10th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk having reported the unavoidable absence of the President,
The Deputy President (Senator Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
.- I move-
That Standing Order No. 283 be suspended so as to enable a call of the Senate to be made, without the usual 21 days’ notice, in connexion wilh the third rending of the following bills, viz., Constitution Alteration (Industry and Commerce) Bill 1926 and Constitution Alteration (Essential Services) Bill 1928.
Although the motion states that it is usual to give 21 days’ notice to enable a call of the Senate to be made, on previous occasions Standing Order 283 has been suspended in the same way as is now proposed. On one occasion, a callwas made with five days’ notice, and ou another occasion six or seven days’ notice was given. Therefore, it has not been usual to give 21 days’ notice. On this occasion the Government proposes to give seven days’ notice, because to fulfil the requirement of the Standing Order that 21 days should be given would mean the postponement of the date for the holding of the referendum on the Constitution Alteration Bills, a course which, for many reasons, would be very undesirable. This peculiar standing order is provided to give every honorable senator an opportunity to attend when the final stage of a Constitution Alteration Bill is reached ; but I do not think that it can be contended that the notice proposed to be given on this occasion is insufficient. Honorable senators have already, through the progress of the bills in both Houses, had informal notice of the need for their attendance. Consequently, I feel sure that the proposal that I am now submitting will be agreed to, and that a motion providing forseven days’ notice of the call of the Senate will also be agreed to. I have been askedwhat would happen if an honorable senator dared to disobey the call.
– He would be shot at dawn !
– I do not know what would happen. The Senate has not provided any penalty. Boiling oil and other punishments might be thought of, but none hasyet been suggested. The practice has been that those honorable senators who could not attend explained verbally or by letter to the President the reasons for their absence. In the event of the absence of an honorable senator without good cause being shown, it is competent for the Senate to take what action it thinks fit; but no precedent has been established or practice laid down to meet such a contingency. If the Senate sees fit on this occasion to take action in the event of an honorable senator’s absence without showing good cause, it will be obliged to establish its own practice in that regard.
– I have very strong objections at all times to the suspension of the Standing Orders, and I realize that even on this occasion there is need to raise objections to the proposal to do so; but, ifI were to oppose the suspension of Standing Order 283, it would render useless the work of Parliament, so far as it has gone, in relation to these bills. I know the reason actuating the right honorable the Leader of the Senate in asking for the suspension of this standing order. It is to enable a poll to he taken on the Constitution Alteration Bills now before the Senate. But yesterdayI pointed out that we were rushing these bills, and I asked the Government to pause and see whether it could not postpone their consideration so that the people would have a better chance of studying them.
Senatorlynch. - Is not fifteen years long enough for the people to make up their minds?
– It would be out of order for me to accept Senator Lynch’s invitation, to discuss the whole of the principles of the bills before the Senate. It is quite evident that it is the determination of the Ministry to push these bills through. An indication of that determination was given last night when the right honorable the Leader of the Senate announced that we were to meet on Tuesday. Even if honorable senators of the Opposition were to vote against the suspension of this standing order, it would make no difference; the motion would be carried just the same; and as Parliament is evidently determined to get these bills through, I can see no good purpose in calling for a division. At the same time, I think the standing order is a necessary one. Every honorable senator, if he possibly can, should be in his place to register his vote for or against a proposal to alter the Constitution. But while not concurring in the urgency of the position, realizing the importance of the occasion, and that honorable senators will have due notice of what is to be done, I shall not oppose the motion.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to-
That there be a call of the Senate on Friday, the 25th day of June, 1926, at 11.30 o’clock a.m., for the purpose of considering the third reading of the Constitution Alteration (Industry and Commerce) Bill 1920, and of the Constitution Alteration (Essential Services) Bill 1926.
Debate resumed from the 17th June (vide page 3205), on motion by Senator Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I find myself in a little difficulty in approaching the discussion of this bill, because, unfortunately, there is a general impression abroad, just why I do not know, that I am particularly well-informed upon the subject. I fear that some of my friends may be disappointed in my contribution to the debate. There is such a tremendous lot that might be said that it is rather difficult to know what to deal with and what to leave out. But I propose to take a lead, to a certain extent, from the debate that has already taken place, and particularly from the very eloquent contribution to that debate by Senator Barwell. I propose to deal at once with some of the statements the honorable senator saw fit to make last night, statements which I regret to say have received a publicity in the press of Australia, if the Melbourne press is anything to go by, that is not altogether warranted, in view of the doubtful nature of some of them. I can understand the honorable senator speaking feelingly and strongly on this subject when he tells us so frankly that he does not believe in arbitration. That is his view. I do not agree with him. He tells us that arbitration has been a failure in Australia, but he makes that statement in very broad and general terms, and produces no evidence in support of it.
– Nor any reason to show why it has been a failure.
– Precisely. Compulsory arbitration is an experiment. It is being carried on in Australia and New Zealand. So far the evidence does not prove that it is a success. Neither does it show that it is a failure. As a matter of fact, I think the evidence points rather to its having been a success, and that, consequently, we are justified in continuing it for the purpose of determining finally whether it is a success or a failure. My own view is that we shall discover in the long run that it has been a success. Senator Barwell told us that the view abroad, in England in particular, is that in Australia there is a never-ending succession of strikes, that there is more industrial turmoil here than in any other part of the Empire, or, indeed, lie went so far as to say, in any other part of the world.
– In proportion to its population.
– Precisely. It is true that there are a number of people in Great Britain who hold that view regarding Australia, probably on account of the unfortunate utterances by public men, such as Senator Barwell and others, who do not take the trouble to investigate the facts for themselves. I propose this morning to look into a few of the facts. In view of the statements constantly being made, both in Australia and abroad, that this country is in a constant state of industrial turmoil, it is easy to understand why capitalists refrain from investing their money here. But if they knew the true position, they would realize that Australia offers as great attractions as any other country, and that there is no more industrial turmoil here than in the majority of the most favoured industrial countries. Certainly there is a great deal less unrest here than in most of those countries. First of all, let us consider the economic consequences of industrial turmoil. It will be agreed, I think, that its economic effects upon the material well-being of the community have, up to the present, been insignificant. I have taken the period from 1919 to 1923, because, in respect to those years, I have been able to obtain complete figures. I have deliberately eliminated the war years, because the statistics for that period are misleading. From” 1919 to 1923 the number of disturbances that occurred in Australia was 2,357, of which 1,534 took place in the mining industry, practically all of them being in the coal-mining industry, and 261 occurred in connexion with transport, mostly shipping. Thus, out of the total of 2,357 disturbances, 1,795 were confined to two industries.
– They were mostly so small that they would not be called disturbances in other countries.
-BRO CKMAN.- That is so. Some were so insignificant that they were not mentioned even in the Aus tralian newspapers. The total number that occurred in the industries, apart from the two I have particularly mentioned, was 562, or a little over 100 per annum - about two a week - for the period of five years. When we consider these figures, which include all the minor disturbances, as well as the. major ones, and when we remember that there have been only six interstate industrial disputes in Australia, we realize the absurdity of the statement by Senator Barwell last evening, and of the statements made from time to time by public men in Australia and abroad regarding the dislocation of industry in this country. I am endeavouring to show that we are making a mountain out of a molehill, and that, so far from the experiment of compulsory arbitration being the utter failure it is said to be, it has met with a great deal of success.
– A coal strike affects the whole of the industries of Australia, although the dispute may be confined to New South Wales.
– I am perfectly well aware of that, and I know that the majority of the disturbances take place in the two key industries. I also know that the extremists have deliberately battened on those two industries, for the purpose of creating industrial turmoil hi Australia, and that it is the duty of this Parliament to obtain such power that it can control them. That power, as I shall endeavour to show, does not exist at the , present time. It is most desirable in the interests of Australia that there should be power to control the organizations on both sides, because, in a measure, both the employers and the employees in those industries have been to blame for the disturbances. Let us take another set of figures dealing with the same matters. The total loss in wages in the years 1919 to 1923 for the whole of industry in this country amounted to £7,986,000. During that period, the loss in the mining industry was £4,672,000, and in the shipping industry £1,S26,000, making a total for those two industries of £6,498,000. We find that in all other industries excepting those two the loss for the five years amounted to £488,000, or less than £100,000 per annum.
– That is only a fraction of the loss sustained by industry as a whole.
– I have been at great pains to get these figures accurately, and they are as complete as can be furnished. 1 have consulted the Government Statistician ia order to ascertain the total direct and indirect losses; but it is practically impossible to obtain them. In the face of those facts, how can one say, as Senator Barwell and other public men are, unfortunately, constantly saying, both here and abroad, that Australia is the home of strikes and industrial unrest? Statements of this nature do incalculable damage; they give us a bad name, when we deserve a good one.
– What is the comparison with other countries?
– I am coming to that. At the mom em I am endeavouring to show how untrue and damaging these unfortunate statements are. A few years ago I shared, the belief that Australia was the home of the striker and the paradise of the shirking worker. I accepted the views published in the press as those of public men om whose opinion one should be able to rely. When I made inquiries for myself, however, I discovered that the working man of Australia was not such a “ rotter “ and blackguard as I had been led to believe, but that, on the contrary, taking him by and large, he had “ played the game.” I found that there were some notable exceptions; but one cannot judge the whole of the industrialists of Australia by the actions of a few men in one or two industries, or in one or two unions. I have come to the conclusion, deliberately, that arbitration has not been a failure, although I am not yet prepared to say that the experiment has been a complete success.
– If the Arbitration Court had, for economic reasons, reduced instead of increased wages,* does the honorable senator think he could have held the same opinion ?
– It will be found from the awards that there have been a considerable number of reductions in wages. The awards are varied from quarter to quarter, because they include a provision that the wages shall be increased or reduced in accordance with fluctuations in the cost of living, as indicated by the figures fur nished by the Government Statistician. The basic wage for the whole of Australia is determined by what is known as the Harvester award. All subsequent decisions of the Arbitration Court have been based on that case. There was no specific authority in our Arbitration Act to determine a basic wage for Australia, so the court had to provide its own standard. Unfortunately, Mr. Justice Higgins, who conducted the investigation, was unable to obtain complete information to enable him to come to a scientific decision. As to some aspects of the problem, he had to make a guess. We must admit that he made a very good guess indeed, for the standard which he fixed was very near to the proper basic wage. As I have said, his finding in the Harvester case has been the governing factor in all subsequent decisions of the Arbitration Court. Slightly different basic wage standards have been adopted by the courts in South Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland. Those tribunals took into account other factors; nevertheless, they based their opinions on the Harvester award.
– There has always been a constant upward tendency.
– Let me deal at once with that aspect of the subject. I had intended to do so before I resumed my seat. When we speak about wages, we should also keep in mind the purchasing power of money. Only in that way is it possible to determine what are real wages. For instance, it is futile to compare the wages received by a workman twenty years ago with what he gets today, unless at the same time we compare the purchasing power of money twenty years ago with its purchasing power to-day. If we examine the position in this light, we find that since 1901, when much sweating in industry prevailed, there has been an increase in real wages in Australia of just under 15’ per cent.
– The principal increase was in the first three or four years.
– Not altogether. Real wages increased by 10 per cent, between 1901 and 1911, and have increased by 5 ‘ per cent, since 1911. Let us now see how this increase in real wages has been paid for. It is obvious, I think, that the amount of wages that can be got out of industry depends upon its productivity.
In other words, if industry is not producing the necessary wealth, it cannot pay for its labour and carry on. Since 1901 there has been an increase in productivity of 15 per cent., practically the same as the increase in real wages.
– There is a decrease in productivity as compared with 1911.
– That is true. During the war period productivity in Australia declined very considerably, but there has been a steady and considerable increase since 1918. Over the shorter period it has been much more than15 per cent.
– In amount or value ?
– In amount, of course. It is impossible to make a comparison in any other way, because values change. I admit that productivity is lower now than it was in 1911, as we have not yet recovered from the effects of the war; but there has been a steady increase in productivity since 1918. Taking 1911 as the starting point, with the index figure at 1,000, we find that productivity in 1913 reached 1,118. In 1918, five years later, it had dropped to 853; and in 1919-20, it had still further declined to 812. In 1920-21, however, it rose to 903, and in 1921-22 to 944, but in 1923-24 . it was 913, representing a slight decline from the previous year. If we care to go back to 1871 for a comparison, we find that productivity in Australia, compared with the index figure for 1911, was as low as 571.
– Since then there has been a remarkable development in the application of scientific methods to production. Productivity should be double that figure now.
Senator DRAKEBROCKMAN.These figures demonstrate that industry can only pay in wages what it produces. If there is to be any considerable increase in real wages, there must be a corresponding increase in productivity. People who argue that it is possible to get more out of industry without a corresponding increase in productivity are riding for a fall, and if industry attempts to pay on that basis, it, too, will be riding for a fall.
– Wages would then be paid out of capital.
– Exactly. Let us now examine the effect of arbitration on the distribution of the product of industry, and compare the situation in Australia with the position in other countries. There is a prevailing impression that the wage-earner in Australia gets a larger proportion of the product of industry than the wage-earner in the United States of America, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, France, or any other leading industrial countries of the world. That is not true. If honorable senators care to study the writings of men like Stamp, Brigden, of the Tasmanian University, Sutcliffe, of the Census and Statistics Bureau, Ingolls, and other authorities, they will find that there is a remarkable similarity in the figures relating to the distribution of the product of industry. Broadly speaking, these authorities are agreed that, subject to local variations, 60 per cent. of the product of industry goes to the worker, 20 per cent. is absorbed in salaries, and the balance of 20 per cent. is available for the replacement of capital, to meet expenditure in connexion with still-births in industry, royalties, interest, sinking fund, and all the other charges that are associated with the carrying on of industry.
– Has the honorable sentaor any figures showing the average net return to capital employed in industry?
– Yes ; it is somewhere in the vicinity of 5 per cent .
– That was Bell’s figure.
– It is just as well to have it stated, because sometimes employees think that the employer get the lot.
SenatorDRAKEBROCKMAN.That is the position for Australia. If the honorable senator cares to study Mr. Sutcliffe’s interesting document, and compare it with information available as to other countries, he will find that there is a marked similarity in the position in Australia and other industrial countries. These figures entirely dispel the notion that Australia is rushing to destruction, as Senator Barwell and others would suggest. They show, also, that this great experiment of industrial arbitration has not been the colossal failure which some people would have us believe it has been, also that it has not very materially advantaged the working man, or very materially, if at all, disadvantaged capital in Australia. Let us now make a comparison of real wages in Australia and real wages in other industrial countries. These figures show that real wages in Australia for the whole of industry are about 58 per cent, better than- real wages in Great Britain, that they are from two to five times greater than real wages on the continent of Europe, but slightly less than the real wages in Canada and the United States of America.
– Has the honorable senator any idea of the purchasing power of money in .Australia as compared with other countries?
– That is what I am dealing with - the real wages. This, I submit, has an important bearing upon the assertion that the Arbitration Court has always been in favour of the workers, and has functioned to the detriment of capital. I submit that it has not.
– It has been of great advantage to capital in certain respects..
– I will not go to that extent. If we compare the wages paid in Australia with those paid in other countries, we find that it has not had any material effect.
– The honorable senator has just shown that the wages paid are higher in two countries where the arbitration system is not in operation.
– Yes, slightly higher.
– But it is a factor which must not be overlooked.
– Yes, and one which influences me in saying that our system is still in the experimental stage; the data is not yet complete. “We have not yet proceeded far enough with the experiment to prove that our arbitration has been a complete success or a partial failure. All I can say is that it is pointing in the direction of success. In the United States of America and Canada the productivity is greater per man than in Australia. We can only improve the lot of the working man in the Commonwealth - and I think it is the earnest hope of every honorable senator that we may be able to do so - by increasing productivity. Without absolutely dislocating industry we might increase the workers wages by 5 per. cent, or 10 per cent., but beyond that we could not go.
– The daily rate is an important factor, but a year’s earnings should also be considered. The honorable senator is comparing the wages in Australia with those prevailing in Canada and the United States of America, where in many parts active operations cease for about three months in the year.
– The honorable senator was quoting the weekly wages, whereas the annual rate would provide a better comparison.
– I quoted the daily rates.
– Australia is a much better country for the working man.
– Yes, better than either Canada or the United States of America, because in Australia the work is continuous. The Australian workmen receive the wages I have quoted for the whole year, which is not the case in the United States of America or Canada. In the countries to which I have referred there are fairly long periods when work cannot be undertaken, and consequently wages are not forthcoming. Looking at the question from’ all angles, it must be admitted that Australia is a much better country for capital and also for labour.
– Does labour actually receive more in Australia than in the United States of America or Canada?
– Unfortunately, I have not those figures before me.
– The Australian workmen is probably better off.
– Yes, and a study of the position from that aspect is worthy of attention. In the limited time at my disposal I have dealt as fully as possible with the allegations of Senator Barwell. I have done so deliberately, because I think they ought to be answered ‘ effectively. The facts I have given to-day are based on the most reliable information, and I trust they will be given as much publicity as were the alleged facts which the honorable senator quoted last night.
– Alleged facts !
– Yes. The honorable senator has not heard the whole of my remarks on this subject, but if he reads them I am sure he will agree with everything I have said.
I wish now to refer to a meeting held in Melbourne on the 14th of this month, which was convened by Sir Arthur Robinson for the purpose of inaugurating a campaign to oppose the referendum proposals. It is rather interesting to note the form of invitation sent to certain business men in this city. Only those willing to oppose the amendments were asked to attend. From a perusal of the press reports one would gather that a meeting of Melbourne business menhad been arranged to discuss the referendum proposals, and that after discussion they had condemned them. It was a meeting, however, of men pledged to oppose the proposals before they had heard any discussion. They went there for that purpose, and for no other. Sir Arthur Robinson stated that they had met for the purpose of discussion, but the discussion consisted of a speech by Sir Arthur Robinson, and a mild echo by Mr. Menzies. At the end of those two speeches nothing was said in opposition; a resolution was unanimously passed condemning the Government’s proposals. There were, however, others present to watch the proceedings, and to see if those associated with industry in this State were represented. They were not.
– Were the speakers business men?
-No ; they were both lawyers, one of whom knows a good deal about business, and the other nothing about it. Although men actively engaged in industry were not represented, many business men were present, and condemned the Government’s proposals. It is, however, an extraordinary fact that the commercial men of Melbourne, who are actually engaged in industry, are wholeheartedly behind these proposals.
-How does the honorable senator know that?
– If the honorable senator will read the newspapers during the next day or two, he will see the proof of the assertionsI have made. Labour industrialists have given every indication of the fact that they are supporting the proposals by the resolutions passed at the Melbourne Trades Hall and elsewhere. I can assure honorable senators that industrial representatives of the Employers’ Federation and the Trades Hall did not attend this meeting - they were not invited. The principal fear of Sir Arthur Robinson and those associated with him on that occasion was that if this proposed amendment of the Constitution were carried the Commonwealth Parliament would have power under it to pass a uniform companies law, and to create, control or dissolve corporations. That was the real fear in the minds of these men. They are of the opinion that if the Commonwealth Government is given the powers it is now seeking, it will be able to deal with corporations, and that if the Labour party obtains political power, action contrary to their interests may be taken. My answer to these gentlemen may be put very briefly. It is that at the present moment, most of the States in Australia, which possess these powers, are controlled by Labour Governments, and that I do not know of anything they have done which is a menace to the legitimate business of companies or corporations carrying on operations in those States. A uniform companies law is most desirable for the whole of Australia, and the only way in which to obtain such a measure is to give the Federal Parliament the power we thought it had, but which, according to an interpretation of the High Court, it has not.
– It was thought that the Commonwealth had that power.
– Undoubtedly. When the Constitution was framed, it was the intention to give the Commonwealth power in this regard. It is most desirable that it should have it. Sir Arthur Robinson personally holds the view that the contract entered into 25 years ago is sacrosanct. Such an argument embodies the quintessence of absurdity. The Constitution itself provides for subsequent amendments. The eminent gentlemen who framed the Constitution knew that, as the government of Australia functioned, it would be found that there were weaknesses which required to be removed. Are we not to profit by the experience of the last 25 years? “We have seen the weak points in the Constitution, and should strengthen thom.. Its shortcomings are very apparent in the matter of industrial arbitration.
– Sir Arthur Robinson also said that it would be dangerous for the Commonwealth Parliament to have such power*” while the Seat of Government was in Melbourne, and more so when it was transferred to Canberra.
– Seeing that the honorable senator has reminded the Senate of that remarkable statement, and that my time is limited, I shall let it go at that.
Honorable senators know that every State has a system by which its industries are regulated. Victoria and Tasmania have wages boards, Queensland and Western Australia arbitration courts, and New South Wales and South Australia both wages boards and arbitration courts. Those authorities can function only in respect of the industries of their respective States. . Superimposed upon them is the Federal Arbitration Court. The framers of the Constitution and all who gave this matter any consideration believed for many years that the powers of the Federal court were so limited as to the industries in respect to which it could function that it could deal with only the shipping and shearing industries.
– At the time that the Constitution was framed those were the only two industries which extended beyond the borders of one State.
– In practice, however, it has been found that every industry in Australia can be brought under the Federal Arbitration Court. The control which that court can exercise is, however, limited. Because of overlapping jurisdiction we have overlapping awards, with the result that conditions in industry have become almost intolerable to both employers and employees. One industry in Melbourne, employing only a small number of men, is working under 32 different awards. It is easy to understand that difficulties must arise in interpreting those awards. Although an expert has been appointed to ascertain the nature of the employers’ obligations under the awards, the laws of the country are quite unintentionally frequently broken. Let us consider the position in the pastoral industry as an example.
– Queensland has its own award for that industry.
– 1 shall refer to that presently. In order to obtain an award in the pastoral industry there must, first, be a dispute, either real or created. Unless there is a dispute the Federal Arbitration Court has no jurisdiction whatever. Moreover, the only people who are bound by an award are those who are actually before the court. Therefore, to obtain an effective award in the pastoral industry, every pastoralist in Australia must be brought before the court. When the last application for an award in this industry was made 4,000 pastoralists were brought before the court.
– If only 4,000 pastoralists were brought before the court many were missed.
– That is the difficulty. Those who were not before the court were not bound by the court’s award, because there is no power to make a common rule.
– Does the _ honorable senator think that it is right for the court to intervene before a. dispute actually occurs?
– I can conceive of many circumstances in which it would be desirable, in the iiiterests of harmony, for the court, or other authority, such as a wages board, or a Whitley board to intervene before a dislocation of industry actually took place. The existing authority should have the right to intervene to prevent a dispute or a dislocation of industry from occurring.
– The wages boards do that now.
– Yes. Let us suppose that the wages paid to shearers are 10s. a day, and that they approach the court with a request for 14s. a day. The court can have jurisdiction only between those rates. Should the evidence disclose that 15s. a day would be a proper wage, that amount could not be granted, because the limit is 14s. Similarly, if it were found that a proper wage was 8s. a day, the court could not make an award for less than 10s. The position is absurd. Moreover, other persons who engage in the pastoral industry after an award has been made, are not bound by the award; they can pay whatever wages they like.
– In practice they are bound by the award, because the members of the union will not work for less than the award rate.
– They are not bound in law, and only half the workers in Australia are members of unions.
– There are 8,000 flock masters in Australia, only 4,000 of whom, on the Minister’s own showing, were brought before the court. Nevertheless, the remaining 4,000 were forced to pay award rates.
– I referred to the pastoral industry only by way of illustration. I believe that Senator Guthrie is right, and that all pastoralists do pay the award rates, although not all are bound by law to do so. The rule that only those who are brought before the court are bound byits awards applies to all industries. In some instances, the employers do not, in fact, pay the award rates which those who have appeared before the court are compelled to pay. I mentioned the pastoral industry because it is spread throughout Australia. Honorable members can see the expense which the unions must incur in order to obtain an award which is legally binding on all. employers. [Extension of time granted.] In order that the court may have power to make a common rule, an amendment of the Constitution is necessary. If these proposals are agreed to by the people, the unsatisfactory state of affairs which now exists will be abolished. The chaotic conditions found in industry to-day arise chiefly from overlapping awards consequent on overlapping jurisdictions. Australian industries cannot flourish while the present chaotic conditions are allowed to continue. We must have something definite; and that is impossible without an alteration of the Constitution. We have arrived at the stage where we must either go back to where we thought we were originally under the Constitution, or go forward. Because proposals to limit the powers of the Commonwealth would not pass this Parliament, we cannot go back. In order to extricate ourselves from the existing chaos we must go forward. And the only way to go forward is to ask the people for greater powers.
SenatorH. Hays. - Then the honorable senator admits that there is chaos at present? His figures did not reveal it.
– Of course there is chaos. There is a most deplorable state of chaos in industry, and if we are ever to determine whether or not this experiment of ours is a failure, let us, at all events, provide circumstances in which it can be properly tested. Let us have a set of laws and powers which will give us an opportunity to determine whether the regulation of conditions of employment is a success or failure in Australia, but so long as the present chaotic state of the law exists, this Parliament will have no such opportunity. Those who point to the failures of arbitration - it has had some - only point to failures which are consequent upon the chaotic state of our industrial laws; and until we get an amendment of the Federal Constitution there is no possible chance of straightening out those laws.
– Then many of our industrial figures would appear even better.
– I have no doubt that our industrial figures would appear much better if we had decent industrial laws to regulate our industries. I am reminded by a note from Senator Elliott that one of the greatest objections to the proposed extension of the Commonwealth’s power is that the Commonwealth would exercise a control over State instrumentalities. That objection has been raised in the past, and is still being raised. But already the Federal Arbitration Court has power to regulate conditions of employment in regard to State instrumentalities, and there is no proposal on the part of the Government either to deprive it of that power or to increase it. Of course, we could limit the power of the court to deal with those instrumentalities, but we. cannot take away from the Parliament the power which it already has in respect to them. That being so, the objection that if increased powers are given to the Commonwealth it will control State instrumentalities ought not to be advanced. It is not a legitimate reason for opposing an extension of the Federal powers.
I advise any one who is interested in the legal aspect of this question to read the very clear exposition of it which was delivered a few days ago in another place by Mr. Latham, the Attorney-General, on the second reading of this bill. I think Mr. Latham’s speech shows that the state of the law in Australia is such that there is an imperative demand for its amendment which can only be brought about by an amendment of the Federal Constitution. I have with me a tremendous mass of information which I shall probably be - using during the forthcoming campaign. I do not propose to go any further with the subject at the present moment. I think the case in favour of an amendment of the Constitution for the purpose. of giving greater powers to the Commonwealth is almost overwhelming. If -we are to have a contented industry, upon which the peace, prosperity, and advancement, of the whole of the continent depend, we must have more power to amend the existing industrial laws. Under the chaotic conditions which now obtain, it is almost impossible to have even a reasonable measure of satisfaction or contentment in our industries, and I submit that it is the duty of the Government, as it is the duty of Parliament, to endeavour to get this power to amend the industrial laws of the Commonwealth. I remind those who say that this matter is being too rushed, that amendments very similar to these which are now proposed have been submitted to the people on three previous occasions, and on each succeeding occasion have gained a greater measure of support. On the last occasion they were only defeated by the narrow margin of about 15.000 votes over the whole of Australia. To ‘those honorable senators who say that the matter is being rushed, that they find themselves in a very complex position, and that they cannot make up their minds wheither they should support or oppose the amendments, particularly those who have been associated with industries in one way or another almost the whole of their public life, my reply is that if they have not been able to make up their minds by now they will never be able to do so. If they have not come to the conclusion by now that there is urgent need for the amendment of the law, their minds are of a kind that are incapable of being made up. I remind those who suggest that the constituencies are being rushed and that Parliament is being rushed, that this matter has been prominently before the people of Australia ever since 1911. I submit, in conclusion, that it is essential and desirable that these amendments of the Constitution should be carried for the purpose of enabling this Parliament to pass that legislation which is necessary to put the industries of Australia on a reasonable, contented, and satisfactory basis.
.- The Senate appreciates very much the speech that has. just been delivered by Senator Drake-Brockman, and I trust that when the forthcoming campaign on the referendum proposals is launched those who are interested in having the amendments carried will consider the advisability of circulating as widely as possible views such as those expressed by the honorable senator in the course of his speech. As a legal man he has had a unique opportunity of discovering many of the flaws that exist in our industrial legislation. The opinions that he, as well as other members of the legal fraternity, can offer with regard to the chaotic condition of our industrial laws are a revelation to those who are less fortunately situated than they are, and do not see the ill effects that follow when conflict and overlapping take place between State and Federal activities. It was an education to hear Senator Drake-Brockman explain how difficult it is to carry on our industrial laws with two courts sometimes at variance, and with the limited powers of the Federal court.
– Some of us have (had that education through practical experience.
– I know that this condition of affairs has been brought home to some honorable senators in their business activities. Much of the ground that I intended to cover has been traversed more ably by Senator Drake-Brockman than I could hope to do, but I should like to emphasize his criticism of the scathing and mischievous statements made by Senator Barwell last night in regard to the industrial position in Australia.
– They were intemperate.
– I think they were also mischievous because of the far-reaching effects they may have on the good name of Australia in other parts of the world.
– It does no harm to tell the truth sometimes.
– I do not admit that some of the statements of Senator Barwell were a correct representation of the position in Australia.
– Some of them were.
– There may be exceptional cases where difficulties have arisen, but, generally speaking, the worker in Australia is no more anxious to go on strike ‘and lose his bread money than any other member of the community who has to earn a livelihood. To hear Senator Barwell one would imagine- that it is a pleasure for a mau to be earning no money through being on strike, and that he deliberately deprives himself, of the opportunity of earning the wherewithal to keep himself and his family in food and clothing. One would also imagine that Australia from one end to the other waa seething with discontent and industrial upheaval every day in the year.
– We are never free from strikes.
– During the nine years it has been my privilege to be a member of this Parliament I have never heard a more dismal word-picture of Australia and its future than I heard last night from the honorable senator. He told us that on a population basis there were more industrial unrest and upheavals in Australia than in any other country. I asked him at the time to produce comparative figures to substantiate his assertion, but he did not do so. The onus is on the honorable senator to produce those figures in order to show that the state of affairs he depicted docs actually exist. Senator Drake-Brock- ‘ man has compared the industrial unrest in Australia with that of other countries, and has pointed out that the trouble in Australia has been mainly associated with two big industrial organizations. The unions whose members are engaged on the water front and iu the coal-mining industry have been responsible for most of the losses in wages through industrial disturbances.
– There has been no end of strikes in all industries. I notice that there is now an irritation strike in the Post Office in Sydney.
– The speech by Senator Drake-Brockman was a complete answer to the statements by Senator Barwell. The former mentioned the number of industrial disturbances that had oc curred in the last few years, and showed that, considering the total number of employees engaged in industries in Australia, and the total output of those industries, the amount lost in wages was small compared with that in other countries. ‘ It was demonstrated that Australia compared more than favorably with most other countries so far as industrial turmoil was concerned.
– Is there one day in the year when Australia is free from a strike?
– It stands .to reason that in every country there will at any time be found some industry in which an industrial dispute is in progress.
– But Australia has provided machinery for doing away with strikes, while other countries have not. Does the honorable senator think that the compulsory system of arbitration has resulted in fewer strikes than would otherwise have occurred ?
– Yes. It is generally admitted, by employers and employees alike - by all sections of the community - that arbitration has led to the settlement of countless disputes. “When the late Mr. Justice McCawley, an exceptionally brilliant man, was first appointed to the Industrial Arbitration Court of Queensland, a good deal of criticism was levelled against his decisions, particularly by employers of labour.
– And justly so, too.
– There may have been grounds for that criticism at’ first ; but, on account of the tactful way in which he controlled the machinery of the court, he earned the commendation of both sections in the industrial sphere.
– Later, he was very successful.
– Yes. Both sides were desirous of having their cases heard by him in preference to any other judge. Obviously, if we have the right man on the Bench, it is possible for him to do much to bring about a better feeling between the opposing parties. The system of round-table conferences, which is largely availed of at the present time, has the blessing of the arbitration courts. In my own State, the judges commonly get the parties to confer, and they often arrive at an agreement, -which is gazetted.
– If it were not for the court, that would be the method generally adopted.
– But if these conferences fail, the parties can go to the court and obtain an award. I think that Senator Barwell stated that, unless the unions got everything they desired they could not be relied upon to abide by the awards. That may be so in odd cases, but of the total number of awards made by the various arbitration courts, a large proportion have been observed honorably. Senator Barwell endeavoured to make us believe that Australia was seething with industrial discontent. I remind him, however, that in many industries one can find men who have worked in one factory for 20 or 30 years, and are perfectly satisfied with their conditions.
– They are frequently pulled out on strike against their will.
– Will this bill not assist to overcome that trouble?
– Does the honorable senator think that the judge of the court should have all the power outlined by the Minister? Should he have the right to legislate for the whole realm of industry, practically to the exclusion of this Parliament?
– Parliament is always supreme, because the power that is given can be taken away. The honorable senator might just as reasonably object to the power conferred upon judges of the High Court to administer the laws passed by this Parliament. Even the State arbitration courts are in practically a similar position.
– The powers exist somewhere to-day.
– Yes. It is not suggested that the’ Federal court should have greater powers than those actually held by the State courts at the present time. There is urgent need in Australia for a uniform company law. The difficulties encountered, and the expense suffered, by business people on account of tho varying State laws have been brought under my notice many times. In Queensland there is a law compelling life insurance companies to deposit with the Treasury a large sum as a guarantee that the policy-holders shall have adequate protection in the event of an unusually. heavy list of claims being submitted, and the amount of the deposit required is increased as the company’s business grows. New South Wales, I suppose, has the most unsatisfactory company law in Australia, and during the last few years it has been the happy hunting ground for those desirous of launching bogus insurance companies. All they are required to do is to register a company, take an office in some imposing building, put the name-plate on the door and send men throughout the country inviting people to take out policies. Possibly the company circulates literature in which is displayed a photograph of a big city building, in which it only rents office accommodation, and oily-tongued canvassers do the rest. Many people have an idea that when they take out a policy with a life insurance company, they are making adequate provision . for their dependants. They do not take the trouble to inquire into the bona fides of the company in which they are insured, lt may have no standing. Honorable senators representing New South Wales will, I think, bear me out when I say that that State has been the happy hunting ground for people who set out to float new companies of the kind referred to. These insurance companies are in a category entirely different from that of the ordinary business venture. They should be controlled by Federal legislation, and required to furnish guarantees of financial stability.
– Do not all the States require some such guarantee?
– Not all of them. The State of South Australia, of which the honorable member was Premier for some years, legislated recently with regard to this class of business. An amendment of the law there has brought accident insurance companies under the provisions that apply to companies transacting other classes of insurance business. The deposit required has been materially increased. I wish it to be clearly understood that my remarks do not apply to all insurance companies in Australia. Many of them are most reputable concerns, and are conducting their business on sound financial lines.
– This Parliament has power to legislate with regard to insurance companies.
SenatorFOLL. - I always understood it had; but not long ago a deputation waited upon the Prime Minister with a request that action be taken to pass legislation to deal with insurance companies in one of the States because, so I understand, existing legislation had been declared to be ultra vires-
– Commonwealth power is at present over all insurance companies other than State insurance schemes within a State.
SenatorFOLL. - Even if the Commonwealth has this power, I hope that my remarks, so far as they may have any direct bearing on the question at issue, will influence the Government in the direction indicated, because there is urgent need in Australia for legislation to control the class of companies that I have mentioned. Ref erring again to the statement made by Senator Barwell, about industrial unrest in Australia, I gather from the CommonwealthYear-Book that, in 1923-24, the last year for which figures are available, the loss in wages, owing to industrial disputes amounted to just under £1,000,000.
– It has been much greater since then.
– I agree that, owing to the maritime strike in 1924-25, the loss in wages due to this cause was probably greater than in 1923-24, but the position this year is somewhat better. The congestion in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has been responsible for much of the industrial discontent. In many cases members of organizations have had claims pending for months. Naturally, they become restless, and sometimes are induced to take direct action.
– There are 105 cases before the court now.
– Much of the delay is due to the fact that the judges have no knowledge of industry.
– If a judge has no knowledge of an industry that has lodged a claim, he has power to call in expert assessors with a knowledge of the industry to guide him. The fact that there is congestion in the Arbitration Court is, in my opinion, an argument why we should increase the personnel of the court so as to dispose of the cases. A few years ago the position became so acute that the Government appointed Mr. Atlee Hunt as
Public Service Arbitrator, because 75 per cent. of the cases then set down for hearing before the Arbitration Court represented claims by members of Public Service organizations. Much of the dissatisfaction that may exist with regard to the operation of the system of industrial arbitration is due, I believe, to the congestion of the court. I disagree entirely with Senator Barwell’s view that the system has failed. I invite that honorable senator to read the able speech delivered by Senator McLachlan, who, in my opinion, furnished a complete answer to the charges made by Senator Barwell.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2 p.m.
– One of the arguments adduced by certain opponents of this measure is that some of the advanced industrial extremists claim that it is not in their interests to hand over to a Nationalist Government the powers which are being sought. On the other hand, there is another element of extremists . who say that if additional powers are granted to the Government in the direction proposed, action detrimental to their interests would most likely be taken in the event of the Labour party being returned to power. If such arguments could properly be advanced in opposition to this legislation, they would apply also to almost every other measure brought before this Parliament. It would be just as logical to say that when a Nationalist Government introduced an Income Tax Bill a Labour Government, on assuming office, would possibly increase the rates fourfold. During the period this Government has been in control of Commonwealth affairs, the difficulties which exist in consequence of the Government’s limited powers in the matter of industrial legislation have been frequently mentioned. As there are overlapping and varying awards in certain industries, the Government is justified in asking the people to grant it additional legislative powers in order toremove the chaotic industrial conditions which exist in many parts of the Commonwealth. It is generally admitted that, not only from the view-point of the employers, but also from that of the employees, it is infinitely better for men engaged in the same class of work in the one industry to be working under one award than under varying awards which not only lead to discontent, but also have a marked effect on efficiency. When I visited the Cockatoo Island Dockyard a short time ago, I found that some of the employees were working under a State award and others under a Federal award. While the present industrial situation in New South Wales prevails, those under a .Federal award are working a 44-hour week for which they receive payment for the actual time worked, whereas those under the State award are being paid full rates for a 44-hour week. It is not competent for us to determine the number of hours which should be worked in any industry. For instance, the conditions prevailing in Victoria or Tasmania differ vastly from those in Queensland and the Northern Territory. During certain periods of the year, men in the northern parts of Queensland are engaged in cane-cutting, and it cannot be said that the wages paid there should be the same as those prevailing in industries, more favorably situated in the southern States. The climatic conditions and the class of work involved must be taken into consideration. It is admitted that the fixing of a working week of so many hours for the whole of a State, irrespective of industrial variations, has produced most unsatisfactory results, and has had a detrimental effect upon industry. I am not competent to judge whether a 44-hour week is too short or too long, but the tribunal which we hope to establish will be” quite competent to deal with the situation. The arguments of certain business men in Melbourne against the proposals, to which Senator Drake-Brockman referred, are very shallow, and an analysis discloses that they are those of persons actuated by purely selfish motives. These business men even went so far as to say that if the Commonwealth Parliament were granted power to control corporations the position would be bad enough while the Seat of Government was in Melbourne, but that it would be infinitely worse when it was transferred to Canberra, where the Government would be away from the influence of such newspapers as the Age and the Argus, which endeavour to mould public opinion. Arguments of that nature clearly indicate that those who are opposing these proposed amendments of the Constitution have a very weak case. The employees are sick and tired of the unsatisfactory industrial situation which exists owing to the overlapping of awards. One of the strongest opponents of these proposals is Mr. Jock Garden, who, naturally enough, does not want industrial peace. He realizes that immediately our arbitration machinery is working smoothly dissatisfaction will be eliminated, and Garden and others of his type will have little to do. Sane employers and employees .are anxious to see the Government’s proposals adopted. More extensive powers in the direction proposed should be granted, to enable the Federal arbitration system to function efficiently. I sincerely trust that this measure will have the unanimous support of the Senate, and that the people will realize, when they are asked to vote, that they have a splendid opportunity to bring into operation a system which will be in the interests of all sections of the community.
.- The framers of the Federal Constitution, which has been in operation for over 25 years, slavishly followed the Constitution of the “United States of America , which was then about 100 years old and which, if the opportunity were now provided, would be amended in certain directions. If the national Parliament of Australia is to be the supreme legislative .authority, the Constitution must be amended in the manner proposed by the Government. The proposals in this instance have been supported and opposed by factions in both political parties, but certain industrialists are against them merely because they are put forward by a Nationalist Government. I am always willing to support reform irrespective of the Government in power. Moreover, some of the amendments of the Constitution for which this bill provides are on the Labour party’s platform,- and why, in the name of fortune,” industrialists art opposing something which they have previously advocated is beyond my comprehension. If a Government used these powers in a tyrannical way it would invite defeat. Every one must recognize that fact. If arbitration is to be given an opportunity to prove its value as a means of securing industrial peace, these extended powers are necessary. I do not claim that they will ensure freedom from strikes, because there will always be some men who will lay down their tools when conditions are not to their satisfaction. “We should, however, strive to get as near as possible to perfection. That the Arbitration Court has not been a failure is the opinion of many employers and employees, who urge that we should embrace this opportunity to extend the powers of the Federal Parliament. At present a great deal of dissatisfaction exists owing to the varying awards which operate in the different States. Where in the same industry one award is lower than another, those working under the lower award are naturally dissatisfied, and sometimes jealous. These proposals, if accepted, will place all the workers in an industry under one control. There is a strange division of opinion regarding these projected amendments of the Constitution. For instance, the secretary of one large organization opposes them, whereas the president of the same organization is in favour of them. I do not think that this measure should be opposed merely because it has been introduced by the Bruce-Page Government. If the powers sought would be beneficial with a Labour” Government in office, they could not be otherwise under any other administration, so long as they were properly administered. Any additional power which the acceptance of these proposals will give to the present Government will be possessed by its successors. Although I admit that it will probably take some years before we can shift it, the present Government will not remain in office for all time. The political pendulum is . always swinging.
– That does not matter so long as it does not swing too far.
– At the last election it swung too far for the Labour party.
– It is too heavily weighted at present.
– A lot of water will flow beneath the bridge before we again face the electors. Labour lost the last election because of the British seamen’s strike. The position may be quite different next time. Notwithstanding what Senator Barwell has said, arbitration has not been a failure. The honorable senator, when Premier of South Australia, attempted to alter the wages board system of that State; but he was unable to do so, because some of his own supporters voted against the proposal. Unfortunately, the honorable senator does not appear to have benefited from that experience. Why ia it that when industrial disputes arise, the workers are always blamed? They are not always wrong.
– The workers are never wrong.
– Quite so. The greatest sufferers from any strike are the workers. For that reason 90 per cent, of them are in favour of arbitration as a means of settling disputes.
– Out of the sufferings of the workers arose our present civilization.
– That is so. The trade unions of Australia are, for the most part, in favour of arbitration. One of the largest . unions in this country - the Australian Workers Union - is also one of the most law abiding. With one exception, the awards of the Arbitration Court, although not always agreed with, have been obeyed by the members of that union. It is better to endeavour to obtain reform by peaceful methods than to resort to force. In the last analysis, every strike is settled by arbitration. Therefore, why should not arbitration methods be adopted from the beginning, instead of the workers being thrown out of employment by strikes ? A splendid system of determining wages and conditions of work is in operation in South Australia in connexion with the Tramways Union. I do not know whether it applies to the branches of the union in the other States. Since it has been in operation, there has not been a strike of tramway men in South Australia. The wages of tramway employees in South Australia fluctuate with the cost of living. Before the present system was adopted, large sums of money were spent by that union in fighting cases in the Arbitration Court. On one occasion £4,000 was spent in determining whether certain action taken was constitutional. The Bootmakers Union had a similar experience. For weeks it fought a case in the Arbitration Court, and expended £6.000 from its funds in so doing. Money should not be wasted in that way. Arbitration hitherto has been a fattening paddock for lawyers. Instead of endeavouring to settle disputes quickly, lawyers prolong them as much as possible in order to obtain more fees. Lawyers are not necessary in the Arbitration Court. The members of the legal profession who represent the employees in the court get their information from the men actually engaged in the industry concerned. Instead of paying high fees to lawyers to present their cases to the court, the workers with the knowledge gained through practical experience, should present them themselves. If that were done, disputes would be settled more quickly than they are to-day. Senator Drake-Brockman this morning gave a” complete answer to the unfair and incorrect statement of Senator Barwell that Australia was the home of strikes. Senator Barwell submitted no figures to prove his contention, whereas the arguments of Senator DrakeBrockman were supported by figures which had been compiled with great care. Australia is not so bad industrially as Senator Barwell would have us believe.
– We are not so bad as overseas newspapers represent us to be.
– There may be a good deal in that argument. I am sorry to say the newspapers are somewhat unscrupulous. As I said to a friend of mine the other day, they are unmitigated liars.
– I presume the honorable senator is referring to The Worker, his own party’s newspaper?
– I am doing nothing of the kind. Has the honorable senator read All Men are Liars? Likewise, all newspapers are liars, but some of them are- superb liars, and the conservative papers are absolute and unmitigated liars.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newlands). - The honorable senator is using language which is not parliamentary; it is quite disorderly.
– Very well, ‘I withdraw it. In the forthcoming campaign I hope that the newspapers will be more merciful than they usually are, and that they will give both sides of the case, so that, the people may know what they are asked to accept. I hope that the people will carry these proposals, for the simple reason that, if they do, they will have a power which they have for a long time needed.
– .Since I first began to take an interest in Federal politics, a good many years ago, I have realized, in common with the great majority of the people of Australia, . the inadequacy of the present Federal Constitution to meet the growing requirements of this young nation of ours. That Constitution was never intended to be regarded as a sacred document whish must never be altered. In its very nature it was a compromise. In the Federal conventions, men with all kinds of conflicting ideas met, and because of that it was found almost impossible to agree upon a form of constitution suitable to every one. It was quite openly admitted that,- as ultimately framed, it was more in the nature of a compromise^ for the purpose of allaying distrust and suspicion on the part of certain individuals, than a standing working arrangement between the various States for the government of the Commonwealth. It is not surprising, therefore, that in some respects it has proved to be unworkable. Indeed, it is worse than that. From time to time, governments of the. Commonwealth have endeavoured to secure the amendment of the Constitution, but, although it has been amended in relatively small matters, the people of Australia have turned down all tho important amendments which have been put forward by the Labour party on several occasions. The present Government, fresh from the electors’, having given a promise to the people of Australia to act in certain directions, finds itself up against the need for amending the Constitution if it is to do the work it pledged itself to undertake. Honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have suggested that this matter should be left to a Federal convention - I think it was Senator Needham, the Acting Leader of the Labour party here, who said, “Why not leave it to a Federal convention, at which .the whole of the Constitution could be revised ? “ I believe that a majority of the people, as well as the majority of honorable members of this Parliament, know that there are certain amendments of the Constitution which ought to be effected without calling together a new convention. A convention comprising representatives of the various States would naturally find itself very much in the same position as the original convention.
– I thought that it was to be a parliamentary convention.
– I understood from honorable senators who have spoken that they wanted a convention on the lines of that which framed the Constitution.
– I thought that the reference was to a constitutional session of this Parliament.
– That would be another matter, but so many suggestions have been put forward for the amendment of the Constitution that one session would not suffice to cover the whole of the ground to be covered. The amendments now proposed by the Government are not new. They have not been sprung on the people of Australia. They have, in essence, already been considered by this Parliament on several occasions. Although their language is not exactly identical with that of previous proposed’ amendments, they have been before the electors on several occasions, so that the people, us well as members of Parliament, have had ample opportunity to study their probable effect, and to make up their minds upon them. I can claim to be quite consistent. I have always favoured an extension of the powers of the Commonwealth, and have never hesitated to support previous proposals for amendments of the Constitution. My attitude to-day is identical with the stand I took up when similar proposals were before the people. The present amendments, although not quite the same, give the Commonwealth Parliament very extended powers that will enable it to legislate more effectively for the good government of Australia, and the control of its industries, trade and commerce. That being so, I am amazed at the attitude of certain honorable senators, more particularly those opposite. I congratulate Senator Hoare. He at least is quite honest. He knows what he wants, and has the courage to say so. He is supporting these proposals, and when they go to the country he will advise his friends, his supporters, and the electors of South Australia generally to vote “Yes” on them.
– He may be “ crucified “ all the same.
– I do not believe it : but at least he will be able to say that he did what in his opinion was the right thing to do. I am only sorry that others, more particularly on the same side of the chamber as that honorable senator, do not possess the same courage. Let us take, for instance, the pitiful exhibition given by Senator Findley. I say it without wanting to reflect on the honorable senator. He was one of the leaders of the Labour party in the past attempts to have the Constitution amended in the direction now proposed.He made a long speech last night, and we gave him an extension for half an hour in order that he might fully explain where he stood in the matter, but when he concluded his remarks, if he himself knew where he stood, there was not another honorable senator who did. No one knew what he meant or wanted, or whether he would vote for or against the proposed amendments. It was the finest exhibition of balancing I have ever seen, and in my time I have been to a few circuses. He told us that the bill was not quite what he wanted, but that it was a jolly good thing. Several times he was just on the verge of saying that he was in favour of it, and then he seemed to recollect himself and started off on some other subject. When he was finally asked straight out whether he was in favour of these proposals he said, “I am a Labour man.” That was the nearest approach to a declaration of the honorable senator’s attitude we could get, and in making it the honorable senator was, in effect, informing us that, no matter what he thought, he would do what the Labour organizations said he ought to do. When one realizes the stand taken up by the various Labour organizations, it is easy to understand Senator Findley’s perturbation, and why he finds himself unable to declare himself on the matter. The Labour organizations are divided on the issue. One Labour council says one thing; another says quite the opposite. Some trade unions are in favour of the Government’s proposals; other are not. Labour executives in one State say “ Vote Yes’” ; in another State they say, “ Vote No ‘ “. Poor Senator Findley, finding himself between the devil and the deep sea, cannot make up his mind what to do.
But his attitude is only typical of that of others. Senator Needham’s explanation was not as skilful as that of Senator Findley, but it was just the same sort of thing. Senator Needham did not endeavour to walk the tight rope. He got on to the middle of it, and stayed there lest he might fall off. He was not quite sure where he stood. He knew that in the past he had supported extensions of the powers of the Commonwealth along these lines. He knew that if a Labour Government came into office in the Commonwealth it would be impossible for it to begin to carry out its platform unless it had these very powers which the Government now proposes to submit to the electors. Yet, because certain Labour organizations cannot make up their minds, and, in doing so, make up the honorable senator’s mind for him, he is not quite sure where he stands. In another place, Labour members, after a good deal of misgiving, have supported all these proposals but one. A great hubbub has been caused by their action; but, nevertheless, they have favoured the Government with their support, because they realize that it is absolutely essential for a Commonwealth Labour Government to have these powers. They know what Labour wants. In the years the movement has been in existence, they have realized how absolutely essential it is for a Labour Government to have these powers, and they have had the courage to say so. I hope they will maintain their courage to the extent of telling the electors that the Commonwealth Parliament must have these powers if it is to have a national character. It has frequently been remarked that politics bring us strange bed-fellows. One is almost forced to smile when one contemplates the possibility of seeing Senators Findley and Barwell taking the platform together in opposition to the granting of the powers sought under the bill. Seeing these two honorable senators cheek by jowl makes us realize that this is not a party matter, but one that should be looked upon only from the stand-point of the ultimate benefit to be derived by the people. I wonder what is the attitude of Senator Barnes towards the bill. I know the view of his organization.
– It has not yet expressed its opinion.
– I have read resolutions carried by certain branches of that body.
– The only authority that can speak between conferences is the executive council, and that has not yet spoken.
– But certain branches of the organization have not hesitated to condemn the Government’s proposals, although it was always foremost in the fight for these powers. They may have a far-reaching effect in favour of, or against, trade unions - although I can hardly imagine they would operate against the unions - and yet the president of the Australian Workers Union has been silent in this debate. I thought that he would be one of the first to speak on the subject. Is his silence to be attributed to the fact that his organization has not yet expressed its deliberate opinion? Senator Barwell, whoSe statements have been most effectively replied to by Senator Drake-Brockman, is evidently living in a past age, and he should inform himself more particularly regarding present-day industrial conditions and their meaning. He said that he was opposed to arbitration because it had not abolished sweating, did not prevent strikes, and did not promote good industrial relationships between employers and employees. While it cannot be said that any one thing abolished sweating, the inauguration of the arbitration system did a great deal towards that end. When arbitration was introduced in New South Wales, bad industrial conditions obtained. I remember the case of the Shop Assistants’ Union versus Mark Foy’s. The evidence revealed that the conditions of shop assistants were about as bad as one could imagine. Girls were employed in retail establishments in Sydney at 4s. a week.
– Even 2s. 6d.
– Yes. Many of the younger girls received as low a wage as that. Sweating was rife in many industries; and, the fact that the arbitration system was established, brought those conditions under the public gaze. Any honorable senator, who contends that arbitration did not abolish sweating, does not tell the whole story. Arbitration, coupled with the realization by the public that it was necessary to improve the general conditions of the workers, did abolish sweating as older countries know it. It may be safely said that arbitration has done more than anything else to improve industrial conditions. Senator DrakeBrockman showed conclusively that Senator Barwell’s statement that the Arbitration Court had not helped to put an end to strikes was entirely wrong. Senator Barwell also said that the court had not promoted good relationship between employers and employees, and he pinned his faith to round-table conferences. In my opinion, there is infinitely less danger of a bad feeling between the two opposing sections, when a case is fought before an arbitration court, than when it is heard before a wages board, or, more particularly, at a round-table conference. If the representatives of the men stated their case fully at such a conference, and expressed strong views, they would of necessity outrage, more or less, the feelings of the employers. Consequently, the delegates would leave the conference with strong feelings against each other, and this would be reflected throughout the industry. Whatever decision were given, it would not be as satisfactory as a decision by an arbitration court, which is given by the presiding officer after hearing the evidence prepared by both sides. No matter what the decision of an arbitration court may be, there is very little feeling afterwards on the side of either party. Bound-table conferences serve a useful purpose in bringing the parties together. I admit that both methods have their virtues.
– Is not a roundtable conference possible under the powers now sought?
– Yes. There may be cases where it would be wise to have such a conference, and no obstacles will be placed in the way if the powers sought under the bill are granted.
– I am afraid that the referendum is to be taken too hurriedly.
– I think not. The people have had plenty of time to consider the merits of the proposals. The Labour party has sought increased powers over trade and commerce for years. Its political platforms show that.
– The power sought under this bill in regard to trade and commerce is not what the Labour party proposed.
– Not in exactly the same words ; but extensive powers over commerce and industry are to be taken. If these proposals do not give to this Parliament all the power which, in the opinion of the Labour party it should have, surely it is infinitely better to accept even restricted powers, always hoping that at some later date it will be possible to secure an extension of these powers than to be in the position in which some honorable senators opposite find themselves to-day. I feel satisfied that this view has the endorsement of Senator Barnes. It certainly is the attitude of Senator Hoare. They are wise, because, as has been pointed out, it is not easy to induce the people to agree to amendments of the Constitution. I am in favour- of these proposals, and I hope that they will be agreed to as unanimously in this Chamber as they were in another place. Members of the Labour party there supported them, and I hope that members of the party in this Chamber will do likewise, and that the questions will be submitted to the people free from any party bias. It is very desirable that the Commonwealth should .be clothed with additional powers to enable it to govern this great country satisfactorily.
.- I did not wish to take part in this debate, but, since the measure vitally concerns the interests of Australia, it is advisable that every honorable senator should express his views concerning such an important issue. It is a pity that the other two bills - the proposed constitutional amendment with regard to essential services and the bill to amend the Arbitration Act - are not also before us, because in the debate on this measure we must necessarily deal with matters that ur& more strictly governed by the other proposals. Senator Barwell last night madesome extraordinary statements about our system of industrial arbitration. In reply to an interjection from me, he said he favoured round-table conferences. I am afraid the honorable senator is not so intimately acquainted with the industrial” history of Australia as I am. I know all about round-table conferences. As. honorable senators are aware, I am an officer of a big industrial organization with a membership of over 150,000. Our policy always has been for peace. For years prior to the passing of the Arbitration Act we asked our employers to meet us around the table to talk about our troubles, and year after year we got the same contemptuous reply, “No conference.” Then Australia woke up industrially and passed the Arbitration Act. That measure introduced the element of compulsion on, not only employees, but also employers. There was, then, no difficulty about arranging a round-table conference. Since then the officers of my union have had many conferences with employers, and have settled quite a number of industrial differences in that way. Some of the disputes have gone on to the Arbitration Court. It is some satisfaction to us to know that we blazed the track and made it possible for the existing system of industrial arbitration to be established. It has cost us a great deal of money, and I am glad to say that our members have been fairly loyal to the system. It has been in operation since, I think, 1907. Members of my union have been working under its awards since then, and only on one occasion - only when the court made a grievous blunder - have they been in conflict with an award. The court, unwittingly, I believe, made a serious mistake in the figures, and as the award covered a period of two years, I suppose that blunder meant anything up to £500,000 to our members. AVith great reluctance, therefore, we fought that award. It cost us about £40,000 to do so. That is the only instance on record since the arbitration system has been established in Australia of the Australian Workers Union breaking away from it, but as 1 have explained, our members felt that they were suffering a grave injustice. Senator Barwell has told’ us that when he was Premier of South Australia he had a good deal to do with industrial affairs, and established a number of wages boards and other tribunals for the settlement of industrial disputes. He suggests that round-table conferences are more satisfactory than compulsory arbitration. My reply is that, but for the existence of the Arbitration Act, there would not be a “ dog’s chance “ of getting round-table conferences for the settlement of industrial disputes. Some people complain about paying £3,000 a year to a judge of the Arbitration Court. If we had 50 judges, and paid them each £3,000 a year, it would be good business if we could ensure the prompt settlement by the court of all industrial claims that come before it. Do honorable senators realize what it means if 10,000 men cease work because they cannot get a settlement of an industrial grievance? Men do not lightly part with their means of subsistence. There must be a solid reason for such drastic action, and it should be the duty of the Government to see that the necessary machinery is available for prompt settlement of all these industrial troubles. I speak more intimately of the affairs of my own union, . because I know more about it than about the affairs of other industrial organizations, though they all follow on much the same lines. My union’s rules provide that its members must not go out on strike without the authority of the central organization. If a couple of hundred men “ down “ tools without consultation, they are informed that they will have .to fight their own battle without assistance from central office.
– In some cases they have been ordered to return to work.
– On occasions that has been done. Members of my organization are working under about 120. State and Federal awards, covering a multitude of occupations. We have spent an enormous sum of money to ensure the establishment of a common-sense method for the settlement of industrial disputes. The older men will, no doubt, recall how we had to fight for the recognition of our rights, and how contemptuously we were treated by a certain class of employers. If honorable senators have ever noticed how an ant will fight to get clear of a handful of sand that may be dropped over it, they will be able to appreciate how members of industrial organizations, in the earlier years of federation, had to fight their way out of their troubles. The representatives of Labour had to convince not only their own followers, but also employers that there was a much more satisfactory way of adjusting their grievances than then existed, and the Labour organizations spent a good deal of their hard-earned money in assisting to place a Commonwealth Arbitration Act on the statute-book. The organization of which I am president has loyally observed its provisions, as has, 1 believe, almost every other industrial organization in this country. There have been exceptions, it is true, but they could easily have been dealt with, if desired, under the present act. Towards the end of the shipping strike, the Seamen’s Union was deregistered at the request of the seamen. Under the present Arbitration Act an organization, whether registered or not, may be summoned before the Court on the issue of a proclamation by the Governor-General, and if such an organization refuses to appear before the court, heavy penalties may be imposed. As we are in the main a sane and well-educated people, I should not worry if the Federal Constitution, concerning which we have heard bo much lately, was burned. It would be a very simple matter to elect our representatives in Parliament as we do at present, and allow them to carry on the affairs of the country under a simple set of rules. The other day I received a letter reprimanding me for what I said in this chamber concerning the Big Brother movement, in which the writer informed me that “ Little Brothers “ from fourteen to nineteen years of age are sent to Australia from England, and after arrival are taken charge of by their “ Big . Brothers.” It occurred to me that many of these little brothers, particularly the younger ones, should be kept at school for at least another year until they are as well educated as are boys of the same age in Australia.
– Why does not the honorable senator join up with the movement, and set a good example to others? He would be welcome.
– I might do worse than that. During the debate last night Senator Barwell referred to the fact that the trade union organizations collected a good deal of money, some of which, he alleged, was spent illegally. The Australian Workers’ Union spends approximately £70,000 a year in organizing work; but its rules have always provided that auditors are to be appointed at the annual meeting, one of whom must bo a government auditor if the services of such an officer are available. As a result of experience, it has now been decided that the services of a reputable firm of auditors must be obtained to audit the balance-sheet of branch organizations in the main centres. It will, therefore, be seen that the funds of this large organization cannot be manipulated by dishonest officials.
– Does every union do that?
– I do not know; but it is the practice with all big organizations. It has been the unfortunate experience of some industrial organizations to lose money owing to the dishonest actions of officials; bub that experience is not peculiar to them.
– Does the Seamen’s Union have its balance-sheets audited ?
– I do not know. Our balance-sheets are always printed, and no less than 50,000 are distributed throughout the Commonwealth in such a way that they are available to any who desire to peruse them. Many great men who have been associated with the Australian Workers Union have been members of this Parliament, and some are here to-day, endeavouring to carry on the good work. The Lower Houses of the State Parliaments are elected on what is supposed to be* an adult franchise, but owing to the manner in which electorates have been gerrymandered, it has been almost impossible for the people to be truly represented. There are also State Legislative Councils.
– Not in Queensland.
– That is so. There does not appear to be any valid reason why an Upper House should undo the good work of a lower chamber.
The DEPUTY-PRESIDENT (Senator Newlands). - I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I was endeavouring to show why a broader Constitution is necessary, and was explaining that there are Legislative Councils in five of the States which do not reject the opinions of the people since they are not based on adult suffrage.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newlands). - The hour has now arrived when, under the sessional order, it is my duty to put the question -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the negative.
– In 1911, and again in 1913, the Labour Government then in office, believing that under the Jaws of the States there was no effective means of expressing public opinion, submitted certain proposals to the people for their acceptance. I regret that those proposals were defeated. I am one of those who believe that a country which has a Parliament elected on the basis of adult suffrage, and whose actions are subject to review every three years, will not go far wrong. Honorable senators opposite opposed those proposals. Evidently they did not agree that the people of Australia should have an opportunity to express their views. Now, after many years, when the opponents of Labour are governing Australia, they think differently.
– The Government and its supporters are not the opponents of Labour, but its best friends.
– The honorable senator’s interjection reminds me of a story in which a louse was described as the true friend of the poor swagman. I must, however, accept the fact that honorable senators opposite were elected by the votes of the people, and, as a democrat, I cannot complain of that. They are entitled to be where they are, and to do their work so long as they are there. “While honorable senators opposite opposed the referendum proposals of the Labour party in 1911 and 1913, I know that many of them are whole-heartedly in favour of an alteration of the Constitution, not in a piecemeal way, such as is now proposed, but holus bolus. Had the Government on this occasion attempted something in that direction, it would have received my whole-hearted support. As things are now, the people’s minds are agitated. Trade unionists generally are suspicious of the Government, and will fight its proposals. Throughout Australia the great tory newspapers are fighting them. The Labour newspapers of New South Wales, Victoria, and
Queensland are against the Government’s proposals. There is, in fact, a great “mix-up.” From Darwin to Hobart the minds of the people are so unsettled that the Government would be wise to postpone the referendum. Any attempt to proceed with the proposals in the present unsettled state of the public mind is doomed to failure. The chances are ten to one against the Government.
– What is the honorable senator’s attitude?
– I favour, as I ‘ have always favoured, the granting of greater powers to this Parliament. I believe that here, as nowhere else, can a true expression of public opinion be obtained. I am not greatly concerned regarding the results of any political contest, because I believe that where a Parliament is elected on a broad franchise, there is not much danger. I should be prepared to burn the Constitution, and to let the people of Australia, on an adult suffrage basis, elect men to do their legislative business.” Australia would be perfectly safe- under the arrangement. Because this is an opportunity to broaden the Constitution along the lines laid down by the Labour party - it is the first plank of the Labour platform - irrespective of the source of that opportunity, I welcome it. I shall vote for the Government’s proposals. Nevertheless, the public mind is agitated if we can judge by the resolutions passed by various trade unions and other organizations and by the views expressed by leader-writers in the press.
– It is early yet to judge public opinion.
– The honorable senator’s attitude will have a considerable influence with the trade unions.
– I see no reason for rushing these proposals through. Among the members of the union to which I belong there is a feeling of distrust of the Government. I must admit that, in my opinion, that feeling is founded on solid ground. In the opinion of many, the Government has been guilty of improper things. That remark may be regarded by honorable senators opposite as offensive, but that does not matter so long as it is true. The fact remains that many unionists will not trust a government which has done the things of which the present Government has been guilty. They will not trust a government which gave away .their woollen mills, their national bank, and their ships. It is just as well for honorable senators opposite to face that position.
– The honorable senator has said that he is prepared to accept the decision of the people. Yet, notwithstanding the lies which the Labour party circulated regarding the disposal of the woollen mills, the people at the last election did not return one Labour senator to this Parliament.
– The Government and its supporters spent so much money, and the press of the country exercised so great an influence, that the truths which we circulated could not catch up with the lies of our opponents. The people regard any alteration of the Constitution as a serious matter, and in considering it they are likely to be embarrassed. Many can see no good reason for a change from existing conditions. Others, as I have pointed out, are not prepared to accept anything from a government which, in their opinion, has been dishonest from the word “ go.” I understand that another measure affecting the Constitution will be submitted to us shortly. I regret that these various proposals are not all before lis now. There may be a nigger in the woodpile. I am prepared to advise the people to vote for the proposals outlined in this measure, because I believe that they are not only in accordance with the policy of the Labour party, but that they are also truly democratic. I do not fear that in a democratic country like Australia any great calamity will result from the granting of additional powers to Parliament. . Mistakes have been made in the past, and no doubt they will be made in the future. But in a democratic country matters right themselves in time- Because of the unsettled condition of the public mind, the Government would be wise to postpone the consideration of these proposals, if it is possible to do so- As things are now, the situation is impossible. ‘ We have some of the leaders of democratic thought, including officers of trade unions, sitting cheek by jowl with the tory elements in Australia. That indicates that something is wrong. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
The following paper was presented : -
Papuan Oilfields - Report of the Commonwealth representative for the mouth of April, 1926.
.- (By leave.)- For the information of the Senate, I desire to announce certain changes which have taken place in the Government. For some time past I have expressed to the right honorable the Prime Minister a desire to be relieved of the heavy administrative work entailed by holding the position of a portfolio Minister. I have felt that the continuous and heavy administrative work of a department has precluded me from . devoting the necessary amount of time to the onerous legislative duties which my position as Leader of the Government in the Senate entails. The Prime Minister has also desired that I should be able to devote more of my time to the legislative . and policy side of the Government work. He has, therefore, invited me to take the position of VicePresident of the Executive Council, and I have accepted it. .It is of interest to the Senate that this arrangement is similar to that which obtained in the .first Federal Government, when the late Senator R. E. O’Connor was Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate. I shall continue as Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator the Hon. Sir Victor Wilson, K.B.E., and the Hon. L. E. Atkinson have tendered their resignations, which have been accepted by the Governor-General. Senator the Hon. Sir Thomas William Glasgow, K..C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., V.D., arid the Hon. Thomas Paterson, M.P., have to-day been sworn in as Minister of Home and Territories and Minister for Markets and Migration respectively.
Motion (by Senator Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Tuesday next.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I take this opportunity of extending my congratulations to Senator Sir Thomas Glasgow upon his acceptance of the portfolio of Minister for Home and Territories, and of wishing him every success in his new sphere. I also take the opportunity of bidding an official farewell to Senator Sir Victor Wilson on his relinquishment of the position of Minister for Markets and Migration. I think I am voicing the opinion of every honorable senator when I say that we all regret that the vicissitudes of political warfare have necessitated, but only for a time I hope, his retirement from the Senate. During his term of office the honorable senator has had an opportunity of inaugurating a very important department of the Commonwealth activities, and of laying the foundation of work in connexion with markets and migration which will mean much to the future of Australia. I wish him success in the future, whether it be inside or outside Parliament. I feel sure that I can ask honorable senators on both sides of the Senate to extend to Sir Thomas Glasgow that courtesy and consideration which we who have been Ministers here for some time have always received at their hands.
– I offer, on behalf of honorable senators of the Opposition, my congratulations to Sir Thomas Glasgow upon his elevation to ministerial rank, and I can assure the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), that we shall not attempt toharass the honorable and gallant senator when he takes his seat at the ministerial table to help in the conduct of the affairs of the nation. We all regret that Senator Sir Victor Wilson will shortly be leaving us. We have always found him as a man to be true and courteous in debate; as a Minister, always willing to meet us. No matter with what emphasis we may express our political opinions, there are times when we do not like to part from one another. I venture to say that every honorable senator of the Opposition regrets that, after the 30th June, Senator Wilson will not be with us for a while. I have known Senator Glasgow since my return to this chamber, and I venture to say that if he is as effective in his new administrative position as he was in the Senate recently when he was Temporary Chairman of Committees, he will do very well indeed. While I have nothing but the best wishes for Senator Glasgow and Senator Wilson, I hope the day will not be far distant when Senator Glasgow will he relieved of his administrative duties, and be replaced by some honorable senator from this side of the chamber. But, leaving all party consideration on one side, I wish Senator Glasgow success in his new position, and I hope that in whatever walk of life Senator Wilson finds himself, he will always be well and happy.
[3.54]. - I thank the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) for their kind words of congratulation to myself. I realize quite fully the difficulty I shall have in following such an experienced and capable administrator as Senator Pearce in the Department of Home and Territories, hut I can assure honorable senators that I shall devote all the ability I possess to the administration of the department in the interests of the people generally.
Senator Sir VICTOR WILSON (South Australia) [3.55]. - I thank the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) and the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) for their kindly personal references to myself. I take this opportunity of saying how much I have appreciated the loyalty of all sections of the chamber to myself. The Leader of the Opposition was correct in saying that we have our differences. If we did not, we should notbe fit to be in public life. The duties of a Minister are arduous, and so many calls are made upon his time and strength that perhaps a rest will not hurt me, but I would rather have taken it voluntarily than have had it thrust on me as it has been on this occasion. I congratulate Senator Glasgow on coming into the Government, and also Mr. Patterson, my successor as Minister for Markets and Migration. I am sure that we can look forward to a very useful term of office from both those gentlemen, and I can speak with some degree of authority when I say that Cabinet, as a whole, is delighted to welcome them. I hope that Cabinet will still work together as a happy family as it has done during the three and a half years I have been a member of it. I shall be here for a few days only, but I may come back to this chamber quicker thau some realize. I should not be doing my duty if I did not say that I realize to the fullest extent the loyalty I have had from the officers of Parliament, and those of my own department, because it is that which has made possible the little success I have achieved in doing the work to which Senator Pearce has so kindly referred. I thank honorable senators again for the many considerations I have received from them. I shall always look upon them not only as senators, but as personal friends.
– It is with some pleasure that I congratulate Senator Glasgow upon his appointment to the Ministry, and also with some regret, because by his appointment South Australia has lost a Minister who was always courteous and obliging. Whenever I have approached Senator Wilson for information, he has always gone to a great deal of trouble to get it for me. However, South Australia’s loss is Queensland’s gain.
– The Government thinks that it could not secure a capable Minister from the ranks of the South Australian members of this Parliament.
– I should not say that, because we have some very capable men representing South Australia, and I am disappointed that one of them has not been chosen. With all due respect to Senator Glasgow, I think that a mistake has been made, and that the Government should have divided the portfolios as far as possible among the States. However, I congratulate the honorable senator upon his appointment, while, at the same time, I regret that we are losing the services of Senator Wilson.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 18 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1926/19260618_senate_10_113/>.