12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– It is customary for announcements of Government policy to be made first in another place by the Prime Minister and simultaneously, or later, in this chamber. That other place does not meet until this afternoon.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Will the honorable senator make a statement later in the day?
– I shall inquire into the matter raised by the right honorable senator, and, possibly, make an announcement on the motion for adjournment.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate whether the view expressed by Mr. Wickens, the Commonwealth Statistician, when giving evidence before the Public Accounts Committee, that Tasmania should be attached to Victoria, is shared by the Government, or was put forward with ministerial authority?
– Mr. Wickens, as a witness before the Public Accounts Committee, expressed his own opinions. His suggestion regarding the desirability of attaching Tasmania to Victoria is not endorsed by the Government, or any memberof it.
– On the 14th May, Senator E. B. Johnston asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
– On the 14th May, Senator Sir GeorgePearce asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senatorwith the following information : -
– On the 23rd May, Senator Cooper asked the following questions : -
If so -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are: - 1 and 2. The Government has not made any such arrangement.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are: -
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 49- No. 50.
Quarantine Act-Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 52.
High Commissioner for the Commonwealth in the United Kingdom - Report for 1929.
Scat of Government Acceptance and Seat of Government ( Administration ) Act - Liquor Ordinance - Regulations.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
.- I move-
That the bill now be read a second time.
This measure deals specifically with section 32 of the Nationality Aor, sub-section 2 of which provides that a person to whom n certificate of naturalization is granted shall not bt< liable to any ‘fee or charge- in respect thereof. The Government considers that, in view of the advantages accruing from naturalization, it is but fair that a charge should be levied. The fee proposed to be prescribed is £3-
– A uniform fee of £3?
– Yes. Great Britain charges a fee of £10 for naturalization; New Zealand, £2 ; Canada, five dollars ; and the United States of America, twenty dollars. The inquiries and reports necessary to determine whether an applicant is entitled to the privileges given by naturalization involve the Commonwealth in considerable expense, and there is, further, a contingent liability, as naturalized persons are eligible for old-age and invalid pensions. Naturalization gives those material advantages, together with the privilege of Australian citizenship. That aliens residing in Australia are, to a greater degree, seeking to be naturalized, is evident from the fact that last year 1,732 naturalization certificates were issued, and only 909 in 1925. I understand that the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition regards the bill as a non-contentious measure.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.17]. - My only comment on the hill is that I am astonished at the moderation of the Government in regard to the proposed fee for naturalization, which, I am of opinion, might very well have been made higher. This is a step that should have been taken long ago. I am heartily in accord with the object of the bill.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western ‘ Australia) [11.18]. - I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate why the amount of the fee is not stated in the bill. Why is it “ to be prescribed “ ? It is conceivable that some future government might take advantage of this provision to prescribe a prohibitive fee as an obstacle to naturalization.
– Whether the amount of the fee should.be stated in the bill or left, to be prescribed is, I think, a matter to be discussed in committee. The work involved in dealing .with the applications for naturalization varies greatly. As a Minister, it has been my misfortune on one or two occasions to have to sign some hundreds of letters of naturalization, and I know from the documents which thus came before me that while, in some cases, the procedure is perfectly simple, in others the amount of work involved is considerable. Therefore, I think it is better to provide that the fee shall be prescribed. The Government may find it necessary to vary the charge in some circumstances. A government must be allowed a certain amount of discretion administratively. That is the only reason that I can suggest to Senator Colebatch for the fact that the amount has not been specifically stated in the bill. I speak out of a personal experience of the difficulties that are encountered in such matters.
– I shall reply to Senator Colebatch in committee.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Fees for certificates) .
– The reason that the Government has not stated in the bill the fee that is to be charged for certificates is that which was given by Senator Mclachlan on the second reading of the bill. Until the present time a fee has not been charged. While it is the intention of the Government to charge a uniform fee, circumstances may arise necessitating a departure from that practice. The Government is anxious not to make this a revenue-producing measure, but simply to prescribe a fee that will recoup the Treasury the expense incurred in prosecuting necessary inquiries.
Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (Western Australia) [11.23]. - Although the explanation is a satisfactory one, it would have been better had a maximum amount been stated in the bill. I admit that a government must be trusted not to use improperly a power of this kind; but it is obvious that it could be used to increase the difficulties of persons, who legitimately desire to take out naturalization papers.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Debate resumed from 23rd May (vide page 2106) on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- In view of the semi-official statement that lias appeared in the press with respect to the Constitution alteration proposals of the Government I should not have been surprised had this and the other two measures been withdrawn. It appears, however, that the debate upon them must proceed to its conclusion, and that early next year they will again be introduced.
The statement to which I have referred accused the Senate of having delayed these measures. That was an unwarranted accusation. The speeches that had been made upon them had not been lengthy, nor had there been stone-walling of any kind. It was rather cowardly of the Government to blame the Senate for the trouble in which it find3 itself.
On Friday I began a reply to the contention of Senator Barnes that the industrial machinery of Australia had nor. functioned properly. The honorable senator app’eared to be anxious for enlightenment as to the cause of its failure to accomplish what was expected of it. He has a considerable knowledge of that machinery, because out of this chamber he has had a long experience of its working. During 1928 and 1929 the party that he is supposed to represent in this Parliament revolted against the Commonwealth Arbitration Court and all its awards. I shall quote the opinions of some of those whom I shall term the engineers who have been in attendance upon this machinery. The first gentleman whom I shall call to testify regarding the curse that arbitration has been to the workers is my friend Senator Ra°. who in the Pan-Pacific Worker published the following statement : -
It is impossible to estimate the moral harm which has been done to the Australian working class by this hasty and ill-considered acceptance of arbitration as a solution of labour’s problems.
My next quotation is from a speech by Mr. J. S. Garden, better known as “Jock” Garden. He said-
The class significance of the Arbitration Court is gradually being realized by workers, and they arc gradually throwing off the stultifying and doping effects of the court.
The Australian Council of Railway Unions has expressed its opinion in the following terms: -
That the perpetuation of arbitration is to the detriment of the working classes of the Commonwealth and the Australian Railways Union in particular. With a view to uniform propaganda in opposition to the chloroforming effects of arbitration court and other wage fixing tribunals, a committee should be appointed to prepare and disseminate propaganda.
In July, 1928, the Trade Union Congress carried the following resolution : -
That unions should take a vote as to whether they should stay in the Federal Arbitration Court or not.
These are the statements of men whom the Arbitration Court has lifted into comfortable positions. In a report to the Metropolitan Labour Conference held in Sydney in February, 1929, the Hon. A. C. Willis, M.L.C., said-
When you went to the Arbitration Court you knew what you were doing. You put your heads into the arbitration machine and now you are squealing because you are being crushed. The machine is attempting to crush the whole movement.
The opinion of Mr. Kilburn, of the Bricklayers Union, is contained in the following statement: -
They had realized that the Arbitration Court was not all that it had been claimed to be. The poor were getting poorer and the rich and lazy richer and lazier with the aid of the Court- while, according to Mr. A. Fitzgerald, of the Timber “Workers Union, and a Minister in the Lang Government -
There is no justice in the Court. We are getting the best assistance from the communists.
Mr. C. Crofts, Secretary of the Australasian Trade Union Congress, Melbourne, stated -
The executive has passed a resolution to the effect that all unions should immediately withdraw.
At that congress, Mr. C. O’Neill, of the Seamens Union, gave notice that he would move -
That until the Arbitration Act is repealed, this Congress should recommend to the workers that they should carry on unremitting and intense fight against the employers responsible for the introduction of such legislation.
It was immaterial to Mr. O’Neill that that legislation was introduced by the Labour party. Another member of the Timber Workers Union, Mr.C. Bodsworth, said that justice was out of the question in the Arbitration Court. Mr. H. Carrington, from Queensland, moved -
That this Congress recommends to all unions their simultaneous withdrawal from the Court. He said it would bo very dangerous if th’ey remained in the Court.
The Pan-Pacific Worker of the 2nd April, 1928, contained the following statement attributed to Mr. C. Crofts, Secretary of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions : -
That instead of increasing the relative return to Labour of productive increment, the arbitration system tends to stabilize arbitrary standards of subsistence - that the Arbitration Court can be advantageously displaced by the Industrial Peace Act.
The same publication in its issue of the 1st July, 1928, contained a contribution by Mr. S. Carpenter, under the heading “Industrial Peace” -
We must not forget that as long as the Arbitration Court exists it will always be and always has been used by the exploiters to paralyze any show of militancy on the part of the workers.
That is the voice of the proletariat as expressed in the Pan-Pacific Worker. The same journal stated on the 15th February, 1929-
The Arbitration Court to-day is the successful weapon of attack of working conditions. Although in the past trades unions were rather generous in the passing of resolutions against compulsory arbitration, nothing was done to give effect to these resolutions. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions found it necessary to adopt a decision recommending all unions to boycott the Arbitration Court as the tool of the bosses, from which the workers can expect nothing but reduced wages and the lowering of the standard of living. This decision will, we hope, help to disillusion the workers in regard to Arbitration.
Those are extracts from speeches, statements and resolutions by the representatives of the workers.
– Does the honorable senator propose to make any quotations to the same effect from associations of employers?
SenatorREID. - I admit that many employers have spoken in a similar strain, but as their remarks have been quoted in the Senate previously, I shall not repeat them now. I admit also that many trade unions are strongly in favour of the Arbitration Court, and have always spoken in support of it. Those unions have obeyed its awards, as have also many employers. But the “die-hard” employer, and those who have been hurt by the dual system of control, have not a good word to say for the Arbitration Court. I cannot understand why the Government should profess to uphold the Arbitration Court when the engineers who control the machine - their own followers - condemn it. All the powers which the Constitution could vest in a government would not satisfy men who have opposed awards which were against them, notwithstanding that these awards were based on economic facts. Only when the Bruce-Page Government sought to amend the act in 1928-29, in the interests of peace in industry, did these people revolt.
I was pleased to hear that the Government has decided to withdraw the referendum proposals for further consideration. They certainly require more careful examination. To-day, the men in the Labour movement who have condemned the arbitration machine are silent, because they expect the present Government to introduce class legislation which will enable them to exercise more tyrannical powers than in the past. No reform of the Arbitration Court or of arbitration laws can alter economic facts, or satisfy people who are opposed to arbitration. The duty of the Government in this time of depression is to find work for the unemployed rather than to improve still further the position of men who, while enjoying the privileges which arbitration has brought, condemn the system. Senators Barnes and Hae are as well acquainted as I am with the conditions in industry which resulted in a demand for arbitration. They know also what arbitration has achieved for the workers.
When I was a member of the Labour movement I thought that by nationalizing our industries we should assist the workers and place industry on a proper basis. Experiments in that direction were made in Queensland; but, although many thousands of pounds were spent on big “ schemes, not one of them proved successful, notwithstanding that the workers were paid high wages and given good conditions. For instance, two coal mines in which the men worked under the best conditions possible were opened. The men- employed there caused such trouble that, although the Minister in charge was a big-hearted man who wished to help them all he could, he was finally compelled to close down the enterprise in order to avoid further loss to the Government and to the people. Nationalization of the coal industry has already been attempted, and the attempt has been de feated by the workers themselves. A recent example of the refusal of Labour leaders to face economic facts was furnished during the negotiations between Mr. Cleary, Commissioner of Railways in New South Wales, and the railway employees. The Railway Department in New South Wales was losing heavily, as, indeed, are the railway services of all the States. Mr. Cleary asked the men to meet him in conference to arrange some method of stopping the drift in the department’s finances without inflicting undue hardship upon themselves. All his efforts to arrive at a settlement were opposed by Mr. Jock Garden and other extremists, who tried to stir up trouble among the employees in the workshops, and on the permanent way. Mr. Cleary was unable to achieve anything until he negotiated with the men themselves. He put the position before the men and they, with their natural commonsense, recognized that something would have to be done. A settlement was reached under which the men were required to work longer hours, but that was better than the prospect of starvation which otherwise faced thousands of employees. It may be said that the settlement involved an increase in working hours and a reduction in wages for the railway workers, but no fair-minded person can deny that, in the circumstances, Mr. Cleary did the best thing for the public and the men themselves. I do not propose to debate the matter further because, after all, the issue is no longer a live one ; but, in conclusion, I propose to quote an extract from an address delivered a long time ago by the Greek philosopher, Pythagoras, who was one of the outstanding products of a civilization which has never quite been equalled. This is what he said -
Listen, my children, to what the State should he to the good citizen. It is more than father or mother, it is more than husband and wife, it is more than child or friend. The State is the father and mother of all, is the wife of the husband, and the husband of the wife. The family is good, and good is the joy of the man in wife and in son. But greater is the State, which is the protector of all, without which the home would be ravaged and destroyed. Dear to the good man is the honour of the woman who bore him, dear the honour of the wife, whose children cling to his knee; but dearer should be the honour of the State, that keeps safe the wife and the child. It is the State from which comes all that makes you prosperous, and gives you beautyand safety. Within the State are built up the arts, which make the difference between the barbarian and the man. If the brave man dies gladly for the hearthstone, far more gladly should he die for the State.
If that spirit prevailed at the present time, not only among political parties, but also among workers and employers, if all classes worked together in a spirit of sacrifice, placing Australia’s welfare before their own, our troubles would be swept away, and the State and its inhabitants would become prosperous again. 1 shall vote against the bill.
– The honorable senator who has just resumed his seat referred to the proposal of the Government as being no longer a live issue, but the Government will probably find, as other Governments have found before, that ghosts of t his kind can cause much uneasiness. When considering proposals of this kind one should try to remember the object which the framers of the Constitution had in mind when they introduced into the Constitution even those limited Commonwealth powers which it is now the wish of the Government to have extended. There is no doubt that when the Constition was framed most of the statesmen responsible forit had in mind the great industrial troubles of the ‘nineties, and were determined that the Commonwealth Parliament should be empowered to function in respect of what they regarded as Australian-wide industrial matters. The great objective of arbitration, whether compulsory or voluntary, has always been industrial peace. The framers of the Constitution recognized, as we recognize now. the need for obtaining and maintaining industrial peace, and avoiding the wastefulness of industrial strife. Honorable senators supporting this measure may have read the observations of the President of the American Federation of Labour, who said -
Labour does not want to waste its energies and resources by engaging in industrial conflints. Iam confident that we can minimize industrial controversy through a proper regard and recognition of the rights of both employers and employees. The right of the employer to manage his industry, to control it, and to receive a fair profit upon his investment should he maintained and recognized. The right of the employees to organize, to bargain collectively, to be represented in conference with employers through their chosen representatives, is a right which should be readily accorded and completely recognized. Supplementing the recognition of these simple rights must come understanding, co-operation, and the manifestation of a mutuality of interests in the management and conduct of industry.
The President of the United States of America, Mr. Hoover, in dealing with the same subject, stated -
The high standards of living enjoyed by the American people are the result of steadily mounting per capita productivity.
The American Federation of Labour has declared that the standard of living depends upon productivity, and of that contention I think there is a general recognition. A paragraph recently appeared in a leading Australian journal to this effect, “There is in our midst the will to industrial peace; the problem is how to make that will prevail.” I do not entirely agree with the conclusions reached by that journal, but I submit that an overwhelming majority of honorable senators believe that there is in our midst a will to secure industrial peace, and are endeavouring to make that will prevail. In furtherance of the great objective which the framers of the Constitution had in view, the Government has suggested an amendment of the Constitution to extend the power of this Parliament to enable it to makelaws to ensure the industrial peace of this country. The limited industrial powers granted to the Federal Parliament under the Constitution have been interpreted in various ways; but I direct the attention of honorable senators to some observations made by the framers of the Constitution when undertaking their important task. Their desire was, not to set up a huge legal system with which would necessarily be associated many entanglements, but to provide a simple method of settling disputes between employers and employees. They were anxious to devise a means that would be acceptable to both parties, and in which both sides would have confidence. The late Mr. Justice Higgins, who, at the Federal Convention, was the sponsor of this proposal, said that there was a desire that the Federal Parliament should be empowered to establish such industrial courts as it thought fit. He did not ask the convention to say that arbitration should be compulsory, or” that steps should be taken to secure the settlement of industrial disputes. He only wished the Federal Parliament to be given power to legislate on the subject of the establishment of industrial courts. In that contention he was supported by Sir Isaac Isaacs, the present Chief Justice of Australia, who said that if the Federal Parliament, in attempting to legislate satisfactorily, did not do so effectively, the Parliament would be able to repeal its enactments. I direct the attention of honorable senators to one or two observations of gentlemen of that time who were not so sanguine as to the success of an Australian-wide arbitration system as was the late Mr. Justice “Higgins, and some associates of mine. The opponents of the system urged that it was a dangerous power, and that to pass legislation of the nature suggested was in itself - I am now using the language of the late Sir John Downer - to extend the area of quarrels. One can realize in the light of subsequent happenings how prophetic were those words. The late Mr. Alfred Deakin dealt with the. intricacies of the problem, and the late Sir Edmund Barton strongly opposed the inclusion of the power and expressed his agreement with Sir Josiah Symon, who said -
If you ure going to introduce such a thing om this, you will introduce the greatest complication and intensify the feeling - [ am afraid those words were only too true.
Instead of building to secure industrial pence: and bring employer and employee together, working in harmony for the benefit of the body politic, we have created an atmosphere that will breed antagonism between master and nian.
– If the honorable senator compared industrial condition’s during the past twenty years with those of the preceding twenty years, he would find that that is not so.
– If conditions have improved to a marked degree during the past twenty years there should be no necessity to amend the legislation in the direction proposed. The submission of this proposal, is a recognition by the Government and by the employers and employees that industrial harmony does not prevail in this country. However honorable senators may view these proposals, they must admit that we would be in a much better position industrially if we had some method of settling disputes other than by recourse to the courts. The present procedure usually results in a battle of wits between “the experts employed by the parties to a dispute. The limited industrial powers granted to the Federal Parliament were inserted in the Constitution only on ;i narrow majority, and under these powers various arbitration acts have been passed by this Parliament from time to time.. The present proposal is to extend thi.1 powers of the Commonwealth Parliament to a marked degree, but even if adopted by the Parliament and the people, will not give the Commonwealth Parliament exclusive power to legislate in that regard. As the Leader of the Government (Senator Daly) indicated, the whole field of industrial legislation may be covered, except in one particular to which I shall later direct particular attention. I do not think any honorable senator ha3 any objection to industrial disputes being settled ; any opposition raised is based on the method by which they are to be settled. It is the difficulties of dealing with the problems arising under our present system that cause so much trouble. The thing is complex, though it should be simple, and full of entangling legalisms though it should be direct. Men who do npt understand the intricacies of different industries are obliged to deal with them. It is on these grounds that exception has been taken to the Arbitration Court system by employers and some trade unionists.
The question is, where should the power rest in order to get the best results? Is it desirable that it should rest with the Commonwealth authority or with the States? We have heard numerous speeches in this chamber about the difficulties that are caused by the dual” control of industry, but the policy which the Government is now advancing will not lead to the abolition of duality in control. It was the duty of the Government to have advised honorable senators in unambiguous terms of the policy that it intended to adopt if the people grant the extended power it desires, but it has not done so. Some little time ago I coined a happy phrase when I referred to the Leader of the Government in the Senate as an “ industrial bigamist “. Evidently he still desires the parties in industry to have the right to take advantage of whichever industrial authority they please* at any given time. Under the present system the workers may take advantage of the State authorities if they desire, but unions which have brancb.es in more than one State may easily bring themselves within the federal jurisdiction. It is this fact that has led to chaos in the management of industrial affairs.
Unfortunately, the policy of the Government is obscure, though it should have been stated clearly. “We have been left to draw conclusions from stray phrases in the speeches delivered by Government supporters upon this measure. I desire to know definitely whether the policy of the Government is conciliation, or control by some judicial system, or some system of committees, such as prevails in Queensland. I also wish to know whether the penalties provided in the Arbitration Act, are to be abolished. During the regime of the previous Government an effort was made to ascertain the opinion of the leaders of the industrial movement on this subject. The Australasian Council of Trade Unions was asked by letter whether it desired the penalties to be abolished. It seems to me that if we are to retain the rule of law, the penalties should remain, but should be made effective. If, on the other hand, we are to adopt a system of conciliation with the object of promoting harmony and good-will, though that will be difficult to achieve, the penalties should be abolished. But if that is done, I suggest that we shall get back to the rule of tooth and claw visualized, a few days ago, by the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes).
So far, the only thing that has been compulsory about our arbitration system has been the arbitration part of it. There has been no effective power to compel either party to abide by the awards of the court. We are faced with a particularly difficult problem. In 1927 the previous Government consulted both the employers and the trade union leaders freely with the object of ascertaining exactly what they wanted in regard to the retention of penalties against strikes and lockouts, and neither side was agreeable to the complete abolition of penalties. When the Australasian Council of Trade Unions was asked whether it was in favour of the penalties, it delayed replying for a considerable time, and then wrote to the effect that the different unions would have to be approached specifically on the subject. All further attempts to obtain a definite answer from it were abortive.
The Senate is surely entitled to some information as to the policy the Government will adopt if extended industrial power is given to this Parliament. This is particularly necessary in view of the failure of the previous Administration to get any definite information from either side in industry as to the kind of machine it desired to be established for the settlement of industrial troubles. We are all familiar with the difficulties of the present situation. It is manifestly impossible for an arbitration judge to settle effectively the disputes that occur in intricate industries. I saw one judgment of an Arbitration Court judge which ran into 123 foolscap pages. Many judgments fill more than 60 pages of typewritten manuscript. In one case I remember a judge was required to fix the price of hundreds of different garments. It takes the employers and employees in that industry many years to qualify themselves to determine these matters, and it is impossible for a judge to do it in a few weeks. It is equally impossible for us who wear the long robe to deal effectively with these subjects. When one comes to consider the enormous scope of industry one must realize that it is beyond the mental or physical capacity of one human being to speak with authority on the whole subject.
In the few years which preceded the last election, the previous Government endeavoured to formulate some acceptable alternative method of controlling industries. The subject was discussed also on the hustings a few months ago. It has been truly said during this debate that the result of the election seemed to indicate that the people desire a continuance of the system of dual control, although it is impossible to say whether that was the real issue on which the election turned. All sorts of cross currents intruded themselves during the campaign and obscured the issue, which shows- that the introduction of politics into industry has been a curse. It has been suggested that certain industries have become federalized; but there is not much in that contention, for, as I have said, unions that have branches in more than one State can place themselves within the federal jurisdiction without any difficulty whatever.No government can. say authoritatively that the people desire complete industrial authority to be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament. This is particularly so in view of the fact that in July or August of last year there . were 420,000 employees in Australia working under Commonwealth awards and more than 600,000 working under State awards. That seems to show that the employees favour the State tribunals more than the Commonwealth Court, The statements of certain alleged industrial leaders, quoted by Senator Reid this morning, were made for the deliberate purpose of reflecting upon the system of arbitration with a view to its ultimate destruction. Labour has consistently failed in its attitude towards arbitration, particularly at critical junctures in the industrial history of this country. Whatever may be the decision of the arbitration tribunal, I conceive it to be the duty of the political leaders of all parties and of this Parliament to support its awards. This support has not always been forthcoming. When we see a distinguished representative of the Labour party, a gentleman now occupying a position on the treasury bench, conveying resolutions of congratulation to the rank and file of the coal-miners and to the timber-workers on their splendid stand against what was described as a general attack on wages and hours of working in that industry, we can readily understand how, in its attitude towards arbitration, the political Labour party is influenced by considerations of party strategy. One prominent representative of the Labour movement declared that he endorsed heartily the action of the timber workers in striking against an award of the court. “I believe in arbitration,” said this gentleman, “but not arbitration as administered by a prejudiced court.”
– Hear, hear!
– This is the sentiment that commands the plaudits of certain sections in the Labour movement. Apparently every award that does not give one side what it wants is prejudiced. These gentlemen, who rank high in the counsels of the Labour party, are now supporting this movement to amend the Constitution in the direction of giving this Parliament extended powers with regard to arbitration. And what of the trade unionists themselves? I have here a list of at least 70 trade unions the members of which agreed to a levy to support the timber-workers in their fight against an award of the Arbitration Court. Even that great organization which hitherto had won the respect of the people forits obedience to the court - I refer to the Australian Workers Union - made a levy of 5s. on its 160,000 members for the purpose of supporting those who were without employment, as a result of the timber workers’ strike against the courts’ award. Do they really want arbitration as we understand it, or do they want to have it in their own hands to say what the awards of that tribunal shall be ? Obviously they cannot have it both ways. If they stand for arbitration they must abide by the awards of the court. I have heard of organizations and individuals submitting disputes to arbitration with an umpire, but firmly believing that the function of the arbitrator was to support their claim. This is an entire misconception of the functions of an arbitrator. His duty is to make awards according to the evidence placed before him and according to what he thinks to be right in the circumstances.
Senator Reid referred to the misrepresentations indulged in during the last election campaign by responsible, or perhaps I should say, irresponsible, industrial leaders with regard to arbitration. Apparently, they were prepared then to do everything in their power to injure the system, and, in fact, to abolish it altogether. It is unfortunate that the responsible members of the party now in office did not, at the time, take these industrial leaders to task. These people, it seems now, support theGovernment in asking for this extension of power to legislate with reference to wages and conditions of labour in industry. But this amendment will not mean peace in industry. The time of the industrial leaders would be better occupied in endeavouring to localize disputes and to bring about a better feeling between employers and employees. I am aware, of course, that there are those in the community who do not want to see a better feeling between the two sections in industry. The Bruce-Page Government endeavoured to constitute a Peace conference, but for political considerations the representatives of one section withdrew from that gathering, and the efforts of the Government to ensure peace in industry proved unavailing. The statements quoted by Senator Reid this morning indicate clearly how the system of arbitration is viewed by certain sections of trade unionists. In 1926 the BrucePage Government asked for extended power to make it possible for the Arbitration Court to function more efficiently. I ilo not propose to delay the Senate by emphasizing the difference between the proposals then made and those now before this chamber. This has been done by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). I have always regarded the intrusion of political considerations into the industrial affairs of this country as one of our chief curses. Industry should not become the plaything of any political party. When the welfare’ of the nation is obscured by party considerations it is impossible for our arbitration machinery to work efficiently. Senator Barnes has assured us that he and all the members of this Government arc anxious to perfect the existing machinery. I am afraid that our difficulties will be added to by the Constitutional amendments contemplated in this proposal and that we shall have a further intrusion of political considerations into the industrial arena. When statements detrimental to the principle of arbitration were being made prominent members of the party opposite had not the courage to denounce those industrial leaders who were responsible for them. On the contrary, some Labour candidates endorsed them because of the political value to them of that section which was in revolt against the law. It is a highly undesirable state of affairs, but still it exists. There is no getting away from the fact that these things have happened, and I suggest to the Government that the position will become worse if, by any unhappy chance, these powers that, are sought by the Government; are granted to it. One outstanding feature in connexion with the bril is an omission from it. There is in it no proposal to ask for power to control trade unions. It is essential that where the industrial power lies there shall also lie the power to control the trade unions of this country. The great industrial organizations to which Senator Reid has referred are the bodies that approach the Arbitration Court for awards, and I suggest that there should not only be judicial control’ over them while they are before the court, but that their internal affairs, sUCh as finance, forms of rules and secret ballots should be regulated, and we should have power to prevent the tyranny -which is now exercised by certain union leaders over their own members. The regulation of the unions in that way would give the rank and file a proper say in the control of. their organizations. That, in many respects is not the case to-day, and 1 suggest that something in the nature of a secret ballot should be prescribed. The position of Australia to-day in regard totrade union control is the most lamentable in the world. The control of trade unions in Great Britain is placed in the hands of the Registrar-General of friendly societies. From an examination of the affairs of trade unions in the interests of the trade union movement itself, emerged a number of things which are summarized in an article which appeared in the Quarterly Review of October, 1926. The article, although somewhat florid in places, gives the pith of the inquiry. It reads -
There is a flutter in the dovecotes of trade union officialism. Well-paid prosperous gentlemen who have done very well out of the contributions of the rank and file, are much perturbed because certain members of Parliament, by asking the Minister of Labour pertinent questions relating to trade union funds and their disbursement, have turned the glaring light of publicity on the extremely heavy working expenses of some of the most important organizations. It is all very well for Labour M.P.’s, themselves well-paid union officials, to say that the information could easily have been obtained from the annua? returns of the Registrar-General of Friendly Societies. No doubt the questioners were well aware of that - probably they had already read those returns - and did not need the information for themselves, the object being to give the matter the widest possible publicity.
The whole position is summarized as follows : -
The great scandal of trade union funds is. however, the excessive number of highly paid officials and the payments for delegation fees, travelling and hotel expenses. The newspaper already referred to is strangely silent on these “ excellent “ ways of incurring working expenses from moneys provided” by the hardearned pence of the rank and file. The figures fur the six most important unions, as published by the Registrar-General and enumerated in the White Paper recently issued, are as follows: -
The article then proceeds to set out the figures, which betray an extraordinary state of affairs. While the total receipts have decreased, the total expenditure in respect of management, salaries, and allowances to various officers, has increased. The defalcations which were analysed and examined in 1923-24, have reached an alarming figure. Are we, who claim to represent the people of this country, to allow an opportunity like this to pass without making provision in this legislation for some control of the trade union movement, its funds, management, rules and organizations? This power is to my mind fundamental to the settlement of the whole industrial problem.
– Would the honorable senator include in the bill the control of insurance companies?
– The other night, with the assistance of the honorable senator, we dealt most effectively with insurance companies. This matter is serious; it cannot be laughed away. I am giving honorable senators the details of the position reached in England, even under a system of complete control of the whole of the trade union movement. In no circumstances are we able to obtain information similar to that obtained and published by the Registrar in Great Britain.
– We could secure uniformity by the acceptance of this amendment. Why not have one act?
– That is exactly what I am contending. Honorable senators on the Government side refrain from asking, under this measure, for power to deal with trade unions ; yet that power is absolutely fundamental. It was pointed out by the former AttorneyGeneral how essential it was to have that power in the amending measure of 1928, and, I think, of 1927. The position in England is summarized in a return for the years 1925 and 1926, showing the details of membership, income, expenditure, and funds of registered trade unions with 10,000 or more members.
– From what is the honorable senator quoting?
– From the Registry of Friendly Societies. It contains a return furnished by the Chief Registrar, whose duty it is to draw attention to. certain things in connexion with the trade union movement. The return summarizes the position for those two years under these headings - The name of the union ; number of branches ; members at end of year; funds at beginning of year; income from members, from State unemployment fund, from other sources, and total; unemployment, &c, benefits; dispute benefit ; sick and accident fund ; funeral benefit; superannuation benefit; other benefits ; from political fund ; grants to other bodies, &c. ; salaries, &c, of officers; expenses of executive committee; other working expenses; other outgoings; total; and funds at end of year. That is a complete balance-sheet in respect of the transactions of the unions named in the return.
– Does the return contain any figures respecting the Employers Federation ?
– The Employers Federation is on an exactly similar plane; but what on earth has that federation to do with the point I am making? Unless this legislation includes the power of control of these trade unions, of what use is it likely to be? It would lead to the criticism to which Senator Reid has already referred. There would be no control over the rules, the funds, the management, or the ballots of the trade unions. If a secret ballot were permitted how many of the union leaders, who now preen themselves as the mouth-piece of the unions, would remain in that position? It is only by instilling sheer fear into and exercising harsh tyranny upon their members that they are able to occupy their positions. Let me read to honorable senators further extracts from the Quarterly Review -
– It is a long way togo to to prove a case against Australia.
– If the honorable senator will bear with me, I shall give him a few extracts from the contributions some Australian trade union leaders have made to one another in this particular regard. I remind him that it is not long since Mr. Buckland, of the Australian Workers Union, was inquiring from Mr. Garden, a Labour leader in Sydney, about the disappearance of a little item of £3,000. I regard the trade union movement of Australia as a social movement which should be regulated, just as friendly societies are regulated. I venture to say that the information which is available in regard to the trade union position in Great Britain is not available in regard to the trade union position in Australia. I quote again from the Quarterly Review -
Apart from the fact that business men would probably effect economies which would adequately compensate for the supposedly increased salary, the argument is scarcely consistent with the repeated statements of the officials that business people are parasites overpaid.
This was in respect to the argument that the salaries of union officials should be kept up -
Moreover, they appear to lose sight of the fact that trade unions were formed to safeguard the interests of the membership, not to provide inflated salaries and lucrative careers for officials, and the funds are provided by the hard-earned pence of the members. It is hardly decent of them, therefore, to declare that they are working solely for the “ down-trodden “ worker. Another form of undue expenditure is that incurred by over-staffing on the clerical side, and in furnishing luxurious offices.
The article then deals with the officers and continues -
Trade unionism appears to have produced a new class in society - an official class - and during the past twenty years this class has grown enormously.
I take the following case as an illustration, not necessarily because it is typical : -
There is one general secretary in receipt of £1,000 per annum salary, whose parliamentary and other public duties prevent his giving much time to his secretarial duties. Fortunately, a large staff, supervised by a competent private secretary, are able to do all the work with some degree of efficiency. He is by no means the only general secretary getting £1,000 a year. During the war the salary of another secretary - which varied with the fluctuations of the members’ wages - rose to more than £3,000 per annum. This official also has large interests in a flourishing business.
There are many others whose salary approximates £1,000. Just prior to the recent general strike, the general secretary of one of the big unskilled unions, already receiving £750 per annum, applied to his executive for an increase to £1,000, which would probably have been granted had the strike not then happened. After a ten days’ strike, this union found itself unable, through lack of funds, to meet its obligations to its members. The salaries of the officials were, however, continued.
– Is that in the country where all this regulation exists?
– Yes, but there is no arbitration there, nor have they power that we would take in Australia. The article continues -
Whenever the rank and file venture to criticize the big salaries paid to the officials, they are invariably told that a man is worthy of his hire, that the officials are clever men - little short of super-men, in fact- and that were the members of the union to employ business men to do the work, they would require considerably larger salaries.
In 1925 an examination of trade union finances was made by the Morning Post and the result was published in an article headed -
Intolerable Scandal of the Political Levy.
How MoneyGoes and Membership Declines. trade union finances.
The purpose of the article, when first published, was to assist in the control and management of trade unions, and when certain gentlemen met in the south of England and endeavoured to insist on a “ back to the union” movement, which utterly failed, and furthermore, almost endeavoured to justify peculation it was republished. The Morning Post prefaced its article with the following table: -
In the short period of three years the trade union funds were thus reduced by about £6,200,000, and there was a drop in membership of 2,600,000. With the aid of the balance-sheets submitted to the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies, the Morning Post attempted to ascertain where the money had gone. Attention was first directed to the matter in British trade union circles in 1921, but. when the dwindling membership and finances and the higher ratio of managerial expenses were brought to the attention of the unions the latter made no attempt to furnish an explanation. The Morning Post accused them of extravagance. Still no reply was forthcoming.
At this stage I should liketo draw attention to the figures taken from the preliminary report of the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies for 1923 published in November, 1924, showing in round figures the growth and decline of trade union membership from 1912 to 1923 inclusive, and the marked increase in the proportion of management expenses. A whole series of unions is taken and the figures are very illuminating. In 1922 the number of agricultural workers in the unions was 90,643 and their income was £37,287 ; managerial expenses amounted to £37,556. In 1923 the membership had dropped to 79,707 but the income had increased to £38,549 ; the managerial expenses were £22,276. In the papermaking and printing trade in 1922the membership was 129,580; the income £472,745, and the managerial expenses £104,815. In 1923 the membership was 130,515, the income £434,211, and the managerial expenses £101,501. The cost of administration in both years was nearly 25 per cent. of the total income. The mining and quarrying unions had in1922, 759,286 members and their income was £1,921,235. In 1923 the membership had increased to 822,913, and the income had dropped to £1,713,385. In the former year the managerial expenses were £414,869 and in 1923, £404,528. The transport unions show a shocking disproportion of managerial expenses to subscriptions. In 1922 the membership was 562,947, the income £1,020,600, and the managerial expenses £574,966. The figures in 1923 were: membership, 600,533 ; income, £927,242 ; and expenses, £503,243. In both years the expenses of management were more than 50 per cent. of the total income. It is obvious from these figures that there is a tremendous wastage in connection with trade union management in the Old Country.
– Lawyers very rarely default; when they do the barrister’s board or Law Institute has an effective way of dealing with them.
The publication from which I am quoting remarks -
Many unions still fail to take the precaution of obtaining adequate security from officers in receipt or charge of money. In some instances suggestions from this office have resulted in security being obtained or the amount of the guarantee being increased.
How wise it is to make these union officials give security or a guarantee in respect of the funds they control.
Sitting suspended from 1.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– Proceeding with my remarks with regard to the growth of managerial expenses, in the trade union movement in England, I quote the following from the same article : -
In 1918 management expenses had increased to £2,100,000. Assume, if you will, that that is a fair figure. Very well. But what about 1923, when the membership had decreased by roughly 20 per cent., income from members had increased by more than 25 per cent., and management expenses had increased by more than 50 per cent? Or, to make it clearer still, the affairs of 5,250,000 trade unionists cost, in 1918, £2,100,000 to manage, while in 1923 the affairs of 4,360,000 members involved management expenses of £3,200,000.
In other words, the approximate cost of management per member for the year 1918 was 8s., but in 1923 14s.10d.
There is rather a good illustration of what happened in regard to the managerial expenses of the Public Administrative Union. [Extension of time granted.] I am obliged to honorable senators for their consideration, and am sorry that I have taken up so much of their time. However, this is a matter to which I have given much time and thought, not with any desire to hurt trade unionism, but in order to throw some light on the subject which might even help the Government to solve the difficult problem that confronts it in this matter. The paragraph dealing with the expenses of the union, read -
Of £110,367 received from the members of these unions in 1922, £71,276 went on management expenses. In 1923 the executives obtained £107,286, and spent £76,903 on expenses of management. There is, as we have said, a grim irony about this section of the trade unions’ accounts. The taxpayer will perceive it at once.
I now turn to the paragraph dealing with the defalcations of trade unions. This is a very difficult problem with which the unions have to grapple. If the eye of the public, in the form of the Chief Registrar of Friendly Societies or a similar official, were granted sufficiently wide powers to deal with the matter it would be better for the trade union movement and for the rank and file of the unions. This is an extract from the report of the Registrar - “ In some instances suggestions from this office have resulted in security being obtained or the amount of the guarantee being increased. “ Defalcations involving heavy losses, however, are still brought to light. The union referred to in the 1921 report as showing deficencies amounting to £2,063 wrote off a further sum at £1,650, in 1922. “ In another case the treasurer, who had given no security, misappropriated £108, and was subsequently sentenced to four months’ imprisonment. A branch secretary in another union who misappropriated £121 was sentenced to three months’ imprisonment. In another case £120 was stolen from the house of a branch treasurer, and as the culprit could not bo found the amount had to be written off. “The number of auditors’ special reports was comparatively small. Where, however, a special report was made, it was usually by a professional accountant, and of an exhaustive character. The following is a summary of two of the more important: -
That sort of thing is probably occurring in this country -
An attitude which, I suggest, would be adopted by some gentlemen in this country
Some sixty receipts are not available. An investigation made by officials appointed by the council of the union as a result of this report showed that a sum of £100 12s. 9d. was not accounted for, and the union decided to terminate the services of its assistant general secretary.
There is evidence, at all events, of the benefit that trade unions would get if such an examination were carried out by the Chief Registrar. When these disclosures were originally made the unions took considerable umbrage at their nature, and a conference was called somewhere in the South of England by the union leaders to debate the subject. It was attended by some men whose names are well known in this country. A curious attitude was taken by some of the delegates, one of whom declared that the attacks “ are quite beside the mark,” that the “ benefits were, after all, an exceptional thing - valuable but incidental, and a trade union could exist without anything but a strike fund.” Another advocated that the trade unions give point blank refusals to supply tho figures to the Registrar, and let the Government do its worst. That seems to me to be the policy adopted in this country. So far as I can see there is no attempt at compliance with the trade union law. If there were it would be ineffectual and would give this Parliament no power in the matter at all. At that conference it was suggested that the whole attack was inspired, but the facts remain and the occurrence has been repeated. It was found necessary to embark on a “ back to the union “ movement, as the trade union movement in Great Britain suffered to the extent of 1,000,000 members in a very short time. That effort was not satisfactory and endeavours were made in some quarters, I do not say by the high officials, to justify the managerial expenditure to which I have referred, and also certain other losses to which I have made reference.
In this excellent article appears a comparison of the development of the movement between 1918 and 1923. Honorable senators may fairly draw the inference that we are of the same race; indeed, that we are practically the same people as those managing the affairs of trade unions on the other side of the water. I do not think that we can expect any greater efficiency or honesty from those in charge of the affairs of trade unions in Australia. After all is said and done, why should a body of such magnitude, in point of numbers, and with such tremendous financial interests as the trade union movement go without any proper form of control? I submit that this bill should contain someprovision to that effect, if it is to be workable. There must be that control over employees’ and employers’ organizations such as was visualized in the amendment to which I have referred. I have indicated what has already been done overseas and, in reply to an interjection, I have intimated that recently Mr. George Buckland addressed some very pointed remarks to Mr. Jock Garden concerning an amount of ?3,000 which was contributed by the Australian Workers Union for the purpose of assisting the timber workers’ strike. I have seen no explanation in reply to Mr. Buckland’s inquiry, and assume that some arrangement has been made to the satisfaction of those concerned.
– Does the honorable senator know that that matter is sub judice; a legal action is pending.
– It is to be regretted that there should be any necessity for a legal action in connexion with what is, after all, a type of friendly society.
– The same kind of thing occurs in every walk of life.
– I agree; but it should not happen in regard to friendly societies or trade unions.
– An action was recently taken in connexion with the Adelaide Friendly Societies’ Dispensary.
– That was only a breach of contract. To get closer home, Mr. Rigby, I do not know what official office he holds in the Seamens Union, made some very pertinent observations, which are recorded in The Registrar of the 22nd March, 1928. I quote the following extracts : -
Subsequent to the appointment of this committee of inquiry the balance-sheets of the Sydney branch, as well as those of the other branches of the organization, and of the head office also, show heavy expenses, which could have been saved if the proper constitutional inquiry procedure had been adopted. The com mittee of inquiry has this little list of disbursements to its credit -
Mr. Jacob Johnson Wages,? 178 15s. ; awayfromhome expense, ?23 5s.; travelling fares, ?3516s. 8d.; total, ?237 16s. 8d.
Mr. W. Clarke Wages, ?102 18s. 4d.; awayfromhome expenses, ?27 15s. travelling and fares, ?17 0s. 2d.; total, ?14713s.6d.
Mr. J. McCorry Wages, ?81 5s.; awayfromhome expenses, ?9 15s.; travelling and fares, ?31 9s.6d.; total, ?122 9s.6d.
Other outlays bring the total for the Sydney branch to ?694 18s. 7d. The other branches of the union show in their balancesheets the following disbursements : - South Australian branch, ?247; Victorian, ?338 8s. 3d.; Western Australian, ?247; Newcastle, ?208 14s. 4d.; Queensland, ?230. Thus the grand total for all branches is ?1,9491s. 2d.
But this does not by any means exhaust the disbursements on account of this question. Since June, 1920, there have been three meetings of the committee of management, each of which cost, at the very least, ?700, which, added to the above, makes ?4,0491s. 2d.
Again, I take the following extract from The Age of the 23rd February, 1928 : -
Stormy Meeting of Sydney Wharf Labourers
The wharf labourers held a stormy meeting to-day. A section bitterly attacked the president, Mr. W. Mills. This section also seeks to remove other officials from their positions.
It was alleged at the meeting that it was costing too much to run the union, as out of an income of ?2,232 over ?1,400 had been paid out in fees to officials, while ?1,000 had been paid by the union in fees and expenses for the Melbourne conference during the overtime strike in November. The union ballot cost ?200. The credit account in June was ?4,386, but at the end of December it was only ?1,986.
Those are only three of a number of complaints made in union circles regarding the expenditure of funds.
– If so, they must be bad. I am not blaming the rank and file of the trade union movement, who have little to say in this matter. Take the two cases, which must be fresh in honorable senator’s minds, having been reported in the press this week, showing the absolute tyranny of these official aristocrats of trade unionism. It was reported in the press yesterday that, at Hobart, two men, employed under the terms of an award had done something in the nature of not working after their ordinary hours of employment had terminated. They refused to do so, and were brought before the court. Their defence was that if they had gone on, the union threatened to fine them ?3; but they were fined by the court for not obeying its direction to continue work. The threat by the union was made in flagrant defiance of the terms of an award. It was a case similar to one mentioned in the House of Representatives last week, in which an employee of the taxpayers of this country was threatened by his union with a fine unless he divulged information which it was his duty not to give, unless with the consent of the head of his department. I am glad to know that certain action is to be taken with regard to this position. Rules such as these are bringing the trade unions into bad odour with the community. We are allowing a tyranny, such as the world has never known, to be built up by these petty men, who, after all, are put into their positions by the rank and file of the great trade union movement. In Sydney, recently, there was an incident somewhat similar to that in Hobart, and I understand that the men have been punished by the union. There was a shortage of labour on a vessel, and the workmen concerned went out on the ship. For doing this each of them has been debarred by the union from earning his living for a period of six months. Union officials responsible for actions of that kind are the autocrats that we desire to control, and, if such control could be exercised, there would be less internal strife in Australia than there is to-day.
Reviewing for a moment the present operation of compulsory arbitration, in regard to those who, unfortunately, owing to economic conditions, are unable to obtain employment, it is obvious that the Government must seriously consider whether some measure of relief cannot be given. The present legislation is preventing a free flow of charity in many cases in which work could otherwise be given. I venture to say that it is better to provide a man with work of some kind than to hand him a dole. Employment enables him to maintain a certain degree of self-respect that he cannot have if payment is made to him by way of charity. Arbitration awards have operated in such a way in Queensland that, in order to get over the unemployment difficulty, some of the awards have had to be suspended, and I understand that one of them was the rural workers’ award. There is no such provision under federal legislation, and I do not think that it would be welcomed by some of those who stand for arbitration. I myself have stood for arbitration for many years, and
I know the great difficulties experienced in putting it into operation. The system is not elastic enough to deal with problems such as those with which we are now faced. The Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) has said that it would be absurd to suggest that Parliament should deal with wages and hours of employment, and in that view I entirely agree with him. But in his next breath, he said that he would not give the judiciary power to determine wages and hours of employment. He said that the fate of the country would be in the hands of the judges and that they were not to be entrusted with those powers. If Parliament is not to exercise them, and the judiciary is not to do it, are we to have a goasyouplease system? I can only conceive that what the Minister has in his mind is some system of committees, and I venture to suggest that this Parliament will find it rather difficult, from a constitutional point of view, to legislate in that way. The machine that the Minister desires to build will be found very difficult to construct, and if he succeeded in establishing it, I think that the court itself would have trouble in carrying on its operations within its constitutional limitations.
I had intended to say something about certain aspects of the industrial legislation of this country. Without reflecting on any government, either that with which I was recently associated or the Ministry now in power, I put it broadly that, if we are to have a rule of law, let us have it ; and the only effective rule of law that I know to have been enacted in this country in regard to industrial arbitration is the Transport Workers Act. Rigid, as my friends may think it to be - its administration, after all, can make it or mar it - the fact remains that, it has proved an effective piece of industrial legislation. I grant that it may be attended with certain cruel results, but, if we fall short of a rule of law, we shall have conciliation pure and simple, and no penalties. Then we shall be forced back to the system of tooth and claw, to which the Minister referred the other evening. After all, I do deplore the fact that these referendum proposals have been brought forward. I indicated to the Government and to the Leader of the House, when I was speaking on the Power of Amendment Bill, that I think that this is no time to introduce these measures. The nation is passing through a period of stress, and the people will be divided on the questions to be submitted to them. There is conflict even in the ranks of the supporters of the Government, and there is a division of opinion between those two conflicting elements and the Opposition in regard to what’ should be done. If any good is to be secured by arbitration, it will be brought about only by some of the industrial leaders on each side, guided, it may be, by Ministers and members of the Opposition, sitting round a table and evolving a system giving us a permanent working scheme that will secure industrial peace for Australia. This result can never be achieved by means of measures that are forced through Parliament, such as those providing for the powers for which Ministers now ask. For the reasons that other honorable senators have advanced, and for the other reasons that I have given, I shall vote against the second reading of this bill.
– I have listened with a great deal of interest to the arguments advanced by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) ‘ and other honorable senators. It has been suggested that if the power sought under the bill is given to the Government, Australia will enter an era of chaos and tyranny. But the trade unions of this country are a solid force of over 600,000 members, many of whom are working under federal arbitration awards, and I claim that they are as law-abiding as any other section of the community.
– They want to be, but they are not permitted to be.
– Yes, they are. It so happens that while this bill is’ under consideration in the National Parliament, a convention is being held in Canberra, attended by representatives of the Australian Labour party throughout the Commonwealth. These delegates, men and women, have been sent here to represent various sections of the Labour movement. In this connexion, let me refer to the official report of the eleventh Commonwealth conference of the Australian ‘ Labour party, held at the
Secretariat Buildings, Canberra, on the 11th May, 1927, and following days. In the fighting platform of the party, paragraph No. 5 reads -
Arbitration Act amendment to include (a) the establishment of a maximum 44-hour week throughout Australia, with special provisions where health is menaced, and for women workers. (6) Standard of living not inferior to the basis of the Piddington .Basic Wage Commission finding.
Every honorable senator, and particularly those opposite, know that the Piddington finding was on the basis of £5 16s. per week, as a sufficient wage to keep in general comfort the average Australian worker with a wife and one or two children. Surely honorable senators opposite are not prepared to have it recorded in Hansard that they are opposed to the Piddington finding, in which the standard of living was fixed by a learned judge. On page 33 of the report of the conference the following appears : -
On resuming meeting on June 22nd, the Constitution Alteration Proposals were further discussed, and on the next day, the following decision was agreed to, by 8 votes to 4: - “As the Industry and Commerce proposals of the Bruce Government, whilst giving additional power in certain directions to the Federal Parliament, do not provide powers as effective as requested by the Australian Labour party, and, further, as there is room for a legitimate difference of opinion regarding the effect of the proposed amendments, if carried, this Federal Executive resolves that each member of the Australian Labour party shall be entitled to exercise his or her discretion in the campaign, or when voting in connexion with the proposals.”
Throughout New South Wales the Labour party strenuously opposed the referendum proposals of the Bruce-Page Government - a government which forfeited the confidence of the people about eight months ago. That Government proposed to constitute a tribunal comprising three gentlemen - no doubt friends of Ministers - to whom industrialists would have had to go, cap in hand, with their claims. When the people of New South Wales and, indeed, of Australia generally, saw those proposals in their true light, they defeated them utterly. The report goes on to say -
The two following resolutions were unanimously agreed to: - “ That, in view of the statements made in the public press, the President of this Executive inform the press that the
Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party conferred with the Prime Minister at the unanimous request of this Executive, and that a sitting of such Executive was adjourned in order that Mr. Charlton might endeavour to influence Mr. Bruce in the direction of Labour’s Industrial Proposals.”
At the request of the highest tribunal of Labour outside Parliament and with the full consent of the Parliamentary Labour party, Mr. Charlton interviewed the then Prime Minister. Mr. Bruce, in his offhanded manner, said that his government would go right ahead with its proposal; that it was not prepared to concede one point to the Opposition; and that it would allow no dictation from outside sources. The attitude of Mr. Bruce on that occasion was typical of the man.
– What was the date of that interview?
– I am reading from the official report of the Eleventh Commonwealth Conference of the Labour party, dated 11th May, 1927. The second resolution reads - “ That the best thanks of this Executive be conveyed to the Leader of the Federal Parliamentary Labour party (Mr. Charlton) for the able and conscientious manner in which he conducted negotiations with the Prime Minister, and with him (Mr. Charlton) regret thathe was not able to secure from the Bruce Government, proposals which would have been acceptable to the whole Labour movement.”
– What proposals were submitted to the people after that date?
– I remind the honorable senator that interjections are disorderly. If I attempted to answer his interjection I might come into conflict with the Chair. The right honorable Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) quoted a number of extracts from the report of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. No doubt he quoted from newspaper . reports of the proceedings. I have here the official report of the congress, a congress representing over 600,000 Australian trade unionists, which was held in Melbourne, in February last. The report is signed by A. S. Drakeford, W. H. Seale. A. S. Evernden, H. Carter, A. E. Turley, H. C. Gibson, and E. C.
McGrath. A special committee set up to deal with arbitration reported -
Paragraph 11a of the report stated - 11a. Lawyers. - In furtherance of the desire to free the system from legalisms and technicality, we recommend that lawyers should not appear before the court, or the Conciliation Committee, or the Industrial Magistrate.
In the days of Henry VI., Dick the Butcher led a revolt of the people against the king. After the king had fled, the populace turned to the butcher to inquire what was the first thing they should do. Their leader replied, “ The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” The legal entanglements and technicalities which confront us on every side make us regret sometimes that that advice was not taken. Further recommendations of the committee were -
I have a real respect for the judiciary, but in some instances arbitration judges, although highly trained in the law, have, in the absence of an intimate knowledge of the industry concerned, given a wrong decision. In this connexion I recall the timber-workers’ strike, in which approximately 12,000 men were engaged and which ultimately resulted in considerable hardship upon not only the members of the timber-workers union, but also the women and children dependent upon them. During industrial troubles people have sometimes said to me, “ Why are your people on strike again, Dunn ?” I always ask such persons if they haveconsidered why the men are on strike. Do they think that the 12,000 timber-workers went on strike merely for the sake of striking? During industrial disturbances of that kind the men are not only without wages, but they are dependent upon their fellow trades unionists for food and clothing. I deny most emphatically the suggestion that mengo out on strike merely because they do not wish to work or because they have a petty grievance. Prior to the timber-workers’ dispute the men were enjoying a 44-hour week; but as the result of a variation of an arbitration court award their hours were increased from 44 to 48 a week and their wages reduced by 18s. a week. Will anyone say thatthose men were not justified in ceasing work? During that long strike I went on the platform night after night for many weeks, to advocate the claims of those men and I am not in the least ashamed of the action which I took dur ing that terrific struggle. Men possessing courage and determination and with a knowledge of what is fair should not have been asked to submit to such an award. As mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Lang, when Premier of New South Wales, appointed three conciliation commissioners and six industrial inspectors. I was one of the industrial inspectors appointed at that time; but in consequence of the swing of the political pendulum Mr. Bavin came into power and I was given five minutes to get off the premises and a fortnight’s pay in lieu of notice. The sixth recommendation of the congress reads - ‘
We recommend that the actual work of conciliation and arbitration should be done by conciliaton committees representing employers and employees under the chairmanship of the conciliation commissioner.
Effect was given to that recommendation by Mr. Lang when Premier of New South Wales, and the committee worked satisfactorily. The Leader of the Opposition quoted a number of the recommendations of congress as they appeared in the newspapers, but I am quoting them from the official report of the congress so that they may be accurately recorded in the official report of the proceedings in this chamber -
Each conciliation committee to have full and free power to call witnesses and collect evidence and generally to regulate its own procedure.
Prescribed Conditions. - In view of comparatively recent decisions of the High Court we understand that the arbitral power may be given conditionally that, if exercised, it must be exercised in conformity with the provisions made by Parliament. We recommend that the following conditions, among others, should be laid down by the Act: -
Contracts. - We recommend that no person shall receive a Commonwealth Government contract unless :
Basis of Interstate Trading. - We recommend that the following shouldbe done under the Trade and Commerce powers (section 51):-
Aliens. - Under the power over aliens (section 51, xix. ) and persons of any race for whom special laws are deemed necessary, the following should be enacted : -
Statistics. - Every employer who in any way comes under the award or the act to be compelled under the “ Incidental “ power (section 51, xxxix. ) and the “Statistics” power (section 51, xi.) -
Both book and sworn returns should be available for union inspection, and may be used in evidence.
The definition of industrial matters to be amended in accordance with the suggestion made by the High Court in the clothing trades ease, the following being suggested: -
– That statement is the same as the one which I read.
– I considered it advisable to place it on record, because the right honorable gentleman read only certain extracts from it.
– I read all that was relevant to this bill.
– Honorable senators opposite have been endeavouring to persuade the people that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions does not enjoy the confidence of trade unionists. On that point all I need say is that it represents 600,000 trade unionists, who have sufficient intelligence and political strength to influence the representation in this Parliament in the interests of good government and law and order.
It has been stated by Senator Pearce that the newly formed Australian party is the pilot fish of the Labour party. I happened to meet a prominent member of the Australian party in Sydney a few days ago. In conversation he told me that he had visited Canberra recently, and was in the Senate when the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition was discussing this proposal. Commenting upon the suggestion that the Australian party was the pilot fish to the Labour party, he said that the
Nationalist party might be regarded as the “ crab “ party, because it was always crawling to the Country party.
We believe that the time is rotten ripe for an alteration of the Constitution. Honorable senators opposite appear to be surprised at the language which I am employing. It is all right. And it is true that the time is ripe for an alteration of the Constitution. I believe also that when these proposals are placed before the people, the Leader of the Opposition and those who think with him on this issue, will find themselves in the same position as they were in after the last election, because the electors now realize that there is in power a government that is prepared to give effect to its policy. The Premier of New South Wales (Mr. Bavin), when speaking at Gordon recently, is reported to have said -
I said in my policy speech, and I now repeat most definitely, that if a National Government comes into power as n result of this election, there will not he any interference by us with the 4.4-hour system, as established by the Labour Government. I cannot say anything more, nor can I say it more definitely.
The Premier of New South Wales was anxious to impress the electors with the sincerity of his Government in its desire to retain the 44-hour week in industry. Mr. Bavin, who is one of the political giants of the Nationalist party in the mother State, went on to say that when he had given a pledge neither Mr. Lang nor anybody else could call him a liar.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) . - Order ! I am afraid the discussion is becoming somewhat irrelevant.
– I shall, of course, pay heed to your warning, Mr. President, but I thought I would be in order in quoting statements made by a State legislator. Other honorable senators made reference to the remarks of Mr. Bavin, so naturally I concluded I would be in order in doing so also. In New South Wales the award of the Arbitration Court with regard to the 44-hour week is being repudiated. I should like the 44-hours principle observed universally throughout the Commonwealth. Senator McLachlan also made made some caustic comments upon the Labour movement in the Mother Country. I was astonished that, in Great Britain, where the Mother of Parliaments sits, where law and order is observed, and where the first gentleman of the British Empire resides, these “ ruffians,” these agitators and Bolsheviks, as described by Senator McLachlan, should be allowed to rear their heads! I was shocked at the thought that the seed of destruction had-been sown in political soil in the Motherland! I do not know what Senator Rae thinks about it, but I feel sure he also will be pained! Senator Sir Hal Colebatch spoke of the system that was in vogue in medieval times in Venice. The honorable senator told us that, if a citizen had a set against any other person, he would write his complaint on a piece of paper and drop it in the “Mouth of the Lion.” I am afraid that if the practice were in vogue to-day it would take all the lions in the African jungle, with their mouths wide open, to swallow the complaints I could commit to writing about some of Australia’s political giants. Senator Ogden referred to the United States of America, and the trade unions there. ‘ I remind the honorable senator that Mr. Nash, the chairman of directors of the Nash Clothing Company, the operations of which extend from Philadelphia through Baltimore, New York, Boston, and Halifax to Montreal, and the capital of which amounts to millions of pounds, requires every employee to be a member of a trade union. Mr. Henry Ford and other leaders of industry in the Englishspeaking world also require this of their employees.
In the course of his remarks Senator Pearce referred to the nationalization of coal-mines. I ask him now if he believes in the nationalization of the coal-mines in our country.
– On 23rd May, 1901, speaking in this chamber, Senator Pearce said -
There is one method of raising revenue which has not been touched upon, and which is, perhaps, not within the region of practical politics yet, and that is that the Government instead of allowing the ownership and production to bo in private hands, should become owner and producer of some of the industries which in Australia and other countries are practically monopolies.
– My word, I was’ a novice then.
– Well, listen to this -
Let them become owners, for instance, of some of our coal-mines, and owners of the liquor traffic, and in this way confer a benefit on the nation.
That was 30 years ago.
– Senator Pearce held those opinion’s years later.
– Since then I have seen a little of nationalization and its results.
– No doubt the records would show that Senator Rae’s statement is correct. Senator Pearce is prepared to castigate the trade union movement and its leaders, the Government, and everybody else, because Ministers are prepared to seek additional power for the Commonwealth Parliament. But I feel sure we shall get that power, because I know the people trust the Scullin Government.
– New Zealand must be given credit for having been the first country to adopt arbitration. My mind carries me back to the time when the unionists of Australia looked to the day when a system of arbitration would bring peace to industry. We looked to it to bring about the fulfilment of the words of the great philosopher who said, “ The labourer is worthy of his hire.” To a great extent Labour has achieved that object. Arbitration brought about the abolition of individual bargaining between employer and employee. In the “ good old days “ to which honorable senators opposite so frequently refer, those days when there was no Arbitration Court, negotiations between labour and those who employed labour were carried out on the individual bargaining system. There was frequently no union to protect workers. Men offered their services, not for what they thoughtwould keep them, but for what they thought would enable them to secure preference over others who would be offering their services at the same time. As a matter of fact, the same system is in operation to-day. The greatest protection to the worker is a buoyant labour market. A keen demand for labour is protection for labour, but in periods of depression like the present, the worker cannot protect himself. If an employer were to advertise for 10,000 men at 7s. a day for work not covered by an arbitration award, men would trample each other down to secure the positions offering. There are now about 200,000 unemployed in Australia.
– And the number is increasing.
– I am afraid it will increase for a little while, but if nature is kind enough to give us anything like a good harvest, there will be better conditions all round. Honorable senators opposite have said that there are workers who break the arbitration laws. I think it safe to say that 95 per cent. of the workers who are working under arbitration awards obey them and carry on their work peacefully - that those who kick over the traces and from time to time cause disturbances do not represent more than 5 per cent. Strange to say, both the extreme conservatist employer, anxious to take advantage of an oversupplied labour market, and the extreme industrialist say, “ away with arbitration “. How any person who claims to be a good unionist can say that we should be better off without arbitration is beyond my comprehension. What would be the state of affairs if there were no arbitration courts in Australia? What wages would be paid? What would be the conditions of labour? With 200,000 men unemployed the power of unionism would be swept aside. If there were no arbitration awards men would offer their services practically for bread and butter. Many are almost doing that now. Quite a number come to my house and ask for a dinner and a couple of shillings, in return for which they undertake to trim my lawn and attend to my garden.
– Does, the honorable senator take them at their word?
– I do not. Recently a man accosted me in Adelaide and said, “ Look here, Senator, can you give me a day’s work ?” I replied that I did not have anything for him to do. He said, “ I want a pair of boots and should be obliged if you would give me a day’s work. I could come down and do your lawn.” I replied, “ Very well,” and named the following Saturday for the work. When I asked him what wages he needed he said that he would leave it to me, so I offered him 15s. for the day, also his dinner and tea. As I was walking away he called after me,. “ Oh, by the way, how am I going to get to your place?” I gave him ls. for his fare and I have not seen him since! Fortunately, there are very few like him. Many good, men are willing to come along and work for almost nothing, on the assumption that half a loaf is better than no bread. Fortunately, unionism prevents that sort of thing in industry. Awards are promulgated, and they determine the rates of pay in Australian industry. No person is allowed to come along and undercut those wages. Employees are protected by the law; they appreciate the power and the beneficent effects of unionism and grasp it with both hands, determined to retain it for ever. Unionism is one of the greatest boons ever granted to the people “of this country, and the arbitration law is amongst the finest humanitarian laws of the country.
– Industrial arbitration has been abused.
– I grant that our industrial act is not a perfect piece of machinery. There has been only one perfect Individual in this world, and He was crucified. I recognize that no man-made law is perfect and that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act has its faults. But as a contrast to it my mind goes back to the “ Good old days “ when bargaining for labour existed. Men who were driving lorries between Adelaide and Port Adelaide, knew the time at which they should start in the morning, but they never knew when they would cease work at night. I have seen them driving their teams home after eleven o’clock at night and in the most atrocious weather, subjected to the buffeting of the winter rain, but never in receipt of overtime. They dared not complain, as they had no organization behind them to support their just claims. Unionism and arbitration have prevented that sort of thing. Arbitration has baulked the unscrupulous employer of his prey. The honest employer has nothing to fear from arbitration.
A good deal of criticism has been levelled against federal arbitration by the workers because of its tardiness and costliness. Some unions have had to wait years for their cases to be heard by the court. That is not right. Their complaints should be heard expeditiously and cheaply. I remember one union having to pay £6,000 merely to obtain a decision as to whether it could approach the court on a certain issue. Eventually it found its own way of settling the dispute. I refer to the Tramway Union of South Australia. Beginning with the basic wage it approved of a sliding scale of pay, varying with the cost of living, and that scheme has proved very successful. There has ‘been no trouble in the union for a number of years. It is problematical whether the principle could be employed extensively.
I think that it was Senator McLachlan who said that arbitration had not abolished strikes. I do not think that anything will. Despite all restrictions men, smarting from a sense of injustice, will occasionally kick over the traces and lay down their tools. But it must also be remembered that arbitration has not prevented lockouts. It is just as imperative to prevent the one as it is to avoid the other. I have no objection to a secret ballot. In my humble opinion it is the proper instrument to employ in emergencies, and I think that it is the right thing for unionism. It gives an honest majority one way or the other, a decision by which men will probably stand firm. We boast about our splendid principle of electing members of Parliament by secret ballot. Certainly that is one of the grandest privileges conferred upon any community and if the principle is right in connexion with parliamentary representation it should be right in regard to industrial disputes.
– The honorable senator should endeavour to convert the union ‘leaders to that point of view.
– The Bruce-Page Government introduced a law which insists upon compulsory secret ballots. I do not see how that can be given effect to. If a union objects to taking a secret ballot it cannot be taken, as members can easily refrain from marking their ballot-papers. If the system is necessary in connexion with employees it should be applied to the Employers Federation, which should be compelled to take a secret ballot in order to determine whether lockouts should he indulged in.
– Employers are liable to a fine of £1,000 if they engage in a lockout.
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well that lockouts take place. The difficulty is to prove that to the satisfaction of the court. If this bill became law it would have a beneficial effect upon the community. I remember that -when I was working in the South Australian government workshops, men were working side by side under different awards, one under a State and another under a federal ruling. Their rates of pay varied and consequently there was a good deal of dissatisfaction and jealousy , which caused a lot of “white anting”. Under the proposed law the court could be given power to make a common rule for the whole of the industrialists of Australia.
– For both unionists and non-unionists.
– A common rule applicable to those who were prepared to accept its obligations. Any worker who is prepared to accept the benefits that have been effected by the toil and cash of other workers without meeting his share of the obligation is unworthy of those benefits. He should come forward and meet his share of the burden.
– Such men object to the funds they contribute being squandered.
– If funds are squandered it is the fault of the unionists themselves. Like myself the honorable senator has been a unionist all his life, and he knows that only a few men attend union meetings, and that they control the affairs of the organization. Senator Ogden should have stuck to his union principles. All that he has to-day, and al! that he hopes to be, he owes, and will owe to trade unionism and the Labour movement.
– I am a life member of a trade union.
– Trade unionism owes a great deal to Senator Ogden.
– There can be no comparison between what unionism owes to the honorable senator and what he owes to unionism.
– If the honorable senator lives to be 100, he will probably not do as much for unionism as I have done.
– Since I have been in the ranks of unionism, I have tried to help others as well as myself.
This proposal should be given a fair trial. It certainly can do no harm. On the contrary it is likely to do a great deal of good. I cannot see in it the dangers mentioned by some honorable senators. This Parliament should have greater power to deal with industrial disputes. There should be no necessity for a dispute to extend beyond the limits of any one State before this Parliament can intervene.
– What is wrong with the State courts ?
– I have already pointed out the evil results of conflicting awards. This bill will tend to prevent disputes from spreading. The Federal Parliament should have had sufficient power to settle the coal dispute.
– Mr. Theodore promised to open the mines in a fortnight.
-There has been only one perfect Man on this earth, and honorable senators know how He was treated. Every person who attempts to do something worth while makes mistakes. Some of the men who made pre-election promises made mistakes.
– As, for instance when they guaranteed 6s. 6d. a bushel for wheat.
– That was a rash statement which should never have been made.
– It secured a lot of votes.
– In that case, the voters were more foolish than the man who made the promise. I fail’ to see in what direction this proposal could do any harm. Honorable senators should be prepared to give it a trial. I support the bill.
.- As I indicated in connexion with a previous bill, I deprecate the introduction of legislation which, in a time of financial stress, will involve the Commonwealth in an expenditure which it can ill afford. If ever a government indulged in extravagance at a time when the call was for economy, it is the present Commonwealth Government. The Government’s statement of policy as outlined by the Prime Minister at the beginning of this session referred to the necessity for economy. Yet we have before us to-day a measure which, if agreed to, will involve the needless expenditure of between £100,000 and £120,000. The question with which we should be dealing is not that of the jurisdiction of arbitration courts, but how we can regain our trade and provide employment for our people. Since it assumed office, the present Government has done practically nothing to relieve the distress so prevalent in the community.
– Will the new tariff schedule help in that direction?
– Instead of relieving distress, the new duties will accentuate existing difficulties. Notwithstanding all the propaganda which appears in the press, I am confident that the tariff - which the Senate has not yet considered - has done nothing to reduce the number of unemployed in our midst. There are probably more unemployed persons in Australia to-day than when the tariff schedule was tabled.
– There may be other reasons for that.
– The first duty of any government is to relieve distress. This proposal will not do that.
– Why did not the party to which the honorable senator belongs do something years ago when in office?
– When Mr. Bruce asked the Labour party to attend a conference to discuss the economic position, it refused to do so. That conference was not held. Now the Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) has the audacity to say that the late Government did nothing to relieve distress. Much of the distress in our midst to-day is due to the so-called leaders of the trade union movement having urged the workers to break the law, advising them that it was better to starve than to work 48 hours a week. Men who are now Ministers of the Crown urged the workers to disobey, awards of the Arbitration Court. They promised that they would stand behind the men if they stuck to their union principles. After twelve months of suffering the men were compelled to accept conditions which they could have had at the beginning. Their acceptance came too late. The industry in which they were engaged has gone for the time being, and other industries more or less dependent on it have also gone. I could name a dozen industries which to-day are unable to employ as many men as they did at the beginning of the timber-workers’ strike. Later, we had the coal strike.
– It was not a strike, but a lockout.
– The doctrine that it is better to starve than to work for 48 hours a week, or to accept a reduction of wages, has, unfortunately, been preached very effectively. That doctrine is said to be one of the fundamental principles of trade unionism. The trade unionism so greatly lauded by Senator Hoare was, at the time of its inauguration in Australia, a magnificent thing. There is no similarity between the trade unionism of that day and the so-called trade unionism of the present time. Early trade unionism in Australia had as its object the improvement of conditions of unionists and the rendering of service to the community. The position is entirely different to-day. So soon as a worker attempts to give his best to the community, by doing an honest day’s work, he is penalized by his union. The official organs of many trade unions record, not by dozens, or even by scores, but byhundreds, the names of men who have been fined for having done what any decent man would do. Is that carrying out the principles of trade unionism? The result of the preaching of that pernicious doctrine is that Australia lacks an army of welltrained, efficient workers. Young men of promise, who entered industry ten or fifteen years ago, and were capable of doing something for the good of their fellows, have been kept down to the level of men who had neither the ability nor the ambition to rise. Although Australian workmen, if left alone, are willing and able to do more than they are now doing, the cost of practically every commodity manufactured in Australia has increased to such an extent that prices have far exceeded a rate which the average person can afford to pay.
– That is mainlydue to the greed of the employers.
– It is due largely to the policy of dragging good men down to the level of less competent workers.
– Do honorable senators opposite contend that a federal arbitration system such as they propose will prevent that?
– I do not think they can. I cannot see in the bill anything that is likely to assist in solving the difficulties that confront us.
– The honorable senator does not believe in getting rid of the leg-irons.
– There are scores of thousands of trade unionists in Australia who would give of their best if they were permitted to knock off the leg-irons that have been placed upon them by leaders of the trade union movement. A few days ago I heard a man in Sydney say that he would be a happy man if he were able to work without any interference or direction from the union. When I asked him why he should make such an assertion he said that, although he was a young man and capable of making considerable progress in the trade in which he was engaged, he was not permitted to do more than a certain quantity of work. One of the main causes of the present unsatisfactory industrial situation is the preponderance of industrial legislation, and I cannot see how the granting of additional industrial powers to the federal authority will help in overcoming the difficulties with which we are faced. We have heard of the varying conditions in a particular industry as between States, but it appears to me that a common rule would be the downfall of the industry to which it was applied. Conditions vary as much in Australia as they do in European countries.
– A common rule does not necessarily mean that the same rates would be paid in different States.
– I know what the party of which the honorable senator is a member has in view. Frequent reference has been made to the varying rates of pay and conditions of labour in particular industries, but my contention is that the State authorities are more competent to control their affairs than is any
Commonwealth tribunal. The late Government did not, as some suggest, introduce a proposal similar to that embodied in this bill.
– It was not half as good ; it was not worth twopence.
– The supporters of this measure have ignored the fact that, although a previous Government introduced industrial proposals, provision was made for the establishment of authorities with such powers as Parliament conferred upon them with respect to industry; but no such proposal is embodied in this measure.
We cannot very well debate this proposal without reference to the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill, which has not yet been disposed of, under which power is sought to set up a political autocracy which could so entrench itself that there would be no possibility of depriving it of its powers, unless from within. The first proposal is to confer upon the Federal Parliament the power to amend the Constitution without reference to the people. Is it not a fact that at the Labour conference which has been sitting at Canberra during the last few days, one of the principal topics discussed is the abolition of the Senate? If the Government had the power, and this chamber were abolished, the Government could then introduce a bill to appoint members of another place for life. Nothing could prevent that course being followed. I recall what occurred in Queensland a good many years ago when, in defiance of the will of the people, the Labour party abolished the Upper Chamber in that State. The Labour party then gerrymandered the electorates and commenced public works in Nationalist electorates so that additional Labour votes could be secured to ensure the return of Labour candidates. Although a majority of the electors supported the Nationalist policy, there was no power to check the Government. Nothing could be done until opposition came from within, and that is what eventually happened.
– Their own people became disgusted with them.
– Yes; that was the only source from which the power could come. If this Government obtained the powers it is seeking it could adopt a similar course and democratic government would be impossible. If these proposals of the Government are defeated in this chamber, they can still be submitted to the people, but I trust that- the electors will be so educated by the public men of Australia that they will meet the fate they so richly deserve. I oppose the second reading of the bill.
– This measure, like the Constitution Alteration, Power of Amendment, Bill, which has already been discussed, might rightly be entitled “ The great delusion “. Australia, before any other country, has ever cherished the delusion that for every ill there is a political remedy, and we have been prone to act on those lines. I do not propose to deal at length with the vexed question of industrial legislation. At the recent federal elections, the main issue was the distribution of industrial powers between the Commonwealth and the States, but, as Senator Colebatch has so ably pointed out, 101 issues were dragged in at that election in order to obscure the main issue. As the late Government’s proposals were rejected, it is useless to dwell upon them at great length, but a great deal of confusion appeared to exist, particularly in connexion with arbitration as a principle and the Federal Arbitration Court. For instance, the proposals of the late Government were not based on any idea of abolishing arbitration, as was so persistently asserted by Labour candidates on the hustings, but simply provided for the withdrawal of the Commonwealth from the sphere of non-maritime industries, which we’re to be dealt with by the States under their arbitration or other industrial legislation. Although those proposals were rejected, I am still of the opinion that they are sound, and that Australia will eventually come to our way of thinking. The States should, I contend, be permitted to control conditions of employment in the industries within the States without interference by the central Government.
I should like to read the majority recommendation from the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution in relation to the vexed question of industrial powers. On page 248 of that report, I find the following: -
We do hot recommend that the Commonwealth Parliament be empowered’ to legislate with respect to industrial matters generally.
In our opinion, the reasons which may be urged against the abolition of the federal and the establishment of a unitary system of government in Australia may be urged against the transfer of this power to the Commonwealth. In our opinion, industrial legislation should be regarded as a function of the States. In many matters industrial legislation is experimental, and each State should decide for itself whether it is prepared to test the value of proposed legislation of this character and to accept the responsibility for its consequences. We also think that industrial legislation peculiarly requires local supervision, and should be in the hands of the authority which is responsible for the maintenance of law and for the good order of the community. We think, further, that the general power to legislate with respect to industrial matters should be in the hands of the legislature which has the general power to deal with health, trade and commerce, mines, lands, public works, and the development of a State. We do not think that it Would be for the good of Australia that the Commonwealth Parliament should be occupied with industrial questions or that the federal elections should turn on industrial issues.
We can imagine circumstances in which a federal election turned on an industrial issue, and the overbidding for votes. The last election was bad enough, but it would be almost impossible to conceive the preposterous outbidding and outpromising that would arise if this Parliament had power to deal with the rates of pay, hours and conditions of labour in industry. We should have the candidates representing one party promising a working week of 44 hours and the representatives of another party advocating 40 hours. The thing is perfectly preposterous and unsound. Frankly I have no faith or belief in compulsory arbitration, just as I do not believe in compulsory voting, because the objective is impossible of attainment. It may be possible by law to compel a man to go to the poll just as it is possible to compel a horse to go to water; but it is as impossible to make a man vote as it is to compel a horse to drink.
Compulsory arbitration has been tried in only two countries - Australia and New Zealand - and in my considered judgment the experiment has proved most disastrous for both the worker and the general community. Compulsory arbitration and compulsory voting are equally repugnant to me because of my inherent belief in the absolute freedom of the individual. Many years ago compulsory arbitration was described by one of its judicial administrators as a Serbonian bog. I have not had much personal knowledge of bogs, but I can well imagine that to be in a Serbonian bog would be a particularly terrifying experience. In those far away days no competent critic would quarrel with His Honour’s definition, because its essential truth was obvious. To-day the industrial position of the Commonwealth is far worse. It may be described as a bottomless pit. Our arbitration system was devised and the court established to make for peace in industry in Australia and to facilitate the industrial and economic expansion of the nation. But what has happened? In its legal sense arbitration court proceedings have become a vast quicksand in which industries are being suffocated; in its social sense it is a manufacturer of industrial war and social discontent, and in its economic sense it has proved to be the emasculator of the working capital of the community. It produces endless solemn judicial awards which are either habitually and contemptuously violated or simply ignored by many sections of the community. Many of these solemn judgments and determinations are rendered futile by the resistless and inexorable operation of natural economic laws. We may provide legislatively for industrial arbitration regardless of economic effects of judicial awards, but these age-old economic laws are inescapable.
We poor, deluded and benighted Australians maintain this absurd system, with all the mischief it has caused and is causing, simply because it is a pawn in the game of party politics. Look where we will we cannot find any friends of the Federal Arbitration Court. All its former lovers have jilted it. Now it is distrusted, despised and detested and its awards flouted and abused. It is spuriously represented as a great humanizing, philanthropic machine; whereas in truth it has been an unmitigated curse to this country. It has had a very grave demoralizing influence on our people. As a demoralizing agency it has exceeded, in its proven potency, any legislative experiment that has ever been carried out in any country or time. It has succeeded in infecting a great mass of our working population with a mental and social disease which may bring Australia to destruction. By this I mean the manifesta tion which expresses itself in massed lawlessness, the violation of all legal contracts which the mob thinks irksome, and a contemptuous refusal to obey the laws of the land.
If this proposed amendment is accepted by the people, Parliament will itself become an industrial tribunal; but if supporters of the bill believe that this will mean peace in industry they are making a grievous and terrible mistake. I tremble to think what sort of place this Parliament will become under those conditions. Compulsory arbitration has had a long and very fair trial. It has abolished industrial peace and sanity from the land, and in its place has put a bludgeon in the hands of unscrupulous people. Now it is proposed to appeal to the country for an extension of the powers of this industrial plague. Nothing short of its total abolition can cure the ills with which the system of compulsory arbitration has saddled this country. It is time, and high time, that we had done with it before it saps the vitality and independence of the rising as it has impaired the independence of the present generation. But its end is not yet. Even now legislation is contemplated to bolster it up. I believe, however, that the people of Australia are beginning to realize that economic laws cannot be flouted with impunity; that they are far stronger than any legislation ever placed on the statute-book. As a nation we have endeavoured for years to ignore these truths, and because of .a series of good seasons and high prices for our products, apparently for a time we were able to “ get away “ with it. But the inevitable day of reckoning is dawning at long last, and it is not made the pleasanter because of its long postponement. The maintenance of high wages is an ideal devoutly to be wished, but the very highest wages ever fixed by the Arbitration Court mean nothing, if there is no work available for the people engaged in the industries concerned. After having given the industrial situation in Australia the most earnest thought, I have been forced to the conclusion that our system of compulsory arbitration has been .a most potent influence in causing a great deal of the unemployment from which this country is suffering to-day. The Commonwealth
Parliament should not be occupied with the discussion of industrial matters. It is not the job of this Parliament. As suggested by the majority report of the Constitution Commission the control of industrial matters should be absolutely the function of State Governments. For this reason I am opposed to the bill.
– This bill may be regarded as one of the hardy annuals that crop up in this Parliament. No other proposed alteration of the Constitution has been placed ‘before the people on so many occasions as this suggested amendment to . extend the industrial powers of this Parliament and none has been rejected so consistently by the electors. Nevertheless there is something in the contention of the Government and its supporters that since it was elected on its industrial policy, it should seek to give effect to it. Section 51 of the Constitution provides that the Parliament shall have power to legislate for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth in respect of, among other things, “ conciliation and arbitration.” At this critical stage in the history of the Commonwealth, the Government would be ill-advised to submit to the people contentious measures of this nature. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) at the opening of this Parliament appealed to all sections of the people and all parties in Parliament to come together, practically as an economic council, to devise ways and means of placing Australia in a better position than she is in to-day. In the light of that appeal the submission of this proposed amendment is extremely unwise, because undoubtedly it will divide the people of Australia into two opposing camps, and dissipate the energy and the ability so urgently required to improve the economic and financial position of this country.
It is true that the former administration in 1926 submitted a proposal for an amendment of the industrial power. According to Senator Barnes, the proposal now before us is practically identical with that put before the people in 1926. But it takes very little consideration to come to the conclusion that there is a considerable difference be tween the two. I supported the measure brought forward by the Bruce-Page Government solely because it sought to do away with the dual control of industry, which I regard as one of the most fruitful sources of industrial trouble in Australia. That proposal, however, was not accepted by the people, and it is known, of course, that the late Government went to the country last year with a somewhat similar scheme for the single control of industry. It is claimed by the opponents of the late Government, that is to say, by the present Government, that the people at the last elections declared solidly against the proposal of the late Government, but with all due respect to the people, I very much dispute the statement that that was the issue upon which the election was decided. There were so many other issues of great importance and so many others magnified to first-class importance by persons interested in getting the election to swing in a certain direction, that many voters lost sight of the real issue, while the great majority of those who had their minds focussed on the real issue, had a wrong conception of what was meant by the late Government’s proposal. It was said by the opponents of that Government to be an attack upon the arbitration system of Australia, whereas it was merely an honest effort to bring that system within workable limits.
If this debate has done nothing else, it has brought forward some of the most remarkable arguments I have ever heard and also a new word, or at any rate, a word new to the debates in this chamber. Senator Barnes spoke of the “ regimentation “ of men in industry. We have heard of “ nationalization “ and “ socialization.”
– And “ co-ordination.”
– Yes, also “coordination.” They are all “ blessed words.” “ Gilead “ is not in it when it comes to a matter of balm. If those words had in them all the balm that we are led to believe they have, all our troubles would now be ended.
With regard to this “ regimentation,” which means the destruction of all initiative, I have one or two quotations to read particularly for the benefit of
Ministers. One is from a speech by Lord Rhondda, Food Controller in Great Britain during the latter part of the war. If it can be said of any man in these latter days on earth, it may be said of him that he performed the miracle of the loaves and fishes in England during that period. He said -
Hu was persuaded that no theory of socialism could be put into successful practice without involving the loss of personal freedom and without individualism there could be no initiative, no audacity and no creative energy in the development of an industry.
Lord Inverforth, Minister for Transport and Supplies in Great Britain during the same period, said -
All the fallacy and wild theories of revolutionary minds break ultimately on the rock of industrial fact. The more freely nations trade together, the more clearly will it be seen that humanity must work out its salvation within the limits of economic law; and the way to the smooth working out of that salvation is by recognizing the moral law. We are men before we are merchants. There is no reason why mistrusts should exist between management and labour. The economic law by no means excludes, but demands humaneness. I believe that a system of profit-sharing can bo devised which will bring management and labour into a sensible partnership. Selfishness on the part of capital is as bad. as selfishness on the part of labour. Both must be unselfish; both must think of the general community and both must work hard. The two chief enemies of mankind are moral slackness and physical slackness.
There is a note struck there that I have not heard during this debate. “We have heard a great deal about the wickedness of employers and the sufferings of workers, and we have heard some honorable senators defend the breaking of the laws of this country in defiance of arbitration awards, but we have not heard one word about the suffering imposed on the general community. It is almost regarded as an axiom that there are two parties to every dispute, but as a matter of fact, it requires very little thought to see that there are three parties, the two actually engaged in the dispute and those who suffer by reason of its occurrence.
Another extraordinary argument that [ have heard to-day is that awards of th, Arbitration Court are only to be obeyed when favorable. That statement was made here by an honorable senator.
– Name him !
– Never mind his name; it was said.
– It was said by way of satirical interjection from the honorable senator’s side of the chamber.
– It was said by one of Senator Rae’s colleagues that we could not blame men for breaking an award of the court when the award was unfavorable to them.
– The honorable senator must have misinterpreted the remark.
– Not at all. As I am challenged on the matter, I may say that Senator Dunn made the remark. He commented on the fact that the timberworkers had had their hours increased to 48 and their wages reduced, and said it was no wonder that they struck against such an iniquitous award.
– That is correct.
– If there is any difference between what I have just said and what I said at first, I am prepared to be corrected, but I fail to see any. Now that the timber dispute has been, mentioned, I may say that the timber employees in Western Australia were so much opposed to being drawn into the interminable disputes that were being engendered in the eastern States, that they successfully appealed to the High Court to take them out of the jurisdiction of the Federal Court, and at the present time they are working under an award of the State Court and not under an. award of the Federal Court.
– That is because there is a 44-hour award in Western Australia and the honorable senator is aware that that was the reason for the application to the High Court.
– Senator Daly and I will agree to differ as to the reasons, but I remind him of the young military officer who when offered the governorship of an island declined the offer on the ground that he would be compelled to be a judge and to try and sentence people for various offences which he felt he could not do. His commanding officer said, “Do not worry; you can do it; but remember when you hear a case to give your judgment and never your reasons, because your judgment may be right, but your reasons are bound to be wrong.” The reason I gave in this case may have been wrong but the fact remains that the timber workers of Western Australia successfully appealed to the High Court to remove them from the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– There is a strong secessionist spirit in Western Australia.
– There is an extraordinarily strong spirit of every kind in Western Australia or the State would have been crushed beneath the burden of federation and all it has implied. The people of the State, however, are prepared to rise superior to all that has been heaped upon them. Something has been said about prejudiced courts. The late W. S. Gilbert must have looked forward to generations yet unborn with a prophetic eye and seen the conditions in connexion with arbitration in Australia to-day when he wrote -
And when amid the plaintiff’s shrieks,
The ruffianly defendant speaks -
Upon the other side;
What he may say you needn’t mind -
From bias free of every kind,
This trial must be tried!
In the view of some people a court is prejudiced when its award is not in their favour. I agree most heartily with Senator Colebatch that there has been far too much Government interference in industry in Australia. That applies not only to the Commonwealth but also to the States. It has done more to sap initiative than anything else. When people do not know what Government interference will be brought to bear on the industry in which they are engaged, it prevents not only initiative, but also expansion, and hampers and cripples the efforts of those who are engaged in an attempt to develop Australian trade and commerce. There are functions which the Government alone can perform, but those engaged in the ordinary trade and commerce of the country should within reasonable limits be allowed to carry on free from interference. I think the people of Australia have become heartily tired of this restrictive business. The ten commandments have not more “Thou shalt not’s” in them than have the laws of Australia. Men can be prosecuted for working but no man is ever prosecuted for not working, and it seems to me that the sooner we get out of that position, the better.
If there is any doubt about the meaning of the proposed alteration to the Constitution, I think the statement made by Mr. Brennan, the Attorney-General, at a conference held here last night, clearly sets out the intentions of the Government. He is reported to have said, in an impassioned appeal, that the Government would stand four-square for unification, and that it would carry these three proposed amendments to the country. There is no doubt in the mind of Mr. Brennan that those proposals mean unification, and nothing else. I say, without hesitation, that those who believe in unification should support them, but all who have the least doubt on the point should take the safe course and vote against them.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) was reported, in the press, to have said some thing rather severe about the Senate having delayed these measures. If the right honorable gentleman was correctly reported, he was very unfair. As Senator Reid pointed out this morning, the Senate has not unduly delayed the passage of these three bills. Only two honorable senators have been granted an extension of time when speaking on them, and I believe that in each case the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) moved that the extension should be granted. On every occasion on which there has been an adjournment of the debate, the desire for it emanated from the Government side of the chamber. It is grossly unfair and uncalled for to imply that the Senate has unduly prolonged the passing of these measures. Now that the matter has been made public in the press, I shall venture to prophesy that these bills will be delayed by the Government, and that the referendum will not be submitted to the people until after the New South Wales State election takes place - for very obvious reasons. My attitude towards this bill is the same as it was in regard to that dealing with the power of amendment bill. When the time comes, my advice to the people of my State will be to take the safe road and not to surrender to the Commonwealth any more power than it now possesses.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [5.3]. - Senator Hoare referred to the fact that New Zealand pioneered the establishment of an industrial arbitration court. .1 point out that Australia is the only other country that has experimented with arbitration for the settlement of industrial disputes. The fact that no other country has attempted to regulate industrial conditions in this way indicates that the experiment has not been regarded with any favour by the rest of the world as a solution of the problem with which, it attempts to deal.
Some honorable senators have said that the present proposals of the Government in regard to arbitration are similar to those advanced by the Bruce-Page Government in 1926. I submit that they differ absolutely in nature. The 1926 proposals set out to establish authorities to regulate wages, hours of labour, and conditions of employment in industry. The idea was to take to the Commonwealth absolute power under those proposals. That would have meant a federal authority which would regulate wages, hours, and conditions of labour, and the abolition of dual control. Senator O’Halloran has very clearly stated that if the proposals of this Government are agreed to the industrial powers taken over by the Commonwealth will be as complete as human genius could devise. In addition to dealing with wages, hours, and conditions of labour, the Commonwealth would have power to legislate over the whole of the industrial field, including such matters as. i.workers’ compensation and shop and factories administration. The last two activities have been very efficiently carried on by the States, and it is obvious that decentralization in those matters is likely to give greater satisfaction than a centralized authority. I am confident that no honorable senator would seriously suggest that the Commonwealth should take over workers’ compensation and shop and factories legislation, and am, therefore, opposed to this proposal to legislate over the whole industrial field.
Senator Daly suggested that the approval of this bill would bring about uniform conditions throughout the Commonwealth. Why this insistence upon uniformity? It is impracticable for all States to be placed on the same basis. For instance, Queensland might be able to grant wages and conditions that could not obtain in Tasmania, due to the relative lack of resources in the latter State. Again, have the unions always sought uniformity ? I recall that in the pastoral industry, the employees of which are mostly members of the Australian Workers Union, if it was thought more advantageous to apply to the State Arbitration Court that would be done. Later on the opposite step might be taken, and an appeal made to the Federal Court. The advantages accruing governed the action of the union.
No one would suggest that arbitration has been the unqualified success that was hoped for by its sponsors. The reason for that is the dual control that exists, with its attendant disadvantages, such as conflicting awards, multiplicity of awards, and “ rival shop.” New Zealand, with its one authority to deal with industrial arbitration, has had much more beneficial results than Australia. I am confident that, instead of ushering in peace in industry, arbitration has introduced industrial unrest, and frequently has brought about chaos in industry. Australia is at present going through a very difficult time, but these proposals cannot lessen its difficulties.
I was rather interested in an extract read by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) from Mr. George Anderson’s work, Fixation of Wages in Australia, to this effect - ‘
Time is no denying that we have a conglomeration of industrial legislation existing in the various States and the Commonwealth, and different parties are enacting alleged solutions each year. One State is vieing with the other to place more advanced views on the statute-book. While some of the legislation may be perfectly safe to apply to certain industries, it may be dangerous to others; nevertheless, once the legislation is there, employers bow to it, and the result is seen in the lack of harmony existing. The question is whether legislation is able to deal with such a complex matter, to provide for the minute details to cover practically every movement of a man, and to limit the capacity to which he can be subjected. In attempting to carry out these things, I believe we are usurping the functions of mutual goodwill by a method of compulsion which is inimical to the spirit of co-operation. It is only with the aid of this spirit of goodwill that benefits can be obtained from industry.
I emphasize the last two sentences. The point should be patent to everybody.
High wages and as good conditions as it is possible for industry to provide can only be achieved by co-operation, and the existence of goodwill between employer and employee. Our existing dual system of arbitration has prevented the inauguration of that happy state of affairs and these proposals will not bring the desired goal any nearer.
I was very interested in a statement that appeared in yesterday’s Melbourne Herald. It was made by a well-known Labour leader, Mr. W. M. Citrine, the General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress, and reads -
Far-sighted leaders of both capital and labour in the United Kingdom were doing their utmost to foster the closest co-operation between capital and labour. He preferred disputes to strikes.
Speaking of the collective-bargaining movement, Mr. Citrine said that both parties under this system arrived at agreements to last for a specific period. Although signed by both parties these agreements were not legally binding, but were honorably upheld.
If we could get something like that in this country; if the responsible leadersof labour were to meet the leaders of the employers and discuss the conditions of industry, there would be more likelihood of a reasonable agreement being arrived at than when they meet in the atmosphere of a court. This bill will not rid us of dual control, nor will it bring about that co-ordination and uniformity of which honorable senators have spoken. During the last election campaign the present Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr.Forde), when addressing a meeting of railway men at Rockhampton, said that he believed in the two systems of arbitration, for it meant that when the workers could not get all they desired from one they could go to the other. How can there be peace in industry when a responsible Minister speaks in that strain? I shall vote against the measure, and should the proposal it contains reach the people, I shall do my utmost to defeat it.
SenatorRAE (New South Wales) [5.17]. - Fortunately, I have been blessed with a fairly robust constitution; otherwise the reactionary speeches to which I have listened would tend to make me ill. We have heard from honorable senators opposite a most melancholy description of the crimes and sins of trades unionists, both in Great Britain and in this country, as well as various arguments connected with the principle of arbitration. My reading of this proposal is that it goes very much further than the mere regulation of industrial laws. It deals with -
Industrial matters, including -
a ) labour ;
employment and unemployment;
terms and conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, profession, occupation or calling;
the rights and obligations of employers and employees;
strikes and lock-outs;
the maintenance of industrial peace; and
the settlement of industrial disputes.
In addition to arbitration, it also includes other matters which should not be embodied in an arbitration measure. There has been considerable discussion as to the effect which this measure, if passed, would have on the arbitration laws of this country. Various opinions, both for and against arbitration, have been quoted. At the beginning of this session the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) said that the Opposition recognized that the election had, above all things, hinged on arbitration, and that the electors had given the new Government a mandate to amend the arbitration laws. He said that, so far as arbitration and kindred subjects were concerned, the Government could expect the hearty co-operation of the Opposition, which recognized that in submitting amendments to the arbitration laws the Government would be doing only what it was returned to do. I am not one of those who argue that arbitration was the only issue before the country. At every general election voters are influenced by all sorts of considerations, many of them outside the policy speech of the party which is returned to power. Nevertheless, we hear from time to time that the Labour party, while professingto favour arbitration, has broken away from it, and has condoned the actions of those who have kicked over the traces when unable to get favorable awards. Senator Carroll said that Senator Dunn had stated that men had a right to break away from an award when it was not favorable. Senator Dunn ‘made no statement capable of that construction being placed upon it. What he did say was that, in the case of the timber workers’ award, the lengthening of hours and the heavy reduction in wages made the award so iniquitous that there was every reasonable excuse for men breaking it. He did not say that men should break every award which is unfavorable; but he did say that when an award is actually wicked and atrocious, men are justified in not complying with it. I agree with Senator Dunn in that attitude. Indeed, I go further, and say that I honour them for doing so. I came to this place on the day that I heard the news regarding the stand of the timberworkers. Being unable to call in person to offer my congratulations, I sent a telegram to the timber-workers, congratulating them on having had sufficient manliness to flout such an obviously infamous award, and offering to levy myself to the extent of £1 per week to assist them. Whether they emerged from the struggle victorious or not, I say without fear of refutation, that the magnificent fight they put up, followed by the strong defence of the miners against infamous attempts to oust them from their position, prevented further attacks by other sections of employers.
When ex-Labour men like Senator Pearce and Senator Reid come here with their crying tales regarding the economic position of the country, and demand that men shall accept lower wages, I say tha U the economic position of the country would be greatly improved if every one whose wages have been menaced took the bull by the horns and not only refused a reduction of wages, but demanded even better conditions. The progress of a country depends on the amount of militancy among the workers and the extent to which they are resolved to fight against attempted reductions of wages or the worsening of their conditions. We shall never improve the economic conditions of a country by a cowardly surrender to reductions when they are threatened. Such surrender can only intensify the existing evils. Honorable senators must be aware that a reduction of wages and an increase in unemployment mean a reduced purchasing power for the community as a whole, and that any further reduction of wages or employment necessarily means a widening of the circle of destitution and impoverishment. The country will indeed go to the dogs unless this dry rot of surrender to the attacks of employers is met by firm resistance on the part of the workers.
Senator Reid quoted from an article of mine which appeared in the Pan-Pacific Worker. I stand by every word that I wrote, and point out that those who are most opposed to the constitution of the PanPacific Secretariat, which issues that journal, are only too glad to read the publication in order to try to find something with which to attack their onetime colleagues.
– The honorable senator is too obstinate to back down.
– My attitude as set out in that article, is consistent with my present attitude towards arbitration. When Mr. Bruce attempted to introduce proposals which would have resulted in the overthrow of federal arbitration, and left the workers in the hands of State courts, I opposed him, not because I believed that, in essence, arbitration was the hest means of settling conflicts between capital and labour, but because 1 looked upon arbitration as a temporary pair of crutches which the then Prims Minister was attempting to knock from under those who had been maimed in the conflict. If ever the Labour party decides to abolish arbitration it will not be at the behest of our capitalistic opponents, but because we have found’ a better way of furthering the interests of the class we specially represent.
I desire to refer briefly to a matter mentioned incidentally by Senator Dunn when he quoted a statement made by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in 1901. When Senator Dunn quoted the right honorable gentleman’s remarks, Senator Pearce interjected that he must have been a novice indeed at that time. Apparently, the right honorable gentleman is ashamed of the opinions he then held. But what will he say regarding his remarks eleven years later when, with sufficient experience surely to more than complete his novitiate, he took part in a May Day celebration? Can honorable senators imagine the right honorable gentleman taking part in such a revolutionary function as a May Day celebration? I ask them to mark that it was not an ordinary holiday like Good Friday, or Easter Monday, but May Day - the international working-class day. The Melbourne Argus, which is sometimes facetiously described as a Labour journal, in its issue of 6th May, 1912, contained a report of a May Day speech by Senator Pearce, who was then a member of the Fisher Ministry. At that time I was a humble follower of that Ministry, sitting, metaphorically, at his feet. Senator Pearce expressed pleasure in being able to take part in the celebration. Befor.3 reading the motion submitted by him, I desire to read a resolution previously carried. If the right honorable senator had objected to the first resolution, he could have said so when rising to submit his motion. As he did not do so, I assume that he believed in both of them. The first motion agreed to was -
That this mass meeting of workers send fraternal greeting to all workers throughout the world, declares its determination to abolish capitalism and wage slavery, to promote peace and the settlement of international and all other disputes by arbitration; and in conjunction with the world’s workers pledges itself to hasten the establishment of the International Co-operative Commonwealth in which the land and all the instruments of industry shall be owned and controlled by and for the people, and equal opportunity to develop mentally and physically shall be assured to all.
Those are noble sentiments, with which Senator Sir George Pearce was then in complete accord. The right honorable senator was pleased to take part in that celebration. He must have been regarded as one of the “ big guns “ at that gathering as he was entrusted to move the second resolution, which was as follows : -
That this meeting declares in favour of the legislation of a normal maximum working day sufficient to absorb all willing workers; the provision of employment by the State for the unemployed; Commonwealth and State departments of labour, a Commonwealth Bank of issue and deposit, the initiative and referendum, the abolition of the Legislative Council, a Workmen’s Compensation Act, the nationalization of monopolies,
When Senator Dunn accused Senator Pearce of favoring the nationalization of monopolies in 1901, the right honorable senator declared shamefacedly, “I must, indeed, have been a novice then.” But eleven years later he still believed in the nationalization of monopolies.
– That is very stale ; it is eighteen years old.
– Surely the honorable senator will agree that while a young man may have crude ideas and may allow impulses to control his judgment, after eleven years in the service of this august assembly, experience as a Cabinet Minister, and with the benefits to be gained by reading and travel, he should have fixed convictions that no lapse of time should change unless he is swayed by selfinterest. The resolution continues - the prohibition of child labour under the age of sixteen; free secondary and university education, with free requisites and meals for primary school children, with systematical medical inspection; the abolition of all election deposits, and advocates all legislation that will ameliorate the conditions of the workers, pending the reign of justice.
This was followed by a further resolution, which read -
That in view of antagonism of interests between employer and employed, and the use made by the capitalist class of the machinery of government, this meeting is of opinion, that strenuous efforts should be put forth in order to secure the election of workers to all representative bodies, and to give effect to these resolutions by every legitimate means, including the establishment of a Labour daily newspaper.
I mention this matter for the reason that we have been told that honorable senators leave one political party to join another, because the party to which they originally belonged having ceased to adhere to its original principles, it is necessary for them to seek some new alliance. But I challenge any one to prove that there has been an essential alteration in the Labour platform of those days as compared with what it is to-day. It is true that, as certain proposals have materialized and have become embodied in statuses they have automatically been deleted from the platform, but the Labour movement is still bound by the principles embodied in such statutes. As new problems arise, additional planks of our platform, designed to meet them, but embodying essentially the same principles, are framed. Therefore, honorable senators who have leftthe Labour party have discarded those principles which they once so strongly supported. It is possible, of course, that different courses may be followed by different people, in endeavouring to give effect to the same principles, and in doing so, some may be charged with superficial inconsistency. In referring to some of the criticisms levelled against this proposal, I have already quoted a statement, by Senator Sir George Pearce, at the opening of this session in which, on behalf of the Opposition, he virtually promised to support any arbitration legislation in the direction now proposed. Senator Hoare expressed amazement that extremists in the Labour movement and in the employing class should meet on common ground in opposition to arbitration. There need be no amazement; the opposition of these two sections is not animated by the same motive. Those who believe that arbitration is not the best way for Labour to attain its ideals do so for two reasons. The first is because, they disapprove of the entagled mass of legalisms involved in arbitration and their objection to the idea that anything that comes within the law, although bad in principle, must, more or less, be reverenced because it is the law. The most tyrannical or vicious legal enactment must be reverenced and obeyed because it is the law. It is said that many weakly organized bodies of employees, or those which were so unorganized before arbitration was introduced, would, if the prop of arbitration were removed, fall to the ground. It is urged also that without some system of arbitration the conditions of the workers would be most deplorable, and that during periods of depression, when there is considerable unemployment, the employers would offer a mere pittance to their employees, who would be absolutely at their mercy. That is correct, and it would be most inopportune to remove something which has assisted the working class. It would he a dastardly act todeprive the workers of any protection which they are receiving under an award of the Arbitration Court or any such tribunal; but my contention’ is that if we had never had arbitration the fighting and militant spirit of the workers would have been maintained, they would have been compelled to increase their strength, to resist aggression under a policy of no surrender, and so become a strong fighting force in the industrial arena. They would have gained such supreme power that instead of being condemned to economic servitude, they would have demanded a complete change in our social and economic system. I believe that despite any sufferings and hardships they might have experienced, they would have gained strength, and have been able to demand the wages and conditions to which they are justly entitled. Under the arbitration system they can retain only what they now possess, as awards of the Arbitration Court are based on the cost of living. Under this system the workers receive a fixed wage based on the price of certain commodities necessary for the sustenance of life. If prices increase, wages are also increased proportionately, and if they decline they are proportionately reduced. It was recently announced that wages of workers operating under federal awards were to be reduced from 2s. to 4s. 6d. a week. This means that under our present arbitration law the working class will never be any better off than it is to-day. It is a cumbersome system, and one which is likely to lead to increased militancy and the development of the fighting spirit. Is it not reasonable to suggest that the workers should have some prospect of improving their position in life, and that their wages should not be on a fixed basis for all time?. I have never heard employers oppose the basis upon which a living wage is fixed on these grounds. They oppose the system, because it involves a certain amount of trouble and sometimes compels them to pay that which they would in other circumstances willingly filch from the workers. To that extent our present arbitration system does afford some protection. I am not one of those who believe that pictures can be painted only in black and white, and I admit that arbitration has done some good; it has given some benefit to the weak and to an inadequately organized section of the community.
SenatorReid. - The honorable senator knows that it has done more than that.
SenatorRAE. - I disagree with the honorable senator. While it has been of some slight service in the direction that
I have indicated, it is detrimental inasmuch as workers are compelled to accept awards, which result in reduced earnings. Some years ago when the Australian Workers Union obtained an award in a State court, it was said that an attempt would be made to defeat the award on technical grounds. The then secretary of the Australian Workers Union issued a manifesto stat-ing in no uncertain terms that if the pastoralists dared to raise the question of jurisdiction in order to prevent the union from approaching the court, the members of that organization would make the demands in their own way and without appealing to the court. The spirit of determination which at that time animated members of the Australian Workers Union was so widespread that if the organization had taken the course indicated, its members would have secured far greater concessions than they obtained subsequently from the Arbitration Court.
– But they would have paid a great deal for those concessions by strife and loss of time.
– Nevertheless, the concessions which they would have been able to secure would have, repaid them for the effort. The pastoralists had sufficient good sense to withdraw their threatened challenge and allowed the claims to be decided by the court on their merits. The concessions, .although considerable in the aggregate, were long overdue. In view of the prosperity of the industry and the value of labour employed in it, we would have been amply justified in demanding much more than the court gave us. That leads me to this point that nearly all the concessions that were obtained from the court by the various sections of wageearners during the first years of arbitration, were concessions which should have been granted many years earlier, if we take into consideration the prosperity of the industries concerned, the necessities of the wage-earners employed in them and the dividends which the employers were reaping from the investment of their capital. The court’s awards simply meant an end or a partial end to the robbery which had been practised by exploiting employers upon the miserablypaid wage-earners for many years. It was no common sight in those days to see pasty-faced women emerging from clothing factories in the city of Sydney, so tired physically, and mentally, as to be scarcely able, to reach their homes.
But prior to the establishment of the Arbitration Court those conditions were largely modified by factory legislation and other enactments. In the skilled industries men and women were taught to have a little pride in their social conditions and to consider they had some rights as human beings and citizens of a country allegedly free. By means of their various organizations they were able to demand a reasonable wage and reasonable conditions of labour. They realized that the more closely they were united, and the more they understood how an injury to one was an injury to all the more they were able to gain for all sections of the workers. With the passing of the years that spirit was becoming more widespread among them. Gradually they were perfecting their trade organizations for the amelioration of their working conditions. This so-called depression-
– Did the honorable senator say “ so-called “ depression ?
– This so-called worldwide depression that has been spoken of so much of late, is simply the result of the capitalistic system which neither arbitration nor any other proposals made by this Government will do anything to abolish. On the contrary, they will tend to stabilize the existing condition of affairs.
– Where would the worker be to-day without the Arbitration Court?
– The honorable senator knows that if certain conditions have obtained in. an industry for a number of years it is almost impossible to say what would be the condition of the workers under some other system. My views are well-known. I believe that if, instead of adopting arbitration 30 years ago, we had kept on with pur voluntary organizations of workers - a very militant spirit was then becoming evident - the ultimate result to the worker would have been infinitely better. Had the Conservative party, represented by honorable senators opposite - I use the term in no disrespectful spirit - been gifted with foresight and common sense, they would gladly have accepted the palliative legislation introduced by succeeding governments from time to time in order to avert a very much worse fate which may overtake them. Although I am no prophet, I foresee the time when the present capitalistic system will be displacedby some more humane and just social order.
– We can see the results in other countries to-day.
– And Australia may pass through the same experience. The honorable senator and his friends need not be surprised if, in the lifetime of some of us, the present system which they are upholding crumbles to the dust.
– What will be put in its place?
– That will be decided when the time comes. I am not now offering any suggestion. I am merely a humble unit among millions of people whose political thought is in line with my own.
– Wat Tyler and Jack Straw, centuries ago, said what the honorable senator is now saying.
– And the aristocracy of France, on the eve of the French revolution, said what honorable senators opposite are saying. They declared that the existing system would last for ever.
– Surely the honorable senator does not compare the conditions in Australia to those which obtained in France prior to the French revolution ?
– I ask honorable senators to allow the honorable senator to explain his views inpeace.
– I am convinced there is nothing to be gained by honorable senators opposite in opposing this suggested alteration of the Constitution, although I do not regard it as a panacea for the ills from which this country is suffering. All parties have agreed that in certain directions this Parliament should have extended industrial powers. It is no argument against this proposal to say that similar suggested amendments have been rejected on other occasions. The majority againstthe proposed alterations was reduced on each occasion, indicating that the more people knew about them the greater support were they accorded.
Honorable senators opposite have also been complaining that, if this amendment were made, the time of this Parliament would be taken up with the discussion of industrial matters. Surely nothing is more important to the members of any parliament than the industrial conditions under which the workers of a country are employed. The time has gone by when members of Parliament should look with disdain upon the discussion of industrial questions, because they affect so vitally the well-being of the community.
– Who has suggested that members of this Parliament look with disdain upon any proposal to discuss industrial questions?
– It has been urged by some honorable senators opposite that the time of this Parliament should not be taken up with the discussion of industrial matters. This suggests that they consider the industrial conditions of the workers are not so important as other high matters of State, such as, for example, the passing of an Insurance Bill or the price of wheat.
– All we are contending is that this Parliament should not have the details of industrial matters forced on it.
– So far as I am able to judge, the details of industrial troubles will not be forced upon this Parliament if this amendment is accepted by the people. There is nothing in the referendum proposal to prevent the Government from adopting the course suggested by the Bruce-Page Administration, and authorizing a tribunal to deal with the details. The amendment submitted by the BrucePage Administration differed from the proposal now under consideration in this way. The former Government really contemplated fettering Parliament instead of extending its powers, because it proposed to establish a tribunal to deal with industrial matters, and Parliament would have had no control over that authority. The fact that this opinion was held by the people was one reason for the defeat of that referendum.
The general belief is that the Commonwealth should have extended industrial powers and that from time to time it should decide whether it is opportune to use those powers directly or to delegate them to some tribunal. Parliament should decide for itself and not be shackled and prevented from varying its methods as circumstances change and conditions vary. I say, therefore, that if this amendment is made, the Parliament will not be overloaded with the consideration of details concerning industrial matters. On the contrary, it will be possible to arrange for certain matters such as labour and unemployment to be dealt with by some other authority. While I do not think for a moment that all the evils that afflict us will be removed by the acceptance by the people of this proposal, it will, I believe, end the conflict which has been going on between the Commonwealth and State legislatures, and between the electors themselves as to which government instrumentality should have the greater power. There has been this conflict ever since the High Court decided that this Parliament did not possess some of the powers which the framers of the Constitution believed were vested in it when the contract was drawn up. These High Court interpretations have narrowed the scope of the federal power, and what the people believed the Commonwealth possessed. The present proposal is to try to readjust the position and rectify the balance which the High Court decisions have more or less upset. While I know (/here was gross ignorance on the part of the multitude as to what was really involved in federation, the general impression was that it would reduce the cost of government by handing over to one central body, not all powers, but the principal powers necessary for the management of the nation; that it would reduce the importance and the flummery connected with State governments, and allow a much more simplified and even more useful form of local government, to be substituted in their place. That being the idea - and the opinion still exists - surely it is reasonable for the Senate, which claims to be a chamber of review, to give the people, after years of experience since the Fisher and the Hughes Governments submitted these questions in a somewhat different form, an opportunity to review the matter again and decide whether they are necessary or not. It is my belief there is an overwhelming opinion in favour of giving increased powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, which is more widespread, more sincere, and more emphatic to-day that it ever has been.
– That may be so in New South Wales.
– I admit that I have not travelled very much recently in the other States; but if public opinion in New South Wales is any criterion of the feeling in the other States there is no doubt that these proposals will be carried by an overwhelming majority. I am not referring to the power of amendment proposal, but to the two relating to industrial matters and trade and commerce. I believe that we shall find the general feeling of the people is overwhelmingly in favour of the Federal Parliament having enlarged powers in regard to industrial matters and trade and commerce.
– If the three proposals go to the people they will all be defeated.
– It is easy to prophesy; but the Senate cannot be doing wrong in allowing the people to decide for themselves.
– The Senate cannot prevent the people from deciding for themselves.
– No; but it can delay matters. Honorable senators have been talking all the time about their sincere belief in consulting the people in what they term a democratic fashion, yet as a party they are animated by purely party motives. They have adduced no argument on its merits against the present proposal. There has been- a lot of irrelevant talk on their part about how wicked trade unionists are, and how many idle there are who do not want work. All the old “ furphies “ exploded a generation or so ago have been repeated.
I am heartily in accord with Senator McLachlan’s remarks in regard to the rank-and-file control of union activities; but, if he thinks that secret ballots are a panacea for strikes, he has never made a greater mistake in his life. I have known of instance^ where unions have voluntarily taken ballots, and the result has been overwhelmingly in favour of continuing strikes against the advice of the managing committee.
– In the tramway strike in Adelaide a ballot showed that 763 voted in favour of a strike and three against it.
– I can vouch for the truth of what I am saying, and honorable senators who know me will accept my word. I have every reason to believe in rank-and-file control. I hope the lawyers and doctors also have it.
– They do.
– The honorable senator . may be quite correct in saying that some union officials are highly paid, but are not so solicitous for the wellbeing of their members as they are for their own well-paid jobs. % That may, perhaps, be true in a number of cases; but it is no reflection upon unionism. There are all sorts of frauds and humbugs who try to live on every movement when there is any money in it, and the mere fact that self-seekers may at times put their own material advantage away ahead of the good of a movement is no reflection upon the movement itself.
– I suggested no reflection on the movement. What I did suggest was that provision should be made in the bill for power to take control of the movement.
– I am not adverse to any system which will secure control to the rank and file; but I do not think we should have any inquisitorial control by government agencies. I believe in that kind of control which will, as far as the law can do it, secure honesty, and I shall certainly be one of the first to endorse any action taken to prevent defalcations or protect members against those who would make use of their opportunity to deal unfairly with them. It is, however, a class of legislation which might fairly be applied to other than unionists. The complaints of Senator McLachlan might well have been directed against other sections of the community without, as it were, the vials of his wrath being poured entirely upon trade union defaulters. I should be very willing to join hands with any one who would hunt out of their lairs, and off the face of the earth, those who are living on the game ; because we want those who are prepared to do any fighting to make sacrifices themselves rather than demand them from others. But the defaulters who are blameworthy are always brought prominently into the limelight by those who would admonish unionism whilst those who are quietly, but honestly and sincerely, doing great work in helping to organize their fellow workers and those who do not come prominently before the public, are ignored.
Senator McLachlan has spoken of the revolt against arbitration and said that if you appeal to the law you must obey the law. I agree that so long as the law exists we should obey it, but it is a doctrine that can be carried too far.
– Now we are getting it !
– I say honestly, and I do not want to go back on a word of it, that the doctrine can be carried too far. When we were kiddies at school many of the heroes we were taught to worship were men who made the na.ti.on by breaking laws. They faced imprisonment and even death in fighting against the tyranny of rotten man-made laws, and we are hypocrites if, while we extol those heroes of the past, we condemn as criminals, those who follow the same line of conduct to-day.
– The men of the past had no constitutional means of altering the laws against which they rebelled.
– Sometimes we have no means of altering the laws.
– Yes, we have a constitutional means of doing so.
– If I . am robbed the day following a general election I have no opportunity of casting a vote against the robber for at least three years. Ours is said to be a democracy. It is but a shadow of a democracy, and until we get an economic democracy, we must be prepared to put up with even intolerable tyranny for at least three years, in the hope that at the end of that time our votes may bring about an alteration. Sometimes the only effective way to kill an injustice is to hit it, when it first appears - never let it grow bigger, to kill it in its infancy.
– Who is the honorable senator that he should judge his fellow men ?
– In the last analysis every man is his own judge as to whether the law is worth obeying or not, as to whether the principle at stake is greater or less than the law.
– And if he happens to judge wrongly a judge judges him.
– And the High Court upsets that judgment.
– That is so. I take it that, if after considering the odds against him, a man is prepared to take the risk he is justified in doing so. In the case of the timber-workers, the award given was iniquitous, atrocious and infamous. If any honorable senator can supply me with a stronger adjective I shall be glad to apply it.
– What recourse has the employer if he thinks the same?
– Let him take what course he likes. I should not impose a penalty upon him.
– The employer can be punished, but the other fellow cannot be.
– Certainly the worker is punished. Quite recently mine-owners who engaged in a lock-out were not punished, but fines were imposed upon timber-workers and those who supported them, Mr. Holloway among others. However, I am strongly of the belief that some good, at least some measure of finality in regard to the conflict between the rival powers of the Commonwealth and the States, should be effectively achieved by the adoption of the proposal now before the Senate, and I think it is nothing but party spirit that prevents honorable senators opposite from joining with us in sending this measure to the people for their final word upon it.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 to 8 p.m.
– When dealing with the Power of Amendment Bill I stated that I should be surprised if honorable senators opposite opposed the submission of a proposal such as that now before the chamber to the people.
Most of the arguments levelled against the previous bill were not so much in opposition to the submission of matters to the people for their consideration, but rather against taking away from the people their right to determine what powers should be granted to this Parliament. This is a proposal to submit a specific issue to the electors, one upon which they are justly entitled to vote. Senator Pearce stated that there was an endeavour to turn Parliament into an auction room for industrial gain. I assume that he meant that people who sought election to this Parliament would promise all sorts of things that would benefit the people industrially if carried. One party might promise the electors a 30-hour or 40-hour working week, or an increase in wages. But that sort of thing has already been indulged in by this Parliament. Senator Rae dealtvery trenchantly with the whole matter, and I shall not traverse the ground covered by previous speakers. During the last general election I observed that the secretary of the Nationalist party submitted to the people a proposal, endorsed by honorable senators opposite, which was distinctly in the nature of political bargaining. I recall that the Bruce-Page Government promised, if returned, to find £20,000,000 for the purpose of building homes for the people. Surely that was political bargaining. That Government knew it had no more hope of honoring its promise than of inaugurating a 30-hour week. It. has long been the custom to convert this chamber into a political auction mart. I agree that Parliament was not intended for the purpose, but unfortunately the custom has been established.
The issue dealt with in this bill was submitted to the people at the last general election. The then Prime Minister, when opening his election campaign, declared that the people had to decide the election on a simple issue, that of the retention or abolition of dual control of arbitration.
– That is not so.
– Honorable senators opposite stated that the issue confronting the people was that of arbitration.
– Is it the policy of the present Government to continue the existing dual control of arbitration ?
– No. This proposal will assist to abolish dual control. The Labour party is asking the .people to give it full industrial power. I believe that if that power is granted it will be sufficient to enable the Federal Government to legislate industrially for all the requirements of the people, and that there will be no need for State interference. The decision of the people at the last general election was final - that the Commonwealth should control industrial affairs. In the past we have had the experience of one State arbitration court promulgating awards which differed from those of another State. For instance, the Victorian award provided for a 48-hour week, while that of New South Wales set forth a 44-hour week. I cannot understand how honorable senators opposite can remain faithful to their party and subscribe to what is taking place in New South Wales, and still say that they do not approve of political bargaining or the conversion of Parliament into an auction mart. Despite its election promise that it would not interfere with the basic wage or the hours of labour, the New South Wales Government has meddled with both. Honorable senators opposite may claim changed circumstances as a justification for that action, but I remind them that the unionists of the country accepted awards in accordance with the prevailing cost of living. While that cost remains stationary or is increasing no sane man, unionist or otherwise, could honestly advocate that wages should be materially reduced or hours increased. In the circumstances, it was improper for the New South Wales Government to take away from tho workers something granted them by the Arbitration Court, and governed by the cost of living. The Nationalist members of this Parliament are advocating that similar action should be taken elsewhere. All that has been done in defiance of tha pledge of the Nationalist Government not to interfere with wages and conditions. The Bruce-Page Government was defeated simply because the people feared there was some scheme afoot whereby the
Nationalist party, by co-operating with the employing class, would reduce wages and increase hours of work.
– That is the story that the honorable senator told the electors.
– There was no need for me to tell them anything. The activities of the Bruce-Page Government made its intention obvious. I need only refer to the action taken by that Government to disallow an award made by thu Commonwealth Public Service Arbitrator. That in itself was an indication to the people of Australia that that Government was in alliance with the employing class to reduce wages and increase the hours of labour. At the same time no endeavour was made to decrease the cost of living.
– Is it suggested that the present Government is reducing the cost of living?
– It is endeavouring to do so, and I hope that its efforts will be successful.
– Would that be effected by the Government’s guarantee of 6s. 6d. a bushel for wheat ?
– The honorable senator knows that the Government made no guarantee or promise of 6s. 6d. a bushel.
– That promise was made by a colleague of the honorable senator.
– Order !
– I am afraid that the promises of quite a number of honorable senators opposite will not stand investigation. Aspirants for political honours, particularly when they are members of the party opposite, frequently make promises that cannot be fulfilled. Honorable senators opposite claim to be the saviours of the workers. Their method of salvation is a peculiar one : that of reducing wages and increasing hours of employment. Throughout the recent general election, the slogan of that party was “ Increase production “. One honorable senator opposite recently intimated that conditions obtaining in the United States of America, in regard to wages and conditions of labour, were the best in the world, simply because that country was speeding up production.
According to a leading article that I read in a recent issue of the Evening News, headed “Back to Facts”, the United States of America is losing export trade to the extent of £240,000,000 per annum, and that country has 5,000,000 unemployed.
– On what authority was that statement based?
– I could not say. I took it from the press.
– There is no authority whatever for it.
– It is a press statement and I must accept it as being accurate. If one denied everything that appeared in the press-
– Then the honorable senator would be on pretty safe ground.
– The Labour party has always claimed that one should be chary about accepting as the truth anything concerning it that appeared in the capitalistic press, but this is the first time that I have heard a Nationalist supporter admit it. However, one has to draw his information from some source or other. I have no doubt as to the truth of the statement.
How can we solve our unemployment problem and stimulate industry if we cannot find a market for our produce?
– Does the honorable senator think that the people have too much?
– Unfortunately, there are thousands of people in this country who have nothing at all. They ask, not for charity, but for the right to work. We shall not relieve the present situation by increasing production by means of imported machinery. Many honorable senators know the conditions which existed in industry before the introduction of arbitration legislation. They remember the old contract days when men were paid by results. In the days of individual bargaining numbers of contractors engaged on road construction treated their employees shamefully. They would engage men at 5s. a day, but would pay them only half that amount. There are numerous instances of contractors who, having completed their work and received payment for it, left their employees without any payment whatever. No honorable senator would like to see that state of affairs return.
But Ave are heading in that direction. If we abolish the arbitration system the workers will be left without protection. Among present-day employers there are men just as unscrupulous as were the employers of the past. Against such men the workers must be protected.
I do not agree with all that has been said by extremists; but, after all, a man who is able and willing to work, but cannot obtain it, has some excuse for being somewhat extreme in his views. The only means of protecting the workers is by retaining the arbitration system. The great majority of the workers to-day do not desire to cause trouble in industry. The awards of the court should, however, be reasonable. That means that they should provide reasonable living conditions. Honorable senators will accept the late Mr. Justice Higgins as an authority on arbitration. His idea of arbitration was that an award of the court should provide for a wage sufficient to feed and clothe the worker and his family decently. In his book, The New Province of Law and Order, he stated -
One cannot conceive of industrial peace unless the employee has secured to him wages sufficient for the essentials of human existence.
No reasonable person would object to that standard. He went on to say -
The basic wage must secure to the employee enough wherewith to renew his strength and to maintain his home from day to day.
Surely it is in the interest of the employer that his employees should be sufficiently fed to enable them to do their work efficiently. No sane employer would allow his horse to starve. Should a human being be less favorably treated than a horse? Mr. Justice Higgins proceeded -
The wages cannot be allowed to depend on the profits made by the individual employer, but the profits of which the industry is capable may be taken into account. If the industry is novel, and those who undertake it have to proceed economically, there may be a good case for keeping down wages, hut not below the basic wage, which must he sacrosanct. Above the basic wage, bargaining of the skilled employee may, with caution, be allowed to operate.
Every honorable senator will subscribe to that view. Whether conditions be good or bad, whether there be depression or prosperity, surely a human being is entitled to sustenance from day to day. That is all the Arbitration Court has stood for. Mr. Justice Higgins said that the court would not discriminate in wages between the several States, so as to interfere with the freedom of trade between the States, provided by the Constitution. All that the Government is asking for in this bill is the power to legislate as between States. Until the act was amended by the Bruce-Page Government, the court was empowered to deal only with disputes of an interstate character. Although every dispute of any magnitude affects the whole of Australia, it has been found difficult, in practice, to prove the existence of an interstate dispute. Mr. Justice Higgins also said -
The court will not prescribe extra wages to compensate for unnecessary risks to the life or health of the employee, or unnecessary dirt. No employer is entitled to purchase by wages the right to endanger life or to treat men as pigs.
There are, unfortunately, some employers who are quite unconcerned as to the conditions under which their employees live. They are concerned only with profits. Honorable senators will admit that the plight of many workers of this country is anything but happy. Like myself, they probably never open their mail without finding in it an appeal by some one for assistance. Only this morning I received a letter from a gentleman in Sydney, in which he stated that yesterday morning he saw women weeping because of the treatment they received from the Government officials who were handing out rations to them. They were not treated as human beings. That is a deplorable state of affairs. When a government is faced with problems affecting the health and happiness of the people, this Parliament should do its utmost to assist it to relieve distress. The only suggestion offered by honorable senators opposite is that men should work for whatever wage is offered to them. How can men accept lower wages with bread 5d. a small loaf?
– What is the Government doing?
– It is endeavouring to stimulate both primary and secondary industries in the hope that by so doing it will build up permanent avenues of employment. In the past, relief work has been undertaken in order to find employment for men, but when the work has been completed the men employed on them have again been thrown out of employment. When money was more easily obtainable than now, large sums were squandered by the late Government on various undertakings, including the building of this city. Had that money been expended by it in building up our secondary industries, permanent employment would have been found for large numbers of men. The Government is endeavouring to build up the industries of this country in order to provide permanent employment for its people.
– The experience of Queensland should be sufficient to discourage the Government from nationalizing industries.
– I have said nothing about nationalizing industries.
– The honorable senator asked why the late Government had not put money into industry. There is only one way of doing that.
– I ask the honorable senator why the Government of which he was a member did not spend its money in Australia instead of sending it overseas and thus give employment to our own people? I was referring, not to the nationalization of industries, but to the encouragement of manufacturers in this country. Many of our local manufacturers are being forced out of business for want of support. While Australian industries languish, money is being sent abroad to purchase goods which could be made here. The Government hopes to overcome that state of affairs.
– Numbers of factories are closing their doors.
– Probably because hundreds of thousands of men and women are out of employment and the purchasing power of the community is less. For that unsatisfactory state of affairs, the present Government is not responsible.
– Who is responsible?
– The late Government, because of the way in which it squandered money. Senator Reid must be glad that the party to which he belongs is no longer in office, for he must know that its maladministration would have led to. The Leader of the Opposition, who asked why there was any need to grant extended industrial powers to the Commonwealth Parliament, should remember that the arbitration policy of the Labour party was endorsed by an overwhelming majority of the electors.
– The electors have not asked for a referendum.
– The electors returned to another place a substantial majority to give effect to the policy of the Labour party, which includes, amongst other things, the granting of increased industrial powers to the Federal Parliament, and honorable senators opposite should abide by a decision of the people so recently obtained. The votes polled, for the Labour party at the 1929 election as compared with those cast at the 1928 election show an increase of 356,34S. The people now expect the Government to give effect to the policy which its supporters enunciated prior to the last general election, and in submitting these proposals to the people the Government is endeavouring to fulfil its promise. Senator McLachlan referred to certain union secretaries and, if I may use the term, “ slated “ them right and left. Apparently he finds it difficult to see good in any organization with the exception of that with which he is associated, and the members of which do not have to approach an arbitration court.
– We have an arbitration tribunal. Our costs are taxed, and sometimes very severely.
– The honorable senator, in denouncing union secretaries and making them appear to be a band of crooks, referred to an incident with which I am conversant, and showed how easily it is for even a legally trained man to misunderstand the position. He mentioned that Mr. Buckland, the secretary of the Australian Workers Union in New South Wales, had written to Mr. “ Jock “ Garden, the secretary of the Trades and Labour Council in New South Wales, in regard to a sum of £3,000, which was said to be in dispute. The inference was that certain persons were dishonest, but the whole trouble arose over a slight misunderstand ing. Mr. Buckland was right in his statement that £7,000 had been contributed to the timber workers’ relief committee, but Mr. “ Jock “ Garden said that he could not trace the full amount, as all that could be accounted for through the office of the Trades and Labour Council was £3,000. The balance of the amount was made up in sums received from representatives of the unions in various States and on different jobs that did not go through the head office.
– Is that not a loose way of handling money?
– No. These amounts went through representatives of the union, and the respective gangs were credited with them, instead of going through the head office.
– Mr. Buckland was not of that opinion when he made his statement.
– He knew exactly what he was saying. It was only a matter of routine. The money went to the timberworkers and was used for the purpose for. which it was subscribed.
– Is it not now the subject of litigation?
– So far as I know it is not. A good deal of misrepresentation of unions and union officials is based on misunderstanding, and could all be cleared up if the matters concerned were investigated. My experience of unions and union leaders is entirely different from that of honorable senators opposite. I have found all trade unionists with whom I have come in contact to be honest and deserving men. It must not be supposed that the dishonest in our midst .are all on the one side. There are dishonest men in every walk of life; if there were not the lawyers would be out of a job. If every one observed the law our gaols would be empty. Honorable senators opposite refrain from directing attention to the action of some employers guilty of “ shady “ tricks.
– The proposal submitted to the people in 1926 embraced organizations of employers and employees.
– The proposal to be submitted to the people has already been discussed at great length during this debate, and the need for increased industrial Commonwealth powers was brought very prominently before the people during the last election campaign. I believe that this proposal will be accepted by a substantial majority of the electors. I do not think that any honorable senator opposite would suggest that this Government is not as much entitled to the confidence of the people as the past Government; but it appearsthat honorable senators opposite think that it would not be safe to submit these proposals to the electors. If that is so, it would not be safe to abide by the result of an election. I intend to do all in my power to influence the electors to support the Government in this connexion, and I trust that the Government will, as a result of the referendum, be able to give effect to its promise to safeguard the interests of the people and to protect particularly those who are always on the bread-line. I want to do justice to the workers and to assist them in obtaining a fair return for the work which they perform. I support the bill.
– In view of the intimation which I gave in connexion with the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill, I do not propose at this stage to reply to the arguments which have been advanced in opposition to this measure. I therefore ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Daly) agreed to-
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till to-morrow at 10 a.m.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
I regret that this bill is apparently destined to share a. similar fate to that which has been promised the two constitutional measures that have already been discussed in this chamber.
– How does the Minister know that.
– I realize that I have a following in the vicinity of twelve short of a majority in this chamber, and as fourteen of those who spoke on the Constitution Alteration Power of Amendment Bill said that it would be in the best interests of the country if the three constitutional measures were defeated, my pessimism is justified. I sincerely trust that my forecast on this occasion will be incorrect, and that, at any rate, in that spirit of compromise for which this chamber is noted, one of the three proposals may meet with the approval of the majority of honorable senators. In introducing this measure, I desire to direct attention to the fact that the powers of the Commonwealth in respect of trade and commerce are conferred in a manner entirely different from any other grant of power. The grant is extraordinarily composite in its nature. It is a general power over interstate and foreign commerce, including navigation, and there are various specific unlimited powers in relation to such matters as banking, insurance, weights and measures, bills of exchange, copyrights, patents and trade marks, certain corporations and bankruptcy. There is also an auxiliary power in regard to customs and bounties. As the Senate has adopted the policy of expedition in dealing with these constitutional proposals, I do not purpose wearying honorable senators with a dessertation concerning the present powers of the Parliament. I refer them to a very fine digest of its existing powers contained in the report of the Constitution Commission, which was referred to in the course of the other debates. In pages 141 to 159 they will find a complete summary of the position which confronts the Commonwealth Parliament from the point of view of the powers which it possesses and the powers which this Government believes should he conferred on it. If honorable senators will read and study that summary they will be forced to the conclusion that the grant of power was badly conceived and bears all the appearance of a muddle.
Our constitutional difficulties are accentuated by a further provision which deprives the States of full control over powers which remain with them under section 92, which enacts that trade, commerce and intercourse between the States shall be absolutely free. Admittedly that would be a wise provision if the Commonwealth had sole power. In existing circumstances it is mischievous.
This Government is accused of attempting to violate the Constitution, because it is endeavouring to provide the remedy. It is charged with attempting to take from the people certain rights which they already possess. Again I remind honorable senators that the Government has no desire to take anything away from the people. Unfortunately in regard to trade and commerce, the people have no power to legislate. Their right or so-called right is simply the right to delegate to this Parliament the power to legislate. Until they exercise that power of delegation, the so-called right remains dormant, so that actually all that they have is the right to prohibit this Parliament from legislating. If it does not legislate, the mischievous state of affairs to which I have alluded continues, and the people are powerless. If, during the regime of the Bruce-Page Administration, the Labour party had been able to give effect to one plank in its platform - the initiative, referendum and recall - one could have understood the contention that these grants of power, which the Government is seeking would, if approved by the people, be equivalent to taking from them some rights which they at present possessed. But this bill exposes the fallacy of that contention. As I have explained, the Commonwealth is endowed with certain powers and the States with the residue, and because the State power is inoperative, the people are impotent. They could return a State Government to power, but it would be powerless to legislate in regard to trade and commerce. This Parliament also is unable to do anything. It will be seen, therefore that the Government does not propose to take from the people the right to regulate trade and commerce. All that it asks is that they shall extend to the
Parliament the right to legislate, in regard to trade and commerce, along the only lines possible.
I remind honorable senators that those who charge this Government with attempting to violate the Constitution represent a political party which presumably has always been the champion of State rights, and would at all times urge the people to rebel against any attempt to violate the Constitution. I ask them to bear in mind the cases which I mentioned when moving the second reading of the proposal to ask the people to give this Parliament power to amend the Constitution, and to remember that no protest was made against the Wheat Acquisition Act or against any other actions which led up to the litigation to which I alluded. There was no objection in regard to those matters, because every one realized that it was desirable to obtain from the people the right to legislate to remedy the chaotic state of affairs which obtained. Has the voice of any honorable senator been raised against the violation of the spirit of section 92 by States which have exercised the power of eminent domain in order to prevent the operation of that section? I do not imply that such action has been taken in any wanton spirit, but I wish to show that the division of powers is fundamentally wrong.
In the very statement that trade and commerce among the States shall be free, it is implicit that commercial horizons extend beyond State boundaries, and that commerce is not of a domestic nature controllable in a domestic manner. The general power given to the Commonwealth has been used in late years in connexion with the organization of certain rural industries. As with the State in organizing a local industry, so with the Commonwealth in organizing a national industry - a lack of necessary power is immediately evident. In these national marketing schemes resort has to be had to a clumsy expedient. Bodies representative of the particular industry submit their scheme to the Commonwealth Parliament and their respective State Parliaments to take the necessary legislative steps. It might be necessary for four separate Parliaments to pass acts to put a single scheme into operation. Briefly we employ four machines to do the work of one. The customs’ power is not merely a means of raising revenue.
We are using that power and the bounty power to establish manufactures in Australia in order that our wealth may increase and unemployment decrease. Having established an industry in Australia by means of our tariff, and perhaps fostered it by a bounty, are we to be left without further powers in regard to it? Do we not hear to-day complaints as to profiteering under the shelter of the tariff wall recently created? To destroy the wall is a counsel of desperation. It is merely to retreat to the evils we have striven to shut out. It is inequitable, for both the scrupulous and the unscrupulous are penalized. We are compelled to rely on public opinion to do what we should have power to do. I invite those honorable senators who allege that the Government has raised the tariff wall and done nothing to protect the consumer, to pay due regard to the limited powers at the disposal of the Government. If they appreciate its difficulties, they should be prepared to support it in asking for this grant of power to pass the necessary legislation to protect trade and commerce in all its ramifications.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has threatened to make public the names of traders who exploit the people, hoping that the people will defend themselves. Was ever a National Parliament so naked and defenceless as to be compelled to say to the people: “We cannot help you ; look to yourself for protection.” We desire that this Parliament shall have the right to give ample protection to trade and commerce and not to be hampered, as at present, by constitutional limitations. In view of the fact that dual jurisdiction does not arise -
-batch. - It will arise in regard to intra-state commerce.
– No. During the debate on the other constitutional bills, I wondered at times whether I was sitting in a National Parliament and listening to debates on national proposals. Honorable senators opposite should give the Government credit for acting in the best interests of the nation. It matters not whether we are representatives of the Nationalist or Labour interests; the objective of both parties is the betterment of Australia. We differ only as regards the means to that end.
– That being so, the Minister should not object to criticism.
– I do not object to criticism. On the contrary, I invite it. The point I was leading up to was this: While it is possible, even under this power, to have dual jurisdiction, the National Parliament, vested with full power over trade and commerce, would analyse the position in the light of public opinion, and in giving effect to its policy with regard to trade and commerce, it would leave to the States the powers necessary for the efficient working of the State machinery. This proposal will not create conflicting jurisdictions as between the Commonwealth and the States. It is designed to give to the Commonwealth Parliament the right to legislate in relation to trade and commerce on lines which will enable such power to play its part in the national life of this community. Whatever the Senate may think of the other two proposals it should, in view of the opinions expressed by honorable senators from time to time, be unanimous that the Commonwealth should be given the legislative powers asked for in this instance.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [9.1]. - I do not ask for the adjournment of the debate because I appreciate the desire of the Government to push on with business, and I do not know that we need further time to consider this measure. I want, however, to take exception to some statements appearing in the press about the progress that has been made in the Senate on these constitution alteration proposals. I notice that the Prime Minister is reported to have said that these measures were introduced in the Senate many weeks ago, the suggestion being that there has been undue delay in dealing with them here. The facts are that the messages from the House of Representatives transmitting the bills were received on the 10th April, just six weeks ago, and the Leader of the Government in this chamber (Senator Daly) did not move the second reading of two of them until the 30th April, just four weeks ago. Surely it cannot be said that this is an undue length of time. Neither can it be said that the Senate has shown a disposition to block the passage of the bills or delay them.
– Hear, hear !
– The speeches that have been delivered have been to the point, and there has been nothing in the nature of a stone-wall. I can understand, however, that it seems a long time to the Prime Minister. His position reminds me of the man who remarked to his wife that they had been married for a long time, and when she replied,” Why it is only a few years “, said, “ Well, it seems a long time “. I can understand that four weeks of the life the Prime Minister has been living recently may seem a long time.
– It seems an age.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.In the circumstances, I do not propose to attach too much importance to what the Prime Minister said.
This bill is of great importance. Its effect, if carried, would be as far-reaching as that of the bill to take full legislative power to alter the Constitution. If we were to pass it and the people agreed to it, this Parliament would be clothed with power, not to alter the Constitution as it pleased, but to effect something which would have the same result. Unification would be an accomplished fact. The. report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution contains the following : -
Trade and commerce with other countries and among the States. - Wo do not recommend that an unlimited power with respect to trade and commerce should he conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament.
It continues -
The terms “ trade and commerce “ have a very wide connotation, and if the power to legislate with respect to trade and commerce were transferred to the Commonwealth Parliament, we think that it would be difficult to say what powers were left to a State, or what acts of a State Parliament might not be overridden by federal laws. We do not think that the same reasons against limiting the federal power to trade and commerce with other countries and among the States exist in Australia, as might be urged with regard to the Constitution of the United States of America. In Australia, where the States are relatively few and large, where the population is concentrated in a few cities and each capital is on or adjacent to the coast, it is much easier for the States to control commercial activities and to deal with any abuses that may arise, than it would be if the States were small and approximately equalin size. In our opinion a wise course was followed in the 1891 draft and in the Constitution itself when, instead of a complete power to legislate with respect to trade and commerce being conferred, certain elements of that power were mentioned separately and such powers were conferred on the Commonwealth Parliament as it was thought could conveniently be exercised by a central legislature.
The point is put so well there that I do not propose to elaborate it. The term, “ trade and commerce “ is exceedingly wide. It covers a multitude of subjects - not merely the carriage of goods and passengers, but also the buying, exchange and selling of goods, and legislation governing those activities. It covers fully 75 per cent. of the activities of the States. If this bill were approved by Parliament and accepted by the people, the Commonwealth could strip the States of all their powers in regard to trade and commerce. It would have unlimited power over an enormous field.
Senator Daly has mentioned one case in which he claims this power is needed. He says that the Commonwealth has no power to protect consumers from the profiteering that has already taken place under the high tariff and tariff embargoes imposed by the present Government, although the Prime Minister and the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs have been trying to make the people believe that the Government has the necessary power, but cannot exercise it. The only effective way of preventing the profiteer from taking advantage of a high tariff is to deprive him of the duties under the shelter of which he is profiteering; but, of course, objection may be raised to that because its effect is to punish the innocent as well as the guilty. The power the Prime Minister wants is that which every State Parliament has to-day : the power to fix prices.
– Would the honorable senator object to the Commonwealth having that power?
– I object to it because it is an entirely domestic matter for the States and not the Commonwealth to handle.
– That means six tribunals and six sets of prices.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That may be so, but it is entirely a matter for the people of the respective States to determine for themselves. Many people who have had a little experience of price-fixing have come to the conclusion that it is far better to leave it alone.
– Why did not the Government of which the right honorable senator was a member leave it alone during the war?
– I was just about to tell the Senate of the experience we had of price-fixing during the war. Under the War Precautions Act the Commonwealth Parliament had unlimited power - as much power as it would have if this alteration of the Constitution were made. When it was alleged that there was profiteering in the sale of meat, the Government set out to fix the retail price of meat. Our experience reminded us of one of Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas. When we fixed the retail price we found that it did not “ do the job.” We, therefore, went beyond the retailer to the wholesale man, but when we got to him we found that it did not “ do the job “ - that there was some one else behind him. And so we went on chasing these various people until we had a whole network of war precautions regulations, only to find that as fast as we extended the net in one direction, the fish were slipping through in some other direction. Finally, in despair, we abandoned the whole thing. The price-fixing of meat broke down under its own weight. I thank Senator O’Halloran for refreshing my memory of that striking example of the futility of Parliament endeavouring in this way to interfere with the natural laws of supply and demand, which have a nasty knack of slipping through any legal nets that may be spread. The experience the present Government has already encountered in its endeavour to interfere with some of these natural laws will make it very much wiser before twelve months are over. Many of the States have endeavoured to fix prices ; but can any honorable senator point to any State attempt in that respect that has been successful? Fair rents courts have been set up to fix rents, with the unfortunate result that in the cities where the rents are fixed by law the tenants pay higher rents than are paid in the cities where fair rents courts have noi been set up.
– That is not so in New South Wales.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.New South Wales is the horrible example I have in mind, because rents in Sydney are the highest in the Commonwealth.
The proposal before us is a most peculiar one. It seems as if the Government at first determined to “go the whole hog” and that later the hearts of Ministers failed them, and a proviso was inserted The proposal is to alter the Constitution to give the Commonwealth full power over trade and commerce, with this proviso -
Provided that -the alteration of this paragraph . . . shall not be construed to empower the Parliaments to make laws with ‘respect to the control or management of railways, the property of a State, or the rates or fares on such railways.
In Victoria, there are railways and tramways the property of the State, and tramways the property of private companies. By this proviso the Commonwealth Parliament would have power in respect of any private railways in Victoria or tramways, the property of the State or the property of a private company, but no power in respect to railways, the property of the State. It would have power to regulate motor traffic. Can we imagine this Parliament taking power to solve the problem of the ‘buses? This Parliament - which Senator Daly is so fond of reminding us is a National Parliament - is to amend the Constitution so that we can tell the people of the States how to run their motor ‘buses. Many State Premiers have become prematurely grey over the problem of motor ‘buses; but we are to show them how to solve it !
The previous bill sought power for the Federal Government to fix wages, salaries, hours and conditions of labour. This Government has no compunction in regard to that. It will cheerfully determine salaries, wages, and the hours to be worked on the State railways; but the fixing of fares and freights, from which the States derive the revenue with which to pay those wages and salaries, is magnanimously left to the States. An embarrassing power, indeed, in the circumstances ! Frequently, in times of depression, the States find it necessary to increase fares and freights, so that, under” this provision, the privilege of doing the unpleasant things will be left to the State governments, while the Federal Parliament will have a monopoly of the things that are pleasant. This Parliament is to be a sort of Father Christmas, distributing gifts in the form of higher rates of pay and shorter hours to the State railway employees, and leaving to the unfortunate States the task of finding the necessary funds. The Federal Government also seeks power to take control of intra-state navigation. There may be something to be said for that; but is the Commonwealth to control navigation on the river Murray, or the sending of barges down the river Darling and internal navigation generally? The States evidently are thought to be incompetent to control that sort of thing, so this Government must take it over !
– What about the Swan River?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Swan River is at least a navigable water-way, whereas some of the alleged rivers of the eastern States are incapable of floating anything.
Why could not the Government have brought forward a proposal to enable the passing of a uniform company law for Australia? It could have asked for a limited power to enable that to be done. That would be something useful - something that would commend itself to the people of Australia - a project that would be approved by a tremendous majority.
– And I suppose that it would put about 50,000 more people into employment !
– I dare say that it would put some people out of employment. When companies are registered under six separate company laws the procedure must make for a lot more employment, but employment that is useless and uneconomical. A uniform company law would be of some service to the Commonwealth. Then there is the control of aviation. To-day the Federal Parliament can control interstate aviation ; but the power of regulation generally in regard to aviation remains with the States. I believe that four out of the six States agreed to vest full control with this Parliament. Several practical schemes such as these might have been properly considered by the Government. Instead we are asked to approve of a comprehensive power such as this, which will emasculate the States and destroy their powers. If granted this power the Federal Parliament could practically strip the States of their -authority.
I shall not debate the matter further. I understand, from statements that have been made, that we shall be given a further opportunity to say something on the subject at a later date, shortly before this measure will be placed before the people. I conclude by pointing out that this proposal, like the Power of Amendment Bill, is merely another step towards giving effect to the platform of honorable senators opposite, in compliance with a “ mandate “ of which we hear so much. It is a step towards that socialization of industry of which we have read so much in the reports of the Labour Congress now sitting in Canberra. We are informed that the nationalization of industry is not sufficient. The railways are nationalized, but that is not enough. There must be socialization. I should like Senator Dunn to be good enough to illustrate the difference between nationalization and socialization of industry so that we shall know exactly what the Government is aiming at.
– What has that got to do with this bill?
– It could be given effect to if this bill were carried. The Federal Government would then have full power over trade and commerce, and could “ socialize “ the shipping industry and many other industries. According to the Labour conference now sitting in Canberra the only way to cure unemployment is to socialize industry. Nationalization will not effect that cure ; socialization will. What is the difference? I understand that nationalization of industry means ownership by the State, while socialization of industry means not ownership by the State or by the people, but ownership by those who work in the particular industry concerned. That is the ideal for which Senator Rae strives. If this bill were given effect it would be possible to socialize motor traffic, and ‘bus services - transport of every description in the air, on the land, and on the water. That is why the Labour Government seeks this sweeping amendment of the Constitution.
– Why does not the right honorable senator advocate the handing over of the Post Office to private enterprise ?
– I am not advocating handing over anything ; I am dealing with the proposals of the Government. To-night I am the critic; the honorable senator is the creator. It is for him to rise presently, unless his leader says he shall not, and tell us what his Government proposes to do under these powers. Whilst the VicePresident of the Executive Council gave us a very learned disquisition upon the legal effect of the measure he did not give us any indication of how the Government was going to give effect to its platform, or carry out the “mandate” that it received at the last general election. With his characteristic caution the honorable senator has not seen fit to lift the curtain to let us see what lies beyond. So I am hoping that Senator Dunn and Senator Dooley will tell us what is to be the next step. Senator Dunn has assured us that the people are “waiting with their mouths open “ to get a chance to carry these bills by tremendous majorities when the referendums are taken. It would be extremely interesting to be told what the Government will then do to abolish unemployment. Is socialization of industry to be the remedy? Russia has socialization of industry. There is no private enterprise there at all, yet millions of its people are unemployed and starving.
– The Government would begin by taking over the Tasmanian ships.
– I have my doubts on that point. The PostmasterGeneral happens tobe a Tasmanian, and he has had some experience of State-owned ships. I venture to say that when it comes to the nationalization of shipping the honorable gentleman will have something to say on the subject. Again, with the Treasurer facing his next budget I cannot see any immediate move towards the nationalization of the industry. In any case, it is not the nationalization, but the socialization of industry that is talked of.
– I want to know the difference.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The difference is that with the socialization of the industry the men who manned the ships would own them. That perhaps would make things easy for the Treasurer, because he would not have to find the money. I assume that it would be found by the Seamens Union. Of course, the property may be expropriated. That is another word in the lexicon of honorable senators opposite. It is difficult to say what might be done in the way of expropriation or compensation.
Apparently these bills are not going to the people for some little time. I am very sceptical as to the people waiting anxiously for them. If I am able to read aright public opinion in the State that I represent not one of these bills has a chance of obtaining anything like a majority there. Tremendous majorities will be registered against them, and I hope that the example of the western State will be followed by this Senate when voting on thesecond reading, and by the eastern States when the referendum is submitted to them.
. - In view of the intimation that I made in connexion with another bill, I ask leave to continue at a later hour my remarks in reply to the debate.
Leave granted ; debate adjourned.
Debate resumed from 22nd May (vide page 2003) on motion by Senator Daly -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– In the course of the very full discussion on this measure, matters affecting the second and third proposals of the Government were referred to. That was only natural, seeing that the other proposals are alternative to this one. Should the people of Australia Hot be prepared to give to the Federal Parliament the right to alter the Constitution, the Government asks them to give to Parliament the power to deal with industrial arbitration and trade and commerce. While I appreciate that anything that I can say is not likely to influence the decision of the Opposition regarding this measure. I wish to emphasize that they have nothing to fear from the present Government should it be entrusted with the power it seeks. It is not the policy of the Government to dismember the States, as has been suggested. I do not think that honorable senators opposite really believe that this, or any other government, would attempt to exercise the powers sought in this bill in the way that has been suggested.
– Then why ask for such powers?
– 1 remember that among the ghosts and fairy stories to which I listened when a boy there was one about a big giant who ground people up and ate them. I was reminded of that story when listening to some honorable senators opposite. I repeat that there is no intention on the part of the Government to do anything which would jeopardize the federal system.
– That depends on the trade and labour councils.
– It depends on the value which the Senate is prepared to place upon the word of the Government in power.
– Future governments would have that power.
– That would depend on the intelligence of the people. It is useless to say now what future governments might or might not do. The present Government is not asking for any greater power than is exercised to-day by every State Government. Honorable senators have mentioned the danger of placing religion and education in the control of the Federal Parliament. I remind them that the States already have power to deal with such matters. That power has not been abused by the States. Is there any greater reason to suppose that it will be abused by the Federal Parliament?
– It all depends on the interpretation which a government places on .a mandate from the people. Lately there have been some peculiar interpretations of mandates.
– It is true that a government may misconstrue its mandate from the people. Even now a government which has a majority in both Houses, can ‘ misinterpret its mandate without any alteration of the Constitution. I submit further that the late Government, but for fortuitous circumstances which brought about a dissolution, would have misinterpreted its mandate.
– Is that how the honorable senator describes what happened?
– Providence was indeed good to the Labour party at the last election. Numbers of people who ordinarily would have voted for the previous government overcame their party feelings and voted in accordance with their convictions. Any one who has studied the party system must admit that it was a fortuitous circumstance. I would regard it as a fortuitous circumstance if a number of honorable senators crossed the floor to give the Government a majority on this bill.
– Perhaps they would be called “scabs.”
– We on this side would continue to call them honorable senators. I remind honorable senators that, whatever our individual opinions may be, we have accepted positions as senators in a National Parliament, and that it is our duty to consider first the best interests of the nation.
– As well as the interests of the States that sent us here.
– The interests of the nation should be paramount. It was the intention of the States which -were parties to the federal compact that their representatives in this chamber should approach every question from a national stand-point. If, for instance, Tasmanian senators felt . that by sacrificing the interests of Tasmania they would benefit the Australian nation as a whole, there would be only one thing for them to do : they should place the nation before their State. Honorable senators are aware that in Western Australia there is a movement in favour of secession. I submit that if that question arose Western Australian senators would have - to consider the matter, not from the point of view of “Western Australia, but whether secession would be in the best interests of the federation.
– This bill has inflamed the feeling against federation in the smaller and less populous States.
– I do not admit that. Nothing was needed to inflame the minds of certain “Western Australians against federation. Senator Johnston entered this Parliament during the life of the previous Government; nevertheless he entered it as a secessionist. Senator Colebatch entered the Senate with similar feelings. It is useless for them to blame this bill for their opposition to federation. “Western Australia sent some of its representatives here to try to destroy the federation, in order to strengthen their case for secession.
– They sent us here to try to get a fair deal.
– I believe that the intention of “Western Australia is to get a fair deal for “Western Australia. ‘ But this Parliament is entrusted with the duty of giving a fair deal to the whole Commonwealth.
The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition said that under the powers which this bill would confer on the Federal Parliament, the Commonwealth could take over State railways and tramways. The present Government has no desire to do that. Indeed, it has no desire to assume control of any activities which properly belong to the States. If it obtains the power it seeks, it will exercise that power along national lines. In dealing with national questions, it desires that it shall not be circumscribed by constitutional limitations. I want to make it clear that this proposal has not arisen from any conflict of opinion expressed by judges, as has been suggested. I merely quoted that conflict as an example of what any parliament might expect when certain powers are enumerated. One of the maxims of the law is that there should be an end to litigation. In framing its’ laws, every Parliament should strive to end litigation. One of the reasons why the Government asks for general powers, as” opposed to specific powers, is that they might obviate the necessity for a third body being required to interpret the power of Parliament. It desires that the Federal Parliament shall be untrammelled by constitutional limitations, and that a governmentshall be able to carry into effect every promise that it makes to the people on the hustings.
– That would be dangerous.
– On the contrary, it would tend to make parties careful what promises they made to the electors. Honorable senators say that the party to which they belong stands for the people. In that case, would they not expect a government which had the power to do so, to carry out those things that the electors returned them to carry out?
– Such as a promise to pay 6s. 6d. a bushel for wheat.
– The Government did not promise that. It has been said that although the Government professes to be desirous of abolishing dual control, its proposals mean the perpetuation of dual control. It is difficult for me to understand that argument, because the Opposition has complained that the Government’s second proposal does not go far enough. When we submit a proposal under which the Commonwealth Parliament would have very extensive powers we are told that we are going too far. This Government, which is honest in its desire to terminate dual industrial control, supported the contention of the late Government that the only way in which to end dual control was to place the power in the hands of one authority, but we suggested that that should be the federal authority which should establish State tribunals to deal with purely domestic problems. Under such a scheme we should be able to secure a greater measure of industrial peace than is possible to-day. While the Government pays every regard to the opinions expressed by organizations of employers or employees and is prepared to listen to any arguments they advance, in the final analysis its actions are governed by the policy of the party which elected it to power.
Senator McLachlan made certain references to trade union organizations and to the action of the Labour party in declining to stand behind the Government of which he was a member in its endeavour to secure control of the ballots taken by trade union organizations. The real objection of the Labour party to that proposal was because one particular section of the community, whose liberties were to be seriously curtailed, were singled out for special treatment. Surely the morale of the Australian people has not fallen to such an extent that an organization cannot be trusted to take a ballot of its members? We were strongly opposed to placing any stigma upon the members of trade union organizations, or acting in such a way as to make it appear that they were so corrupt that they could not be allowed to control their own ballots. We simply said to the Government of the day, “Keep your hands off organizations which are quite capable of looking after themselves “. Surely it is not suggested that this Government would abuse the powers which it is seeking to obtain in. the way the past Government endeavoured to abuse its power some months ago? It was also suggested that we should allow matters to remain as they are, and that we might even dispense with arbitration and get back to the old system of bargaining.
– The honorable senator would he pleased if Parliament could be relieved of the responsibility of arbitration.
– Nothing was further from my mind than to suggest that Parliament should be relieved of that responsibility.
– Arbitration will be the means of getting rid of the Minister and his followers in the long run.
– If a majority in this chamber forces us to leave arbitration where it is to-day we may be submerged in the flood of public opinion that will rise against us. We are anxious to place arbitration on such a safe basis that the people will have faith in the system and’ will be able to appreciate its merits. It would, however, be a calamity if the present Government were removed from the treasury bench before it has placed Australia on a sound economic foundation.
An adverse vote in . this chamber on these measures cannot prevent their submission to the people who possess the real power of delegation. The people will be consulted, and time alone will show whether the forecast of honorable senators opposite or the prophecy of those on this side of the chamber is correct. In the interests of the Commonwealth I sincerely trust that the people will be behind the Government and will grant it the extended industrial powers it is seeking to enable it to put into operation the policy upon which its supporters were elected.
Question - That thebill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the negative.
Constitution Bills - Attitude of Senate - Movement fob Secession in Western Australia.
.- I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I promised the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) that, on the motion for adjournment, I would refer to comments which appeared in 8 section of the press regarding the alleged delay of the Senate in dealing with the constitutional measures on which we have just divided. I assure honorable senators that I was not in any way responsible for the statements referred to and that if an impression has been created in the minds of any one that honorable senators opposite have not treated Government measures with courtesy, I hope it will now be removed. I do not subscribe to the press statements referred to. As honorable senators will remember, on Fridaylast I thanked the right honorable the” Leader of the Opposition and other honj orable senators opposite for the courteous manner in which they had dealt with Government proposals.
– I direct the attention of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) to the following report which appeared in a Sydney newspaper on the 26th instant : -
Enthusiastic Meeting at Perth.
A campaign for the secession of Western Australia from the Commonwealth was initiated before a packed and enthusiastic audience in the Burt Memorial Hall on Friday night.
At the conclusion of a lecture by Mr. A. Lovekin,M.L.C, the following resolution was moved by Mr. R.S. Sampson, M.L.A., arid seconded by Mr. H. A. Griffiths, M.L.A. : - “This public meeting of citizens of Western Australia pledges itself to support a movement for the creation of a dominion of Western Australia, and urges the Government to give the people an opportunity of deciding the issue by referendum”
Owing to a clause prohibiting political meetings in the terms uponwhich the hall had been leased, the resolution could not be put, but the temperof the audience, which applauded every mention of secession, made it clear that it would have been carried by a large majority.
The Premier (Sir James Mitchell) was in the chair, and other Ministers, and the Lord Mayor (Alderman A. T. Franklin), Senator Lynch, and other Parliamentarians were on the platform.
The Premier said that federation was costing the State not less than £8,000,000 annually, which was a tremendous burden for 400,000 people.
Mr. Lovekin outlined objections to federation, such as the extravagance of the Federal Government, the unfair incidence of the tariff on primary producing States, and duplication of services and officials. He declared that secession could be accomplished legally and constitutionally, and explained how, in his opinion, this could be done.
I now invite honorable senators to read the covering provisions of the Constitution Act -
Whereas the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, humbly relying on the blessing of Almighty God, have agreed to unite in one indissoluble Federal Commonwealth, under the Crown of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and under the Constitution hereby established.
And whereas it is expedient to provide for the admission into the Commonwealth of other Australasian colonics and possessions of the Queen;
Be it therefore enacted by the Queen’s Most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows: -
Section 3 reads -
It shall be lawful for the Queen, with the advice of the Privy Council, to declare by proclamation that, on and after a day therein appointed, not being later than one year after the passing of this act, the people of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania, and also, if Her Majesty is satisfied that the people of Western Australia have agreed thereto, of Western Australia shall be united in a Federal Commonwealth under the name of the Commonwealth of Australia. But the Queen may, at any time after the proclamation, appoint a Governor-General for the Commonwealth.
We now have evidence of a movement in Western Australia having for its object the secession of that State from the Commonwealth.
– What does the honorable senator propose to do about it?
– I have reminded the Leader of the Opposition on other occasions that interjections are disorderly. When I was elected to the Senate a little over eight months ago, I took the following oath of allegiance to His Majesty, King George V, before the late Chief Justice of the Commonwealth, (Sir Adrian Knox) and Sir Isaac Isaacs: -
I do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty, King George the Fifth, his heirs and successors according to law. So help me God.
If the people of Western Australia seriously cut the painter they will be guilty of an act of treason in every sense of the word.
– The honorable gentleman, I think, will realize that what he proposes to discuss is at present outside any phase of federal politics. -Senator DUNN. - I could not let pass this opportunity to bring the movement in Western Australia under the notice of the Leader of the Senate. I shall be brief. In view of the fact that. Western Australia is part and parcel of the Commonwealth and in view also of the fact that its representatives in this chamber and in another place have sworn an oath of allegiance to His Majesty the King, do they intend to take an active part in this movement to secede? If so, is it not about time they did the decent thing and resigned ?
– All I can promise the honorable senator is that when Senator Lynch returns I shall endeavour to persuade him to see the error of his ways. In the meantime, I express the hope that other honorable senators from Western Australia will take heed of the advice so generously given by the Government Whip and refrain from taking part in the movement referred to.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.15 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 28 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300528_senate_12_124/>.