered, where he is of opinion that there exists in Australia a serious industrial disturbance threatening interstate trade or commerce, to issue a proclamation to that effect. During the currency of the proclamation, participation in, inciting to or aiding a lockout or strike in relation to employment connected with such trade or commerce, or with the provision of a public service by the Commonwealth, are made offences. These provisions, however, only exercise a deterrent effect in advance of the offences, and only enable the Government to act in relation to the offences by prosecuting and obtaining the infliction of penalties. In the case of an upheaval such as that just ended in England, the Commonwealth would have no power to step in to prevent loss and suffering to the public. If essential services - food supply, transport, fuel, &c. - were interrupted, the Commonwealth could do nothing but prosecute in cases where a law, such as that I have already mentioned, had been broken. It is true that a State could assume general control of its own territory and of all persons in it. The State could commandeer supplies, and arrange for rationing the public, but in the case of an extensive strike affecting, say, coal, it would be quite impossible for South Australia, for instance,, to do anything to assist the position. Thus, some States might suffer most severely owing to the withholding of essential supplies from other. States. The Commonwealth has no general power to preserve good order in the community. Section 119 of the Constitution provides that the Commonwealth shall, upon the request of a State, protect it against domestic violence, but this power depends upon the request of the State. This section is based upon the view that domestic violence is a matter which concerns only the State within whose borders it takes place. That is not a true view. In so far as it is merely violence, it may be a true view, but in so far as it leads to an interruption of essential services to the public of other States, it is unsound in principle. The object of this amendment, therefore, is to confer upon the Commonwealth greater power than that of imposing; penalties for breaches of the law - to enable the Commonwealth to intervene, if necessary, for the protection of the interests of the public. The power to protect the community in the case provided for should exist in an effective form. It does not exist in an effective form at present, and it cannot be made so to exist unless it is conferred upon the Commonwealth ; and unless the people approve of this power being vested in the Commonwealth,, the Constitution will leave the Commonwealth Parliament devoid of a power that should be constitutionally conferred upon it.. This power is necessary to enable it to exercise what is the very essence, the raison d’etre, of every national Government ; that is to say, the power to effectively act or intervene in cases of serious disturbances or crises disrupting interstate trade and commerce or threatening the very economic existence of the whole community.
I now desire to refer to one or two occurrences to show that this is not in any sense panic legislation or a bill for an amendment of the Constitution that is not warranted by facts that are within the recent knowledge of the public- of Australia.. It is assumed by those, who oppose the extension of power that a
State is always able, if it is willing, to protect the public; but I want’ to give an instance of a State being unable to protect the public. I refer to the police strike in Victoria. The State Government was quite willing to protect the people on that occasion, but it was helpless, because the arm upon which it depended to afford that protection refused to function. I happened to be in Melbourne on the occasion of that strike. There were only two Commonwealth Ministers here, at that time - the then AttorneyGeneral, Sir Littleton Groom and myself. There was at the time a state of absolute violence. Property was wrecked, and a man was murdered in the streets of Melbourne, so that nobody can deny that there did exist a state of violence threatening the well-being of the community. That violence^ however, was not carried on by those’ who had gone on strike. It was not due to the police who had refused duty, but it was the work of practically the whole of the criminal element in and around Melbourne,, who-, knowing that the power that restrained them- from their evil deeds had been withdrawn, assembled and proceeded to wreck and rob in the heart of the city. Now, it must be remembered that the Commonwealth Government, in order to function, has to have in ©very capital city of Australia certain properties and certain services. It is true that the Victorian Government, when it found the situation developing in ‘ such a way as to be beyond its control, could at that time under the section of the Constitution that I have quoted, have appealed to the Commonwealth Government for protection against that domestic, violence.
– Did it ?
– It did not; but it could have done. By the time the situation had so developed that a state of domestic violence was known to exist, it would have been too late, if that criminal element had been intelligently led, to appeal to the Commonwealth Government. It was the very cupidity of those who took part in those acts of violence that eventually rendered them helpless. I ask honorable senators: to contemplate what might have occurred had these wreckers been intelligently led by some person with malevolent designs against the Government of this country,
Commonwealth and State. If, instead of directing their violence against the shops in the centre of the city, wrecking the windows and stealing the contents of those premises, they had proceeded to break up the telephone exchanges of Melbourne, and had gone to the Treasury buildings - which on the night of that riot were protected by one solitary policeman, and where there were millions of pounds in gold - or had proceeded to the Victoria Barracks some distance away where there were arms and ammunition at that. time, guarded only by an unarmed caretaker, how could the Commonwealth Government even if it had been called upon by the State Government to intervene have protected the community ‘against that domestic violence? I wish to place it on record that on that occasion, the Commonwealth Ministers who were in Melbourne, realizing the danger from ocular demonstration - because we saw ourselves what was being done - took action on our own initiative to bring up armed soldiers and sailors to protect the telephone exchanges and the Treasury buildings. We saw that, if the situation developed, as it appeared to be developing, once those premises were wrecked, and the military barracks were seized, the Commonwealth Government would be powerless to intervene, even if called upon by the State Government to do so. I have reminded honorable senators of a state of violence that has actually existed. It is no imagining of a fevered brain. We have to look stern facts in the face, and realize that what has happened once may happen again. I say, therefore, that this power, which to-day reposes with the States, and has never been abused by them - no honorable senator can say that the States who have the power to-day have ‘ ever used it in a tyrannical fashion - should be vested in the Commonwealth. If the States can be relied upon not to use it unwisely, to the detriment of the liberties of the people, why should not the Government of the Commonwealth be equally trusted with that power? Why should it not be trusted to use it with the same wisdom and restraint as the State Governments have shown in the past ? I now came to another,, and equally unpleasant, episode in our history. It is of more recent date. I refer to the strike of British seamen. We have seen in the State of
Western Australia, not only on that occasion, but on a previous occasion when there was industrial trouble on the wharfs at Fremantle; officers of the Commonwealth who administer Federal law - quarantine officers, Customs officers, and postal officials - prevented by physical force from carrying out their duties. We have seen the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth appealing to the Premier of that State to use the power that is possessed by the State to-day, and was vested in the State at that time, to protect those Commonwealth officers in the administration of Commonwealth laws. We have had the spectacle of the Premier of that State failing to respond to the appeal, and refraining from giving the protection needed. We have seen the Commonwealth law brought into contempt by the action of irresponsible persons and defied by them. Let me give yet another instance of this kind - one that occurred in Queensland during- the British seamen’s strike. In the course of the railway strike there - a strike against the State Government itself - postal officials endeavoured to enter a railway station to obtain the mails from the mail vans for the purpose of carrying out their duties - and were prevented by physical force from doing so. The Premier of that State was appealed to by the Prime Minister ; but again there was failure to give the necessary protection to enable those officials to carry out their duties under the Commonwealth law. I place those instances on record.
– Has not the Commonwealth Government now the necessary power to give effect to Commonwealth law ?
– We have power under the Crimes Act to punish those who interfere with Commonwealth officials carrying out the laws of the Commonwealth ; but I am using these illustrations to show that, as in the case of the Victorian police strike, a State Government may be- impotent - that it may be without the protection necessary, or that, as in the case of the Western Australian and Queensland troubles, it may decline to use its power.
– In the Queensland trouble, could the Commonwealth Government, armed with these powers, have taken over control of the State railways ?
– Not being a lawyer, I am not prepared to answer that question. At all events, the facts, as I have stated them, cannot be gainsaid. They are well known to every one who is conversant with recent history. We must either be in favour of maintaining essential services under governmental direction and control, or against organized government. If we believe in responsible government
– We are against this Government, at all events.
– Does the honorable senator, by that interjection, mean that he believes in mob rule, if he is not in favour of a government that is in office ?
– I believe in trial by jury. That is what this Government denied certain people not long ago.
– The honorable senator is in this dilemma: either he believes in a government, irrespective of its political colour, having the right to maintain law and order, or he does not. I have already shown that in certain circumstances it is necessary that the Commonwealth Government should have the power to step in and maintain law and order, and protect essential services of the community.
– What would happen if a State Government sought toprevent the Commonwealth from intervening?
– At present the Commonwealth Government has no right to step in except at the request of a State Government.
– But what would happen if a State Government resisted intervention by the Common wealth ? We should have civil war.
-If this amendment of the Constitution is agreed to, the people will have declared that the Commonwealth Government shall have power to maintain order and good government. Surely the honorable senator is prepared to trust the Parliament of which he is a member ? Every government enjoying the support of a majority in this Parliament can be trusted to use its power as wisely as any State Government does, no matter what its political colour may be. My other point is that opponents of this proposal declare that the Government wishes to have the right to employ military forces to settle industrial disputes.
– And there is no doubt about that.
– Even in this chamber we get the echo of that objection.
– We have the Minister’s own statement that military and naval forces were employed during the police strike in Melbourne.
-If the honorable senator will permit me to continue, I should like to direct his attention to the fact that every government, no matter what its political complexion may be, if it is to continue as a government, must, if it is challenged by force, meet force with force. Let me also remind him that in the early stages of the disturbance in Western Australia, the State Labour Government, because of political fear, fell down on its job. It failed to maintain law and order, until eventually public opinion became so outraged that it had to arm the police with rifles and ball cartridges, and send them down to the Fremantle wharf to protect the people. That is my reply to Senator Findley. The State Government, realizing that the lawless element of the community, encouraged by the weakness of the Government, was taking the law into its own hands, was compelled eventually to arm the police to deal with them. These are facts which cannot be disputed. There is nothing to be gained by being mealy-mouthed about this question.
– Hear, hear !
– Every Government, if it is challenged by force, must, in the last resort, meet force by force.
– And call out the military ?
– What does it matter whether it is a policeman or a soldier ?
– Does it matter whether the agents of the Government wear uniforms of blue or khaki? Their duty is to protect the people and to maintain law and order. Those who use the sword must expect to have the same weapon used against them. In this country the people enjoy political equality. Are we to assume that the minority is to have an unchallengable right to defy the law and bring government to nought? Is the majority to be denied the right, through the Government, to enforce its will upon the community ? When I hear my friend opposite talking as he is talking to-day, I am wondering whether he and those who think with him have forgotten that democracy means “ Government of the people by the people for the people.” If this form of government is challenged, must the majority bow the knee to the minority? Lincoln would turn in his grave if he could know that such an interpretation was being applied to his principles of democratic government. Let us examine this attempt to make the people believe that if the Commonwealth Government is invested with this power it will proceed to exploit it by calling out the military whenever an industrial disturbance occurs.
– The Government will be able to do that if it has this extended power.
– Yes; but it is no more likely (to do that than Senator Findley is likely to walk out of this chamber and throw himself in front of a cable tram. This country is a democracy. Every man and every woman in it has equal voting power. Governments, like individuals, are not so foolish as to do anything to bring about their own destruction. Therefore, no Government will so misuse this power as to bring about its political death at the hands of the electors when next an appeal is made to them. That is the safeguard. Where people are so free and so enlightened as they are in Australia, no Government can be tyrannical. Paradoxical as it may seem, tyranny is always the result of a misuse of power by a minority. The greatest tyranny in history is the Russian soviet government, which is a minority, and the Soviet maintains its tyranny by armed force. No Government truly representative of the people would ever dare to misuse powers of this kind. The tendency has always been in the opposite direction. Democratic countries are loth to use force. Such action would be taken only in the last resort. We are asking the people to give the Commonwealth these powers, which are similar to those which the States now enjoy. We are not asking for them a moment too soon. I ask my T asm an i an colleagues, who recently have not been altogether enthusiastic supporters of the Government, if they have not realized on many occasions during the last few years, how impotent the State Government of Tasmania is to maintain essential services.
– Why anticipate opposition from Tasmania?
– Within the last six or seven years there has never been industrial trouble affecting Tasmania, without the Commonwealth Government, contemporaneously with an announcement of trouble appearing in the newspapers, receiving a telegram from the Premier of that State asking us to be up and doing. I ask honorable senators to recall the maritime strike of 1917, when, under the War Precautions Act, the Commonwealth had powers similar to those it is now seeking. What happened? That strike, as is well known, was directed against the prosecution of the war. It was a strike to hold up transport and hospital ships.
– And it did for a while.
– Yes. What did the Commonwealth Government do? The States, our friends opposite say, had the power to do everything necessary. Every State Government in Australia appealed to the Commonwealth Government to use its power under the War Precautions Act to commandeer and distribute coal in such a way that every State would obtain a fair share of the supplies available. The Commonwealth Government did as was desired. It arranged that South Australia, which does not produce a single ton of coal, should get the same share of the supplies available as did the State of New South Wales, where it is produced. The Commonwealth Government used its powers to protect the interests of each of the States, and if it had not been forits action in that respect, not only would war services have been interrupted, as they were by the diabolical efforts of those who caused the strike, but suffering and loss would have been experienced throughout the whole Commonwealth. The Government is now asking that the power the Commonwealth then possessed to control the essential services of the Commonwealth shall be embodied in the Constitution, so that, in the event of a crisis of that character, it may be able to take like action in the interests of the people. When the electors of the Commonwealth realize what is desired I am sure they will readily grant the additional powers now being sought. In the circumstances I feel sure the bill will have the unanimous support of the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 16th June, vide page 3119), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I appreciate the importance of this bill, and also of the Constitution Alteration (Essential Services) Bill, the second reading of which the Minister for Home and Territories (Senator Pearce) has just moved. It is to be regretted that measures ofsuch vital import should be dealt with in the hasty manner the Government proposes, thus preventing the Parliament and the people giving them the consideration they deserve. During the three years the Bruce-Page Government has been in office an amendment of the Constitution in the manner proposedhas never before been suggested. Whilst the Minister was speaking on another bill under which it is proposed to amend the Constitution in certain respects an honorable senator opposite interjected that there had just been an appeal toa great jury. I presume the honorable senator was referring to the general election. During the campaign I do not think one honorable senator opposite mentioned the subject of amending the Constitution.
– We all did.
– I did.
– So did I.
– It was not in issue at the elections.
Senatorcox. - It was.
– There was no issue; it was all tissue.
– The amendment of the Constitution was not in issue at the recent general election. The deportation of two Australian citizens was the principal topic discussed on all the political platforms in Australia. That was the cry of all those who are now supporting the Government. During the 1922 elections reference was made by re sponsible leaders to an amendment of the Constitution. The then Prime Minister, in his policy speech, stated -
Time has shown that in certain respects it (the Constitution) is unsuited to the everexpanding needs of this young but rapidly progressing country. . . . The need for amendment of the Constitution has long been recognized. . . The Government being of the opinion that some amendments of the Constitution are necessary, and that those recommended by a convention are much more likely to be approved by the people than any put before them by Parliament, will during the first session of the new Parliament legislate for the election of a constitutional convention.
That statement was made by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when, as Prime Minister, he appealed to the electors for a renewal of their confidence in his Government. He made a definite promise then that in the first session of the succeeding Parliament legislation would be introduced to appoint a Federal convention to consider these matters.
– But he was not returned with a majority.
– Theproposal of the right honorable gentleman was to appoint a convention to review the Constitution with a view to determining what defects, if any, existed, so far as the powers of the Federal Parliament were concerned. Three years have elapsed, yet that promise has not been fulfilled. It is true that a bill was introduced, but, despite the assurance given, nothing more was done in the direction indicated. The present Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), who is the leader of one wing of the composite Government which is to-day controlling the destinies of Australia, in his policy speech in 1922. said: -
The party offers a definite plan of constitutional reform. Its plan of constitutional reform will obtain economy and efficiency in administration. To bring this about we advocate the early holding of a Federal convention to consider the revising of the Constitution.
Dr. Page’s definite plan has, however, not yet materialized. Senator DrakeBrockman interjected just now that Mr. Hughes, after having made the promise to which I referred, was not returned with a majority. That may be so; but Dr. Page is still a member of a Government which has had a majority in both Houses since 1922. While I admit the necessity for an amendment of the
Constitution in the direction suggested by this bill. I contend that this legislation is being rushed through too hurriedly. I repeat that sufficient time to consider the effect of the Government’s proposals is not given to members of this Parliament; and, what is more important, the people of Australia, who will have to decide the matter, will not have sufficient time to understand them.
– That was said in 1911.
– Much greater time was given to the people to consider the proposals submitted in 1911 and in 1913 than is being given to them on this occasion.
– The people have had thirteen or fourteen years to think about it.
– The Government has announced its intention to hold a constitutional session at Canberra next year, and it would have been wise to have left this bill over until Parliament had assembled there. I point out that, even should this bill be passed by both Houses, and obtain the ratification of the people, the necessary legislation arising out of the alteration of the Constitution cannot be put into operation until next year, when, probably, the Seat of Government will have been transferred to Canberra. I understand that it is the Prime Minister’s intention to proceed to Great Britain shortly to attend the Imperial Conference, and that during his absence Parliament will not assemble, so that any necessary legislation resulting from an alteration of the Constitution cannot be introduced until next year. I mention these facts to show the unreasonable haste of the Government in connexion with the proposed alteration of the Constitution. It might be wise to adopt the policy of making haste slowly. There is another aspect of this question. Voting will be compulsory in connexion with the proposed alteration of the Constitution. Many thousands of young people voted for the first time a few months ago. They have little or 710 knowledge of the policies of the various political parties, or of the Constitution. To give them time to understand the position better, it would be wise to delay these proposals until the promised constitutional session. I admit that the Federal Parliament should be endowed with greater powers than it possesses to-day. The party to which I have the honour to belong, realizing the handicap under which the Federal Parliament was endeavouring to legislate for the benefit of the people of Australia, on two occasions appealed to the people for additional power. In 1911, and again in 1913, the Labour Government then in power submitted its proposals to the people; but on each occasion they were defeated. The alteration of the Constitution presents great difficulties, because any amendment must be approved by a majority of the electors and a majority of the States. In 1915 a conference of representatives of the States was called to discuss whether the Commonwealth should ask for extended powers at another referendum, or whether certain powers would be surrendered by the States to the Commonwealth; but nothing eventuated.
I come now to the attitude taken up by Labour towards the present proposals. It is well known that the party has for years advocated what it still advocates - an extension of the powers of the Commonwealth, particularly in relation to industrial matters. During the past 25 years the inadequacy of the powers of this Parliament has been emphasized over and over again. The High Court has frequently declared that we do not possess the power we thought we had to legislate in regard to certain matters. The High Court today interprets the powers of this Parliament. Again and again, when new conditionshave arisen, and we have sought to deal with them by legislation, that tribunal has decided that the Constitution has not clothed us with the power to do so. For instance, we cannot deal effectively with trusts, combines, or monopolies, nor can we protect the consumers from exploitation by them. That matter was determined when the High Court decided that certain provisions of the Excise Tariff Agricultural Machinery Act 1906 wereultra vires. The Commonwealth Parliament cannot guarantee to provide a fair and reasonable wage, or decent working conditions for the workers. The States are unable to deal with most of these vital matters, but if this bill is accepted by the people the Commonwealth Parliament will be enabled to do so. To that extent the present proposals are going a long way towards the goal of extended powers which the Labour party hopes the Commonwealth will ultimately have. A great deal of controversy has arisen since the introduction of this bill. The conservative press is solidly arrayed against it. When I see such powerful journals as the Age and Argus and others of the same calibre opposing these proposals, I begin to realize that there must be some good in them. It was the same conservative press that opposed the proposals of the Labour party in 1911 and 1913. The proposed alterations are evidently not suitable to these journals. From the able legal and constitutional advisers at their command, they must have learned that the proposed amendments of the Constitution will place the class they represent and speak for at a disadvantage. That being so, the proposals must be of advantage to the great mass of the people. The proposed amendment in regard to corporations provides for the alteration of section 51 -
That proposal is almost, identical with the amendment suggested by the Labour party in 1911 and 1913, and, if granted by the people, will give this Parliament a power which it has not hitherto possessed. It was thought when the Constitution was framed that the provisions of section 51 would enable the Commonwealth Parliament to deal with corporations, but it was not long before the High Court upset all calculations in that regard, and declared that the Federal Parliament did not possess this power Trusts are largely formed of companies acting in combination. As a matter of fact, corporations are commonly termed companies. It is useless for the Commonwealth to make laws dealing with trusts and combines, while at the same time it cannot control those who comprise these trusts and combines. We have many instances of trusts and combines operating in Australia. One calls to mind shipping, coal, banking and other combines. They all work for their own ends, and to the detriment of the people. Unless we can deal with the individual members of trusts and combines, whether they be companies or individuals, we cannot legislate effectively with the combines themselves. I think the proposed amendment will give this Parliament the necessary power to do so. No one will deny that companies and individuals do combine to take control of industries for their own personal advantage and gain, and to the detriment of the people. They also fix prices. The Labour party has all along contended that power to control prices should be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. When speaking on the Customs Tariff Bill I said that our ideal was not only to protect the manufacturers by imposing duties on imported goods, but also to protect the workers engaged in the factories, and, at the same time, see that the consumers were not charged exorbitant prices. That is the policy of new protection, but according to a decision of the High Court the Commonwealth Parliament does not possess the powerto enact such legislation. If the power now asked for is given by the people, it will go a long way towards carrying into effect the Labour party’s policy of New Protection.
– Competition is the best price fixer.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. This Parliament had an experience of price-fixing during the war, and I think it should have the power to fix prices. I come now to the proposed amendment in relation to industrial matters. One proposal is to insert the following new paragraph in section 51 of the Constitution : - “ (xl.) Establishing authorities with such powers as the Parliament confers on them with respect to the regulation and determination of terms and conditions of industrial employment and of rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters and things ; “
Objection is taken to that proposal, on the ground that Parliament will be delegating its authority to another body, but 1 see nothing wrong in it. Parliament often delegates its authority to another body. The State Parliaments delegate to industrial tribunals their power to deal with industrial matters. If this extended power is given to the Commonwealth, and Parliament creates a body to which it delegates its authority to deal with industrial questions, it can always give a direction to that body, and will always have the power to unmake that which it has created. Personally, I should not like to see this Parliament become an industrial tribunal. I think it would be almost impossible for it to do so. It can always give a direction to the authority it creates. It never gives away its .power. It merely delegates it to some other body, and whatsoever it delegates it can always recall. The proposal in the bill is to set up a tribunal with delegated power to carry out the laws as prescribed. It was interesting yesterday to hear the Minister’s effective reply to an interjection by Senator Lynch as to whether the authorities could compel a person to run a business at a loss. I would put the other aspect of the matter, and ask Senator Lynch whether they could compel a man to work at a rate of .wage that would not give him a reasonable margin to enable him to maintain himself and those dependent on him in all human comfort. Of course, it would be unreasonable to expect that to be done. I gathered from the Minister’s speech that the Parliament could practically direct the authority to do as it wished.
– The Parliament can delegate authority under such terms and conditions as it thinks fit.
– The Minister said that the Parliament could direct the authority to bring about a 44-hour week throughout Australia, but he added that it would be unwise to do so. That to my mind is the whole crux of the position. The fact remains that the Parliament will have the power to give such a direction, thus proving that whilst it will delegate its authority, it reserves to itself the full power of direction. At the present time the Commonwealth Parliament cannot make laws respecting industrial matters, confined to a State. This has been decided by the High Court. Moreover, this Parliament cannot prevent an industrial dispute. It must wait until a dispute arises, and extends beyond the boundaries of any one State. There the danger lies, and that is why the Federal Arbitration Court, although it has done splendid work, can only adjudicate, under the present law, after a dispute has arisen. When the proposed additional powers are granted, the authorities to be set up will have power, not only to settle disputes, but also to prevent them. It seems to me that their prevention is of greater importance than their settlement. Once the wheels of industry cease to revolve, injury is done to employer and employee alike. If, by means of the proposed alteration of the Constitution, it will be possible for both sides to confer prior to a cessation of work, much good will result to the community. I believe that, no matter who wins in an industrial dispute, the worker suffers all the time, and suffers most. I have always been a strong advocate of arbitration; but there are times when, after all constitutional means have been exhausted for the prevention of an industrial disturbance, there is nothing left but the drastic weapon of the strike. When the Labour party asked for this additional power in 1911 and in 1913, I laid stress upon the points that I have just mentioned. There must be power to prevent disputes by dealing with their cause, and there must be power for the Commonwealth Arbitration Court to make a common rule, to which power the conservative press is opposed. Some people, perhaps unconsciously, confound this proposed alteration of the law with another bill that will be under discussion shortly, namely, that providing for an amendment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act to give life tenure to the judges of the Arbitration Court. Even if the proposed alteration of the Constitution were not made, the Arbitration Court could do all that some people think will bc done under the measure. I do not wish to anticipate a bill that is about to be introduced; but I hope that honorable senators, at any rate, will not confound the amending arbitration bill with the proposed alteration of the Constitution. The authorities to be set up may he appointed for life, and whilst I am not a keen supporter of life tenure of . such offices, I think that in industrial matters it is necessary to have it in order to give the court judicial powers, so that whatever award is given the court can enforce. The other sub-clause is for investing the State authorities with any powers which the Parliament, by virtue of paragraph xxxv. of section 51 has vested or has power to invest, in any authority established by the Commonwealth. That brings me back to my former statement that the State authorities need not necessarily be abolished if this alteration of the Constitution is made. Any Government, no matter what its political colour, that attempts to abolish those authorities will make a very grave mistake. There are wages boards in Victoria. An industrial tribunal was recently set up in New South Wales over which Mr, Justice Piddington presides. We have the Queensland Industrial Court, and an industrial court in South Australia. In Western Australia a court was recently established, presided over by Mr. Justice Dwyer who, a day or two ago, gave a decision in relation to the basic wage. In the event of the people endorsing the proposal in the bill it would be wrong for any government to abolish those State authorities. I began my speech by pointing to the danger of haste, and I shall close by making another appeal to the Government not to rush this measure through the Parliament, and not to ask the people hurriedly to consider it. After all, we are legislating, not for to-day, but for years ahead. Therefore, I urge the Government to postpone the appeal to the people until the Parliament meets in the new Federal Capital, when the constitutional session will be held. We could then revise the Constitution thoroughly, and, having given the people ample time to consider the effect of the various proposals, we could then submit them for their endorsement.
– It was evident to me, and I am sure that it must have been to others who took part in the last election campaign, that the industrial legislation which the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) then announced in his policy speech, would include proposals for granting to the Com monwealth Parliament these increased powers under the Constitution. Therefore, I am prepared for this bill, and have no hesitancy in supporting it. In Macbeth’s words, I say -
If … ‘t is done, then ‘t were well
It were done quickly.
That, I think, is a reply to the remarks about haste that were made by Senator Needham. These proposals have been before the public for a great many years, and I do not think it is desirable to delay any longer their submission to the electors. They should be put fairly and squarely before them, and thepeople should be invited now to give their ultimatum, “ Yes “ or “No.” I was hoping that other questions would be remitted to the people at the same time. It is well known that I am an advocate of the creation of new States when the time is ripe and opportunity offers, and I had hoped that that matter would be included among the proposals upon which the people would be asked to vote. However, I am looking forward to the constitutional session at Canberra next year, when that subject and others of importance will, I trust, be considered. No doubt, proper attention will then be given to the whole question of the amendment of the Constitution, and it will be necessary to hold another referendum. I believe that the framers of the Constitution expected that frequent alterations would be necessary, and so they inserted the necessary machinery for that purpose. I admit, with Senator Needham, that it is difficult to get the people to consent to these constitutional amendments, but still I think it is our duty to submit them to the electors. It has been suggested that the members of this chamber, being the custodians of State rights, should be careful how they vote on the bill. To me it does not seem that anything is being taken away from the States by these proposed amendments, which seek only an extension or amplification of powers already vested in the Commonwealth. The bill does not propose to interfere with the sovereignty of the States. Therefore, I shall have no hesitation in supporting it. It has been urged, also, that these proposals are in the direction of unification. Being myself a “ new-stater,” unification is anathema to me. I should be the last to support the measure if I thought its acceptance by the people would have any tendency in the direction of unification, which embodies all the dangers of centralization, and certainly would not be counselled by me for a moment. Coming to the bill itself, clause 2 provides for the creation, regulation, control, and dissolution of corporations. As a business mau I welcome this, because it will make a uniform company law possible. I am sure that the framers of the Constitution intended that the Commonwealth should legislate in respect of companies, bankruptcy, and banking : but Parliament, according to the High Court, has not the power under the Constitution to pass a companies law. I interjected the other day when the Minister (Senator Pearce) was moving the second reading of the bill, that certain of the decisions of the High Court were difficult to follow, and that if some of the cases were submitted to the High Court as at present constituted, possibly entirely different decisions might be given. However, I believe that the Government is acting wisely, in putting the matter beyond dispute by asking the people for full power to legislate with respect to certain matters, including a uniform companies law. Some time ago it was suggested by a mimber of the business people that, in order to get the benefit of a uniform companies law, the States should surrender their existing rights. I was one of a deputation that, waited, on the Prime Minister (Mr. Brace) last year to ask him if he would approach the States in this matter. The right honorable gentleman gave the deputation a sympathetic hearing, but he very properly pointed out how difficult it would be to get the six State Governments to surrender their rights in respect of company law, or to agree to a uniform law being passed by each Parliament, for that is really what would have to be done.
– A draft bill was prepared, but no two States would agree to it.
– I could easily imagine that would happen, and for that reason I welcome this bill, which will make it possible for the Commonwealth to legislate in the direction indicated. I agree, also, with its other provisions to increase the powers of the Commonwealth in conciliation and arbitration matters. In recent years there has been much overlapping, so action in this direction is absolutely essential. Many years ago, in Queensland, we were working under a carters’ award made by the Federal Arbitration Court in Melbourne. It was obtained at very great expense to us, because we had to send our delegates all the way from Queensland. After it had been in operation for some time, an award more favorable to the men was made by the Queensland court, with the result that they at once took advantage of it. “We all know also that Queensland shearers, under the State award-, are in a much better position than are shearers in the other States under the Federal award. Naturally, the shearers in Queensland took advantage of the State award. I think the framers of the Constitution intended that the Federal Arbitration Court should deal only with the shipping industry. It has been suggested that they had in mind the shearing industry also, but shearing is really a State industry, in much the same position as other industrial occupations, whereas shipping unquestionably is interstate in character. However, to-day practically every industry may appear before the Commonwealth court, and if they are all brought under Federal jurisdiction it should be possible- to do away with much overlapping in awards. Since our experience of the wages board system in Queensland was not at all satisfactory, I was surprised to learn that it was functioning so well in Victoria. We had three representatives each of the employers and employees on a board, but our trouble was to get. a satisfactory chairman. We endeavoured to secure an impartial .man, but invariably he was regarded as partial by the side which he did not favour. The system proved so unsatisfactory that we welcomed the establishment by the Liberal party of the industrial court. Its first president, under a. subsequent Labour Government, was Judge McCawley. At the outset, his decisions were not satisfactory to employers, but they were viewed with favour by employees1. Later, I am glad to say, his decisions were acceptable to both parties, but unfortunately he died, and we lost a very promising industrial judge. At present we have a tribunal known as the Board of Trade which, from the employers’ standpoint, is unsatisfactory, because it is composed entirely of nominees of the Labour party. The president was SolicitorGeneral in a Labour Government
Mr. Gillies is an exLabour Premier, and Mr. Dunstan, the third member, was the general secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland. Naturally enough, the employers feel that they are not getting fair treatment from this tribunal. Therefore, I favour the proposal in this bill to establish independent authorities, and I agree with the principle of appointments for life at a good salary, because men charged with that responsibility should be placed beyond temptation. I am not particularly keen about the appointment of lawyers. Some years ago, before industrial laws were passed in Queensland, the Chambers of Commerce throughout the State were asked to consider the matter, and the Rockhampton chamber expressed the view that the ideal men for the position would be persons of wide commercial training, of marked probity, and equipped with a, judicial mind.
– That combination is not found very often in business.
– I admit that it is difficult to get commercial men with all those qualifications, and if they were unobtainable I should then favour the appointment of men belonging to the legal fraternity.
– What particular advantage is likely to follow from the appointment of lawyers!
– No particular advantage as far as I can see, but if we cannot get men of wide commercial training and with judicial minds, then - I hope my legal friends will hot feel offended - I should prefer the appointment of men from the ranks of the legal profession.
– They should be able to analyse evidence.
– I agree with the honorable senator, and I should not like them to be influenced overmuch by precedent which, I think, can be carried too far in industrial matters. It is undesirable also that legal gentlemen should be employed in arguing cases before these industrial tribunals. We should have men who are familiar with the industries concerned. I think this method would be less expensive and more satisfactory.
– I doubt if it would be more satisfactory.
– I am quite certain it would. The cases should be presented, by men with a complete knowledge of the industry concerned. Under sub-paragraph xli. of paragraph c, it is proposed to invest State authorities with certain powers. I hope that the State tribunals will be allowed to continue, or that the Commonwealth will establish tribunals in each State, because obviously it is impossible for awards affecting Queensland and Western Australia, States of immense distances, to be made in Melbourne or Canberra. Our experience in Queensland is that the present Federal system is expensive and unsatisfactory, and I should like, therefore, to impress on the Government the desirability of establishing tribunals in each State.
– They are already in existence.
– I mean that we should utilize the tribunals already in existence. I am anxious to know if the Attorney-General can intervene on behalf of the public, because it is the people who are very often most affected.
– That is the whole purpose of the proposed amendment.
– Who is to cause the Attorney-General to act ? Everybody’s business is nobody’s business. The consumers represent an important section. If the Attorney-General is to intervene, who will take up the matter?
– Any organized body may do so.
– When the Minister (Senator Pearce) replies, I should like him to clear up that point, which is an important one. At present I am somewhat in doubt as to the practicability of giving effect to it. It is right that the Government should have power to control trusts and combines which are not carrying on their undertakings in a proper manner. If it is found that they are exploiting the public - that is the term so frequently used - they must, in common with others, expect their operations to come under review. During the many years I have been a member of merchants’ associations and employers’ federations, I have never known nor supported any action detrimental to the public interest.
The operations of trade unions, which were frequently referred to during the election campaign, should also be under supervision. I do not suggest that they should be under the control of the Government; they will be controlled, as at present, from within by their own members. The Government is seeking power to exercise only healthy supervision over their rules and funds, which, I think, will be in the interests of the trade unionists themselves. Employers’ associations must also expect to be under supervision, but so long as they are not acting to the detriment of the public, both will, of course, be allowed to carry on as at present. It is only a matter of supervision, such as has been most beneficial in connexion with friendly societies, and which in the direction proposed should have a similarly good effect. I trust the bill will pass the Senate, and that when the proposals are submitted to the- electors they will give an unmistakeable vote in their favour.
– This bill can be regarded as rather an old friend- in this chamber, since this is about the fourth occasion during the last fifteen years on which a proposal of this description has been brought before Parliament. The question, of amending the Constitution has been before the electors for many years, and, although the effort has been persevered with on. three previous occasions, it has not been attended with success. The present attempt differs vastly in every sense from the three preceding ones. Fm instance, we find men of opposing shades of political thought coming close together, and advocating the adoption oi these proposals, which in itself is. a healthy sign. I do not bewail the prospect presented to the people of members of political parties being so much opposed to each other, and so jealous of their own particular policy, that the views held, or opinions expressed, by others are to them almost anathema. Some people, however, are dissatisfied. To that view I am totally opposed, for the simple reason that in the political control of a country one must allow room for the many opinions of others. Any party or individual that is irrevocably bound to the one opinion, does not understand the ordinary rudiments’ of liberty. With a proposition such as this, there is an opportunity to stir up the cauldron of public opinion, and to reach a point from which the electors can regard such political proposals from a different aspect. A good stirring-up is an excellent antidote to stagnancy. This is a very important measure, and one to which I feel inclined to give a new title. I suggest that it be termed “ An act to develop a more enlightened perspective of the problems that impede our national progress and a. deeper knowledge of the methods required for their solution.” If such a title is not acceptable, I suggest that the act be termed “An act to encourage common sense in public deliberations and more tolerance in the discussion and settlement of public questions.” I welcome ‘the bill, if only for the good it will do in getting men outside themselves, and of encouraging a more wholesome and much desired kind of diffidence in the political faith in which they have lived for some time. It is a strange expression, but it is time, because of the spectacle presented to us. In this instance, men who formerly opposed the proposals are now advocating them, certainly in a modified way, and
Ave have others who advocated them, also in a modified way, asking us now to believe that they are opposed to them. A wholesome convulsion has been brought about in the public affairs of this country, the ultimate result of which, we hope, will be that the country and the people will benefit. After all, that is the desideratum. One objection raised is that this measure is being introduced owing to a lack of political courage. What is political courage? We are showing that we possess a liberal amount of political courage, because, for the fourth, time, we are asking the electors to accept proposals which, they have previously refused to adopt. A courageous act may be defined as that of a man going out to fight a battle against great odds. The Government is going to ask the electors to adopt proposals which, on three different occasions, have been rejected. It is only men of courage who would dothat. We shall be up against the difficulties always experienced by those who* have anything to do with moulding or directing public opinion.
– Does the honorable senator think that the proposals will receive the support of the people on this occasion ?
– I do, in spite of any little sprag some may endeavour to put in the wheels of the coach. On the present occasion, I believe the Government will win. We should not, however, shut our eyes to the fact that there are many difficulties in the way, and that many are needlessly afraid of the results which may follow. Some of the difficulties anticipated will doubtless materialize, but they will surely be overcome.
It is an important task to amend the Constitution. In regard to public questions the average man is inclined to leave matters as they are. The average citizen, to a large extent, is more concerned with his own affairs than with any proposed amendment of the Constitution, which does not come within the ambit of his own personal activities. He is more engaged with the affairs of the world, and in fighting for a crust. I do not propose to endeavour to disturb the equanimity of such gentlemen, other than to advise them that an amendment of the Constitution in the direction proposed is in their interests and those of the whole Commonwealth. The present situation should cause every citizen to put on his considering cap. Our industrial position is almost chaotic. Our arbitration system is difficult to understand, and ‘ its results are anything but satisfactory. It is, therefore, the duty of the chosen representatives of the people to give a lead to the electors in these matters, and to direct them on the right course in this considerable sea of difficulties. It has been truly said by the sponsors of this proposal that arbitration at present is not by any means the accepted and acknowledged method for settling industrial disputes. Most members of the employing class in the past were opposed to arbitration. Their number, however, is dwindling. Many of those in whose interests arbitration, as a means of settling disputes, was established are opposed to it. Arbitration was introduced chiefly in the interests of the workers. Some of us can recollect the time when there was no arbitration system; when industrial disturbances were settled by the brutal and unsatisfactory means which had operated for centuries in old world countries. We know what happened then when a strike took place. During the great maritime strike, numbers of persons endeavoured to intervene between the contending parties, but the only successful mediator was starvation. When the wives and children of the strikers were reduced to a state of actual starvation, the strike came to an end. We do not want that mediator to intervene again in this country. When, in order to prevent a repetition of those conditions, arbitration as a means of settling disputes was first advocated, it had a mixed reception. There were some who realized that the .time had arrived when reason should supplant force as a means of deciding industrial questions. The bulk of the workers were in favour of the new method, as were also a few employers. The latter were men who, at all times, were ready to do the fair thing by their fellows, requiring no force to compel them to do so. Unfortunately, however, the majority of the employers were opposed to arbitration. The third section, I refer to the general public, was, for the most part, silent. They were the people who suffered most from the continual disturbances that took place, and they realized that some saner and more humane method of settling disputes than had existed in the past was ncessary. In time, through .the efforts of a combination of workers, employers, and members of the general public, public opinion was formed in favour of arbitration as a means of settling industrial disputes. That was 25 years ago. Since then, many changes have occurred. The very section of people in whose behalf arbitration was introduced now makes it difficult for arbitration to continue as a means of settling disputes. Some of them during recent years have acted in a manner which would justify the conclusion that they were bereft of their senses. The result of this and other causes is that, to-day, the system of arbitration is at the crossroads. Because of a conflict between Federal and State jurisdiction, arbitration, as a method of settling industrial disputes, is in an unsatisfactory position. It has not the whole-hearted .support of the people. It must be shifted from that position.
Three courses are open to us. First, we may leave the settling of disputes to the States, the Federal authorities withdrawing from this sphere of authority. Secondly, we may endeavour to make a clear line of demarcation between the jurisdiction of the State and Federal authorities, leaving the latter in the field. That would leave us in practically the same position as we are in to-day. The third alternative is to vest arbitration in one authority. That, practically, is what this bill proposes. It is clear that we cannot adopt the first expedient. We cannot hand the working of our arbitration system to the States because each would necessarily have regard first to its own interests, and would so shape its policy as to serve them. Any advantage sought by one State for itself would, in selfprotection, be followed in turn by the other States. The result would be greater confusion thannow exists, and arbitration as a system of settling disputes would be brought into contempt.
– Is that not the position to-day?
– I admit that the present position is almost intolerable. The second alternative is to define the spheres of the States and the Commonwealth.
– There must be a recognition of the varying conditions throughout the Commonwealth.
– Any system which provides that awards shall have effect within areas defined by arbitrary boundaries, such as the boundaries of a State, is ridiculous. Awards should be based on other considerations, such as climatic and local conditions. It would be ridiculous, for instance, to make the same award apply to workers in Cooktown, in Queensland, as to those in Bendigo, in Victoria.
– That is what the Public Works Department does. In Tasmania the poles for carrying telephone wires are covered in the same way that poles in tropical areas are covered, to prevent them from splitting.
Sena tor LYNCH. - I was referring to the necessity for arbitration awards being regulated by other considerations than State boundaries. It would be wrong to make the same award for persons engaged in the business of slaughtering animals in Wyndham, in Western Australia, and Kensington, in Victoria. I have referred to the danger of further delay. There is too much at stake. Arbitration as a means of settling disputes has come up for judgment. If, as a system, it fails to receive the support of public opinion, as it is in danger of doing today, it must be sacrificed, and we must fall back upon the old expedient to which I have referred. It is interesting to note that the great bulk of employers are supporting these proposals. I have received a communication from the Chamber of Manufacturers, in Perth, in support of them. I have here, also, a publication entitled Liberty and Progress, which contains the following : -
To make the Commonwealth Parliament the ultimate source of industrial power, and at the same time to provide that the exercise of the power shall be intrusted to an independent non-political tribunal as embodied in the Commerce and Industry Referendum, is the shrewdest and most practicable proposal that has yet been made for the cure of our industrial ills.
Looking through the advertisements in this publication, I see such names as the New Zealand Loan and Mercantile Agency Company Limited, the Australian Mercantile and Finance Company Limited, and W. Angliss and Company Proprietary Limited, which are sufficient to show the nature of the organ and the section from which it receives support.
– Some employers are associated with the Single Purpose League. They believe that arbitration is a curse.
– I have already referred to that section of the community which is standing in its own light, and whose action tends to belittle arbitration. I refer to the employees.
– It is the action of the employers which has brought arbitration into disfavour.
– That is not so, as the extract from Liberty and Progress, which I have just read, indicates. I do not think it is of much use to hark back to the past, unless history can supply a good objectlesson. But I am particularly interested in pointing out the folly of these men who are standing in their own light and doing theirbest to bring the Arbitration Court into contempt. As one who took a share in ripening public opinion to the point of accepting arbitration, I am availing myself of the opinion of men who are not now following the advice of those leaders of the Labour movement who helped to father this reform.
– Labour did not institute this reform. It was instituted in South Australia by Charles Cameron Kingston, and in New Zealand by Mr. Seddon.
– There is a minority in trade unionism which, to-day, is opposed to arbitration, and, if my remarks on this occasion will bring them back to a saner mind and a realization of the valuable work done in the past by the leaders of Labour, good will be done. If I refer to actions of the past, I do so in order that good may come of it. Some time ago the local correspondent of the London Times sent the following to his newspaper : - :
There is much discontent with the arbitration system, which official Labour roundly declares to be a failure.
Mr. Grayndler, secretary of the Australian Workers’ “Union, was asked for his opinion on this statement, and he said -
The statement is quite contrary to facts. There has not been such a declaration from official Labour. By far the majority of unions in Australia favour arbitration; but a strong minority is against it. If the defects in the act were removed, or the powers of the court enlarged, arbitration would prove a great gain to the nation as a whole.
I cite Mr. Grayndler’s statement for the edification of those men who, although in the same political camp, are, apparently, rushing to the conclusion that it would be wrong to accept the Government’s present proposals. I am pleased to be in possession of that opinion given by a leading member of the Labour party, and the active mouthpiece of a body of workers numbering 150,000. To their everlasting credit be it said that the members of the Australian Workers Union have been a buttress and pillar to the work of arbitration in this country for many years. I contrast Mr. Grayndler’s attitude with that of others who have done their level best to bring arbitration into ridicule, because it shows that we have in this country a solid backing of public opinion in favour of sustaining arbitration amid opposing shades of public opinion. This leads me to the further remark that, unless a change is made and arbitration is taken out of the sea of turmoil in which it is at pre sent, that body of public opinion will be subject to erosion, and may. dwindle until arbitration reaches that state of contempt when the people will not have it, and will strike our arbitration laws off the statute-book. It is, therefore, to the interests of the workers of this country to see that the proposed amendment of the Constitution is accepted by a very substantial majority. Notwithstanding the efforts of some of those false friends to whom I have referred, to destroy it, arbitration has done a mighty lot of good in many directions. One can enumerate the good it has done in a negative way to show its public beneficence. A great deal lies to its credit in the work it has actually done to prevent strikes, but we cannot enumerate those occasions. They remain like the unlisted legion. We do not know actually what they are, but we do know that because of the existence of the Arbitration Court men have been prevented from coming into unpleasant conflict. Mr. Justice Higgins has placed on record the fact that from 1914 to 1917 there were 1,647 strikes in Australia, but there were only three of these that could possibly be entertained by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, over which he presided. The fact that 1,647 strikes occurred in Australia within three years is not a very good commentary on the State industrial tribunals as compared with the Federal court, and the figures are all in favour of the application of the Federal system limited, harassed, and hamstrung as it was during those years.
– Those figures cannot be correct, because the Federal Arbitration Court covers the whole sphere.
– During the whole existence of the Federal Arbitration Court there have been only seven interstate strikes.
– Mr. Justice Higgins also tells us that in five years, from 1914 to 1919, there were only three disputes which fell within the jurisdiction of the Federal court, and were unaccompanied by strikes.
– There was a much larger field for the State courts to cover.
– But even giving that in, there is a wide disparity between three disputes and 1,644.
– There were 350,000 unionists registered under the Federal court, and 500,000 registered under State courts.
– I come now to point out how the Arbitration Court has suffered rather than gained from interference by governments and parliaments. Without that interference, it would not have experienced so much trouble. On occasions the Federal Government, with the cognizance of the Federal Parliament, has stepped out of its recognized sphere to take part in another field of activity not properly belonging to it. In my opinion, the Government has a recognized ambit in which to move, and if it moves out of it into a judicial sphere it certainly abandons a traditional rule, and is guilty of an act that public opinion will never endorse. I recognize that it was very sorely pressed to do so on one occasion to which I refer, but I shall quote one example of the harm done by Government interference with the functions of the court. It brought about many strikes that would not have occurred but for that interference. In 1919, when the war was over, and there was no excuse on the ground of the exigencies of war to prompt the Government for what it did, it interfered during the progress of a seamen’s strike, and a Minister assumed the role of arbitrator. I protested against it at the time, but was unsuccessful in getting sufficient backing in my protest against the action of the Government. The seamen, who were working under an award of the Arbitration Court, violated that award by going on strike and holding up shipping. Faced with the necessity of getting them back to work, the Government set up a special tribunal to settle the dispute, and that tribunal was a Minister who fixed such rates and conditions as upset the whole scheme of rates and conditions throughout the maritime trade, and created no end of trouble and disruption in that trade. For example, firemen’s wages were raised to £16 a month, while the engineers working alongside, who have to go through a special training in order to follow their avocation, were only earning £15 10s. a month. The natural result was that, although the seamen’s strike was settled, the action of the Government of the day led to unrest and dissatisfaction in other branches of the maritime trade.
First of all, the engineers went out on strike, and the ships were once more held up. The engineers rightly discerning that the seamen had gained by their unlawful action, followed their example. It is said that if you take one foolish action, you must follow it up by a second. The moral is not to take the first foolish step. It was the first foolish step the Government took that produced the inequality between the two branches of the maritime trade. Of course, a second tribunal had then to be created to raise the wages of the engineers to £19 10s. a month, and when that was done, as the result of the Government’s unwarranted interference in the maritime trade, it is easy to imagine what effect it had among the multifarious trades throughout the country. Others immediately said that they must be treated in a corresponding way, and the result was that the Arbitration Court was brought into disfavour.
I support the present Government’s proposals, so that future governments, parties, and parliaments may be prevented from taking similar action. There was no warrant at the time for the action of the Government of the day, and I protested at the time that if the Minister could not raise the wages of all sections of the community, he had no right to lift those of one section. But I could do no more than record my protest. I shall mention yet another of the many instances of interference. The coal-miners in New South Wales have a habit of tearing up awards as if they were of no moment or benefit, although much labour andanxiety has been associated with the creation of the various industrial tribunalsappointed in this country. The coal-miners occupy a strategic position, and are able to hold up society. They set out on one of their manyjaunts in 1917, when the country was at war. Although working under an award, they suddenly decided to use their power to the utmost. The Federal Government desired the President of the Commonwealth ArbitraCourt to take the matter in hand, but he refused to do so unless given a free hand to weigh the evidence and come to a decision. I admit that the government of the day was in a sore plight regarding the transportation of material required at the front. Thereupon the Prime Minister appointed a special tribunal, and the coal-miners obtained all that they had demanded.
By such misplaced generosity these men and others are encouraged to seek time after time the same favours as those granted in the first instance. The miners solemnly . agreed not to cause further industrial trouble. They undertook to work without interruption while the war was in progress, but that promise was deliberately broken. When the tramway dispute over the card system occurred in New South Wales, those miners went on strike again. When one false step is taken, the community is bound to suffer.
I cannot understand any honorablesenator refusing to advocate on the public platform the granting of the power proposed to be taken. It will result in the establishment of an authority that will decide industrial questions without being bullied and overridden by any parliament or government of the day. Unionists, such as the coal-miners and those engaged in the maritime trade, who go on strike because they are conscious of the power they can wield, inflict a sort of mild blackmail on society. Time after time they sacrifice the interests of the community in order to attain their own selfish ends, and on one or two occasions they have been aided by the government in power. Of course, the public has suffered.
– And is suffering now.
– Yes. These unionists, acting so selfishly, throw the whole industrial machinery of die country out of gear. Besides, a wrong relationship has been set up, as between employees ii> one industry and another. This has come about for want of a- correlated system. I remember the Premier of Western Australia (Mr. Collier) citing the case of a tram conductor in Perth who was receiving higher wages than a man working in the deep levels of the Great Boulder mine. If our industrial laws are to be placed upon an enduring basis, we must secure the services of the best brains in the country to establish standards that will be observed throughout the Commonwealth, instead of having the varying standards that obtain to-day. In 1907 Mr.’ Justice Higgins declared that the basic wage should be fixed, not in accordance with the ideas of employers or employees, but according to the normal needs of a person living in a civilized community. But now another standard has been set up. A commission in Queens land has pronounced that the formula of Mr. Justice Higgins is obsolete. According to this new standard, wages should be fixed in proportion to the ability of an industry to pay them. It is suggested that a basic rate should be fixed for various industries, irrespective of the standard laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins. In view of these conflicting formulae, it is necessary for an authority, of such talent, wisdom and wide knowledge of affairs as are required to enable it to deal with this very important matter, to determine a method that will mete out even-handed justice to all employees and employers in Australia. Disputes, dissatisfaction, and anomalies are rampant in the industrial field to-day, on account of the imperfect system in operation. This measure proposes to introduce for the first time co-ordination of industrial standards. Without system, no lasting benefits can be conferred.
– Unless we have system, there will be more trouble.
– Undoubtedly; If it comes’ to contrasting the importance of preserving State rights with that of perfecting our industrial laws, I am in favour of placing the latter in the foreground for definite solution. The intelligent solution of. this problem has taxed the ingenuity and ability of men throughout the centuries, and it is still unsolved. We are now trying to bring it, at any rate, into the region of solution. The people of the Old Country have never had faith in arbitration. Mr. Ramsay MacDonald has said that arbitrators cannot be trusted. They are equally unpopular in the United States of America.; but Australia has’ reached a level in evolving a system of industrial .arbitration that- has never been approached by other countries. We should cast aside all considerations calculated to prevent us from conferring upon the community the benefits contemplated under this bill. Here is an opportunity to place our industrial system on a sound and enduring basis, lifting it from the quagmire of hopeless confusion in which it has floundered. The shearers in Queensland work under a 44-hour week, whilst similar workers employed south of the State boundary are required to work 48 hours a week. No employer can tell from week to week what he will be required to pay under the conflicting awards given in the various States. We should not hesitate to accept the Government’s proposal for solving our greatest of domestic problems - the proper and reasonable adjustment of conditions in the industrial field.
While, generally speaking, I agree to the taking of the proposed power, there are one or two exceptions to which I intend to refer. I do not hold that the bill should apply to State instrumentalities. The States are autonomous, and any interference with those instrumentalities that have become traditional would be unwarrantable. The State rights heard of in the times of Alexander Hamilton, when the States of America fought one another so bitterly, are different from those of our own. At that time the popular conception was to have the States keep the ring, and let individual effort have a free field and unfettered liberty for its purpose. But a change has come over not only public sentiment, but also public conviction. It is felt now that the State should step down and give up the ring-keeping occupation; it should move into the industrial arena, and do something in addition to preserving law and order. Now, in Australia, we have the States doing many things that minister to the vital necessities of the people. Who would abolish, for instance, our State railway systems? He who would advocate such a policy would be regarded as a lunatic. Our State-owned water-works are equally valuable in supplying necessary public services. Western Australia, for the purpose of fostering the pastoral industry, established meat works at Wyndham for the treatment of the produce of that area ; private enterprise having failed to meet the requirements of the people in that district. I need not emphasize the fact that this service cost the taxpayers of that State a good deal of money, but great and direct benefit was conferred upon the hardy pioneers, who would have became insolvent - some of the small settlers especially - had it not been for the assistance, afforded by the State. But there is another school of thought in this country that wishes to go a step further, and completely displace private enterprise. It is a modern variety which, up to the present, has not given, substantial proof of the truth of its dogmas. I do not hold with them in the least. I believe in testing the ground before giving way to new ideas, but I say that with this qualification : that if State enterprises had been encouraged and supported by a hearty co-operation, as they should have been, we should have had a vastly different story to tell to-day. There would not then be the existing gulf dividing precept from example, expectation, and realization. Let me quote as an example our experience with the State Implement Works in Western Australia. Mr. Bath, the responsible Minister of the day, and I went into that question, and were satisfied that the establishment of the works would relieve the farming community in Western Australia, of 25 per cent, of existing charges on their implements. A large area was set aside on the banks of the Swan River for this State activity, and huge workshops were erected there. What happened? In that case it was the unexpected that happened. The men engaged in the enterprise were the first to strike a deadly blow at it, with the result that to-day, as far as my knowledge goes, the industry might as well be non-existent for al] the effect it has upon the prices charged to the Western Australian farmers for their implements of production. We have to recognize that public opinion is unalterably in favour of certain enterprises being entrusted to State Governments. This being so, to allow any outside authority to fix the rates of wages to be paid to employees in say, a State tramway system in Western Australia, a power scheme in Tasmania, and a kindred industrial activity in Queensland, would be a blot on an otherwise commendable proposal. I am not in favour of this dead-level life-destroying policy of uniformity. Up to a certain point, and in certain directions, uniformity is, uo doubt, justifiable. Bub to require industry in all the States to conform to one monotonous standard, will be to undermine initiative and enterprise, which are essential to States as well as to individuals.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT. - Order ! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
. –The announcement in the press, prior to the. introduction of this measure, that the Government intended to submit proposals for the alteration of the Constitution on the lines of the bill now before the Senate, came as a great surprise to all sections of the community. It has been the* invariable practice for Government proposals to be outlined iu the GovernorGeneral’s Speech. There was no> mention of this bill in the speech delivered by His Excellency the Governor-General .at. the opening of this Parliament. We have also been informed by the pa/ess that the Federal Parliament will meet at Canberra next year, the official opening being fixed for the 9th May ;. and we have been informed, also, that the first session there will be devoted to a consideration of the amendment of the Constitution. In the circumstances, Lt is not to be- wondered at that the average citizen is puzzled at the action of the Government in introducing these amending bills, because a referendum is a costly and difficult undertaking. It goes without- saying that unless a bill for the alteration of the Constitution has practically the united support of all parties in the Parliament its adoption by the people- at the referendum is extremely problematical. The Government, it is true, has a majority in both chambers. . Therefore, we may take it that this bill which is designed to alter the Constitution will be carried. But Ministers and every one else know that a Government majority in both chambers will not of itself ensure the carrying of a referendum. The people want to- know why the Government is rushing these bills through. Up to the present no member of the Government, either here or’ in another place, has convinced me or any one else that there is any urgency. We know, of course, that the Constitution is not working as smoothly as we would like it to do. But we know also that the builders of the Constitution - if I may be permitted to apply that term to the men who drafted it - were special,17 qualified for the task they had to perform, and I venture to say that they never anticipated that there would be so much litigation, vexation, and much inconvenience as there have been in obtaining decisions of the High Court concerning constitutional issues. Honorable senators will recollect that the belief was held that Parliament had authority not only to impose Customs duties, but also to legislate to ensure that persons engaged in commercial and industrial undertakings that were protected by Customs duties should pay their employees fair and reasonable wages, and that the prices charged for the commodities or articles should be reasonable. Parliament so legislated in the Customs Tariff (Agricultural Machinery) Bill. It was generally believed that that was a. perfectly constitutional act, but when it came before the High Court for review it was declared to be ultra vires. I need not trace the history of the innumerable cases that have been tested before the High Court from time to time, nor need I repeat what other honorable senators have said in regard to many of the decisions of that tribunal. We know that serious differences of opinion have been disclosed amongst the legal fraternity concerning certain legislation that has been passed. Last year, for example, legal gentlemen supporting the Ministry in this chamber and in another place declared unhesitatingly that a certain law then passed was constitutional. It was an act, as we well remember, under which it was proposed to deport two men whose presence in Australia was supposed to be inimical to the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth.
– The High Court has not yet said that the act is ultra vires.
– I did not say that the High Court had said anything of the kind. But, in effect, the High COUrt informed the legal luminaries associated with the Government that the course they had pursued in order to accomplish their objective was not the right one.
– That has nothing to do with the Constitution.
– The action of the Government was tested in the High Court, and I am surprised to hear it stated that a constitutional question was not involved. If the action of the Government was constitutional, why was acase brought before the High Court, which interprets the Constitution ? The High Court decides all matters affecting the Constitution.
– And other matters, too.
– Only about 10 per cent, of the cases dealt with by it involve constitutional questions.
– I doubt the accuracy of that statement. The action taken by the Government, under the amended Immigration Act, cost the taxpayers of Australia some thousands of pounds, and, in addition, placed the Government in a most humiliating position. It has been suggested in some quarters that the amendment of the Constitution should be regarded as a non-party matter.
– A very wise suggestion, too.
SenatorFINDLEY. - As a member of the Labour party, and as one who was associated with the Labour administration which a few years ago submitted to a referendum of the people certain amendments of the Constitution, I, with others, expressed a similar view. “We expressed the hope that the proposals then submitted to the people would be treated on nonparty lines. Although there were members of the then Opposition who agreed that the Labour proposals were necessary for the peace, order and good government of Australia, some of them were afterwards found to be among our strongest opponents. They said that they would not trust a Labour government with such powers, although an absolute guarantee had been given by the Labour Government in the pamphlet issued for and against the proposed amendments. What was the guarantee? In that pamphlet the Labour party said, ‘ ‘ An amendment of the Constitution is a great national question. To whom will this amendment give power ? To the people. How will these new powers be exercised? . As the people decide. We then went on to say, ‘ It may be asked what guarantee have we that the Labour party will not use their powers for purely party purposes.” Our answer was, “ They have the best guarantee in the world. The Labour party before using any new power will pass an initiative and referendum bill which gives the electors power to. veto any measure of which they do not approve. That is the complete answer to criticisms.” We added-
The amendments will give the people more power to protect themselves, and the Initiative and Referendum Bill willplace the control of these new powers - and all others - absolutely in their hands. They will thus beable to say, “ Thus far and no farther “ whenever they think fit.
We had absolute faith in the people. We gave the people an assurance that if they clothed the Commonwealth Parliament with the authority we sought, and the Labour party was in power, the new powers would not be exercised without the approval of the people.
– Why does not this Government do that?
– Because they do not like to trust the people. At a meeting held in Melbourne the other day addresses were delivered by men engaged in various spheres of business, and according to apublished report, an exMinister of the Crown in this State, a barrister by profession, said that the Nationalist party had opposed all the proposals for an amendment of the Constitution for the last fifteen years, and was going to be consistent on this occasion by vigorously opposing these at the poll.
– So far as I know nobody gave him authority to speak for the Nationalist party.
– He spoke as a representative man. The State Premier of Victoria (Mr. Allan), who occupies his present high position by the votes of the Nationalists in the State Parliament, is a representative authority. In the opinion of the Nationalists he is apparently the person best fitted for the position he occupies. And what did that gentleman say? He said, “ This proposal is a move in the direction of unification.”
– Which shows that he does not understand it.
– He is a little out of date.
- Mr. Allan said that if the Federal Parliament were given these powers the State Parliament might as well go out of existence. What are these proposals? It is just as well that we should understand them.
– I do not think the honorable senator does.
– Whatever opinions Senator Drake-Brockman might express on this subject I feel sure that I could find other lawyers who would be absolutely at variance with them. These proposals of this Government are altogether different from those which the Labour party put forward a few years ago. We proposed to delete these words from section 51 of the Constitution -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
In substitution we proposed to insert-
Industrial matters, including - (a) labour; (b) employment and unemployment; (c) the terms andconditions of labour and employment in any trade,industry, occupation, or calling; (d) the rights and obligations of employers and employees; (e) strikes and lock-outs; (f) the maintenance of industrial peace; and
There is a definite reason why the Government should be given power to deal with such matters.
– Which of those are not included in these proposals.
– I shall show the honorable senator later. The Labour party stated in its pamphlet that -
High prices and low wages are the immediate cause of industrial unrest. This cause exists here and elsewhere, and is not peculiar to Australia. It arises out of modern civilization, and must be dealt with. We desire to get at the cause of industrial unrest, and we want to remove this cause as far as we can. We want to provide a means for the impartial settlement of industrial disputes. We believe we are on the right road, and that step by step we will bo able to remove the causes of industrial unrest by ensuring to the workers a fair and reasonable reward for their toil, and to the consumers protection against extortionate trusts.
Is there anything in this bill that will enable the Government to go to the root of industrial unrest?
– The power is being sought.
– The Government’s proposal is to bring about more peaceful relations between employers and employees, and to prevent overlapping of awards.
– Is not the absence of that the cause of industrial unrest?
– The Government will not attempt to get at the cause.
– What is it?
– One does not have to go far to find it. Under our present system of society, we shall continue to have industrial unrest. With the competitive system industrial unrest is inevitable. We are living under a system of commercial cannibalism. There are indications of bigger and bigger businesses. Trusts, combines, and monopolies are springing up everywhere.
– We propose to deal with them
– The power which the Labour party wants is the power to nationalize monopolies.
– But the Labour party did not seek that power.
– We endeavoured to obtain the nationalization of monopolies. If honorable senators were to place themselves in the position of the man earning £4 10s. or £5 a week, with a family of five or six to keep, rent to pay, clothing and other commodities to purchase, sickness to be provided against, and other expenses to be met, they would then know what it was to have a feeling of unrest. While large numbers of Australians are on the bread line, others are amassing huge fortunes. Yet the Government does not propose to interfere with the institutions that are exploiting the community. Senator Drake-Brockman said that he did not think I would be able to tell him the effect of these proposals. Myreply is to refer him to the speeches of the Prime Minister and Senator Pearce, when introducing this measure in another place and in this chamber, and to ask the honorable senator what they mean.
– I shall probably be able to tell the honorable senator.
– We are told that the Arbitration Court will be the final tribunal to deal with industrial matters. That is plain. We are told also that it is possible that there will be a right of appeal from the lesser tribunals to that court respecting certain questions. I ask Senator Drake-Brockman if he can tell us whether that will be so?
– The statement is perfectly clear.
– Then there might, or might not, be a right of appeal. We are told, further, that the question of a further appeal from the Arbitration Court to the High Court will have to be determined; that when these authorities are created the parties concerned in a dispute may be called to a round-table conference; that in certain States it may be necessary to appoint a court composed of judges of that State; and that it may be necessary to establish a court in Western Australia. Senator Pearce tells us that it is not proposed to wipe out the State tribunals. The Prime Minister says that if the Commonwealth is given the powers which it seeks it is not proposed to wipe out immediately the machinery established in the several States for the settlement of industrial disputes. . I ask honorable senators to notice the difference between their statements. Senator Pearce says that the State tribunals will not be wiped out; the Prime Minister adds the word “immediately.”
– He did not say that.
– The Prime Ministersaid that we were not seeking exclusive jurisdiction.
– In view of these conflicting statements, it is difficult to know the true position.. If Senator Pearce is right, and the State tribunals are not to be wiped out, then they must continue to exist; and while they are in existence other authorities will be created.In addition to the State tribunals, there will be other authorities, and in Western Australia probably a court in addition. It would appeal that it all depends on how the machine works. In any case, we are told that it is possible that from any decision arrived at by a round-table conference, there will be the right of appeal to the Arbitration Court, and that whether there shall be a further right of appeal from the Arbitration Court to the High Court will be determined later. The position is not clear. What power will these local authorities have?
– Whatever power Parliament gives them.
– Certain powers are exercised to-day by various State tribunals. If, in the Government’s opinion, those tribunals are fulfilling their purpose, there will be no occasion to appoint additional tribunals. The real reason for the appointment of additional authorities is that, in the opinion of the Treasurer, the State tribunals are doing things of which the Government does not approve.
– That is the honorable member’s misconstruction of the position.
– It is not. The Treasurer said that justification for the bill was to be found in the action of the Government of New South Wales in passing legislation providing for a working week of 44 hours, such legislation being in conflict with an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
– The New South Wales Parliament is not a State tribunal:
– It is a State institution, and it passed a measure providing for a 44-hour week. Because that law was passed, the Treasurer says that this legislation is necessary. It will give to the Government the power to create theauthorities to which I have referred, and which will have power to convene round-table conferences. Will those authorities have the same powers as are now exercised by wages boards and other State tribunals, or will they have greater powers ? In the event of a dispute occurring in an industry which is working under an award of the State, will the local authority bo clothed with absolute power to compel the principals in the dispute to attend a conference ? And, if such a conference is called, what power will be exercised by the new authority?
– The honorable senator is discussing a bill that does not yet exist. This discussion would be proper in connexion with the Arbitration Bill when it comes before us. Until we get power to bring in an arbitration bill to deal with these matters, our first duty is to get this bill through, and the amendments accepted by the people.
– Both the Prime Minister and Senator Pearce dealt at length with the matter to which I am referring. When we are dealing with the authorities to be appointed, it is just as well for us to understand what powers they will be authorized to exercise.
– As I have already said, they will exercise whatever powers Parliament is pleased to give them.
– Senator Pearce, said that it is not proposed to wipe out the State tribunals. Senator Drake-Brockman now adds that if these proposals are carried the authorities to be appointed will exercise whatever powers Parliament gives them. Those powers might mean the elimination of the tribunals which exist to-day in the different States for the fixation of hours and conditions of work. Let us suppose that there is a dispute in an industry which is working under a State award. According to this bill, the new State authority would have power to convene a round-table conference. It might mean. that the award under which they were working would be varied by the State authority.
– The honorable senator’s whole argument is based on supposition.
– If the existing awards be varied, and if power be taken from the State tribunals, where is the necessity for continuing those tribunals? The people have a right to understand the nature of the proposals on which they are asked to vote.
– The honorable senator himself does not understand them.
– It is all very well for Senator Bar well to say that I do not understand the Government’s proposals. If I do not, I hope that he and other legal gentlemen in this chamber will enlighten me.
– I have been trying to do that by interjection.
– The honorable senator is doing very well, considering that he is speaking against his conscience.
– There is no occasion for the honorable senator to say that. These new authorities will be given greater powers than have been exercised previously in relation to industrial matters.
– How does the honorable senator know that?
– If they are not to be given greater powers, there is no reason for their appointment. I understand that they are to be appointed for the purpose of settling industrial disputes and preventing industrial unrest. Should a strike occur in any State, there can be no doubt that the new authority will have greater power than any State tribunal.
– The authorities will have the powers that Parliament gives therm - no more and no less.
– The Government knows what power it intends to vest in the new authorities.
– The Government has in mind the power of the bayonet.
– That was clearly indicated by Senator Pearce, when speaking in connexion with another measure to-day. I want to be better informed in regard to these proposals. The country wants to be better informed upon them. The average citizen is more or less mystified with them ; and when we get lawyers at sixes and sevens in regard tothem, is it any wonder that the man in the street asks you pertinently what they mean, and what the Government intends to do if they go through ?
– Parliament and not the Government will deal with them.
– I know that; but the honorable senator’s interjection brings me back to a statement I made earlier in the day. The Parliament may do this or that, but we are told that both Houses will adjourn very soon because the Prime Minister in an official capacity will be engaged for several months in important business overseas. It is problematical whether there will be any further meeting of Parliament until we assemble at Canberra. In those circumstances, what need is there for hurrying these proposals through?
– Is the honorable senator using the good old tory argument, “The time is not yet ripe?”
– The time is fully ripe for necessary alterations of our Federal Constitution ; but I have never been a party to dealing with these questions in a hotch-potch way. They should be dealt with seriously, clearly, and in a businesslike way.
– But the honorable senator is giving no proof of the need for delay.
– According to public statements, the Government proposes to put forward further alterations of the Constitution. That will mean more and more expense. Suppose the people approve of the present proposals, what immediate action can be taken? Parliament will not assemble during the absence of the Prime Minister.
– In the meantime the Government will go on with the work of preparing the legislation the Commonwealth will be empowered to enact.
– Nothing can happen during the Prime Minister’s absence. Therefore there is no need for forcing these alterations through now. Why cannot we wait until Parliament assembles at Canberra, and then deal with the whole of the necessary amendments of the Constitution ?
– Brockman. - Why should we wait until we get to Canberra ? Does the honorable senator disagree with Sir Arthur Robinson, and contend that Canberra would be a better atmosphere for the discussion of amendments of the Constitution, removed as it is from the influence of business men, newspapers, lawyers, and such-like objectionable things ?
– I hope that Senator Drake-Brockman will not do me the injustice of associating my views with those expressed by the gentleman to whom he has referred ? From the time I have been in public life, I have more than once taken a course that has not been altogether popular. I refer to the fact that I have never given a vote against the establishment of the Federal Parliament at Canberra, because I believe that compacts ought to be kept.
– I was merely surprised to find the honorable senator and Sir Arthur Robinson on the same side on this question.
– Senator Findley has not yet said what side he takes.
– It does not matter to the Government what others say or do in regard to any measure submitted by it, because, having the numbers behind them. Ministers are certain that any bill they bring down will go through.
– It is a matter of interest to know what side the honorable senator is taking on this question.
– If the Leader of the Senate wants to know my opinion, let me emphasize that I am in favour of necessary alterations of our Federal Constitution. They have been too long delayed. I believe that the Commonwealth should be clothed with the powers asked for by the Labour Government when it submitted referendum proposals to the people. I believe in all the proposed amendments contained in the pamphlet entitled, “ The Case for and Against,” which was issued prior to the referendum in 1913; but those proposals were not identical with those of the present Government.
– The honorable senator has not shown where they differ.
– The trade and commerce proposals of the Labour Government are not included in this bill. We are told that the trade and commerce powers are to be considered when the Parliament assembles at Canberra. To me those powers are just as important as some of the others the Government is now seeking. Are they not more important than this eleventh-hour consideration which Ministers seem to have for the proper conduct of trade unions?
– As a matter of fact, this bill deals very largely with trade and commerce powers.
-But not in the way that the Labour Government proposals dealt with them.
– I must leave it to the lawyers of the chamber to see where the actual difference lies. When I heard Senator Pearce trying to draw an analogy between friendly societies and trade unions, I said that there was no analogy between them. As a matter of fact, their objects are quite dissimilar. Friendly societies are sick and benefit organizations, whereas trade unions are for mutual co-operation and advancement.
– Just like friendly societies, they combine for the benefit of their members.
– And who is better fitted to manage and conduct their business than the members of the organizations themselves? Yet the Government says, in effect, “You are not competent; we will help you to put your organizations on a more democratic basis.” Have the members of the Government ever helped to bring some of these organizations into existence? To some Ministers trade unionism is anathema, yet they profess now to be extremely anxious to confer some benefit on trade unionism. They seem to think that the funds of the organizations are not used in the way the members would desire.
– There is little doubt about that in the case of the Seamen’s Union.
– Just about the same doubt as there has been in regard to Governments of the past. Did not Dr. Earle Page say that members of one Government were “getting away with the loot.” But no one took that remark seriously. Neither do people regard as serious the statement that funds of unions are not being used in the way members of the unions would desire.
– The statementI made in regard to the Seamen’s Union has been admitted by Messrs.Walsh and J ohannsen.
– Let us deal with this question apart from individuals. The assumption is that the funds of the organizations are not put to legitimate purposes, and the Government proposes to have a Government audit of them. Senator Pearce was associated with trade unionism for many years. I ask him if there was any doubt about the fitness or qualification of the men appointed by the organization with which he was associated to audit its funds.
– Our society had to conform to the Friendly Societies Act.
Sitting suspended from 6.3O to8 p.m.
– At the dinner adjournment I had almost concluded my remarks on this measure. I was asking what justification the Government had to seek power to legislate for the compulsory auditing of union accounts. Is the Government very concerned about the union movement throughout Australia, and is it apprehensive that the contributions of the members of the different organizations are not utilized in a manner that is beneficial to them? Trade unionism is recognized by law. It has had to surmount many obstacles in years gone by. When it was numerically and financially weak anti-Labour governments were apparently not concerned about it. Its business is transacted in a way of which the majority of the members approve. Contributions are made from time to time, levies are frequently imposed, and the moneys paid are utilized for the purposes for which the unions exist. All at once this Government seems to be seized with a sudden spasm of sympathy for trade unionism, and it desires to place it, we are told, on a better basis.
– Will the honorable senator not assist the Government ?
– Those who will assist the movement in future are the men who have been associated with it since its inception in these southern seas. We know the feelings of honorable senators opposite regarding legitimate unionism. They have always been opposed to preference to unionists. That matter was the main issue on the occasion of one election. There were some people in the community who wanted to enjoy the benefits conferred as the result of the self-sacrificing efforts of the pioneers of the trade unionist movement, but who refused to contribute towards the upkeep of the organizations. The Government of the day, of which Senator Pearce and I were members, established preference to unionists; but a succeeding government introduced a bill to abolish it, although it could have abolished it as an act of administration - by a mere stroke of the pen. The bill was deliberately introduced for the purpose of securing a double dissolution, and that was brought about as the result of the measure being twice rejected by the Senate, where Labour had a majority.’ The country was appealed to, and the electors rejected those who were against the principle of preference to unionists, returning a Labour majority in both Houses. Now we have a Government in power that wants to make the people believe that it is extremely anxious to put trade unionism on a more stable basis than that on which it now stands. Where is the evidence of it? It has never gone out of its way to bring about a better feeling between employers and employees. The present Government desired, not long ago, to deny to men in the industrial sphere a right that is given to the most hardened criminal. This strengthened the suspicion that the Government was no friend of trade unionism or of the workers generally. What was behind the statement made by the Prime Minister in the other branch of the legislature that there was no statutory provision to safeguard the rights of individual members of trade unions, and ensure that their moneys were employed as they desired ? Is the Government anxious to inquire into the working of every trade union throughout Australia?
– It desires to prevent union officials from making off with the funds belonging to the members, as they have done in the Seamen’s Union.
– The members of unions know how to deal with defaulters. They can manage their own affairs in their own way, and they do not seek the assistance of the Government. Then we are told that the Government does not desire to hamper unions in their “ legitimate “ function of collective bargaining. “Why the qualification ?
– Is it not a legitimate function ?
– The impression is conveyed that some organizations are not legitimately engaged in the function of collective bargaining. That is the inference to be drawn from the remark.
– Can the honorable senator read that into the statement?
– I do.
– Then he could read anything into it.
– “ Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.”
– Honorable sena: tors on this side are suspicious of the objects of the Government, and have every reason to be so. [Extension of time granted.] What I have said about the Government’s opposition to ‘legitimate trade unionism cannot be denied or disputed. When the Government asks that these proposals should be supported by all sections, it is not unnatural that some sections should hesitate before giving to an Administration, that is not sympathtically disposed towards Labour, powers about which they are doubtful.
– But the powers, are to be given to the Parliament.
– The Government of the day is anti-Labour, and the Nationalists would not grant these powers when there was a Labour Government in office.
– Now the honorable senator adopts a similar attitude.
– It is not unreasonable that some sections of Labour take the view that the Government now in office is not to be trusted, especially in view of the action taken by it a short time ago. I said, at an earlier stage of the debate, that Labour had always been favorably disposed towards necessary alterations of the Constitution. Nobody can say that the Constitution is - to use a hackneyed term - up to date. All sections of the community are agreed upon that.
– They have not said so.
– The great bulk of the people have. Certain people in Australia, after the Constitution had been approved of, said that they would not under any circumstances have voted for it if they had understood that it did not provide for the abolition of the State Parliaments. Of course, there was no provision of that kind in the measure, but that was the reason why some people voted for it. Some who can be numbered amongst those who voted in that belief now say that if the present powers are conferred upon the Parliament it will be a move in the direction of unification. Personally, I think that the Government is moving in that direction. There are some members of the Cabinet who would, if they had the power, abolish the State Parliaments.
– What is the honorable senator’s opinion ?
– I have very strong opinions about some of the proposals of the Government, and they will be made known later on. To one of those proposals there will be vigorous opposition, especially when the speech made by the Minister (Senator Pearce) this afternoon is read by the public.
– Is the honorable senator proceeding to discuss the other bill?
– No. I should not be in order in doing so; but the Minister, in his second-reading speech, referred incidentally to matters that are not in this bill. His remarks had application to other proposals to be considered by the Senate after this measure has been disposed of, and I said then that we on this side of the chamber would be found vigorously “opposing some of them. We are agreed that the Constitution should be altered in certain directions. We are also of the opinion, at least I am, that the Government would be well advised to postpone consideration of these matters until the people have been fully informed as to their true meaning, and their effect upon the Constitution.
– A section of the Labour party agrees with the proposals.
– And if newspaper reports be correct an important section of the Nationalists outside this Parliament is strongly opposed to them.
I remind the honorable senator that Parliament itself will not determine these issues. They must be settled by the people. If there is division in the- ranks of Labour concerning these propose! amendments of the Constitution, there i= a greater division in the ranks of the Nationalists.
– We have not discovered yet where the honorable senator stands.
– I stand where every Labour member stanch? - for the furtherance of the Labour movement.
– But Labour is divided on this issue.
– For what period does the honorable senator suggest that consideration of these proposals should be adjourned?.
– I think they should be considered at a special convention. The Government has announced its intention to submit further proposals for the alteration of the Constitution, and if we are to be guided by newspaper reports, Ministers are anxious to carry these amendments now, because there will then be an incentive to submit further proposals’ tj the people. If, however, these questions are defeated, there will be no hope of further proposals being submitted.
– And the defeat of these proposals will mean that Labour will have no chance of securing amendments of the Constitution.
– I agree with the Leader of the Senate that although the referendum may be a democratic institution, in actual practice it has provedto be conservative. This has been our experience on many occasions. In Queensland there was a referendum for the abolition of the Upper House- -
– The result of which the State Labour Government ignored.
– Subsequently the Labour Government, responsible for the abolition of the Legislative Council, was returned to power by a majority of the people.
– Not by a majority of the people.
– It was again returned to power with the approval of the people of Queensland. What hope is there of these questions being carried when they are submitted to the people if there is not a better understanding between all parties? We want the mature judgment of the electors in regard to these matters. A vast suan of money will be expended on the referendum. As a majority of the newspapers apparently are opposed to the amendments, and as political meetings are not so well attended nowadays as they were a few years ago, this appeal to the people will be very much in the nature of a newspaper referendum. Since there is a serious division of opinion on the subject, and since the Labour party will vigorously oppose some of the proposed amendments, there does not seem to be much chance of the proposals being carried. We do not want some of them to be adopted, as they are exceedingly complicated and drastic. Instead of inviting defeat and proceeding at express speed the Government should hesitate in regard to amendments of the Constitution, which, in. some directions, are necessary.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL (South Australia) [8.22]. - When I asked Senator Findley a moment or two ago if he would define his attitude to- the bill,, he contented himself with the statement that he stood where other Labour members stood. The honorable senator admitted that the Labour party was divided on this particular question. I think that those who listened to the honorable senator came to the conclusion that he was uncertain as to his own. views, if, indeed, it can be said that he has any views on the subject. To a certain extent, I sympathize with Senator Findley, because, in approaching the consideration of this question, I have to admit that I find myself in a quandary. I have been man)7 years in political life, and have had to deal with many difficult situations, but never before have I found myself in such a quandary as in the present instance. Let us examine this proposal. The bill seeks an amendment of the Constitution so far as it gives power to the Federal Parliament over industry and commerce, the proposal, of course, having to be referred to the people by way of referendum. The principal object, as we were told by the right honorable the Minister (Senator Pearce), who moved the second reading of the bill, is to improve the machinery for the regulation of industrial conditions and the settlement of industrial disputes in Australia. That machinery, as we all know, is our system of compulsory arbitration. I wish to say clearly and emphatically, as I have said over and over again, that I have no faith whatever in the ultimate success of compulsory arbitration. I believe that as a system for the settlement of industrial disputes or the regulation of industrial relations it is fundamentallyunsound. No one will deny that it is cumbersome, that it has led to a great deal of litigation, and that it has resulted in complicated and almost intolerable situations. Indeed, it has failed to achieve the objects for which it was adopted. Those objects, as I think all honorable senators are aware, were the prevention of sweating, the abolition of strikes, and the promotion of good industrial relationships between employers and employees. Has it accomplished all or any of these purposes? It is perfectly true that since the system of compulsory arbitration was adopted in Australia, there has been less sweating in employment. I think it is also generally admitted, however, that this improved state of affairs is not due to the system, but is part of a world-wide movement, due partly to the lifting of trade depression and partly to the efforts of organized labour through the various trade unions. As a matter of fact, I think that labour has won little, if anything, from the system of compulsory arbitration that it would not have won without it. On the other hand, I am perfectly certain that it has lost much under this system that it would not otherwise have lost. Sweating in industry continued for some years after compulsory arbitration was an established institution in Australia. That was due in some part to the speeding up of work and to the evasion of legal rates mutually agreed upon between employers and employees, especially when large numbers of men were out of employment. Therefore, as regards the first purpose for which compulsory arbitration was adopted, it may be said, I think, that the system has failed.
– Nevertheless, it was a most important factor in the abolition of sweating.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I do not think it was, because whilst sweating certainly has disappeared in Australia, it has disappeared also from other parts of the world. If the honorable senator will read the history of the subject, he will find that sweating disappeared simultaneously in many countries, and for the same reason that it. disappeared in Australia. That is admitted by all writers on the subject, and I did not expect to have it challenged in this chamber. Let us now examine the second purpose for which compulsory arbitration was adopted, namely, the abolition of strikes. We were told, prior to the introduction of the system, that the right to strike was the natural weapon of the employee; that he could secure an improvement of his conditions of labour by no other course. Accordingly machinery was advised for the settlement of industrial disputes, and for the improvement of the relationships between employer and employee. Australia and New Zealand decided to provide that machinery, and the hope was expressed that a new industrial era was about to dawn. But what has been the experience? Most honorable senators know that Australia has earned for herself the unenviable reputation of being the home of strikes.
– The honorable senator must know that per head of population there are more strikes in Australia than in any other part of the world, and that, as a fact, Australia is referred to as the home of strikes.
SenatorDrake-Brockman. - No.
– I invite the honorable senator to examine the figures published in theY ear-Book, and see for himself the number of strikes that have occurred during the last five years, the number of hours lost, and also the amount of wages. Undoubtedly, Australia has gained the reputation of being the home of strikes, the number of which has increased since the establishment of compulsory arbitration.
– It has gained that reputation very unjustly.
– How can the honorable senator make such an assertion ? What are the figures for the last five years?
-Brockman. - I shall inform the honorable senator in due course.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.According to the Commonwealth YearBook, there have been during the period I have mentioned no less than 2,401 strikes in which 655,000 workmen have been involved, who have lost 7,796,000 days at a loss- in wages of over £6,250,000. Strikes have not diminished in number since compulsory arbitration; on the contrary, they have considerably increased, notwithstanding the fact that under the system they are illegal.
– In order to institute a fair comparison, the honorable senator should give the figures for other countries.
– If the honorable senator will refer to the statistics of, say, Canada, he will see that, in proportion to our population, the number of strikes in Australia is greater than it is iu that country, for instance.
– As the honorable senator made the statement, he should quote figures to support it.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.They are available In those who wish to see them. When one speaks of abolishing compulsory arbitration, one is at once told that it is absolutely impossible to return to the barbarous method of striking. It is folly to speak in that way, when we know that the number of strikes in Australia is greater in proportion to the population than in any other country. We have only to compare the position in America, Canada, and many other countries to find that that is so. We have established a system which other countries have not seen fit to adopt. It is supposed to abolish strikes; and to provide machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes. I defy any honorable senator to prove that the number of strikes in Australia- is not greater in proportion to the population than’ in any other country.
– What is the honorable senator’s remedy for settling industrial disputes?
– I have always believed iu round-table conferences, at which the employers and employees can get together, instead of at tempting to secure the settlement of disputes by men ‘ who know nothing of the great industrial problems confronting us. They cannot be expected to know, as they have not had experience in the industrial arena. Representatives appear before the court and make statements which at times are not entirely in accordance with facts. I know that Senator Barnes is just as favorable as I am to the system which I advocate, but he is not at liberty to say so.
– Prior to the introduction of compulsory arbitration, numerous unsuccessful attempts were made to convene round-table conferences.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Conditions were totally different in those days. The unions were not as strongly organized as they are to-day. They now have tremendous power, and can demand round-table conferences. That was practically impossible in the days of which the honorable senator is speaking. How do they manage in Canada, where they do not have anything approaching the number of industrial disputes that we have here? The Canadian system has been in operation since 1907, with the most satisfactory results. Prominent Canadian citizens, including some who have held ministerial positions in that great dominion, have told me that the system iu operation in Canada is most successful. It cannot be denied that strikes in Australia are numerous, and it cannot successfully be contended that the number in Australia is not greater iu proportion to the population than in other countries which have not an arbitration system. Prior to the introduction of arbitration the number of industrial disputes was comparatively small. We are never free from industrial upheavals” in Australia, although under both Commonwealth and State legislation it is illegal to strike, and heavy penalties are provided for those who break the law. I have said sufficient, I think, to show that the system of compulsory arbitration has not accomplished the second purpose for which it was brought into existence. Every one will admit that it has not. What was the third purpose? The promotion of a satisfactory industrial relationship between employer and employee. Has that been established? Instead of improving the industrial relationship between employer and employee, it has, as honorable senators know, undoubtedly engendered’ the utmost enmity, distrust and bitterness between these two sections of the community, whose co-operation, good-will, and unity of purpose are so essential to the true industrial progress of the Commonwealth. We are not making the progress we should, largely because development is retarded by industrial strife in a country which has all this machinery at its disposal for the alleged prevention of industrial strife. Something must be done. Every one admits that an attempt must be made to improve the position so that industry and commerce may proceed smoothly. I believe the Government have made an honest effort to do what it considers right in achieving this highly desirable objective. In my opinion, however, success will never be achieved by endeavouring to improve our compulsory arbitration system. The Arbitration Court has utterly failed to accomplish any of the three purposes for which it was established. The position is infinitely worse than that. It has not only failed to accomplish the purposes for which it was established, but has done positive harm. To my personal knowledge it has been responsible for preventing outside capital being invested in Australia. That information I have obtained first hand. I was in Great Britain in 1922, and one of the functions arranged for my benefit was attended by many prominent business men who either had or had been anxious to have interests in Australia. When my health was proposed, the chairman explained to me that there were many present who were anxious to know something concerning Australia, and suggested that instead of replying to the toast of my health in the ordinary way I should answer .questions. I thought it was a splendid idea, and said that even if I occupied an hour or so in replying in the customary way, it was quite possible that I should not touch upon any of the subjects upon which those present desired information. Those men, all of whom whom had large business interests, were anxious to know the position in regard to the control of industry, and particularly in reference to our compulsory arbitration system. I explained the system to them. They showered questions upon me for over two hours. I gathered that there were many men in Great
Britain who would launch out in productive enterprises in Australia by establishing branches of their businesses, or by opening new businesses, if they could only be assured of being able to conduct the undertakings on what they considered sound, economic lines. - From what they had heard and read of the position in Australia, however, they had gathered that if they entered into business here, control would be practically taken out of their hands. Some of them had sent representatives to Australia to make inquiries, and they, refrained from opening up businesses here because of the restrictions which are incidential to our compulsory arbitration system. When speaking in the South Australian Parliament on an arbitration bill in 1922, I gave the names of some of these firms; they can be obtained from the South Australian Hansard.
– If they will not invest capital in the Commonwealth, why do they send so many migrants to Australia ?
– I shall deal with that phase of the question later, and show its connexion with our arbitration system.
– Surely it is fair to expect them to conform to what we regard as our standards?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.They are not opposed to paying high wages ; but they wish to be in a position to obtain a fair return for the wages they pay their employees. They were anxious to know that there would be some relation between wages and production. They found that the wages were determined, not on a productive basis, but on an unsound and uneconomic basis fixed by an Arbitration Court. The position to-day is just as it was in 1922. Capital is being kept out of the country. When Premier of South Australia, I had inquiries made concerning the firms which were prepared to establish businesses here, but which would not because of the restrictions placed upon them. A few moments ago Senator McHugh referred to the question of migration. One of our first requirements is, of course, increased population. Some people wonder why the Commonwealth and State Governments do not launch out with a bold and vigorous policy of migration. They cannot.
– The sum of £34,000,000 is to be spent in settling migrants.
– What is happening now?
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newlands). - I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the bill, and not to be led away by interjections.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I am going to connect my remarks on immigration directly with” the subject of compulsory arbitration. The two subjects are closely and vitally related. We cannot absorb large numbers of migrants, because our progress is retarded by artificial restrictions which we, in our blindness, are placing upon industry. We wish to settle large numbers on the land, and also to encourage our secondary industries, the development of which is retarded because we cannot export our surplus manufactures.
– They could be put on the land if we introduced the sharefarming system.
– But the number would be limited.
– I admit that we cannot buy freehold land for all of them; but, under the share-farming system, it could be done.
-The honorable senator is right; but he knows that the number of migrants who could be brought here under that system would not be great. It is not, to say the least, a big, bold scheme.
– Australia needs hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
– A large country like Australia, with its illimitable resources, should be able to settle them by the hundreds of thousands. We should be able to do so if we did not place artificial restrictions on industry. The honorable senator knows that restrictions are being placed on industry, and that, consequently, we cannot export the products of our secondary industries. We cannot meet world conditions. That is due to artificial conditions here.
– I cross swords with the honorable senator there. I am proud of the standard of living in Australia, which is the reason that we cannot manufacture for export.
– Our standard of living is high, and to that I do not object; but the honorable senator knows how we bolster it up. Our standard of living is on an unsound basis. We are bolstering it up temporarily by an unsound and uneconomic fiscal policy. I am glad that the honorable senator has raised this point. Wages, the cost of living, the cost of production, our Customs tariff, are inter-dependent. An increase in the cost of living leads to an increase of wages; that increases the cost of production. An increase in the cost of production necessitates a higher protective tariff. That further increases the cost of living, -and in turn, another increase of wages is necessary. And so the thing goes on.
– Does the honorable senator believe in freetrade?
– No. I have said so repeatedly. I should like to proceed further along these lines; but I realize that I may not do so. now. Never in the history of Australia have our industrial troubles given more concern to thoughtful men than they do to-day. We all realize that we have a great country, possessing almost illimitable resources. Our first need is the rapid development qf those resources. Common sense tells us that co-operation, good-will, and unity of purpose between capital and labour, between employer and employee, are essential to true progress. But we find ourselves face to face with a state of affairs which is the very antithesis of those essentials. Capital and labour are at one another’s throats. Enmity, distrust, and extreme class hatred are, for the most part, the feelings that animate the minds of employers and employees. Under existing conditions that must, be so. The false system under which industry operates sets class against class, employer against employee. They attend the court as enemies, instead of being brought together in conference as parties whose interests are identical. Do they ever go into the court with the feeling that their interests are identical? No; the existing system does not lend itself to such a feeling. Why is it that our system has not been adopted by other countries which have given this subject the closest possible consideration ? It is because a never-ending condition of industrial turmoil and unrest is the natural consequence of the existing system.
– The honorable senator’s imagination is playing tricks with him.
– It is not, as I shall show from reports that have been made by commissioners appointed by the British Government to inquire into this question. They have reported along exactly the same lines as I have been speaking.
– There is no class hatred in this country.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Is there not?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the present legislation prevents the substitution of roundtable conferences for resort to the Arbitration Court?
– No. I am dealing with this subject along the lines that it was dealt with by the Minister in charge of the Senate. He said that the arbitration system was a good one, although he admitted that at present we were in a state bordering on industrial chaos. He stated, further, that something must be done to remedy the existing state of affairs; and be suggested that the proper method was to improve the_ existing system. He believed that a proper relationship between the contending parties could be brought about under the existing system. I am dealing with the subject along those lines, because, from the Minister’s speech, I have gathered what is in the mind of the Government. Notwithstanding our arbitration system, we have turmoil and unrest in this country, which for years has boasted to the world of the .great and bold experiments which it has made for the purpose of bringing about industrial peace. The sooner we look facts boldly in the face, and admit the unpleasant truth that our advanced experiments have been an utter and dismal failure, the better for every section of the community.
– Does the honorable senator think that compulsory arbitration prevents round-table conferences?
– To a great extent, it does.
– Then he does not know anything about it.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I do know. I know why industrial disputes are brought before the court.
Employers, in some cases, bring cases before the Arbitration Court in the full knowledge that they will not be dealt with for months, and sometimes for years. In the meantime they continue to pay a lower wage than they know they should nay. The honorable senator who has interjected has himself used the argument of the delay in dealing with cases brought before the court. I am not speaking without knowledge. For many years I have acted in the Arbitration Court in the interests of big companies. I was Minister of Industry in South Australia for several years, and Premier of the State for four years ; and I know what I am talking about.
– Compulsory arbitration is the only thing that makes roundtable conferences possible.
– What an absurd statement! Does the honorable senator know that Australia and New Zealand are the only two countries in the world which have compulsory arbitration; and” does he think that round-table conferences are not possible in other countries?
– In those other countries strikes are more prevalent.
– The honorable senator’s statement is too silly for a reply. Australia and New Zealand may be given credit for having engaged in experiments in industrial control which are without parallel, and which have never been copied by other countries. But we shall never be given credit - and we shall not deserve it - .for persisting in experiments after they have been proved to be useless and ineffective. Have our experiments with arbitration proved other than useless and ineffective? There is no one who will not admit that up to the present they have been practically ineffective. Every one knows that strikes continue to take place. That fact cannot be denied.
– All law is not futile merely because lawyers have to be employed to deal with law breakers.
– That argument was used by Senator Pearce, and it is perfectly sound .’ I admit that compulsory arbitration was, for a time, partially successful, but that was during years of gradually increasing prosperity. Economic conditions favoured it. Practically every application made to the court resulted in an increase of wages, or the granting of concessions to the workers. The employers were quite prepared to pay, because they were able to do so. Because of the prosperity that we enjoyed those increases would have been given irrespective of any system of compulsory arbitration.
– But not so quickly.
– When economic forces are working against it the system proves to be a failure. The unions are prepared to accept the awards of the Arbitration Court just so long as they are considered satisfactory; but those awards cannot be enforced against the unions. Senator Pearce admitted that, but he added that some way of enforcing them could be found. He suggested a bond. What an unpractical suggestion! What sort of a bond would be required from a great and powerful union ?
– Could they notbe required to deposit a cash guarantee ?
– Would they pay it?
– They should pay.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes; but they would not. Under the present system they could not be forced to do so.
– They pay it in America, under a voluntary system.
– In what part of America?
– If we pass this bill, we can compel them to do so.
– As things are now, the awards of the court cannot be enforced; and I doubt whether it is possible to devise a means of enforcing them. The rest of the world is undoubtedly benefiting by our experience. No other country is prepared to adopt our system. The most powerful capitalistic organizations, as well as the strongest labour unions in Europe and America have strenuously opposed compulsory arbitration. This system has been inquired into in both Great Britain and the United States of America. Let me quote from the report of the committee on the relations between employers and employees to the British Ministry of Reconstruction in 1918 -
We are opposed to any system of compulsory arbitration; thereis no reason to believe that such a system is generally desired by employers and employed, and, in the absence of such general acceptance, it is obvious that its imposition would lead to unrest. The experience of compulsory arbitration during the war has shown that it is not a successful method ofavoiding strikes, andin normal times it would undoubtedly prove even less successful. Disputes can only be avoided by agreement between employers and workers, and by giving to the latter the greater measure of interest in the industry advocated in our former reports; but agreement may naturally include the decision of both parties to refer any specifiedmatter or matters to arbitration, whether this decision is reached before or after a dispute arises.
Of course that is voluntary and not compulsory arbitration. Thus we see that the opinion I have put forward is backed up by opinions in other parts of the world, and particularly by the committee appointed by the British Government to consider the relations between employers and employees after the war. Commissions which inquired into industrial troubles in America reported on exactly the same lines. Mr. W. J. Bryan said -
Compulsory arbitration is as impossible as it is undesirable.
On the anthracite coal dispute, another commission reported as follows: -
There are some who have urged the commission to recommend the adoption of compulsory arbitration. But we cannot see our way to recommend any such drastic measure. We do not believe that in the United States sucha system would meet with general approval or with success.
I have quite a number of reports here on the same lines. They are to be seen in a very excellent work called Compulsory Arbitration of Industrial Disputes, by Beman. They show that wherever inquiries were made in Great Britain or in the United States of America with a view to advising the respective Governments of the advisability of adopting compulsory arbitration, the advice invariably given was against it. And the reasons given for coining to that conclusion are based on causes which are identical with those that I have said are responsible for its want of success here. Senator Pearce really believes that the system of compulsory arbitration can be made a success, but I do not agree with him, and I say so after a good deal of experience. I know that some of the greatest leaders in the industrial world of Australia agree with me. I have made many speeches on the subject in South Australia, and have received many communications from captains of industry, masters of the biggest concerns in Australia, informing me that they were in entire agreement with them. I. do not suppose that any political leader in Australia-, except perhaps Mr. Hughes, has done more than I have to try to make the system of compulsory arbitration work effectively.
– The honorable senator i3 very pessimistic in regard to the result of his work.
– I admit it. When 1 was Premier and AttorneyGeneral in South Australia in- 1920, I framed an industrial code which was acclaimed in Australia and America as the most complete ever framed here; but it is not a success, and I am compelled to admit that, in my opinion, the system is .attended, with difficulties that are insuperable.
– Now give us the remedy.
– I have already suggested round-table conferences, but my time is limited and J. cannot enlarge on that subject at the present time. It is perfectly true, as stated by the Minister yesterday, that many of our troubles are caused by the overlapping of Federal and State arbitration courts in the same sphere. But that does not account for more than a fraction of the trouble that exists. The real obstacles arise from the inherent and fundamental weakness of the system itself. Others agree with me on that score.
– But we cannot abolish arbitration. It is the ultimate resort in most big upheavals and disputes.
– In those instances, the arbitration resorted to is generally voluntary, and not compulsory. Attached to our compulsory arbitration system is a method of ‘ fixing wages. A basic - wage is fixed on a basis which is uneconomic, and needs bolstering up, with the result that an artificial cost of living is created. The honorable senator was out of the chamber when I referred to that, incidentally, only a moment ago. I claim that we can never make a success of a system which will work one way only, and by which one side is prepared to abide only so long as it suits its purpose!. Labour unions have no use for this system except as a machine for the raising of wages and the granting of con cessions. As soon as Labour is satisfied that it can get nothing else out of arbitration it is prepared to throw it aside like a sucked orange, and we are absolutely helpless to prevent it. Labour has said so over and over again.
– It is but a comparatively small section of unionists that does not abide by arbitration awards.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Does the honorable senator think that the great section of labour unionists would be prepared to abide by a decision of the court if an application to it resulted in their getting nothing, or if an application by employers resulted in a reduction of wages owing to adverse industrial conditions? Would they not strike?
– The unionists prepare a fresh plaint in those circumstances.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes, but that is not the point I am putting for the moment. I am suggesting what would be likely to happen if the courts granted a decrease instead of granting, as they have been granting in the past, increases and further increases, or giving concessions and further concessions which industries have been able to meet because of economic forces working in their favour. That is all right; in such circumstances the employees are quite satisfied with the system, and they think they are getting their increases as the result of that system, whereas they would get them in any case, just as the workers in America have got them, but only to a greater degree than here. But let that same system result in awards providing for . decreases in wages and lengthened hours of work. Does the honorable senator think that the unionists would agree to it then ? Would not they strike immediately ?
– I am afraid the honorable senator is right.
– It is the one point against arbitration that the honorable senator has made in his speech.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Could there be a stronger point? The very advocates of compulsory arbitration in this chamber admit that the weak point of the system is that it will work only one way - only so long as it gives the unionists increases - and that when it goes the other way it will fail.
– That is the reason for the partial failure of the system.
– It is the reason which makes me think that it is a blunder to persist in what has proved to be a failure.
– Would not the same argument apply with equal force to conciliation boards?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.In a moment or two I shall make observations in regard to that.
– Is it not the object of this bill to attempt to cure the very evil which the honorable senator is stressing to-night?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.No. If this bill is passed, and this power is given to the Federal Parliament, will that cure a system which is fundamentally unsound, and which its own advocates admit will work only one way ?
– This bill is the only way to cure it.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.It cannot be cured. A thing which is’ fundamentally unsound cannot be made sound. Its own advocates admit that it will work only one way. The employees will only adhere to it while it gives them everything they want, and the court cannot enforce its awards. The unsoundness of the present position is recognized by the Government. Ministers say that it cannot continue, and that some remedy must be applied. The question is: what remedy should be applied ? My complaint is that the Government is attempting to improve a system which is fundamentally unsound and rotten to the core. I believe that the bill is an honest, but misguided, effort. The Government says that greater powers must be given to the Commonwealth. The amendment of the Constitution contemplated by this bill is exceedingly important; its consequences may be very far-reaching, and it is certainly fraught with tremendous possibilities to the people of Australia. I agree with honorable senators opposite that a matter of such far-reaching importance ought not to be lightly or hurriedly undertaken, and that full time should be given for the discussion of it, not only by members of Parliament, but also by the public. I agree with them, also, that it should be dealt with by the special constitutional session or - infinitely better still - by a convention similar to that which framed the original Constitution.
– No convention could be more representative than this Parliament.
– A convention could be more representative than this Parliament, because there could be appointed to it some of the greatest intellects and some of the men with the greatest experience in Australia, who would be self-sacrificing enough to give up their time in the interests of their country to the work of remodelling the Constitution in those respects in which it needs to be remodelled. We had such men in the original convention. There should certainly be a proportion of members of Parliament on a convention; but we should also include captains of industry and leaders of labour unions. How many members of Parliament are in personal touch with these matters ? They do not know what is likely to be the effect of an amendment of the Constitution. Who are more likely to know what the effect would be than men whose every-day work it is to oversee, things in the industrial world? Employers of labour and captains of industry would be helpful to the deliberations of such a convention. They could tell us of the likely consequences of any alteration proposed. Members of Parliament are not so well qualified to express such an opinion, because few of them have had practical experience.
– The honorable senator has expressed some very strong opinions of a destructive character.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes. But it is not much good to put forward constructive suggestions when we are merely asked to pass this bill. In any case, they could not be acted on at the present moment. All we have now before us is the question whether we agree to or disagree with the bill. If we disagree with the bill, it is for us to state our grounds for so doing.
– Will it not pave the way for constructive effort?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.No, not if we proceeded along the lines suggested by the Minister. But there are other objections to the measure. The Minister said that it did not make for unification. I contend, however, that it strikes at the very root of the federal principle, and will carry us a long way towards unification. I am satisfied that the framers of the Constitution were wise in adopting the federal system, and I am prepared to resist any attempt to bring about unification. We have a Government that professes to be against it, and yet time after time it takes steps that tend towards it. The Minister’s statement is entirely erroneous. First look at the industrial provisions of the bill. It is proposed to give to the Federal Parliament power over the whole industrial field. The Minister said, “ But there is to be concurrent jurisdiction of Federal and State tribunals. We shall set up a Commonwealth authority, but the State authority will still exist, and exercise a concurrent jurisdiction.” I point out that that jurisdiction can be exercised only so long as the Federal Parliament permits it. If the proposed power were granted, this Parliament could take away at any moment the whole of the present powers of the States. What would be the position if Labour obtained power ? Labour men are unificationists.
– That has not been their attitude on this bill.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.No; but they will soon begin to realize what tremendous power this bill gives. I want honorable sena tors who are opposed to unification to realize that the measure undoubtedly gives the Parliament power to legislate over the whole industrial field. It is all very well for the Minister to say, “ We shall still allow the State authorities to operate in their own particular sphere “ ; but if Labour comes into power it will take from the State Parliaments the last vestige of authority that they now exercise.
– Has not the Federal court to-day practically taken the whole of the power?
– Of course; but we should try to return to first principles, which are the principles of federation, and not of unification. The intention of the framers of the Constitution was to give the Federal court jurisdiction only in interstate disputes. Is unification to be established? Labour may obtain power later on.
– Next century.
– We are not legislating for to-day or to morrow. We must look ahead. If these amendments be embodied in the Constitution any Government that favours unification will find the way prepared for it by a Nationalist Government that was against unification.
– The High Court has prepared it for them.
– That is not the point at the moment. The question is, “ Along what lines should we amend the Constitution?” Suppose the High Court has to a certain extent prepared the way for unification. Is that any reason why we, if we are federalists, should advance and perpetuate a principle to which we are opposed? My remarks apply equally to the proposed power regarding commerce.
– Name one industry that cannot be brought under the control of the Arbitration Court now.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Do we believe in the federal system or in unification? [Extension of time granted]. I am satisfied that not only the framers of the Constitution, but also the people of Australia who voted for union of the States, expected to have federation. They did . not expect to have unification ; but this bill is a mighty big step towards it.
– The people can refuse to grant these powers if they so desire.
– Will the honorable senator advise them to reject it?
– Yes. I shall deal shortly with the steps that I think ought to be taken. Not only with respect to the industrial field is there a tendency towards unification. Take the other power regarding corporations. That gives control over by far the greater part of the commercial business of Australia.
– Surely that was intended under the original Constitution?
– Undoubtedly not. Let me show the extent to which this power is proposed to be given. An opinion has been obtained from one of the leading constitutional experts, and eminent King’s Counsel.
The questions submitted to him andhis answers are as follow: -
Assumingthe Constitution Alteration (Industry and Commerce) Act 1926 becomes law, and is ratified at the referendum in the shape that it passed the House of Representatives, counsel is asked to advise: -
I have quoted sufficient to show that if the proposed powers were granted the Parliament would have jurisdiction over practically the whole commercial life, and the whole of the business activities, of Australia. Would that not be a great step towards unification?
– It is the complement of the Customs-house power.
– The honorable senator is evidently a unificationist, if he is going to defend the bill on that ground. Would it be in conformity with the federal principle to give the Commonwealth control over the whole industrial and commercial field? What a huge step towards unification!. Although it might be safe to entrust these powers to the present Government, another government might secure office in the future that could not be trusted with them.
– These powers are in the hands of the New South Wales and Queensland Parliaments at the present time.
– Exactly, under a system of federation.
– And they have not abused them.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.But that does not touch my point, as to whether this is an instalment of unification.
– I thought the honorable senator was basing his argument on a fear of abuse of the powers.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.No. I base it entirely on the principle of the maintenance of federation rather than taking a big step towards unification. I agree entirely with those honorable senators who have said that the Government has been unduly hasty in regard to this very important matter. Whether the Minister admits it or not, the bill provides for an instalment of unification. In the industrial sphere it provides for the continuance of a system that, at any rate, many of the ablest minds in the community believe to have been a failure. It is proposed to reconstruct the Arbitration Court, appoint the judges for life, and confer on them powers of a nature and magnitude never known before in the history of mankind. I do not know whether honorable senators realize that it is proposed to give the judges, not only judicial powers, but also power to legislate in regard to all industry. The Minister stated the other day that the same power is held by judges, such as the judge of a supreme court; but I point out that they have no legislative power. Of course, the decisions of judges make case law, but that is not legislation.
– If not, I do not know what it is. All common law is based on an old theory.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.It is not legislation at all. The decisions of the civil courts are based largely upon legislation, such as Real Property Acts, Companies Acts, &c, passed by Parliament.
-Where do we find common law? Not in legislation.
– No. What I am contending is that, as regards the civil courts, practically all the decisions are on the construction of legislation passed for the guidance of the industrial, commercial, and business life of the community; and that the functions of courts are not legislative, but judicial. This proposal is to give to an industrial judge a degree of power that has never been given to a judge in any country.
– Have not the State courts that power now ?
– It is true that the State arbitration courts have power within their ambit.
– So has the Federal Arbitration Court within its ambit.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.But what I am pointing out is that this proposal, if adopted, will give to the court much wider jurisdiction, and that if Labour comes into power it may legislate over the whole industrial field.
– Is it not better to have one court with that power?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Is it not better still to leave with Parliament the power to legislate and restrict courts largely to the judicial power? Under this proposal, certain persons will receive appointments for life, and, even if a man is not fitted for his judicial position, it will be impossible to remove him.
– It will be possible to remove such a person.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Yes, by a resolution of both Houses ; but, for all practical purposes, a person so appointed cannot be removed. He could be removed for misconduct or gross incompetency. But is he ever likely to be? And such a person will have power, not only to adjudicate, but to legislate over the whole field of industry.
– And yet the honorable senator favours the appointment of a judge . for a limited period, and would thus make him subject to political influence.
– That does not touch the point- which I have raised, as the honorable senator surely realizes.
– A judge appointed for a limited period has legislative powers, anyhow.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.I am afraid that Senator Elliott and I are at cross-purposes. I agree entirely with him as to the desirableness of life appointments for judges of all such courts. My point is that, in this case, it is proposed to vest judges of the Arbitration Court with power to legislate over the whole realm of industry. No other judges of the world are in that position. It is an enormous power to place in the hands of a man who may have had no experience whatever of industry and commerce. This huge experiment, vitally affecting, as it does, the well-being of the people of the Commonwealth, should not be rushed through with unseemly Haste.
– I agree with the honorable senator that the referendum will be held at too short a notice, and that, as the people will play for safety, there will probably be. a heavy negative vote.
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Exactly; but that does not touch my point. The honorable senator’s interjection favours my contention that this measure should not. be rushed through Parliament.
– Does not the honorable senator want to enlist ignorance as an ally for his cause?
– Not at all. I do not wish the people to vote “ No “ simply because they do not understand all that is involved in an issue of this magnitude. I am protesting against the extraordinary haste that is being displayed to place an important constitutional issue like this before the people. Parliament will be in recess after the referendum has been taken, so nothing will be done for several months. If we are to have amendments of the Constitution, why not consider them at a special constitutional session, and give the people ample time for their consideration? If these questions are submitted to them at short notice, many electors, as Senator Guthrie has said, will probably vote in the negative. Is it the duty of honorable senators to blindly follow the Government and vote for this bill simply because they have been elected to this chamber as supporters of the Ministry?
– Is the honorable senator arguing that if the people cannot, understand all that is involved in these two questions they will understand, say, six questions that may be submitted to them at a later date?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL Nothing of the kind. I hope I have said nothing to suggest that I hold that belief.
– Is it not likely that as the time is so short the people will play for safety; and vote “ No “ ?
Senator Sir HENRY BARWELL.Exactly. Where the issues are of such tremendous importance, the people should have ample opportunity for . their consideration.
– These questions have been before the people for twelve years.
– But they have never been submitted in this form. As honorable senators know, members of another place were in a quandary when these proposals were submitted to them. The same may be said of practically the whole of the newspapers. The right honorable the Minister complained yesterday that the newspapers, had totally misrepresented the, position. Does the Minister suggest that this has been done deliberately? Is it not rather that the editors and trade writers themselves do not understand the position? If the editors of our important metropolitan newspapers, men who are daily dealing , with political matters, and if members of this Parliament do not understand them - Senator Findley admitted during this debate that he did not- what possible chance is there of the man in the street being able to give an intelligent vote upon them at short notice? Honorable senators should not feel obliged to vote for them simply because they sit behind the Government. The Senate is supposed to be a house of second thought, and also a house for the preservation of State rights. For that purpose the several States have equal representation in it. Is it likely that this principle would have been adopted if it had been thought that the Senate would be merely a replica of another place ? I am anxious to be in line with the Government ; to keep in step with Ministers ; but I refuse to do that at the sacrifice of conscience. I consider it my duty to the people whom I represent to refuse to vote for a measure which I believe would be detrimental to the best interests of the country.
– I am afraid that the honorable senator who has just resumed his seat (Senator Barwell) and I are in conflict over this issue. I do not propose at this stage to refer to other constitutional measures that may come before us later for consideration ; but I desire to say emphatically at the outset that, if the Government had not taken some steps such as are indicated in the measure now before us, it would have been unfaithful to the pledge made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) during the last election campaign. In announcing the Government’s policy the right honorable gentleman stated definitely that if returned to power it would endeavour to secure some measure of industrial peace for this country. The Prime Minister has taken the earliest opportunity to give effect to that pledge. The Government is deserving of commendation for having, at the first opportunity, brought forward a measure to ensure to the Commonwealth Parliament power so to legislate as to give effect to the ministerial policy. But what do we find ? It may be that this inclusion of power with regard to corporations is hurting the feelings of some people, but so far as industrial powers are concerned, and so far as power to regulate and control trade unions is concerned, Government supporters are pledged up to the hilt. Thousands of voters who, in other circumstances, would not have voted for ministerial candidates supported them at the last election because of that definite pledge. The people believed that the Government was resolved, in respect of industrial matters, to restore the rule of law in this country which had for a considerable time been abrogated. They expected the Prime Minister, as soon as possible, to take the necessary steps in that direction. He has -done so in this legislation. I can understand the opposition to these proposals by men who do hot believe in arbitration. My friend, Senator Barwell, has indicated that he does not accept arbitration as part and parcel of our economic or social system, and he quoted several authorities in support of his arguments. But, when he cited the experience of other countries in favour of his argument, he left out of account altogether consideration of the psychology of the Australian people. It ig impossible for us to give up our arbitration and conciliation system, which includes industrial courts, wages boards, and round-table conferences, which Senator Findley favours. It is part and parcel of our social system, and I do not
Bee how we are to get rid of it. From the outset this Parliament has had the power to legislate in matters of. conciliation and arbitration within a limited sphere, and it is rather late now to suggest that compulsory arbitration should be departed from. Whatever form of industrial legislation is found to be most desirable this Parliament will, if the proposed powers are given, have power to pass. It has also been suggested that the proposed amendments of the Constitution, both in regard to conciliation and arbitration and in connexion with corporations, will strike at the basic principle of the Federal system. In 1901 the Commonwealth Parliament was given power to intervene in industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State ; but if the conditions which prevail to-day had obtained in 1901, I venture to say that the Australian people would have been prepared to vest the Commonwealth Parliament with complete power in that respect. At present there is hardly an industry in Australia which cannot be brought within the ambit of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and it is, therefore, idle to suggest that by extending the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament in the direction proposed we are interfering with the rights of the States. If the people had realized, in 1900, that- our industrial situation would be as it is to-day, the restrictive words in the Constitution which it is now proposed to eliminate would never have been inserted. The Minister (Senator Pearce) stressed the tremendous difficulties under which this country is at present labouring. It has been my misfortune, at various times, to study the position, which our organizations have reached. Let us consider for a moment whether, under our industrial system, we are really proceeding as sane human beings should do. Arbitration systems have been iu existence since 2,000 years b.c., when wages were fixed by statute. In Australia we are irrevocably committed to the principle of conciliation and arbitration, but I do not think it has ever had a fair deal at the hands of the people of Australia. It has never received within official circles, or at the hands of various governments, the support to which it is entitled. I do not intend to refer to the personnel of the courts, but I think it is admitted that at times there has been a lack of confidence in that regard, which has not been beneficial to arbitration. I have come in contact with wages boards consisting of representatives of employers and employees, and an independent chairman. That is not arbitration. Representatives such as I have mentioned attend such meetings not as arbitrators, but, in the main, as advocates. The voting is often equal, and the determination of a question is then left to some highly-placed public servant as chairman. If the award obtained from the board is unsatisfactory to the representatives of either the union or the employers they go to the Arbitration Court. A further determination is then made, and if that is not satisfactory an interstate dispute is created.
– Is the honorable senator opposed to the wages board system?
– Not if it operates satisfactorily, but I have known a representative of one side on a wages board to be withdrawn, with the result that, as the Minister had not power to fill the vacancy until a certain period had elapsed, it was unable to function, thus causing intense trouble to the parties. The representatives of the workers are really paid advocates, whose business it is to create industrial strife. There has been a tremendous waste of effort in connexion with the administration of our arbitration system, and it may be. said that, to some extent, the States are to be blamed for the complications which exist. Senator Barwell said that in 1920 it was considered that the last word in arbitration had been said by the parliament of which he was then a member. That opinion was also expressed when Mr. Homburg, an exAttorneyGeneral of South Australia, introduced his industrial code. Owing to the congestion in the courts, there is no expedition, and, as I have already indicated, there is tremendous waste of economic effort. One honorable senator said that the Government’s proposals in this direction were not mentioned during the hustings, but during- the campaign I went so far as to say that if an amendment of the Constitution was required I would support such action in order to secure industrial peace. There is a strong impression abroad that there is too much industrial turmoil in Australia. That there is can be proved by the figures quoted in another place, and also by those which Senator Barwell submitted to the Senate to-night. Whether it is correct, as stated, that the number of strikes in Australia is greater in proportion to the population than in other countries, I do not know; but I do know that information of that nature which is being made available on the other side of the world is much to our disadvantage. It is time the genius of the people was exerted to such an extent as to overcome the difficulties we are now encountering if arbitration is to remain a -portion of our industrial system. I can understand the logic of a man who does not believe in arbitration at all, but I cannot see on what grounds some fear the intrusion of the Commonwealth into the wider field of industrial conciliation and arbitration. That the sovereign rights of the States, of which we have heard so much, are being attacked is undoubted, but on the day when the Commonwealth Arbitration Court ruled that engineers employed by State Governments came within its scope, the sovereignty of the States in this respect ended. In every State of the Commonwealth the relationship between the States and their employees, except those on the civil list, is governed by tribunals which they themselves have set up.
– And which they control.
– And which, perhaps, they very unwisely control. It is indeed most undesirable in the public interests that there should be any mock trials concerning the relationship between certain ‘ sections and the Government itself. There should be a real tribunal in which the public would have faith, on which the interested parties would be fully represented, and which w.ould protect the public purse. I have never known a government to refuse to give effect to the finding of a tribunal which it had established. Surely this Government, which is endeavouring to bring about a brighter era in the industrial world should be given credit for what it is doing, instead of being charged with impinging upon the rights of the States. So far as I can see, the objections offered to the referendum proposals are due to the mental make-up of the objectors, who do not believe in arbitration, and who have not the blessed candour of the honorable senator who preceded me.- They think that the system is fundamentally wrong, but have not taken into account the psychology of the Australian people. We can imagine how public opinion would be influenced if decisions were based on the advice appearing in the press. I have not known the average Australian to take a great deal of notice of public opinion when his pocket has been affected. We must get something a little more binding if the awards and determinations of the court are to be enforced. It has been said that, in the past, the awards have not been observed. I have burnt my boats long ago so far as the question of arbitration is concerned. It is ten years since I advocated similar co-ordination to that which the Government now proposes, although I was not able to get my ideas incorporated in their entirety in the platform of the party to which I belong. There can be no valid objection to some coordinating body, particularly if it be a court with judicial power whose officers hold their positions for life, getting in touch with subordinate tribunals which will deal with the affairs of the various States. In Victoria, where, I understand, on the best authority, the wages board system has worked very satisfactorily, Parliament could allow the wages boards to continue to function as they have functioned in the past. I remind honorable senators that it is not an exclusive power, but a concurrent power, that is sought. If Parliament- does not allow the wages boards to function under the concurrent jurisdiction, there is, as honorable senators are aware, power in this bill to enable them to function as a part of the Commonwealth system.’ I am sure that nothing is further from the minds of honorable senators and of the Government than any desire to interfere with any State tribunal which is working satisfactorily. We must, however, have some co-ordinating authority. We must prevent men living in one State from obtaining an advantage over men in the same industry across the border. The fact that different awards operate in the various States is a fruitful source of industrial unrest. When a man who is working on one side of the border finds out that his fellow just over the other side is receiving more for the same, work than he receives, it is only natural for him to try to obtain the same conditions for himself. I visualize the time when the State awards, which have been maintained under the decision of the High Court, will be given effect to in the new legislation which we are asked to pass. No injustice is likely to be done by an Australian Parliament to an Australian State. Such a thing is unthinkable. I realize that, iu the smaller domestic sphere, home rule is essential; but I realize also that if one part of Australia is adversely affected by any legislation which we may enact, it will react- on the whole of Australia. I have already indicated where I stand regarding unification. The Minister pointed out, and his remarks were emphasized by Senator Lynch, that a great deal of overlapping of industrial awards now exists. It is painful to think of the trouble and confusion that has arisen over industrial legislation in Australia when the thing should be so simple that every man could understand it. We are endeavouring to provide one system for the whole of Australia - a system that will lead to simplicity, a saving of expenditure, and the co-ordination of the efforts of the various State instrumentalities which will carry out the work under the bill. I know of some merchants who, to-day, are working under twelve or fourteen awards. Is that not an infliction on industry? Surely one award would be sufficient! I admit that there are difficulties in the way; but those difficulties are not insuperable. I come now to a question that has given rise to considerable debate. It has been said that an award cannot be enforced against a union.
– It can.
– The Govern-, ment has promised to introduce legislation to enable this to be done, and the unions, in the main, are willing to accept it. It is quite .a simple matter. On the statute-book at present there is a law to compel the various insurance companies to carry out certain obligations secured by deposits of money. Industrial organizations must either accept arbitration or reject it. If they accept it, there is nothing to prevent us from requiring them to make a deposit of money or, as the Minister indicated, to enter into’ a bond.
– So far, they have been tossing a two-headed penny.
– That is so.
– That statement is entirely wrong.
– This is not a party question, and I do not desire to treat it as such. In the past, the position has been that wages have been on the increase; but we must consider the possibility of a different state of affairs iu the future - the cost of living going down, the price of wool dropping, and the rates of wages decreasing. We want to know that the unions which are prepared to accept benefits from arbitration are prepared to abide by the result when the position is reversed. Surely it is not beyond the ingenuity and capacity of this’ Parliament to pass laws which will ensure that the unions will obey the awards ?
– In the past they have always rendered obedience to the awards.
– I do not agree with that statement.
– Will the honorable senator give a specific instance to the contrary?
– The point is not whether they have or have not obeyed awards in the past, but whether they can be compelled to do so in the future. If we are not to have the rule of law, what are we to have? In its absence, we shall have industrial turmoil, inconvenience, and unrest throughout the country. I do not agree with the ActingLeader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), Senator Barwell, and others that this legislation has been hastily introduced. The Government had no alternative; it had to keep its election pledge.
Since I have had the honour to take my seat in this chamber I have been asked on innumerable occasions when the Bruce-Page Government intended to honour the pledge to introduce legislation to restore industrial peace in the community. The answer to that question is contained in this bill. There is no justification for the accusation of undue haste. In 1911 and 1913, as well as in 1919, similar proposals were submitted to the people. This is, therefore, no new question, but one upon which the people are not so woefully ignorant as. some honorable senators would have us believe. I venture to predict that the electors will not be found to be entirely in. the dark regarding the powers that the Government asks them to grant to the Parliament of the Commonwealth. Reference has been made to trusts, combines, and trade unions. When in England last year I had the opportunity to examine some figures in a morning newspaper there regarding the disposal of trade union . funds. The result of the exposure was that the membership of trade unions was reduced by about 2,000,000.
– That was due to the unemployment which prevailed.
– It was not due to that cause, but to the fact that there had been maladministration of the union funds. Notwithstanding a “ backto the-union “ movement, the tide of secession was not stemmed. The figures published showed that while the membership of’ the unions had decreased, the expenses of management had increased. I do not desire to proceed with that aspect of the question; but in the light of recent developments in this country, it is due to the members of the trade unions that Parliament should see that their funds are kept in accordance with law. That is all that we ask. It has been represented that these proposals are an attempt to interfere with the working, and general management of trade unions. I say definitely, that nothing is further from my mind. I take it that the Government’s intention is to provide for an actuarial examination of the funds of the unions in the interests of the members. Whether that work is to be done by Government auditors or by others is not of great concern.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of placing associations of employers in the same position?
– Why not?
– What about the funds of the trusts and combines?
– I do not know that they have any funds. Probably the honorable senator knows more about them than I do. Broadly speaking, we have an arbitration system to which we stand committed. We know its limitations in the federal sphere. We know its disadvantages to the indus-‘ trialists and to employers by reason of expense, complications, and delay. We know that it has been used, not legitimately, but illegitimately. The Government now says, “ Give us the power to create co-ordinate authorities which will, deal with all questions of wages and conditions of labour in a judicial way, and remove them beyond the pale of Parliament.” It is regrettable that industrial: problems have ever become linked up with the political questions of the country. A great deal of the trouble that has arisen is due to that first fundamental mistake. Notwithstanding that some of the proposals of the Government may go a little further than it was my original inclination to support, the advantages to be gained in regard to industrial matters are so great as to outweigh all disadvantages. We are also asking for power to make laws with respect to the creation or control of corporations. Senator Elliott.; has pointed out by interjection tonight that when the federal compact was entered into, every one believed that this Parliament would have that power, but the Commonwealth Government soon found out that it did not possess it. Even if Federal control of corporations has all’ those defects that Senator Barwell has pointed out, what harm can result ? ‘ The same power rests to-day with the New South Wales Government, which is led by a gentleman who probably may be regarded as an extremist even among his own class. Yet no great danger has resulted to the corporations of the State. It is our duty, in the interests of Australia’s peace and prosperity, and in the interests of the good opinion which the people overseas should have of us, to give every measure of support to these proposed amendments of the Constitution in order that we may be able to enactlaws providing for industrial rest, and not the unrest which is prevailing in the country to-day. They will enable us to enact laws which will restore our good name in the eyes of the world.
– The honorable senator does not. suggest that Australia, has a bad name? 8enator MCLACHLAN. - From an industrial point of view, it has a bad name. I have met people overseas who are afraid of the industrial position in Australia. I do not share their fears.
– It should not be said.
– Does not my honorable friend desire to hear the truth ? Does he propose to live in a world of hypocrisy all his life f Is heliving under the belief that everything is all right when it is not all right? What is the use of shutting our eyes to the facts ? One man told mc of £3.000,000 which was diverted from Australia - the greater portion of it went to the Argentine, and some of it to New Zealand - because the investors were afraid of the industrial unrest here. . That is what is going on. A lot of us shivered over the future of England a few weeks ago, but there was no cause for it. When you get among the people of England you realize that their good sense would speedily lead them to drive into the English. Channel the rabble we feared. Likewise, I have no fear for the future of Australia, but it is essential that’ the National Parliament of Australia should show to the world that it intends to take seriously in hand the reform of its industrial arbitration system, and that it is able to manage, that system which it has been at so much pains and so much trouble to set up.
Debate (on motion by Senator Drakebrockman) adjourned.
– I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Government is anxious to get these bills through, and to that end I shall ask honorable senators to sit on Tuesday next.
– I do not think that honorable senators will raise any objection to an extra sitting day, but I suggest that when the Senate ia sitting four days a week it might meet at 11 o’clock in the morning on Thursday as well as Friday. Those who live in other States have to “Mci their heels” about the city of Melbourne until the Senate meets in the afternoon. Of course, I realize that Ministers must have time to attend to their departments, but if my suggestion were adopted’ I think it. would expedite, business, especially when we are dealing with important legislation like this, which needs, not only careful consideration, but also a speedy passage. Other honorable senators who do not reside in Melbourne agree with me in ‘this regard.
– The suggestion made by Senator Foll is a good one, and if the progress of business during the next week indicates that its adoption would enable us to get through in proper time, we shall try to give effect to it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.23 p.m..
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 17 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260617_senate_10_113/>.