11th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I should like to know if the report of the South Australian Disabilities Commission will be available before the Senate considers the Financial Agreement Validation Bill which is now before another place?
– A royal commission receives no instructions from the Government in regard to the preparation and presentation of its report, but I shall have inquiries made to see when the report referred to by the honorable senator can be made available.
Senator KINGSMILL, as chairman, presented the fifth general report of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) who was responsible for the preparation of the paper in relation to the Transport Workers Bill which he laid on the table of the Senate yesterday?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Labour branch of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Does payment of any pension under the Wai- Pensions Act militate against the operation of any section of the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act?
– The Treasurer supplies the following reply: - Yes, vide section 4, paragraphs g and h of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act 1908-1928. The payment of a war pension to a member of the forces within the meaning of the War Pensions Act or the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act constitutes income for the purpose of determining a claim for invalid pension, but does not constitute income for the purpose of determining a claim for old-age pension. A war pension to a dependant of a member of the forces does not constitute income for the purpose of determining a claim for either invalid or old-age pension. The amount of war pension is also taken into account in connexion with the adequate maintenance provisions contained in section 22 of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
Erection of Wooden Structures
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.;The answers are ;
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Information in regard to these matters is being obtained and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Debate resumed from 6th March (vide page 747) on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I listened with a great deal of interest to the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) when moving the second reading of this bill. During his speech the right honorable gentleman attempted to place upon the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and to some extent upon the members of the Opposition the responsibility for pillaging which he said had decreased considerably since the Transport Workers Act had been in operation. The inference to be drawn from his statement was that the members of the Waterside Workers Federation were dishonest, and that because honorable members on this side of the chamber opposed that act, they were also involved. All I have to say in that regard is that the right honorable gentleman would not dare to make that statement outside the chamber.
– I did not. make such a statement within the chamber.
– The inference to be drawn from the right honorable gentleman’s remarks was that as a result of the Transport Workers Act pillaging had decreased. He also referred to the bombing outrages which have occurred, and endeavoured to associate the members of the Labour party and the members of the Waterside Workers Federation with those dastardly acts which resulted in injury to human life.
– I did not.
– Immediately these outrages occurred the leaders of labour denounced them.
– The honorable senator cannot charge me with having made such an asertion.
– The right honorable gentleman inferred in his speech that the members of the Labour party were associated with those dastardly outrages.
– If the honorable senator will read my speech he will see that I did not say anything of the kind.
– I have read it and I say that the inference is there.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! The Leader of the Senate has denied having made the statement attributed to him by the honorable senator, and I ask Senator Needham to accept that denial in accordance with the established practice now.
– I am not saying that the right honorable gentleman made the statement in those definite terms, but I contend that the inference to be drawn from his remarks was that the Labour party approved of what had been done. However, since the Leader of the Senate denies having used those words, I accept his assurance. In the course of his speech he quoted from an award given by Judge Beeby which, we contend, was responsible for a great deal of the trouble on the waterfront last year. Honorable senators will recall that Judge Beeby made provision for two pick-ups instead of one, although the employers had not asked for the second pick-up. It was this provision in the award that led to the trouble on the waterfront. The Leader of the Senate referred also to the provision in this bill for the cancellation of licences, and instanced, in support of his argument, a number of assaults individually and in company, that had been made on volunteer workers last year. Clearly the inference to be drawn from his remarks was that the Waterside Workers Union and the members of that organization were responsible for these acts of lawlessness. The right honorable gentleman went on to argue that in view of all that had happened, it was only right that mcn engaged on the waterfront should be obliged to take out licences.
The act passed towards the end of last session authorized the Government to make regulations to deal with the troubleon the waterfront, and it is proposed now to give those regulations the force of statute law by including them in this bill. I have no doubt that other honorable senators remember the time when the Leader of the Senate subscribed to the view that membership of a union should be the only qualification required of a man seeking work in Australia. He then had no thought of licences for workers. I remind him also that the question of preference to unionists was responsible for the only double dissolution that has taken place in the history of this Parliament, and that whilst he was a member of the Labour party he was always a staunch supporter of that principle. The right honorable gentleman had a good deal to say in regard to the Preference Prohibition Bill, when that measure was before this chamber in 1913. It is hardly necessary for me to remind honorable senators that that was before the Minister was in his present company. He was not then a member of a Government, which, during the last four or five years, has introduced so many legislative measures of a most provocative, repellant and repulsive nature. When speaking to the Preference Prohibition Bill on the 11th December, 1913, Senator Sir George Pearce said -
Looking back over the history of civilization we find, in respect of property, at one time the rule of force was in existence. We find that the man who was strongest could take the property of another by the use of the club. Might was right.
Senator McColl ; “That they should take who have the power.”
– Yes. “And they should keep who can.”
The position to-day is as was portrayed by Senator Sir George Pearce in 1913. The workers of Australia, threatened as they are by legislation such as that which is now before us, desire not so much to bring about an improvement in their conditions as to hold fast the privileges which they possess. In other words they believe that they should keep that which they now have. The right honorable gentleman went on to say -
I have said that an arbitration law is impossible without unions. There must be someone who can be brought before the court.
Then in a reply to an interjection by Senator Mullan to the effect that members of trade unions had been boycotted and denied opportunity to secure employment, Senator Pearce said -
I have myself been the recipient of that treatment. Before the Arbitration Act came into force in Western Australia I was victimized and refused employment, not because I was an inefficient workman, since I was always able to get more than the average wage which other workmen in the same employment were receiving, not because of anything against my character, but simply because I, as a trade unionist, had voted publicly the feelings of those who worked in the trade with which I was associated.
The more I study the speech delivered on that occasion by the Leader of the Senate, the more I am convinced that he was an avowed exponent of political principles entirely different from those he holds to-day. Preference to unionists was then his slogan. Abolition of unions and trade unionism is his slogan to-day, by virtue of the fact that he is supporting the measure which we are now discussing. Let me quote further from the speech delivered- by the right honorable gentleman in 1913 -
We have a law against burglary but burglaries are still committed. There is not a law in our statute-book that is not broken by somebody, and let me say that very many of the breaches of the Arbitration Act have been brought about by the conservatives represented by our honorable friends opposite -
The conservative forces represented by honorable senators who were opposed to the right honorable gentleman in 1913, are the forces which are supporting theGovernment of which he is a member to-day - who have designedly .introduced provisions into the act to make it unworkable. I have shown the way in which employers may prevent arbitration although Parliament has said that there shall be arbitration.
I shall make one more quotation from the speech made by Senator Sir George Pearce on the occasion to which I refer -
When employment is offering, we have on the one hand the man who has sacrificed his time and his money to build up a union which will enable our arbitration machinery to work satisfactorily, and which will prevent strikes and industrial disputes by availing itself of the legislation which Parliament has enacted for that purpose. On the other hand, we have the non-unionist, of equal ability as a workman, but one who has done nothing to provide machinery to make our arbitration legislation work satisfactorily. In all justice, which of these two should be granted a prefer.ence by the Commonwealth? Surely it is the man who, recognizing the law that the Commonwealth has enacted, spends his time, his money, and his energy, to provide the machinery which will enable that law to work rather than the individual who, by the fact that he is a non-unionist, would make the law absolutely useless and unworkable.
– I was then stating the result of the action of non-unionists. In the present case it is the unionists who are breaking the law.
– The right honorable gentleman did not on that occasion suggest that licences should be issued to permit men to go to work. He stressed the need for a man to possess a union ticket, and the desirability of giving preference to those who had spent their money and energy in building up their unions. To-day he states that members of the waterside workers’ organizations must not be granted employment unless they possess licences to work. The Leader of the Senate has somersaulted and now asks that preference should be given to volunteers, and not to members of an organization.
In his speech yesterday, the right honorable gentleman quoted certain results of volunteer labour, and alleged that, on the waterfront, the volunteer had done more work than the union member. As a contrast, I shall read a statement made by Sir Arthur Duckham, the chairman of the “Big Four,” the British Economic Delegation, which recently visited Australia. It reads -
Employers all over Australia have told me the Australian workman is the best in the world.
Compare that with another statement made by Senator Pearce yesterday, wherein he endeavoured to lead the people- of Australia to believe that the Australian workman, and particularly a member of the waterside workers’ organization, was the worst in the world. The Leader of the Senate inferred that members of that organization were parties to the dastardly bombing outrages that have occurred in Melbourne. Let me compare that with a statement made by the Victorian Commissioner of Police,” General Blarney, who, appealing to the men on the waterfront and the public generally to assist the police in detecting the bombers, said -
Waterside workers are just as eager to get rid of criminals in their ranks, as anybody else. “When speaking on the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders, I declared that there was no need at all for this bill, and I repeat that statement. The bill should be withdrawn. There exists to-day a desire for peace in industry, and the Labour party and industrial organizations of Australia have shown their bona fides by meeting the employers in conference. The management committee of the peace conference is still functioning. Senator McLachlan (Honorary Minister) said recently in this chamber -
I believe that the Kellogg Pact is the outcome of a deep-seated feeling among the people of America for the furtherance of the cause of peace.
I echo the sentiment. And just as there is a deep-seated feeling among the people of America to further the coming of world peace and to prevent another world war, and its shambles, so there exists in Australia to-day a deep-seated desire to inaugurate and preserve industrial peace. But legislation of this nature will destroy rather than stimulate that feeling. Why should the Government sabotage our peace machinery by throwing into it this spanner, the Transport Workers Bill? No specific dispute exists on the waterfront and, that being so, why should we perpetuate the folly of last year? By doing so we may destroy the desire for industrial peace. Are honorable senators opposite sincere in their desire to bring about and maintain industrial peace ? If they are I urge them to purge the statute-book of legislation of this nature. It is not necessary. The measure deals entirely with transport workers and the men engaged on our waterfront. The original act was introduced in a moment of hysteria by the Government of to-day, and it might be worth while directing our memories back to that occasion. It is true that there was at the time an upheaval on the waterfront and that the political and industrial leaders of labour were doing their utmost to bring about its settlement. It is also true that that dispute was about to be settled, as a result of the deliberations of the political and industrial leaders of labour. Then this piece of legislation was thrown upon the table of another place, and all chance of ending the dispute immediately vanished. At that time a general election was imminent. The Government introduced that legislation, not to promote peace on the waterfront, but as political propaganda, in order to ensure its return to the Treasury bench. Now, safely entrenched there, it has introduced this legislation.
– That the Government is still in office suggests that the people of Australia favoured that legislation.
– Not only are the .people of Australia not in favour of legislation of this kind, but Government supporters also are so weak in their support of it that a few days ago the Government was nearly defeated in another place. Indeed, it was only saved by the casting vote of the Chairman of Committees.
After his return from his last visit to England, the Prime Minister advocated the settlement of disputes amicably. Speaking at a dinner given to him by the Victorian Employers Federation, on his return, he said -
There is only one way in which these problems can be dealt with and that is by resort to a spirit of co-operation and goodwill that must fill the gap which political action is unable to bridge.
This political action will not bridge the gap. On the contrary, provocative and repulsive legislation of this kind will widen it. The Prime Minister, who stated definitely that political action cannot bring about a settlement of industrial disputes, not only fathers this measure but also previously introduced an amendment to the Crimes Act to create a new list of offences for workers.
The amending arbitration legislation introduced by his Government is anything but conciliatory. Its effects on the Timber Workers Union is clear evidence of the Government’s purpose in introducing it.
– The fines are the same as those provided for by a Labour Government.
– Not at all, as the honorable senator will see if he compares the original act with the amending measure. The Labour party did not provide for an organization being fined £1,000.
– But it did not alter the original provision under which an individual or an organization might he fined that amount.
– The legislation introduced by this Government will not. tend towards industrial peace. In August, 192S, Mr. Latham, at that time AttorneyGeneral, but now also Minister for Industry, said that it was a mistake for either side to look to parliament to settle its differences. Yet he now claims that a measure of this kind will tend towards industrial peace. Sooner or later the Government must realize that it cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds. It cannot insist on awards being observed by outside employers and refuse to honour awards applicable to its own employees. Let us consider the position in the coal industry to-day. An award given by a special industrial tribunal is in existence, but it is not being obeyed by the employers, .who only last week dismissed 17,000 miners from their employ. The reason given by the employers for those dismissals was that the industry was no longer profitable to them.
– The reason was that coal can be obtained cheaper from England
– They said that they could not run the mines at a profit, and that consequently the men must be dismissed. Although those men were working under an award, the Government did not introduce legislation to penalize the coal-owners, but it did not hesitate to legislate to penalize men on the wharf who, dissatisfied with the Beeby award, determined that they would not work under it. The coal-owners can with impunity dismiss their employees when it suits them to do so,but the waterside workers must abide by the award of the court willy-nilly, or be dismissed, and the men who take their places must be licensed to work. Where is the consistency of a Government that came into power six years ago on the slogan that it was a Government for the poor and not the rich? Can anyone point to a single piece of legislation it has placed on the statute-book that has improved the position of the workers of Australia? As a matter of fact all its industrial legislation has served to make their position worse. I contrast the attitude of the Government towards the transport workers with its attitude towards the coal-owners who are permitted to dismiss their employees on the ground that they are unable to continue operations under an industrial award.
The Government claims that at the last election it was given a mandate to pass this bill. Let me show what sort of a mandate it was given. At the 1925 general elections 1,262,912 votes were cast for Labour candidates and 1,542,090 for anti-Labour candidates, the antiLabour majority being 279,178. At the general elections held last year, while the anti-Labour vote decreased to 1,449,169, the Labour votes increased to 1,422,418. The anti-Labour majority dropped to 27,039. If that drop continues over the next elections, it will mean good-bye to the present Government. The people of Australia gave a quarter of a million votes more to Labour candidates in 1928 than they gave to them in 1925. If my friends think that they have a mandate for this legislation because they secured a majority of 27,039 votes, I wish them luck.
Sir Hugo Hirst, a member of the British Economic Commission, is reported to have said -
Australia’s difficulties are in a great measure due to a lack of understanding, coupled with a failure to keep pace with the times. … I actually found some employers who talked of starving labour into submission.
That is a striking statement. I move -
That all the words after “That” be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words - “ further consideration of this bill be postponed until such time as the committee appointed by the Peace in Industry Confer ence has made representation to the Government with respect to the penal provisions of industrial legislation passed by this Parliament.”
– What good would be effected by the amendment while the Transport Workers Act remained on the statute-book?
– My friend is in the counsels of his party and can, if he so desires, suggest a way out of the difficulty. The employers and employees of Australia are represented on a Peace in Industry Conference. It is true that the conference has adjourned sine die, but a committee of the conference is still functioning. I quote the following from the Sydney Morning Herald of 26th February, 1929 -
Peace Efforts in Industry - to be Continued.
Court System and Laws Denounced.
Mr. James MacDougall, President of the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures, and leader of the employers’ delegation at the Peace Conference, stated last night that arrangements are to be made immediately for the continuation of meetings of representative employers and employed, with a view to seeking substitutes for the awards of Industrial Courts and furthering the peaceful development of Australian industries.
Important Principle Agreed to. “It was accepted as a principle by both sides at the meetings in Sydney,” said Mr. MacDougall, “that industrial legislation is the most important matter for both employers and employed at the present juncture. Both sides agreed that, as a matter of principle, the introduction of penal clauses into industrial legislation was not generally conducive to peace.”
The resolution agreed to by the full conference sitting in Sydney recently was that the penal provisions of the industrial legislation of the Commonwealth were not generally conducive to peace.
– Does the honorable senator agree with that?
– I say that the penal provisions of the industrial legislation introduced by the present Government are not conducive to the preservation of industrial peace and I ask the Senate not to proceed with further legislation of this nature until the Peace in Industry Conference presents its report to its creators, the Government of this country.
– But the Transport Workers Act is already on the statute-book.
– It may be allowed to remain in abeyance. In any case, if the honorable senator does not think my amendment goes far enough he or Senator Greene can move so to amend it as to include the principle act also. It is time to call a halt. Instead of passing provocative legislation, let the Peace in Industry Conference function in the knowledge that not only the people of Australia but also the Government which glibly preaches the doctrine of peace in industry, but departs from its pledges immediately after an election, is desirous of bringing about industrial peace. Honorable senators of the Opposition cannot agree to the bill. It is tyrannical and opposed to the best interests of Australia. It is an attack on the workers of Australia, and will defeat all attempts to preserve industrial peace. For these and other reasons which I could adduce it is my intention, if my amendment is defeated, to vote against the second reading.
.- This bill is’ unlike any that has been introduced into this or any other Parliament in Australia since the establishment of responsible government. It is alien to Australia, and is bitterly resented by the working classes of this country. Time and again the Opposition have emphasized the fact that the present Government has declared war on organized labour, and is determined, with the help of its supporters, to weaken unionism, industrially and financially, as long as it remains in possession of the Treasury bench. One would gather from statements made by responsible members of the Government that industrial unrest and industrial disputes are confined to the Commonwealth. That is not so. As a matter of fact, they are world-wide, yet in no other parliament, so far as I am able to ascertain, has legislation similar to that now before us been submitted. To the Australian workmen, unionism is a sacred principle. Without unionism there would be no Arbitration Court. It is because we have organized labour and organizations of employers that official representatives of Labour from time to time file plaints in the Arbitration Court, and the court makes awards that are binding upon the unions. No one can deny that the licensing provisions of this measure absolutely disregard the Arbitration Court and its awards, and to that extent it is a direct attack upon trades unionism.
Interesting speeches on this bill have been made in another place. I share the views expressed there by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) who is better qualified than any other member of the Nationalist party to speak on such a measure as this, for the reason that he was for years closely associated with trade unionism. For many years he played a prominent part in the settlement of disputes on the waterfront in Australia; for years be advised the Australian workers, particularly those employed on the waterfront to join trade unions, to strengthen their organizations and to win by these means the rewards to which they are entitled. When speaking on this measure in another place, the right honorable gentleman said -
Unionism and this licensing system cannot be co-existent, because they are mutually destructive. Where unionism is this licensing system cannot be, and where the licensing system obtains unionism is doomed.
That is clear and definite.
– Plumbers are licensed, but the Plumbers Union is still in existence.
– It is amusing to hear the childlike arguments advanced by the Minister in an attempt to strengthen his weak case for the licensing of waterside workers. He seeks to draw an analogy between the licences for which this bill provides and those issued to doctors, plumbers, electricians and others. Licences are issued to plumbers and electricians in order to safeguard the community.
– Soare these.
– Licences are issued to doctors to safeguard the interests and health of the community, and that form of licensing or registration, unlike that for which this bill provides, is not partial in its application. Licences are issued to those engaged in particular professions and callings as a guarantee to the community that licensed persons are competent and efficient, but in the case of the waterside workers, they are issued to men whether they are efficient or incompetent; whether they are physically fit or unfit. There are working on the waterfront of Australia to-day men who are licensed, there are others who are not. I did not think that in my day and generation a Federal Government would introduce legislation under which it would be compulsory for any human being to take out a licence in order to have the right to work. A licence having been isued to a worker, he is to obey lawful commands. Commands by whom? Not a judge of the Arbitration Court, or an award made by a judge, but the lawful commands of his employers.
– The command must be lawful.
– A command may be lawful, just as some commands on shipboard, of which we have heard, are lawful, yet most unreasonable. But if the employee does not do exactly what the employer desires his licence may be cancelled.
– The employer has not the power to cancel a licence.
– A licence may be cancelled if a command of an employer - not of the Arbitration Court - is not obeyed.
– Only if it is a lawful command.
– Who is to determine whether it is a lawful command?
– The licensing officer.
– In that respect the licensing officer will have greater power than that of a judge of any court in Australia. Why should we clothe a. licensing officer with such power? Why should we give such a person authority toorder men to do certain things that may not be provided for in an award of the Arbitration Court ? If a man is unable to do what he is commanded to do he is forthwith to lose his licence and to be deprived of his means of livelihood for a lengthy period. To deprive a man of his livelihood for twelve months or for a longer period is not only wrong, it is inhuman.’ Then again preference is to be given to those who take out licences and priority of employment is to be given to so-called volunteers who are not members of the Waterside Workers’ Federation.
An incentive is given to non-unionists to take out licences, and an increase in the number of licences issued means that the strength of the waterside workers’ organization will be reduced.
Yesterday the Minister, in attempting to justify the issuing of licences said - “Until quite recently Australia had the worst reputation of any country in theworld in regard to the pillaging of cargo.” Where is the proof of that statement ? It is a libel on Australia and Australia a workmen. The right honorable gentleman referred to a royal commission appointed a few years ago which inquired into the pillaging on wharfs. I have perused the report of that commission and have failed to find in it any words in support of the Minister’s statement. It is true that there has been pillaging, but it is also true that there has been much pillaging of cargoes before the ships have arrived in Australia. That is shown in the report furnished by the commission. According to the evidence taken by the commission in Melbourne, there has been pillaging of overseas cargoes -to a serious extent, and to a considerably lesser extent of interstate cargoes. The report states -
The commission was asked to inquire -
Whether Pillaging takes place -
Prior to shipment in the country of export.
It reported -
Conclusive evidence has been furnished as to the stealing of cargo taking place prior to shipment in the country of export, by the arrival of cases in a sound and apparently untampered-with condition and by the discovery of rubbish in the place of goods in the cases when opened, also by the substitution of cases similar in appearance also containing only rubbish. The following are a few instances out of many similar cases where it is improbable that pillage took place elsewhere than prior to shipment, namely : -
In February, 1920, three cases invoiced as containing wood drills, em s.s. City of Madras, from New York, were found to contain sash weights and bags.
In June or July, 1920, three cases invoiced as containing Cleveland twist drills, exs.s. City of Madras, from New York, were found to contain scrap iron, straw, and a New York newspaper dated between the date the goods left the warehouse and the date of shipment. The consignees stated that the cases were not the original cases, as the wood and binding differed from the cases used by the exporter, and that the ones received must have been substituted and the marks imitated. It was also stated that the cases must have been weighed, as weights were marked thereon which tallied with the weights shown in the invoices.
About October, 1920, a case invoiced as containing motor accessories, exs.s. Caroline, from England, was found to be filled with paper.
On the 1st December, 1920, a case invoicedas containing 100 dozen pairs of ladies’ hose, exs.s. City of Edinburgh, from New York, was found to contain only rubbish, empty boxes, old clothes, and sacks branded “ New York.” The case appeared to be light in weight.
On the 2nd December, 1920, a case invoiced as containing hosiery, exs.s. Port Stephens, from New York, was found to be filled with stable manure and old clothes.
In December last, three cases invoiced as containing silk gloves,exs.s. Somerset, from New York, were found to contain leather clippings, bricks, wood, old American railroad weighbills, and old American magazines and newspapers.
Also, in December last, one case invoiced as containing cotton voile, exs.s. City of Edinburgh, from New York, was found to contain straw packing and stones.
Other evidence of cargoes having been tampered with before they left the country of origin appears in this report. I do not propose to weary the Senate by quoting further from it. As for the charge that there has been pillaging on ships between Australian ports, the evidence is indisputable that much of it occurs before the vessels reaches Australia. On page 24 of the report the commission stated -
There is no doubt that a vast amount of thieving of cargo takes place under the various paragraphs…..
The evidence shows that a large amount of what may be termed scientific thieving of cargo takes place prior to shipment in the country of export, especially in America, where probably gangs of thieves carry on the work as a remunerative business proposition…..
That does not confirm the statement made by the Minister. On the contrary, it disproves it.
The report states that thieving takes place in most countries, and that there is extensive pillaging on board vessels before they arrive at Australian ports. It is true that the report mentions evidence of pillaging at Australian ports, but does any one believe that the licensing of men seeking employment on our waterfront will prevent that in future? The Minister has admitted that, since the issue of licences there have been seven cases of pillaging and a number of assaults. He states that those responsible for these acts of lawlessness represent a minority associated with organized Labour, and that80 per cent. of the members of our waterside workers’ organizations welcome this class of legislation. I wish the Leader of the Senate would go down to the waterfront at any of our principal capital cities and say to this 80 per cent. of our waterside workers: - “I am glad to know that you see eye to eye with me and the Government in this matter. I am glad that you are as anxious as we are to have the licensing system introduced at the different ports of Australia, embodied in an Act of Parliament, which provides that you may hold your licence to work during good behaviour.” I should like to hear the right honorable gentleman speak to the waterside workers in that fashion. I know what kind of a reception he would get.
I know also what were the views of the right honorable gentleman many years ago, when he lived in a political atmosphere entirely different from that in which he finds himself in to-day. In those days he, like myself, was a unionist. I still am, whereas he to-day is not a believer in the principle of unionism. I still believe in the cardinal principle of democracy - majority rule. It is impossible to govern organizations by any other rule. I have been associated with trade unionism for a great number of years, and have played my part in industrial disputes, some of which it has been my good fortune to assist to settle. There have been times when I could not see eye to eye with my fellow trade unionists, but as a true unionist myself, and a firm believer in majority rule, I always gave unswerving loyalty to that principle and at all times was prepared to cast in my lot with the majority. What would be the position of the Leader of the Senate if he were associated with the waterside workers to-day? If one may judge by his speech when moving the second reading of this bill, he would have to say to his fellow unionists, “I am with you up to a certain point. I shall go with you for a certain distance but no further. I intend to forsake my lifelong principles and become a volunteer worker, so that I may go out of the union and fight against you.” That would be his position to-day if he acted up to the views he expressed in his second-reading speech. He would be a believer in the principle of trade unionism up to only a certain point. But may I remind honorable senators that the whole-hearted support of its principles is necessary for the success of any organization.
I understand that even members of the Nationalist party have serious differences at times in the party room, and that occasionally a good deal of bitterness is engendered in the family circle. I understand also that one or two members of the party sometimes take an independent stand because they conscientiously believe that the course mapped out by the majority is not the right one, and, in their view, will lead the party to disaster. But as loyal party supporters in the end they are prepared to sink their individuality, to set aside their personal convictions, and work with the majority. Occasionally there is a breakaway; sometimes I believe there are “wigs on the green,” and there are some in the party who would like to ostracize those who break away. We know, however, that in the end they realize that is is better to work as a united party than to be disunited. And so it is with trade unionism. Many years ago the conditions of men engaged on the waterfront were damnable. By means of organized effort some improvement has been secured and the men have determined to hold fast to whatever privileges they have enjoyed in more recent years. Whatever may be the views of honorable senators opposite concerning the dispute on the waterfront no one will for a moment believe that the waterside workers took such . a definite stand against the Beeby award out of sheer cussedness. They know only too well the suffering that is their lot whenever industrial troubles occur, that it goes without saying that they did not enter blindly into this fight. They were prepared to take their chance. They and their families are now suffering greatly, but the wives are just as determined as the men.
– Question !
– I do not question for a moment the attitude of the wives of the waterside workers. I know how strongly they hold to the principles of trade unionism, and many of the victories gained by organized Labour have been won as the result of the loyalty and stout-hearted support of their womenfolk.
– The women are suffering privation.
– And they are prepared to do so.
– That is questionable. They have to do so whether they want to or not.
– While these men and their womenfolk are enduring privation, the Government comes along with this measure and literally says to the men who have brightened the work on the waterfront by their sterling service and self-sacrificing efforts : “ You took a wrong course by disobeying the award of the court and you have been very badly beaten. We will show you no mercy. We have the big stick and will wield it unmercifully on you and all those who profess friendship towards unionism. Although you have undergone privation and suffering, and although you may he highly efficient and model citizens of Australia, you shall no longer have preference on the waterfront. Preference shall be given to those who do not belong to an organization, although they may be absolutely unfit for their task.” Because it suits, for the moment, the convenience of the employers, these licences are being issued to volunteer workers and every encouragement is given to these men - who are really strike-breakers - in order to weaken organized labour and multiply the privations and sufferings of the unionists engaged in waterside work.
The Labour party is not anxious to bring about industrial strife. It seeks to establish industrial peace. Strikes are a last resort, and men are at times goaded into them. The trouble which precipitated the Government into introducing this bill could have been settled very easily. But the Government was not anxious to have peace in industry. At a time when conciliatory action was essential it introduced legislation the only effect of which was to inflame and embitter the workers. At the time of its introduction the shipowners and employees, under the aegis of the then Victorian Premier (Mr. Hogan) were negotiating to bring about a settlement, and a settlement would have been arrived at in a few days.
– The trouble was actually settled in South Australia.
– It was tentatively settled in Victoria when this Government came along with this tyrannical and antediluvian legislation, and immediately all prospect of an amicable settlement disappeared.
I admit that the Government temporarily has a majority in this Senate, but figuratively speaking, it may be in a minority on the morrow. We know that the whirligig of time brings its revenges. Time marks many changes in human activity politically, industrially, commercially and financially. A change has taken place in the industrial outlook. The world has awakened. The workers are realizing that they are not obtaining that reward to which they are justly entitled. There is no gainsaying the fact that those who perform the world’s heaviest tasks are the least rewarded. True, their hours have been shortened. But by whom? Not by the party opposite, which has placed every obstacle in the pathway of industrial progess in Australia. In days gone by that party regarded unionism as anathema. Its followers then said, and some of them are saying it to-day, although they dare not voice their condemnation so vigorously, that labour should be governed by the law of supply and demand; that it should be treated as a commodity; that if there is an excess labour market those seeking work should accept what the employer offers. Such individuals seek to weaken, and, if possible, to force unionism into a moribund condition.
This bill seeks to inflict punishment of the worstkind upon unionists. Already fines have been inflicted upon men who have done their utmost to prevent the spread of industrial trouble. If the measure is placed upon the statute-book it will afford a very bad advertisement for Australia, which is supposed to be ahead of most other countries in the world in the matter of legislation. Certainly it will be in the backwash of nations if the Government passes this bill’. The Leader of the Senate said yesterday, that licensing systems of a similar nature prevailed in other parts of the world. That is a gross exaggeration. There is a mighty difference between an act of Parliament and a mutual agreement entered into between employer and employee. This licensing will be compulsory. I suppose that Senator Ogden was in a measure responsible for the document that was placed on the table of the Senate yesterday, and used by the Leader of the Senate to advantage the Government and strengthen the right honorable senator’s advocacy of certain provisions in the bill. That document indicated that in certain ports of Great Britain, and with the aid of the Board of Trade, agreements had been entered into between employers and employees. But they were mutual agreements between organized employers and organized workers. Can any honorable senator opposite, particularly one who has had experience of industrialism, by any wild stretch of imagination, seriously contend that there is any analogy between that procedure and the licensing proposed in this bill? This is a Government measure, antagonistic to the workers. Let the Government withdraw the bill and propose a form of mutual agreement similar to that referred to by the Leader of the Senate, and it will be moving in the right direction.
– Would the waterside workers adhere to such an agreement?
– Does the Go- vernment fulfil all of its promises?
– Of course it does.
– What about its schemes for insurance, child endowment, provision for unemployment, its twenty million housing scheme and sundry other matters? They are all unredeemed promises and, in consequence, the stock of the Government is below par.
The Leader of the Opposition has submitted an amendment which I hope will be carried. The only doubt that some honorable senators apparently have is that even if they support the amendment, and it is adopted by the Senate, the regulations under the principal act will still be in force. Let us have one thing at a time. If we can postpone the consideration of the bill much may be achieved. Time works wonders, and although this party is temporarily numerically small, it might do much, with the assistance of some honorable senators opposite, to accomplish its main object, which is to bring about industrial peace.
During the last election campaign the Government and their candidates declared that if they were elected they would convene a conference between employers and employees. That conference has been held, and its proceedings have been published. Those proceedings indicate that it was the opinion of the conference that the passing of tyrannical legislation is not conducive to peace and harmony between employers and employees of the Commonwealth.
– They indicated nothing of the sort.
– The report stated -
The conference was unanimous in the opinion that penal laws did not conduce to industrial peace.
Legislation of a penal nature has been introduced by the present Government.
– The conference referred to all penal laws.
– We are dealing now particularly with those laws which affect the workers of Australia. The conference was convened in the hope that it might assist to promote peace in industry. It was desired that a better relationship should exist between employers and employees. After many sittings, the conference unanimously expressed the opinion that penal laws were not conducive to industrial peace. This bill is of a penal nature. Indeed, it penalizes the workers as they have never previously been penalized.
– It protects thousands of workers.
– It protects the non-unionist, the incompetent and the inefficient. Every other licensing system has as its object the promotion of efficiency and competency, and moreover, is of general application. All plumbers, electricians, and doctors, not only a few of them, are licensed, but under this legislation workers in some ports are to be licensed, while elsewhere men engaged in similar occupations are not to be licensed.
We are told by the Government and its supporters that the licensing system will safeguard shippers against pillagers and evil-doers so that in effect we are told by them that where there is to be no licensing there is no pillaging or evil-doing. It would be as reasonable to say that in certain suburbs plumbers ought to be licensed because in those suburbs some plumbers have been guilty of pillaging, whereas in other suburbs, where there has been no pillaging, there is no necessity to license plumbers. I suggest that even in financial and banking circles pillaging sometimes takes place. I am reminded that the Treasurer once advised a government of which he was not then a member to “drop the loot.” Does any honorable senator suggest that because in some financial institutions, men have at times been guilty of embezzlement, all the employees in those institutions should he licensed? In the big emporiums of Australia as well as in various services thousands of men and women are employed, and at times some of them are guilty of pillaging. Do honorable senators suggest that before any person can obtain employment in those establishments or services he should take out a licence?
– The honorable senator advocates that they must all be unionists before they can obtain employment.
– In most Government departments, financial institutions and big emporiums the majority of the employees are unionists.
I rose to enter my protest against the bill and to give my whole-hearted support to the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition. I hope that his amendment will be given serious consideration by all honorable senators. If it is agreed to it will do a great deal to show the workers that Parliament is not unmindful of current events. All sections of the community desire peace in industry. Australia is passing through a period of depression. The workers know to their cost what suffering these periods of depression, as well as strikes, and industrial disputes involve. At best the income of the workers is small. It is true that their working hours are less and their salaries and wages higher than they were some years ago, but it is doubtful whether the purchasing power of their earnings is greater than it was then. The struggle of the workers is severe enough without the Government adding to it by wielding unmercifully the big stick which its majority has placed in its hands. Should the Government take advantage of its power to injure the workers its action will not be forgotten by them. At the next general election a new government will be returned, and one of its first acts will be to repeal the tyrannical and provocative legislation introduced by the present administration - legislation which has embittered and inflamed the workers throughout Australia.
– I do not propose to follow the tortuous arguments of the Leader of the Opposition in his attempt to attribute to the Leader of the Government in this chamber statements for which he was not responsible. Neither I, nor any other member of the Government, at any time suggested that members of the Opposition have been guilty of pillaging, although, perhaps, it has been suggested that in the administration of the affairs of the country they are prepared to “ pillage “ the taxpayers. The Leader of the Government pointed out yesterday that under this system for the licensing of waterside workers, seven persons had had their licences forfeited because of convictions for pillaging, and the licences of thirteen others had been cancelled because they had assaulted their fellow licensees.
This measure is not going to be defeated by threats such as have been uttered by the astute and experienced honorable senator who has just resumed his seat. I desire to assure Senator Findley that threats will not cause the Government to depart from a course which it is convinced is in the best interests of Australia. The honorable senator suggested that in the future the Labour party will again be in office in the Commonwealth, and that legislation of this kind would only lead to reprisals when that time came. No legislation has been introduced by the present Government as a reprisal for anything that has taken place, excepting disobedience of the law. We are too near the events of last year to lose sight of the benefits which the Transport Workers Act has already conferred on Australia. For many years the people of Tasmania have been in a state of turmoil during every Christinas season because of the uncertainty that existed regarding shipping services to and from the mainland; but the legislation of last session ensured peace on the entire waterfront during the last Christmas vacation. The waterside workers recognize that things could not continue as they were. They realize that they cannot have arbitration and at the same time continue to disobey the awards of the court. It has been suggested that this measure has no relation to arbitration awards, but I direct attention to proposed new section 12 which contemplates compliance with awards of the Arbitration Court. A licence may be cancelled because a worker has refused to comply with an award of the Court. The Government stands for obedience to the awards of the courts - an obedience which the waterside workers haverefused to show. Having sought an award from the Court, and failing to get what they wanted, they decided that they would neither work themselves nor allow others to pursue their lawful avocations on the waterfront. This measure has been condemned because it does not apply necessarily to every port in Australia. That it does not so apply indicates the desire of the Government to deal with a vexed question in a reasonable manner. Where there is no need for its application the Transport Workers Act and the regulations thereunder will not be applied, but where a need exists, as it did in one or two places recently to the detriment of many in the community, the regulations have been made to apply, and with beneficial results.
It is absurd for honorable senators to say that this is tyrannical legislation, that it is scandalous and that it will put chains of slavery on the workers. It is all “tosh” to say that it is an insult to the men who work on the waterfront. Honorable senators have their tongues in their cheeks when they say that control and discipline are unnecessary. What exception is taken when the Australian Workers Union or the Waterside WorkersFederation insists that before a man can shear sheep or work on a wharf he must be in possession of a union membership ticket. The men readily submit to this tyrannical control by their organizations and all that this bill does is to ask certain workers to submit themselves to the control of the Crown, the highest authority in the land, so that the whole community may he protected. No man. can work on the waterfront without a ticket granted by his union. All that the Government says in this hill is that in ports where men have refused to obey an award of the Arbitration Court no one can be employed as a transport worker unless he has first taken out a licence which is liable to cancellation under certain conditions to which I do not think any one can take objection.
The suggestion has been made that the honorable the Leader of the Senate Senator Pearce) was unduly severe on the waterside workers when he was speaking about the pillaging of cargo. During Senator Findley’s speech I had an opportunity to peruse the report of the Royal Commission on the Pillaging of Ships’
Cargoes, which was presented to Parliament on the 12th July, 1921. Certain questions had been submitted to the royal commission and the report contains its replies. I quote from the report the following questions submitted to it together with its answer -
Whether persons convicted of offences involving dishonesty are employed on the wharfs; and, if so, under what authority, by whom, and to what extent.
There is ample evidence that such persons are employed on the wharfs. Indirectly, they are employed under the authority of the unions to which they belong. At the Port of Melbourne there is no preference to unionists. Still, if nonunion labourers were engaged while there were union labourers available, there would at once be trouble. If there is plenty of union labour available, there is no necessity to engage a labourer known to have been convicted of dishonesty, but if there is a shortage of union labour, those known to have been convicted of dishonesty must be engaged.
Carters have to be licensed by the customs authorities for carting goods under the control of the customs, and all carters have to be licensed by the Town Hall authorities, and coopers have to be licensed by the Harbour Trust, so there is a proper check so far as they are concerned.
As to what extent convicted persons are employed it is difficult to ascertain. One witness stated - “I should say that waterside workers are from 20 to 30 per cent. criminals.”
This statement cannot be accepted as definite, it is too general; and the witness was not cross-examined as to his statement.
Another witness stated that persons convicted of offences involving dishonesty have to be, and are, employed on the wharfs.
Those who are familiar with work on the waterfront know the levies that are imposed on the workers by certain classes of individuals. I am sure the workers themselves will welcome this legislation which is an honest attempt to clean up what should have been cleaned up a considerable time ago. Another illuminating paragraph in the report of the Commission is as follows -
Whether there is evidence that concerted action is taken to assist convicted offenders by pooling pecuniary penalties.
There is some evidence that concerted action is taken to assist offenders by pooling pecuniary penalties by raising the amount of penalty from fellow-workers and local tradespeople by -
Payment of fine by fellow-workers;
Collections from local tradespeople;
A lemonade bottle being used as a collecting receptacle.
Here is another paragraph from the general summary of the Commission -
Whether pillaging is carried on to any serious extent in regard to -
Yes, in both instances. The value of cargo pillaged chargeable to the seven ports previously dealt with for the year ended 31st December last, including 75 per cent. of short landings and 10 per cent. as the difference between claims paid and claims made in round figures, amounted to -
Any lingering doubt there may be as to the necessity for better control on the waterfront than is now exercised by the Waterside Workers Federation must be removed by a perusal of this report. I blame this Parliament for not having taken earlier steps to remove this admitted evil on the waterfront.
Honorable senators opposite seem to think that Ministers rejoice in having to introduce legislation of this character, and they talk as if they were the only people who are anxious to have industrial peace in this country. I can assure them that there are others just as earnest in their desire for it, because industrial turmoil can do more harm to Australia than anything else. But how did honorable senators meet the gesture made by the Prime Minister last year when he attempted to convene an industrial peace conference? They made a sort of political football of his suggestion. They made no attempt to treat it as a non-party question, as a matter of such vital importance to Australia’s future should have been treated. They dragged it into the political field and endeavoured to prevent the Prime Minister from convening the conference. The Prime Minister had no other interest to serve than that of Australia’s future welfare, and his suggestion could readily have been accepted if honorable senators opposite had ranged themselves behind him; but it was met by attack and criticism, which, of course, is the stockintrade of the political life of honorable senators opposite. It is their object to keep trouble going. They talk of the disabilities and hardships of the workers, but they do not avail them selves of the opportunity afforded to bring the workers and the employers together. I was delighted to hear Senator Needham read the statement of Mr. McDougall as to the attitude adopted by the recent peace conference held in Sydney. We have at last secured from the honorable senator and those whom he leads an expression of opinion that they think that the penal provisions of the Arbitration Act should be abolished. Now we know where they stand. For months past the Attorney-General has been endeavouring to secure replies from the leaders of organized labour in Australia as to whether or not they favour the repeal of the whole of the penal provisions of the Arbitration Act.
– They will not send in replies.
– No ; they remain silent on the question, and the first inkling of a reply we have obtained is the statement by Senator Needham that penal provisions in industrial legislation are preventing peace in industry. The peace conference referred to by the honorable senator adjourned sine die because the representatives of the Melbourne and Sydney Trades and Labour Councils had withdrawn from the proceedings. It is not the employers who are anxious to turn a deaf ear to the interests of the country.
– A committee of the conference is still functioning.
– A committee is certainly functioning after a fashion, but the adjournment sine die is sufficient to tell us of the difficulties that were encountered at the conference. What hope could there be for this conference when these two great industrial bodies were not taking part in it? What good purpose can be served by waiting as suggested by the Leader ofthe Opposition for something which may possibly happen? Notwithstanding the thunder of the Leader of the Opposition concerning what he terms our desire to wage war aginst organized labour, the truth is that we are only giving statutory effect to the regulations framed under the Transport Workers Act and which, by laying on the table of the House, have had the tacit approval of Parliament. It is idle to suggest that this measure will in any sense have a disturbing effect upon industry. All the Government desires is to make an earnest attempt to terminate industrial strife in Australia. The Government has to discipline members of the community who will not discipline themselves, and to see that the laws of the country and the awards of the Arbitration Court are respected. The power which the Government possesses under the Transport Workers Act, and the regulations framed under it, has not been used in a tyrannical or merciless fashion as some suggest, but only in a way that will enable industry to be carried on successfully for the benefit of the whole community. It is the desire of the Government that essential services shall not be interrupted, that industry shall be carried on peacefully and that law and order shall be preserved. If the Government allowed one section of organized labour to disregard the awards of t]’e Arbitration Court, industrial chaos would very soon result. Perhaps the Government should have acted earlier than it did in this matter, but definite steps were taken last year - not in a spirit of antagonism nor ill-will as suggested by the Leader of the Opposition - to protect the interests of al] sections of the community.
Unfortunately many reasonable working men have been- sadly misled and preyed upon by certain Labour leaders. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have as much respect for working men as they have for others, and it is the vapourings of speakers in the Domum in Sydney, on the Yarra Bank in Melbourne, or the Botanic Park in Adelaide, that inflame the minds of many of these men. Why should it be said that it is the desire of the Government to destroy trades unionism or to do anything detrimental to the interests of the working man? !N”o attempt has been made by us to interfere with an award of the Arbitration Court. The waterside workers are working under an award of the court.
– The Government interfered with the decision of the Public Service Arbitrator the other day.
– The honorable senator knows as well as any one in this chamber that on that occasion the
Government acted, in accordance with the law. It is mere cant and hypocrisy to say that those who are supporting this legislation in the interests of the whole community are tyrannical monsters. Honorable members opposite have spoken of the necessity for co-operation, and Senator Findley, I think, said this bill was provocative, repulsive, reactionary and tyrannical. Is it provocative? At present the men are working under the conditions to which exception is taken by honorable senators opposite. In giving statutory effect to the regulations the Government is only carrying out its promise to the people. The Government’s action in this connexion is no more tyrannical than are some of the actions of the labour organizations of which Senator Barnes is such a prominent member. Should the trade union leaders or the Government have power to control industry in this country? If the awards of the court had been observed there would have been no necessity to introduce legsilation such as this, and although we have virtually been charged with attempting to destroy unionism, our only desire is to assist in securing industrial peace. Senator Findley referred to the power that is placed in the hands of licensing officers, but the power possessed by those officers will not be any’ greater than that at the disposal of vigilance officers who virtually control the unionists. The amendment of the Leader of the Opposition, to which I have addressed my remarks more particularly, is worthless inasmuch as it is asking the Senate to suspend what is now the law, until the Peace-in-Industry Conference, which, as the Leader of the Senate said, is at present in a state of suspended animation, has concluded its deliberations. From the opinions expressed by members of the commercial community, and by a large number of the workers, this measure should be acceptable to the Senate as it provides a means of securing industrial peace, which is so essential to the progress and prosperity of the Commonwealth.
– Since I have been a member of the Senate representatives of the Government have on every possible occasion said that they are earnest and sincere in the desire to make the lot of the worker better than it is to-day. But what steps have been taken by the Government to secure industrial peace in the community? I invite honorable senators to study what the Honorary Minister (Senator McLachlan) said and consider whether the word “ honour “ which he used bears the definition of the equivalent word in the Greek or the English definition. Shakespeare epitomized the English definition in these words : “ To thine own self be true.” To paraphrase that, he who uses the word in the English sense means that what he says he believes in his own heart to be true. One of the worst phases of our industrial history is the extent to which industrial disputes have increased since the Bruce-Page Government has been in office. ‘The official statistics establish beyond all doubt that industrial unrest has been more pronounced in Australia since the Bruce-Page Government has been in power than it has ever been before. The records also show that during the same period more panicky legislation has been introduced to bring about industrial peace than during the regime of any other Government.
I have no desire to traverse the ground covered by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) and Senator Findley, but bearing in mind what I have said concerning the word “honour,” I invite honorable senators to study this measure from the viewpoint of the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce), and the Honorary Minister (Senator McLachlan). We have been told that there is no distinction between the licences issued to waterside workers and those possessed by railway porters or plumbers, who have also to be licensed. By interjection, I said that honorable senators opposite should carry their analogy even further and suggest that there is no distinction between the licences mentioned in this bill and marriage licences. The Leader of the Government in the Senate said that legislation of this character is not new, and that in Great Britain the employers and employees, after consultation, decided in favour of the licensing system. Tn other words, the inspiration which led to the drafting of this legislation was received from Great Britain; but no one realizes more than the members of the Government that statutes have been passed by this Parliament which are foreign to the principles of British jurisprudence. I asked the Leader of the Government if he would lay upon the table of the Senate the document from which he quoted yesterday. He did so, and I find that it is a “ roneo “ which has evidently been distributed amongst a certain section of members. It is dated 13th February, 1929, and the first page gives a summary of what it is alleged to contain. If honorable senators opposite, who, I suppose, have been supplied with a copy, read only the first page they will come to the conclusion which the Minister doubtless desires. I invite them, during the dinner hour, to study it and ascertain for themselves really what is the position with regard to wharf labourers in the Mother Country. In the first place, they are not required to take out licences. The Leader of the Senate may argue that they have to be registered.
– A distinction without a difference.
– He may say that of men who have to be registered at a labour bureau.
– And issued with a card.
– That is so. Wharf labourers in London must register at a labour bureau and be issued with a card which is some guarantee that they will pay their contributions to the unemployment insurance fund.
– Without which they cannot get a job.
– It is true that they cannot get a job until they are registered. In this respect they are in the same position as men who seek work on the northsouth line - they must apply to a labour exchange. But where is the analogy between registration of wharf labourers in London and this system of licensing .which the Government has included in the bill? The Honorary Minister (Senator McLachlan) has suggested that the Senate is being asked to pass a law which really is already on the statute-book. To me it seems that the Government is endeavouring to force Parliament to accept a responsibility which properly belongs to the Administration itself, and that it is endeavouring to compel its supporters in this chamber to stand behind it in passing the measure. I regret that the Standing Orders of the Senate will not permit me to say what I think of such tactics. The right honorable the Leader of the Senate omitted to tell honorable senators that one of the provisions included in the document from England was introduced as a war measure for the specific purpose of determining how many men could be released from military duty.
– It has been found so satisfactory that it has been continued ever since.
– If an industry requires 500 permanent hands and, say, 300 casual labourers, it is obvious that if the latter number is increased to 500, some steps should be taken to prevent the labour reservoir from overflowing and thus cause hardship to the men permanently employed in the industry. That system operates to-day on our waterfront. Waterside workers, by internal control of their organization, have limited the number of men offering for the available work and the Government, by means of this bill, is attempting to open wide the flood-gates so as to increase the supply in the reservoir of casual labour.
– The trouble is that the men refuse to do the work.
– No one regrets that more than I do, because I am a strong supporter of the principle of arbitration.
– The honorable senator will agree that trades union organizations cannot have it both ways. They must obey awards whether favorable or unfavorable to them, or else discard the system.
– I agree that they cannot have it both ways, but I am mystified as to the intentions of the Government.
– The purpose is to destroy the prevalent idea on the waterfront that men may work when they like and knock off when they like.
– Can the honorable senator point to any provision in the bill that is going to get over that trouble?
– It has acted very well so far.
– It is, I think, generally conceded that there has been less trouble in industry under Labour rule than under anti-Labour rule in Australia.
– Not in Queensland.
– I suggest that honorable senators should study the statistics on this point. The figures show that less time has been lost in industry and that there has been less unemployment and industrial unrest in Australia under Labour rule than under anti-Labour Governments. In my own State the restraining influence of a State Labour Government was responsible for a considerable improvement in the industrial situation. There was a marked change when the present State Liberal Government came into power. Honorable senators should study the bill carefully to see whether, under it, the Government proposes to give the workers a fair deal. It cannot be denied that it will create an industrial dictatorship. It gives to the permanent head of the department, subject to the direction of the Minister, authority to appoint a dictatorial staff known as licensing officers. Parliament will not be consulted. This industrial dictator will not be answerable to Parliament or to Cabinet for any appointments he may make.
– Parliament does not make appointments of any kind.
– Some Parliaments do make appointments, but it is not the practice of British Parliaments to create dictatorships. This is what I am now protesting against. The appointment of an industrial dictator will relieve the Government of all responsibility. The dictatorial staff appointed will have in its hands the issuing of licences to all men engaged on the waterfront. Not only will this industrial dictator have authority to appoint licensing officers, but he may also fix a group of ports for which licences to work will be required. It has already been decided that Sydney shall be exempt and Port Adelaide shall be a licensing port. I regret that Senator McLachlan, the Honorary Minister, is not in the chamber, because I should like to direct his attention to this anomaly. There has been less industrial unrest at Port Adelaide than at Sydney during the last ten years and yet Sydney has been declared an exempt port, and men working at Port Adelaide are forced to take out licences. Port Pirie, in South Australia, is also exempt. There has been no pillaging of cargo there and comparatively little industrial unrest. At Port Adelaide, if a man wishes to secure employment on the waterfront, he must apply to the licensing officer for a licence, and the licensing officer may refuse to issue one without giving reasons for his refusal.
– Where did the honorable senator get that?
– From clause 7 of the bill, which says -
Where an application is made under the last preceding section to a licensing officer he may issue to the applicant a licence…..
Does “may” mean “shall”; that the officer is compelled to issue licences to men who have pillaged cargo, acted as “ brigands “ and caused industrial unrest ? As I read the clause it does not and he is not compelled to issue the licence.
– Has the honorable senator ever heard of a case where a licence has been refused?
– I have heard much from the right honorable gentleman and those behind him to the effect that this should be a House composed of men of principle. It does not concern me whether there has been a refusal to issue a licence or not. My concern is that every British principle of justice should be maintained by this Senate. But the principle of this bill is foreign to British justice. It gives a power to be found only in the laws of one nation - that little province of Australia known as Italy. There is no provision in laws of the British Empire which gives a dictator an unfettered discretion to say whether a man should or should not have a licence to work. Mention was made about marine store dealers being licensed. It must be remembered that those people have the right to go to a British court and ask for a writ of mandamus to compel the issue of such a licence if it has been refused. Here no such provision is made, and the men will he absolutely dependent upon the caprice of members of a dictatorial staff. That is entirely foreign to British justice. I ask honorable senators to examine proposed new section 12 and see the type of British justice that will be meted out to Australian workers. One of these dictators may cancel a licence issued to a waterside worker in any case as to which he is satisfied that the worker has done certain things. No provision is made for a trial to discover whether the man concerned has been guilty, of doing those things. Mention has been made about licences to pillagers being cancelled. Even the man who throws a bomb is entitled under British law to a trial by jury.
– A licence would not be cancelled unless the man was convicted of pillaging.
– The provision relates to whether he has refused or failed to comply with any lawful order or direction given in relation to his employment.
– That has nothing to do with pillaging.
– I was dealing with both aspects of the case, and intended to deal with pillaging later. A man, without receiving a fair British trial, can be declared to be guilty of a breach of the Commonwealth law by a member of a dictatorial staff and his licence may bo cancelled.
– He can appeal. Senator DALY. - He certainly has the right of appeal, but what a fine British court of appeal it is. Let honorable senators read the paragraph which provides for the appeal. I am sorry that Senator P. P. Abbott, who is a lawyer, is not here. It reads -
An appeal shall be by summons calling upon the licensing officer to show cause why the cancellation of the licence should not be set aside.
The onus is on the waterside worker. When his licence is cancelled and he appeals, instead of entering the court with the presumption of innocence, he has thrown upon him the onus of proof.
– Is not the honorable senator putting the matter the wrong way about? It is the licensing officer who has to show cause, and upon whom is thrown the onus of proof.
– The onus of proof is not upon the licensing officer. There is a summons for him to show cause why the cancellation of the licence should not be set aside. That raises a certain onus of proof, which is on the worker, who has to satisfy the court that he is not guilty.
– No. The honorable senator cannot get away with that.
– I am not trying to get away with anything. I keep before me that passage from Shakespeare, “ To thine own self be true. “ If Senator McLachlan were here he would agree with my contention that the waterside worker instead of going into that court with a presumption of his innocence attaching to him, goes into it with a presumption of guilt attaching to him, and has to satisfy the court as to his innocence.
– That is not the case. The licensing officer is presumed to have done right, and he has to prove that he has done right.
– The right honorable gentleman is incorrect. If he were conversant with matrimonial causes he would know that, in a maintenance case, a son may be called upon to show cause why he should not contribute to the support of his father. The onus is upon the father to prove that the son has the means to pay, and the son is called to show cause why he should not pay. Once the son is summoned to show cause the onus is on the father to show facts which will place the son in the position that he has to answer the charge. Here a licensing officer may cancel a man’s licence and that man has to go before this so-called appellant tribunal and satisfy the court that he is innocent of the charge upon which his licence was cancelled.
– It is a complete reversal of British justice.
– Perhaps that is the best description that can be applied to the procedure. It has been claimed by the Government that this system of licensing is not at all one-sided, and a reference was made to a system of licensing in operation in the United Kingdom. I ask the Leader of the Senate whether, under that or this scheme an employer has to be licensed? An employer on the waterfront may commit a breach of the Commonwealth award, as he does every day, and he is still allowed to continue in his job as stevedore. Yet it is claimed that this law is not one-sided ! If the Government has the interests of the workers at heart let it, by licensing the employer, guarantee to them that they will have a decent employer. The Government will not attempt to license the employer, because it knows that it would not then be able to find sufficient support for the measure. Again, there is no language test.
– Does the honorable senator wish wharf labourers to be tested as to their capabilities to express furious language ?
– I will explain why I call attention to the defect. The Leader of the Senate said that the licence is a guarantee of a man’s efficiency. Does he seriously contend that a man who can neither speak nor understand English can work efficiently under an Australian supervisor? The reason why the Government does not insist upon a language test is that it wishes to protect men who have lived only for a short time in this country and do not spend their money in it. It does that rather than protect the interests of the Australian worker.
Again, why should this Government, while efforts are being made to promote peace in industry, fan the flame of industrial revolt? Let it leave matters where they are, and get down to the real causes of the prevailing unrest. I have heard honorable senators opposite preach homilies to representatives on this side of the chamber about loyalty to our arbitration system. Some of the most disloyal statements that have ever been uttered against that system have emanated from chambers of manufactures and commerce.
– But they obey the awards.
– I am discussing those who are responsible for disobedience of awards, who obey awards only when it suits them, and close their factories when the awards are unfavorable to them. Bankers restrict credit, and everybody goes on strike at one stage or another. The 20 )er cent, of employers are just as much responsible for the trouble to which the Leader of the Senate referred yesterday as are the 20 per cent, of the workers. We must endeavour to bring about permanent peace, and not to pass panicky legislation of this nature. We must consider whether it is possible to eradicate the extreme element from both sides. That will never be done while the Government indulges in this form of legislation.
– How does the honorable senator propose to do it?
– The matter is big enough to warrant the Government appointing another royal commission of experts to go into it. The subject of the industrial peace of this community has not yat been scientifically investigated. The Government has appointed many other royal commissions on less important matters. Let it deal similarly with this problem.
– A royal commission could not compel the men to work any more than could a peace conference.
– It could investigate the whole subject from a non-political stand-point. The peace conference has not been given a fair run. Honorable senators opposite must realize that it took a long time to bring the parties together, and that difficult problems were involved upon which both sides had to exercise considerable diplomacy. Every man who participated in the peace conference must admit that, in its initial stages, there was every possibility of its breaking down. I have spoken to a number of the members of the conference, including the chairman, Sir Wallace Bruce, and not one of them thinks otherwise than that the conference will resume in the near future and succeed in the task it has attempted in the interests of Australia.
.- I do not desire to remain silent during the debate on a bill of such importance. During the recent election campaign the licensing of waterside workers was mentioned at many of my meetings, and at Townsville I was asked definitely whether I favored the system. I gave an emphatic answer in the affirmative. I do not propose now to discuss the details of the bill, for they were explained clearly by the right honorable the Leader of the ‘Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) yesterday. Senator Findley and other honorable senators opposite spoke of the hardships suffered by waterside workers and their families when the breadwinner is out of employment, but no member of the Opposition pleaded the cause of that section of the community which is, perhaps, the most vitally affected by disputes on the waterfront. I refer to the primary producers, who, for the most part, suffer in silence. Many of them have invested all their capital in the development of their holdings, and are entirely dependent for a livelihood upon the returns they receive for their produce. Trouble on the waterfront may result in their labours for many months being in vain, for when produce is allowed to rot on the wharfs, as was the case at Bowen during one tomato season, it brings them no return. Very little is said about the suffering of these people, yet they are workers who are as much entitled to protection as are other workers in the community. Indeed, they work harder and longer than do most of the workers in the industrial unions, and they have to accept for their produce, not what an Arbitration Court awards, but what they can get for it in the world’s markets. Honorable senators opposite have emphasized the hardship caused to a waterside worker and his family if his licence is cancelled for some breach of the law, but what about the man who has done nothing wrong, t.nd yet has to suffer, because his produce will not be loaded by these men? It is true that the unemployed waterside worker receives no pay during the period of the cancellation of his licence, for during that time he does no work ; but the primary producer whose produce is left to rot receives no income, notwithstanding that he has laboured hard and long to earn it. Fortunately for the primary producers of Queensland, there was a willing response to the call for volunteer labourers during the trouble on the waterfront, and the men who thus came to the rescue of the country did good work in keeping the wheels of industry going.
– Their output, in the way of loading cargo, was greater than that of the professionals whose places they took.
– I saw some volunteer labourers working at Bundaberg, where I learned that their daily output was double that of the members of the Waterside Workers Union. The whole of our produce might be held up on the waterfront at the caprice of a few individuals, and the community caused inconvenience and suffering without our hearing from honorable senators opposite about the effect of the hold-up on any section other than the waterside workers. As a primary producer myself, I know that primary producers generally desire peace in industry. It is true that in the shearing industry there have been disputes in the past, but during recent years there has been very little dislocation of primary industries through disputes between employers and employees in that industry. The credit for that satisfactory state of affairs is not due entirely to the employees. Honorable senators should remember that the primary producer risks a great deal more than does the person he employs. Before he can employ others he must do a lot of spade work and incur considerable risk.
– In times of drought employees, as well as employers, suffer.
– Unfortunately, the primary producers cannot prevent droughts. If they could, there would be little genuine unemployment in this country.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– The majority of the producers whose interests are affected by trouble on the waterfront are small men who, probably through adverse climatic conditions, have not been able to earn even the basic wage which other workers can earn without any risk of capital and without hard work. I have recently paid a visit to the irrigation areas near Renmark. The dried fruits industry has been brought to a high state of perfection by the application of science; nevertheless, the vine-growers and dried-fruit growers are severely handicapped, and attribute the responsibility for this, not only to the low prices obtainable overseas for their produce, but also to the series of irritating strikes that have occurred during the last five years, and have materially affected the continually rising costs of production. The system of licensing waterside workers has been in operation about six months, and during that period there has been continuity of work on the waterfront. The strong stand taken by the Government, during this six months has at last given an opportunity to the primary producers and manufacturers alike to get a reasonable return for their produce or the output of their factories by keeping transport moving, and a continuation of this policy of licensing will afford protection to free labourers and unionists alike in carrying on their lawful occupations.
– The provisions of this bill are not new to the Senate. A measure em bodying the power to make regulations that are now to become statute law, was passed last session, and it ‘ is rather strange that it did not excite half the warmth that has been displayed in regard to this bill. The closer this legislation is examined by its critics the uglier it becomes to them; it does not improve on acquaintance. The supporters of the Government would gladly avoid creating so much discussion. They would gladly refrain from occasions like this that present so many opportunities for the imputating of motives. It is not pleasant to incur the censure of a responsible opposition, and that of its supporters in the country; but the Government had no option in the matter. The position was forced upon it. It has to do its duty. If a government is to govern, it must see that the people’s interests, of which it is the custodian, are conserved, and that all citizens have a chance to follow their daily avocations without hindrance, or without any “by your leave.” That is the duty of the Government as I conceive it, and it is the right of every citizen to pursue his calling without fear of any person or section in the community so long as he respects the laws of the country.
I am glad that Mr. President is allowing some latitude in the discussion of this bill, because it deals with a problem of the greatest importance - that of bringing closer together the two elements in the industrial field. It is a problem that lies at the very root of the happiness, progress, and prosperity of this country. For some years these two . elements have been coming into far too frequent collision for the peace and prosperity of Australia. They have been wrongly described as having diverse interests. If they stood together in reasonable amity, each serving its own interest, but at the same time jealous of the interests of the community as a whole - if they could be brought closer together - it would be to the everlasting benefit and prosperity of Australia; we should not have° the industrial machine brought to a stand-still so often with consequential misery, suffering, hardship, and loss. It it our task on the present occasion to safeguard the interests of those people who suffer injury and loss because a section of the community has brought the whole industrial machine to a stand-still. Innocent people cannot be permitted to suffer injury in their business undertakings. Produce, which Senator Cooper has rightly said is the daily bread of the producer and which is grown by his sweat and toil, cannot be allowed to stand still on the way to market, or rot in front of the grower, as has often been the experience in Tasmania, Western Australia, and elsewhere. Actions which bring the whole industrial machine to a dead stop must cease, or the responsibility for them must be saddled on the right people. The “ scrap of paper, “ otherwise a licence, is merely a warrant that citizens of this country may engage in work without challenge. I cannot conceive of any party, which claims to be the advocate and sponsors of modern democracy - of freedom of action - interfering with men who hold licences.
– They are not interfered with now.
– Are they not? Then the reports we see in the newspapers must be false. We cannot handle this subject much longer with lavender gloves. I remind honorable senators that it was a “ scrap of paper “ that provoked a mighty conflict in Europe. As a matter of fact, it was a “scrap of paper “ that stood across the pathway of the Prussian junkers and militarists and prevented them from accomplishing their designs in Belgium. Similarly, a “ scrap of paper “ in the shape of a transport worker’s licence stands across the pathway of the labour militants of Australia and prevents them from accomplishing their designs. I pay them a compliment in calling them Labour militants, because if there is any suspicion of a lack of militancy on their part their days are numbered. Latter-day Labour in Australia requires its leaders to be everlastingly at war with their fellows. I am also paying them a compliment when I compare them with the Prussian militarists, because both parties have sinned similarly and want to be put right. The Australian “ scrap of paper “ is a warrant or sort of magna charta to a citizen that he may pursue his lawful calling without interference or intimidation. I do not regard the licences issued under this law from the same viewpoint as the members of the Labour party. The issue of licences is a means to ensure a continuance of industrial operations in this country. It is a device for getting on with the job. Industries are essential to any country. If their Operations are retarded here we cannot hope to prosper or to hold this country indefinitely, and, in effect, say to others, “ Keep off the grass;” Our neighbours are looking upon us from a distance, and if we are to retain Australia for our own use the main essential is to populate, develop it and work it. If we are to do that we should not allow a small and irresponsible section in this country to stop the wheels of industry. We are here to do the best Ave can for our country and justice to all. The time Will come when Ave shall vanish from the scene, but whilst we are here it is our bounden duty to bear witness to the truth, avail ourselves of a power which the electors have placed in our hands, and see that justice is done to every citizen. But above all, we should, as becomes a progressive and enlightened community, keep our industries going.
The) question of compulsory arbitration arises in connexion Avith this measure. As one who stood by the cradle when arbitration was in its swaddling clothes, I may perhaps be pardoned for sounding a personal note, by saying that twenty-four years ago, I was put to the test of proving my belief in arbitration.
– Has arbitration come up to the honorable senator’s expectations ?
– The one thing that has not come up to my expectations is that a part - an inferior part - of human nature has sadly failed. When arbitration was first conceived and brought into operation, it was heralded as the brightest gleam that had ever come to advanced thinkers. It was then thought that it would overcome the barbaric system of strikes which had prevailed and had caused so much trouble between employer and employee for ages. On the occasion to which I have referred, and when my convictions were put to the test, about 1,000 men were involved in a strike, which arose in consequence of the presiding judge of the Arbitration Court of Western Australia giving what was well-known at the time to be a wrong interpretation of the act he was administering. In the exercise of his powers, he fixed a minimum wage for the least competent workmen, thus allowing unscrupulous employers to work up from that low standard. It was obvious that the wrong, interpretation placed upon the act would lead to a good deal of strife, hardship, mischief, and misunderstanding. When the trouble in which 1,000 men were involved, occurred, I was the State member for the district, and I went among my constitutents and asked them - it was not an easy matter - to accept and loyally abide by the award of the court. I was as strongly in favour of arbitration as I am now, and I went amongst the men upon whose votes I had to depend for my political existence and urged them to return to work, notwithstanding that they were being pressed down to the minimum wage provided for by the judge as a result of his admittedly wrong interpretation of the law. I took my political life in my hands as the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) knows, with the result that the men went back and the employers, as the outcome of my representations, took a more reasonable view of the situation and satisfied these workers to the full. I was not saved from the javelins or poisoned shafts of my enemies then in the Labour movement, I was assailed by & gentleman who is not now in the ranks of Labour - an unfortunate man devoid of a generous impulse - who was so ungenerous as to describe me as a traitor to the Labour movement; but I went amongst the men aud urged them to return to work, and to their honour they went back. That occurred 24 years ago, and I am still a loyal supporter of arbitration. These gentlemen of the Opposition who glibly say that they favour arbitration have never been put to that test, or at least not to the extent that I have, and those honorable senators who represent Western Australia know that what I say is true. They are living witnesses of the accuracy of my assertion.
It is easy for honorable senators of the Labour party to say that they believe in arbitration, but if they do, why do they not tell the men on strike to return to work in accordance with a principle which they, above all others in the community, should support? The reason is obvious. Other employers took advantage of the incorrect interpretation of the act to which I have referred, which resulted in no end of trouble in Western Australia, and enabled unscrupulous employers to crush their employees down to such a level that they went on strike. Eventually the employers were brought to their knees, as the Leader of the Opposition knows, and were compelled to pay a fair wage. There may have been some doubt as to the part I actually played on that occasion, but I. think it will now be clear up to that point. That is the time when it is said that I was a “ scab.”
– The honorable senator should read the speech he delivered on the 1st July, 1926, when he admitted that he had “ scabbed.”
– When the engineers went out on strike, as I’ said a few days ago, and when under the Standing Orders I was not permitted to discuss the matter further, they were asking for higher wages than was stipulated in the award. On that occasion I volunteered my services and in similar circumstances would do it again. Men who professed to be unionists then were “ scabbing “ on their word of honour and on their manhood. I volunteered my services, and am not ashamed of it. I would not “ scab “ on arbitration, as the Leader of the Opposition is at present doing.
– Order! I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I have been through four historic strikes.
– And the honorable senator will go through a few more.
– When the honorable senator had to stand his trial in the western State, and told tarradiddle tales about me at the last election, his services were rejected by the people. The electors said that the tales he told about Lynch were untrue and that I was a better man to represent them.
– Because the honorable senator will still “scab.”
– I can understand the warmth of the Leader of the Opposition, whose impertinence does not trouble me, because he will be a representative of Western Australia for only a few months. If he had stood up to his job as a loyal Australian’ he would not he out in the cold politically as he is to-day.
It is provided that in certain circumstances a secret ballot shall be held. Why should it be necessary to make the taking of a secret ballot compulsory? Echo answers, why? In my opinion it is because the bosses of trade unionism in Australia fear that a secret ballot means the sounding of their death-knell. I know what happens when a strike is declared. There are gentlemen here representing the Labour movement who, by the way, lived on a fat salary whilst I, when acting as the secretary of a union, was paid only 5s. a week and was always a good target for managerial spleen. Sometimes I got the sack. As a representative of a union, I did not hold the “cushy” jobs that some of these men are holding to-day. I have been a trade unionist for 38 years, and I am a member of a trade union to-day. I doubt very much whether some who profess to be such staunch trade unionists are actual members of a trade unionists’ organization. From my earliest association with trade unionism I have always insisted on the principal of a secret ballot. What is the modus operandi to-day? The members attend, the scene is staged, and the leaders of the latter-day Labour movement, when it comes to decision on a vital issue, say that they will take a vote. In effect they say “ ‘ dinky-di ‘ trade unionists pass to the right and the ‘ scabs ‘ to the left.” Men must be very bold in these days to join the scabs. That is the system by which decisions are reached and many men compelled to act against their consciences. The men will not listen to reason. I have sacrificed more than the whole lot of the present Opposition have done in an endeavour to place the workers in a better position. When an appeal is made to the electors in Western Australia, I am returned triumphantly, and the people of Western Australia will return me if I have to be carried here. I challenge honorable senators opposite to state the actual conditions under which a ballot is taken in connexion with a strike.
– What did Carey say?
– I have heard of that before. There is an old saying that the magnitude of a charge is lost sight of in the insignificance of the accusers. Every principle for which Labour has fought during the last 25 years has been preserved for it more jealously by honorable senators supporting the Government than by honorable senators opposite. This is the reason why Labour ranks in this chamber have been so thinned in recent years. They laugh and talk and pretend to be happy about it. They remind me of the man who whistled while going through a churchyard to keep his courage up. We know that their hilarity is so much simulation. We have heard it all before. This is why there is such a wide gulf between honorable members supporting the Government and our friends opposite - the difference between candour and cant.
The bill provides for the appointment of licensing officers whose duty it will be to issue licences to persons seeking employment on the waterfront. Senator Needham and his supporters in this chamber do not wish this scrap of paper to be issued to trade unionists. Of course they do not. But the people of Australia expressed their views in no uncertain terms at the last election, and the Government now proposes to continue with its policy so that the people of this country may get a fair deal. The bill is called the Transport Workers Bill. I emphasize the word “ workers “ and remind honorable senators of what the Leader of the Senate said concerning the amount of work done by a section of unionists on the waterfront who wish to continue a monopoly in this class of work. The right honorable gentleman told us that gangs of unionists in certain cases had been unloading ships at the rate of from ten tons to fifteen tons per hour, and that gangs of volunteer workers, when they had a chance to show what they could do, brought the output up to 24 or 25 tons per hour. It is obvious, of course, that the trade unionists mentioned were not “ delivering the goods.” As a matter of fact they had been holding up the commerce of Australia, and piling up charges outrageously.
– How will this bill alter that state of affairs?
– By enacting provisions to ensure that transport workers shall do a fair day’s work - no more and no less - the same as other people have to do. If honorable senators opposite were themselves personally concerned they would see that they had a fair deal. If, for example, Senator Barnes bought a suit of clothes which the shopkeeper represented to him was an all wool suit, and if, upon examining it subsequently, he found that it contained a fair proportion of cotton and was, in fact, an inferior suit, does any honorable senator imagine in that case he would be the lamb-like person he pretends to be in- this chamber? Is it not more likely that he would take the first opportunity to tell the shopkeeper in the plainest terms possible, that he was a robber? Or if the honorable senator purchased a pair of boots in the belief that he was getting an all leather article, and found later that composition entered largely into its manufacture, we may be sure that he would lose no time in going back to the rogue who sold him the boots and telling him what he thought of him. Again, if the honorable senator entered a barber’s shop and was shaved in an unworkmanlike manner would he not tell the barber that he was obtaining his money under false pretences? In every such instance he would see that he got value for his money. We must deal in the same way with the workers on our waterfront.
Under our arbitration system they have been receiving fair rates of pay consistent with the economic position of the Commonwealth; but in the main they have not been doing a fair day’s work. Consequently they have been obtaining their money under false pretences. No one can pretend that an output of from 10 tons to 12 tons per hour by a gang of experienced wharf labourers is a fair return, in view of the fact that raw recruits can send the average up to 24 tons or 25 tons per hour. In a private business concern such as that I cited in the case of Senator Barnes, head of the Australian Workers Union in Australia, this inadequate return would not be tolerated. Similarly, it should not be tolerated in the interests of the community.
– The gangs that unloaded 24 tons or 25 tons per hour were increased by 100 per cent.
– No, the number of men in each gang was the same.
– Mill hands in Queensland handled 50 tons per hour as compared with 15 tons per hour handled by wharf labourers.
– We have now drifted into the curious position that the waterside workers numbering 17,000 or 18,000 out of a total of over 900,000 trade unionists have been able effectively to hold up industry in Australia. Can honorable senators opposite justify this state of affairs by any rule of equity ? Are they content to allow this small section of trade unionists to dislocate entirely the transport services of the Commonwealth? Official statistics disclose that there are about 911,000 trade unionists in Australia. It follows, therefore, that wharf labourers - these men who are content to handle only 12 or 15 tons of cargo per hour - represent about 2 per cent, of the total, and yet they have been responsible for practically 100 per cent, of our industrial troubles in recent years. Is there no remedy for this state of affairs? Can honorable senators opposite stand up and defend it? If we are to judge from their utterances in this chamber and elsewhere, they certainly are attempting to do so.
– The wharf labourers are not holding up commerce.
– But they have done it.
– The agents of the employers have been responsible.
– I have in my hand the labour report for 1927, issued by an officer who has served under both Labour and Nationalist Governments, and whose figures, I am sorry to say, have been impugned. It is much to be regretted that even the Commonwealth Statistician is not free from the suspicion of a certain section of unionism. The labour report for 1927 shows that in the ten years from 1917 to 1927, there were no fewer than ten important disputes in which the waterside workers of Australia were involved. These men, I again remind honorable senators, represent only about 2 per cent, of the total trade unionists in Australia, and yet the disputes in which they were engaged involved themselves in a loss of nearly £500,000 a year, or a total for the ten years of £4,299,000. But what of the loss to the community? The worst feature of those disturbances was the obvious intention to violate labour laws and destroy the arbitration system under which the great majority of trade unionists in Australia are working in amity. If the transport workers in Australia, numbering about 176,000, who have been misbehaving like the wharf labourers were as bad as them then their loss would be about £5,000,000 a year, besides the loss to the rest of the community. If in recent years all trade unionists had been infected with the strike germ to the same extent as the wharf labourers, they would have suffered financially to the tune of £50,000,000 in the ten years besides what the rest of the people would have lost. Is it not about time this union’s conduct was stopped?
Ex-Senator Gardiner, who for many years was Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, told us on one occasion that the workers represent 90 per cent, of the people pf this country. I do not question his statement, hut I suggest to -honorable senators opposite that it is remarkable that the people of Australia in the exercise of the franchise recently, instead of returning the Opposition in the Senate apparently realized that, notwithstanding all their fair promises, they were Labour’s false friends. They preferred honorable senators on this side. This Government, I contend, is in power by virtue of the votes of the workers, if ex-Senator Gardiner’s statement is correct. Surely, then, it was reasonable to expect the Government to do something to protect the rights and interests of 700,000 workers - 80 per cent, of the trade unionists in Australia - who have no sympathy with the views of the minority, and who loyally abide by arbitration. The answer is to be found in this bill. If only a fraction of what honorable senators opposite have said about the Government and its supporters were true in regard to industrial legislation, we should not be in our present position in this chamber. But the people realized that the truth was not in them; they were weighed in the balance and found wanting, and they left them wanting the posts they sought. Honorable senators opposite appealed to the workers of Australia to place them on the Government benches, and their appeal was refused. The workers realized that they are not to be trusted, and left them where they are.
– Why does not the honorable senator discuss the bill?
– Senator Daly endeavoured ‘to do so, hut did not make much of a fist of it. Certainly his was not a very illuminating contribution to the debate.
– I spoke to the bill, and not to the gallery.
– The honorable senator referred to British jurisprudence, but he does not completely understand its principles, and I’ shall endeavour to enlighten him. It is a principle of British jurisprudence that the onus of proof of guilt is cast upon the accuser, so that the accused always has a fair chance to establish his innocence. In contradistinction to that, the system of French jurisprudence provides that the onus of proof of innocence shall be on the accused. The British system was not always so. I remember that, in my infantile days, it had a flaw which enabled a person to be cast into gaol before anything has been proved against him, and though he never appeared before a magistrate or judge and jury. Does Senator Daly know that?
– I do not, nor does the honorable senator.
– Order ! I ask the honorable senator to discuss the bill, and members of the Opposition to refrain from interjecting.
– The bill vitally affects the fundamental progress and prosperity of the nation. If it is defeated the consequences will be serious. As it is possible, but not probable, that it will be defeated, I must, in the interests of myself and my constituents, consider the contingency. Senator Cooper referred to the condition of the primary producers of Australia and the disabilities under which they labour by reason of the industrial unrest that prevails and has prevailed. It is our duty properly to ‘ balance the advantages and disadvantages amongst all sections of the community. We represent not a class, but the community. I urge honorable senators of the Opposition to realize how adversely our primary producers will be affected if this legislation is cancelled. Statistics reveal that the prosperity of the country is by no means equitably distributed among our workers, among whom I include the primary producers, who are experiencing, greater and greater difficulties in sending their surplus products to local markets and overseas. The agricultural market report of the British Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries for the “25th January, 1925, indicates that the percentage increase in the value of wheat exported in 1928 wa3 only 32 per cent, greater than it was in 1911-13, of fat cattle 38 per cent., butter 51 per cent., and wool 76 per cent. As against that I find, on reference to the official Y ear-Book of the Commonwealth of Australia, that the increase in earnings in the engineering, woodwork and furniture, building, mining, railway, and shipping industries, in the interval between 1911 and 1927 has been about 100 per cent. So that while the average employee increased his earnings by 100 per cent., the income of our leading primary producers increased by only about 40 per cent. If this measure is rejected, the position of the primary producers will be even worse. As honorable senators know, our exportable surplus, which has now reached £140,000,000 per annum, is the only means by which we are able to pay the wages of the community, including the wharf labourers. If, by ill-advised industrial conflict, that income is whittled away, Australia will be in a perilous position and not able to pay. We must endeavour to make the wheels of industry run smoothly. If we do not act fairly and justly one to the other and take due advantage of legislation such as this we shall jeopardize the prosperity of this fair country. I remind honorable senators opposite what a wonderful heritage is ours. Let them congratulate themselves that they did not exist in France during the time of the French Revolution, when labour unions were not tolerated by the committee of public safety. Honorable senators opposite have a penchant for the colour red. They had better keep away from anything red, because if the “ Red “ element gets into power they will be in for a bad time.
This measure proposes to develop the idea underlying the act passed last year, namely, to issue licences to workers in the same way that the trade unions of this country grant tickets or licences to their members. The trade unions have brought the licensing of workers to a fine art; we have reached the stage where no person who is not licensed by a union has a chance of earning a livelihood. If this bill is not passed, and the licensing system is rejected, we shall give to men, not the right to work, but the right to starve. Fair play is bonny play, and if men will not obey Arbitration Court awards, they must make room for others who will. Why do honorable senators opposite not be frank and denounce the men for what they have done? They should not be so concerned about their political skins. Why are they afraid to say that the licensing system is necessary for the good of the community? It ill becomes any Australian to persecute his fellow man merely because he is earning an honest livelihood. The object of those who seek to destroy this bill is to give to men the right to go without food. I shall not stand idly by and allow that to be done. On humanitarian grounds alone, I could not stand by and see the meanest person in the community forced into starvation without seeking to assist him. Nothing more than the passing of this bill is necessary to hold the scales evenly between the different classes in the community and to give men the right to work. I offer this advice to honorable senators opposite in the. kindliest spirit. As a parent who truly loves his child has sometimes to chastise it, so if I have chided honorable senators opposite, it is because I love them. Instead of speaking with their tongues in their cheeks, members of the Opposition should adopt a manly attitude, and show some of the spirit that was in the old pioneers who accepted this continent as it was given to them by Mother Nature and developed it, bravely facing dangers and difficulties. Let them show some of the characteristics of the men who came 12,000 miles to possess and develop this land, and not devote so much energy to condemning the’ capitalist, in whose interests they say this bill has been introduced.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I have listened with a great deal of patience to the speeches of honorable senators in support of the hill in the hope that I should hear some valid argument in favour of this legislation being placed on the statute-book, but having heard the diatribes which have been uttered by them, I am more than ever convinced that no sound reason exists for passing it. There has been a wild hurry-scurry from Dan to Beersheba in search of excuses for the introduction of this measure. The main excuse offered seems to be that honorable senators opposite regard the Labour movement as a menace to this country, and its members as persons not to be trusted. Some of those who have criticized members of the Labour party to-night, were at one time honoured and respected members of that party, and their erstwhile opponents used the same arguments concerning the Labour party in those days as these new apostles of what was then known as conservatism now use in relation to present- day members of the Labour party. Some more substantial argument will have to be advanced before I shall cast an affirmative vote for a measure of this description.
The Labour party, which represents nearly half the people of the Commonwealth, and at the last election received the support of a substantial majority of the electors of South Australia, is just as law abiding, and just as keen to safeguard the established institutions of this country, and to maintain its industries, as is any other party.
It is interesting in this connexion to hear what some of the leaders of the parties opposed to Labour said when seeking the suffrages of the electors during the recent campaign. I shall first quote some remarks made by the Prime Minister in the course of a speech he delivered at Norwood, South Australia. The right honorable gentleman, at that meeting, made a statement which, had it emanated from a Labour candidate, would have been published throughout Australia in the largest and blackest type to be found in the newspaper offices ; but, because it was uttered by the Prime Minister, it received very little prominence in the South Australian press. The Prime Minister emphasized that he intended to deal with fundamental principles, and, indeed, he enunciated a number of principles which, he said, were necessary to good government and prosperity. But he said more than that. The Adelaide Register, the conservative organ in South Australia, in its issue of the 23rd October, 1928, credits the right honorable gentleman with having said that, if he was a waterside worker, he would go round with a bottle in his hand looking for some of the men who had led them into this present trouble. The Prime Minister, who says so much about peace and goodwill, and law and order, advised his hearers to arm themselves with bottles against those who had caused trouble in the community. Yet we are told that we, the opponents of this measure, and not the Prime Minister and his followers, are the apostles of disorder and disruption.
The bill before us is opposed to all sense of fair play, because it gives to an individual - a licensing officer - the power to deprive others of the right to earn their living. The Leader’ of the Government, in moving the second reading of this measure, endeavoured to draw an analogy between the licensing of plumbers, motor drivers, electricians, and baggage carriers with the system of licensing under this bill. There is no similarity between the two systems. Licences are granted to plumbers, motor drivers and other skilled artisans, as well as to members of the medical profession, in order to safeguard the interests of the community generally. I have read this bill carefully, but I cannot find in it any reference to competence or skill as a qualification for holding a licence. In the early stages of the application of the licensing system at Port Adelaide there were some appalling instances of incompetence. Accident after accident occurred, some minor and some serious, and in two cases death resulted. Inquiries among the foremen in charge of operations elicited that the accidents were caused by the inefficiency of the licensees and their lack of knowledge of the work they were called upon to perform. At that time many of the Southern Europeans licensed were not acquainted with the English language. I understand that a language test has since been applied, and that some of these men have had their licences cancelled. But it is a condition of affairs that is possible of repetition under the provisions of this bill. In South Australia Southern Europeans were found to have disposed of their licences to fellow countrymen. It was difficult for the authorities to prove cases of this kind, but in several instances the charge has been sheeted home, although the penalty imposed, in my opinion, has been extremely small for what I regard as a most serious offence.
The luggage porters referred to by the Leader qf the Senate are licensed for a certain reason. The railway authorities decide that a certain number of porters can cope with the work at a particular railway station, and in order to prevent the reservoir of labour being flooded at that point, the number of licences issued is restricted.
– Porters are also licensed in order to protect passengers’ luggage.
– I shall come back to that point later. Normally 1,800 waterside workers can handle all the cargo offering at Port Adelaide, but 3,274 men hold licences there. It is likely to create a very difficult problem later on. Because of the casual nature of their occupation and because a sufficient number of men must be available to handle cargo at a peak period, the pay of the wharf labourer is usually higher than the ordinary rate of wage. It must be sufficient to enable him to earn something like a living wage over the whole twelve months. If more than twice the number of men required to handle the work of the port are licensed, and each man is to earn a living wage over the twelve months, the rate of wage that will require to be bed must be 40 high as to lead to complications in years to come. “Will honorable senators who favour this bill support an increase in rates of pay for that class of work to provide for these circumstances? “When these regulations were proclaimed in Port Adelaide the strike was over. On a Saturday the men decided to return to work, and the regulations were proclaimed on the following Monday. The anxiety of the Government to insist on licensing the workers of Port Adelaide had the effect of prolonging the dispute for nearly a fortnight. Had the regulations not been applied in Port Adelaide the men there would have begun and continued working and would not be under licence to-day.
By way of interjection the Leader of the Senate a few moments ago spoke of protecting passengers’ luggage, and on the second reading he emphasized the necessity for protecting cargo. Is’ Port Adelaide the only port in Australia where pillaging of cargo takes place? There are no licensing provisions at Sydney or Fremantle.
– The transport workers at Fremantle are all licensed.
– They are not licensed at Sydney.
– If the workers on the waterfront at Sydney strike, they will require to be licensed.
– I gather from the honorable senator’s interjection that the bill is required not to prevent pillaging, but to tie the workers to their jobs under all conditions. There are six ports in South Australia where substantial numbers of waterside workers are employed. In only one are the men required to take out licences. The Port Adelaide waterside worker is regarded as a potential pillager, and must secure a licence ; but he may go to Wallaroo, Port Lincoln, or Cape Thevenard and work without a licence. The worker at Port Lincoln or Cape Thevenard is deemed to be quite honest while he remains at either port, but immediately he goes to Port Adelaide to pursue his calling he is regarded as a potential pillager, and must take out a licence. The whole system is bristling with inconsistencies.
– Would the honorable senator favour the system if it applied to all ports ?
– I do not favour it at all.
– The honorable senator does not appear to have any serious objection to the bill.
– I should like to hear more valid reasons for its introduction than those advanced by the Minister in his tirade of abuse when moving the second reading. The bill provides that if the holder of a licence commits certain offences he may be delicensed for a period of from three to twelve months. That is an unnecessarily hard penalty, particularly as the majority of men employed on the waterfront have established homes adjacent to the ports at which they are working, and have families and financial responsibilities which make it difficult for them to obtain employment elsewhere. If they commit an offence within the meaning of this law they run the risk of losing their means of livelihood, and cannot submit their case to a properly constituted tribunal. Of course, there is the right of appeal; but when a worker is delicensed another worker secures a licence and takes his job. Of what avail then is a successful appeal ?
During the. election campaign the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), speaking at the Camberwell Town Hall, said -
The Transport Workers Act did not discriminate between unionists and non-unionists in any respect. The Government was determined to do everything in its power to secure to all citizens the fullest opportunity to work so long as they observed the law, including the awards of the Arbitration Court.
Why does the Government not keep the promise made by the Attorney-General on its behalf? It has allowed unfair discrimination at Port Adelaide, where the employers are giving preference to volunteerlabour. Any work available after all the first preference volunteers - and they are numerous - have been absorbed is given to the regular waterside workers who have taken out licences, and obeyed the law of the land and the award of the Arbitration Court since the day they became licensed. Appeals have been made to the Government to bring about a more equitable distribution of work at Port Adelaide, but up to date nothing has been done. In consequence of the Government’s inactivity in this respect, unemployment and misery are more pronounced in Port Adelaide than ever before in the history of South Australia. We have it on the authority of medical men that little children have died as the result of lack of nourishment. The principal newspapers of South Australia, the Mayor of Port Adelaide, and the Lord Mayor of Adelaide are cooperating in an appeal to the citizens of South Australia to relieve the distress that exists among the families of waterside workers at Port Adelaide. Business men are closing their establishments because of the loss of trade. Prior to the introduction of this system approximately £900,000 was earned by the Port Adelaide workers every year, over 90 per cent. of which was spent in Port Adelaide and its environs. As a result of the introduction of this system-
– As a result of the strike.
– As a result of the introduction of this system about 40 per cent. of the wages paid is now being earned by men, many of whom are single Southern Europeans, who do not live at Port Adelaide.
– If the men had not gone on strike these Southern Europeans would not have been there.
– There should he some spirit of forgiveness displayed in this instance. Under the British law the greatest offender can appeal for and expect forgiveness. There is at present in South Australia a man who is alleged to have battered his wife to death in the most brutal circumstances and who was sentenced to imprisonment for fifteen years. Owing to good conduct the prison doors were closed behind him before his term expired and he is now a free man. But the waterside workers who have committed some alleged offence against the arbitration laws o’f the Commonwealth are not to be -forgiven ; they are to be hounded down. It is not only the men who are suffering; their wives and their little children are in many cases living in a state of absolute poverty for which this Government is responsible.
Honorable senators opposite are not alone in their desire to safeguard the interests of the primary producer. I have been a primary producer all my life and am still actively engaged in primary production. I claim to know something of the trials and struggles of the man on the land, because I have acquired knowledge in the hard school of experience. I object, however, to the primary producers being used as a stalking horse by certain honorable senators in an endeavour to gain political kudos. I strongly object to some of the statements made during the currency of the waterside workers’ dispute concerning the great losses which the wool-growers of Australia were supposed to have sustained as a result of the hold-up in shipping. I do not ‘expect the Senate to accept anything that is not authoritative. Notwithstanding the severe drought experienced in the particular part of South Australia where I live, I was able to produce a few bales of wool which were catalogued for disposal at the sale in South Australia which was postponed in consequence of the waterside trouble. As honorable senators are aware, the sale was eventually held in Melbourne and in common with other sellers, I received a priced catalogue from the well-known and old-established firm of Goldsborough, Mort and Co. That firm stated -
Unfortunately for the growers, the trend of the market lias been downward during the hold-up. This is not due to the shipping strike, but to the slackness in trade in the wool industry more particularly affecting Bradford and France. It is now evident that wool values have been too high, but at the recently established prices it is hoped the market will stabilize. There was a large attendance of buyers at the sale. Best wool eagerly competed for, Russia securing the bulk.
I could quote a statement by a prominent wool authority published in the Adelaide Mail, subsequent to the strike to the effect that the hold-up was a blessing in disguise to the wool-growers in South Australia. That authority said that it permitted the market in Bradford to recover to a certain extent from the glut, and enabled certain stocks, which had been embarrassing the buyers of Australian wool, to be disposed of. “With the disposal of those stocks it was hoped to create the right atmosphere for the sale of Australian wool. He said that in hi, opinion so far from losing as a result of the shipping strike, the grower benefited to the extent of 10 per cent. The Mail featured the item under the heading “A blessing in disguise.”
– Does the honorable senator contend then that the shipping strike was a good thing for the wool industry?
– According to the authorities I have quoted, the industry did not suffer. Senator Cooper mentioned the difficulties of the settlers on the river Murray districts in South Australia. I have not heard that shipments from those districts were affected by the trouble on the waterfront. I am inclined to believe, therefore, that if the honorable senator had inquired more closely into the position he would have realized that it is not labour costs that are crippling the industry so much as the mistakes made by the Liberal Government in South Australia in settling people on certain areas. “We remember the famous Loveday scheme, which cost about £1,000,000. After a good deal of work had been done for settlement under that scheme, it was found that the land was unsuitable. The workmen had to use dynamite to blast out holes for the trees. One can readily understand that the sensitive roots of vines would not flourish in that class of soil. As a result the scheme was abandoned and there was a loss of nearly £1,000,000. Similar mistakes were made in other areas. At the present time returned soldiers and other settlers on the newer areas along the river Murray are struggling against high capital charges. Although costs have been written down by the State Government there will have to be further reductions before the men engaged in the industry can make a success of it. “When the right honorable the Prime Minister was speaking in Adelaide he gave a definite undertaking that the withdrawal of the licences would receive the earnest consideration of the Government. Speaking from memory and subject to correction, I think he said that Parliament would be given an opportunity to consider the whole question. The Leader of the Senate has told us that the Government is doing that. But the Prime Minister, when speaking in Adelaide, said that if a conference of employers and employees asked for a repeal of the licensing provisions, he would be prepared to amend the bill accordingly.The Peace in Industry Conference has been held and the trouble on the waterfront has received and is still receiving consideration. A considerable section of the people of Australia object to the licensing system. The Leader of the Senate yesterday quoted figures to show that there had been an increase in the quantity of cargo handled by gangs of workmen since the licensing provisions had been enforced. I do not propose to cast a doubt upon his figures, but I can assure him that if he went to Port Adelaide he could obtain another set of figures proving that the genuine waterside worker can handle more cargo and do it more efficiently than the volunteer worker. Employers who pay additional handling costs at Port Adelaide as a result of the inefficiency of the volunteers whom they are compelled to employ are much perturbed about this matter, as also are shippers whose returns are being depleted and business people whose costs are being increased. But the most serious aspect about the whole business is that local workers who have wives and families dependent upon them have been displaced by single Southern Europeans who send their savings to Malta, Italy, or Greece. Altogether too many of these foreign migrants are being employed, whilst good Australians are out of work. Because of . their frugal habits and because they have no dependants in thi, country, the bulk of their earnings go out of Australia.
– “Why did the Australian workmen go on strike?
– Many of these Australian workmen went to the war. There are 274 returned soldiers in the .ranks of the Port Adelaide branch of the “Waterside Workers Federation. These are the men to whom preference in employment was promised when they returned from the war, but because of some alleged industrial offence they are now thrown on the scrap heap and, with their wives and families, are permitted to starve whilst Southern Europeans are given employment.
– It is their own fault. Why did they go out on strike?
– Is there no compassion in the make-up of the honorable senator? Is there not one kindly spot in his heart which one can touch on behalf of good Australians who have been dispossessed of their employment? Is there to be no repentance or atonement for them?
– This trouble has become altogether too frequent of late years.
– We have heard all these libels upon Australian workers before. Honorable senators op*posite appear to lose sight of the fact that more time is lost in Great Britain, than in Australia as the result of industrial disturbances. This statement is borne out in the latest industrial statistics available, for the period ending 31st March, 1928. Honorable senators supporting the Government have endeavoured to belittle the amendment moved by my leader. They argue that even if it is carried the licensing provisions will still operate. I admit that they will, but I suggest that it is easier for the Prime Minister to repeal regulations than to repeal an Act of Parliament. For this reason I hope that the amendment will be carried, and that the bill itself will not be placed upon the statute-book.
.- Everyone, I am sure, regrets sincerely the s need for the introduction -of this bill; but one cannot shut one’s eyes to the fact that the majority of the people feel that the time has arrived for the passage of such legislation. I need only remind honorable senators that for some years now there has been an almost continual dislocation of industry owing to the action of a section of workers who have been spurred on to disobey awards of the Arbitration Court. Honorable senators opposite have said repeatedly that the waterside workers were determined not to work under the Beeby award. The fact is that in the majority of disputes the workers are called out and have no option. As a rule the workers do not, of their own volition, come out on strike. I have been a worker all my life. I have conversed on this subject with a great number of working men, and I say without hesitation that I have obtained the confidence of hundreds of them. They have assured me, time after time, that they have no desire to cease work but are obliged to do so at the dictation of the militants in the various organizations. When T have asked them if they attended the meetings of their unions, they have replied in the negative, giving as a reason that if they did so and protested against the action of those who were endeavouring to foment trouble and disorder, they would be called “ scabs.” I have had this information from bona fide members of the Waterside Workers Federation and the Stewards Union. I was assured by a member of the Stewards Union that they had no wish to take part in the last strike, but that they had received instructions to cease work and if they had disobeyed, life would have been made intolerable for them. It is no use blinking the facts. No one has a greater respect than I for sane unionism, but even zealous unionists confess that they are appalled at the manner in which trade unionism .. Australia has been prostituted during the last ten to fifteen years.
The Leader of the Opposition and his deputy, Senator Findley, voiced their desire for industrial peace. I do not question the genuineness of that desire, but I deplore the fact that the political representatives of trade unionism have not been able to restrain the extremist section of the movement which has been instrumental in fomenting the trouble that has necessitated the introduction of a bill of this character. Reference has been made to the Peace Conference which recently sat in Melbourne and Sydney. I, and hundreds of thousands of others in Australia, expected great results from that convention. One could scarcely have imagined that, in a country like ours, where the average individual enjoys greater advantages than his prototype in any other country, even while the peace tribunal was in session the extremist section which controls the industrialists would have ordered the timberworkers to disobey an award of the court.
– Why does not the Government appoint a suitable personnel to that court?
– The honorable senator seeks to introduce something quite irrelevant to the debate. He might as reasonably ask why the Government does not appoint arbitration judges who will always make awards that are favorable to the industrialists.
– Why has not the Government sufficient courage to appoint a judge who will give justice to the workers ?
– I deprecate the casting of reflections upon our judiciary.
It has been suggested by some honorable senators that this bill was introduced by the Nationalist Government with the object of crushing trade unionism. Such a statement is entirely without foundation.
– Those who make it do not believe it themselves.
– I believe that is so, but I regret that honorable senators should utter such sentiments. It must be realized that trade unionism properly applied can do more for the workers than any other system. Its original purpose was to see that those engaged in any trade or occupation became absolutely efficient and gave of their, best to the country. It also safeguarded the interests of the workers in regard to hours, condi- tions and wages. That splendid objective has been lost sight of, and to-day many trade unionists would drop out of the movement if it were not for the fact that if they did they would lose their tickets and be unable to obtain employment. I have personal experience of such cases. I know of one man engaged in the furniture trade who was fined £10 by his union because he did in lj hours a job the log time for which was 2 hours. Here is a reference to a similar incident in The Furniture Worker, the official organ of the union -
I assume that the Sydney union made things too hot for him. That man, actuated by a desire to do an honest day’s work, was fined £10. Trade unionism was never intended to be prostituted in that fashion.
– That man worked overtime without pay.
– He did nothing of the sort. What authority has any man or organization to say that a man shall take two hours to do a job which he can do in one and three-quarter hours ? That is the sort of thing that is breaking down industry in Australia. If such vicious practices were abandoned, and every unit in the community did his or her best at all times, unemployment would be unknown and poverty unheard of.
– The honorable senator wishes to get back to the old days of leg-irons and Port Arthur.
– I do not; but I wish to see common sense prevail. If every man did his best, that would necessarily cheapen the cost of living, and people with a limited income would be able to purchase more and more of the desirable things in life. No country ever made progress when its citizens set out deliberately to curtail the output of industry.
– Why does not the honorable senator concern himself about the hungry army that exists in Australia to-day?
– I have as great a sympathy for the distressed as has the honorable senator. The suffering which prevails as a result of the timber workers’ strike and the industrial trouble on the waterfront was brought about by those who control the unions. Is it not a fact that last Christmas was the first for many years when trade relations were maintained between the mainland and Tasmania? Previously, a certain little clique, disregarding the distress caused by their action, and animated only by a desire to keep their billets warm, fomented trouble at that time of the year. If they were ousted from the industrial movement matters would” be on a better basis. No individual or section should have the power to direct the men to disobey the awards of the court. I have been told by men who received such instructions that they emanated from the executive.
I shall instance another case of what I term industrial cruelty. It concerns a young fellow of only 18^ years of age, who was the main support of his mother, a widow with two young children. Through slackness of trade in Sydney, he was temporarily put off. I met him about ten days ago, and asked him if he was keeping a look-out in the advertising columns of the press for a job in his own line. He said that it was of no use to do so, as he dared not reply to any such advertisement without first consulting the union.
– Why not ?
– Because the union instructed him not to do so. I shall read such an instruction from The Furnishing Worker of the 5th February, 1929. That journal is published in Sydney, registered at the General Post Office as a newspaper, and is printed by Stephen James Stanbridge, of Wambool, 73 Thomasstreet, Croydon, at The Worker Office, St. Andrew’s-place, Sydney, for the Federated Furnishing Trade Society of Australasia, Federal Council, Trades Hall, Sydney. It reads -
No member, in any circumstances, can answer an advertisement for labour without consulting the office.
Although a man’s wife may be starving, he cannot avail himself of a vacant job without first asking permission of his union. The result is that the employer gets no opportunity of seeing the men he is engaging. A man may be in sore financial straits, yet he dare not apply for a job without first approaching the union. Have honorable senators previously heard of such tyranny ? I should not have mentioned this case had not two honorable senators said that we, on this side, are out to crush trade unionism. It is true that I desire to crush that kind of unionism, but not legitimate and straightforward trade unionism.
– The honorable senator is doing well in his attempt to break down trade unionism.
– I am not opposed to genuine trade unionism; but when abuses creep in and the members of the unions are powerless to prevent them, it is time for me to say something. Senator Barnes appears to believe that the Government has declared war on organized labour.
– There is no question about that.
– The Government has indeed declared war on organized , labour in so far as it flouts the awards of the court; but it has no quarrel with organized labour that is prepared to abide by the laws of the country.
It has been suggested that this is panic legislation, introduced during a fit of hysteria. So far from being panic legislation, its introduction much earlier would have been justified. It is legislation which for months has been under consideration by some of the best minds in the community - men who desire that our legislation shall be in the best interests of all sections of the people.
– It has been considered for months by the Employers Federation
– There is nothing wrong in that. I have yet to learn that there are not proportionately as many honest men in the Employers Federation as in the Workers Federation. The term “employer” is not one of reproach. I am proud of the great bulk of Australian employers, for I believe that among them is as big a percentage of men who are prepared to give their employees the best conditions possible as there are in any country.
– Many Australian employers have themselves been employees.
– The Employers Federation has not only considered this bill, but it has also issued its instructions to the Government concerning it.
– The Nationalist party accepts instructions from no one. If I had to take instructions from Ministers, I should no longer remain a member of the party. Fortunately, I have not to obey instructions but am free to oppose any legislation introduced by the Government with which I do not agree, and I do not think that the members of the Ministry think any the worse of me for so doing.
– The honorable senator has not voted once against the Government.
– I have done so. Honorable senators opposite have said that the introduction of this legislation would lead one to think that Australia was the only country in which there were industrial disputes. Australia is not the only country in which industrial disturbances occur, but having recently travelled through a number of other countries, I am of the opinion that there is much less reason for industrial disputes in Australia than in those countries. No country that I have seen offers such favorable conditions to the workers as Australia offers.
– That is because of the efforts of the trade unions of this country.
– I am not saying anything against what the trade unions have done in that direction. Had they stuck to their first principles they would have made Australia a country in which an industrial dispute would not have been possible.
– The trade unions made Australia a white man’s country.
– I have heard trade unionists say that a man who will not join a union ought to starve. Such men are not true trade unionists, but an excrescence on the movement. I claim that no man who is willing to work, whether he is a member of a union or not, should be . prevented from doing so, provided that he gives an adequate return for the wages he receives. When absent from Australia last year, I took the opportunity to converse with men engaged in industry in England, Canada and the United States of America. They all seemed surprised at the number of strikes that take place in this country. Men to whom I spoke in England said that if conditions there were similar to those existing in Australia, they would have no disputes.
The Arbitration Court has been established for the settlement of industrial disputes. Before the constitution of the court, trade union leaders said that its establishment would prevent industrial disputes because it would ensure fair play.
– That is why the honorable senator wants to destroy it.
– Is there any more effective way of destroying the Arbitration Court than by refusing to obey its awards ?
– The Employers Federation admits that it wants to destroy the Arbitration Court.
– I believe that this bill will assist in preventing a recurrence of the disturbances we have experienced, and for that reason I urge honorable senators to support it.
– If we got rid of men like Judge Beeby we should have fewer industrial disturbances.
– I do not think that the honorable senator should make such a reflection on the judiciary. Senator Daly said that licences are not required at Port Pirie although they are necessary at Port Adelaide.
– They are not required at Port Pirie, Port Augusta or Port Lincoln.
– Senator Daly said that if a worker from Port Pirie desired to obtain employment at Port Adelaide, he would first have to get a licence from the dictator. The honorable senator claims to support any action taken by the trade unions of Australia. Does he agree that no member of a union may apply for any job advertised in a newspaper without first going to the union office ?
– One member might be doing another out of his job by accepting employment without first consulting the union records.
– The lad of 18^ years of age to whom I have referred as having been prevented from accepting employment offered to him, was working in Sydney and receiving £5 a week. Through a falling off in business, his employer had temporarily to dismiss two adult workmen. But knowing the circumstances of the lad’s family, knowing that his widowed mother was solely dependent on his earnings, the employer kept him on. In a little while an official of the union called on him and accused him of having in his employment more improvers than he was entitled to under the rules of the trade. The employer explained that because of his decreased turnover he had to put off two employees temporarily, but that he had kept on this lad because of the circumstances .of his family.
– Because he was cheap.
– No; the employer was paying £5 a week to this lad, who was only 18£ years of age. The lad had to leave the job, but the union official promised that if he would call at the union office the union would see what could be done for him. It was two weeks before the union obtained a job for him, and it was worth only £2 10s. a. week.
– What union was that?
– It was the Furniture Trades Union.
– The employer was trying to evade the award.
– He was not. He asked the official to allow the boy to remain in the circumstances.
I cannot see anything in the bill which can justifiably be described as tyrannical. It is a reasonable piece of legislation necessary for the effective carrying on of trade and industry in this Commonwealth. There are no grounds for the fears of our honorable friends opposite. When the trouble first arose, and men refused to work, others had to be found who would work. Would honorable senators opposite discard those who came forward to carry on the wheels of industry for the time being?
– Because they are commonly called “scabs.”
– It is a pity the honorable senator cannot think of a better word to apply to these men.
– I do not think it is bad enough to apply to them.
– It might more reasonably be applied to those in the organizations who were responsible for the recent trouble, those fat parasites who get £8 or more a week from the union.
– The honorable senator gets more than that.
– But I am not battening on the unfortunate workers. Cases have been brought under my notice of men who, although they were apparently contented with their conditions, and were doing their work well, were compelled to hold up ships after a visit from an organizer. I remember on one occasion when I was in North Queensland there was a large steamer taking on raw sugar at a certain port. A week afterwards, when I returned to the port, the steamer was still there. The custom had been to place twelve bags of sugar in the ship’s sling. The workers did none of the lifting, machinery did it all. But after an organizer who had travelled up the coast on the same steamer as myself put in an appearance the shipowners were informed that in future only .nine bags would be put in that sling; and the reason given in reply to the ship-owners query was that it was not conducive to the health of the men to follow the old custom. I believe this bill will be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. I hope that it will eventually be found that every effort recently made by” the Government to secure industrial peace has been successful. No one hopes more than I do that the peace conference, which has temporarily suspended its sittings, will be revived. I have enough confidence in the good sense of a certain proportion of those who are identified with the trade union movement of Australia to believe that the disgruntled few who have withdrawn from the conference will be replaced by others who, in the long run,, will be found to be more competent to deal with important questions than those who have withdrawn.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dooley) adjourned.
Bounty on Evaporated Apples.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– This afternoon I asked the following questions of the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs: - 1, Has the Minister or the Government given consideration to the request of the Tasmanian Apple Evaporators’ Association for a bounty on evaporated apples exported, and, if so, with what result?
The answers I received were as follows : -
I note with pleasure that the matter has been considered; but I am disappointed that no finality has yet been reached. I urge the absolute fairness of the request of the Tasmanian Apple Evaporators’ Association for Commonwealth assistance to enable’ their industry to continue. The canned fruits industry and grapegrowers have for years been receiving assistance to enable them to market their products, and I cannot understand why the Government should hesitate about granting the same assistance to the apple evaporators of Tasmania. The orcharding industry in my State is a very important one. Many returned soldiers have been settled on small orchards, particularly in the Huon district. The best grade apples are sent overseas, in order to ensure a continual market, and the lower grade apples are usually sold in Australia; but the inferior apples, and those which are damaged whilst growing, which form no inconsiderable portion of the whole crop, are treated by the evaporating process. They are just as fleshy as the perfectly formed apples, and there is a world-wide demand for them, but the Tasmanian growers, like the canned fruit-growers of Victoria and New South Wales, are unable to compete on the European market with evaporated apples from the United States of America. They would be in a position to compete if a small bounty were paid to them. At a meeting of the Tasmanian
Apple Evaporators Association, held in Hobart on the 9th August, 1928, the following resolution was carried: -
That, for the purpose of stabilizing the evaporating industry, the Government be asked to make available to evaporators a bounty on evaporated apples exported in any year, the amount of which, together with the sale value realized overseas, would return to the evaporator1d. per lb. over and above his cost of production, such bounty not to exceed 2d. per lb. in any year.
This resolution was forwarded to the Prime Minister. The amount involved would not be more than £3,000 or £4,000 ; but would be very helpful to the returned soldiers and other small fruitgrowers who have orchards in Tasmania to-day. I urge the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs to submit these representations to his colleagues, so that, at the earliest opportunity, finality favorable to the apple evaporators may be reached by the Government.
– The facts disclosed by the honorable senator will be placed before the Minister for Trade and Customs, who will probably be in a position to give a more definite reply in the course of the next few days. I understand from the honorable senator that a bounty of 2d. per lb. would yield a profit of1d. per lb. to the grower; but it strikes me that it might be better to consider the advisability of giving the growers1d. per lb. and leave the apples where they are. That, however, is a matter I shall discuss with the Minister for Trade and Customs.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.45p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 7 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1929/19290307_senate_11_120/>.