10th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented.
Audit Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1928, No. 40.
Income Tax Assessment Act - Eleventh Report of the Commissioner of Taxation, covering the years 1924-25, 1925-26, and 1928-27.
– On the 17th May Senator J. B. Hayes asked the following question : -
What is the number of cases of apples exported to all eastern markets, including Singapore, Sourabaya, Hong Kong, Fort Said, Batavia, Manila, Colombo, and Calcutta during the year ended 31st March, 1928?
I promised to obtain the information and am now able to inform the honorable senator that the number of cases is 74,764.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries will be made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– A visit to Tasmanian ports is not included in the schedule upon which the Royal Air Force far east flight is working. The itinerary of the flight was drawn up by the British Air Ministry under whose directions the flight is operating. The representations of the honorable’ senator will, however, be brought under the notice of the officer-commanding the flight.
The President laid on the table his warrant appointing Senator John Barnes to be a member of the Committee of DisputedReturns and Qualifications to fill the vacancy on the committes.
NEW BUSINESS AFTER 10.30 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) (by leave) agreed to : -
That Standing Order No.68 be suspended until the end of this month for the purpose of enabling new business to be commenced after half-past ten o’clock at night.
Debate resumed from 12th June (vide page 5885) on motion by Senator Sir G eorge PEARCE–
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Last night I stated that the two extreme sections in our community were opposed to the principle of arbitration. I have in my hand a copy of the Pan Pacific Worker, in which appears an article by Arthur Rae, entitled “The “Curse of Compulsory Arbitration.” Among other things, Mr. Rae states -
It is impossible to estimate the moral harm which has been done to the Australian working class by its hasty and ill-considered acceptance of arbitration as the solution of labour’s problems.
That is a most astonishing statement. Another statement equally astonishing was quoted by my leader (Senator Needham) last night, from the report of the conference of the Metal Trades Employers’ Association held in Sydney recently. A report of the proceedings of that gathering appears in pamphlet form and has been circulated, I presume, to all honorable senators. It contains the following statement.’ -
Industrial arbitration is a beautiful ideal and a righteous one. It was originally evolved to protect the workers who are unable to economically protect themselves. It has over-done it. It has pampered them so that they have become bowelless tyrants and unmitigated ruffians towards the industry from which they draw their sustenance. Away with it, and let us get back to the clear, open economicr ing. That is the only way to prosperity and increased employment.
Apparently the representatives of the two extreme sections in our industrial life hold the same view of arbitration. Mr. Rae declares that arbitration is a curse to the workers, and the members of the Metal Trade Employers’ Association consider it to be a curse to the employers.
– Then it is twice cursed.
– That is so. The employers have a right to their opinion, and I have no quarrel with them for giving expression to it. But Arthur Rae is a member of the Labour movement which stands for arbitration. It has had this plank on its platform for many years. If Arthur Rae believes that arbitration is a curse to the workers, and if he wishes to be an honest member of the Labour movement, he should remain silent on the subject of arbitration. If he cannot subscribe to that plank in the platform, and if he honestly believes that arbitration is a curse to the working class or the movement in general, he should either keep his views to himself or get out of the Labour movement. The latter course would be the more honorable for him to adopt. I, like my leader in this chamber, repudiate absolutely Arthur Rae’s statements in the Pan Pacific Worker. I stand for arbitration, and so does the Australian Labour party.
SenatorReid. - Ex-Senator Rae belives in arbitration, too.
– He ought to, at all events. In my opinion the Labour movement in New South Wales has become a labour tragedy.
– The labour people in New South Wales will not like that.
– The honorable senator would automatically be removed out of the Labour movement in New South Wales if ho were in that State.
– I do not care. In all probability, if I were in New South Wales, I would be expelled from the movement. Anyway, I am not in New South Wales, and I am not a member of the New South Wales Labour party. I come from the good State of South Australia. Arbitration has been a protection to the workers of Australia, and, indeed, it has benefited fair-minded employers, too, because it has protected them from the actions of unscrupulous competitors.
– The trouble with the present system is that the employers are compelled to observe awards, but employees are not so bound.
– It would appear that the employers connected with the metal trades industries are out to destroy arbitration. Probably, if the opportunity presented itself, they would make overtures to the National party to introduce legislation with that end in view. They state definitely that they do not want arbitration awards, but prefer the open ring, so that, if a worker offers his services at 5s. a day, they may take advantage of the position and reduce wages. According to their own statement, they are endeavouring to reduce the standard of living in Australia. It is extremely foolish for representatives of the working classes, and Arthur Rae is one of them, to quarrel with the system of arbitration. If the system were destroyed to-morrow, has Arthur Rae, or the red rag movement of Australia, any substitute for it?
– Yes; he and others who think with him would substitute violence for reason.
– What is gained by violence must be held by violence. Arthur Rae must know perfectly well that his doctrine is absolutely wrong. If by any chance the control of industrial affairs in Australia passed into the hands of Arthur Rae, “ Jock “ Gardner, and others of that fraternity, what would they do? They profess to be democrats - I do not think they are anything of the kind - but if they are, they would appoint an executive from the whole of the people of Australia to govern this country. That is exactly the procedure which is adopted in connexion with the election of members to the Federal Parliament. No system could be fairer. Mr. Rae, and others who hold similar opinions, must recognize that arbitration is the bulwark of unionism, because it protects the employee a3 well as the employer. The employee knows perfectly well the basis upon which he may be employed. It is not an exaggeration to say that a strike such as that which we have been experiencing in the last few weeks causes 200,000 persons to be compelled to join the ranks of the unemployed. If there was no Arbitration Court those men would be forced by economic circumstances to accept whatever wage the employer cared to offer. Under the awards of the Arbitration Court, no matter how many thousands of men apply for a job, the employer must pay the wage that is fixed. Such a provision is a protection against unscrupulous employers. I “i
– Some unions, by their inherent strength, are able to exact from the employers, wages higher than those provided for by the awards of the court.
– The judge of the Arbitration Court bases his award upon the evidence that is tendered to him by the employees on the one hand, and the employers on the other. I do not know how force can be used by the unions to compel the court to grant a higher rate.
– What I said was that some employers pay more than the award rate.
– I admit that some of them do.
– The Arbitration Court fixes the minimum rate of wage that must be paid.
– Any employer has a perfect right to pay higher wages and to work his employees fewer hours than are provided for in the award. When that course is adopted the employer must gain some advantage from it. If he did not wish to depart from the terms of the award, and the employees endeavoured to compel him to do so, he could either appeal to the Arbitration Court or close down his works.
I recognize that the system of arbitration has been a bulwark of unionism also in another way. It forces into unions persons who would not join but for the fact that that is the only means by which they can obtain the benefits of the court’s awards. During the time that I was employed in the railway workshops in South Australia, there were members of different unions who were doing exactly the same class of work, but under different awards which differentiated in the rates of pay. Those who were on the lower rate resigned from their own organizations and joined the ranks of the union which enjoyed the higher rate.
– Such a condition of affairs would have been obviated if the last referendum had been carried.
– I do not know that it would. Mr. Arthur Rae says that he wants the workers to come into a closer form of unionism than that which now exists. Arbitration has that effect. Why, then, should he seek to destroy it? We all realize that it is not a perfect piece of machinery. No piece of machinery is flawless. The one great man who was without fault was crucified on that account. Therefore what chance has any human being of becoming perfect. If man is not perfect, what he makes cannot be perfect. We have gained a great deal from arbitration, and we should endeavour to extend its lofty ideals ‘ rather than seek to destroy it. It is capable of improvement. I am acquainted with some of its outstanding failures, one of which is that it is too costly for the unionists of Australia.
– We should encourage conciliation.
– I agree that that would be the better method to adopt. When the employees and employers meet each other, they can discuss their difficulties freely. I do not favour the admittance of lawyers to a conciliation board or an arbitration court. Arbitration has raised some lawyers from obscurity to a position of considerable influence and wealth. They have not gone through the mill, and have no practical experience. All the knowledge they possess they have gained from the working men whose cases they have argued in the court. They have received thousands of pounds for giving to the court the benefit of knowledge that the workers possess in far greater measure. Arbitration is a wonderful blessing to the legal fraternity; it has been to them a fattening paddock. The workers could state their case clearly and simply. The simpler the language, the better for all concerned. Some unions had a good banking account when they approached the court, but they came out of it practically bankrupt. Its proceedings are too costly and too prolonged. The system could be altered and made much better than it is to-day by act of Parliament. That should be our aim.
Senator Verran said yesterday, that he had been victimized. He neglected to < mention the victimization of employees by their employers. It is sometimes difficult for men to obtain employment because of action they have taken on behalf of their mates. Senator Verran appears to believe that such a policy will not be possible under the bill. I disagree with him. If the employers cannot practise victimization openly, they will find some other method. Neither Senator Verran nor any other man can hope for redress in that direction.
Honorable senators opposite are expecting a great deal from the bill. I do not think that any good will come out of it. When the Crimes Act was amended it was asserted that the effect would be to maintain industrial peace in Australia. That has not been the case. The number of industrial upheavals that have occurred since the passage of that amending legislation, has been greater than it was previously. Peace cannot be brought to industry by acts of Parliament of this nature; they merely aggravate existing troubles. The unionists themselves must supply the remedy, as they have done in the case of the marine cooks’ strike.
– Did the Crimes Act have no effect?
– Not a scrap. .The other unions were disgusted with the action of the cooks’ union, and that led to the trouble being settled.
– That is all to their credit.
– I agree with the honorable senator.
– It took them a long time to become disgusted.
– For a long time 98 per cent, of the unionists of Australia have been disgusted with the extremists in the industrial movement.
– That is why they welcome this bill.
– They may want something in the nature of a secret ballot, but it must be different from that which is provided for in the bill.
– Does the honorable senator admit that some unions want the secret ballot ?
– I should say that they do ; but they object to any ten members having the power to demand it. If the Government had provided that it should be compulsory to take a secret ballot at a meeting of the union, in all probability we could have supported it; but it proposes to give such far-reaching powers to any ten members of a union that we cannot support it. That is a wrong principle.
When the seamen said that they were willing to man the boats there was an immediate break away, and I honestly believe that there were a number of moderate unionists who were only waiting to find some way out of the difficulty.I quote the following paragraph, which was published in the daily press: -
Adelaide, Sunday. - At a specially summoned meeting of the Seamen’s Union on Saturday, the following motion was carried: -
In view of the serious industrial position created by the strike action of the Sydney Executive of the Marine Cooks, Butchers and Bakers’ Union, in ignoring the interests of, and using bush ranging tactics against the unions vitally affected by the dispute and also against the labour movement in general, this mass meeting of seamen views the industrial situation with grave concern; in view of the fact that ship-owners are already running some vessels with non-union labour, we recommend the executive of both the Adelaide and Port Adelaide Trades and Labour Councils to call a mass meeting of all the transport unions likely to be affected by the cooks’ dispute as soon as possible, to consider the best means to adopt to protect the interests of unionists engaged in the shipping industry as far as affects the South Australian coastal trade.
A meeting of cooks to discuss this decision has been arranged for to-morrow morning. Commenting on the decision, Mr. J. D. Jonas, M.P., expressed the opinion that the cooks’ union should be disciplined. He said it was up to the Australian Council of Trades Unions and all maritime and other bodies affiliated with the Australian Council of Trades Unions of which the cooks are a party, to discipline the cooks in the same manner as was done recently by the Port Adelaide Trades and Labour Council, when certain organizations would not agree to carry out the resolutions of the council. In those instances their affiliation was suspended.
That supports the point I am endeavouring to make, and proves conclusively that the unionists wanted industrial peace. A majority of trade unionists felt that in the circumstances the marine cooks were not justified in leaving their work and dragging other good men at their heels, particularly when the labour market was over-supplied. I do not agree with the tactics adopted by these men, particularly when there is a properly constituted tribunal hefore which their grievances can be heard. We have an arbitration system established for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, and I maintain that it Avas the duty of the marine cooks to have first appealed to the Australian Council of Trade Unions. If that council had said that their demands were unreasonable-particularly as we have an army of unemployed num bering perhaps 100,000 men, they should have remained at work. In all probability, the council would have given advice to that effect. But instead of adopting a proper course, the men ignored recognized union rules and led themselves and others into difficulties. They have only themselves to thank for having blindly followed Mr. Tudehope and Mr. Johnson. I am wondering what is behind the move of these men. It seemed a hopeless task from the outset, particularly as there was little prospect of their receiving support from the great body of industrialists in Australia. They must have known that they would be defeated in the end. They said, as stated in the Monthly Labour Journal, published in Sydney, that rather than confer with the Australian Council of Trade Unions they would return to work defeated. The fact that the seamen and stewards decided to remain at work is sufficient to show that a large body of unionists was disgusted with the tactics of the marine cooks, and if it had not been for the determined stand taken by these men an even more serious industrial upheaval would have resulted.
– Does that, not suggest that a bill of this nature is necessary ?
-No. I have already said that if provision were made in the measure for holding a secret ballot at a meeting of the unionists concerned, to decide whether the men should cease work, it would, in that respect at all events, contain something worthy of support. It is unreasonable, however, to provide that ten members of a union, which may comprise 1,000 members or more, shall have the right to determine the policy of the whole union.
– But the honorable senator is referring to only one portion of the bill.
– The provision relating to secret ballots is the only one that appears to have any merit, and even that has not been drafted in a form of which I approve.
I quote the following paragraph from a Brisbane newspaper: -
Members of the Brisbane branch of the Marine Cooks, Bakers and Butchers’ Association informed a representative of the. ship-, owners, that they would be prepared to man the idle vessels on Monday. The cooks said they were prepared to go to the southern ports and take their places in the galleys of interstate steamers.
That is further evidence of the fact that the men did not wish to follow the advice of Tudehope and Johnson. If provision had been made in the act itself, for holding a secret ballot in the way I have suggested, it is reasonable to assume that the present trouble would not have arisen, because in many cases, as I shall show shortly, the majority of unionists do not favour direct action. A secret ballot, on the lines I have suggested, would be a blessing to unionists.
Some years ago I was associated with an industrial dispute at Port Adelaide, when there was a good deal of talk about downing tools. A resolution was submitted at a meeting of the men to ascertain whether we should cease work, and only one of 120 men present voted by open ballot in favour of remaining at work. Later, it was decided to hold a secret ballot, the result of which disclosed that only six of the 120 wished to strike. As the outcome of the experience, I became a firm supporter of secret ballots, which I think should always be held before men cease work. It is only by that means that we can get the honest opinion of the men concerned. Many men will not record their honest opinion in an open ballot, because they are afraid of what the others will think.
The leaders of the marine cooks, to whom I have referred, have taught the extremists of Australia a lesson which they are not likely to forget, and I think it will be a long time before there is further serious industrial trouble on the water front. In future men will recognize that it is their duty to consult others before taking direct action. Tudehope and Johnson, and others of that calibre, will, in future, be afraid to do what they have done in this instance, because they know what the consequences will be. “When unionists are dissatisfied it is their duty to consult the Australian Council of Trade Unions, whose responsibility it is to endeavour to assist the men in settling disputes in a constitutional way. In this instance when the marine cooks refused to take their advice the Australian Council of Trade Unions should have informed them that it would declare every vessel “ white “ and order other unionists to resume work. What right has Tudehope to say that he would suffer defeat rather than confer with the Australian Council of Trade Unions? As Mr. Duggan, the president of the council, said, Mr. Tudehope has broken the moral code of unionism, and the men have obeyed the dictates of Tudehope and Johnson, rather than follow the direction of the council, which is the proper body to consult. The marine cooks should not have followed these men, who were endeavouring to conduct a hopeless strike. I do not know what their object was. I am suspicious of these men.
.- While I support this bill to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, I confess that I have very little faith in its effectiveness. Much as we may all agree with the theory of the legal settlement of industrial disputes, the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act has produced, in some respects, greater evils than it was designed to rectify. We hear on all sides statements by people, principally on the employing side, that the act ought tobe scrapped because it has not worked well. These people have sound reasons for their belief. The first is that employers are compelled to obey the decisions of the Arbitration Court, whilst employees are not. In the light of experience, it is impossible to feel confident that any system of compulsory arbitration can be equally binding on employers and employees alike. On the one hand we have a few employers who are possessed of tangible assets which may be seized by an order of the court. On the other hand we have great numbers of employees whom it is not a practical proposition to compel to obey an order of the court if they are determined to defy it. Again, there is the question of the overlapping of awards and their tremendous complexity. When I was managing a sawmill a few years ago, it was an extraordinarily difficult matter for me, singlehanded as I was, to interpret the various awards given by the Federal Arbitration Court and the State Wages Board. Another reason justifying the claim of those who say that the Arbitration Act should be scrapped is the onesided nature of the system. Lockouts are entirely abolished, but employees can cease work at a moment’s notice whenever they feel inclined. One of the worst features of the system, is that it has led to the creation of a vast army of parasites. We have vigilance officers, inspectors, shop stewards, walking delegates, conciliation commissioners, assistant secretaries, organizers of all kinds, and a host of men, most of whom do their very best to stir up strife, because industrial trouble and strife are the real source of their income. Yet another objection to the arbitration system is that the Commonwealth and State law authorities are reluctant to take penal action against the unions, and particularly against individual members of the unions. This repugnance is also shared by the employers, with the result that unscrupulous union officials take advantage of their immunity to flout the law with impunity. We see, therefore, that the law which has been designed to prevent industrial disputes, actually fosters them. Any law that does not work impartially between litigants is ripe for most drastic amendment. Some say that this legislation is ripe for repeal, but I would not go so far as that.
I am supporting this bill because it aims at drastic amendment, although I am not very optimistic about its effectiveness, and because I hope it will assist very materially in getting over the present very rotten state of affairs. The ideal of industrial arbitration, was very fine and very righteous. It was originally evolved to protect the workers who were not economically strong enough to protect themselves against bowelless employers. The act has done it. In my opinion, it has overdone it. It has so pampered them that in turn they have become bowelless tyrants and unmitigated ruffians towards the industries and the community from which they draw their sustenance. That sweeping statement may not apply to all unions, but it certainly applies to quite a number of them. We have heard of intimidation and victimization of employees. I had personal examples of it prior to the war from unscrupulous employers. On the other hand, terrible tyranny and victimization are experienced to-day at the hands of the very people whom this act was designed to protect. In the past the Arbitration Court has been able to command some measure of respect and obedience from the employees because it had something to give them. It has been able to command that respect and obedience only while it has been increasing wages and reducing hours. To-day when we are faced with economic pressure due to world-wide competition it will not be possible for the court to continue giving benefits; and on the day when it will be absolutely necessary to increase hours, and possibly reduce wages slightly, the court will practically cease to function, because its awards will not be obeyed. It is palpable to any one with intelligence that obedience will not be rendered to awards that increase the hours of work or reduce wages. The only alternative to reduced wages is increased production. But the unions are resolutely adamant; they will have nothing to do with piece-work, payment by results, a system of bonuses on output, profit-sharing, or any system of co-partnership. They declare all these methods absolutely black. When I was working a mill in the northwest of Tasmania I was paying the highest award rates. But having had a lot of experience in staff work during the war, in the course of which we made free use of graphs and got down to absolute bedrock, I introduced a system of paying something in addition to the award rates by results. The capacity of the mill was known, and I paid a bonus of so much per 100 super, feet when the output exceeded the recognised capacity. The system was working quite well and the mill was quite a happy little enterprize until a travelling organizer came along and objected most strongly to it. To make a long story short, the system had to be cut out, and immediately the output of the mill fell by something like 4,000 super, feet a day. The men still got the award rates but they lost the extra 12s. or 18s. a week that they were getting by way of bonus and which it paid me to give to them. I can see no hope for our future unless similar systems are permitted by the executives of the various unions. The economic pressure from outside is with us all the time.
It is impossible to increase wages or reduce hours of work any further. It may be necessary to increase the hours and reduce the wages, but if the court attempts to do so I fear it will absolutely cease to function, and even the scant obedience paid to its awards in the past will vanish.
The bill is an honest attempt to preserve the act. Signs are not wanting to-day that the Federal Arbitration system is tottering - some think, to a dishonoured fall. This bill is a last attempt to make it binding on both parties, employers and employees alike. The problem is a difficult one, but because I am convinced that the bill is an attempt to solve it, I support it.
I have listened with no little amazement to the statement so persistently made by political and industrial Labour - and they are practically the same - that the bill is absolutely aimed at the destruction of trade unionism. I submit that if this be really so destruction is but deserved, for then trade unionism is a law unto itself and above and beyond any court in Australia. No such attempt is being made by the Government and its supporters. He is a sophist who, on reading this bill, makes such an assertion. For years we have had the spectacle of the Arbitration Court proving its inability either to control the employees or to enforce its awards. Its impotence has become a byword and a reproach among all thinking, patriotic citizens. All the nonsense we heard yesterday about slavery and the rattling of leg-irons is mere camouflage. Those evils disappeared many years ago. Not long ago, 400,000 good Australians cheerfully and voluntarily gave their services to the Empire so that freedom should not perish, and 60,000 of them died. The great majority of those men were trade unionists, and I number hundreds of them as comrades and friends. Better citizens could not be found. Thousands of trade unionists realize that the bill is fair and reasonable. Why there should be such a howl as was raised concerning the secret ballot provisions passes my comprehension. What objection can there be to this proposal? I quite realize that there would be difficulty in taking a ballot in the large and widely scattered organization of which
Senator Barnes is the head ; but there are many other unions. The bill is an honest attempt by the Government and its supporters to make the Arbitration Act workable, instead of allowing the Arbitration Court to become a by-word and a reproach because of its impotence. If the measure will assist in any way to have the awards of the court obeyed, our efforts will not have been in vain. As it is an honest attempt to improve the present impossible state of affairs in the industrial sphere, I support it.
.- Nearly a quarter of a century has passed since the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, which this bill seeks to amend, received legislative sanction. It was passed in spite of the united and bitter opposition of the employers of Australia. At that time and for years anterior to that period, unionism was anathema to the average employer in Australia. His creed - and some employers still hold to it - was freedom of contract. He believed that labour should be treated like every other commodity; that the law of supply and demand should operate in the labour market.
– Let me tell the honorable senator that employers, at the time to which I have referred, declared by resolution, at their annual conference in South Australia, in favour of freedom of contract as against trade unionism. The employers disbelieved then in any compulsory form of arbitration, and many of them, throughout Australia, are still opposed o it. The bill, we are told, is intended to settle industrial disputes, but in my opinion it will extend them. Its effect will be to legalize strikes and lockouts. It will give employers more power than they were able to exercise formerly. In the event of a small section of employers in a big industry “downing” tools, the employers will have power to close the whole establishment, and lockout perhaps hundreds of men who are in no way concerned in the sectional dispute. It will give the employers power to lockout all those covered by a general award, inflicting the greatest hardships upon, not only the men engaged in the industry, but also the general community.
The bill declares war on organized labour. We are informed that it has the blessing of the majority of the trade unionists of this country; but those who make that statement are boiler-plated in their audacity, and brass-mounted in their effrontery. I have been associated with trade unionism for many years, and I know something of the industrial troubles that have occurred in these southern seas since the great maritime strike. There are 851,000 trade unionists in Australia, and this bill is an affront to that vast army of industrialists. No less than 150 organizations of employees are registered in the Arbitration Court; but only 27 organizations of employers are so registered. It is significant that the number of employers registered is so small. The Employers’ Federation opposed the introduction of the principal act by the unanimous vote of its members, and those who opposed it in the respective branches of the legislature were specially thanked for their* efforts. It is significant, also, that the Employers’ Federation has never registered under the act.
– It will, when it gets a fair deal.
– Nearly 25 years have elapsed, and it has had all that time to think about the matter. Honorable senators opposite talk about breaches of awards by the workers; but there have been as many breaches of awards by the employers as by the employees.
I was sorry to hear Senator Sampson use words that were highly offensive to me, and others associated with the unions and the labour movement. He stigmatized good citizens, who are doing their work efficiently arid well, as parasites. These men have the respect and confidence of their fellows, and are engaged in work that is essential under present day industrial conditions. He referred, no doubt, to the vigilance .officers whose services in the policing of the awards of the Arbitration Court are indispensable. He called them parasites; but every organization worthy of the name has its organizers. The very party to which he belongs has them, and they are highlypaid officers, too. They are employed to strengthen the Nationalist party, which, it is said, has an inexhaustible treasury, and has enrolled armies of organizers. But I would not call those who do that class of work parasites. Ever since the birth of unionism in Aus tralia, we have had them. The honorable senator also spoke of trade union secretaries as if these officers were not essential to the successful working of any organization.
– I made no mention of secretaries. My references were to assistant secretaries and others who batten on the organizations.
– Certain organizations are so strong numerically and financially, that the work becomes too heavy for the paid secretary, so an assistant is engaged to undertake some of the duties connected with the organization.
– As a matter of fact, the employers compelled us to employ paid secretaries, because they victimized honorary officers of trade unions.
– That is not done now.
– Yes, now. I can take the honorable senator to a dozen jobs in Melbourne, where it is done.
– Does Senator Sampson suggest that industrial organizations are the only bodies that employ assistant secretaries? Is he unaware that the growth of every big organization, whether it be industrial, financial, or commercial, renders necessary from time to time the appointment of additional officers to carry out the duties allotted to them ? I hope that we shall hear no more of these sneering, satirical and offensive remarks from Senator Sampson concerning office-bearers of trade unions throughout Australia. I belong to an organization, the Printing Trades Employees’ Union, which has a paid secretary and an assistant. These officials have the full confidence of all members of our organization.
I am afraid that honorable senators supporting the Government have not the slightest knowledge of the work- ing of industrial organizations and the expenses involved by such bodies iu securing awards in the Arbitration Court. Under the law as it stands, the procedure in the court is cumbersome, costly and slow to the point of vexation. The awards in the printing trades industry cost the organization, to which I belong, approximately £6,000. The clothing trades claim came before the court in April, 1926, the hearing lasted from June 1927 to December 1927, and the award was made on the 1st May, 1928. That award cost the union £1,180. Prior to 1920, a single judge of the Arbitration Court was empowered to hear and determine claims in respect of working conditions and hours; but the amending act of 1920, provided that whenever a question of standard hours was involved, three judges must sit as a court to deal with it. To illustrate how the work of the court has been hindered, I need only state that for seven months of the last 2-J years, three judges have been occupied solely in dealing with the question of standards hours in industry and finality has not yet been reached. Because of the provision in the law that requires three judges to determine claims involving a question of hours, the court is more and more congested and the workers have become very impatient. I mentioned just now that an award in the clothing trade cost the organization concerned, £1,180. A later award cost the same union £2,000.
– Is the honorable senator condemning the system of arbitration ?
– No ; but I am complaining of the cumbersome and costly procedure of the court involving, as I have shown, wearisome delays to industrial organizations in their efforts to get simply justice from the court. I make no reflection upon the judges. All I am urging is that the act should bo amended in certain directions - not as this bill indicates, but in the direction of making it easier and less costly for organizations to appear before the court, and also to allow of awards being made more expeditiously. Recently I obtained a return from the Arbitration Court, setting out the date of some awards given and their cost to the organizations concerned. It is as follows: -
This list could be substantially augmented if all the returns were available.
Senator Duncan had a good deal to say about industrial unrest in Australia. The honorable senator deplored the frequency with which disputes occurred and went on to say that he was amazed that, notwithstanding these troubles, industry in Australia was able to carry on. He and other honorable senators appear to think that Australia is the only country in the world where industrial disputes occur; that the Commonwealth, compared with other countries, is seething with discontent. It is a fact that throughout the world there is a considerable amount of industrial unrest, and that other countries also experience a succession of strikes from time to time. Many years ago, Senator Pearce won the plaudits of the crowd for his condemnation of our present social system.
Listening to the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) delivering his second-reading speech, I was reminded of Bret Harte. I felt constrained to ask myself -
Do I sleep ? Do I dream ?
Do I wander and doubt?
Are things what they seem?
Or is visions about?
I had a vision of years gone by, and events that are past, when Senator Pearce, to the inspiring strains of The Marseillaise, quick marched to the Yarra bank, and, under a crimson banner, lent his support to motions in favour of international peace and international brotherhood, denounced, the existing capitalistic system, and suggested the nationalization of monopolies and the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. When I think of those days, and compare the right honorable gentleman’s attitude then and now, I am amazed at the change that has come over him. At that time he uttered sentiments that were considered dangerous and extreme. He desired to change our social system. He used language identical with that which is being used to-day by the very men he now denounces - that under the existing system of society, strikes are inevitable. There are fewer strikes in Australia than in other countries.
– There ought to be fewer, because our conditions are better.
– On the basis of population, the workers in England lose through industrial disputes three times as many working days as the workers in Australia.
– They do not work under an arbitration court.
SenatorFINDLEY. - In Australia, the loss through strikes and lockouts is less than one day per wage-earner per annum. On the other hand the loss through unemployment averages two weeks per wage-earner per annum. The workers lose more in one month through unemployment than in one year through industrial disputes.
I and every other member of the Labour party deplore strikes, and have always endeavoured to prevent them. A great deal is said by honorable senators opposite, in regard to the suffering that is endured by different sections of the community as a result of strikes. Those honorable senators have sudden spasms of sympathy for the poor people who suffer through strikes. They should be as zealous and anxious on behalf of the unemployed in Australia, who are suffering to-day and have suffered for very many years.
– How many hundreds of workers become unemployed on account of strikes?
SenatorFINDLEY. - I am dealing with the unemployment that exists apart from strikes. Long before the present strike occurred thousands of men and women in different parts of Australia were out of employment.
– . Now there are thousands more.
– The newspapers from time to time relate instances of persons who have taken their lives because of their inability to obtain employment. Thousands of workers are in dire poverty on account of unemployment; yet this Government has done nothing of a practical nature to assist them.
– It has accentuated unemployment by permitting ship-loads of migrants to land here while our men were out of work.
SenatorFINDLEY.- If an advertisement was inserted in a newspaper tomorrow for any class of workers there would be hundreds of applications. A cable the other day stated that some members of the Scottish delegation to Great Britain had told their kinsmen in Scotland that there was ample work for those who desired to leave the Mother Country. One man said that he could provide work for 50 persons. If he would authorize his manager, or whoever is looking after his business while he is abroad, to advertise the positions in Australia, he would be besieged by probably 500 applicants.
– That would not be the case if he advertised for men to engage in clearing operations in Western Australia.
– I have heard that statement made on other occasions. Are there no unemployed in Western Australia ?
– They will not go out into the country and engage in clearing work.
– How is it that Western Australia has so much land tilled if the people will not go out and clear it?
– Who has done the pioneering work in Western Australia and every other part of Australia? Australians are noted bushmen and axemen.
– Not the unemployed.
– According to the unbiassed view of a visitor from overseas, for efficiency and output Australian workmen stand alone. I am satisfied that if proper conditions are provided, and decent wages are paid for that class of work, in either Western Australia or anywhere else, ample labour will be available. The organization of which Senator Barnes is the president numbers over 100,000 members, and has in its ranks some of the finest workmen in Australia, who have done as much pioneering work as any other class in the community.
– And thousands of them are out of work to-day.
– Many members of the Australian Workers Union are out of employment in Western Australia.
– ‘They work at piece-work rates; that is why they keep at it.
– I believe that the majority of them are on a weekly wage.
Senator Barnes yesterday referred to the proposed new section 25d. He read the section as it “was originally introduced in another place; but it was amended there in the early hours of yesterday morning. As originally introduced it read -
The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general, and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
We can take it for granted that when the Government first introduced that provision it had in view the economic effect that an award might have upon any industry in Australia, and doubtless also the power that might, and in all probability would, be exercised by the judge to increase the number of hours worked and reduce the wages received by the men employed.
– Is not that necessary?
– We know that during the war period many companies had returned to them in three years the amount of capital they had invested. They were able to pay very high dividends; and in some instances, bonuses as well. They watered their stock, and made no provision for what are termed “lean years.” Many industries in Australia do not employ up-to-date methods of production, and have not installed the most modern machinery. Even in the United States of America there are some industries which are not considered efficient.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the court would take that fact into consideration?
– I do not believe that it has been taken into consideration at any time. The Government weakened on its original proposal, and inserted the following proviso : -
Provided that this section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage.
– That shows that the Government wishes to give the worker a fair deal.
-We could all understand the meaning of the original provision.; but I, at any rate, am unable to grasp its significance in its present form.
– No man will be employed at less than the basic wage.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to2.15 p.m.
– The. drastic provisions of proposed section 25d, in which the court was given power to reduce wages below a living rate, and also to impose conditions that would be intolerable to any working man, have been amended since it was first introduced. The Government has apparently realized, doubtless after full consideration and consultation with its supporters in this chamber and in another place, the dangerous element it embodied in the measure, as introduced. It was understood when compulsory arbitration first came into operation, that provision would, at least be made for a living wage, and I have always contended that if an industry cannot pay a living wage it should not receive encouragement. The present basic wage does not provide more than a mere existence, and I often wonder how a man who has a wife and family dependent upon him can, even on the basic wage provided for in Arbitration Court awards, keep out of debt. How can married men, who are endeavouring to purchase homes and who have to provide food and clothing for themselves and their families, pay their way? Although the wages paid to those engaged in the work-a-day world are higher than they were a few years ago,, it is. problematical whether the higher wages are of any benefit owing to the increased cost of living. Why has the Government weakened by amending its original proposal? It has probably realized the serious nature of the provision to which it desired to give effect.
– It has shown a spirit of sweet reasonableness.
– It did not display any such spirit when it framed the original provision. Eventually it lacked the courage to carry out its intentions, and amended the clause by the insertion of this proviso -
Provided that this section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing’ the basic wage.
It is problematical whether the basic wage will be safeguarded under that proviso. I should like the Minister in charge of the bill, Senator Pearce, to explain its meaning.
Provision is made in. the bill for holding secret ballots in certain circumstances, and if we are to accept the statement of the Minister, this is to be the panacea for all industrial strife and unrest. The members of the Government do not believe in the secrecy of the ballot. There is not an honorable senator opposite who is an out-and-out supporter of secret ballots. Prior to a Federal election an army of canvassers who are paid by the Nationalist party go from door to door soliciting votes on behalf of Nationalist candidates, and tell them peculiar tales concerning their political opponents. The secrecy of the ballot is violated by members of the Nationalist party prior to. every general election. In the main, there is no such thing as a secret ballot. The provision in this bill with respect to a secret ballot is an unwarranted interference with the domestic management of the trade unions. It is an insult to the intelligence of trade unionists of Australia; it suggests that they are incapable of managing their own affairs. Apparently the view of the Government is that the efficient management of a union can be ensured only by giving ten members of the union- some of whom may be direct actionists - the power to demand a ballot.
– Not to demand a ballot.
– The honorable senator is quibbling. If the request for a ballot is not acceded to they can demand a ballot..
– The court could refuse the application.
– Provision is made in the bill’ whereby ten members of an organization can ask for a ballot on the subject of a resolution carried at a mass meeting of the organization. They could demand that the ballot be taken in response to the appointment of officers or in connexion with the work which is always done in a peaceful and intelligent way by efficient officers of the organization. If a meeting were attended by 999 members of a union consisting of 1,000 lumbers and ten dissatisfied and disgruntled men objected to the appointment of certain officers they could ask for a secret ballot. If it were refused, they could approach the court. If the court were informed that only one-half of the numbers of the organization were present, it might rule that the organization had not obtained the opinion of a majority of its members, and might order that a ballot be taken.
– What is the usual attendance at such meetings ?
– There is usually a full attendance at important gatherings, but where minor matters are under consideration the attendance may be small. The court has to be satisfied that the ten members who asked for a ballot are bona fide members of the organization. Their names are not to be disclosed, in order to prevent victimization. How can the court determine whether those who ask for a ballot are bona fide members of the organization? It will have to approach the secretary or some authorized officer of the union to ascertain whether they are or are not financial members.
There is associated with industrial organizations a minority, some who do not favour arbitration, believing that they can obtain more by direct action than by constitutional means. This Government, which is supposed to denounce direct action, came into existence as a result of direct action. Prior to the 1922 general election, the Nationalist, Country party and Labour parties were opposing each other in the political arena. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) who was then leader of the National party, extended the olive branch to the Country party with a view to bringing about a united party to oppose the Labour party. What was the ultimatum delivered by the Country party? It said that it would not work with, or be associated with any party of which Mr. Hughes was the leader. When that ultimatum was issued the present Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) who was then Mr. Hughes’ lieutenant, said, “ If you get rid of the
Prime Minister against his will, he can wreck any administration.” If he be thrown out, as some suggest, I will go too.”
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - I ask the honorable senator to connect his remarks with the bill.
– I intend to do so. When the Country party’s ultimatum was delivered to the National party, they threw Mr. Hughes overboard, and there was no fight. I make this passing reference to an incident which occurred in the year stated and it is sufficient to show that this Government came into existence as a result of direct action on the part of the Country party.
I do not see how the secrecy of the ballot can be assured. Sea-faring men, for instance, would have no fear in refusing to adopt this or any other course suggested to them if they thought it was wrong. During the British seamen’s strike, the men were threatened with certain punishments, and we know what happened when warrants were issued. In order to save public expense and the time of the police they marched to the police head-quarters at Russellstreet, Melbourne, and gave themselves up. There is no way in which to enforce an effective secret ballot, even under the compulsory provisions of the Commonwealth Electoral Act. (Extension of time granted.] To me a secret ballot such as that for which provision is made in the bill is quite unworkable, and to say the least of it, more or less farcical. It, too, is an affront to the unionists of Australia.
The Leader of the Senate has made frequent reference to the present system of conciliation and arbitration, and in effect has said that the present arbitration system has not proved the success which its sponsors anticipated. The right honorable gentleman favours more conciliation and less arbitration. On one occasion he was Australia’s representative at the League of Nations Assembly at Geneva, and some of his remarks at that assembly have been published’ in the press. In Hansard of 30th November the following appears: -
I said then, as I say now, that compulsory arbitration- in Australia in industrial matters had not been an unqualified success; and that, as a result of our experience in Australia, public opinion was turning more and more in the direction of seeking agreement by conciliation.
Mr. Justice Higgins who, in my opinion, has had more experience in the Arbitration Court than any other judge and is more conversant with industrial legislation and the machinery of the Arbitration Court than any other man in Australia, replied to Senator Pearce in. these words -
Sir George Pearce either does not know the A B C of the Arbitration Court or he deliberately misrepresents its activities. Apparently he does not know that even under the original act no judge can make on award until conciliation has been tried and failed. Apparently he does not know that the majority of differences between employed and employer are settled by mutual agreement, and not compulsion. All the court does is to make the agreement a legal document, to give it the force of law and make it binding.
We know as a matter of fact that 50 per cent, of the industrial disputes in Australia have been settled by conciliatory methods.
Towards the close of his remarks, Senator Pearce found fault with awards that provide for preference to unionists. He said that when he was Minister for Defence he discovered that extraordinary powers were given to trade unionists under awards that gave preference to unionists.
– I was speaking of secretaries of unions.
– At one time Senator Pearce believed in the principle of preference to unionists. Speaking on the original Conciliation and Arbitration Bill he said -
I said that without preference to unionists this bill would in its operation become a tyranny. It would take away from the trade unionists of Australia the right to strike, without conferring on them any protection against their employers victimizing them, simply because they are unionists.
Later on he said : -
It will be recognized that trade unionists sacrifice their time and money, and in some cases incur odium in being prominent in union matters. It is for these reasons that I, with others, wish to see an efficient preference to unionists. I have felt the pinch of the boycott; I have seen an attempt made to take the bread from my wife and children. I know from bitter experience that there are men who, because a workman has the courage to speak his opinions, will try to drive him out of the country; and therefore I contend that this measure should either be dropped into the wastepaper basket, or passed in such a form that the men who accept the responsibility of stating the mind of their fellow-workmen shall be placed in a safe position, at any rate, so far as their living is concerned.
– The honorable senator need not take up time in trying to prove that I believed in preference to unionists. I did. But at that time I had had no experience of how it worked.
– The natural corollary to the general acceptance of the principle of preference to unionists, is that a union shall be all embracing, which is what Senator Pearce desired, and that the employer who requires a workman shall communicate with the secretary of an organization. Even before the arbitration system came into existence, that practice was followed in the printing trade, to which I belong. The employer who wanted a workman communicated with the secretary of the union, and the latter responded by sending a workman to the employer. The practice has been followed to a greater extent since the arbitration system has come into existence, and particularly since the principle of preference to unionists has been embodied in arbitration awards.
I have looked closely through the bill, and I see nothing in it that will make for improved industrial conditions in Australia. It will not make the arbitration machine run more smoothly and expeditiously, or less expensively. It is intended only to humiliate, weaken, and if possible, deal a deadly blow at organized labour. The unions are to be burdened with unnecessary expense in the management of their own affairs. Pains and penalties are to be imposed on the workmen, and the freedom of the press is to be curtailed. The judges are to be free from criticism of their administration of the act. Parliaments and governments are open to criticism; but any exception to decisions of the court taken by organizations or individuals or expressed through the columns of newspapers that advocate the claims of the workers, will render the persons who have the temerity so to express their opinions liable to punishment. We had hoped for a substantial measure of reform, but apparently our hopes are in vain.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– That the bill should be dropped, lock, stock and barrel. The Government has no justification for arousing the anger of those who doubt the sincerity of its motives in introducing this bill. In days gone by, when the workers were downtrodden, many of those who support the Arbitration Act to-day came to their aid, and risked their employment because of a desire to improve the lot of those who were working under almost’ intolerable conditions. Some of the men associated with the Labour party know what it is to be boycotted, blacklisted and victimized from one end of Australia to the other. In those days, those who took a prominent part in trade union affairs were marked men. Senator Barnes has said that when the Australian Workers Union appointed men in an honorary capacity to police the awards of the court, some of them lost their jobs.
– That happens still.
– Yes, the practice is being carried out even to-day. The Australian Workers Union and other organizations have had to appoint paid men to do the work formerly done by men employed in an honorary capacity. This has been necessary owing to the risk taken by unionists who did the work without payment under the eyes of the bosses.
– Supporters of the Government do not countenance that sort of conduct.
– But they countenance this bill.
– So does the honorable senator.
– I do not. .1 rose to oppose it, and I have shown why it is dangerous. I know that the opposition comes from not only the officials of organized labour, but also members of the organizations. I do not know one union that is favorable to the measure.
– The workers are.
– The great majority of the workers are associated with the trade unions, and the organizations of labour throughout Australia are vigorously opposed to the bill. I realize that we, on this side, are a numerically small party for the time being.
– The honorable senator is speaking for a small party.
– I, like other members of our party, am speaking for 851,000 trade unionists, because I am satisfied they object to the bill.
– The majority of the members of the unions would express themselves in favour of it if they had an opportunity to vote on it.
– I have heard that statement more than once. Those who make it apparently favour the secret ballot. Then why not take a ballot of the unionists of Australia on the bill before it is proceeded with further? I am satisfied that nearly the whole of them would oppose it. It will not lead to the settlement of industrial strife. It will give- extraordinary powers to the employers that they never previously had ; they will have power to impose hardships on the general community. If, owing to a strike in a section of an industry, they lock out all the men employed in that industry, will not the general community be affected? Desirable as industrial peace is, I do not imagine that it will ever be obtained. When we reach that happy state of affairs in which there will be no strife and no unemployment, we shall have reached the Promised Land.
I shall do all that I can - although I expect that my efforts will be in vain - to prevent the passage of the bill. It is very different now from what it was when first introduced in another place, because as many amendments have been inserted as there were clauses in the measure when it was brought down; but in my opinion it is still in the highest degree unsatisfactory.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Plain). - The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I have listened to the condemnation of the bill by honorable senators of the Opposition. Each, in his turn, has admitted that there is some necessity for dealing with the industrial position in Australia; but no suggestion has been made as to how a desirable change could be made. In the light of experience over many years,, the people generally realize that the industrial situation is most unsatisfactory. It is open to question whether compulsory arbitration is the best method of settling industrial disputes, or whether it reduces them to any extent, or tends to improve the relations between employers and employees. Each State has its own industrial legislation, either in the form of wages boards or arbitration courts, and superimposed on those tribunals is the Federal Arbitration Court. It is most undesirable to have various tribunals determining wages and industrial conditions, and overlapping awards. In many cases we find that the States have legislation covering practically all industries, and, when unions become affiliated in a Federal body, they can come under the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court. The result is that many of the State industrial tribunals become mere recording machines, and determinations that have often been arrived at by mutual agreement have to be altered to make them consistent with the awards of the Federal court.
It is open to question whether this court has not extended its operations into spheres of industry never contemplated by the framers of the Federal Constitution. We have to accept the position as we find, it, however, because that action has been taken within the limits of the Constitution. Years ago the High Court decided that State instrumentalities were exempt from the provisions of the act; but that decision has since been reversed. I am satisfied that if we had to choose between the wages board system in certain of the States and compulsory arbitration under the Commonwealth, we should find that differences between employers and employees are more readily adjusted under the former system. Senator Findley has stated that 50 per cent, of the industrial disputes are settled by conciliation. The balance, in which transport unions are involved, are dealt with by compulsory arbitration. It is not to be expected that if parties to a dispute proceed to litigation, the same harmonious relationships will continue to exist as would obtain if a settlement were effected by conciliation. This harmony, I suggest, is essential to the successful carrying on of industry. Speaking generally, round-table conferences are likely to prove the more satisfactory method for the settlement of industrial disputes. Tt should be obvious to all honorable senators that some improved method must be adopted to settle differences between employers and employees. At present there is a considerable amount of overlapping in awards made by the various industrial tribunals. In some industries special officers are employed to keep in touch with the various awards and determinations to ascertain where the line of demarcation is drawn between one branch of industry and another. At present there is a. good deal of confusion in industry because of this overlapping.
I am surprised at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters towards the bill. No one can doubt that it has the endorsement of the people. , During the last election campaign a definite promise was made that, the Government, if returned to power, would introduce legislation to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The depleted ranks of the Opposition in this chamber and in another place are a complete answer to criticism directed to this measure by honorable members opposite. The people, believing that the Government was in earnest in its desire to effect improvements to our arbitration system, returned it and its supporters to power in both Houses with overwhelming majorities.
I was surprised also at the trend of the remarks of Senator Gardiner yester: day. It seemed to me that the honorable senator was getting a little on both ways He said that he was a firm believer in arbitration, and then went on to suggest that there is nothing wrong in the action of men who go on strike. He put it that if men did not care to work, all they had to do was to knock off, and that no one need suffer hardship as a result of their action. The honorable senator has had long experience in trade unionism and as a member of this Parliament. I believe he was a member of the Senate when the first Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was passed; and since he was a supporter of that measure, his views on arbitration should be thoroughly sound. And yet his remarks yesterday would lead one to believe that he is not quite sure where he stands with regard to compulsory arbitration. At all events this is the impression that will be created in the minds of those who read the speech which he delivered to the Senate yesterday. The honorable senator actually had to go back to eighteenth century conditions to find support for arguments which he advanced against the measure. He spoke of the lash, told a most gruesome tale concerning the conditions in industry in Great Britain during the eighteenth century, and endeavoured to persuade us that industrially we were still living in that industrial era. He knows, however, that the sincere desire of the Government and its supporters is, not to injure trade unionism, but to see that the balance is held evenly between employer and employee, and to bring about peace in industry. Senator Gardiner went so far as to declare that the Government’s purpose in introducing this bill was to destroy trade unionism. There is no justification whatever for such a statement. This Government has been in office for many years, and from time to time it has introduced legislation with the object of improving the conditions of the working classes in the Commonwealth.
– “Will the honorable senator name one piece of legislation brought in by this Government with that object in view?
– The fact that the Government has been in office for so long in a democratic country, in which trade unionists number considerably more than 50 per cent, of the electors, is the most conclusive proof that could be advanced, that its policy has the endorsement of the majority of the workers in Australia. Honorable senators, and members in another place, as well as members of some of the State Parliaments, who claim to represent the workers, are in a minority. The Government, three years ago, gave an undertaking to introduce this legislation, and was returned with an overwhelming majority.
– How was that verdict obtained?
– The honorable senator is taking up a wellknown attitude of win, tie, or wrangle. He suggests that the people were misled. To do that is to insult the intelligence of the electors. The issues upon which the Government were returned, were stated in the most definite terms, and the people gave their verdict in favour of the Government. They were under no misapprehension as to what the Ministry proposed to do.
I listened attentively to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition yesterday, and I was struck with the fact that although he and other members of his party have declared that they believe in arbitration, and that the act should be improved, he offered no constructive criticism of the bill, and made no suggestion for its improvement. The measure gives the honorable senator and his colleagues in the Labour party the fullest opportunity to amend and improve the act. But, apparently, it is not their intention to co-operate or assist the Government in any way to improve the industrial conditions in Australia. Apparently the honorable senator does not realize his responsibility as the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber. ‘He even went to the length of calling for a division against the first reading of the bill, indicating thereby that, in the view of Labour members, Parliament should not have an opportunity to consider an amending conciliation and arbitration bill.
– I have stated definitely that the principal act authorizes the Government to do all that the Government seeks to do in this bill.
– Apparently then, the Leader of the Opposition believes that amendments of the act are not necessary. Surely he acknowledges that the industrial position in Australia is most unsatisfactory, and that we, who have the welfare of Australia at heart, must pay due regard to circumstances as we find them. “We should not be content to rely solely on increased customs duties to provide the needed stimulus for the development of our secondary industries. On the contrary, it should be our endeavour, as the Commonwealth develops, so to organize industry that it will be in a position to supply, not only the needs of our own people, but also to export its surplus products to other countries. The economic position of Australia is different from that of almost every other country. Our people work in a land of sunshine, and under the most favorable of conditions.
They are in receipt of high wages, and the like of their environment is not to be found elsewhere in the world. It is not too much to say that the manhood of Australia is superior to that of any other country. If the conditions under which our people work serve the purpose they are intended to serve, should we not be able to show a higher degree of efficiency in production than the other countries to which I have referred? Unfortunately, that is not so. Our industries to-day are being fostered on a false basis, and the conduct of their affairs has no economic principle underlying it.
Those who are opposed to this bill are endeavouring to make it appear that it is an attempt on the part of the Government and its supporters to whittle away the advantages which their unions have won for their members. Not one member of the Government party in either this or any other place has ever given a moment’s consideration to such a proposal. Can the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) point to one clause that has for its object the destruction of the usefulness of unionism?
– The bill teems with such clauses.
– That is only a general statement. The honorable senator did not point to any such provision when he spoke to the motion for the second reading of the bill. I feel confident that the action of the Government will have the approval of not only employers and employees, but also the people of Australia generally. If the Government is anxious to whittle away the advantages that are enjoyed by trade unionists, why did it not make the attempt years ago? Has it introduced any legislation which suggests a desire on its part to destroy unionism in Australia ?
– What about the Crimes Act ?
– Has anything been done under that act in the direction I have indicated?
– That is its object.
– The honorable senator is merely being absurd. I am surprised that a man of his intelligence should make such a suggestion. The contrary is the case. Not 5 per cent. of the people hold the view which he has just expressed. He is well aware that a little over two years ago, when the Government went to the people, it said that if it had not the necessary powers to deal with industrial disputes it would not hesitate to ask for further powers. Is the honorable senator prepared to argue that other countries have not similar legislation; or will he deny that they can do what this country was not in a position to do until the Crimes Act was amended? Why should not this nation have the power to deal with undesirables that is possessed by other nations? Our people have a franchise equal to and in many cases better than that which is enjoyed by the people of other countries.
– The portion of the Crimes Act to which I object is that which deals with trade unions.
– The honorable senator should be sport enough to admit that it was submitted to the people and that they approved of it.
– The Crimes Act was never placed before the people.
– No ; but the Government and its supporters stated clearly and unmistakably what action they would take if they were returned to power.
I shall now deal with the speech that has been delivered by Senator Hoare, particularly that portion of it which related to the provisions for a secret ballot. It was a most creditable effort on the part of an honorable senator of the Opposition. He said he disagreed with the provisions of the bill in that respect, and argued that the Government should provide that first of all a branch of a union should take a secret ballot among its own members to decide whether a ballot of the whole of the organization should be taken on the question of a cessation of work. But does that justify the honorable senator in opposing the bill? He has admitted that it has some merit, and that it is only a question of whether the ‘ ballot shall be taken upon the representations of any ten members or in response to the request of a branch. That is a perfectly fair and reasonable contention, and I hope that when the bill is in committee the honorable senator will move in that direction.
It is regrettable that when the Government makes an earnest attempt to bring about harmonious relations between employers and employees, it should be made to appear that it is an attempt to injure the workers of this country. I am confident that the people will not accept that version. The Government is in power at the wish of the people, and its one desire is that only such laws shall be passed as will hold the scales evenly between all sections of the people, so that each will get a fair reward for its labour, and have justice meted out to it. The Leader of the Opposition may not agree with the provisions of the bill; but he will have the opportunity to introduce whatever amendments he thinks are necessary to bring industry into a more settled state.
I support with pleasure the second reading of the bill in the belief, which I am sure is shared by every honorable senator, that it will achieve the desirable object of bringing the employers and employees closer together, and thus obviate disputes which widen the breach between them.
– If any justification was required for the introduction of this measure, it is provided by the following paragraph which appears in a Sydney newspaper of to-day’s date: -
Mr. J. S. Garden, secretary of the Trades and Labour Council, yesterday referred to the proposal that the members of the Maritime Unions should, if the necessity arose, be prepared to work with volunteers. “ The new methods adopted in strike strategy are different from the old methods,” said Mr. Garden. “ The old method was that, once a tiling was declared black, the trade-union movement should dissociate itself from it. Tactics now are different, insofar as, if the scab cooks man the vessels, our tactics may change, and we may supply union men even though the scab cooks are aboard. Accidents, however, occur in the best-regulated families. The new cooks will not be very good sailers, and will have to go to the railings occasionally. They may lose their balance. It was a case of ‘ the water is damp, the sea is deep, and dead men tell no tales.’ “
– That is an incitement to commit murder.
– I have listened with very great interest to every speech that has been delivered in this Senate upon this measure. If any further justification than that which I have just given is desired for its introduction, it is furnished by the speech of Senator Findley. I advise that honorable senator to circulate it throughout the length and breadth of Victoria as a justification for the proposed amendment of the Arbitration Act.
I wish to preface my remarks by the statement of three facts about which there can be little argument. They are - 1 : The driving force responsible for the advancement of civilization and the production of wealth, both primary and secondary, is the hope of reward ; 2 : The acceptance of that principle has lifted mankind out of the slough of despond. If that all-important inspiration is missing in any plan conceived by those engaged in industry, to uplift man from the dead level of stagnation, the result sooner or later must be disaster ; and 3 : Our arbitration system has failed because it has not taken cognizance of those facts. Compulsory arbitration has failed in Australia, after an experience extending over a period of 24 years, not so much so because it has not prevented strikes and lockouts, but rather because it has not kept men in profitable employment from the point of view of either the wage-earners or the captains of industry, whose product is now a nonseller in the world’s markets. Human nature cannot be altered by act of Parliament. If the incentive to greater effort is non-existent, as it is to-day, men become slack. That applies to both the employer and the employee. Let us get down to bedrock. In a properly conducted infant school a teacher responsible for the children’s education encourages the pupils by awarding marks, according to the merit of the work done.
The usefulness of our present arbitration system terminated when it dispensed with sweated conditions and fixed a living wage. But it must be recognized by men of ordinary intelligence to-day that a living wage keeps a great body of manual workers just on the bread and butter line, with, in many instances, very little butter, because in the awards of the court no differentiation is made between the rates paid to single and married men who have many mouths to feed. Under the present system there is no hope of reward for extra effort, or the display of intelligence in the work accomplished. It does not provide the means whereby an honest and conscientious worker may be adequately remunerated, and avoid the influences of undesirable environment. Under the present system of fixing wages by the Arbitration Court, whereby the minimum wage, in most cases, becomes the maximum, the workers of Australia are stranded. Men have lost the incentive to improve their positions. They are in a position of hopelessness when their wages and conditions are fixed by judges in surroundings where wigs and gowns predominate. The workmen of to-day do not think of what they can put into their job; but only what they can get out of it.
The proposal to hold an Empire exhibition in Sydney has been thrown overboard, because I believe it is now recognized that Australia is not in the position to produce and sell her secondary products in competition with other countries. This is due largely to the fact that we have failed to recognize economic realities. To-day Australia, which is essentially a primary producing country, ought to be the principal food producer of the world; but the only products which at present we can profitably export are wheat and wool. These two primary industries have survived only because of the efficiency displayed by those engaged in them. I am indebted to Senator Guthrie, who is regarded as one of the best authorities on wool in Australia, for supplying me with some very valuable information in relation to the production of that commodity. Last night Senator Gardiner referred to the fact that, in the good old days, the pastoralists paid only 15s. to 20s. per 100 for shearing sheep, and I may say that, if it had not been for the interest and energy displayed, as well as the scientific methods employed in the industry in increasing productivity, the pastoralists would not be able to pay more than that to-day. In 1891, 106,000,000 sheep produced 497,000,000 lb. of wool, and in 1927, 103,000,000 sheep produced 855,000,000 lb., showing that, as a result of the efficiency displayed by those engaged in the industry, the quantity of wool produced from a smaller number of sheep was nearly doubled during that period.
What is the position in regard to the production of wheat and other cereals in
Australia? When I first became associated with my father’s farming activities 30 years ago, we could not produce more than 6 or 8 bushels to the acre; but, as a result of the training I received at the Roseworthy Agricultural College, where I gained an extensive knowledge of wheat production, including the value of a rotation of crops-
– And elbow grease.
– Yes, and hard work, production has increased to such an extent that we could not carry on profitably if we did not get from 25 to 30 bushels an acre.
– And the work is not as hard to-day as it was then.
– No ; farming is now carried on more scientifically, and those engaged in the production of wheat concentrate on their’ work. It is a curious fact that a hen will not walk over a chalk line. There is some excuse for the poor hen, which imagines there is a “ catch “ somewhere. Legislators, in a sense, have encircled themselves with a chalk line. It is time we recognized our economic position and stepped over it.
The measure now under consideration has been referred to by honorable senators opposite as a coercion bill. I have a knowledge of the legislation passed in this and other parliaments for a number of years, and I do not think any bill has ever been introduced which is not regarded by some as being coercive. The bill under which Mr. Homburg, when Attorney-General of South Australia, prohibited peaceful picketing was designated “Homburg’s Coercion Act.” When subsequently it was amended by Sir Henry Barwell, it was called the Coercion Bill. My friends opposite call the bill now before us a coercion bill, but, if the measure is what Senator Needham and hia party say it is, why did the president and others connected with the railway union in South Australia come all the way to Canberra to secure from Mr. Latham, the Attorney-General, a promise that they should not be cut out of its scope?
– That has an entirely different meaning. They wished to remain under the Federal Arbitration Court. This bill purported to put them out of it.
– I am sure they would not wish to remain under this bill if they thought it was the dreadful thing that honorable senators opposite say it is. I am sure, also that intelligent unionists will not be misled by the talk of honorable members opposite. It is an indictment against Australia as a whole that Califfornian “ Sunkist “ oranges should be exhibited for sale here in the national capital, and that Californian raisins, as I am informed is the case, should be sold in the shops of Mildura, which is the centre of the Australian dried-fruits industry. I am proud of the work that I did in the South Australian Parliament to help others in preventing the establishment of a canning industry at Cadell, in my electorate. It would have been an everlasting shame to me if I had helped to put men in the position in which most of those engaged in the fruit-canning industry find themselves to-day. The co3t of picking and packing and transportation is so high, in consequence of duties imposed by the tariff and wages prescribed by wages tribunals, that the fruitgrower can only sell at a loss of 7d. or 8d. on each dozen cans of fruit processed, and thi3 after a bounty of ls. 6d. a dozen has been paid by the Commonwealth Government; and the very small margin of profit earned upon the canned fruit sold within the Commonwealth does not to any appreciable extent offset this loss. Some of the growers, it is true, recognize that the only way out of the dilemma lies in a reduction pf the cost of production, which is in turn bound up in the issue of the continuance of the endless race between high duties and higher wages and 3till higher duties. But the majority can offer no better solution than to demand a larger bounty from the Commonwealth Government or to suggest that production he restricted. The other day I -was shocked to hear Mr. Theodore, who is regarded as an outstanding man in Australian public life, preaching the gospel of reduced production. If Australia has reached that stage when it is necessary to reduce production, I am afraid its position is hopeless. I do not think we have reached that stage. Nevertheless, we need to review our circumstances with a view to bringing about a better economical position in regard to production in secondary and primary industries.
– What did Mr. Theodore advocate?
– A policy of reduced production in order to save the sugar industry of Queensland.
– A policy like that would make Australia a great country; would it not?
– I am not doing Mr. Theodore an injustice. He emphasized over and over again the need for reduced production when speaking in another place. I shall support the second reading of the bill, not because I expect very much from it - I agree with Senator Sampson in that respect - but because I am prepared to give it a fair chance, and because I believe it is an honest attempt made by an honest, conscientious, upright man in the person of the Attorney-General to try to get us out of some of our difficulties. I am also prepared to vote for the second reading because the bill provides increased facilities for the settlement of disputes* by conciliation. We imagine that we are up to date in Australia, but as a matter of fact we are 100 years behind some of the other countries.
I have with me a most interesting work. It is the second progress report of the South Australian Royal Commission on Law Reform. I was associated with the work of that commission for four years. As the result of our proceedings, many valuable hills have recently been introduced in the State Parliament by Mr. Homburg. It was the first occasion, in the history of the British Empire on which a body of laymen had endeavoured to put litigation on something like an equitable basis. We met with a considerable amount of abuse and every obstacle was put in our way by some of those whose living was likely to be affected - the Law Society and the principle legal practitioners of South Australia. As a matter of fact, we were up against a fairly strong union. In the course of our inquiries we found many instances in which conciliation has proved just as effective as arbitration in the settlement of litigation, just as it has proved effective in the settlement of industrial troubles. We found that in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, conciliation councils, in respect to litigation, had been in existence for 100 years. The following figures show the extent to which the conciliation courts of Denmark operate. In 1916, of a total of 57,844 cases, 52 per cent, were adjusted or settled by the conciliation courts. In 1917, the cases adjusted or settled were 53 per cent. In 1918 the percentage was 49 per cent., and in 1919 it was 48 per ecmt. In 1920 the percentage adjusted or settled was 51 per cent.; in 1921 it was 53 per cent. ; and in 1922 it was 52 per cent. In Norway, in 1916, 81 per cent, of the cases were adjusted or settled by the conciliation board of Christiana. Conciliatory methods should enable us to avoid the awful expense of arbitration spoken of by Senator Findley. The honorable senator told us that it sometimes takes from six months to a year, and costs anything from £1,000 to £6,000, to bring about a settlement of a dispute. The honorable senator’s speech was the greatest condemnation we could possibly have of the existing system of arbitration. What are we getting as a result of our present economic system?
– The people are all flocking to the cities.
– Exactly. If nothing else will alarm the people, surely the figures given the other day, in reply to a question submitted by Mr. Gregory in another place, will do so. The honorable member for Swan was informed that at the present rate of progress it will take 24 years to double the population of Sydney and 53 years to double the population of the rural districts of New South Wales; that it will take 27 years to double the population of Melbourne, and 302 years to double that of the rural areas of Victoria; that it will take 14 years to double the population of Queensland, and 45 years to double that of the rural areas of Queensland; and that it will take 18 years to double the population of Adelaide, and 165 years to double that of the rural districts of South Australia. Under our present system the only incentive a man has to get out of the hide-bound system of the fixation of wages, and go into our Mallee districts to suffer hardship, put up with droughts, fight all the pests that are likely to affect his crops, withstand the ravages of wild dogs and submit to all the discomforts the pioneer wheat-grower has to suffer, is the ever alluring hope that he may be able to get out of his present unsatisfactory environment into a position in which he will have sufficient for himself a!nd those dependent upon him.
– There are 1,000 applicants for every block of land that is made available. The greatest cause of the migration to the cities is the fact that land is locked up.
– I am pleased that the honorable senator has interjected. He is the general president of the Australian Workers Union, and as such is one of the aristocrats of Labour. The gentlemen who are members of the Australian Workers Union are the aristocrats of industry. Most of them work under piece-work, which is something that recompenses a man for bending his back at his task. I have known members of the Australian Workers Union to come into my sheds and earn anything from £2 to £3 a day. They deserved it. Subsequently I have met them at Scott’s Hotel, dressed as well as myself, and with money to spend. If we could only get away from the hide-bound system of arbitration, which puts everybody on the same level, and give men some incentive to increase production, all of the unions would be as happy and contended as the Australian Workers Union to-day, and we should not have half the industrial trouble we have to-day. Senator Gardiner said yesterday that Henry Ford had increased the wages of his employees because he found it paid him to do so. I advise honorable senators to read Henry Ford’s latest work, The Great To-day and the Greater Future. Henry Ford found what other intelligent business men have found - that the way to get the best out of workers is to give them an incentive to work by paying them on results, and also by giving them an interest in the concern in which they are working. Henry Ford went so far as to buy a railway that was showing a loss. He did not know much about railways; but he thought that it might succeed if Ford methods were applied to it. He gave the workers on the railway an interest in the concern, with the result that it turned out a huge success. The Henry Ford methods should be adopted in Australia, because they give men an incentive to work and use their brains and show some interest in their jobs. The application of these methods by Henry Ford himself has had the result that he sells to his own employees more automobiles than he sells to the people of Australia. It is time we woke up and started to preach the dignity of labour, instead of the doctrine of how much we can get out of anything. I do not blame men very much for asking how much they can get out of their work when they are employed under a system that does not give them an incentive to work harder than their fellows, who may go to sleep on the job. It seems to me that we ought to start in our schools and try to teach our children to realize the dignity of labour. We want a reformer of the Gandhi type in this country to teach the people of Australia of the need to banish the theory of the untouchable. India i3 suffering; millions of its people are on the verge of starvation, as the result of misunderstanding on the part of British rule.
– We shall have the honorable senator indicted for sedition.
– I confess that I am a bit of a radical in these matters. I have always been sympathetic with the man who is an honest worker. I have no desire to make friends with the idle rich. I would sooner shake hands with an honest, hard-working man than with one who has not done any work and does not know what it is to do a day’s toil. I have worked. When I waa appointed to the Senate, the very first to congratulate me were the men alongside whom I had worked, and when I went to get my suitcase at an Adelaide railway station, one of the porters shook me by the hand and said, “I am pleased to see that you have got the job, because I knew you when you had a blacksmith’s apron on and your face was covered with smoke and grime.” Yet we are told that honorable members supporting the Government do not know what work is. If we had not worked hard and long, if we had not put our hearts into our work, we should probably still be today at’ the point from which we started.
– I like the honorable senator all right, but not when he wants the “ boss “ of India here.
– My point in that regard was that we need in this country a reformer of the Gandhi type, to preach the gospel of the dignity of work. We do not want to be taught that it is infra dig to do hard work. When I see people living in the lap of luxury, when I see women with powdered faces nursing poodle dogs, when some of them ought to be nursing good Australian babies, it incenses me. My sympathies are with the honest worker, just as the sympathies of the Government are with the honest worker; and what has prompted Ministers to introduce this bill is their desire to protect the workers from being misled by paid organizers, who get them into trouble before they know where they are. In committee, I shall look upon the bill with an impartial eye. If the measure discriminates in regard to the imposition of penalties, I shall not stand for it. I believe in trying to give everybody a fair deal.
– I should like to offer a few observations concerning the bill itself. The historical aspect of the debate has interested me more than any other feature of it.
– We must have history.
– Quite so. We have had national history, industrial history, personal history, and all sorts of history. That which intrigued me most was the history which was narrated by two honorable senators sitting on either side of the chamber, but probably looking at the subject from different points of view. I refer to the right honorable gentleman who leads the Senate, and to my good friend, Senator Barnes. I can endorse all that has been said about the latter gentleman, even to the extent that the last speaker has gone. I thought I had noticed a certain haughtiness about him; but it was possibly due to the new position to which he has been elected by, not only his own party, but also members of the party who sit on this side.
Another honorable senator who contributed very tellingly to the’ historical aspect of this subject was Senator Verran, who dealt with it in his characteristic and incisive way. T was very much taken with his description of the gradual development which has taken place in the personnel, aims and achievements of the Labour party. During the earlier years of that movement, although I never belonged to that party, I had ample opportunity to observe the ways of many of its leaders and representative men, and from my own absolutely unbiased stand-point I can endorse all that has been said by the three gentlemen to whom I have referred. I can endorse, too, the difference in type which has been alluded to by those gentlemen, as existing in the first days of that party, and in these its latter days. First of all we had the old school of Labour representatives and Labour men, and, thank goodness, in this Parliament, and in both branches of the legislature, there can still be found members of that old school. I refer to the time - it is almost shocking to refer to it- - when the principal officers of unions were unpaid; when they did their work, not with the incentive of gain, but more because they thought it was their duty at the behest of their fellow members to do what they could for what was, and is, .a very great cause. Then there came along those gentlemen who looked upon politics on the Labour side as a stepping - stone. Steppingstones lead both ways, of course ; but, possibly, they looked upon membership of the Labour party as a stepping-stone to higher things. There have been many such men. I think Senator Verran called them the black-coated brigade. He not only pictured the habiliments they wore, but also the unusual, abnormal, and totally irregular places in which their garments had become threadbare! Then we come to the latest school of Labour representative. The colour has changed to a very great extent from black to red. We find that for the last three years, approximately, these gentlemen have been in full authority, however much the Opposition may chafe at the fact. These gentlemen who call the tune for Labour, are undoubtedly very red in their tendencies, if not in their garments. There is no getting away from the fact that although this was pointed out at the last Federal election, honorable senators opposite have not been able to shake off their hold. We find quoted by both sides in this debate that most interesting article by Senator - pardon me, ex- and prospective senator - Rae. I think it must give honorable senators opposite, as the French would say, “ furiously to think” that this gentleman, who is regarded apparently as at least one of the fine flowers of the Labour movement in the mother State of New South Wales - the most populous State, the State that sets the pattern to other States in Australia - is one of the chosen representatives on the Labour side for election to the Senate. I should like to know what they are going to do to alter that position. When my friend, Senator Barnes, thinks of it, he must become nearly frantic. I hate to remind him of it; but I do so with a view to stimulating him, if stimulus is necessary, to devise some means whereby this state of affairs can be remedied. I warn him that it is very prejudicial to the party of which he is so distinguished a member. He is possessed of ingenuity and force of character that have undoubtedly aided him to rise to a position in Labour circles that I have heard alluded to as the highest in Australia, and I would counsel him and his fellows purely for the good of their party and the good of Australia to resist this tendency and see if there is any method by which it can be checked.
– I suppose, because of that, the lower my barometer falls the higher the honorable senator’s will rise.
– Let us not consider that aspect for a moment. Let us not take too sordid a view of the matter. I have mentioned this in public before, and I may do so again; but, for the good of Australia, I do not like to see it. While it injures the party of which I am speaking, it is ten times worse for the country that we are trying to assist in governing. It is a tendency that cannot be too strongly deprecated.
We find, from the document to which I have alluded, that this Pan-Pacific Conference, proposes that steps shall be taken to break down national barriers, to bring all the countries bordering on -the
Pacific to the same level, by means of a concerted plan of action between representatives of Australia and representatives of those -races that the party opposite, more than any other party, has held up to obloquy, ridicule and hatred!
– By breaking down the White Australia policy!
– That is a logical consequence of it. Instead of our party being accused of not upholding the White Australia policy - an accusation which, with a few personal exceptions long ago, is utterly wrong and ridiculous - that charge will now be thrown in the teeth of the party opposite. It will be said that they and their representatives - Mr. Rae and others of his kind - are busily at. work with the representatives of all the coloured peoples round the shores of the Pacific to devise some plan whereby the barriers of race, colour and cost of labour may be broken down, and Australian labour conditions thrown into the industrial melting pot. To achieve what? That is what we want to know. It is to achieve the object of dark powers, whose one ambition is the destruction of this Empire to which I believe, thank God, every decent member of the Labour party still gives his adherence and affection.
Referring now to the bill, I really think that it is an absolutely honest attempt to supplement, correct and ameliorate certain disabilities under which this community - not the Labour party alone, but the community in general - has been suffering through the lack of certain methods and resources in our present legislation. Personally, I believe in the principles of arbitration. I think that it has not fallen short of achieving its object. I do not say that it has failed. This country would have been very much worse off without the attempts that have been made to effect the objects of arbitration than it has been as the result of them. I am afraid I must belong to a moderate section, because the extremists on both sides are supposed not to believe in compulsory arbitration. They state, as an argument against the bill, that the Government and the “reds” are combining to destroy arbitration by trying to put on the statute-book an impossible measure. Now,
I do not think that is so. It is on a par with the suggestion that the Government has in its pay gentlemen like Mr. Rae, and Mr. Jock Garden - whose latest effusion must be very comforting to his friends, if not his admirers, on the opposite side of the chamber - in order to bring this result about, and as honorable senators opposite have put it, “crush” trade unionism by rendering it subject to so iniquitous a bill as this. Both those arguments are too absurd, and I think we must dismiss them from our minds.
One of the faults of the present act is that sufficient care is not taken to fix resonsibility. An attempt is made to remedy that in this bill. I most certainly think that it will lead to a better understanding between employers and employees. That is a very laudable object; but there is another object, and if that alone were the main purpose of the bill, we should be doing well by passing.it. If we can provide in this measure a stimulus for the average unionist to take more interest in his organization and more interest in the election of its officers, and the course which these officers follow at the direction of the union, then we shall have helped to put labour, in conjunction with its employers, on a far better basis than it stands at the present time.
I should like to have ascertained from Senator Findley if any record is ever kept of the percentage of unionists who attend the union meetings, important or otherwise. A great deal hinges on that. I feel sure that many unionists, instead of going to meetings after their hard day’s work, or under the new principle of stopwork meetings, say, “I will leave it to Bill; he is paid for it.” We understand from sources which are partially available to many of us, that “Bill” is very well paid for what he does. I understand that some of these gentlemen who may be generically known for the time being as “Bill”, draw salaries which approximate even those of the officials of this Parliament. I allude to officers of the House and members of Parliament at the same time. That being so, perhaps the more “ Bill “ is paid, the more the unionist thinks it is his right to leave matters to him. In this connexion let me point out another fact. We find that in those unions whose members individually pay most attention to the proceedings of their organizations, the least industrial trouble arises. I need only point to the record of the Australian “Workers Union, which very largely, I believe, through the interest which the individual members take in its proceedings, manages to avoid industrial trouble. But, on the other hand, in organizations like the Seaman’s Union, whose members, perhaps, from the very nature of their occupation, are not able to attend their meetings and voice their wishes, we find that they, often on the sole and undirected impulses of the officials, get themselves, and not themselves only - that does not matter so much - but also this country and everybody in it into trouble from which it is very hard to extricate them. I hate to make any mention of cooks, because I am perfectly certain that whatever may be the views of honorable senators . opposite about the cause of the present industrial dispute, they must by this time be firmly convinced of the truth of the old proverb, “ The devil sent the cooks.” That, I think is abundantly evident.
– I imagine they are now inclined to say, “ The devil take the cooks !”
– I agree with the honorable senator. I have no doubt that many honorable senators opposite and a large number of people in this country would like to see certain cooks returned to, shall I say, their country of origin-, a place where, we are given to understand, the fires never fail and there is no need to cook by electricity. The present trouble, I venture to suggest, would never have arisen but for the absolute absence of control of officials of the Marine Cooks Union. I should say that Mr. Tudehope, by this time bitterly regrets that he relied so much upon his own initiative, and consulted so little with the members of his union, who might have advised him not to make the curry so hot, as apparently he has succeeded in doing.
– He has made a hash of it!
– That is so. There is one underlying principle in the bill with which, I believe, r honorable senators of the Labour party will agree. I refer to the proposed new sections to provide for an effective ballot of members of a trade union before it becomes involved in any serious industrial crisis. I believe that if the provisions relating to the secret ballot are operated we shall do away with 50 per cent, of our industrial troubles. If the bill can achieve that object then all the consideration which we can give to it will be time well spent, and I believe that the thanks of the people of Australia, of both political persuasions, will be due to this Parliament for having done something useful.
– The workers in particular will welcome those provisions in the bill.
– I believe they will. I have noticed in the course of the debate that honorable senators opposite have arrogated to themselves the right to be regarded as the representatives of the people of Australia. That in my view, is altogether too large a claim to make.
– It is not borne out by facts.
– That is so.
– Or figures.
– Or figures either, as Senator Foll has suggested. It is borne out only by fancy. The assertion that our friends of the Opposition represent the people of Australia may be taken under three headings - facts, figures, or fancy. If facts and figures fail to support the claim it may, perhaps, be admissible to depend the claim’ on fancy. Certainly the assertion of our friends of the Labour party that they are the sole legitimate representatives of the people of Australia is not borne out by facts - I understand that even unionists themselves are not always solid on this point.
– “We should not be here if they were.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. I submit that we are here because, fortunately, a sufficient number of people in Australia realize that the party to which we belong is at all events endeavouring to legislate, not in the interests of one section only, but in the interests of the whole of the people. As long as this is the objective of our party, we shall be perfectly safe. There is nothing to “be gained by stirring up what is called class consciousness, though I am not sure that such a thing exists in Australia. At all events, I- have not had much evidence of it. I think that, if there is any country in the world where there is less of this class consciousness, as it is called, it is Australia, and I always regret any attempt to destroy the existing relationships between the respective sections of the people.
– This class consciousness is sedulously encouraged in certain quarters.
– I believe that it is ; but not by the class which is always accused of endeavouring to encourage it in the minds of the people.
– The very reverse, in fact.
– Yes. There is another matter to which I desire to allude. I have noticed, of late years, an increasing disposition on the part of young people in Australia to look upon working for somebody else as the sole means of livelihood. But I do not make this charge against the young only. On the part of people of all ages there is a marked inclination to depend upon employment provided by others, instead of striking out for themselves. Let me say at once that wages men never made a country, and never will. A country is made great by its pioneers ; by men, who, in the first place, depend upon wages for their subsistence, but as time goes on save a little, and themselves become employers. A country is made great even by the mistakes and failures of its pioneers. Their failures become a lesson, not only to themselves, but also to other people engaged in the same experiment and carrying on the same work.
– The successful pioneers are very largely drawn from the ranks of the workers.
– That is so; but, I am afraid, to a much less extent in these later years than formerly. Years ago it was a task to persuade the younger members of families to remain in the towns. That is not the case to-day. In these days it is difficult to persuade them to go into the country and engage in. .the pioneering work, where the real future of Australia lies. I speak from experience of some fourteen or sixteen years in the back-blocks of Australia. I have some knowledge of what is required of the people engaged in the development of Australia. I know something of the tasks that are set them, and I know, too, how the great majority of them win through to success. I deeply deplore this tendency on the part of our young people to remain in the towns attracted by the meretricious pleasures to be found there, instead of striking out to make a career for themselves. I deplore this failure on the part of our young people to regard the wage-earning period of life as the saving period, or the starting point for a successful career of independent work. If we can do anything to counteract this tendency we should not neglect the opportunity to do it. This bill, I believe, contains the seeds of that useful thought which, I hope, will germinate in the minds of some of our younger people. 1 may be wrong, but I believe that the future of Australia lies in the development of small holdings. I believe that, if we can develop such a scheme as it has been developed in France and in Italy, the future of Australia from a financial, national and industrial stand-point will be assured.
There is just one matter which I should like to set right in the mind of my honorable friend, Senator Needham. Se alluded to me as the defender of some body which is called the Metal Trade Employers’ Association. I do not know why he did so, because I have no knowledge of that body. I therefore repudiate the charge. I do so because if I did not, the honorable senator would possibly say, on some future occasion, that he had accused me of being its defender, and that, although I had heard him, I had not contradicted the statement. I have had nothing to do with the association in question. I could not help thinking while the honorable senator was quoting, certain references to the Labour party by a representative of the association that the language employed was singularly like that used by Mr. Mutch, a member of the Labour party in New South Wales, in a speech endorsing the candidature of a gentleman whom we are all very glad indeed ,to see amongst us again. I refer to » Senator Gardiner, i ‘ As ‘ a matter of fact I was under the impression when Senator Needham was quoting certain statements by a representative of the Metal Trade Employers’ Association that he was quoting extracts from a speech by Mr. Mutch. It was my mistake. I apologize to the honorable senator.
– The speech would stand quoting.
– I should like to do so, but I am afraid that the President would not allow me to repeat the language used. I understand that the speech was made in the Parliament of New South Wales, and that what is held to be parliamentary language there is such that if it were used in the street one would need to be careful that a policeman was not within hearing.
I think that this is the making of a good bill. I assume that when it is in committee its provisions will be discussed in some detail. I hope that honorable senators will approach the consideration of each clause, as I propose to do, having at heart the interests of the community generally, and with the intention of making the machinery of the Arbitration Court work as smoothly as possible. If the measure emerges from committee in anything like its present form it will be a useful piece of legislation.
Let me repeat that if only we can induce the average member of a trade union to take more interest in the affairs of his organization, we shall achieve a great deal. It gives me pleasure to support the second reading of the bill.
– I listened attentively to the remarks of Senator Kingsmill, and I could not help being struck with his mouldy sarcasm. It is a part of his make-up to be as sarcastic as possible. I assure the honorable gentleman it ill becomes him. Throughout his somewhat flowery speech he omitted to make any reference to the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. For once he forgot that piece of legislation. The honorable senator offered some advice to the young people of this country. He suggested that they should not depend so much upon employers, but should go out into the backblocks and blaze the trail. There are thousands of young people in every State who would be glad enough to do that if only they could get. land to settle on. The honorable senator appeared to have a poor opinion of young men who are not fired with the ambition to be their own bosses, and he deplored the fact that so many are content to work for wages. It is within the knowledge of all honorable senators that thousands of men who ventured into business have failed, and have again joined the ranks of wage-earners. I should like to know what has become of Senator Kingsmills possum farm. Did he make a success of that venture?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! I remind the honorable senator that his remarks must have relation to the bill.
– You did not take this stand, Mr. President, when Senator Kingsmill was referring to me.
– I point out that I do not differentiate in my attitude towards honorable senators. I allow all of them a little lattitude; but when they transgress to too great an extent I am obliged to call them to order. I now ask the honorable senator to address himself to the bill.
– I have no wish to dispute your ruling, Mr. President, because I have the deepest respect for you. But it is decidedly unfair if we cannot hit back when we are attacked.
– I rise to order. I am unable to see how even the most vivid imagination can construe any of my remarks into an attack upon Senator Graham. If that honorable senator considers that’ they applied personally to him, I have pleasure in withdrawing them. I did not have him in my mind while I was speaking. He is the last person in the world against whom I would launch an attack. I hope that he will accept this explanation.
– I certainly accept it. But the honorable senator said that honorable senators who sit on this side must accept the responsibility for certain happenings in New South Wales if we do not take a stand against them. Sarcasm ill becomes any honorable senator at a time like the present. Unlike some honorable senators who have preceded rae, I do not agree with all that the bill contains. If the reason for the insertion of certain clauses is not a desire to inflame ‘ the minds of the majority of the big unions of this country, I am at a loss to account for it. I have received as many as 140 letters from different organizations, asking me to oppose the measure.
– They were worked up to it by misleading statements.
– Not at all. 1 have always stood four square for conciliation and arbitration, and always shall do so. I go further, and say that if arbitration is capable of settling industrial disputes in the domestic sphere, it should be applied to the settlement of disputes between nations before there is a resort to war. We should then know exactly where we ‘stood. Some of the clauses of the hill go so far as to penalize a branch of an organization to the extent of £1,000; and under other clauses individuals can be penalized to the extent of £10, £25, £100, and even £500. Very few Labour organizations in Australia would be able to meet a fine of £1,000 if it were imposed. Some of the large organizations may have assets to that amount, but it would not be possible to recover it from the smaller unions. If fifteen men in a body of workers numbering 1,000 become dissatisfied and strike, and the employer immediately locks out the remainder, what compensation will they have? The bill bristles with provisions that are likely to inflame the minds of genuine unionists. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) says that these penalties have always been in the act. I have never previously noticed them.
During the last 25 years arbitration has done wonders for the industrial organizations; hut within the last ten or twelve years the business before the court has become so congested that large organizations have not been able to have their plaints heard. A union to which I belonged at one time had a plaint before the court for four years. The economic conditions are continually changing, and if the workers cannot have their plaint heard they are inclined to resort to the barbaric weapon of the strike.
– How long ago is it since the incident to which the honorable senator has referred occurred ?
– It is some time ago. The number of judges has since been increased. On many occasions these delays have led to strikes. Senator Reid has said that the miners and seamen have been responsible for the majority of the strikes that have taken place in Australia. I do not know that that is altogether correct.
– I was referring to the coal-miners. I have never heard of goldminers going on strike.
– On one occasion an award gave the auriferous miners in Western Australia an increase in their wages and a fortnight’s holiday on full pay in each year. One mine of which I know was practically shut down for a month, and the elderly men never succeeded in getting back. Young, virile Italians were engaged, because it was thought that their output would be greater. Bad as the Arbitration Court may be, I do not want to see it thrown overboard until we have some better system to put in its place.
– Does the honorable senator mean that the arbitration system is not perfect?
– Yes. The proposal to give either the court or the Government control over the unions if a dispute should arise, does not appeal to me. At the present time I am a member of two unions. At one time I was a member of three. Each of those has provision iu its rules for the taking of a secret ballot. Every big union makes that provision. It is decidedly unfair to make it possible for any ten men in a large organization to demand a secret ballot without disclosing their identity. Any man who is not game to stand up for his principles cannot be trusted.
During this debate a great deal has been said in regard to the action of the marine cooks in tying up the coastal shipping service. If ever it was necessary to have one big union, that is the position at the present time. No small union should be allowed to take the bit between its teeth at the expense of the thousands of workers who are either directly or indirectly concerned.
– Is the honorable senator in favour of one hig union?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order!
– I am:
– One big union, one big strike, and one big starvation.
– The honorable senator is mad; he does not know what he is talking about.
Senator Verran again interjecting
– Order ! I have repeatedly called the honorable senator to order. If he again offends I shall name him.
– I rise to order. Is one honorable senator in order in saying that another honorable senator is mad ?
– The expression is unparliamentary, and I ask Senator Graham to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– I now ask honorable senators to allow Senator Graham to conclude his speech without interruption. I have called for order several times. If there is any further disturbance I shall name the honorable senator who offends.
– I deplore exceedingly the present position in regard to our coastal shipping services. But when the Marine Cooks’ Union took the drastic step of holding up one vessel because the demand for an extra hand in the galley was not conceded, the ship-owners exhibited too great a readiness to tie up other vessels when they reached their home ports. I believe that that action was taken with a view to bringing the trouble to a head. Therefore there is guilt on both sides. The time has come in the affairs of unionism when a small faction should be prevented from throwing out of work large numbers of their fellow workers who are not concerned in their dispute. If all the industrial organizations were banded together into one big union, its general executive would not countenance a strike until every effort had been made to reach a satisfactory settlement. Honorable senators opposite are, I know, opposed to the principle of one big union ; but if such an organization were in existence to-day, the present industrial disturbance would not last 24 hours. I have; been associated with three or four strikes, and I believe that if the present arbitration system were not in operation, many employers would do as they did many years ago. Honorable senators are aware of the disgraceful incidents which occurred in New South Wales in 1892, when soldiers armed with rifles and swords, and supplied with ball cartridges, were sent to Broken Hill to force men, who had a legitimate cause to strike, to return to work. If our present arbitration system were not in operation, I believe some employers would favour similar action being taken. After that strike had been in. operation ,for some months, it was found that the employers, who had capital amounting to ?7,000,000 behind them, were going to fight the- men to a finish. On that occasion the strike leaders were manacled and sent from Broken Hill to Deniliquin, to be tried before a jury of pastoralists, who, the authorities knew, would find them guilty
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - I ask the honorable senator if he intends to connect his remarks with .the subject-matter of the bill?
– I do not think I have digressed more than other honorable senators.
– I ask the honorable senator to discuss the bill.
– If this measure becomes operative, conditions such as the honorable senator mentions, will prevail again.
– That is. so. If a steward of a union endeavours to collect membership fees from unionists employed in a mine or a workshop, his services in that mine or workshop are dispensed with on the grounds that there is no longer work for him to do. On one occasion, I was victimized in that way, and two hours afterwards another man was placed in my job.
There may be a few provisions in this measure which will be of slight benefit to unionists; but there are many others which are very objectionable and which should be amended if the Government wish to treat unionists fairly. Senator Guthrie referred to the wives of unionists who, he said, should have a vote; but that honorable senator has as much love for the workers as the devil has for holy water.
– I have done more to assist workers than the honorable senator.
– I deny that. We do not wish to return to the conditions which existed at Cradley Heath when women and little children were employed at chain-making for twelve hours a day. I can only enter my strongest protest against the provisions of this bill, particularly the iniquitous penal clauses, but I suppose as the Government has the support of a brutal majority, the measure will be carried.
– The angle from which I approach the discussion of this subject is different from that of others who have preceded me. Some honorable senators have had a long association with trade unionism, hut my experience has been largely with employers. Foi over 40 years I have been an employer, and for four or five years of that period I had the privilege of occupying the position of president of an employers’ association. On several occasions I acted as employers’ representative on wages boards, and, going still further back, I was, as a military officer, called out on one occasion, I am sorry to say, to assist the civil power in preventing misdeeds in Queensland. That is now ancient history, but I refer to it merely to show that it had a very good effect. Not a single shot was fired in anger, but the action taken on that occasion resulted in the restoration of peaceful conditions in Queensland. As a representative of the employers I have no hesitation in saying that they desire industrial peace, and I think that the provisions of this measure will assist in that direction. It does not pay the employers to have their warehouses closed or their ships held up. Employers wish their operations to be continuous in order to make profits, which is the object of business, and therefore industrial peace is very desirable. They cannot, however, agree to peace at any price; it must be secured on a fair and reasonable basis.
It has been asserted by some honorable senators that arbitration was first established by a Labour government; that was not so in Queensland. In that State the wages board system, which is an excellent one if the cardinal difficulty of appointing a chairman acceptable to both parties can be overcome, was first introduced. The practice in Queensland was to appoint three members to represent the employers and three to represent the employees, all of whom had a full knowledge pf the industry. The difficulty we experienced was to find an independent chairman in whom both sides had confidence. . The system, which was a failure in Queensland, has, I understand, been a success in Victoria, although I do not know how they overcame the difficulty of appointing a chairman suitable to both parties. The next step taken in Queensland was the introduction by a Liberal Government ‘ of an Arbitration Act. Before that act was introduced, the Chambers of Commerce, which represented the employers, were asked for suggestions as to the best means of introducing the system. At the time I was president of the Rockhampton Chamber of Commerce, and that chamber recommended that judges should not be engaged in arbitration cases. I came to that decision many years ago, and it is one to which I adhere to-day, because, as the result of experience, I am forced to the conclusion that judges are not the most suitable persons to handle arbitration matters. They are bound by precedents and procedure, and have no opportunity to acquire sufficient knowledge of the subjects with which they have to deal. I have previously expressed the opinion that the best men for such positions are those who have had wide commercial experience, and who possess a judicial mind. Such men should be paid a salary sufficient to place them beyond temptation. A recommendation to that effect was not adopted in Queensland, or in the wider Commonwealth sphere.
Although I do not think the present system is satisfactory, we have to do our. best with the material at our disposal. I agree with Senator Graham when he says that our arbitration system is- not perfect. We can also say that marriage is not perfect, but no one has been able to suggest a better system than that which prevails at present. Our present arbitration laws operate prejudicially against the employers at times, because employers can easily be located, prosecuted and fined, whereas it is often difficult to locate and punish employees who break the law. Although our arbitration system is not a success from the viewpoint of many of the employers, they accept it as a principle and wish to see the law properly carried out. In Queensland,. Mr. Justice McCawley, one of the ablest men who has ever graced the Bench in Australia, once had a very strong leaning towards the political party which appointed him. Many of his earlier judgments were decidedly in favour of the employees; but later he developed a true judicial mind and made many industrial awards which were acceptable to both parties to the dispute. When the Mount Morgan company found it necessary to have its many awards consolidated, Mr. Justice McCawley went very carefully into the position. He realized that the industry had not the capacity to pay the very high wages claimed by the unions, and after considering the matter and giving very good reasons for his decision, he gave an award based on the ability of the industry to bear it. The workers would not accept the award. They went on strike and remained on strike for eleven months, during which time they received subsistence from the Queensland Government. At the end of the eleven months the Queensland Government, like every one else, was most desirous of settling the trouble, and devoted £50,000 a month out of the railage which the company was paying, to give the men not all of their demands, but up to 70 per cent, of them. Although the workers had their own judge, and everything their own way in Queensland at that (time, they would not accept an award based on reason and justice, preferring to remain out on strike for eleven months until the State Government devoted £50,000 a month from the railage paid by the company to meet the greater portion of their demands.
– The taxpayers of Queensland had to find the money.
– Yes ; one could hear loud-mouthed agitators talking of how the Government was protect-, ing the Mount Morgan company by giving it £50,000 a month to keep its employees at work, whereas it wa3 a contribution by the taxpayers out of the railway revenue to meet the demands of the men, and was not a contribution by the Government to the company.
I always contend that labour has a perfect right to stop work when it likes, and I do not think that strikes should be declared illegal ; but at the same time I hold that when industry is held up by a strike the employer should have the right to keep it going, especially if it is an essential service, by putting on whatever labour he is able to obtain. I hold, also, that the people who are thus employed should not be interfered with. I think that picketing should be declared illegal. The old yarn about peaceful picketing has been exploded. We have seen “ peaceful picketing” in operation on the sugar cane fields of Queensland. The severest penalties should be imposed for picketing or interfering, with free labourers doing work which others have refused to do.
Unfortunately, there is a good deal of overlapping in industrial awards. This bill may have the effect of preventing it, but I am rather doubtful about it unless we can secure the co-operation of the States. .Had the proposals of the Government which were submitted to the people at the last referendum been accepted the way would have been perfectly clear to prevent overlapping; but without the power that this Parliament would have obtained if the Government’s proposals had been accepted it is doubtful whether the Commonwealth Parliament can do anything practical in this respect. At any rate, a good deal can be done with the goodwill of the States. I am one of those who think that the Commonwealth’s activities in industrial matters should be very light. The Constitution implies that its founders contemplated that the only activity that would come within the aegis of the Commonwealth would be the shipping industry. All other Australian industries are essentially State activities. That view has been stressed time after time by congresses of Chambers of Commerce and employers’ associations. Occasionally it has been suggested that shearing is another industry that mightcome within the control of the Commonwealth. Personally > I think that shearing is not interstate in character. At any rate, it is not as much interstate as is the shipping industry, as the workers proved in Queensland by ignoring a Federal award in the shearing industry and getting a State award for higher wages than are fixed in the Federal award.
– Mr. Justice McCawley ignored the Federal award, but the pastoralists did not.
– They could not help themselves; they had to pay the piper.
– That award caused a lot of trouble throughout the rest of Australia.
– It certainly did. It is highly desirable that we should avoid overlapping awards. It is, of course, the easiest matter in the world to camouflage a State dispute by giving it an interstate character. I hope that eventually there will he federal control of all awards, with delegation to State tribunals. I am sure that the employers and the unions will not be able to stand the expense of concentrating in Canberra to secure Federal awards. Had the Government proposals been adopted by the people we could have had a Federal Court and authority delegated to State tribunals to deal with practically everything. Only the most important matters such as standard hours of labour would have been dealt with by the central tribunal.
The provisions of the bill dealing with secret ballots seem to have caused a good deal of contention on the other side of the chamber. To my mind, it is quite a good idea to require the holding of secret ballots. Honorable senators opposite admit that it is the regular practice for the unions to hold these ballots, and the provision in the bill is only a slight extension of a principle already adopted by the organizations. Surely there can be no objection to the provision that ten men may initiate the taking- of a ballot.
– The whole thing is absurd. Why not make it one man?
– We could not allow one man to initiate the taking of a ballot. It is necessary to compare the Government’s proposal with the practice that is commonly adopted in the commercial activities of the country. For instance, one shareholder cannot ask that a meeting of shareholders shall be con vened. It is laid down in most of the articles of association of companies that a certain number of shareholders shall have the right to demand that a meeting be summoned. That is all that the ten members of a union will be able to do; they can demand a ballot on certain subjects.
– Ten men can move an organization of 160,000 members and cause it to spend £5,000. They can do it once a. fortnight.
– The honorable senator cannot imagine the whole of the activities of his organization being in issue at the one time. The ballot that could be demanded by ten men in the Australian Workers Union would apply to a section only. The main point is that in all commercial activities a few men can demand the calling of a meeting to do certain things, and the provision in the bill is merely an adoption of that principle. Surely there can be no reasonable objection to it. Furthermore, as I emphasized in my election speeches, it gives the rank and file control of their unions.
I agree with a great many of the bouquets that have been thrown at Senator Barnes and his union. The Australian Workers Union is a well-conducted organization. But there are many others that are not well conducted, and if the newspapers are to be believed, the Cooks’ Union is one of them. The secretary of the Cooks’ Union is the kingpin of his organization. The rank and file of an organization ought to be able to exercise proper control over their officials. They do in well-regulated unions; hut there are many in which they do not. I think it is highly desirable that they should have the control proposed to be given to them by this bill. Who will object to the supervision of accounts? Registered companies have to file their accounts with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies. Friendly societies are under very strict actuarial supervision. Every similar organization is more or less liable to audit, and in view of quite a number of recent happenings I think there should be no objection to the supervision of union accounts.
In Queensland there has been a good deal of opposition to the Government’s proposal. I wondered where it was coming from, and caused inquiries to be made. I find that two gentlemen, Mr. W. E. Crane, B.A., and Mr. Paterson, B.A., are touring Queensland saying that this bill is designed to break the unions and spoil the workers. Mr. Crane got his degree in Queensland; but Mr. Paterson was a Rhodes scholar. I have previously expressed my opinion of this gentleman and his Rhodes scholarship. I venture to think that if the great Cecil Rhodes could have foreseen that the historic provision in his will was likely to produce a man with the views of Mr. Paterson he would never have signed it. Both these gentlemen are out-and-out Communists. I think they belong to the Jock Garden community.
As far as the future is concerned I am entitled to think that we have fixed our wages on a wrong basis. My idea is that we should fix a wage for the single man and, starting from that basis, encourage him to marry and have a family. It would be the best way to settle the population problem of this country if we gave a man additional pay upon his marriage and increased it by so much for every child he had until it reached the earning age. The fund out of which these payments would be made could be based upon contributions from the worker, the Government and the employer. Although the employer may possibly have nothing to do with a man’s marriage, the fact that a worker is married makes him contented and through the content of his workers the employer benefits. There is also the other angle to be looked after by the employer - the payment to be made for skill, long service and loyalty. Under our present scheme we lose sight of these things. We fix a minimum wage which is really a maximum and the employer has to bring his best men down to the average of the lowest worker. In an ideal state of things such as I have just now adumbrated that sort of thing would not happen. It may be said that all employers cannot be controlled, that they will not recognize merit; but America has a way of getting over that difficulty by the appointment of control inspectors. At any rate I think it is a; scientific way of settling- the problem, though I doubt very much if it will ever’ be completely settled to the satisfaction of the whole community by any of the methods mentioned. I think thateventually the settlement of our industrial troubles will be achieved by cooperation in industry, with employers and employees working together for the common good. Of course, that method would involve the allocation of profits among, those who put capital into industrial enterprises as well as among the workers and the directive brains. Capital and labour and directivity are complementary to one another. If co-operation along those lines can be evolved in the future there will be no more industrial trouble.
– Henry Ford is doing that to-day.
– I do not think so. I am not entirely an admirer of Mr. Ford. The industrial delegation to the United States of America did not regard him as such an ideal employer as he has been described in other quarters. The bill is an honest attempt to improve industrialconditions, and, although some necessary amendments may be made in committee, I hope that the measure will be passed substantially in its present form.
[5.17]. - The debate has been interesting and informative, and I wish to thank honorable senators for the friendly criticism that has been directed to the bill. I propose to reply to several points that have been raised. Both Senator Needham and Senator Graham indulged in a good deal of comment on the alleged opposition of the trade unions to the bill. I intend to give the Senate a sample of that’ opposition. It began in Melbourne. First of all there was a meeting of trade union secretaries, and they decided to send out a circular letter to all trade unions appealing to them to oppose, the bill. Some little time after that, honor able senators received letters from different unions. The following is the text of a letter that was sent to me from the Western Australian Amalgamated Society of Railway Employees: -
General Secretary’s Office, 27 Trades Hall, Perth, 28th April, 1928.
At a special .meeting of the above union, called at the request of the various branches, it was decided that this organization is irrevocably opposed to the proposed amendments of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, because they aim a vital blow at the industrial unions of Australia, and that instead of creating industrial peace, they would be more likely to create industrial chaos. I was instructed to write and request you to oppose the proposed amendments.
Trusting you will realize the necessity for the sake of industrial peace of opposing the proposed amendments,
Yours faithfully, (Sgd.) G. Keating,
On receiving that, I wrote, in reply, as follows : - 4th May, 1928.
I am in receipt of. your letter of 28th April in which you ask me to oppose the proposed amendments to the Australian’ Conciliation and Arbitration Act; “because they aim a vital blow at the industrial unions of Australia.”
The provisions of this bill provide for the enforcement of awards and also to enable the members of unions to have effective control of their own affairs by means of a secret ballot where such is demanded by them.
I cannot see how such proposals can bc said to “ aim a vital blow at the industrial unions of Australia,” nor can I see why any union should object to its members having the power to control its affairs. I can only assume that you have not read the bill, and have been misled by the many misleading statements that have been made in regard to the bill.
I am, therefore, forwarding you by this mail a copy of the bill, and would be glad if you would point out which of the clauses are capable of the construction put upon them by you.
When the various amendments were drafted, I forwarded a copy of them .to that organization, and again I invited suggestions ; but I have received no reply. Does that not indicate that those responsible for the letter from the union had not seen the bill?
– -They had a copy of it before that time.
– Then I suggest that that makes the position all the worse, because having seen the measure they could not indicate any clauses that would have the effect that they said they would have. Surely when they appealed to me to oppose the bill, they must have acted in good faith; but, when I asked them to indicate which of the clauses would have that effect, they failed to reply.
– They were against the whole of the bill. .
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.They have not said so.
Now I come to Senator Barnes, who made one or two somewhat extraordinary statements in his otherwise calm and wellbalanced speech. Amongst other things he said he believed that the Commonwealth Government had staged the present industrial dispute. What a ridiculous statement !
– There is much evidence in support of that.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.What a foolish suggestion! He is not only a senator, but also the leader of one of the greatest unions in this country. If he did honestly believe that the Government had staged the present dispute, why did he remain silent while the Government, according to his own statement, was using a union in this country to bring about one of the biggest disasters that has ever overtaken unionism since the great maritime strike?
– The Minister endeavoured to show that the union was not responsible for the trouble.
– If the honorable senator really believes that the Government brought about the present dispute, he has been false to his own union in remaining silent and not denouncing the Government up to the present time. Although he is the leader of one of the greatest unions in Australia, he remained silent while the Government, according to him, if he would have us take him seriously, was supposed to be leading the country to disaster. He referred to the law-abiding unions. I am glad to say that the overwhelming mass of the unionists are law-abiding, and no law-abiding unionist has anything to fear from the bill.
Now I turn to Senator Gardiner. I was glad to hear him in this chamber again ; but in his speech on this measure he was not up to his usual form. He did not show that grasp of -the bill that he customarily displayed in dealing with measures when he filled the position of Leader of the Opposition. He was apparently totally unacquainted with certain clauses. He said that the bill threatened penalties against the organized workers of this country. But the measure does not make any threat ; it provides penalties against not only the organized workers, but also those who are unorganized, if they act contrary to the provisions of the bill. Those penalties are provided against not only workers, whether organized or unorganized, but also against employers, whether organized or unorganized. Then he said that the hill imposed a fine of £100 for abusive language by a unionist, and only £20 for the same offence by a non-unionist. I invite his attention to the clause on which he based that statement. If he turns to page 20 of the bill, he will find that proposed new section 86a provides -
No person shall -
by violence to the person or property of another person;
by any threats;
by any pecuniary penalty or injury;
by intimidation of any kind to whomsoever directed;
by abusive or insulting language;
by declaring or joining with other persons in declaring goods or places or persons or undertakings or positions “ black “ ; or
by any other form of boycott or threat of boycott, prevent, or endeavour to prevent, any person from offering or accepting employment or working . in accordance with the terms of an award or order of the court.
Penalty: Twenty pounds, or, in the case of an officer of a registered organization, One hundred pounds.
There is no differentiation between a unionist and a non-unionist, or between an employer and an employee. The provision is directed against any person who commits any one of these offences; whether he is the secretary of an organization of employers or of employees, he incurs the penalty set out. Senator Gardiner also said that the bill, apparently, was brought in for the purpose of irritating the community. Surely he will give the Government some credit for political common sense, at any rate. We are approaching an election, and why on earth should we be so foolish as to bring in a bill to irritate the community when we are about to appeal to the people?
Senator Sampson referred to the disinclination of employers to prosecute unions or unionists for breaches of the act.That undoubtedly has always been one of the weaknesses of the arbitration law. Employers are disinclined to take action because it brings them into court and into the light of publicity. It may make them appear to be harsh employers, and bring them into a collision with a union that may lead to future trouble. The tendency, therefore, is for them to take this action only as a last resort. That is one of the reasons why there has been almost a failure in the past to impose the penalties against workers who have broken awards. That is one reason why provision is made in the bill for the appointment of inspectors to police the awards, so that it will not rest with private individuals to see that they are obeyed. These inspectors will police them not only against the worker, but also against the employer if he breaks them. The honorable senator also referred to the difficulty of enforcing an award, and there is the greatest difficulty in doing that, by means of fines or penalties. That is one of the reasons why in certain cases - not in every case and not at the request of the employer but at the discretion of the judge - the court, knowing the history of an organization and its capacity for breaking an award, may demand that a bond be put up to ensure that an award is honoured in the future.
Senators Graham andFindley both referred to a clause which, I admit, is new, and a distinct departure from previous acts. This is clause 7, and it requires serious consideration. It provides -
Section seven of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “7. - (1.) Any person or organization bound by or entitled to the benefit of an award may apply to the court for an order declaring that a lockout or strike exists in an industry or in some section or part of an industry employers or employees in which are subject to the award. (2.) The court may require notice of any application made under this section to be served upon such persons as it directs. (3.) Where an application is made under this section the court may, if it thinks fit in all the circumstances of the case, make an order declaring that a lockout or strike exists in the industry or in some section or part of the industry. (4.) The court may at any time, upon such notice, to such persons, as it thinks fit, revoke a declaration made under the last preceding sub-section. (5.) Upon an order being made under this section declaring that a lockout exists in the industry or a section or part of the industry, anything in the nature of a strike done in that industry or in any section or part of that industry shall not, while the order remains in force, be a breach of the act or of any award or order of the court. . . .
There is a similar provision in regard to lockouts. These provisions have been introduced to deal with a feature of industrial trouble that is most sinister and dangerous in its character. I refer to job control. I ask honorable senators to consider that aspect of industrial trouble in a reasonable way, and ask themselves if it can be dealt with in any manner other than that provided in the bill. What happens in an industrial dispute if unionists do not avail themselves of the Arbitration Court and seek redress of their grievances through that channel? When they are in this frame of mind there are two courses open to them. One is the general strike; the other, and a far more deadly and dangerous weapon, is job con trol. By exercising job control they attack an industry in sections in the hope that they may be able to bring the whole industry into submission. Ships are held up . by this means. Where this plan of attack is adopted, it is not long before those who employ it succeed in rendering idle many other industries, and throw thousands of fellow unionists out of employment. In this way they do serious injury to the community at large.
– Since the Seamen’s Union is de-registered, how can job control be exercised by that body?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.We have to recognize that it is impossible to deal with this pernicious system of job control by the imposition of the ordinary penalties in the act, for the simple reason that men who adopt it only have to say that they do not feel well, that they want a rest, or that they want a holiday. Then they walk off their ship or cease work. When this plan is put into operation on a ship that is about to sail, perhaps fully loaded with valuable refrigerated cargo, the result is most disastrous. It is not necessary that the entire crew, or that the entire complement of firemen should cease work. If four or five firemen walk off a ship at the last minute, their action holds up the ship just as effectively as if the whole crew had gone on strike. Action of this sort by men engaged in various industries paralyses industry in general. How can we deal with them? Clearly the provisions in the act are ineffective, because men who practice job control merely state that they are not well or do not care to work, and leave” their employment, not as a body, but individually. Penalties under the act can be imposed only if it can be proved that the men acted in combination. No one can deny that, in many instances the action of men who practice job control is directed by their unions for a specific purpose. The men are determined not to go to the court for redress. Their minds are set upon direct action, and nothing will deter them from putting their plan into force. In such circumstances, it is only right that employers should have the same liberty of action. If men practice job control with the idea of paralysing industry, the employer should have equal freedom of action to declare a lockout in the hope of bringing a dispute to an end.
There is only one way to deal with job control. The Government has provided the means in this bill. I invite Senator Barnes, if he has a better proposal, to submit it when we come to those provisions of the bill in committee. With his vast experience of trade unionism, he must know that job control is practised by many industrial organizations. I am aware that his union does not countenance it, but he knows as well as I do that other unions do. I suggest, therefore, that if he has any proposals to deal with job control more effectively than the provisions inserted by the Government, he should submit them to us. They will receive every consideration, and, if considered desirable, will be accepted. This is the only way in which we can deal with the menace of job control which is one of the most dangerous weapons that can be used by trade unionists in an industrial dispute. Senator Findley objected to these provisions in the bill. If he will read the clause again, and have regard to the circumstances’ in which the provisions will be operative, he will. see how the Government proposes to deal with this menace.
I do not propose to follow Senator Findley in his excursions into my poli- tical past, except to say that some of us, as we grow older, learn, while others petrify, and never learn. I admit that, at one time, I was an enthusiastic believer in the principle of preference to unionists. I took the view that, as a trade union had to incur considerable expenditure, and had to go to a great deal of trouble to secure an award from the court, it was only reasonable that an award should include the principle of preference in employment to unionists. But in actual working the principle is not without grave faults. I can speak from personal experience. As Minister for Defence for some years I had the experience of the working of the principle, and I know only too well what a powerful weapon it is in the hands of union secretaries and organizers who, by this means, have absolute control over the lives of trade unionists.
– In what way?
– It enables union secretaries and organizers to bestow patronage on friends in a union and prevent others from securing employment. In the actual working of the principle a member of a trade union can secure employment only through- the secretary or organizer of his organization.
– And how can that be when each union keeps a register of its unemployed members?
– I had indisputable proof when I was Minister for Defence that if a member of a trade union displeased the secretary or organizer he had very little chance of getting a job. As a matter of fact I had unionists writing to me direct asking for employment, and when I advised them that the policy of the Government was to give preference to unionists and that they should apply to the secretary of their union, they wrote in reply stating that so far as they were concerned that was the finish, because they had no chance of getting a job from the secretary of their union.
SenatorBarnes. - The Minister must be aware that in every union office there is a record of unemployed members. This is open to inspection by members. If a man knows that he is next on the roster for employment, the secretary cannot turn him down.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE:I know that the principle of preference to unionists is operated in the way I have . indicated.
I come now to the question of unemployment in relation to this bill, a point raised by Senator Findley. The honorable senator deplored that there was so much unemployment in Australia. We all regret that, unfortunately, the position is so unsatisfactory, and that there are so many men out of work in the different “ States. But can this be wondered at in view of the adverse seasons experienced? In South Australia last year the wheat harvest was 15,000,000 bushels below the production of the previous year. That reduction in yield represents an enormous loss of purchasing and. employing power on the part of the people. There- is, however, another factor bearing greatly upon this problem of unemployment in respect of which Senator Findley has never made a protest. I refer to the. thousands of men who are thrown into the’ ranks of the unemployed owing to the action of strikers. How many thousands are out of work to-day as the result of the marine cooks’ strike?
– Even before the dispute on the waterfront there were many thousands of persons unemployed as the result of the Government’s migration policy:
– I challenge that statement. The existence’ of unemployment in Australia has had the effect . of immediately reducing migration. The migration policy of the’ Government has not, in any respect, been a factor in unemployment in Australia. The only migrants coming to Australia are nominated either by a State or by friends or relatives in Australia, who undertake to find them employment. Furthermore, migration is really controlled by State Governments. As soon as there is evidence of unemployment, the States cease to nominate, and so the number of migrants coming to Australia drops automatically. At present, with the exception of some nominated migrants for the State of Western Australia, and domestic servants for one or two other States, the States have ceased to nominate.
Senator Findley spoke also of the great profits made by industry, and endeavoured to show that the court could go on almost indefinitely making increases in awards, because industry is so prosperous. Is this the same Senator Findley, who, a little while ago, when the tariff was under discussion, declared that unless increased duties were granted, those industries would be crushed out of existence ? The honorable senator appears to speak with two voices. In the discussion of this bill, he takes the view that the industries of Australia are so prosperous that they can afford to pay higher and still higher wages ; but when discussing tariff matters, he takes the view that unless these industries are given more protection, they must go out of business.
The honorable member was unfortunate in his criticism of the provisions relating to secret ballots of members of trade unions, as proposed in the bill. He said that we on this side had really no belief in, and no knowledge of, the secrecy of the ballot. I can only say, on that point, that the Commonwealth electoral law, especially that part of it which deals with the ballot, is regarded as the most perfect system in the world. It originated in Australia. In other countries where it has been adopted it is known as the Australian ballot system, and is commended because of the precautions taken to ‘ensure secrecy. It is extraordinary that opposition to the taking of a secret ballot in relation to the policy of trade unions should come from representatives of the Labour party, which, in the days gone by, always stood for democracy. Actually, Labour members, as well as others, are members of this Parliament by virtue of the secret ballot. If this principle had not been incorporated in our electoral law, many members would never have been elected. What objection, therefore, can there be- to the Government’s proposal to make this principle a cog in our industrial machine? The arguments used by Senator Findley against these provisions, are exactly the arguments that were employed by Tory opponents many years ago against the inclusion of the secret ballot in the electoral law. As a boy I read many of the speeches delivered by prominent public men of the day concerning the secret ballot. The arguments used then against this principle were exactly the same as those employed by honorable senators opposite in their opposition to the secret ballot provisions in this bill. It appears to me, therefore* that political economy can be described as a wheel, and that the gentlemen opposite, who are the inheritors of the party that stood and fought for democracy and all that it means, have, in these later, days, become a Tory autocracy.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time- put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 - (1.) This act may be cited as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1928. (2.) The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1926, as amended by the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1927, is in this act referred to as the principal act. (3.) Section one of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1927 is amended by omitting sub-section (2.). (4.) The principal act, as amended by this act, may be cited as the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1904-1928.
[5.46]. - This bill was drafted in 1927. It, therefore, is necessary to amend the short title. I move -
That sub-clauses (2) and (3) be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-clause: - (2.) The Commonwealth Conciliataion and Arbitration Act 1904-1927 is in this act referred to as the principal act.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 2 and 3 agreed to.
Clause 4 (Penalty for lockout or strike).
– Sub-section 1 of section 6 of the principal act provides that any person or organization who or which does anything in the nature of a lockout or strike, or continues a lockout or strike, shall be liable to a penalty of £1,000. The Government contends that by this clause it is acting magnanimously. It is merely pretending to reduce the penalty from £1,000 to £50. It was never imagined that the maximum penalty of £1,000 could be collected if any court was foolish enough to impose it. The claim of the Government that it is being generous will not bear investigation. In the case of an organization the penalty will be increased instead of reduced, and if the law was applied strictly some organizations would be ruined financially. I have in mind organizations consisting of from 500 to 1,000 members. I know what their contributions are, and I can assure honorable senators that when the expenses of management have been met there is very little left. If any member of an organization does anything in the nature of a strike he can be penalized to the extent of £50. It has been the practice for an organization to pay any fine imposed upon one of its members in consequence of ‘any action taken by him that meets with its approbation or has its consent. The position might easily arise under which every member of an organization would be liable to a fine of. £50. Such an amount could not be recovered.
– £50 is the maximum.
– That is so. A figure considerably less would meet the case if an individual or an organization was found guilty of an offence under the arbitration law. There is no. doubt that monetarily organizations of employers can afford to pay the penalty provided; but it is altogether too severe a burden to place upon unionists. Under the provisions of section 6a the fine of £1,000 is made applicable to not only the organization but also the individual. A trivial act might bring a member of an organization, or even the organization itself, under the ban of that particular provision. Not very long ago certain persons were admitted to the Commonwealth and subsequently were discovered to be suffering from some mental trouble. Eventually they had to be confined in a hospital for the insane. After a period of detention they were deported. The stewards on the vessel by which they travelled were ordered to look after them. In the course of their surveillance one or two of the stewards were injured by some of these unfortunate people. The whole of their number ceased work, and thus committed something in the nature of a strike and rendered themselves liable to a penalty. although possibly their lives were in danger. While it is necessary that all laws which this - Parliament enacts should make provision for some penalty, as a deterrent to potential law-breakers; such penalties should be imposed within reasonable limits.
– Has not the court shown itself generous and reasonable?
– We, as the makers of the laws, should exercise a little sweet reasonableness; we should not wait for the matter to come before a judge. When passions are roused it is difficult to obtain what may be regarded as a reasonable decision.
– The maximum penalty is rarely imposed.
– It is not our concern whether the penalties are imposed either frequently or infrequently; that is a matter of administration, which does not come within our province. The Minister has stated that as this penalty is in the principal act, we have no justificartion for opposing it. We are not disputing the fact that it has previously been in operation, but pointing out that it is ridiculously high, and one that it will be impossible to collect from the organization or the individual.For that reason, I ask the Minister to postpone the consideration of this clause with a view to submitting an amendment providing for the imposition of a more reasonable penalty.
[6.2]. - I remind honorable senators that these are maximum penalties. The imposition of a fine of £1,000 on some employers would mean forcing them out of business. Seveneighths of the employers in Australia could not afford to pay such a fine. No court would impose a savage fine; but a Company may commit an act for which a fine of £1,000 would be fully justified. On the other hand, there are many employees who would be seriously embarrassed if they had to pay a fine of 450. It would be foolish to impose an unnecessarily heavy fine. There might be cases in which the court would be justified in imposing a fine of £50 on an employee or a fine of £1,000 on an employer, who, as the result of his action, might inflict considerable hardship upon the community. There have been instances of firemen leaving a vessel at the last moment, thus causing considerable inconvenience and expense not only to the shipping company but to many of their comrades who were to travel by the ship, and who had to incur expense which they could ill afford at hotels or board. ing houses until the vessel was manned. Honorable senators will vividly recall an occasion on which the tourist traffic to Tasmania was held up, and when travellers were not only seriously inconvenienced but had to incur a great deal of expense which they could not have anticipated. In cases of that kind a heavy ^penalty is justified. No court would impose a heavy fine for a minor breach of an award. The maximum fine is in each case stated in the bill, and the court must have the power to exercise its discretion.
– I should like to know what is the proportion of the minimum to the maximum fine.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The minimum fine could be the smallest coin of the realm.
– This is one of the clauses which I said last night I would endeavour to amend. We are on very dangerous ground when we provide for imposing a penalty upon men for ceasing work. According to the definition, a strike exists when men working in conjunction with others cease to work. It would be exceedingly difficult to prove that a man was ceasing work independently of his mates. What will be the position of workmen in Australia if under, a Commonwealth law they are to be punished for ceasing work? They will be slaves. Under our conciliation and arbitration system we have attempted a great deal; but there are always some who persist in using the old-fashioned strike weapon. Civilization has now reached the stage where men and women have the right to select their own representatives to frame the legislation under which they are governed, and our position is superior to that yet reached in any other country. Notwithstanding all the benefits that have been conferred upon those engaged in industry in the form of higher wages and better conditions, we have not that industrial peace which we anticipated. Some become exasperated, and, like Oliver Twist, dare to ask for more. Notwithstanding the fact that Australian workmen are now able to look their employers in the face, and in most cases meet them on a footing of equality, this measure provides for very marked discrimination in the penalties to be imposed on different sections. Our workmen will never be contented until they are adequately remunerated for the wealth they produce. I do not pretend for a moment that I have any hand-made system of preventing industrial unrest; but there will never be a satisfied community until the present system is altered. A man should get what he earns.
– On that basis some might receive less than they are getting to-day.
– Quite so. I am, however, trying to give what I think are the causes of industrial unrest, one of which is the inequitable basis upon which the world’s wealth is distributed. The man who toils the hardest gets the least, and the man who toils the least receives the most. The man with an organizing brain reaps the benefit.
– Does the honorable senator think that a man “who uses his brains is not working?
– The man who works with his brain is entitled to all the wealth that he can produce ; hut we have no right to take from the working man a share of the wealth he produces. Positions which carry great responsibility, and where exceptional skill is required, should be adequately remunerated. Today provision is not made for the distribution of wealth in proportion to the efforts used in its production.
– We are nearer to that point than most countries.
– That may be so ; but we are still a long way off . This clause provides for the imposition of a penalty of £1,000 on an employer responsible for a lockout, and of £50 on an employee who strikes. We are on dangerous ground in providing such penalties ; but, if they are to be imposed, they ought to be on a fair basis. It is unreasonable to penalize an employer to the extent of £1,000, because he closes up an establishment in which only two or three men may be engaged.
– That is the maximum penalty.
– But that is what the clause provides. I suggest that the penalty to be imposed upon the employer should be £50 for each employee locked out, and £50 should be paid by each man who strikes. If the maximum is £50, an employer who locked out 1,000 men should be fined £50,000, and if 1,000 workmen went on strike the amount to be collected would also be £50,000. Employers and employees would then be on exactly the same footing. It would be unreasonable to expect the average employer to pay a fine of £50,000; but the court could determine what was reasonable. Penalties such as I have suggested, if penalties are to be imposed, would be fair.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
In committee (Consideration of House of Representatives’ amendments).
Clause 2 -
Section 39 of the principal act is amended -
by omitting the two provisos to subsection (3) and inserting in their stead the following proviso: -
Provided that an elector whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled shall not be entitled to vote as ah elector of that division unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately pre ceding polling day within that division. In this proviso the words “ real place of living “ include the place of living to which a person temporarily living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live thereat.
Section proposed to be amended -
Provided that an elector whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled shall not’ be entitled to vote as an elector of that division if, since he secured that enrolment, he has at any time before the commencement of the period of twenty-one days before the issue of the writ for the election, become entitled to be enrolled in respect of another division :
Provided further that nothing in this sub-section shall disentitle an elector from voting in respect of the division for which he is enrolled if he is temporarily living elsewhere than within’ the’ division in respect of which he claims to vote with a fixed intention of returning tohis place of living in that division for the purpose of continuing to live therein.
House of Representatives Amendment. -
Omit “ whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division,” insert “ shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of the division in respect of which he is enrolled.”
[8.6].- I move -
That the amendment be agreed to and that the following consequential amendment be made in the bill: -
After clause 2 insert the following new clause : - 2a. Section forty-one of the principal act is amended -
by omitting from paragraph (a) of sub-section (4) the word “and” (last occurring); and
by adding at the end of paragraph (b)of sub-section (4) the words - “ and
any senator or member of the House ofRepresentatives whose name is enrolled in accordance with the provisions of this subsection may vote as an elector of the sub-division in respect of which he isso enrolled.
Section 41 of the principal act is as follows : - (4). Notwithstanding anything contained in this act -
The amendment made by the House of Representatives disqualifies an elector from voting in any sub-division for which he is enrolled unless his real place of residence has been in that sub-division during the three months immediately preceding an election. The consequential amendment I have moved is to preserve the position of members of the House of Representatives and senators who, under the act, are allowed to be enrolled for any sub-division of the division which they represent or for any sub-division of any division of the State they represent. The amendment moved by the House of Representatives, while enabling members of Parliament to be enrolled in this way, would not enable them to vote in the subdivisions for which they were enrolled unless their real places of residence had been in those sub-divisions during the three months immediately preceding an election. The purpose of the consequential amendment is to restore the previous position and permit a member of Parliament to vote as an elector of the subdivision in respect of which he is enrolled.
– I should like to be assured that the amendment made by the House of Representatives will not endanger the right of a citizen to vote. The clause, as it left this chamber, provided -
Provided that an elector whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division unless his real place of living was at some time within three months immediately preceding polling day within that division. In this proviso the words “ real place of living “ include the place of living to which a person temporarily living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live thereat
I should like to know if the omission, of the words “whose real place of living is not in the division in respect of which he is enrolled shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of that division “ and the insertion of the words “ shall not be entitled to vote as an elector of the division in respect of which he is enrolled “ is likely to create a hiatus, during which, if an election takes place, the elector who has moved from one sub-division to another may be disfranchised. I quite see the necessity for the consequential amendment proposed by the Minister to preserve the privilege now enjoyed by members of this Parliament, which would have been endangered by allowing the amendment made by the House of Representatives to remain unaltered.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW. (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [8.10]. - The amendment made by the House of Representatives is purely a drafting one, and makes no substantial alteration to the clause as it left this chamber. The elector who moves from one subdivision to another, will still be enabled to vote in one or the other, according to enrolment. At the end of the proviso “real place of living” is defined to include “ the place of living to which a person temporarily living elsewhere has a fixed intention of returning for the purpose of continuing to live thereat.” If an elector moves from one electorate to another he may vote in the electorate to which he has removed, or in that in which he originally lived, . according to enrolment. He will not be in danger of being disfranchised.
Motion agreed to.
Section seventy-seven of the principal act is amended by omitting from sub-section (2.) the words “ chief polling place “ and inserting in their stead the words “ office of the Divisional Returning Officer “.
Section proposed to be amended -
House of Representatives amendment - After clause . 3 insert the following new clauses: - 3a. Section eighty-three of the principal act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead: - ‘ “83. - (1.) If after the nominations for an election for the Senate have been declared and before polling day any candidate dies and the candidates remaining are not greater in number than the candidates required to be elected, they shall forthwith be declared to be elected and the writ returned. (2.) If after the nominations for an election for the House of Representatives have been declared, and before polling day, any candidate dies, the election shall be deemed to have wholly failed.”. 3b. Section eighty-four of the principal act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section (1.) the following proviso: - “ Provided that where the election has failed in consequence of the death of a candidate after the declaration of the nominations and before polling day, the supplementary election shall be held upon the roll which was prepared for the purpose of the election which failed.”.
[8.14]. - I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
Theposition in the past has been that if,- after the declaration of nominations, a candidate dies, and the number of remaining candidates is not greater than the number required to be elected, those remaining have, been declared elected, tinder this amendment the position with regard to the Senate will be the same; but, in regard to the House of Representatives, if after the declaration of the nominations a candidate dies and the number remaining is the number required the election will be deemed to have failed, and it will be necessary to hold another election. But, for purpose of the new election, the roll as at the date of the original election will be taken.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 8 -
After section ninety-one a of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “91b. - (1.) Subject to sub-section (2) of this section the following persons are authorized witnesses within the meaning of this act: -
all Commonwealth Divisional Returning Officers…….. all Railway Station-masters and night officers in charge who are permanently employed in the railway service of the Common wealth or of a State; all permanent way inspectors and roadmasters employed in the railway service of the Commonwealth…..
House of Representatives Amendment. - After “railway service of the Commonwealth;” insert “all engineers engaged upon railway or road construction; all mail contractors;”.
[8.17].- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
This adds engineers on road construction and mail contractors to the list “of authorized witnesses.
– I am glad that the spirit of reasonableness has at last prevailed. I asked for one of these additions but was refused. I welcome both.
Motion agreed to. .
Clause 9 -
Section 92 of the principal act is amended.
Notwithstanding anything contained in this section . . . the envelope in which the ballot-paper is enclosed may be addressed to . . . any other Divisional Returning Officer, who shall deal with it in the prescribed manner.
House of Representatives Amendment. - After “ Officer “ insert “ or to an asistant returning officer.”
[8.19].- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
This is to add assistant returning officers to the officers to whom postal votes maybe delivered.
Motion agreed to.
House of Representatives Amendment. -
Omit “ who “, insert “ or may be delivered on polling day to any presiding officer, and the divisional returning officer, assistant returning officer, or presiding officer as the case may be,”.
[8.20].- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to and that the following consequential amendments be made in the bill: -
Clause 21, after “officer” insert “or any assistant returning officer or presiding officer “.
Clause 22, after “ officer “ insert “ or any assistant returning officer or presiding officer “.
Clause 23, after “ officer “ insert “ or any assistant returning officer or presiding officer “.
These are all consequential amendments on the amendment made in another place to enable postal votes to be delivered to a divisional returning officer, assistant returning officer or presiding officer, up to and including polling day.
Motion agreed to
Consequential amendments to Clauses 11 and 13 agreed to subject to further consequential amendments.
Clause 14 -
House of Representatives Amendment. - After clause 14 insert the following new clause: - “14a. Section one hundred and thirteen of the principal act is amended by omitting from sub-section l the word “ State “ and inserting in its stead the word Commonwealth “.
Section proposed to be amended - 113. (1.) . . . an elector shall be entitled to vote at any prescribed polling place for the subdivision for which he is enrolled or he shall be permitted to vote at any other polling place within the State.
[8.23]. - I move-
That the amendment be disagreed to.
This amendment extends the provisions of the principal act in regard to absent voting so that an absent voter may vote at any polling booth in the Commonwealth. The Government, after considering this matter and consulting with the Chief Electoral Officer, found that it would take an enormous time to get a declaration of the poll owing to the fact that absentee voting would be allowed all over the Commonwealth. At the present time, absentee voting is allowed, intra-state; but under the provisions, as amended in another place it would be allowed interstate. At the present time postal voting is allowed interstate, so that no voter absent from his own State is prejudiced in recording his vote because he can avail himself of the postal voting provisions. Owing to the difficulties in counting the votes and the delay that would be caused the Government considers that the amendment should not be accepted.
– I do not think that the reasons advanced in opposition to the amendment made in another place are valid. The Minister has suggested that there is no danger of any elector being disfranchised by not allowing absentee voting interstate, as well as intranstate, for the reason that interstate postal voting prevails throughout Australia. It is well known that we, on this side, have always opposed postal voting. But the Parliament has decreed that that form of voting shall operate. If the elector is protected through absentee voting being allowed within the State, what is the use of postal voting within the State? The Minister says that, because postal voting is allowed interstate, there is no need for absent voting interstate. I cannot accept that argument. The other argument adduced by him in opposition to the amendment in another place is that delay would be caused in the counting of the votes. But that is not of sufficient importance to prevent the people from having the fullest facilities in the matter of absentee voting. If my memory serves me aright, absentee voting was operative in the Commonwealth during the early part of the life of the Federal Parliament, and nobody cavilled at it. The Electoral Department did not then say that it delayed the counting of the votes. Since the elimination of the provisions for absentee voting in the interstate sense, a longer time has been occupied in the counting of the votes than when that system was operative throughout the Commonwealth.
– Would not this necessitate the rolls for all Australia being in every polling booth throughout the country ?
– Even if it did, that would not be a fatal, objection to the extension of the principle. The rolls for the whole of the Commonwealth could be made available at the chief polling booth.
– Suppose a Victorian voter recorded his vote at Wyndham. It might be three months before it was received.
– Even so, when the absentee voting provisions applied, nothing like three months elapsed from the time an election was held until all the votes had been counted. I hope that the committee will accept the amendment.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [8.28]. - This matter was referred to the committee that inquired into electoral matters in 1926-27; but the committee did not recommend the adoption of the proposal. The committee’s report stated, inter alia -
Much evidence was tendered to the committee as to the desirability of electors being permitted to vote when in a State other than the one for which they were enrolled.
At present absent voting is restricted to the State for which the elector is enrolled.
Interstate absent voting was formerly provided for. but it was found that its operation caused grave delays in the announcement of the results of the elections; and, upon the introduction of postal voting, it was decided that practically all cases of this kind would be met by the postal-voting system, and, therefore, absent voting beyond the boundaries of the State was discontinued.
If it were re-introduced, the same difficulties would arise, and the already long period of suspense during which the votes are being counted, would be considerably added to. In any cases of close elections, periods even as long as a month would elapse before the decision of the electors could be made known. It would be impossible to enter upon the final counting of the Senate votes until the whole of the absent voting ballot-papers had been received by the Divisional Returning Officer to whom they were addressed. This would mean that, in connexion with the Senate election, no real progress in the count could be made within amonth of polling day.
The committee cannot, therefore, recommend the re-adoption of the system of interstate absent voting.
– I think that the committee has exaggerated the difficulties.
– In the more remote parts of the Commonwealth the electors are provided for by the postal vote. If absent voting privileges were extended beyond the limits of a State there would be considerable delay in declaring the result of the poll. The Electoral Committee made a careful inquiry into this phase of our electoral law and reported against it. I hope, therefore, that the amendment of the House of Representatives will be rejected.
– I am unable to understand why the Government in this chamber is opposing an amendment that was agreed to in another place by a substantial majority. In this they are in opposition to their colleagues elsewhere. Every member of the committee will agree with me when I say that the provision in our electoral law entitling electors enrolled in one State to vote at any polling booth in another State, was a great convenience to many thousands of voters, and it was largely availed of. There is no analogy between the system under which the elector voted in person, and the principle underlying the provision governing postal voting. Since we have provided for compulsory voting throughout the Commonwealth, we should give every opportunity to electors to exercise the franchise. Although the provision relating to absent voting has not been in the electoral law for some years, many people are still under the impression that, as absent voters, they can vote at any polling place in the Commonwealth. Prior to the last election a number of electors personally known to me advised me that they would be leaving Victoria before election day and intended to vote at a polling booth in New South Wales. I informed them that they would be unable to vote as absent voters, and that it would be necessary for them to make application for postal ballot papers.
– The provisions governing absent voting were removed from the act before the war.
– Nevertheless some people are still under the impression that they can exercise the franchise in that way. The only objection, if it can be called an objection, advanced by the Minister in charge of the bill to the amendment inserted in another place, is that if it is agreed to, it will cause considerable inconvenience to electoral officials, and may necessitate a delay of three or four weeks in the declaration of’ the final count. All I can say is that the provision was in the act for many years and, so far as I know, did not cause any inconvenience. As a candidate on several occasions I know that we had to wait some time for the final results, but we had the satisfaction of knowing that every citizen of the Commonwealth was given an opportunity to exercise the franchise and, as I have said, this privilege was appreciated by many thousands of electors supporting all political parties. I hope that the committee will not reject the amendment inserted in another place.
– How many electors will benefit by this provision?
– Senator Reid knows that there are more people travelling by trains from place to place now than there has been at any period in the history of Australia. This movement of the people is not due entirely to the present maritime dispute. It is the normal state of affairs. Persons wishing to travel by train from one State to another must book in advance in order to secure berths.
– They can vote by post.
– I am aware of that ; but the provisions for absent voting, when they were in the act, were appreciated by a large number of electors, and proved a great convenience. “We should not now place obstacles in the way of people who wish to exercise the franchise.
.- I hope that the amendment inserted by the House of Representatives will not be rejected. Our primary concern should be the convenience of electors, especially those in far distant places. Senator Kingsmill mentioned just now the position of a Victorian voter who wished to exercise the franchise at Wyndham. He said that, if such a person voted by post at Wyndham, it would be about three months before the result of the Senate poll could be declared. There need be no serious delay. For example, if I happened to be at that centre on polling day and this provision were in the act, I would go into the polling booth there, give my residential address in Ballarat, and claim the vote. The returning officer could telegraph to Ballarat to ascertain if my name was on the roll. If it were not, he would refuse to give me a ballot-paper. Otherwise, he would issue a paper to me, and I could vote in the ordinary way. There need be no serious delay in the declaration of the final count. I can assure honorable senators that thousands of electors throughout Australia would regard this provision as a privilege, and it could be used without causing any trouble.
– The Electoral Committee inquired into the system and did not approve of it.
– I am aware of that. If I had had an opportunity to give evidence before that committee, I feel sure I could have convinced the members of it that they were wrong. It is impossible for electors living in certain parts of Australia to make application for and receive a postal ballot-paper in time. To me it is unthinkable that honorable senators should desire to place obstacles in the way of any citizens of the Commonwealth having an opportunity to exercise the franchise. The postal vote is a very great convenience to the people who are unable to attend a polling place, and the absent voting system would likewise be much appreciated. It is absurd to argue that if we allow absent voting at elections, the declaration of the poll may be delayed for three months.
– The section of the Electoral Committee’s report read by the Minister (Senator Glasgow), emphasizing the delay that would take place in the declaration of the final count if absent voting were allowed, to my mind, exaggerates the difficulties. I had the privilege of being a candidate under the old system, when electors were allowed to vote as absent voters all over the Commonwealth. I have also contested elections since those provisions were removed from the Electoral Act, and I venture to say that there has been scarcely any difference in the date of the declaration of the poll. My first election was in 1906. On that occasion the poll was declared about three weeks after polling day. My last election was on 16th December, 1922, and the poll was declared on 6th January.
I come now to the statement of Senator Kingsmill, that it would take about three months for an absent vote recorded by a Victorian elector at Wyndham subdivision to reach the divisional returning officer for his division. The honorable senator is well aware that there is an air mail service in Western Australia.
– Not to Wyndham.
– It goes not very far from it. There are also air mail services in other parts, which rapidly annihilate space. Surely honorable senators are not insensible of the fact that we are making rapid progress in our means of transport by land, sea, and air ! It is ridiculous to say that it would take three months for a vote so recorded to reach the divisional returning officer in these modern days of aviation, when the Pacific can he crossed in a few days. Even if the vote was sent by steamer it would not occupy three months on the journey. I admit that there might be a little extra delay, but it would not be nearly as great as has been stated. Therefore I hope that the committee will agree to the amendment that has been made by another place.
– I was a member of the Joint Select Committee on Electoral Law and Procedure, which made a unanimous report. Some members of that committee sunk their personal views in certain directions in order that the report might be unanimous.
– There was no difference of opinion on this point.
– I was always in favour of restoring’ to -the act the provision which made it possible for an absent vote to be recorded in any part of Australia. We should give every possible assistance to the electors, and no obstacles should be placed in their way. It would be far easier for an elector -to record an absent vote in a polling booth, than to vote by post.
– Did the honorable senator place this argument before the electoral committee?
– Of course, I did.
– The whip has just been cracked.
– There has not been time for the whips to crack. I remember the time when an elector could go into any polling booth in Australia and vote with respect to the constituency in which he was enrolled. I was sorry when that privilege was withdrawn, because it was a great convenience to the travelling public, who should be given every opportunity to exercise the franchise. If delay is the only reason that the electoral officials can advance in opposition to the proposal, it is a poor one indeed.
– There is also the extra expense. The rolls for every electorate would have to be kept in every polling booth.
– That is not so. The honorable senator knows that it is not necessary, and that such a practice was not adopted when this provision was in the act previously. When I was elected, almost six years ago, the date of election was the 16th December. The counting was continued until Christmas Eve, and then held over until well into the new year. Yet the department urges that we should not re-enact this provision because it will cause delay in completing the counting of the votes ! Which is the more important, the delay that might, be occasioned, or the convenience of the electors? We should consider the convenience of the electors the whole of the time. I hope that the Senate will accept the amendment made by another place.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland - Minister for Defence) [8.52]. - Honorable senators are aware that the facilities provided for electors to record their votes are far better in Australia than in any other part of the world. The provisions of our act are most liberal. The postal-voting provisions have been so improved that in future an elector will be able to deliver a postal vote for any electorate to the nearest returning officer or presiding officer, up to and including the day of the election. That is a big step forward. It will enable an elector who is absent from his usual place of residence to record a postal vote in any part of Australia in which he may happen to be on the day of election. There are difficulties in the way of extending the provisions in regard to absent voting beyond the limit3 of a State. Under the system of preferential voting, every polling booth would need to have additional supplies of blank ballot-papers, and a list of the candidates in every electorate iii the Commonwealth. That would be impracticable. I submit that no person can complain of the facilities that are provided. I ask the committee to disagree with the amendment made by another place.
Question - That the amendment be disagreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion agreed to.
Clause 28 -
After section two hundred and fifteen of the Principal Act the following section is inserted : - “ 215a. The placing of a mark by a presiding officer on the certified list of voters or the receipt by a divisional returning officer of an envelope bearing -
an absent voter’s declaration; or
a declaration made pusuant to the provisions of section 121 of this act; or
a postal vote certificate, which declaration or certificate is duly signed by an elector and attested by a presiding officer or an authorized witness, shall, in any prosecution of the elector in question for voting more than once at the election, be prima facie evidence of the fact that the elector voted at the election.” ,
House of Representatives Amendment. - Omit the clause.
[8.58].- I move-
That the amendment be agreed to.
The bill as it left the Senate provided that in any prosecution for voting more than once the placing of a mark by a presiding officer opposite the name of an elector on the certified list of voters, should be prima facie evidence that that elector had voted. Objection was taken to that proposal in another place on account of the risk of a mistake being made by a presiding officer. It was pointed out that cases had occurred in which presiding officers had omitted to mark on the certified lists electors who had voted; and it was only reasonable to suppose that there were occasions when a mark was placed against the name of an elector who had not voted. The Government realized that there might be such a risk, and agreed that the clause should be negatived.
Motion agreed to.
Resolutions reported; report adopted.
That Senators Sir William Glasgow, Thompson, and Needham be appointed a committee to draw up reasons for the Senate disagreeing to an amendment made by the House of Representatives in the bill.
[9.3] . - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This measure has been rendered necessary by the ratification of the financial agreement recently entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. As honorable senators are aware, the National Debt Sinking Fund Act of 1923-25 was designed to deal solely with the sinking funds in respect of the Commonwealth debt. It created a National Debt Commission, and set out its powers and duties; but as the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States, which has now been adopted, relates not only to Commonwealth debts but also to State debts, it is necessary to amend the act. The financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States has been ratified by all the States with the exception of Western Australia, and the Parliament of that State is now considering the agreement, to which it is hoped it will agree. The National Debt Sinking Fund Act sets out the procedure and provides that the commission shall exercise and perform such duties as are conferred upon it by the act or as are prescribed. It is proposed to amend that section by adding “or of which the execution or performance by the commission is provided for by the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.” It does not affect the National Debt Sinking Fund, but extends the provisions of the act to embrace the debts of the States covered by the financial agreement recently entered into.
– I understand that this measure is to provide that the National Debt Sinking Fund Act shall apply to the State debts covered by the agreement recently entered into between the Commonwealth and the States. No principle in that act is affected except that its provisions are extended to embrace the agreement to which I have referred. It does not only cover the agreement mentioned, hut will also embrace any other financial agreement that may subsequently be entered into between the Commonwealth and the States.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
[9.9]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this measure is to appropriate a further sum of £10,000,000 for the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Trust Fund. The total amount appropriated for this purpose up to date is £91,250,000 of which amount £85,610,664 has actually been expended up to the 31st March, leaving a balance of £5,639,336. As the rate of expenditure is now £10,000,000 a year, this balance will be exhausted by the end of September. It is, therefore, necessary to appropriate a further sum of £10,000,000. That is the sole purpose of the bill; it does not affect the rate of pensions or the conditions under which they are paid.
– I should like the Minister (Senator Pearce) to give the Senate some information concerning a practice that has been in operation for some time, and which is seriously affecting certain old-age pensioners who are inmates of homes or sanitoriums in which pensioners are accommodated. Although a pensioner is entitled to a weekly payment of 20s., if he is an inmate of an institution 10s. 6d. of that amount is paid to the institution, 4s. to the pensioner to enable him to secure some slight additional comforts, and the remaining 5s. 6d. to which he is duly entitled is retained by the Treasury. This matter has been ventilated in this and another place on many occasions, and in every instance the Government has been adamant. Some time ago, when I last brought the matter up, the Minister for Defence (Senator Glasgow), who was then Acting Leader of the Senate, said that the subject was to be considered at a meeting of State Premiers which was to be held shortly afterwards. As that conference has been held, I should like to know if consideration was given to the matter, and, if so, what decision was reached ?
Senator PEARCE (Western Australia-
Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.13]. - As this measure does not affect the conditions under which pensions are paid, I am not armed with any information on the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition. I shall, however, ascertain the actual position from the Treasurer, and, if possible, supply the information when the Supply Bill is under consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
The following paper was presented: -
Fatalities at Bundaberg : Report of Royal Commission of Inquiry, together with Appendices.
Ordered to be printed.
[9.16]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to appropriate from the Consolidated Revenue fund a further £10,000,000 for the payment of war pensions. The measure does not affect the rates of pensions or the conditions governing the granting of pensions, but merely asks Parliament to provide the money to pay war pensions which havebeen or will be granted under existing legislation. The number of pensions in force at 30th June last, was 259,821 with an annual liability of £7,372,768. The number is increasing as the result of granting new claims, mainly in respect of newly-born children and newly-married wives of ex-soldiers who are pensioners, and it is estimated that the number in force at 30th June, 1929, will be 271,899 at an annual cost of £7,651,124. The total expenditure to 31st March, 1928, on war pensions was £71,089,581. The last appropriation was made by Parliament in August 1926, the amount then appropriated being £10,000,000. The balance of the appropriation unexpended at 31st March last was £3,032,089, which will be sufficient to cover payments to the end of next August.
Further appropriation is required to meet the total payments for 1928-29. The usual practice of asking Parliament to vote a lump sum has been followed, and the amount of £10,000,000 has accordingly been included in the bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
[9.18]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a bill relating to the rights of officers of the Public Service who have been appointed as Commonwealth authorities, or as members of Commonwealth boards, or who are employed by Commonwealth authorities other than those governed by the Public Service Act. There are no less than thirteen acts on the statute-book which provide for the employment of officers of the Public Service in some capacity outside the public service. These acts usually provide that such officers shall not be subject to the Public Service Act, but shall be engaged for such periods as may be prescribed, and shall preserve their existing and accruing rights. In most cases it is also provided that the officer need not resign from the Public Service, but may be granted leave of absence for the period of his employment under the act, and in such cases provision is made for fixing the salary of the officer upon his return to the Public Service. In the case of the Development and Migration Act, however, no express provision has been made in regard to the grant of leave of absence to the officers concerned during their employment as members or officers of the commission. This has given rise to some difficulty, as the commission took over a number of public servants who had previously been engaged on migration work, and it desires to retain the services of these public servants in addition to those of Mr. Mulvaney, late secretary of the Markets Department, who has been appointed a member of the commission. The present bill will remove the difficulty which has arisen in regard to these officers, and it will also make uniform provision in regard to officers occupying similar positions under other, acts. The bill will affect officers appointed under the following acts : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920. .
Commonwealth Bank Act 1911-1927.
Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922- 1924.
Development and Migration Act 1926.
Land Tax Assessment Act 1910-1927.
Northern Australia Act 1926.
Science and Industry Research Act 1920- 1926.
Seat of Government (Administration) Act 1924-1926.
Superannuation Act 1922-1924.
It is proposed also to definitely state that the rights preserved by such officers are -
If the officer desires, however, he may, within a period specified in the bill, elect to come under the rules and regulations of the authority concerned, and in that case he will not preserve his rights as an officer of the Public Service. That provision is made because in some cases the rights the officer may get under the authority to which he is transferred; the Commonwealth Bank for instance, may be better than those enjoyed in the Public Service. He may, therefore, elect to come under them rather than those of the Public Service. The bill also provides that such officers need not resign from the Public Service, but shall be deemed to be unattached officers during the period of their employment by the authority concerned, and on the termination of that employment they shall be entitled to reappointment in the Public Service with such advancement in status and salary, beyond those previously held and received by them, as’ the Public Service Board in the circumstances thinks just. I think it will be seen by all honorable senators that this is a matter we ought to place on a uniform basis so that there will be no doubt about the rights preserved by the officers affecte’d1. This is attempted .to be and I think has Deen done by the bill. The measure will save us from continually having to patch each piece of legislation to bring about uniformity.
– A close scrutiny .of the bill does not reveal any phase to which serious objection may be raised. Those officers who have gone into the employ of certain Commonwealth authorities should be protected. When they entered the Public Service of the Commonwealth a contract was made with them that, provided their conduct was1 good and their service efficient, they would be entitled to certain privileges. If the exigencies of the Commonwealth call them to some other branch of activity of the Commonwealth I do not think it is Tight that they should lose the privileges to which they were entitled or the rights that have accrued to them. It is, perhaps, just as well to lay down a clear line of guidance for the future and at the same time remove any anxiety these officers may have. I notice that the right is given to officers to avail themselves of the privileges accorded in their new spheres of activity. In that respect, therefore, the bill applies both ways. There is, however, a feature of the measure with which I am not altogether
Satisfied. I refer to the provision that an officer who has secured a position Under another authority need not resign from the Commonwealth Public
Service, but will remain as an unattached officer. That provision may result in a little injustice to those who remain in the Public Service. For instance, I presume that someone is acting in the position held by Mr. Mulvaney as secretary of Markets Department. I do not know whether the officer who is acting as secretary to the department is receiving the full salary, attached to the position, but if he is not I do not think he is being justly treated. When an officer elects to apply for a position under another authority and thus betters himself, I think he should sever his connexion with the department with which he has been associated, always provided that his privileges are preserved to him and he retains his accruing rights, for which provision is made in the bill.
– That provision is made in the way the honorable senator suggests.
– In that case I see no reason why we should not agree to the bill. I think that the rights that are accruing to officers of the Public Service should he retained by them when they transfer in the circumstances set out in this measure.
[9.30] . - The procedure mentioned by the honorable senator is the exact procedure that will be followed. The position occupied by Mr. Mulvaney, as Secretary of the Markets Department, has become vacant; but he will not cease to be a member of the Public Service. It does not mean that he is on leave from the position in the Markets Department; but he is oh leave from the Public Service. The position of Secretary of the Markets- Department is vacant now, and very shortly it will be filled by another officer. Although Mr. Mulvaney ceases to be the Secretary of that department, he will still be a member of the Service. He will be a member of the Service on leave. On his return to the Service it will be for the board to appoint him to another position of similar status and his rights will be preserved. No damage will be done to any other officer owing to that procedure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
In committee (Consideration resumed) : Clause 4 (Penalty for lockout or strike) -
– Better reasons than have been advanced should be furnished to the committee for the insertion of this provision. Sub-section 1 of section 6 of the principal act reads -
No persons or organization shall, on account of any industrial dispute, do anything in the nature of a lockout or strike, or continue any lockout or strike.
The penalty is £1,000 in the case of an organization or employer; but, in the case of any other person, the penalty provided under this clause is £50. During the discussion on the second reading of the bill, and also in the committee stage, the Minister advanced as the main reason for the provision that it would prevent job control. He said that the penalties mentioned were the maximum amounts, and would only be imposed in extreme cases. He instanced the firemen leaving their ships and holding up the marine services of the Commonwealth, handicapping shippers and inflicting hardship on the general community. By those remarks he desired to convey to the committee that the clause we are now considering will prevent that; but nobody knows better than the Minister does that it will do nothing of the kind. It could have no application to the shipping of the Commonwealth, because the Seamen’s Union has been deregistered.
– That does not make any difference ; they could be punished for a strike just the same.
– Do I understand that organizations not registered under the Arbitration Act could be brought under the provisions of this bill?
– Under this provision, yes.
– This clause applies only to those organizations registered under the act.
– It says, “ No person or organization shall,” &c.
– In 1925 the Seamen’s Union was deregistered, and it has been working under conditions agreed upon between the union and the shipowners.
– Which conditions are identical with those laid down by the court.
– But the union is not working under an award of the court. It is news to me to be informed that the bill will have application to any organization whether registered or not.
– Or any person.
– We are discussing, a bill to amend the Arbitration Act, and it appears to me that its provisions will have no application to organizations not registered under that act.
– The organization must be registered; but “ person “ means “ any person.”
– Let us be clear about this. The whole of the discussion on this clause in another place hinged on the point that an organization registered under the Arbitration Act should not be made wholly and solely responsible for the acts of individuals. I am inclined, notwithstanding the statement of the Minister, to back my opinion against his. My contention is that this provision can have no application to the Seamen’s Union, because it has been deregistered.
– I am astounded at the Minister’s interpretation of the clause.
– Read it carefully. It is set out in plain English.
– The clause amends section 6 of the act in certain respects. Sub-section 1 of that section’ reads -
No person or organization shall, on account of any industrial dispute, do anything in the nature of a lockout or strike or continue any lockout or strike.
There might be something in the Minister’s contention as regards the Seamen’s Union. That union, having been deregistered, does not come within the purview of the court.
– But as individuals of an organization, the members of the Seamen’s Union are not without the purview of the court.
– The . Minister’s contention that these penal provisions will deal with all attempts at job control falls to the ground. Does he say that any citizen not a member of an organization registered under the act is liable under the provisions of this bill?
– Then a citizen may be punished unfairly in two ways: first as a citizen under the common law, if he is guilty of any disturbance of the peace, and again as a member of an organization if he becomes implicated in a strike or lockout.
– Is there an interpretation of the word “person”?
– I invite Senator Needham to read the interpretation of the word “ strike.”
– “ Strike,” according to the act, includes - . . . the total or partial cessation of work by employees, acting in combination, as a mean’s of enforcing compliance with demands made by them or other employees or employers, and the total or partial refusal of employees, acting in combination, to accept work if the refusal is unreasonable.
– That means that any person doing anything in the nature of a strike is punishable.
– There is a vast difference between the meaning of the word “employee” and the word “person,” and I contend that as this is a measure to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, a “ person “ not necessarily an employee, is not liable under it to any penalty. If a man of independent means, who does not have to work for his living, takes part in a strike, will he be regarded as a “ person “ within the meaning of the act?
– I agree with Senator Findley. There has been no reduction in the penalty imposed on individuals, and I am satisfied that, if they are put into operation, these provisions will cripple the smaller organizations, and certainly will not make for the peaceful settlement of disputes.
– I do not feel disposed to allow the clause to pass until I am thoroughly satisfied as to what it means. This is a bill to amend the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. For what purpose? Obviously the amendments are in the direction of making the penalties more drastic with the object of preventing industrial disputes in connexion with organizations that are working under awards of the court, and, according to the Minister, to prevent industrialists from disobeying such awards. I still contend that these provisions have application only to organizations that are registered in the court. The Minister asserts that they will have a general application, and that the penalties may be imposed on any person not associated with an organization registered under the act.
– May this provision be applied to any organization that is not registered under the act?
– That makes the position even worse. The Minister says now that these provisions will have no application to an organization that is not registered, but will apply to a “ person “ who is a member of an organization not registered. Can any honorable senator conceive of any individual, as a member of an unregistered organization fomenting a strike?
– There have been -many such instances.
– Can honorable senators opposite name one?
– Yes; two - “Walsh and Johnson.
– They are members of an organization that has been deregistered, and, according to the Minister, no penalty can be imposed on an organization unless it is registered under the act.
– It looks as if all unions will seek to be deregistered.
– Exactly. It would appear that organizations that register, and obtain awards from the court, are to be penalized, but organizations not registered will not be touched by this bill.
– Perhaps not as an organization, but as “ persons “ the members of such organizations would come under the act.
– I : shall ‘be glad to have a clear explanation from the Minister on this point.
[9.59]. - I really did not take Senator Findley seriously. The provisions appear to be so clear that I did not believe that either’ he or Senator Needham was in any doubt. As they appear to be .serious, I shall endeavour to make the matter plain to them. Section 6 deals with the penalty that shall be imposed on any person or organization, who or which, on account of any industrial dispute, does anything in the nature of a lockout or strike, or continues any lockout or strike. “ Strike,” as defined in the principal act, includes “ the total or .partial cessation of work by employees acting in combination as a means of enforcing compliance with demands.” The act does not say that those employees have to be members of an organization to come within the scope of that provision. If they are employees, they are “persons,” whether they are members of an organization or not. If they are members of an organization registered under the act, they come within the provisions of section 6a, which provides that no person or organization bound by an award of the court or entitled to the benefit of an award of the court shall do anything in the nature of a lockout or strike or continue any lockout or strike. The reason there are two sections dealing with the same offence is to make it possible to deal with the case mentioned by Senator Findley and Senator Needham. If an organization which is not registered, does something in the nature of a strike it can be- prosecuted and fined. Similarly if a member of such an organization does anything in the nature of a strike he can be prosecuted and fined. If the members of the Seamens’ Union, which is not now registered in the Arbitration Court, proceeded in combination to bring about a strike, they could be fined under section 6. On the other hand, the members of an organization which is registered in the court and is working under an award of the court, would be dealt with under the provisions of section 6a, and their organization could be fined for their act. If there were not the two sections there would be a direct inducement to ah1 organization which wanted to bring off a strike, to have its registration cancelled. Honorable senators opposite have reached such an unfortunate state of mind that they consider that the mere act of deregistration permits an organization to do anything. They are not thereby relieved of responsibility.
– Honorable senators who sit on this side are not under the impression that any person can do what he likes. We contend that if there is a breach of the law the person who commits it can be dealt with under other legislation.
– Could not that apply also to a member of a union?
– The Minister has gone further than that. He has said that any person can be dealt with under this law irrespective of whether he is a member of a union or not. I should like him to inform me whether a single employer will be subject to the penalties provided by this clause?
– I still doubt the accuracy of the Minister’s interpretation, and consider that the clause is unjust and unreasonable.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 5 and 6 agreed to.
Clause 7 (Declaration as to existence of lockout or strike).
– In his concluding remarks when replying to the debate on the motion for the second reading of the bill, the Leader of the Senate laid special stress on this clause. He admitted that it was a departure from the existing arbitration law, and therefore required very serious consideration. It is certainly an extraordinary departure from the law which has been in operation for many years. The right honorable gentleman claimed very definitely that the dire consequences attendant on the exercise of job control would be eliminated as a result of the operation of this provision. I have always considered that the main purpose of conciliation and arbitration laws is the prevention of industrial disputes. One of the defects in our arbitration law - a constitutional defect, I admit - is that the court cannot function until a. dispute has extended beyond the limits of a State. Applying the analogy of a bushfire, the fire-fighters cannot take steps to quench it until it attacks more than one farm. That defect is inherent in the Commonwealth Constitution, and until that Constitution has been altered we cannot obviate it. But in any legislation that we can enact constitutionally, “we should endeavour to cultivate as far as possible the principle of preserving industrial peace by the methods of prevention rather than of cure. I feel sure that honorable senators will agree with that contention. Not by the greatest stretch of imagination can it be shown that this clause will have that particularly desirable effect. Again using the simile of the bush fire, instead of allowing the fire-fighters to get to work to prevent its spread, the proposal is to pour oil upon it and thus induce it to spread. The clause legalizes lockouts and strikes. If a few men in any section of an industry leave their work the employer can lock out every employee in that industry.
– That action cannot be taken at the discretion of the employer.
– The clause provides that any person or organization bound by or. entitled to the benefit of an award may apply to the court for an order declaring that a lockout or strike exists in an industry, The initiative
Tests with the employer. It is not right to penalize 5,000 or 6,000 men because half a dozen persons act foolishly. That is not the way to settle a dispute.
– What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander also.
– If that is the state of mind in which honorable senators are approaching this question, we shall not proceed very far along the road to industrial peace. That is a vindictive way of looking at the matter. If two or three men do a foolish thing, despite the advice of their executive, the whole of the industry will be penalized.
– Can the honorable senator cite a case in which the executive has directed that there shall be no job control, and the men have ignored the direction?
– I know that the Trades Hall Disputes Committee in Melbourne has frequently declared against job control. It has conferred with the shipowners, and arranged with the seamen to cease- such tactics.
– Did that stop the men from resorting to job control?
– I do not claim that it was effective; but at least the attempt was made. The disputes committee has a better opportunity to put an end to job control than will be afforded under this provision. Its policy has always been one of reason. The Arbitration Act was placed upon the statutebook with the object of settling disputes by peaceful means. We should progress further along the road to peace if we allowed the provision to remain as it is in the principal act. Section 7 of the principal act provides -
Where persons, with a view to being associated as employers and employees respectively, or representatives of such persons, have entered into an industrial agreement with respect to employment, any of such persons who, without reasonable cause or excuse refuses or neglects to offer or accept employment upon the terms of the agreement, shall be deemed to be guilty of a lockout or strike as the case may be.
That provision is sufficiently comprehensive. A member of the High Court Bench, who for many years was president of the Arbitration Court, declared in no uncertain terms that a man who refused to work was not guilty of an offence. This clause provides that it shall be an offence.
– It applies also to organizations, of employers.
– Yes, but there are not as many employers’ organizations as there are organizations of workers. I cannot recall an instance where the employees have taken legal action because of the existence of a lockout.
– What is a lockout?
– The definition of lockout is - “ Lockout “ includes the closing of a place or part of a place of employment, and the total or partial refusal of employers, acting in combination, to give work, if the refusal is unreasonable, or the total or partial suspension of work by an employer, with a view to compel his employees, or to aid another employer in compelling his employees, to accept any terms or conditions of employment.
My main objection .to the clause is that it will not he the means of bringing about a settlement of industrial trouble. It is an aggravating and unworkable provision, and will create chaos where order should prevail. Under the principal act it was competent for the court to convene a compulsory conference, and if such a conference failed the parties were ordered into court. In nine cases out of ten such a procedure has resulted in the settlement of the dispute. Since the inception of arbitration, those responsible for the administration of the act, have always endeavoured to confine disputes to a narrow limit, and that has always been the endeavour of the leaders of industrialism in Australia. When the big maritime strike occurred in 1917, as during the present dispute, industrial leaders endeavoured to prevent its extension. In these circumstances why should we include a provision in the bill which will prevent them from performing such good work. . There is no need whatever for this amendment. The section which I have already quoted is sufficiently comprehensive to cover any situation that may arise. I trust the Minister will agree with the deletion of this clause.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [10.21]. - This clause has been embodied in the bill in an attempt to prevent sectional disputes in the shape of job control, which comprise one of the most difficult phases of our industrial troubles. There is no denying the fact that it is quite easy to penalize employers.
– They are punished.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes, if the employer is responsible for a lockout he can readily be punished. It is easy to establish the existence of a lockout and also to get a conviction; but it is very difficult to prove that a strike exists. When firemen or seamen walk off a ship, about to sail, it is difficult to prove that they are acting in collusion. A strike is defined in the principal act in this way - “ Strike “ includes the total or partial cessation of work by employees acting in combination……
It is difficult to prove that men leaving a ship at the last moment are acting in combination. The definition continues - as a means of enforcing compliance with demands made by them…..
There have been dozens of instances of job control where the men have made no demands at all. Two or three of them walk off without rhyme or reason, from mere caprice, in order to hold up the ship, and it is obvious that they do so with the object of injuring their employer, who is, in such cases, so to speak, handcuffed. It cannot be proved however that the men who leave the ship have acted in combination and so have committed an offence for which they are punishable. On the other hand if the employer refuses to employ the men, he can be punished for causing a lockout. It is easy to establish his offence, because the moment he holds up the ship he can be charged with causing a lockout. That is unjust. If these men wish to defy, flout, or treat our arbitration law with contempt, we say that they should be given a dose of their own medicine. The employer has at present no means of protecting himself against an unlawful attack in the form of job control or of proving such an offence. The clause provides that if a judge is satisfied that the men are exercising some form of job control, the employer shall be put on the same basis as the employee. That I think is only fair.
– I am pleased to see that under this provision the Government is making a determined attempt to deal with job control which has caused such annoyance, expense, and inconvenience, to the whole community particularly during the last three or four years. As a representative of Tasmania, I have no hesitation in saying that that State has suffered more as a result of job control tactics than any other portion of the Commonwealth. Honorable senators opposing the bill know the results which have followed the actions of the seamen and other maritime workers who have adopted this form of striking in order to avoid punishment under the act. Job control has done more to bring seamen into disrepute than anything else.
The Leader of the Opposition, I understand, said some time ago that job control was a scientific means of carrying on a strike.
– - What is the object?
– The practice is for a section of the men to. cease work without making any- demands, so that it cannot be said that a strike exists. They endeavour to whittle away the authority of their employer; but as a general strike does not exist they cannot be penalized under the act. On many occasions seamen or firemen have left ships just prior to their departure, which has caused considerable inconvenience and expense not only to the shipping companies, but to many passengers who in many instances have been most seriously embarrassed. There is no law in operation under which they can be punished. It cannot be said that there is anything unjust in punishing men who act in this way, and in the circumstances it is only reasonable to give the employers some relief by providing that they shall not be compelled to carry on their businesses. The Leader of the Opposition has said that the disputes committee in Melbourne has endeavoured to prevent job control, but as its efforts have apparently been ineffective, he should support this provision which should be the means of proventing sectional strikes. He also said that the employers could act as they wished; but the bill provides that they must obtain a declaration of the court that a strike exists in order that anything done in the nature of a lockout in the industry may not be a broach of the act or of any award. The judge will view the matter just as impartially as he would a plaint before him asking for improved wages or working conditions. It is the judge, and not the employer, who will decide whether the matter relates to a strike or a lockout.
– The Government is, no doubt, in earnest in its attempt to devise means to avoid those industrial troubles that arise from time to time, but it has evolved something which, in my opinion, will only serve to intensify and multiply those difficulties. This provision in the bill looks all right until it is analysed. Subsection 1 of the proposed new section 7 seems fair enough. It seems to put both parties to a dispute in the same position in the eyes of the law. Sub-section 2 requires notice to be given of an application that is being made by either side, and on an application being made to the court, the court may make an order. But I think it will have a tremendous difficulty in proving the existence of a lockout. Senator Sir George Pearce is quite wrong in saying that it is an easy matter to prove. The employer who uses his ingenuity to dodge his responsibilities under the act may not easily be convicted of locking out his employees. Let us take the McKay Harvester Works as an illustration. There are departments of various kinds in the great works at Sunshine. Let us assume that the employer sees trouble simmering in one section of his works. Taking time by the forelock, realizing that the workers may be getting a little itchy about something, and that the trouble may spread over the whole of the works, he can easily say “ That machine does not seem to be working too well,” and close down that piece of machinery, throwing all the men employed in a section of the works out of work. It is quite an easy matter for an engineer to fix an engine so that in some mysterious manner it ceases to work. If the men think there is something ulterior in the action of the employer in closing down a section of the works, they may make an application to the court to have him declared guilty of taking part in a lockout. Although they may be quite clear in their minds that it is a lockout, it will be a very difficult matter for them to prove it. But if the court is satisfied, and declares that it is a lockout, the men will then say, “ If it is a lockout, it is a case of one out all out,” and next day all of McKay’s men would be out, with the court unable to find them guilty of doing anything in the nature of a strike. That is the situation which may arise at any time under this provision. The procedure in regard to applications by employers works out in just the same way. The proposed new section seems to be simple enough, and one would think that it ought to work easily enough, but there are a hundred and one different ways in which its provisions can be dodged. I do not think that either employers or employees can be convicted under it.
– The old provision was a failure. “
– The new section seems likely to be a greater failure. Job control is a difficult matter to handle. It is no doubt irritating to the business people of Tasmania that a steamer should be held up because a couple of firemen walk off it for no explained reason, but if the firemen do not go on board the vessel cannot sail, and job control can just as easily be exercised in that way.
– That happens very often.
– Prom the experience we have gained Parliament thinks by bringing in some new law it can beat people who do these things, but they immediately find some other means of dodging it. It is the business of a union to control its membership when there is danger of a small body of men throwing down their tools without giving consideration to the effect their action is likely to have in causing, say, 1,000 men to go out on strike. In the case of the Australian Workers Union we have had cases where young chaps ignorant, possibly, of the effect of stopping work without the authority of the central executive have gone out. In such a case the organization simply says, “ Stop out as long as you like, but you get no strike pay or assistance from the organization until your case has been considered and you are given proper authority for the action you take.” That seems to be a common-sense way of doing things. Although the framers of this provision have no doubt been earnestly desirous of avoiding what is admittedly the cause of a lot of trouble, I am afraid this clause will open the door to ten times as much trouble as we have experienced up to the present.
I do not condemn the bill lock, stock, and barrel. There are some fine provisions in it, particularly those relating to conciliation committees. But there are other provisions which are not at all desirable. I should like to point out that the public knows very little about the conciliation that takes place. For a number of years the disputes committee appointed by the Melbourne Trades Hall has done splendid work in settling disputes by means of conciliation. Immediately any trouble arises that may affect a number of in dustries, the disputes committee gets to work. In the first year of its activities it brought about settlements in 110 disputes out of 112 that occurred. The work done by that committee is not generally known by the public. There is no song made about it in the newspapers. I think the Government would be well advised to give this provision further consideration with a view to its simplification. I know that the task is a difficult one. The Minister was good enough to ask me to submit something to take its place. If the Government approved of it, he said that he would accept it. But I am not in a position to make any suggestion to him except that he should delete it from the bill and depend on the provision in the principal act to reach the objective he has in mind. I am satisfied that he will never reach it by means of this provision.
– The Minister seems to have the two word “ job control “ on his mind. They appear to haunt him. He tells us that this clause will have application to those who practice job control on the ships. I disagree with him, because the language of the provision is clear. It says -
Any person or organization bound by or entitled to the benefit of an award may apply to the court.
The provision has application to registered organizations of employers and employees,’ and to no others. In that respect I am fortified by a statement made by the Attorney-General, who sponsored this bill in another place. Dealing with this clause, he said - *.
It will be observed that this clause refers only to industries the employers and employees of which are subject to an ‘award.
The Seamen’s Union are not working under an award of the Arbitration Court. They have been deregistered.
– The ship-owners are subject to awards.
– -There is a mutual agreement between the shipowners and the Seamen’s Union, but it is not registered in the Arbitration Court. It would appear, according to the Attorney-General, that the union can still practice job control because the clause applies only to registered unions. Now I come to the provision that allows an employer to. shut down an industry, in which thousands of men’ may be. engaged, simply because a few men in ‘ a section of that industry “ down tools.” Thus a vast number .of men who may be working under different awards from that applying to the section of the industry in which the dispute occurs, would suffer hardship. The Minister said that if the workers have the right to strike, the employers should be able to retaliate.
– But they could not do that unless the court allowed it.
– I am aware of that. The Government desires to give the employers power to prevent sectional strikes by causing a cessation of work throughout an industry in which a sectional dispute occurs. Men who are working peacefully under awards, and giving satisfaction to their employers, would be irritated if such action were allowed on an order of the court. Unionists stand by their fellow workers when they feel that the employers are trying to do injury to any section of them. The clause will not make for peace in industry.
– It will only operate when there has been a breach of the peace.
– Sometimes breaches of an award are of only a technical or minor character.
– In such circumstances the court would not make an order.
– In the event of a sectional dispute, the employer might consider it a favorable opportunity to “ clean up “ the whole of his establishment. The men employed in a section of an industry might “ down tools “ over a simple matter that could be easily adjusted if the parties were called together; but a strike would be deemed to have occurred. The employer might be an impetuous person, and might apply to the court for an order that would enable him to lockout the whole of his employees.
– How does the honorable seantor know that the court would make such an order ?
– How does the honorable senator who interjects know that it would not? I have some know ledge of what a strike means. . The clause should be postponed for further consideration. Even the Minister- seems to be in doubt as to its real significance ; but there should be no ambiguity. The opinion expressed by the Minister differs from that of the Attorney-General. He is but a layman and probably does not understand the bill as well as does the AttorneyGeneral. His main concern is to have the bill passed; but I am anxious that if it is, it shall be made perfectly clear. In its present form it will irritate the workers of Australia by legalizing lockouts and by inflicting undue hardship and severe penalties on innocent people. Much time must have been spent by the AttorneyGeneral’s Department in drafting the measure, and there must have been long and serious discussion of this clause by the Cabinet.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– I have been looking at an interesting table in the Commonwealth Y ear-Book for 1927. It shows that the number of awards, determinations and ‘ industrial agreements by wages boards and industrial courts are on the increase rather than on the decrease. In December, 1913, the appointment of 505 boards had been authorized, 501 had been constituted, 387 had given awards or determinations, and 575 awards or determinations and 401 industrial agreements were in operation. In 1926, the last year for which the figures are available, the number of boards authorized had increased to 599, and 563 had been appointed. The awards or determinations in force numbered 1,262, and the number of industrial agreements in force numbered 681.
– The honorable senator has left out the number of cases of job control that occurred in those years.
– I have left nothing out. I want the committee to understand that I hold no brief for job control. I have been a member of. the State disputes committee in Western Australia. As a matter of fact I have been secretary of both that committee and the metropolitan disputes committee. The function of those committees is to fake whatever action may be necessary to prevent men from “downing tools,” and thus causing a dispute to extend over the metropolitan area. If there is a probability of a dispute extending, it is dealt with automatically by the State’s disputes committee.
– Those committees are doing wonderfully good work.
– The figures which I have just read indicate that the majority of the organizations desire to enter into industrial agreements under the aegis of the court. Actually not a great percentage of awards have been disobeyed.
– This clause will never worry organizations that obey awards.
– Sometimes an industrial dispute is caused by the impulsive action of one or two trade unionists despite the efforts of the executive to prevent trouble from coming to a head. I honestly believe that .these proposed new sections will not have the effect desired. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), speaking at a dinner given by the President of the Victorian Employers’ Federation, on the 5th April, 1927, said -
There is only one way in which this problem can be dealt with, and that is by resort to a spirit of co-operation and good-will.
I thoroughly endorse that statement. I am afraid, however, that these provisions will not promote the gospel preached on that occasion by the right honorable gentleman. Mr. Bruce also went on to say that formerly the employers had the heavy end of the stick, and they never hesitated to use it, but now the employees had the heavy end. Then some one at the meeting added : “ And they are using it.” I do not wish to see either employer oi1 employee holding the heavy end of the stick. I wish to see the stick, to continue the simile, evenly held by employer and employee. That is the end which we should have in view when considering this class of legislation. I strongly object to the clause, and I hope that it will be rejected.
– So far as I’ can see the clause will not do more than is already possible under the section which it amends. That section reads -
Where persons with a view to being associated as employers and employees respectively or representatives of such persons, have entered into an industrial agreement with respect to employment, any of such persons who without reasonable cause or excuse refuses or neglects to offer or accept employment upon the terms of the agreement shall be deemed to be guilty of a lockout or strike as the case may be.
That ought to be sufficient. I feel suspicious about these amending provisions. I am afraid that they will inflict punishment upon innocent persons instead of upon the extremists on either side. My one desire is to help the nation by insuring peace in industry. I have no sympathy with men who put into practice the treacherous system known as job control ; men who, without rhyme or reason, as the Minister put it, take action to hold up industry. I have no time for those men who walk off a vessel a few minutes before the time fixed for departure with the casual remark that they might be back in a few hours, or, if not, the following morning. They know that the ship cannot sail without them. Their action may cause ship-owners considerable financial loss and annoyance; but the unfortunate passengers suffer to an even greater extent. I could imagine the feelings of a full train-load of working men on their way home after their day’s toil, if they were told by the guard at some out of the way station that he was going off and might not be back for a few hours, or perhaps until the following morning; but that, in any case, if 1,000 guards offered to board the train, not one would be allowed to give the driver the right of way. That, in effect, is what these men who practice job control on our ships are doing. It would be far better if they declared at once that they were out for a general strike. Job control is a pernicious system, and is quite indefensible. I fail to see, however, how these amending provisions will deal effectively with men who practice it. The men may plead illness and leave work. Who is to prove that they are not ill?
– Often they are “lit up,” to use a vulgarism.
– That may be so. There will be the same trouble in fixing responsibility for a lockout. An employer, for reasons best known to himself, may decide to close his establishment. He may say that he is feeling ill, or urge that, owing to financial difficulties, he will have to close down for some considerable time. Although he may be quite dishonest about the matter, it will be difficult, under these provisions, to inflict punishment upon him. I am at a loss to know what should be done for’ the best.
– The honorable senator will agree that something must be done.
– I do. The people who have been responsible for the present dispute should have been checked at the outset. The officials of the union should have impressed upon the men that they were in the wrong ; that, by holding up the ships, they were punishing innocent people and not gaining anything for themselves. The officials, if they had done their duty, would have prevented all this trouble. I believe, however, that out of evil good will come, and that trade union executives in future will insist upon a more moderate attitude. It is unthinkable that the extremists who, in this dispute represent not more than 5 per cent, of the trade unionists involved, should be able to cause so much trouble and unemployment. I hope that the bill will do something to prevent industrial disputes from extending ; but, as I have already said, the provision already in the act should have been sufficient.
– -For the reasons advanced by honorable senators on this side, the Minister should seriously consider postponing the further consideration of this clause. I am satisfied that you, sir, as well as- I, and other honorable senators, do not desire an all-night sitting, and I trust that the Minister will not compel us to endure one. I was within the precincts of this building at an early hour this morning. “We began the present sitting at 11 a.m., and we have been deliberating for over twelve hours. There is a limitation to human endurance.
There is no real necessity for honorable senators to overtax their strength in order to assist the Government to bullock the measure through. How is it possible for honorable senators to apply themselves to this and other provisions in the way that they wish, unless they are wide awake, alert and clear minded? I ask the Minister whether he is prepared to report progress.
– We want to make some progress.
– We have made substantial progress to-day; if we adjourned now and returned fresh for our work to-morrow, we would dispose of a greater volume of business in three hours than if we sit all night.
– What is the use of stonewalling ?
– I have no desire to stonewall either this or any other clause. It ill becomes the honorable senator to make any such suggestion in reference to me. I am never guilty of doing anything that will prevent the passage of measures in which I believe. If the Minister will neither postpone the clause nor report progress, I ask him to guide us to an understanding of the meaning of this provision. How many sectional strikes that have taken place in big industries in Australia have warranted the application of such a provision? No honorable senator can point to any sectional strike that has taken place at any time in a big industry to which even an anti-Labour Government would apply a provision of this description. The only instance that the Minister has been able to cite is that of job control in the shipping industry. He has referred to two men, whose names were mentioned frequently during the last Federal election campaign. According to statements that have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, one of those is now opposed to industrial strife, and is doing all he .can to bring about peace in industry. Is this provision intended to be used against one man ?
– There are still two. Jock Garden and Johnson are now working together.
– According to rumour, one of those two has said something which has led to certain action being taken against him. No organization which is not registered under the Arbitration Act can be fined for doing anything in the nature of a strike. The Attorney-General is of the opinion that only registered organizations can have the provision applied to them. The clause opens up big possibilities for an industrial upheaval in Australia.
– It is intended to prevent industrial upheavals.
– I should like Senator Millen to point out how it will do that. It will give the employers the opportunity to appeal to the court in the case of a sectional strike, and the result may be a lockout involving a large number of men who have had nothing whatever to do with it. The honorable senator must know that there are awards which cover different branches of certain industries, such as carpenters, fitters, moulders, body-builders and various other classes of artisans. The Sunshine Harvester establishment works under many different awards.
– It has to work under over 100 awards and determinations.
– Let us assume that the number is 100. In a very small branch of that very big establishment a small dispute may occur.
– That will not be a strike.
– It may, or it may not. If it was, the hundreds of men who are employed in the establishment as a whole could be locked out.
– What the honorable gentleman suggests is that they would be penalized by their mates ?
– They would be penalized under this clause because of action taken by a section of the employees that might be working under an entirely different award. Extraordinary powers are being given to employers.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Clause agreed to.
Clause 8 (Organization ordering its members to refuse to offer or accept employment).
– This clause extends the conditions under which penalties may be imposed upon organizations ordering its members to refuse to offer or accept employment, and I do not think it will be more effective than the section which it is proposed to amend. Under this provision an organization is responsible for the actions of a committee of management of the organization or a branch of the organization or of a member of a committee of management of the organization, or of the committee of management of a branch. As there are only about 29 employers’ organizations registered in the Arbitration Court, as against 149 employees’ organizations, it will be seen that the provision will be very unfair in its incidence. The disparity in numbers of organizations clearly shows that it is directed against organizations of workers. I stated earlier in the debate that a member of the High Court Bench, when President of the Arbitration Court some years ago, said it was not an offence for a man to refuse to work. If an officer of an organization should order one of its members to cease work, the organization, under this provision, may have to pay a penalty of £1,000, which will be reduced to £100 if the officer proved guilty of an offence is removed from office and is expelled from the organization. If he should be reinstated within twelve months the organization will be liable to the full penalty of £1,000. This is not a reasonable way in which to endeavour to settle industrial disputes, and is an indication that the Government in sponsoring this bill is adopting a vindictive attitude towards the men. It should be sufficient to fine the organization £100 without inflicting any further punishment. Why should this threat be held over the organization and the individual for twelve months? This clause justifies the statements made by those who are opposing the bill that, instead of it being a measure to promote industrial peace, it is a vicious attack on trade unionism. The penalty should always be commensurate with the offence, but it is not in this instance. I do not object to the union being made responsible for the acts of its officers, but when the organization makes an honest endeavour to control them, it should not be so heavily penalized. An organization will be responsible for the actions of an official of one of its branches. It may occasionally happen that a branch of an organization refuses to obey the order of the controlling body. In some of the big organizations there are hundreds of men holding responsible positions. In the Australian Workers Union they are called “ reps.” They are the representatives of the union in the shearing sheds and other places. Under this provision, if one of these men, or if an official in a minor branch of the union commits an offence, the organization, although its management committee may have done everything possible to prevent such a thing happening, is liable to a fine of £1,000. The fine may be reduced to £100 on the expulsion of the member who has committed the offence; but if he is reinstated in the union within twelve months, the fine may be increased to £1,000. Surely these heavy penalties are not necessary to enforce compliance with the awards of the Arbitration Court.
Shortly before the transfer of this Parliament to Canberra, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) delivered an address in Wesley Church, Melbourne, in the course of which he said -
The overwhelming majority of workers in Australia are perfectly safe, sound, decent people, who want to get on with their job without interruption.
Yet the right honorable gentleman is trying to penalize many of these safe, sound, decent people.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 9 (Injuring employee or employer on account of industrial action).
– This clause amends section 9 of the principal act by omitting sub-section 3, which reads -
No proceeding for an offence against this section shall be instituted without the leave of the Chief Judge or the Registrar.
Section 9 contains a number of penalties ; but, as the act stands now, no proceeding for an offence against the provision can be instituted without the leave of the Chief Judge or Registrar. That safeguard is now to be removed, although it is retained in other clauses which impose penalties. For instance, it is to be found in section 6. I cannot understand why the protection afforded to parties by section 9, as it now stands, should be removed. The person who is charged with an offence is often put to great inconvenience and heavy expense in defending himself, which may easily be avoided if the Chief Judge or Registrar is first of all given some idea of the charge to be laid. For these reasons I hope that the amending clause will not be agreed to.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 14
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12 midnight to 1 a.m.
Thursday, 14 June 1928
Clause 10 (Penalties payable out of organization funds).
– This clause provides for the insertion of new section 10 after section 9 of the principal act. Section 9 provides that an employer shall not dismiss an employee or injure him in employment, or alter his position to his prejudice by reason of the circumstances that the employee -
The penalty provided is £50. Surely it should not be a crime for a man to try to improve his working conditions. Under the same section an employee may be fined £25 for ceasing work in certain circumstances. It is now proposed, under new section 10, to penalize the union also by providing that if it appears that at the time he committed an offence he was an officer or a member of the committee of management of an organzation or a branch of an organization, the court, in addition to making any other order, may order the organization, or trustees thereof, to pay out of the funds of the organization any amount of the penalty not exceeding £50, if the offence is doing anything in the nature of a lockout, and £10 if it is doing anything in the nature of a strike. Why should an organization be penalized because of the action of an officer, if it has endeavoured to make him comply with the law? The clause furnishes further evidence of the desire of the Government to persecute the unions. The officers often have a difficult task in keeping their members under control, particularly when months elapse between the lodging of a plaint and the hearing of it by the court. Of ten, when an award is given, the conditions have so materially changed since the lodging of the plaint, that the members of the organizations have become restless. I have been faced with that difficulty when in charge of a committee of disputes in Western Australia. I have always contended that we should make it as inexpensive as possible to obtain awards of the court; but this clause imposes an additional penalty, and will not take us any further along the road of industrial peace. Everything that could possibly be done under the principal act, was done, and this clause will merely intensify industrial trouble. An organization might almost be bankrupt, but under this provision it will be compelled to pay a fine up to £50, in addition to any other penalty that the court may impose.
– The organizations must discipline their officers.
– The Minister knows that it is extremely difficult at times to’ do that. If a committee of management has made a bona fide effort in that direction, the court should take that into account.
– Subsection 2 of the proposed new section provides that the court, before making an order, shall give the organization an opportunity of being heard.
– That is so; but the clause is unjust and vicious, and will not promote industrial peace.
[1.10 a.m.]. - Until quite recently there were cases before the court in connexion with the Waterside Workers’
Union, and at the same time important branches of the organization were conducting strikes. Judge Beeby, I think it was, called on the chief officers of the union to compel those branches to resume work, and said that otherwise he would not proceed with the hearing. The general secretary stated that he had asked them to do that; but he practically admitted that no notice had been taken of the request. Under this clause, the officers of those branches would be dealt with; but before a fine was inflicted on the organization, its officers would be heard under the provisions of sub-section 2. If the officers of the organization could show that they had tried to discipline the officers of the branches, the organization would not be fined; the officers of the branches only would be penalized. This clause has been inserted to meet cases such as that experienced by the Waterside Workers’ Union. If the workers are to receive benefits from arbitration, they must have discipline. Senator Barnes pointed out that his organization had experienced difficulty owing to some of the members taking action without the approval of the union. I should think that the provision would be welcomed by organizations, especially federated bodies, who desire to enforce discipline amongst their branches.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 11 to 13 agreed to.
Clause 14 (Interpretations affecting standard hours).
– This clause, relating as it does to standard hours, should be closely scrutinized. Proposed new section 18aa, for the insertion of which it provides, is as follows : -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, where -
a variation of an award is made affecting the standard hours of work fixed by that award in an. industry or in a section of an industry, the interpretation or variation shall have no force or effect unless it is considered by the court constituted by the Chief Judge and not less than two other judges and is approved by the majority of the members of the court.
In the earlier years of our arbitration system it was competent for one judge to consider claims relating not only to conditions of employment and wages, but also standard hours. This rule obtained up till 1920, when, because of the agitation for a reduction in hours from 48 a week to 44, the then Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) introduced a measure providing that every claim involving a question of hours should be determined by three arbitration judges. The right honorable gentleman did not hesitate to make an attack on the then President of the court, who shortly after retired from the Arbitration Court Bench. The object of the Government in amending the act was to prevent the court from reducing standard hours from 48 to 44, notwithstanding that it had been demonstrated in Ford’s establishment in America that a shorter week meant an increase in output. Since 1920 every claim involving standard hours has been determined by three judges.
– And quite right too.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. The first President of the Court (Mr. Justice Higgins) carried out his duties with the greatest impartiality, and I venture to say that it is easier to reach finality as regards standard hours with one judge in the bench instead of three. In a majority award made recently by Chief Judge Dethridge, Judge Lukin and Judge Beeby, the court decided that the standard hours in the engineering trades should be 44 a week, but that award has not yet received general application.
– Is that the case in which Chief Judge Dethridge pro vided for piece-work?
– It was Judge Beeby who laid down that principle, but it proved to be unworkable. Subsequently Judge Beeby had to explain his judgment, and make a variation of it. This clause perpetuates the principle. In my opinion, it would be better if standard hours were determined by one judge.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President Executive Council) [1.23 a.m.] . - -It is singular that criticism of this clause should come from the Leader of the Opposition, because it was inserted in the bill in another place at the suggestion of the Labour party. The bill does not in any way touch the question of standard hours. The provision in the principal act relating to that matter is not disturbed. When the measure was under discussion elsewhere, Mr. Brennan, a member of the Labour party, directed attention to an interpretation by Judge Lukin of an award of the court in the timber workers’ case. Mr. Brennan pointed out that the interpretation which Judge Lukin had placed unpon the award in effect, altered a. judgment of the Full Arbitration Court ; and the Government, at his suggestion, included this new section, which pro- vides that whenever any case comes before the court involving an interpretation or variation of an award affecting standard hours, it must be heard by three judges of the court.
– It is quite true, as my Leader (Senator Needham) has said, that in 1920 the procedure of the court was so altered that whenever the question of standard hours was involved in a claim, it had to be determined by three judges instead of by one as formerly. The Government two and a half years ago appointed three judges to consider this important question. Those judges have spent one-fourth of their period of office in dealing with standard hours, but have not yetreach finality. Because of this amendment to the act, requiring three judges to determine all claims involving standard hours, there is serious congestion in the Arbitration Court.
– Cannot three judges determine that issue more expeditiously than one?
– That is not our experience. I question if the first President of the Arbitration Court took seven months to determine the hours to be worked by industry under awards made by him. Forty-four hours is the recognized working week in many callings in Australia to-day.
– That was not the case prior to two and a half years ago.
– It was, in certain trades and callings. As a matter of fact, some of them worked fewer than 44 hours. Judge Lukin’s interpretation was opposed to the opinions of the other judges. The timber workers were working under an award which specified that the number of hours should be 44 in certain areas and 48 in others. Judge Lukin ruled that the number should be 48 in the whole of the industry. The timber workers’ organization was dissatisfied with that judgment, and probably because of that dissatisfaction Mr. Brennan desired that the question of the variation or interpretation of an award involving standard hours should be decided before three judges. If there is a chance of those judges interpreting the award to mean that 44 hours shall be regarded as the standard number, some good purpose will be served by the submission of the matter to them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 15 to 20 agreed to.
Section twenty-four of the principal act is amended by adding at the end of sub-section (1.) the following proviso: - “ Provided that the court may refuse to certify any such memorandum if it is of opinion that the agreement is not in settlement of an industrial dispute or contains clauses which the court has no power to insert in awards, or that it is not in the public interest that it should be certified.”. -
Section proposed to be amended -
[1.35 a.m.]. - The House of Representatives substituted the words “ a judge “ for the words “ the Chief Judge “ in the section proposed to be amended. It is necessary to make a consequential amendment to this proviso. I move -
That the words “ the court “, first occurring, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a judge “.
– The amendment proposed by the right honorable gentleman does not improve, the clause. Section 24 of the principal act confirms the practice which has been in operation for years in not only the Federal, but also the State sphere, under which the parties met together and entered into an agreement. A. memorandum of the agreement was prepared, and was ratified by being registered in the court. This clause, if amended in the manner suggested, will give to the court the power to intervene and refuse to register an agreement after the parties have spent time, trouble and money in drawing it up in a peaceful, orderly and reasonable fashion.
– In the interests of the general public.
– This is a retrograde step. A few moments ago, when we were discussing the question of standard hours, I contended that that question could be decided more satisfactorily by one judge than by three. Here the position is reversed. I have taken part in many round-table conferences. The representatives of the employers are invariably well versed in the industry in connexion with which it is proposed that an agreement shall be drawn up. The delegates representing the union are expert in their business. A judge may have legal ability, but these men have a more expert knowledge of the work in which they are engaged.
– They may know too much for the general public.
– The Leader of the Senate has not mentioned any agreement that has caused injury to the public. At an earlier stage I read from the last CommonwealthYear-Book an interesting table, which showed that during the year 1926, in the Federal and State arena 681 industrial agreements were entered into. Can the Minister point to one of those agreements and say that it in any way caused injury to the public interests, adversely affected a companion industry, or was not in the nature of a settlement of an industrial dispute? Here we have the real spirit of conciliation and arbitration.
– In what way will the amendment destroy the usefulness of this provision?
– The whole case will be reviewed by a judge, who can refuse to register the agreement. Up to the present only that portion of the dispute which was not settled by a voluntary agreement could be dealt with by the court or a judge of the court, or, if no agreement resulted from a voluntary conference, the whole dispute went to the court. That was an excellent practice. If evidence could be adduced to show that any agreement entered into in that way injured the public interests there might be some reason for supporting the clause.
– Does not the honorable senator think that there should be a co-ordination of awards?
– There is coordination and co-operation of a voluntary nature when the representatives of the parties to the dispute meet to draw up an agreement. It might as well be contended that, after a wages board has come to a decision as the result of consideration by experts, that decision should be referred to a judge of a higher court to determine, first, whether it effected a settlement of an industrial dispute, and secondly, whether or not the public interest was adversely affected.
-In nearly all cases, it is.
– The principal act proves a proper method of overcoming industrial difficulties. No time is lost, the employer is receiving his profits and the employee his wages. Although both parties may enter into an amicable agreement, this clause provides that such agreements must be reviewed by a judge. This may lead to dislocation of industry and possibly a dispute. It is a retrograde step and one which I cannot support.
– Such as in the coal industry.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes. For years the coal owners and coal miners worked under agreements in which the rates of wages were continually increased, and in consequence the price of coal was raised until they ran against a snag in the form of overseas competition. How did the general public fare as the result of that agreement? The industry has been conducted in such a way that it has almost wrecked itself, and in continuing its policy has caused a great deal of damage to other industries which depend upon it. One can readily see that an agreement might be drawn up between employers and employees that was altogether inconsistent with an award of the Arbitration Court. There must be some standard in industrial legislation, and an agreement should not contain a provision which a court has not the power to insert in an award. How could we allow an industrial agreement filed in the court, which becomes an award, to contain a provision which the court itself would not insert? Obviously it would render the machinery of the Arbitration Court farcical. That is why this provision, which is one of the most useful in the bill, has been inserted.
– I ask the Minister (Senator Sir George Pearce) to name one industry- -
– I mentioned the coal industry.
– The Minister has suddenly become solicitous concerning the general public and contends that honorable senators on this side of the chamber have no interest in the welfare of the community. The Minister is not concerned when employers in certain industries are making huge profits, and landlords who are a law unto themselves are charging exorbitant rents. He thinks that if employers’ balance-sheets are satisfactory, every one should be satisfied. I maintain that we as representatives of the people, have the responsibility of safeguarding the interests of the public, and contend that during the period in which agreements filed in the court have had the effect of an award, they have not been detrimental to the public interest.
– The question raised by the Leader of the Opposition and so effectively replied to by the Minister (Senator Sir George Pearce) has been agitating the public mind for a considerable period. The most outstanding example of an industry which, under industrial agreements having the effect of an award, has been operating to the detriment of the public, is the shipping industry. Those engaged in it, instead of resisting the demands of the men have granted them from time to time and provided for the increased cost, as well as for huge profits, by increasing fare and freights which the public have had to pay. It is time legislative provision was made for preventing action of this kind. It is gratifying to realize that at last the public is to receive some consideration. Does the honorable senator suggest that if the employers and employees agree upon terms suitable to them, that the court should not have a voice in determining whether the wages provided in an agreement should be paid. The iron and steel industry, which is essentially a key industry, and is highly protected, could under an agreement filed in the court, pay unnecessarily high wages, and pass the increased costs on to the users of their products, with very serious’ effects upon other industries. The Leader of the Opposition should realize that the Government is legislating in the right direction by providing that the interests of the public shall be conserved.
– Senator Herbert Hays was surprised at the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) in objecting to this clause. If he was surprised at the honorable senator’s remarks, all
I can say is that I am amazed, if not almost dumbfounded at his statement. He is supporting the clause because he objects to agreements entered into between employers and employees having the effect of an award, since he contends they are inimical to the interests of the people. The members of the Seamen’s Union have up to 1925, obtained awards from the Arbitration Court. Does he suggest that the wages and conditions provided in those awards were too good for the seamen?
– I did not say that.
– That is the honorable gentleman’s argument. In effect, he said that as a result of wages being increased, and the conditions improved, fares and freights were increased, and in consequence the general community penalized.
– Such agreements affect other industries.
– Are we to assume that every award or agreement that provides for a living wage will be opposed by the honorable senator?
– I did not say anything of the kind.
– The honorable senator said that if the court awards certain rates, the cost is passed on to the public. The seamen have never received more than a living wage. It is true that the conditions of the seamen during recent years have improved considerably, but the seamen of to-day are more intelligent and are not prepared to submit to the conditionswhich obtained in the. Australian coast some years ago. The honorable senator did not refer to the profits made by the shipping companies.
– Yes, he did.
– The shipping companies operating on the Australian coast have amassed fortunes.
– Under agreements of this kind.
– Then the Minister emphasizes what Senator Hays stated.
– I do.
– Does the Minister object to agreements in which provision is made for decent conditions?
– Yes, if the wages paid are higher than are paid for similar labour elsewhere in the Commonwealth. Unskilled workers are in some instances receiving more than skilled men.
– I deny that.
– The marine cooks are receiving, in some cases, more than qualified engineers who have to undergo a very lengthy period of training.
– But the cooks have to work very long hours.
– Only for 44 hours in each week,
– In bad weather they have always to be available, and on many occasions have to work overtime. The Minister knows that as a fact under their award they are not paid more than the engineers.
– They are when their overtime is included.
– That is especially provided for in the award. The cooks are not responsible for bad weather and long delays. When accidents occur and the running of the ship is interfered with, the cooks have always to be on hand to provide food, and on that account may perhaps receive at the end of the month, what some consider a high wage. Under ordinary circumstances they earn nothing more than a living wage. I shall not object to the Government taking power to deal with that octopus that has its tentacles outstretched over the whole of Australia. I refer to the shipping combine that can do pretty well what it likes, so far as passengers and freights are concerned.
– The honorable senator is really supporting my’ argument.
– The argument used by the honorable senator was that the agreement between the ship-owners and the seamen was harmful to the community. There being two parties to that agreement, and one of them being the seamen, it is my task to show that they are not getting more than a living wage. As one who has been associated with unionism, I feel that I am justified in defending the working class to whom I belong, and in showing that the men who go to sea are not overpaid.
– I did not say that they are.
– The honorable senator and the Leader of the Government described certain agreements as being harmful to the community, and they cited the agreement in the coal industry. We know that one of the coal barons is a millionaire. No one can say that one Australian coal-miner has even become a millionaire.
– The coal-miners do not work long enough to become millionaires.
– They are a hardworking section df the community.
– They work for a few hours only, and then go fishing.
– The honorable senator cannot be serious in making that statement. At most, some of the coalminers who have the luck to be in a good pit, earn fair wages at times, but on the whole their wages are small, and just now many of the mines in the Newcastle district are only working half time.
– Because the miners have killed their export trade.
– There are reasons for the falling off in the Newcastle coal trade besides the decrease in the overseas export trade. The development of coal mines in other States is one contributing factor. For many years Vie.toria depended on Newcastle coal for the whole of its requirements, but in recent years a great change has come over Victoria’. Morwell is now turning out immense quantities of briquettes, and Wonthaggi supplies the railway department and other Government activities with coal which, a few years ago, was obtained from Newcastle. According to Senator Herbert Hays, the increased wages which are given as the result of agreements that have been entered into between employers and employees, are passed on to the community in the shape of, increased prices for commodities or increased fares and freights. But, as a matter of fact, we know, as men of the world,, that in many cases where increases in wages are granted to workers, the employers make a profit out of those increases.
– That was just the argument I advanced about the shipping companies.
– If there was any point in the honorable senator’s argument it was that because increased prices were passed on to the community, there should be no increase in wages.
– I did not say so.
– At any rate the honorable senator’s argument was that since increased wages were passed on by the employers to the community at large, there should be no awards or mutual agreements giving increased wages.
– I should like to bring before the committee the position that has been brought about in the South Australian railways as a result of the pernicious system of bargaining that now exists between the coal barons referred to by Senator Findley, and the men employed in the coal mines of New South Wales. Frequent attempts have been made, to find brown coal in South Australia. Experts engaged in Britain have been diligently investigating the possibility of the dis.covery of a suitable coal for use on the State railways, and one or two very inferior samples have been sent to England and Germany for testing to see if, by any chance, the State could get out of its difficult position. No success has so far been achieved. When I first entered the State Parliament in 1914, the engines on the State railways were being fuelled with coal from Newcastle at a cost of 18s. a ton. To-day it costs 42s. lOd. a ton to fuel those engines. Although the State has engaged the services of a leading American railway expert to try to get its railway system down to an economic basis so that some profit may be earned on the £30,000,000 invested, the huge cost of procuring coal keeps the mileage cost at an excessive figure, and the problem that faces Mr. Webb, the Commissioner of Railways, is most difficult. I am pleased, therefore, that a provision has been inserted in this bill which will enable the Arbitration Court to decline to certify any memorandum and give it the effect of an award, if it is of opinion that it is not in the public interest that it should be certified. During the war when there was a possibility of the whole of the coal-mining industry being held up, Mr. Hughes, who was then Prime Minister, settled the dispute. He settled it quite easily in a way that any one could have settled it. He gave the men all that they asked. The result was that the price of coal went up and every workman’s wife who wanted coal for heating or cooking purposes was penalized. I am glad that this provision has been inserted in the bill.
– I cannot allow the remarks of Senator Findley concerning my comment on this provision, to go without contradiction. We know that the honorable senator is often in a humorous frame of mind, but his words which are amusing to us, may convey a different impression to the public who do not know the honorable senator as we know him. The honorable senator made it appear that I had said that the wages received by the seamen on the Australian coast were too high. When he was speaking he asked me to cite a case in which the public interest had been in any way affected by an agreement between employers and employees, and I cited the two key-industries, shipping and steel, saying that it was quite possible that substantial increases might be given quite inconsistent with those granted by awards made by the Arbitration Court. I pointed out, also, that the shipping companies, having control of all the shipping trade on our coast, could, with the greatest of ease, pass on to the public the increased wages with, perhaps, something substantial in addition. Senator Findley, by drawing attention to the huge profits made by the shipping companies, has borne out my contention that they have substantially increased their rates.
Question - That the words proposed to be left out (Senator Sir George Pearce’ s amendment) be left out - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to be inserted (Senator Sir George Pearce’s amendment) be inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment agreed to.
Clause further consequentially amended.
Question - That the clause as amended stand part of the bill - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 22 (. …. Economic effect of awards) -
– This is another reactionary clause that will extend the new principle of the economic survey of awards. The clause that the committee has just disposed of is confined to agreements between the parties which have to be submitted to a judge to determine whether or not public interests are affected. Section 25 of the principal act, which the present clause amends, is compact and effective. It reads -
In the hearing and determination of every industrial dispute, and in exercising any duties or powers under or by virtue of this act, the court or the Chief Judge shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of thecase, without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence, but may inform its or his mindon any matter in such manner as it or he thinks just.
That section was sufficient for all purposes; but the committee is now asked to agree to the insertion of a series of new sections, the last of which is as follows : - 25p. The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned:
That provision ran the gantlet of strong criticism in another place, and, after hours of -discussion, the Government agreed, by way of a compromise, to add the following words : “ Provided that this section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage.” Clause 21 deals with agreements only; but this clause relates to both agreements and awards. Time after time this Parliament is called upon to deal with thetariff, and since the fiscal policy of the Commonwealth is protection, increased customs duties are imposed. Does Parliament ever concern itself with the economic effect of those duties upon industry?
– Yes, in every instance.
– The only object which this Parliament has in view when imposing customs duties is the fostering of Australian industries. The economic effect of customs duties is not considered. In proposed new section 25d, however, it is proposed that the court shall make an economic survey of industry, and consider the effect of a particular award upon the industry or industries concerned.
– An almost identical provision appears in the Queensland act passed by a Labour Government.
– I am not concerned about provisions that may be included in Queensland legislation. We are considering, at the moment, a proposed new Commonwealth law. The provision to which I have referred represents a radical departure from all previous legislation dealing with industrial affairs. In my own State organizations may not bother to get agreements from their employers because they know that they will have to run the gauntlet of the court. These proposed new sections will add considerably to the work of the court. Senator Barnes has told us that a number of organizations already have been waiting for a considerable time to have their claims heard by the court.Four judges have been working assiduously to deal with claims, but they are not able to cope with the work, and the congestion of the court is responsible for much of the industrial unrest that prevails to-day. Sir John Quick, a Deputy President of the Court, has been engaged for many months in the hearing of the railways case, and has not yet reached finality. His term of office has been extended from time to time in order that he may make an award. The proviso to proposed new section 25d states that the section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage. It is important to remember that the basic wage has not yet been determined by the court, but determinations respecting it have been made by State tribunals in Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales. In my own State it is reviewed every year. Since the advent of the State Labour Government in 1924 the Arbitration Act in Western Australia has been amended, and now it is the finest piece of arbitration legislation in the Commonwealth.
– Why is the basic wage reviewed every year - on account of the economic position?
– It is reviewed every year because the act makes provision for it. If the Commonwealth Arbitration Court decides to review the basic wage, there is no provision in the act to prevent the court from fixing it at a lower amount than it is to-day. Will any honorable senator say that the basic wage in any of the States is too high? In Western Australia it is £4 5s. a week, and in some of the other States £4 6s. Surely that is not too much for a man to provide house rent and food and clothing for himself his wife and family.
a.m.]. - The clause deserves the earnest and serious consideration of the committee. I hope, therefore, that we shall have a statement from the Minister as to the real meaning of the proposed new sections. Senator Needham, in<-his statement of the position just now, did not draw an imaginary picture of what is possible under this clause. If it is passed in its present form it is possible that, following a survey of the economic field, the basic wage may be seriously affected. Proposed new section 25d reads -
The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
It appears to me that the Government believes that some awards made by the court are not in the best interests of the industries concerned, or in the best interests of the community. That is- the in ference I draw from my reading of this proposed new section. In my opinion itis a dangerous provision so far as arbitration awards are concerned. I say in all earnestness that any industry that cannot pay a living wage to its employees, does not deserve encouragement.
– Why, then, does the honorable senator always vote for high tariff duties?
– I vote for high duties, because they are designed to encourage the establishment of secondary industries in Australia. The procedure of the court has been to make awards in respect of protected industries without considering the economic effect of such awards. It has been stated that mutual agreements have in some instances been harmful to ihe community, because they have resulted in increased wages and improved conditions, the cost of which has been passed on by the employers. A similar statement is made when tariff duties are raised, irrespective of Arbitration Court awards. When the tariff was amended a few years ago, the price of almost everything went up, and if the reason was asked, the reply was that increased duties and higher wages were responsible. Many industries can well afford to pay more than a living wage, but I do not think that they will be affected by this clause. Some persons who are associated with industry have little or no time for the Arbitration Court, and would give their whole-hearted support to a provision empowering it to inquire into the economic position of all industries and the economic effect upon them of any award. The amendment made to the clause in another place does not absoltuely safeguard the basic wage. I believe there are some honorable senators opposite who do not desire to see the basic wage reduced. Those who are conversant with the conditions of the workers must share with me the view that in some cases the wage paid to-day is not as high as it should be.
– It is the highest effective wage that is paid in any country” in the world.
– The conditions in this country are better than those of any other country. O.ur people have the opportunity to do what many other people cannot do in a constitutional way. We have an enlightened democracy. The conditions of practically every age, in almost every country, are an improvement upon their predecessors. It is doubtful, however, whether the conditions in some industries in Australia are very much better than those which existed prior to the war. If honorable senators considered seriously the economic effect of increased tariff duties upon the general community, there would be little progress and very few industries would be established in Australia. There are some persons who do not favour high duties and are not enthusiastic advocates of the Arbitration Court. They honestly believe that a reversion to lower duties and perhaps the abrogation of the Arbitration Court, would make- the conditions better than they are to-day. T do not share that view. I ask those who, like myself, have voted for increased duties, not to give a whole-hearted support to this clause, but to regard it in the light in which they regard the tariff. When we are dealing with the tariff, or a proposal to grant a bounty, we take a broad national view and do what we consider is best for Australia as a whole.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– A great deal has been said about the economic effect of Arbitration Court awards upon industry in Australia. I am very much more concerned about the economic effect upon the community. While listening to Senator Findley, I came to the conclusion that he had missed his vocation, and that when he entered this legislature the stage lost an actor compared with whom Sir Henry Irving would have seemed poor indeed. Some very important information reached me to-day which has a particular bearing on this clause. At the present time South Australia is assisting the other States to spend advantageously the sum of £34,000,000 which is being advanced by the British Government under the migration agreement. The Liberal Government there is endeavouring to prevent the money from being frittered away under the system of day labour. It is .trying to develop the State economically, and make the money go as far as possible, by adopting the piece-work and butty-gang systems. Some members of the Australian Workers’ Union are averaging £1 14s. 6d. a day in removing soil from the trenches that are being put down in connexion with a big water scheme through the vast territory of Eyre’s Peninsula, where it is hoped that a vast province will be developed.
– How many men were receiving that wage?
– I shall inform the honorable senator if he will be patient. The figures I am about to quote were given in a speech on the loan estimates in the South Australian House of Assembly by the Premier and Treasurer (Mr. Butler), as reported in the South Australian Hansard of the 24th May, 1928. I emphasize the fact that they have not been supplied by any political partisan, but have been compiled by Mr. Bellamy, the hydraulic engineer who is controlling the activities of this department in that State. The figures are most illuminating, and I trust that those whose duty it is to administer the act when it has been passed by -this Parliament will pay some regard to the opinions expressed by some honorable senators during this .debate. The extract to which I have referred reads -
Hydraulic Engineer, £1,000,000. - I shall now refer to the savings made under the petty contract system. From a report dated 18th May, 1928, from the western district engineer, the price for excavation on schedule of reticulation mains was 6s. 4.2d. net. The cost under petty contract is .3s. 6d., which is 2s. 10.2d. per cubic yard less than the day labour rate, or approximately 44 per cent. Under the old system the cost of refilling was ls. 5.4d. The present cost is lO.ld. - saving, 7.3d. per cubic yard, or approximately 42 per cent. Further, contractors are at the present time taking out considerable quantities of soft and broken rock as earth, and this has been included in the above figures, but was previously included and debited as rock. Laying and jointing costs have also been decreased ranging from 22 to 33 per cent. This work is done under day work system, but is being performed by the petty contractors, who are on the whole a much better type of labourer than previously procurable under the day work system. These men are anxious ‘ also to expedite the day labour work in order to get back on contract rates, and thus our costs of such work as is being carried out under day work is being considerably reduced. On the Port Noarlunga mains the cost of trenching and filling was estimated at approximately 7s. lOd. The actual cost was slightly under ‘5s. Id., and the saving approximately 35 per cent. Since the scheme for lessening costs has been put in hand the savings on school buildings have been 33 per cent. below estimates based on costs prior to introduction.
– What do the men earn under the petty contract system?
The TREASURER. - I have not the figures for the West Coast, but for Port Noarlunga the highest wages were 45s. a day, the lowest 18s., and the average £1 14s. 6d. Generally, all the men are satisfied. No man earns less than the basic wage under the system of payments by results.
The average wage received by the men employed on this work was £1 14s. 6d. a day. All of the men are satisfied, and no man earns less than the basic wage. I think I have shown that even under the piece-work system it is easy to preserve the present basic wage, and I maintain that if men in constant employment could earn £537 a year for a six-day week of 48 hours, there would not be much cause for the alarm expressed by honorable senators opposite. I trust the provision will be passed in its present form as I am confident it will result in much good to the workers and also be of benefit to the general community. Under the piece-work system an honest worker can earn a decent wage, and if conditions such as I have mentioned became general it would not be long before Australia would become a working man’s paradise.
– The information supplied by SenatorRobinson does not remove my anxiety concerning the possibility of a reduction in the basic wage. The honorable senator has quoted what he says are authentic figures, but he did not mention whether the men receiving such wages were in continuous employment.
– I showed what could be earned by an honest man in a year.
– I have already directed the attention of the committee to the fact that the basic wage in one of the States is £4 5s. a week, and on that amount many men have to maintain a wife and four children. The rent which he would have to pay would be from 25s. to 30s. a week. If we deduct 30s. a week from £4 5s., it leaves £2 15s. a week, out of which he has to clothe and feed himself, his wife and four children. I contend that that is practically impossible. Honorable senators opposite have not referred to the excessive rents which some unfortunate men have to pay; they are anxious only to ensure that the “ interests of the community “ will not be affected. The unfortunate employee who has only his labour to sell, is forced to go to the court when seeking an increase in wages and better conditions, but he has no tribunal to which he can appeal to determine what rent he shall pay. The landlord who owns the house in which he lives can charge exorbitant rents, and proceed without interference by any authority. These unfortunate men must pay the rent demanded by unscrupulous landlords or be homeless. That is a phase of the question that is apparently overlooked by honorable senators opposite whose onlyconcern isfor the employer.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the subject matter of the clause.
– I have no desire to do otherwise. We are considering an economic question with which I think the amount of rent a man pays is closely associated.
– I do not think it is very closely associated with the cancellation of an award, which is the subject now before the committee.
– If the bill provided that the basic wage should not be any lower than it is to-day I would not oppose the clause so vigorously. I strongly object, however, to the word “ practice “ because it suggests that there is no guarantee that the basic wage may not be reduced after an economic survey has been conducted. Senator Robinson stated yesterday that he supported a policy of conciliation, and I agree with him that better results can be obtained by conciliatory methods than by compulsory arbitration. The honorable senator does not appear to realize that if proposed sub-section 25d becomes operative it will be the means of discouraging workers to adopt conciliation as a means of settling disputes. Surely he will agree that if the parties to a dispute meet with the object of drafting an agreement they are adopting conciliatory methods. It is now provided that if they do so they must run the gauntlet of the Arbitration Court.
There is no encouragement for one party to continue in that appeal to conciliation which my friend, Senator Robinson, has assured us he supports. If the honorable senator scrutinizes proposed section 25d carefully, he will see that, if it becomes law, it will have a serious effect on the conciliation side of our industrial law, even almost to the “point of wiping it out altogether. For that reason I oppose the clause.
– The proposed new section 25d is an exceedingly dangerous and pernicious provision, containing as it does all the elements that are likely to destroy the usefulness of arbitration. The workers will realize that it is useless for them to apply for higher wages with this provision in the act. When our tariff is increased we look at the matter from the point of doing good to the community as a whole. Senator Robinson has mentioned that in South Australia the Government pays £2 a day to men for digging trenches. I think there must be something wrong with the honorable senator’s figures. If it is known that men are earning £2 a day on piece-work the system is very speedily altered and the rate is so changed that the men have very little opportunity to earn anything like the amount quoted by the honorable senator. I knew the father of the present Premier of the State. He was one of the greatest advocates of piece-work Australia has ever known. In .those days there were many men working on piece-work who were not earning anything like the basic wage, which was then 6s. a day, and were almost starved off the jobs they had because they could not earn sufficient to provide food for themselves and their families. It is absurd to suggest that the present Premier of the State has a better outlook in this regard than his father had. It is said that figures cannot lie; but liars can figure. I do not trust those which have been quoted by Senator Robinson. It is absurd for the honorable senator to claim that men who can earn £2 a day on piece-work make about £500 in twelve months. No sane person would be misled by such a statement. I am afraid, however, that when the court is faced with the evidence that men are earning these wages on piece work, it may say, “ It is too much for any working man to earn.” Two pounds a day! It is absurd to suggest that men engaged in digging trenches are earning those wages. If they earned them the whole body of conservatism would revolt. The honorable senator forgot to point to the thousands of pounds that were saved to the Commonwealth by the employment of day labour on the construction of the east-west railway. He also forgot to refer to many bridges and public works built in South Australia under the day-labour system at a saving of many thousands of pounds to the State. And he forgot to say that better work was done by day labour because it was carried out, not to make a profit, but to last. It is well-known that contractors do not care how soon their work deteriorates. Work done by day labour will last because the best of workmanship is put into it. I am afraid that proposed Section 25d will undermine the basic wage. Under our present arbitration system employers are not asked what their wives pay for stockings, and whether they are silk, or how many hats they wear in a year; yet the workers are expected to answer all these questions in giving evidence with regard to a wages claim. They are very often degraded by having to state what clothing they wear and what it costs; whereas the employing class get off scot free. The wife of an employer may pay 70 guineas for a coat, but that does not come out in evidence in the Arbitration Court. I cannot understand how men who declare that they are in favour of the basic wage can support a provision of this kind. It shows their lack of sincerity or lack of knowledge of the economic conditions of the toiling masses. I know that it is useless to plead for the deletion of this section, but very soon the people of Australia will have an opportunity to deal with those who have inserted it in the bill. If the people are satisfied to return them once more to power, they will deserve all they get; that will be a lower basic wage than they have tb-day.
– I am puzzled as to the meaning of proposed section 25d. Reading it without the proviso it means that the court is instructed to take into consideration the probable economic effect of an award on the affairs of the country, which seems to me to be a clear indication that it is empowered to fix a rate of wages very much below what we have for years understood to be the basic wage. But, apparently, the objection raised in another place to giving this power to the court has shown the Government that the provision has a meaning which was never intended, and accordingly the following proviso has been added to it : -
Provided that this section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage.
I should like to know what portion of the proposed section will guide the court. Is it to be guided by the proviso? It seems to me quite a suitable provision, because it requires the court to make provision for a basic wage. But the court is also empowered to take into consideration the economic effect of its awards. If the circumstances indicate that an employer is making so much that he is in a position to give more than the basic wage, the court may in some cases fix a wage higher than the basic wage. I want to know whether the Government is sure of what is meant by the provision. If the provision means what I think it does it will be. all right, but if it means what others think it does it will be all wrong.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 23 (Representation of parties at hearing) .
Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia [3.32 a.m.]. - The clause looks innocent at the first glance, but on closer scrutiny I perceive in it more retrogression. For many years a lawyer was not admitted to the court except by consent of the parties and also the judge. Under section 27 of the principal act, which this clause amends, no member of the legal profession can appear before the court unless by the consent of the parties. It is now proposed to insert the words “ leave of the court or by “, so that the section will then read-
On the hearing or determination of any industrial dispute an organization may be represented by a member or officer of any organization, and any part)’ not being an organization may be represented by an employee of that party; but no party shall (except by leave of the court or by consent of all the parties) be represented by counsel or solicitor or paid agent.
If the parties agree that they do not require counsel to represent them, they may present their case with the assistance of paid agents, and there is no reason why an organization should be compelled to go to the expense of legal representation instead of having its case presented by one of its own members. If the clause means anything, it is that the court can override the decision of the parties and admit lawyers. I have the greatest respect for members of the legal profession as citizens, but as members of that profession I try to avoid them as much as possible. The cost of arbitration is considerable, and the organizations of employees desire to cheapen it and make it more expeditious. The Arbitration Court should not be made a court of law. The principal act lays down definitely that it is a court of equity, and is not to be bound by the rules of evidence. It may be necessary, occasionally, for an organization to engage counsel to deal with a technical matter, but, generally speaking, lawyers are not required in arbitration cases. In the Western Australian Arbitration Court there is one judge who is appointed for life.. Periodically, since 1924, the basic wage has been reviewed in that State - this happened for the fourth time this month - and on each occasion the case for each side was presented by a layman. Twice the union representative was Mr. E.. H. Barker, secretary of the executive of the Labour party in my State, and on the other two occasions, the case for the employees was presented by Mr. J. J. Kenneally, M.L.A., who was’ general secretary of the Engine-drivers’ andFiremen’s Union. The admission of lawyers would neither cheapen nor expedite arbitration. The two employees’ representatives whom I have named make a special study of industrial matters and political economy, and keep in touch with industrial courts in every part of the Empire. They are better qualified than lawyers are to present the case for the workers.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.43 a.m.]. - The suggestion that the presence of lawyers at the hearing of cases would increase the cost of arbitration is pure assumption. The statement that the workers are represented by men engaged in the industries concerned is not in accordance with facts. The parties are now represented by paid advocates who practically make a living at that work. Judging by the expenses to which the unions are now put in presenting their cases, the probability is that the employment of trained lawyers would result in a saving. In the larger unions the officers doing this class of work devote the whole of their time to it. No sooner is one case decided by the court, than they are busy preparing for the next. They spend practically the whole of their time in getting cases ready. On more than one occasion judges have complained of the waste of time due to the submission of irrelevant evidence and the discussion of irrelevant matters. The admission of lawyers would probably result in a saving of time and money. It is a mistake to assume that lawyers will be admitted if neither party wishes them to appear. At present counsel may appear with the consent of both parties. Under this amending provision if one of the parties desires to be represented by counsel and if the other party raises no objection, counsel may appear. If, howover, one party objects, the court will be asked to determine whether, in the circumstances, the party wishing to be represented by counsel shall be so represented. The court will not force legal representation in arbitration cases if neither party wishes to engage counsel. The judges will not allow lawyers to turn arbitration cases into law cases; but questions of law arise in many claims that come before the court. There is not the same difficulty in State courts because those tribunals are not up against constitutional questions. The point is taken sometimes that the Federal court has not constitutional authority to deal with certain claims that come before it and the parties concerned desire to be represented by counsel to. argue questions of law. In the interest of the court’s procedure it is desirable, in such circumstances, that counsel should appear to clear up doubtful points. Since the right of the parties to be represented by counsel is at the discretion of the court, I ask the committee to accept the clause.
– The Minister has stated that certain officers of industrial organizations are engaged exclusively in the preparation of cases for the Arbitration Court. That is not so.
– I said that many of them were so engaged.
– The Minister did not qualify his statement in any way. He said most emphatically that certain officials did nothing else, and that as soon as one case was finished they started on the preparation of another. He added that because cases were presented by laymen much time was wasted in the courts. Mr. E. H. Barker, the secretary of the Labour party executive in Western Australia, conducts all the affairs of his office and, in addition, prepares basic wage applications for the State court. He does not receive additional remuneration for his court work. It is regarded as part of his ordinary office duties. When I was acting as secretary to the State executive I invariably had to work more than eight hours a day. The office is no sinecure; nevertheless the secretary prepares cases for the Arbitration Court without additional remuneration. Mr. Kenneally, the present member for East Perth in the Western Australian Parliament, prior to his election, was the general secretary of the Engine Drivers, Fireman and Cleaners’ Association of Western Australia. He, too, had to work more than eight hours a day, carrying out his ordinary office duties and preparing basis wage applications. The Minister said also that laymen waste the time of the court. Sometimes judges complain also of waste of time by lawyers. It was stated by counsel in the Bulumwaal murder trial now on appeal before the Full Court of Victoria, that Mr. T. C. Brennan, the famous criminal lawyer, had been charged” with wasting time by a judge of the Supreme Court of Victoria. Laymen are not the only offenders, but I do not admit that they are responsible for waste of time in the courts. Section 27 reads as follows : -
On the hearing or determination of any industrial dispute an organization may be represented by a member or officer of any organization, and any party not being an organization may be represented by an employee of that party, but no party shall (except by consent of all the parties) be represented by counsel, or solicitor or paid agent.
If the clause now before us is passed in its present form the court may, without the consent of all the parties, allow one or other of the parties to be represented by counsel. I do not approve of the proposed amendment, and I hope that it will be defeated.
– The position has been correctly stated by my leader (Senator Needham). Under the law as it stands, the consent of all parties is necessary before counsel may appear in an arbitration case. This amendment opens the door to the employment of legal representatives in all arbitration cases. It provides that if one party wishes to have legal representation and the other party objects, the former may approach the court and, if the court thinks that the application is reasonable, it may grant it. The Leader of the Senate stated that much time was wasted by labour advocates in presenting cases to the court. I think he went further, and said that some of these men lived on the game.
– They become very efficient in the presentation of cases because they are so often engaged in that work.
– Of course they do. Most of the advocates who appear before the arbitration court on behalf of registered organizations are paid officials of their unions, and their arbitration work is part of their ordinary office duties. Many of them have been complimented by the judges for the manner in which they have presented their cases.
– May we not assume that, because of their efficiency as advocates, they have an unfair advantage over employers who are not so proficient in presentation of cases ?
– We can imagine what will happen if this clause is passed. Once the employers have the right to employ counsel, registered labour organizations will feel obliged to adopt the same course. Consequently the costs incidental to Arbitration Court awards will be considerably increased. I do not say that lawyers purposely prolong cases before the court; but they are noted for the time which they devote to the minutest details. We have seen them in Parliament and on public platforms. Attention to detail is a part of their training. They spend a great deal of time, which would not be spent by the trained labour advocate, upon what, to their minds, are technical points. ‘ Earlier in the proceedings I mentioned the enormous sums that it has cost unions to get awards from the Arbitration Court. I did not give the complete figures; in the last few years there have been many cases of which I have not been able to ascertain the cost. This provision will mean additional expense to the unions. Even though a little more time may be occupied when cases are presented by labour advocates, their wage is infinitesimal compared with the fees that are charged by legal gentlemen. If they were paid at special rates, the total cost would still be less to the labour organizations.
– In some cases in South Australia the legal expenses have broken the organizations.
– If the Government sincerely desires to assist trade unions, it should do everything in its power to lighten their expenditure of money, time and energy in endeavouring to obtain awards from the Arbitration Court. The position will be one-sided if lawyers appear for the employers and the organizations are represented by trained labour advocates. For many years Mr. Justice Higgins was the President of theArbitration Court, and very few lawyers appeared before him. It is probable, however, that, with the passing of this provision, a larger number will appear iu the future,. They will be briefed on behalf of organizations of employers, and for their own protection the registered labour organizations may find it necessary to brief counsel to answer the technical arguments advanced by them. The reasons advanced by the Leader of the Senate for the insertion of this provision do not appeal to me. I shall vote against the clause.
– During my second-reading speech I said that if any injustice or any discrimination between the workers and the employers became apparent I would vote to have it removed. I must admit that both Senator Findley and Senate Needham have put up a much stronger case for the rejection of this principle than the Minister has advanced for its acceptance. I, therefore, intend to vote with the Opposition. I have had some little experience of- legal gentlemen. It was my function to assist in investigating the operations of the legal fraternity in my State, and to arrive at an intelligent understanding of what occurs in the courts of justice. Although I do not condemn all the members of the legal profession, it is my opinion that the termination of litigation frequently synchronizes with the wiping out of the litigant’s bank balance. Although the men who represent the case for the unions become expert in its presentation, and to that extent the employer is often at a great disadvantage, they have their limitations. The expenditure of a few thousand pounds in having their case presented is a mere fleabite to some employers; but the unions are dependent upon the contributions which the workers can afford to make out of their living wage. If we keep the legal profession out of the Arbitration Court a more concilatory spirit will prevail. I have always championed conciliation. My friend, Senator Barnes, has told some of us, in the course of conversation, . that very often differences between employers and employees are adjusted to the accompaniment of a few draws of the pipe and a drop of Old Scotch. I ask the Minister to consider whether out of his flock he cannot concede one little ewe lamb to our honorable friends opposite. No great harm would be done. On one occasion I, in company with a few other unsuspecting sportsmen, was dragged into the court because I endeavoured to win a silver cup presented by Mr. Angus, of South Australia, with a beautiful greyhound that I owned. The charge laid against me was that I conspired, with others, to commit a breach of the Cruelty to Dumb Animals law. We did not escape from the clutches of the law until our lawyer had filched from us £250. Many years ago my father bought a property. To place himself in a position to pay for it, he. sold other properties that he possessed. The Commissioner of ‘ Taxes in South Australia, demanded .’£483 in respect of the profit made on the sale of the land:’ I maintained on behalf of my parent that it was an accretion of capital, and. therefore not taxable under the South Australian Act. We had to go to the court to prove that the commissioner’s interpretation was wrong. We obtained the verdict, but it cost us practically as much as the commissioner had claimed in taxation, and the court awarded us costs to the extent of £5 ! That was due to the fact that there were lawyers on the job. We do not want a repetition of that under our Arbitration Act. From the experience I have had, I am confident that if some members of the legal fraternity think that the parties whom they are representing have substantial banking accounts, the proceedings will be protracted to the detriment of both parties. Unless the Minister can prove that my interpretation of this provision is incorrect, I shall oppose it.
– This addition to the section in the principal act, which it amends, will not be of advantage to either party to a dispute. The main object of inserting the original provision in the principal act, was to protect the interests of organizations which had not very much money. Lawyers can appear in the court only with the consent of both parties, because it would be undesirable for unions with a small amount of capital at their disposal to endeavour to fight an employer with a good deal of money behind him. There are men who have a knowledge of the industry in which they are interested, who can place the case before the court better than men trained in the law. The job of lawyers is to embarrass their opponents and perhaps cripple them financially, and in order to overcome this difficulty, we contend that it is unnecessary for lawyers to appear in the court at all. There may be occasions, such as when constitutional questions are under ‘consideration, or technical legal points are involved, when their assistance is invaluable. I would never favour a lawyer representing one party, when the other party to the dispute objected; nor would I assist in giving the court the power to override the opinions of the parties concerned. After years of experience, I contend that the representatives of both sides have an intimate knowledge of the case, and can put the position clearly before the judge, even if he does not possess a knowledge of the industry. Laymen are not inclined to protract the proceedings, and for that reason the absence of lawyers saves the time of both parties. I think the Government should have allowed the provision in the principal act to remain unaltered, particularly as I have not heard any requests for an amendment.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 24 agreed to.
Clause 25 (Awards and orders to prevail over State awards and orders).
– The act provides that when a State award conflicts with a Federal award it shall, to the extent of its inconsistency with the Federal award, be invalid. The proposed amendment goes further by adding the words that where a State award “deals with any matter “ which is the subject of a Federal award, the State award shall, to the extent of its inconsistency in relation to the matter concerned, be invalid. I presume that the object of this amendment is to obviate, if possible, the overlapping of awards, but I do not think it will have that effect. It will certainly render idle conciliation committees and boards of reference in operation in some of the States to which many matters in dispute are now referred. The section to be amended provides that where a State court makes an award it shall, in so far as it does not conflict with a Federal award, be legal.
Therein lies the difference between section 30 of the principal act and the amendment that is before us. Under section 30 the whole of the award of a State tribunal which clashes with a Federal award is invalid, and the Federal award is supreme, whereas this clause singles out any part of a State award which deals with any matter dealt with or is inconsistent with any matter or part of a dispute dealt with in the Federal Court. The State court will still be at liberty to make an award in relation to any matter that has not been incorporated in an award made by the Federal court, but if in any part of the State award there is an inconsistency with the Federal award, the State award does not operate. Assuming that the Federal court grants two-thirds of a long list of requests made by unions, it is obvious that a State award covering any of the matters embraced in the two-thirds granted by the Federal court will become invalid so far as they are inconsistent with the Federal award, but in future, if the union applies to a State court for an award on any matter that may have been included in the one-third of its requests which was not granted by the Federal court, the fact that it has already been dealt with by the latter court, although an award may not have been made in regard to it, will render invalid any decision’ of the State court in regard to it. That is my interpretation of this clause, and I am fortified in my opinion by men of legal training and with considerable experience in arbitration courts. I should like to hear the Minister explain the reason for the introduction of this amendment. If he can prove that the Constitution requires that parts of awards must not be inconsistent, we are perforce compelled to accept the clause. But until I hear him give that explanation I must maintain my opinion that the proposal contained in this clause is unfair.
-The clause does not alter the existing principle. It merely extends it and clarifies it in the light of several High Court decisions where awards have clashed in the past.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 26 (Validity of State awards and orders).
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [4.41 a.m.]. - In order to test the professed anxiety of honorable senators opposite to learn the reasons for the insertion of various provisions of this bill - to see whether it is an attempt on their part to waste time or a genuine desire for knowledge - I propose to anticipate their remarks on this clause and perhaps save a quarter of an hour by explaining its meaning and showing what effect it will have. As I said in my second-reading speech, the object of the Government in inserting these provisions relating to the validity of ‘State awards is to prevent overlapping. This is attempted in two ways: in the first place by giving the Federal Court power to say that any case is a matter that should be dealt with by a State tribunal and to decline to hear it, and in the second place by giving it power to prevent a State tribunal from dealing with a case, and to declare that it is a matter for the Federal Arbitration Court. That is the meaning of the clause, and if I talked for two hours I could’ not say anything that would better explain its meaning. ‘
– We are getting on famously. The Minister has spoken and has explained everything in a few words, at the same time hinting that we on this side of the chamber are deliberately delaying the proceedings of the committee. When we remember that another place took four weeks to discuss this bill, I think that we are treating the Government very well. There is something more to be said about this clause than what the Minister has told us. We were informed that the purpose of the preceding clause was to clarify the provision in the original act and give effect to decisions of the High Court. Evidently the process of clarification is to go on. The clause now before us has a much more farreaching effect, and bears an altogether different aspect from that which has been placed on it by the Minister in his usual offhand style. It gives employers the right to apply to the Federal Court to knock out awards made by. a State court with which they may be dissatisfied. There is no question here of any clashing between a Federal and a State award. Proposed new section 30a (1) provides -
Any person interested may apply to the court for a declaration that a State law dealing with an industrial matter or an award, or determination of a State industrial authority is invalid under section 30 of this act.
I call attention to the words “ an industrial matter “. The State court can determine an industrial matter which may not be an industrial dispute. This has been definitely stated by an ex-President of the Arbitration Court, who is now a member of the High Court.. An organization of employers dissatisfied with an award of the State court may apply to have it disallowed. I contend that where an award of the State tribunal does not clash with a Federal law it should remain operative. The term “ industrial matter “ may act as a drag-net bringing in various State awards. Therefore the clause will have a far-reaching effect. The Arbitration Court in Western Australia is working well and scarcely any objection is taken to its awards or the agreements registered under it; but under this clause it is competent for an employers’ organization to appeal to the Federal court against its decisions. I conceive that the clause will pave the way for industrial unrest, and will render the splendid work of the State tribunals nugatory. In view of the recent decision of the High Court, the amendments of the principal act contained in clause 25 are sufficient to establish the supremacy of the Federal law. The judgment of the High Court to which I have referred makes interesting reading. The dissenting judge, Mr. Justice Higgins, definitely declared that there was a vast defference between an industrial matter and an industrial dispute. He remarked “ To consider a common subject for a different purpose is not to deal with a Commonwealth dispute “. Again, referring to the conciliation committee in New South Wales appointed under the aegis of the industrial court there, he said “ The approach of the committee to the subject of labour conditions is not through the gate of disputes”. I contend that the Minister’s statement does not go far enough. Apart from the constitutional aspect, after a matter had been decided by a State tribunal or any subordinate authority under it, such as a conciliation committee or a board of reference that obtains under some awards, it could be moved to the Federal court with a view to cancelling or varying the award.
– I thought that clause 25 would have given the Commonwealth tri bunal all the power required to deal with the determination of industrial authorites that were inconsistent with Federal Swards. The proposed new section 30a, sub-section 1, means added trouble and expense for the workers in obtaining awards or determinations by a State industrial authority. In Victoria we have wages boards composed of representatives of employers and employees and an independent chairman. Although some organizations are working peacefully under determinations of those boards, any person may on giving 28 days’ notice apply, under this provision, to the Federal court for a declaration that a wages board determination is invalid. The court must hear the evidence and determine the application, and may make such declaration as it thinks just. If that does not mean the employment of more lawyers, I do not understand the English language. No person would make an application unless he was advised legally to do so, and unless he felt sure he could prove that the award was invalid under the proposed new section. Then the persons working under the award would be forced to employ a lawyer to defend their case. The Government appears to be anxious to open to lawyers a field that they had not an opportunity to enter under the original act, unless by the consent of both parties. I see no necessity for the clause and shall vote against it.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 27 (Security on reference).
– This clause amends section 33 of the principal act, which provides that the Chief Judge may, at any time, require from an organization submitting an industrial dispute to the court, security for the due performance of the award, and in default of such security being forthcoming he may order a stay of proceedings. The penalty provided in the act is £200. This sympathetic Government, that desires to promote and maintain peace in industry, that professes to have the interests of the worker at heart, presents a blunderbuss at the head of trade unions in the form of this amendment, increasing the security from £200 to £500. I admit the imperative necessity to require a security for the proper observance of awards ; but it is an outrage to ask industrial organizations to put up £500. Honorable senators supporting the Government have protested, all through the debate, that they desire to deal equitably with all sections of the community. There are 29 employers’ organizations, and 149 employees’ organizations registered in the Arbitration Court. I venture to say that the wealth represented by the former organizations is immeasurably greater than the wealth represented by the latter bodies. Even if that were not so, there is no reason why the amount of security should be increased. I can only conclude that the Government is determined to harass and embarrass industrial organizations, even to the extent of crippling them financially. Many such bodies of workmen have never had £200 to their credit in the bank, and if this clause is carried, they will have to mortgage part of their assets to raise the additional sum demanded. The provision will operate with particular severity on an organization that might have been fighting a case in the court for months and be short of funds. Senator Hoare instanced the cost of Arbitration Court proceedings to the tramways’ union, the expenditure in that case being £6,000. I remember it very well, because I was an executive officer of the Australian Tramway Employees’ Association at the time and represented the Perth, Fremantle and Kal- goorliebranches. In the end, that organization Was practically bankrupt, and to make the position worse, the High Court decided that the Arbitration Court had no jurisdiction, so the award disappeared. I have mentioned also the protracted hearing in connexion with the railways’ case. Sir John Quick, Deputy President, has been engaged upon the claim for seven months, and I understand that he is a long way from the end of it yet. In circumstances such as these, it is manifestly unfair to expect industrial organizations to find a security of £500.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided:
Ayes . . . . . . 16
Noes . . . . 5
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 28 to 31 agreed to.
Clause 32 (Court to consider propriety of dealing with dispute - Cancellation of award).
– I direct the attention of honorable senators to proposed new section 38c, which is provided for by this clause, and reads -
The court shall, in the case of every industrial dispute, consider in the course of the hearing and as promptly as possible, if there is anything in the nature or circumstances of the industry, or any other reason, which makes it more desirable that the dispute or any part of it should be dealt with by the court than by any State industrial authority, or by State industrial authorities in the several States, and, unless the court so declares, it shall dismiss, or refrain from further hearing or determining, the dispute or part.
I should like to have the Minister’s interpretation of the words “ more desirable.” I wish to direct attention also to sub-section 2 of the proposed new section 38d, which reads as follows : -
During the period of suspension or cancellation, no person affected as a present or past member of the organization by the suspension or cancellation shall be entitled to the benefit of any other order or award in force, and every such order or award shall cease to apply to the employment of those persons.
That, to my mind, is vindictive.
– It is time that the courthad the power to do something of this sort.
– In the opinion of the honorable senator, it is time that the court killed arbitration. Not content with cancelling the award and depriving the members of the organization of its benefits, it pursues those members to other employment. If they enter that employment they are not to reap the benefit of any award which governs it. Is that British fair-play?
– It prevents those persons from carrying on white-anting operations in other unions.
– I am concerned not with white-anting, but with equity, justice, and fair-play.
– It is red-anting that the honorable senator favours.
– There is nothing red about me or the party to which I belong. The cancellation of the award is a sufficient penalty. If a member of an organization whose award has been cancelled secures employment in some other industry which, through its organization, is registered in the court, and enjoys the benefits of an award or agreement, why should he be deprived of those benefits ?
– If he is not amenable to discipline in one union he will not be in another.
– The court should not work on that supposition ; it is not equity. Such a man may be weeks out of employment, yet when he secures it he and those who are dependent upon him are to be further punished. I should like the Minister to explain the reason for this provision.
[5.20 a.m.]. - The proposed new section 38c is designed to prevent overlapping. It provides that, ;n the case of every industrial dispute, the first question the court has to ask itself is - whether the dispute can be best settled by the Commonwealth or the State court. If it considers that it is a Federal dispute, it must exclude all State awards; but if, on the other hand, it considers that it is a State dispute, it must forward it to the State tribunal, and no Federal award must apply to it.
The proposed new section 38d provides that where an organization does something in the nature of a lockout or a strike, or commits any other breach, the award of that organization shall be cancelled. It is well known that some unions have in their ranks men who follow different occupations. There may be an award for a particular industry, such as the making of jam or biscuits. Carpenters or tinsmiths may be employed in that industry. The union connected with tha jam-making or biscuit-making may do something in the nature of a strike. What would be the use of cancelling thi? general award if the carpenters or tinsmiths could fall back on the award which related to their particular calling? The proposed new section provides that if there is anything in the nature of a strike in that industry, not only shall the award covering the industry be cancelled but also that those persons shall not benefit from any awards which cover their particular trades.
– A careful examination of this provision reveals the fact that men who, in the opinion of the court, have been guilty of certain breaches of the act, are not to be allowed to work under existing awards.. There are either State or Federal awards iu all industries. Are those men to be denied employment? If they find other employment, they must be paid the ruling rates of wages, or the men who are receiving those rates will not work alongside them. What is to become of them?
– They must obey the awards of the court.
– Some men have conscientious reasons for taking a certain course. Why should they be followed from place to place and prevented from working under awards of the court? What are they to do?
– They must repent.
– I am surprised at an old trade unionist saying that they must repent when they do something which they consider is right.
– They have broken the law.
– Laws have been broken from time immemorial. I remember the time when the present Leader of the Government in the Senate had not the greatest respect for the law. He has passed through the school of adversity. In some of his early speeches he told the people of Australia, through the columns of Hansard, the hardships that were inflicted on him and the boycott that was applied to him when he was a working carpenter. Now he wishes to apply the boycott to other men if they happen to act in contravention of this provision.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 33 to 44 agreed to.
Clause 45 (Members of organization may demand secret ballot).
– This clause amends section56 of the principal act which reads -
Any association applying to be registered as an organization may on application to the Chief Judge obtain power to adopt and may thereupon adopt any rules to enable it to comply with the prescribed conditions as part of its rules, and any rules adopted in pursuance of this section shall, notwithstanding anything in the constitution or rules of the association be binding on the members of the association.
It provides that any ten members of an organization may demand a secret ballot. That is an entirely new departure. I have previously indicated that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are in favour of the principle of the secret ballot, which principle is embodied in the rules of the various industrial organizations registered under the act. The officers of the industrial organizations are elected under that system so that the application of the principle to trade unionism is not new.
– Then why object to it?
– It is the method of application and not the principle to which we object.
– What does the honorable senator suggest?
– I suggest that it would be better to cast this measure into the wastepaper basket and continue under the act now in operation. Ten men may singly or collectively apply to the court for a secret ballot. They can first apply to the judge, and secondly to the Registrar, and if the direction of the judge that a secret ballot should be taken is not complied with, the organization may be penalized to the extent of £500. If the Registrar’s instructions that a ballot be held are not obeyed the penalty is £100. We are placing extraordinary powers in the hands of individuals who may be acting contrary to the policy of the organization.
– One member of an organization could not do that. He could only apply to the judge.
– I am aware that the ultimate determination rests with the judge, but too much power should not be placed in the hands of one individual, particularly in the matter of making application to the court.
– Is it not a fact that individual members cannot apply to the court for a ballot unless the union has refused to grant one?
– That does not improve the position. Ten disgruntled men may be able to exercise authority over 10,000 men.
– They have only the right to apply to the court.
– It is placing too much power in the hands of minorities and creating Mussolinis in organizations. Some honorable senators seem to be under the impression that an application for a secret ballot can be made only when a strike is pending, but a ballot can be conducted on the subject matter of any resolution, the appointment of officers, or any affairs of domestic concern to an organization. The Minister said that the court need not grant the request; that it would first decide whether the situation warranted the holding of a ballot. I do not see that there is any necessity for the court being asked to move in that direction, particularly when the request has not been made by a majority of the members of the organization. It would take months to conduct a ballot among the members of the Australian “Workers Union.
– This provision would not apply to the whole of the Australian Workers Union, but only to the section of workers affected.
– It must apply to the whole organization.
– No, only to the section of the organization affected.
– A secret ballot can be demanded to ascertain the opinion of members on any domestic matter, and in connexion with which there is to be no absent voting.
– Not necessarily; with or without absent voting.
– That is so, but while we make provision in our electoral law for postal and absent votes within a State, we are prepared to allow a judge of the Arbitration Court to give directions for the conduct of a secret ballot under the control of an officer of the court without provision for absent voting. Proposed section 56c provides -
Honorable senators will see that the whole organization is likely to be affected.
– - Only if the matter affects the whole organization.
– Can the honorable senator conceive of a dispute which involves the wharf labourers of Port Darwin and the fruit pickers of Mildura, yet they are both sections of the Australian Workers’ Union.
– I have seen a dispute started in a small section of an industry which has threatened to involve a general upheaval. No matter how well conducted an organization may be, there are always some men who need to be disciplined. The Australian Workers’ Union, which has been held up as a paragon, has frequently found it necessary to discipline some of its members. An organization will not have the opportunity to state its side of a case before a judge determines whether or not a ballot shall be held. As a nation, Australia objects to the interference of other nations in matters of domestic concern. For instance, we will not submit to dictation in regard to our White Australia policy, because we regard it as a matter of domestic concern.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– This clause is most objectionable to the Labour party. We regard it as almost insulting to the intelligence of those who are entrusted with the responsibilities attaching to the management of unions. The Government declares that it wishes to give the members of trade unions a voice in the management of their own affairs. Members of the unions have always had an opportunity to express their opinions on a matter concerning the organizations to which they belong. The office-bearers in every organization I am aware of are appointed by the majority of its members. Sometimes special meetings are convened for a particular purpose. They are usually well attended, but although the motions submitted at one of those meetings may be almost unanimously agreed to, a ballot may be demanded if there are ten men present who are perhaps displeased with the manner in which the chairman has submitted the motions. It may be that they have some dislike to the office-bearers. It may be that they are disgruntled. In any organization there are always ten men who do not see eye to eye with the majority. It is quite an easy matter to make the pathway of labour difficult by giving ten men in an organization the right to demand a secret ballot.
– At their own meetings.
– After a motion had been carried almost unanimously by a meeting, I think any one would object strenuously if ten discontented individuals could demand the holding of a secret ballot. Proposed section 56c provides : -
Any number of members of an organization not less than ten may apply in writing to the registrar for directions that a secret ballot shall bc taken by the organization or a branch thereof upon any question affecting the organization or branch.
Any ten men will thus. be in a position to demand the holding of a secret ballot in regard to the appointment of an officer. Proposed sub-section (6) of proposed section 56c provides that if a judge is satisfied that ten of the persons applying are members of the organization affected, and that the application is bona fide and relates to a matter of substantial importance, he may give directions for a secret ballot to be taken upon the question. He may regard the appointment of an officer as a matter of substantial importance. Ten disgruntled men in a union may put their organization to endless expense merely because they are dissatisfied with the election of an officer, and if the court is not satisfied that the ballot has been properly conducted it may direct another ballot to be held at the expense of the union. It is compulsory to take a ballot, but no provision is made in the bill for compulsory or effective voting. Under our electoral law we are compelled to go to the poll, but that act cannot make us record effective votes. If a ballot were forced on the great majority of the members of an organization because of ten disgruntled men,’ we should know what result to expect, especially from seafaring men. Probably most of the ballot-papers would be torn up and thrown overboard. There are no stronger advocates of the secret ballot than members of the Labour party. As a matter of fact, most of the labour organizations make provision in their rules for the taking of ballots on important questions. These are invariably taken for the election of officers when more persons are nominated than are required for the positions to be filled. The Government must have some ulterior motive in bringing down these provisions. Is it suggested that the unions do not manage their own affairs satisfactorily? The officers are elected not by small coteries of members, but at least by a majority of the members of the organizations. Many of the officers, because of their mature judgment and experience, are elected unanimously. In some of the organizations there are members who are not too well disposed towards the Arbition Act.
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).
The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– It has been said that senators on this side are convinced that the sole object of the bill is to cripple trade unionism completely. If there is any warrant for that statement, it is to be found in this more than in any other clause. A secret ballot, as proposed to be taken, would be absurd, because it might be ordered on the application of ten disgruntled persons who could be placed in a union by a body of employers for the sole purpose of smashing the organization. To allow such a provision to become law would be not only absurd, but also criminal. Probably more than ten members of the Australian Workers’ Union, for instance, could be induced to approach the court and ask for a secret ballot regarding the price of membership tickets. These now cost 25s., and a vote might be asked for on the questions of reducing the price to 15s. The officers of that organization are elected by a secret ballot.
– It is not secret.
– It is as secret as any ballot can be, because nobody but the member voting knows how he votes. The ten disgruntled persons might be in dead earnest and put up a reasonably good argument in support of the application.
– I do not think the court would be likely to act on their suggestion.
– But we ought to be sure about it. The vote would have to be taken at the expense of the organization, and it would cost at least £1,000. If any doubt were felt about the accuracy of the ballot, it would be possible to cause a second ballot to be held under the supervision of the court and at the further expense of the union. Then, later, another ten disgruntled members might feel that the scope of the organization should be widened for the benefit of the members, and that to enable this to be done the annual membership fee should be increased from 25s. to £2. I have no doubt that a fairly good case could be made out along these lines, and an order for the taking of a ballot could be secured. Subsequently, another ten persons might say that they were dissatisfied with the number of hours which members worked. They could tell the court that the organization was spending its money in a stupid and hopeless agitation for a 40-hour week. They might apply for a secret ballot to determine whether the members could be required to work 40 hours or 50 hours. As a matter of fact, a strong case for a ballot might be advanced, and the court might agree to the application. If the ten men could present as good a case as the party opposite tries to make out, the court would probably grant their request. The members of the court would probably hold Tory views. It would be quite an easy matter for the union to be landed with an expenditure of £2,000 or £3,000 on such ballots in a year, with the result that funds needed for its legitimate work would be diverted to this useless channel. In the following year another ten members of the organization might contend that it was spending too much money on conducting newspapers, and a vote could bc demanded on that. It would take about six: months to hold the ballot, and another £1,000 would be spent.
– The court would not countenance that sort of thing.
– We do not know that. The court is to be given the right to order these ballots.
– The court can order a ballot on any matter at the present time.
– Yes, but it would only do it if there was an industrial disturbance. If we are stupid enough to put this tremendous power into the hands of ten men, it will not be difficult to impress the court with the wisdom of granting such applications. Parliament is the master of the judges of this country.
– The judges must act under the laws passed by this Parliament.
– The honorable senator suggested that we dictate to the judges as to what they are to do.
– No; I said that we are the masters. We make the laws, and the judges interpret them. This provision will cripple many organizations. The judges will regard it as a direction of Parliament. It is not fair to place so much power in the -hands of ten men. In all seriousness, I tell honorable senators that it is an impossible proposal. I cannot understand how any responsible member in this chamber can be in favour of it. The members of my union run a mortuary fund and a funeral benefit fund. Other unions have similar funds. All these matters may be the subject of requests by ten members of an organization for secret ballots. Consequently, the unions will be everlastingly taking ballots for no good purpose whatever.
– Does the honorable senator’s union pay death benefits?
– No; but we run a funeral fund.
– That would be extra.
– Yes. Contributions to it do not come out of the membership. Other organizations have their own special funds, and ten members of a union may be able to persuade a judge of the desirableness of taking secret ballots in respect of them. It has been said that the marine cooks are to blame for the present dispute on the waterfront, because they did not take a ballot to determine their course of action. I was in Sydney the other day, and I know that, when officers of the Australian Council of Trade Unions attempted to attend a meeting of the cooks, they were shut out. But the cooks were there in strong force, and I have no doubt whatever that the decision of that meeting represented the view of a substantia] number of the members of that union. The same thing happened in Brisbane. It is absurb to say that the affairs of trade unions are conducted contrary to the wishes of their members. In most organizations, mine included. fifteen members can compel the general secretary to call a general meeting at any time, provided they give the required notice, to discuss matters of importance to the membership. The members of my organization would almost tear me limb from limb if I dared to disobey their instructions, and I can imagine that other organizations would do the same if their leaders failed to consult them. It is ridiculous, therefore, to say that members of trade unions do not control their paid officials. There must be some powerful motive behind this provision in the bill. I remind the Government and its supporters that the leaders of industrial organizations are not all stupid people, and they are not all dishonest. They do not desire to do an injury to this country or to their fellow-workmen. When we go out into the country to tell our members about this amending bill, they will want to know what has actuated the Government, and we shall be called upon to explain our attitude in regard to it.
– Does the honorable senator say that fifteen members of his union can compel the general secretary to call a general meeting?
The CHAIRMAN (Senator Plain).The honorable senator’s time has expired.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [6.20 a.m.]. - I propose first to deal with Senator Needham’s misstatement in regard to the clause. He said that no opportunity will be given to an organization to show cause why a secret ballot should not be held in respect of any particular matter. I direct his attention to proposed section 56f, which reads as follows: - (1.) Any order or directions made or given by the court or a judge under section fifty-six b, fifty-six o, fifty-six d, or fifty-six B of this Act for the taking of a secret ballot of an organization or of a branch of an organization shall, in the first instance, be provisional, and notice thereof shall be given by the Registrar by registered letter to the secretary of the organization or branch concerned. (2.) The secretary of the organization or branch may thereupon forward a statement in writing upon the matter to the Registrar for submission to the Judge dealing with the matter, and, in particular, may state whether the organization or branch will itself take, within any and what period, a secret ballot upon the question, or will take any other action in relation thereto. (3.) Upon the expiration of fourteen days from the - date of the provisional order the Judge shall make the order final or set aside the order.
Provided, however, that the Judge may adjourn the matter for such period as he thinks proper.
Those provisions meet practically all the objections which Senator Barnes has raised to the clause. I listened with a good deal of attention to the honorable senator, because I know that he is absolutely earnest in regard to all matters pertaining to unionism, and particularly anything that affects the Australian Workers’ Union, with which he is identified. I have no doubt that he really believes everything that he has said ; but I am equally certain that he is entirely mistaken about the meaning of the provisions. I remind the Senate that this amending bill is intended to deal, not so much with the internal government of trade unions, as with means for the settlement of industrial disputes. It is not a bill to deal with trade union matters in the same way that a Friendly Societies Bill might be expected to deal with friendly societies, and, therefore, its provisions are not particularly directed to the internal administration of industrial organizations. The main purpose is to provide the machinery for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes. It will riot be the function of the court to inquire into all the minutiae of trade union matters, such as, for example, the employment of trade union funds for the establishment of labour newspapers, or even the balances to the credit of the various organizations, though the court will exercise some oversight of moneys contributed by members. These matters, will be touched only incidentally by the provisions of this bill. The judges of the Arbitration Court will interpret the bill in the light of the functions of the court, which are directed to the settlement of industrial disputes. When, therefore, a request is received from some branch of the Australian Workers’ Union or other organization for a secret ballot, the judge will take all these matters into consideration, and if he believes that the application is a reasonable one, he may call upon the secretary of the organization or branch to submit reasons why a ballot should not be held. The application may be for a ballot on certain questions in respect of which the members of an organization might not care to let it be known how they vote, for fear that they might be prejudiced in the eyes of their fellow unionists, or in the eyes of their employers. The judge may see very good reasons why, in such circumstances, members should have the right to determine certain issues by a secret ballot. If, however, members of an organization such as the Australian Workers Union put forward a request for a ballot concerning such questions as the establishment of a labour newspaper, the judge would immediately decide that it was not the function of the court, and would decline to order a ballot. I feel sure that Senator Barnes has conjured up a nightmare of objections, though I have no doubt that he is perfectly sincere in what he has said. I am glad that he has told us what is in his mind, because it has given me the opportunity to assure him that he is under a misapprehension. Tho purpose of the bill is to meet a situation caused by a section of industrial leaders, men of strong wills and dominating personalities, who have given evidence of their intention to take a certain line of action. The honorable senator knows perfectly well that in all organizations there are members who like to be on the side of those who shout the loudest, and that if an open vote is taken in respect of any particular industrial matter of importance, their hands go up with the crowd, although they really believe that other action should be taken. In circumstances such as these, the secret ballot will be a valuable instrument for good. May I give my own experience as a trade unionist? Very many years ago it was decided to call a meeting of carpenters in Perth, with the object of supporting a demand of non-unionists for an increase in wages, which at that time were 10s. a day. There was no arbitration court at that time, and the spirit of unionism was not much in evidence. The movement for an increase in wages really came from the non-unionists, who were in a substantial majority. I suppose that, all told, there were about 400 carpenters in Perth, of whom only 45 were unionists. I was the unfortunate secretary of the local union. We formulated a request for lis. a day, but gave six weeks’ notice to our employers, because there was not a great deal of work going on at the time, and the employers had made contracts for work which would last . for about six weeks, on the basis of 10s. a day. We did not desire to take advantage of them, and place them in a difficult position by a sudden demand for an increase in wages. In those days I was quite a novice in the art of public speaking. I was chosen to move the motion, and I did so. Then there stepped on the platform an orator who afterwards made his mark in Melbourne and other centres - Montague Miller. He was a working carpenter, and one of the finest orators in Australia. He was not a unionist. He moved an amendment that a wage of 12s. a day be demanded. In a wild and impassioned speech he swept aside my arguments and made me appear ridiculous. He roused that mass meeting to a tremendous pitch of enthusiasm. As he was stepping off the platform he demanded that the vote be taken. The chairman rose to his feet and put the question. By an overwhelming majority my motion was defeated and his amendment was carried. He dismissed with scorn the suggestion that six weeks’ notice be given, and at his instigation it was decided that the notice should -expire on the following Monday. I, as the secretary of the union, had then to serve the notice on the employers. The Monday arrived. The employers refused to accede to our demand, and 400 men went on strike. Before a week had expired the number was reduced to 200, and by the end of the following week only the 45 unionists were still out. All the non-unionists were back at work, and were receiving only the 10s. a day they were previously being paid. I was out of work for a month, because my name was passed round as that of the union secretary who had served the notice. If there had been a secret ballot that vote would have been entirely different. Those men were simply swept off their feet by the enthusiasm and the impassioned language of Montague Miller, not by the logic of his arguments. Senator Barnes knows very well that- in a mass meeting of that character it is not possible to obtain the calm judgment of the men. That is what the secret ballot is designed to bring about. Under these provisions the men will not be swept away by a wild harangue, but will sit down calmly, think the matter out, and register a vote according to an unfettered judgment.
– I thank the Leader of the Senate for his convincing speech and the effective manner in which he has swept aside the bogies that have been raised in connexion with this provision. In introducing this principle, the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) is carrying out a promise made at the last election, which was responsible for placing him in the position that he occupies to-day. I have no complaint to make with regard to the scope of this particular provision. I should be willing to enlarge it. The wives of trade unionists, who undertake the responsibility of rearing a family and keeping the home as it should be kept, should be consulted before men take extreme action.
– What would the single men in the unions say to such a proposal ?
– A great deal of the suffering which to-day is caused to the wives and children of trade unionists is brought about by the irresponsible young trade unionists, who regard it as a good joke to go on strike, congregate in the streets, blackguard the capitalists, and let off hot air, all of which will not buy bread and butter.
– When I previously addressed myself to this clause I referred to the fact that we objected to any nation interfering with matters that concern our domestic policy, particularly the White Australia policy that we cherish so highly. Addressing a meeting the other day, the Prime Minister said that the Labour party had denounced the White Australia policy. I emphatically contradict such an assertion. We are as loyal to that policy to-day as we have always been.
Senator Pearce has read a sub section which he claims proves that an organization will be consulted before a ballot is ordered by the judge. The proposed section 56d has a direct bearing on his contention. It reads: -
The court may order at any stage of the proceedings in relation to a dispute that any matter upon which the court thinks fit to ascertain the views of the members of an organization …. be submitted to. a vote of the members …. taken by secret ballot……
The organization which has to take the secret ballot cannot, of its own volition, appear before the judge and state its side of the case. Therefore Senator Pearce was not strictly correct when he said that it could. In any other court of law both sides have the right to appear either personally or by counsel; but in connexion with any industrial matter, ten members of an organization can apply to the judge to order a secret ballot. The organization itself cannot put its case before the court unless the judge thinks fit.
I also join issue with the right honorable gentleman in his statement that the whole of an organization such as the Australian Workers’ Union, cannot become involved in a dispute. Supposing a Federal organization, in the event of failure to secure a 44-hour week for its members throughout Australia went on strike, and the Australian Workers’ Union struck in sympathy, would not a nation-wide ballot have to be taken to ascertain the wishes of its members?
There is another point.- When a ballot is to be taken the judge can decide whether there shall be absent voting. Therefore we propose to place in our arbitration law, a provision that does not appear in our electoral law. If the Government is so keen on the principle of the secret ballot, and believes that the workers and their respective organizations desire the privilege, let it withdraw the bill and submit it to a ballot of the workers of this country through their organizations. That would be a true test of whether the workers want it or not. The Government will not take that action, because it knows that 95 per cent, of the workers would reject this application of the principle.
Another dangerous phase of this application of the principle is that while, the court is doing its best to settle an industrial dispute, any ten members of an organization can apply for a ballot, and even at that stage the judge can order it to be taken. That will mean further delay, greater cost, and more misery. The penalties provided for any refusal to comply with an order of the judge are outrageous. For one class of offence the penalty is £500, for another class £100, and for a third class £50. The Minister has not shown how a properly representative vote of either an organization or a branch can be obtained; first, because it may be conducted without provisions for absent voting; secondly, because the system proposed to be applied is not a compulsory one; and thirdly, the men can purposely make their ballot papers informal. It would be impossible for any judge or any court to determine who had voted. A good deal of expense and trouble would be involved and possibly not more than 30 per cent, of the members of the organization would record a valid vote. The system proposed is unwieldy, impracticable and unwarranted.
– I have followed the discussion on this subject very closely, and. regret that, Senator Barnes is temporarily absent from the chamber, as I intended to reply to his statement that 15 members of the Australian Workers’ Union can if necessary convene a general meeting of that organization, which consists of possibly 150,000 members, to discuss any subject of interest to that organization. It is about time honorable senators opposite admitted that the shearers, for instance, would not be asked to vote on a question which concerned only navvies engaged on railway work or men employed in sewerage construction. When an application is made to the court for a secret ballot the court will decide if the request is applicable, and can refuse to accede to it. Judges who have had years of experience in arbitration are not likely to authorize a procedure which will cause a good deal of inconvenience and expense to the unions, or will affect the public interest. Honorable senators opposite persist in putting up a lot of “aunt sallies,” instead of considering the facts. When the Australian Workers’ Union wishes to conduct a ballot amongst, say, those engaged in the shearing industry, the ballot papers are sent ‘ to delegates, who , distribute them amongst the members. There is no secrecy, as I have seen the ballot-papers taken to the sheds, distributed, marked and openly returned to the delegate. When ballot-papers are circulated in this way to men employed at shearing sheds, railway camps or sewerage construction works, it is easy for those who handle them to ascertain how any member has voted. If they were placed in an envelope possibly they would be opened. When speaking on the motion for the second reading of this bill I referred” to the South Johnstone dispute in Queensland, which temporarily paralysed railway transport and industry generally in that State. A secret ballot at the outset would have prevented all that trouble, but the branch executive had not the courage to act. Those engaged in the sugar industry were afraid of the strike extending, but the executive ir Brisbane did not do anything and Mr. Riordan had not the courage to tell the men, who were sitting idly by and being maintained by means of levies, which were being collected to the extent of 20s. or 25s. from other unionists, to return to work. I have the utmost confidence in the judges of the Arbitration Court, and am sure they will not countenance any undue interference with the domestic affairs of an organization. Senator Barnes referred to the possibility of the Worker newspaper, which is in a very sound financial position, being wiped out, but the judge would say that a matter such as the honorable senator mentioned was one with which the court would not deal. If honorable senators opposite submit any proposal for the protection of unionists, I shall support them. I have discussed the subject of a secret ballot with some of the best authorities and have endeavoured to ascertain whether a better system than that proposed could be adopted. Even if the number of persons who have the right to apply to the court for a secret ballot were increased, it would not make much difference. Most of us are moral cowards and it is difficult to get men to openly record a vote. A secret ballot would provide a means of obtaining a reliable opinion from the men and the principle embodied in this bill is one which I strongly support.
– The Minister (Senator Pearce), in replying to the statements of Senator Barnes, did not touch upon the main issue. He endeavoured to lead us to believe that this provision applies only to industrial disputes. It is an all-embracng clause, and embodies an unwarranted interference with the domestic management of trade unions. The election of officers or the appointment of a committee of management has nothing to do with an industrial dispute. A special meeting of the Australian Workers’ Union may he summoned for the purpose of imposing a levy to raise funds to establish the Sydney paper called The World, for which the building and plant have been ready for years past. The meeting may be almost unanimously in favour of imposing the levy, but ten members present at the meeting may take exception to the proposal, and demand a secret ballot.
– Does the honorable senator not think that the judge would take all those facts into consideration before ordering a secret ballot?
– According to Senator pearce, the judge would, come to the conclusion that the matter had nothing to do with an industrial dispute, but the case I am citing has, in my opinion, a great deal to do with the clause. First of all, ten men have power to demand the ballot, and, on an appeal being made to the court, the court may decide that a ballot has to be taken. It would probably decide that a ballot should be taken if one were demanded in the case of any of the matters referred to by Senator Barnes. If the powers proposed to be conferred on ten men and a judge of the Arbitration Court were to be carried out rigidly, the management of trade unions would be almost impossible, and the unions would be put to a great deal of unnecessary expense. Never have the unions carried out their business in a way more eminently satisfactory to their members than since the great maritime strike of the nineties. These provisions for secret ballots are viewed with grave suspicion by members of unionistic organizations. It may be true that the judge will not order a secret ballot to be taken unless full justification is shown for taking one. Nevertheless, the power exists by which ten men may demand a ballot on any resolution or in respect of the appointment of officers and committees. The great bulk of the unionists of Australia do not treat this clause lightly. They would not be spending their time and their money in the issue of literature and in the engagement of the principal halls in capital cities and in country towns, and in arranging meetings at different factories and institutions, if they did not take a serious view of this and other objectionable provisions in the bill, and did not believe that the objective of the Government was to weaken trade unionism.
– Unionism has been stronger in Australia than it is to-day.
– It is stronger to-day than it ever has been.
– I have no hesitation in saying that arbitration awards have assisted in strengthening the unions by increasing their membership, and that improved conditions of labour have resulted from the awards of the Arbitration Court. Many people derive benefits from those awards who did little or nothing to bring the Arbitration Court into existence for the purpose of settling or, .at any rate, minimizing strikes. It has achieved that purpose, and whilst the unions have on occasion found fault with the costliness of getting plaints heard and with the frequent delays, they have not anticipated that the act would be amended as is now proposed. I believe that the Government has no other purpose than to restrict the growth of unionism.
– No one would be stupid enough to attempt such a thing.
– Why, then, doe? the Government propose to set up barriers and difficulties in respect to the domestic control of unionism?
– In order to make unions more democratic.
– There is nothing democratic in allowing ten men to rule 10,000.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– As a member of the Australian Workers’ Union for many years, I agree with others that the restrictions in this bill will hamper organizations in their legitimate functions. If there is nothing in this clause to enable the Government to secure a strangle-hold on the unions, I do not know why it has been inserted in the bill. When I was serving my time at a trade in New Zealand apprentices were not allowed to join unions. I was apprenticed to an old English boss who would shoot at sight the first unionist he met. In my opinion the clause will not have the effect that honorable senators opposite imagine it will. It will strain the relations between unionists and their employers. The rules of the majority of the organizations provide for the taking of secret ballots, if it is thought necessary to hold them. I remember attending union meetings in Kalgoorlie at which secret ballots were demanded and held. Why should ten men in a large organization be permitted to approach the court for a secret ballot of the whole of the members ? One of the worse features of the provision is that the names of the applicants will be kept secret. If they desire such a ballot they should be prepared to stand up openly and let their fellow workers know that they want it. We should not encourage back-door tactics. It is impossible to say how far-reaching the effects of this clause will be, because it will make it possible to force ballots by subterfuge. I oppose the clause.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 46 to 48 agreed to.
Clause 49 (Application for cancellation of registration).
. - This is another penal clause, and it falls within the category of some of its predecessors. It amends section 60 of the principal act, which provides : - (1.) If it appears to the court, on the application of any organization or person interested or of the Registrar -
There are a number of other sub-sections of a similar nature. Stringent as are the provisions in the principal act, they are less stringent than those embodied in the clause, which is so drastic that it will make it increasingly difficult for organizations to continue along the path of peace. I intend to oppose the clause.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 50 (No resignation, &c, of member while dispute pending).
– This clause repeals section 61 which reads -
During the pendency of any dispute or matter before the court no resignation of or discharge from the membership of any organization shall have effect. ‘
I hope that the Minister will be able to advance a stronger argument to justify the repeal of section 61 than was given by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) in another place when this clause was under discussion. Section 61 was inserted in the act for a very good reason. It afforded protection to an employees organization whenever a dispute was before the court. Possibly one reason why it is now being repealed is that it has given such organizations a certain amount of protection. The Attorney-General in his attempt to justify the clause said that members of a union might be employed on some other work which would necessitate their leaving one union to join another. His argument was lamentably weak. There has never been an instance of a member of an industrial organization being forced unfairly to pay dues to an organization. The rule bearing on this matter requires a member of the union to give three months’ notice in writing of his intention to resign, and to pay all his contributions to the end of that period. In some cases members have attempted to defy the rule with the result that legal action has been taken against them and the amount of contributions due has been recovered. Section 61 has proved a useful provision and I hope that it will not be repealed.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 51 (Suspension or expulsion of member of organization).
– This clause also is an unwarrantable interference with the domestic affairs of an organization. It contains a number of sub-sections which authorize the committee of management, in certain circumstances, to suspend or expel a member of any organization or branch. I hope that the committee will reject it.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 52 (Records to be kept by organization).
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 53 and 54 agreed to.
Clause 55 (Creating disturbance near court) .
– I invite the committee to reject this clause. I admit that it is only right that the court should be free from molestation, interference, or disturbance; but I do not agree that there should be the double penalty of fine and imprisonment, particularly as any disturbance may be unwitting, not wilful, and perhaps unavoidable. Even if it were wilful, one penalty should be sufficient. A penalty of £5 or £10 would be sufficient to deter any person from annoying or disturbing the court.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 56 (Repeal of sections 85 and 86).
– This is the last of a series of coercive clauses in a measure designed to cripple trade unionism, and destroy the system of conciliation and arbitration that has been in operation in Australia for’ some years. I protest against it. It contains a whole list of penalties for all kinds of offences. If honorable senators really desire to help the cause of industrial peace they will vote this clause out of the bill.
Question - That the clause stand as printed - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 57 to 59 agreed to.
Schedule and title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the report be adopted.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Sir George
Pearce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Question put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Senator Sir William Glasgow, on behalf of the committee appointed to draw up reasons for disagreeing to the amendment made by the House of Representatives to clause 14 of this bill, brought up the following reasons, which were read and adopted : -
That the proposed amendment would cause delay in the counting of votes and the announcement of the result of the election owing to the fact that it would in many divisions be necessary to await the receipt of possible absent votes cast in parts of the Commonwealth remote from such divisions.
That the proposed amendment would give rise to difficulties of administration on account of the fact that it confers upon persons claiming to vote as absent voters the right to vote at any polling place in the Commonwealth. Consequently it would be necessary for the presiding officer in every polling booth in the Commonwealth to be equipped to deal with a claim to vote for any other subdivision in the Commonwealth. For this purpose he would require lists of the candidates for election in every division in each State and lists of the candidates for election to the Senate in each State.
Bill received from House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
[8.13 a.m.]. - I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I desire to express my appreciation of the way that honorable senators have endured the all-night sitting, and of the patience and courtesy with which their work has been carried out. It reflects great credit upon the Senate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at8.15 a.m. (Thursday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 13 June 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1928/19280613_senate_10_119/>.