18th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Gordon Brown) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
– In view of the shortage of linseed oil in Australia, has the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture any information to give to the Senate as to the possibility of growing in Australia linseed with a high oil content ?
– When the honorable senator asked a question on this’ subject a few days ago I referred the matter to the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture who is now giving it consideration. I shall endeavour to expedite the supply of an answer to the honorable senator.
– Will the Government instruct the Commonwealth Statistician to compile from the next census information “a comprehensive table showing tho real value of house rentals, for publication in the quarterly summary of statistics and other publications of that office ?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s request before tho Treasurer.
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate what progress has been made towards repairing the damage to the phosphatic rock loading equipment at Nauru Island, and is he in a position to say when supplies of phosphatic rock from that source will return to normal 1
– I am not able to supply an answer offhand to the honorable senator’s question,’ but I shall bring the matter to the notice of the appropriate authority, and shall supply an answer to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
– Will the Minister for Social Services inform the Senate whether, the Government intends that the Social Security Committee, the Government members of which were elected last November, shall continue to function, in view of the vast expansion of social services envisaged by the Government, due to the success of the referendum on this issue?
– In recent months I have heard nothing about that particular committee, but by reason of the fact that the ‘ Government has nominated its own members, it would appear that the Government is interested in the continuance of that committee. Speaking for myself, I should welcome the re-establishment of the committee. I may need correction on this point, but I am under the impression that the Opposition parties have declined to appoint representatives to that body ; and that accounts for the fact that the committee is not functioning at the moment. If that is the decision of the Opposition parties, I hope that they will reconsider their attitude and allow that very useful body to carry on with the splendid work it has already done in the social services field.
– I ask- the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce and Agriculture what amount is still owing to the wheat-growers for the 1945-46’ season wheat that has been retained by the Australian Wheat Board on the Gevernment’s instructions? What does the Government propose. to do in relation to the 1946-47 crop? ‘Does it propose to establish a long-range plan in view of the adverse vote .in some States against its last wheat plan ?
– J shall bring the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Minister./
– I ask the Minister representing the Treasurer what are the terms and conditions laid down by the Government in giving financial assistance to the States for the development of mineral production? When any application is made by prospectors for financial assistance for the purpose of prospecting or opening up a mine, who decides whether such assistance shall be granted, the State authority, the Commonwealth authority, or both?
– In cases where the cost of prospecting for minerals is borne by the Commonwealth, the Commonwealth makes the final decision with respect to the granting of financial assistance to prospectors. I shall bring the other portion of the honorable senator’s question to the notice of the Treasurer.
-In view of the financial assistance given by the Commonwealth Government to mineral production., can the Minister representing the Treasurer inform me whether assistance is given to prospectors or only to mines which are already in production? Can the Minister say whether assistance is granted on the recommendation of State authorities who know the local conditions or whether the Commonwealth authorities make separate investigations in each case?
– The granting of assistance to prospectors depends upon the field that is being prospected and upon the likelihood of obtaining minerals in that locality. The Commonwealth is guided to a certain degree by advice received from State officials in determining whether or not assistance should be granted. If there is any particular case in which the honorable senator is interested, and of which he requires details, I shall be glad to supply them.
Camps - Australians in Japan.
– I ask the Minis ter representing the Minister for Defence what service camps have been declared surplus to service requirements in Western Australia? What camps are to be held for other requirements for State or Commonwealth purposes? What camps or head-quarters are to be retained permanently for service requirements?
– I shall make inquiries from the three branches of the armed services and pass the information on to the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that great dissatisfaction exists in the Department of the Army, the Department of the Navy and the Department of Air because, although the war has been over for two years, the Government has not yet made definite plans for the future defence of Australia other than arranging a knighthood for Sir Frederick Shedden and appointing the Governor-General as CommanderinChief of the three services?
– I have no knowledge of any dissatisfaction regarding the matter mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition, but I shall refer his question to the Minister for the Army and ask him to furnish a reply.
Transmission from Tasmania to the Mainland.
– In view of the heavy demands made to-day for electric power due to the ever-increasing growth of Australian industry generally, can the Minister for Supply and Shipping give any information in regard to the practicability of having electric power transmitted economically from Tasmania to the mainland?
– I have no knowledge of any inquiries having been made regarding that matter, and I cannot say whether it would be possible to do as the honorable senator has suggested, hut I shall have enquiries made and inform the honorable senator of the result.
– According to a report in this morning’s press, the Government proposes to revert to the pool system of petrol distribution in this country. Will the Minister for Supply and Shipping inform the Senate why this is being done? Is this action an indication that petrol rationing will continue for some time, and if so, why is it that in New Zealand, petrol is not rationed?
-No decision has yet been .made to re-establish the petrol pool but the Government certainly intends to control the importation and distribution of petrol. There appears to be no possibility at present of the various companies reaching an .agreement on import quotas. Therefore, I have requested that figures be supplied to me within a week showing sales by the various companies. I have also asked for a statement by the smaller companies of their case against the quota system that operated during the war. When I have received this information a determination of quotas will be made. It is obvious that the companies cannot agree amongst themselves. Petrol rationing will continue for some time. Members of the Opposition parties in this chamber and in the House of Representatives refer constantly to the economic conditions that are being endured by the people of Great Britain. They speak particularly of the lack of foodstuffs. The reason for those conditions is the ‘ shortage of American dollars, and that is also the reason why petrol rationing in this country cannot yet be abandoned. The honorable senator, was not correct in stating that there is no petrol rationing system in New Zealand. There ‘ is a rationing scheme in that country, but it is operated by the petrol companies. Petrol is handed over to the companies on importation, and they distribute it amongst themselves in the best manner possible.
Black Marketing - -Luxury Cabs
-Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware of a more or less legalized form of black marketing which has developed in connexion with the trading-in and re-selling of second hand motor ears? As the re-sale prices of motor cars are pegged, certain firms, which deal exclusively in the exchange of motor cars, offer very low prices for vehicles which are traded-in and then re-sell them at the pegged prices. These companies will “not buy motor cars outright. They deal only by means of exchange, and thereby they are able to secure high profits, which include the difference between the. pegged prices and the black market prices of second-hand cars.
– The Government is fully aware of the conditions under which second-hand motor cars are bought and re-sold. The prices authorities have done everything possible to eliminate the practice mentioned by the honorable senator, but it is very difficult to obtain information from any of the parties concerned in such, transactions. Nevertheless, prices, officials appreciate the fact that people are charging, and paying,, prices for second-hand cars which are in excess of those provided by the regulations. It appears to me that it’ “is physically impossible to police the second-hand trade so as to prevent black marketing of the kind that the honorable senator has described. However, the authorities have not lost sight of the matter and every endeavour is being made to deal with the situation. I am afraid that results have not been satisfactory up to the present.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether the importation of luxury motor cars from the United States of America has been banned, as reported. Will the Government be forced to cancel any import licences that have been granted? What price range covers vehicles that are considered to be of luxury types?
– I realize the difficulty of determining just what is a luxury motor car. However, the Government considers that the great need of the’ community is for a utility type of motor vehicle which will be useful and valuable to industry. The Government wishes to discourage as much as possible the importation of what might be termed luxury motor cars, and every encouragement will be given to the purchase of utility types of vehicles with the limited amount of dollar purchasing power at our disposal so that the best interests of national economy will be served.
– I am sorry that Senator Courtice omitted to refer to one important aspect of the questions I asked him. ‘ Will it be necessary to cancel any licences for imports which have already been granted?
– I overlooked that aspect of the honorable senator’s questions. I can assure him that the action being taken in regard to this matter was decided upon after consultation with all interests concerned in the production and distribution of motor cars. The policy adopted is one which has been agreed upon by all parties, and the ban on. the importation of particular types of cars has the support of the industry itself. I believe that this policy will ultimately prove most satis factory to all concerned.
– Can the Minister for Munitions inform the Senate whether the Commonwealth and private shipbuilding yards -are in full production? If so, are they building for the Commonwealth or for private enterprise? What priority is given to governmental and private orders?
– Australian shipbuilding yards are working quite satisfactorily, and large numbers of men are employed at yards from Maryborough to Whyalla. At present these yards are fulfilling government orders. When the vessels are completed they will be handed over to shipping agents and operated as privately owned ships under the direction of the Ministry of Supply and Shipping. That department directs the type of business in which they shall engage, the ports at which they shall call, and the cargoes which they shall lift. The future of the shipbuilding industry is one in which the Government is deeply interested, and it is determined to establish the industry on a permanent basis in this country. It is hoped that in time the industry will operate economically and be able to compete with overseas shipbuilding yards. At present the construction of vessels may be a. little more costly than it is overseas, but it is hoped that this will prove to be only a temporary phase and that the industry will become a permanent feature of our economy.
– Is it a fact that Mr. McNeil has been removed from the position of chairman of the Australian Shipbuilding Board, and that his place has been taken by a prominent trade union official who is a supporter of the Labour party? If so, is that action in keeping with the Government’s policy to continue to appoint laymen to positions in preference to experienced technical men? Is the Minister prepared to lay on the table of the Senate details of the cost of shipbuilding in Australia, and also a comparison of such figures with shipbuildings costs in Canada and the United States of America?
– The honorable senator’s question reveals a lack of knowledge concerning the Australian Shipbuilding Board. Mr. McNeil was never its chairman. I am prepared to lay on the table of the Senate details of the cost of building ships in Australia.
– Is the Minister prepared to announce the name of the person appointed to. be chairman of the Australian Shipbuilding Board, and will he say what previous experience he has had in the construction of ships?
– The Leader of the Opposition approaches this subject as though there was something secret about it. The Australian Shipbuilding Board was reconstituted on the 8th April - a fact which was publicly announced in. the press and over the air. There has been no secrecy at all about the matter. The chairman is Mr. A. S. McAlpine, who has been a member of the board since its inception, and has acted as deputy chairman on many occasions. He is an engineer by profession, and I express the view that there are not many men in this country with similar experience, or any better fitted to undertake the job that I have asked him. to do. Since early this year, the former chairman of the board, Mr. Brodribb, who was an important official of the Munitions Department, has acted as chairman of the Guided Projectiles Board in connexion with a project for the joint development by the Australian and United Kingdom Governments of guided weapons. It was because
I knew that the duties of that new office would be very heavy, and that Mr. Brodribb would not be able to carry, them out, and also do the work which he had been doing on the Australian Shipbuilding Board, that I appointed Mr. McAlpine to take his place. Mr. Brodribb has resigned from the Australian Shipbuilding Board. So far as Mr. McAlpine’s qualifications are concerned, I can inform the Leader of the Opposition that I surveyed the field, and made certain that the man chosen to be chairman was the best man available for the job.
– In connexion with plans to attract from Britain trainees to the nursing profession, will the Minister representing the Minister for Immigration consider sending to Britain nurses with both city and rural experience to select such trainees rather than allow the selection to be in the hands of clerks at Australia House, London?
– The Minister for Immigration has already given consideration to such a proposal. I shall bring the honorable senator’s question to his notice and ask him to furnish a reply as soon as possible.
Use of Aircraft Carriers
– In view of the large number of ‘persons in Britain who desire to migrate to Australia and the fact that many people here wish to welcome them, will the Minister for Immigration make representations to the United Kingdom Government with a view to securing its co-operation in the refitting of .aircraft carriers which are going out of commission, so that the passage of migrants to Australia may be expedited?
– The Minister for Immigration has given consideration to the matter mentioned by the honorable senator and has already approached the British Government along the lines suggested. Unfortunately, the lack of trained personnel to man aircraft carriers presents a great difficulty. Men are being demobilized and the number available in the Royal Navy is now such that the Admiralty foresees difficulty in providing essential trained personnel.
– It is in that connexion that I suggest there should be the greatest co-operation.
– I shall bring the senator’s question to the notice of the Minister for Immigration, who is keen to bring as many British migrants to Australia as possible.
Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers
– Can the Minister for Supply and Shipping say whether full payment has yet been made to the Commonwealth for the ships belonging to the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers which were sold by a previous anti-Labour government ?
– This matter has been debated on a number of occasions since the sale was made. I cannot say whether full payment for the ships has yet been made, but I shall obtain the information sought by the honorable senator.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Information, upon notice -
How many (a.) permanent, and (6) temporary officers were employed in the Department of Information at - (i) 30th December. 1941: (ii) at the end of the war; and (Hi tho latest available date?
– The Minister for Information, has supplied the following answer : -
asked’ the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Will the Postmaster-General take steps to ensure that applicants for telephone connexion? in country areas are serviced with the telephones of subscribers on each country exchange who Iia ve terminated such connexions?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer’: -
In ca.so.s where telephone subscribers in country areas terminate their telephone services, it is already the practice to recover the telephone instruments in order to provide facilities for waiting applicants.
Mortgage Bank Department
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : - 1 to 6. Statistics in respect of the Mortgage Bank Department of the Commonwealth Bank from its inception (27th September, 1943) to the 31st March, 1947, are as follows: -
The percentage of the number of successful applicants in each State to the number of applications dealt with in that State is as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : - .
2.(a) Income Tax. - The States Grants (Income Tax Reimbursements) Act 1942 provided that there should be paid to Western Australia in each year in which the act was in operation an amount of £2,546,000, less an amount equal to any arrears of tax collected by or on behalf of the State during the financial year. The figures from 1942-43 to 1945-46 were -
Under the provisions of section 6 of the same act, the Commonwealth Government made ;i further grant of £912,559 to the State of Western Australia to meet tha revenue requirements of the State for the year 1945-46.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Repatriation Commission’s statistics in relation to war pensions cover all war pensions claims, but the commission does not keep separate statistics regarding ex-prisoners of war; consequently I am unable to supply the desired information.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
Debate resumed from the 7th May (vide page 1989), on motion by Senator McKenna -
That the hill be now read a second time.
– Continuing my discussion of this measure, I should like to bring one or two important points to the notice of honorable senators. Of the seven objects specified in the proposed new section % two are outstanding. The first is paragraph a, which states that one object of the bill is -
The other is paragraph d, which is - . . to provide means whereby” n Conciliation Commissioner may promptly and effectively, whether of his own motion or otherwise, .prevent and settle threatened, impending, probable or existing industrial disputes ;
The honorable senators who are interested in industry will readily appreciate the value of these two objects. To-day, various branches of industry are interlocked, and a dispute in one affects our whole economic life. Under the existing system, of arbitration, because of the legalisms to which reference was, ma de last night, there has been considerable difficulty in having disputes settled by the Arbitration Court. Early in the history of arbitration in this country, unions had to resort to various subterfuges to comply with the conditions arid the technicalities of our Arbitration Court procedure. I believe this measure will eliminate many of these technicalities.. To-day, unions that occupy key positions in industry have ready access to the Arbitration Court; but many other industries that are important cogs in our industrial system are unable to enjoy the advantages of arbitration, because’ they are not able easily to inflict injury upon the community, -or make their presence felt throughout industry generally. For instance, if a dispute arises in say the stevedoring industry, the coal-mining’ industry, or the transport industry, the machinery of the .court is brought into operation immediately, but should a dispute occur in a less important branch of industry, there is not the same urge to get the machinery of arbitration moving simply because the dispute is not capable of upsetting the economy of the nation to any appreciable degree. I am sure that no honorable senator will argue that workers engaged in industries that may be regarded as of secondary importance arc not worthy of consideration, should not be paid an adequate remuneration for their labour, or should “work longer hours than their fellows -in more favoured undertakings. Yet, in the past, workers in some sections of industry have been kept wailing months, and in some cases years, before being given an opportunity, to have their grievances heard by the Arbitration Court.
The appointment of conciliation commissioners should eliminate all this unnessary delay. These men will be able to devote their whole time and attention to settling industrial disputes. They will not, as Arbitration Court judges are at present, be called away from the various tasks upon which they are engaged to interpret some point of law that may have arisen in connexion with an existing or threatened dispute in a major industry. . They will be able to apply all of their energies to maintaining industrial peace. This is of great importance to Australia, at present. Our industries have developed, as the result of the war, beyond our greatest hopes. They have advanced perhaps 50 or 60 years, in terms of normal expansion, under the stimulus of a few years of war-time’ emergency conditions. In order that we may take full advantage of the opportunities afforded to us by this development we must have peace and contentment in industry. This end can be brought about only if the workers enjoy good conditions and are able, because of the application of science and an improved social outlook, to live fuller and better lives. Arbitration has become established as part of Australia’s industrial system. By its means we hope to get away from the old law of the jungle in industry, which forced men to fight to a finish in order to secure better wages and conditions. We can improve our arbitration system by making it more fluid. The word “ streamline “ has been used in this connexion,” but I prefer to describe the proposed system as being more fluid than the old one. Consider small groups of men who have organized themselves in unions. ‘ Because of their numerical weakness,’ they have not been able to accumulate large funds with which to contest legal opposition in the Arbitration Court under the existing methods. This has prevented them from taking full advantage of. the Arbitration Court in order to secure justice for themselves.
An intelligent investigation of the present arbitration system shows that it has not been entirely satisfactory to the -unions. It ‘is true that union organizations in Victoria, New South Wales, and South Australia use the system to a greater degree than do unions in the other States. Queensland and Western Australia are two very important States. They art capable of becoming highly industrialized, and they have a great economic future before them. The trend oE industry today is to break away from the large cities and extend to country areas. Industries have also been shifted from New South Wales to South Australia. This has been done, not because the captains of industry dislike the political complexion of the Government of New South Wales, but because they wish to exploit new fields of labour. The move from the cities to the country is designed to enable employers to tap reservoirs of labour which have not yet been touched. Therefore, there is likely to be great industrial development in Queensland and Western Australia. The unions in those two States are loath to use the machinery of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. They have adhered religiously to State arbitration instrumentalities. The Queensland
Industrial Court is presided over by judges selected from that State, and it has its own particular form of industrial .machinery. The same position applies in “Western Australia. One of the objectives of this bill is to encourage employees and employers to come within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In view of present industrial trends, we can foresee great expansion of both internal and external trade. Is it not necessary, therefore, that there should be a uniform code governing wages and conditions for all parts of Australia? The Commonwealth Arbitration Court should have jurisdiction over industries in every State, not merely in three States, or four States if we include Tasmania, which is not yet very highly industrialized.
– Apparently ‘ the honorable .senator has not visited Tasmania for a long time.
– I realize that Tasmania has great industrial potentialities, particularly in view of its power resources. However, it is rich in agricultural production, in which a great deal of its labour resources is employed. As Australia develops it will become necessary to have a uniform, industrial code operating throughout the length and breadth of the country so as to prevent discrimination between employees in different States. A great task which confronts us is that of inducing employers and employees in States which to-day stand outside the Commonwealth arbitration scheme to come within its jurisdiction so that wages and conditions in their industries may be determined by an all-Australian authority. After examining this bill, I realize that it will effect a marked improvement on the existing form of arbitration. Very many projects are held up in Australia to-day because there is a scarcity of certain commodities which are manufactured by only a handful of men. That is another reason why we should establish the best form of arbitra- tion possible. The fact that small groups of men may be dissatisfied with their conditions of employment sometimes leads to a general dislocation of industry. I could cite innumerable instances of the advantages that will arise .from this measure. The effect of them will be so great that there should be little or no ob jection to the bill. Honorable senators opposite complain that this measure does not include drastic penal provisions. The bill provides machinery to induce people to obey the directions of the court-
– That is a pious hope.
– That _ may be so, but I hope, because of the fluid nature of this measure, that there will not be so much resentment as has been shown by employees in the past to the decisions of the conciliation commissioners. The latter will not be bound by legalisms; they will be trained in industry and able to appreciate the difficulty under which men work. I believe that their awards will be more sympathetic to, and more in consonance with the hopes of, employees. I spent a considerable part of .my life in the industrial movement and I have had the mortifying experience, after the union with which I was associated had spent many hours in preparing a case, and had presented it to the court with” an interminable procession of witnesses who had to be examined, cross-examined and re-examined in the most minute detail, of coming away from the court* after weeks of this procedure heartily disappointed. I was disappointed, not because the people for whom I had appeared had had their claim rejected, but because, when the judgment of the court was delivered, I felt that I had wasted my time and their time. Again and again, courts have recognized the justice of employees’ claims, but instead of granting them substantial relief they have merely conceded some of their claims, with the result that, their awards have been little less than contemptible. The result has been that, instead of men accepting the decisions of the courts, iron has entered their souls and they have resolved to rectify their grievances in another way.
Some time ago, when the Senate was discussing the Victorian Railways dispute, I said that the men who had ceased work had not done so because they were Communists or led by Communists, but because over a period of years there had grown up in them a burning resentment at the- failure of the Arbitration Court to recognize the justice of their claims.
They had said, “ There will come a time when by our industrial strength we will be able to demand justice, instead of merely asking for it, because we occupy a key position in the industrial life of this community “. That day arrived only a few weeks ago. If we continue to treat these men as we have in the past there will be nothing but turmoil and continuous upheaval in industry. For that reason I do not think we should provide extreme penalties in order to make men accept the decisions of the court. The courts to be constituted under this bill should be sympathetic to the legitimate grievances of employees, and because of that, and the practical nature of their awards, men will be contented with them and prepared to accept those decisions. lt is hoped that the workers of this country will realize that an authority is to be established which is really conversant with the advance which has been made in industrial technique and the general trend towards amelioration of conditions in industry, and that they can appeal to that authority in the knowledge that they will receive just awards.
To those who oppose arbitration I say, “ Do not be afraid that arbitration will arbitrate the employers out of industry. Even the most ardent advocate of arbitration does not believe that this will usher in an era of socialism.” And we all know that the people who wish to overturn society are bitterly opposed to industrial arbitration. Government supporters realize that if we are to continue our advance along the road of economic justice and social progress, arbitration machinery must be made more flexible so that it will keep the wheels of industry turning. I would remind opponents of this measure of the history of industrialism. [ recall to the minds the action of the late Colonel Tom Price, who in the strikes of the ‘nineties ordered his infantry to “ Fire low and lay them out “. We know that the military forces were called out in Melbourne to suppress the strikers, but we also know that it did not prevent the progress of the workers’ movement. The pages of history are full of similar examples. Going hack to the days of Queen Elizabeth we read of the Durham and Northumberland miners who were subjected to all sorts of punishment, and even to ca vital .punishment, for attempting to organize some kind of trade union. But history teaches us that no punitive action which has been taken” against the workers has prevented the advance of social justice. To bring forward at this stage of our progress a bill containing penal provisions would be just as futile as to attempt to prevent the sun from rising tb-morrow. The growth of trade unions and the recognition of the cause of social justice cannot be denied. To-day men desire that there shall be a sharing of the greatly increased profits from industry. There must be a sharing of those profits, and the only alternative to the establishment of conciliation tribunals is a return- to the law of the jungle, with its accompaniment of continuous industrial disturbance.
Had it not been for the fact that the Victorian Labour Government refused to be stampeded by the clamour in certain quarters for the creation of a special constabulary a.nd the application of force to the striking workers in Victoria, that State might have passed through much more dangerous times than it did. But the Victorian Government did stand fast in its determination that there should be no coercion. When the community realized that the Government was determined that no armed constabulary should he appointed; peace was. soon restored. Again I remind opponents of this bill of the history of industrialism in the past. I remind them of the savage opposition expressed at the founding of industrial arbitration. We have only to reflect for a moment to realize that the arguments advanced ‘to-day in opposition to this measure are almost identical with those put forward at the beginnings of arbitration. Then, as now. the opponents of arbitration cried, “ No one should interfere with the rights of the employer in his dealings with his employees”. Any one who. views this matter fairly must realize, in the light of conditions existing to-day, that this Government has made an honest attempt to introduce a scheme of industrial conciliation which will ensure peace in this country. The commissioners who are to be appointed will fill the role of watch-doge in industry. Immediately there is the slightest rumour of discontent in industry anywhere they will investigate it and determine the matter summarily, so that petty disputes which might develop into great conflagrations will be settled at the outset. I believe, if this bill is passed, that as time goes on the community will have cause to thank the Government for sponsoring it. I support the second reading and commend the bill to honorable senators.
.- The keynote of this bill is the oft-repeated word “conciliation”, which, broadly speaking, refers to the action of bringing the parties to a dispute together to discuss problems without formalities or technicalities. Senator Sheehan claims to believe in conciliation^ but his speech showed clearly that he also believes in force - the force of large numbers. He told the Senate that the Australian Railways Union was so strong that it could demand what it wanted. If that be so, bow is a conciliation commissioner, or any one else, likely to succeed with conciliatory methods? The only conciliation open to him is to give to such a union all that it wants. The proposal iri this bill is an entirely new conception of conciliation ; it is, indeed, one of the funniest things T have heard. To claim that this measure provides for conciliation is merely to attempt a swindle because of the credulity of the public. The bill proposes to set up what will really be a debased arbitration court. So far as conciliatory methods are concerned, we can dismiss them from our minds in the future. Every conciliation commissioner will be a judge, in fact if not in name. Instead of cases being decided by men trained to sift evidence and to take cognizance of economic and other aspects, we shall have them decided by amateurs, who will be able to do what they like. A conciliation commissioner need not call evidence. The bill authorizes him to inform his mind in any way ho likes as to the merits of a dispute. The conciliation commissioners will spread throughout the community like a band of brown-shirted or black-shirted, fascists, and may do exactly what they like.
Listening to the speeches of the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna) and his supporters, the people of Australia may think that this measure provides for conciliation in industry. I tell them that a more ridiculous name was never given to a bill, because every conciliation commissioner will have the power to come to any decision he likes, and may do so without even calling evidence.
– Where does he get that power?
– It is in the bill. Moreover, the decision of a conciliation commissioner will not be subject to an appeal, regardless of how he arrived at it, or how unfair it may be. We are told that these conciliation commissioners will immediately get to the seat of the trouble. I can imagine a commissioner calling the two parties to a dispute before bini and saying, “ Are you going to conciliate ? “ One party may reply, “ We think that the present state of affairs is unsatisfactory”. The commissioner may then, say, “You had better conciliate, because if you don’t, I shall make an award in this following terms “. He may proceed to do so ; and if he does, that is the end of the matter.
– The honorable senator is drawing upon his imagination.
– No. That is exactly what the bill provides. We have seen the licking of the lips and the throwing out of the chest whenever the word “ conciliation “ has been used ; but, instead of this bill being conciliatory, it is the most autocratic measure ever brought before the Parliament. I agree that there is room for the improvement of our existing arbitration laws, but the position is different when a single person is set up and given authority to make decisions which may upset the economic life of the country, and yet will not be subject to appeal, or even to control by the Parliament. Such a course leaves the way open to evils much greater than those which now exist. In view of Senator Sheehan’s claim that strong trade unions are in a position to make demands, what guarantee is there that any union will abide by the decision of a conciliation commissioner should that decision not be to its liking?
– There is. no more guarantee than there is in the existing legislation.
– That is so. This legislation is an affront to our conceptions of fair play, because if men do not get what they want, they will still be free to go on strike. Should they do so, no ; penalties are provided. A profession of a belief in conciliation and a bald statement (hat strong unions are in a position to demand what they want is a contradictory state of affairs.
Had there been any good features in the bill, one would Have expected the Minister to mention them in his secondreading speech. If no more can be said in. favour of the measure than was said by the Minister when he introduced it, t,here is not much in it to commend. -It may be that the speech was merely an explanation and that he did not set out to proclaim the virtues of the bill. Early in his remarks he said -
The adjustment of terms and . conditions of employment arc not merely matters of local and private concern, but are matters of vital concern to the community as a whole.
That statement was made early in the Minister’s speech, as though he had just realized that industrial turmoil does, in fact, hurt the community.
One significant fact associated with recent industrial upheavals is that those responsible have been persons engaged in providing services to the community. They are, in fact, public servants.
– What about the strikes of butchers and fanners?
– We have had strikes by railway men and tramway men which have been productive of much inconvenience and loss to the people generally. One could understand a government not wishing to provide’ for penalties against strikers who were in conflict with private employers, on .the ground that the dispute affected only those two interests, and was a matter to be settled among themselves. But the position is different when those engaged in a strike are providing essential public services. Government supporters continually proclaim that the ideal method’ of government is a form of socialism, yet, as I have said, most of the strikes which have occurred recently and have caused most disruption of the economic life, of the people have been in socialized industries. I should have thought that in connexion with
State-owned utilities some- effort would have been made by the Government to ensure continuous working without strikes. I have always said that a man who joins a State-owned instrumentality knows what the conditions of his employment will be. and to whom he can appeal if he believes he is not receiving fair treatment. I understand that the Australian Railways Union has its own court of appeal to which its members can go at any time. Unfortunately many workers have a foolish belief that by holding up the trade and commerce of the country they can force their demands, and so they resort to direct action. That is what happened in Victoria recently. The men who went on strike, and caused untold hardship, inconvenience and loss to others, did not “care a hang” about the women and children who suffered. A government is derelict in its duty if it does not take steps to ensure that workers in government-controlled industries at least shall not go on’ strike. Can any one imagine a. conciliation commissioner, in the circumstances which existed in Victoria recently, inviting .Mr. J. J. Brown to his office and saying that he wished to conciliate. Mr. Brown might well have answered. “ You. wish to conciliate between me and whom ? “ The members- of his union did not go out because they were dissatisfied with the conditions given by their employer; they went out in sympathy with another union altogether, which was striving to get certain conditions. How can one conciliate .in a case of that kind? Whom would one conciliate between ?
– That would not be a job for a conciliation commissioner; it would be beyond that.
– And should Mr. Brown say, “ We have not got all we want; we are not going back”, what would he the use of a decision then?
-^- What co-operation will there be between the different conciliation commissioners ?
– None at all.
– The commissioners might apply half a dozen conflicting principles.
– So far as I can. see, the only link between the commissioners will- be the chief commissioner; and his duty will be to direct the different commissioners to hear certain disputes at various places.
– He is a legal man.
– -ATO: he cannot be a legal .man. He is not allowed to be a legal man. All that he. will have power to do will be to direct his posse of fifteen commissioners as to what disputes they shall hear, and where they shall hear them. He will not be allowed to give them any instructions as to what principles they shall work on, or any idea as to how they shall come to a decision. All he can do is to direct the different commissioners fo proceed to certain centres and to conciliate between certain parties; and, of course, the commissioners will conciliate with a brick. The Minister in charge of the bill, in his second-reading speech, said -
The system of industrial regulation cannot bo properly administered without impartiality, disinterestedness, and a strong sense of justice; and these qualities should be, and usually are, developed by a legal training and by judicial habits.
The Minister then points to the appointment to these strictly judicial offices of men who have no legal training, or any training of the kind that is necessary. The Minister’s words look good in a speech, but when we remember that the bill excludes from appointments to these positions any one with the slightest inkling of legal training, it would appear that the Minister made some statements simply for the glorification of himself. Later in his speech he said -
Within a matter of days, or oran hours, the activities of a few individuals may hold up the industry of a continent. Every effort must be made, therefore, to streamline the methods by which actual, and more particularly threatened, industrial disputes can. be brought to the knowledge of the industrial administrator; to give as much scope as possible for the initiative of conciliation authorities themselves; . .
In the bill itself, we find that employers and employees are required, under penalties, to notify the court, or the registrar, if there is any suspicion of a dispute in their particular industry, so that a conciliation commissioner can be detailed to deal with it. I have never heard anything sillier than that. The elements of a dispute exist all the- time. There is no body of men who do not want a rise of wages.
– A dispute can relate to a matter other than wages
– I realize that: but an employer knowing that this inner turmoil exists - perhaps there has been some talk by the men in the factory of going to the court - he immediately, in order to obviate being fined, notifies the court that the elements of a dispute exist in. that particular industry. Then the “ blackshirts “ get on the go; and they can appoint any one they like, as inspectors or otherwise, to go into any factory at any time during working hours and examine the books, machinery or whole paraphernalia of the company concerned. One can readily imagine that this leaves loopholes for unscrupulous people to go so far even as to ruin a business. Unscrupulous officers could take advantage of the opportunity thus presented to them of inspecting the books of a particular company. But under the bill the ‘conciliation commissioners can at any time appoint an officer -to go during working hours to make such an inspection if the commissioner is satisfied that there may possibly be a dispute in a particular factory. One can understand how easy it would be to encourage industrial turmoil under those conditions. For instance, when employees saw an inspector coming into their factory they might naturally conclude that something was doing, and assume that they should back up the inspector by telling him that there was a chance of a dispute; and as they would then be in a strong position, they would probably obtain a rise of a few shillings in their wages, or some improvement in their working conditions. The Minister also said -
Therefore, each of the conciliation commissioners will be given power, without technical and artificial hindrances, to go to the . cause of impending industrial trouble, and to endeavour to remove the cause of the trouble by conciliating the disputants.
Senator Sheehan just explained to the Senate how industries were being decentralized, and how big factories were being’ established in many country districts. One can easily imagine that under thoseconditions, fifteen, or twenty, or even n larger number of conciliation commissioners may not be sufficient to carry out the work prescribed under the measure. There might be a flood of disputes in factories situated in many different centres in both the country and cities. So I can visualize circumstances in which more conciliation commissioners might be required. But, of course, I might be wrong in that respect; I am quite willing to agree that it may be that fifteen conciliation commissioners may find they have not got any, or very little, work to do. And they will want some work to do, naturally. They will want the people to think that they are performing a useful function. So, how easy it will be for a conciliation commissioner, going, as he will, among the rank and file of .employees and among some employers as well, to engineer* work for himself. I need only refer to the practice adopted by the Broadcasting Committee to exemplify that point. We know that when that committee has no work to do, its members approach the Postmaster-General (Senator Cameron) and say, “We want to examine this, that or the other thing “ ; and the Minister, not being a strong man, replies at once, “All right, I don’t mind; examine it as long as you like”. So the Broadcasting Committee gaily proceeds with the examination of some new subject, although under the Australian Broadcasting Act it can examine only subjects which are referred to it by the Postmaster-General. I am afraid that asimilar practice may be followed on the part of the conciliation commissioners, because after all they will not have very much work to do. They will not have much work in each individual case which they examine, because conciliation, under this legislation, is to be a lightning business. The commissioners do not have to take evidence. The bill piously provides that the commissioners shall keep in touch with industrial affairs; but it does not provide penalties in respect of the failure of any commissioner to observe that condition. It merely says that the commissioners shall hold office until they reach the. age of 65 years.
– They can be removed.
– Only by a vote of both Houses; but has that ever been done? Senator Large only hopes for something that might possibly happen in order to contradict an argument which he cannot contradict otherwise.
This Government is running true to its record of using the guillotine.’ If there is anything unpleasant upon which it wishes to stifle discussion in the House of Representatives, it uses the “ guillotine “ time and again. It has not been able to resist making provision for the “guillotine” under this measure; because a conciliation commissioner can use the “ guillotine “ “ right from the. jump “. He can say to the disputants, “I am going to give you half an hour to present your cases, and if at the end of that period you do not present them I am coming to a decision “. The Government is true to its record in that respect.
– And that is a. form of conciliation!
– Yes ; naturally, the conciliation commissioner will use the powers conferred upon him under this measure.
– We are seeking expedition.
– Yes; but under the measure the Government is seeking to achieve expedition by unfair means. That is what I object to. The bill imposes upon conciliation commissioners the duty of keeping in touch with industrial affairs and conditions. We have nothing else but that bald statement. Each commissioner is supposed to be an expert, but he need not be. He need not bother about becoming an expert, because he will get his £1,500 a year until he reaches the age of 65 years. Under those conditions, why should any of these officers get out to study industrial matters?
Then, dramatically, as if the idea was something the Government was proud of, the Minister in one short sentence says, “ The court will remain “. From that statement the people may. infer that the Government is not interfering with the Arbitration Court at all. The fact is that the court will remain but will be shorn of nearly all of its existing functions. It will retain only four functions. That is the shortest sentence in the Minister’s speech - “The court will remain “. Reading that sentence many people might be led to conclude that the Opposition has been doing an injustice to the Government in saying that under the measure the Government is abolishing the Arbitration Court. I find now that I was wrong in saying that that was the only small sentence in the speech. A further examination shows the following sentence: -“But this is altered “. When this measure becomes law, the court will remain, but it will have little to do. It will deal only with appeals on questionsof law, and with the four main matters - hours of labour, the basic wage, employment of adult females and annual leave. Incidentally, why has the phrase “adult females” been used? At whose mercy will the junior females be? Does the Government believe that girls under 21 will be easy to conciliate and that girls over 21 will not bo so easy to conciliate?
Under this measure, legal men and agents are debarred from appearing before conciliation commissioners.
– Is a union secretary an agent?
– That is what I should liketo know.Is a union secretary or an employee of the Chamber of Manufacturers a paid agent? Proposed new section 43g provides - (1.) In any proceedings before the’ Court or a Conciliation Commissioner -
an organization may be represented by a member or officer of that organization; and (b)a party (not being an organization) may be represented by -
More the Court, be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent except by leave of the Court and with consent of all the parties. In any proceedingsbefore a Conciliation Commissioner, no party shall be represented by counsel, solicitor or paid agent.
But what is a paid agent? The secretary of a union receives a salary. Is he a paid agent? Is the president of a big union like the Australian Workers Union a’ paid agent, because he, too, receives a salary? If a paid employee of a firm or an organization happens to have had full or partial legal training will he be debarred from appearing before a conciliation commissioner? Is the brand of the leper to be placed upon legal men in all circumstances? I trust that the Minister will clear these matters up.
In proposed new section 43s we find an echo of the cry “ preference to unionists “.
This section provides that -
A Conciliation Commissioner may, byan award, or by an order made on the application of any organization or person bound by an award, direct that preference shall, in relation to such matters, in such manner and subject to such conditions as are specified in the order or award, be given to such organizations or members thereof as are specified in the order or award.
Apparently conciliation commissioners are to have the right to decide whether members of certain organizations should have the exclusive right to work in certain undertakings. What about preference to ex-servicemen? These junior Arbitration Court judges, if they may be called that, will be able to decide, without regard to public feeling on the matter, that ex-servicemen shall be excluded from any benefits under a particular award. And there can be no appeal from such a decision.
Section 69 of the principal act provides -
Every dispute between an organization and any of its members shall be decided in the manner directed by the rules of the organization; and the Court on the application of the trustees or other officers authorized to sue on behalf of or in the name of the organization may order the payment by any member of any fine, penalty, or subscription payable in pursuance of the rules aforesaid, or any contribution to a penalty incurred or money payable by the organization under an award or order; but no such contribution shall exceed the sum of Ten pounds.
So there is some provision for penalties. According to Government speakers it is not possible to impose penalties for offences against the community; but for an offence by a member of one union a penalty of £10 may be imposed. Today there is a plethora of organizations known by pet names or initials. There is one set of initials that always sounds to me like a sneeze - A.C.T.U. The section specifies disputes “between an organization and any of its members “. Is the Amalgamated Engineering Union a member of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions ? If so, in the event of the Amalgamated Engineering Union taking an action that was offensive to the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, could a fine of £10 be imposed upon the Amalgamated Engineering Union? That
Would appear to me to be reasonable* I should have no objection to either body or the Amalgamated Engineering Union being fined £10. They have money to spare. In fact they have enough to pay strike money to their members while the whole community is held up to ransom.
It is well that we should understand what these provisions mean. Proposed new section 81AA provides -
I have no quarrel with the setting up of s i i eli a. bureau, but what will it investigate? It seems to me that the most frequent cause of industrial trouble in this country is the great variety of small unions, each moving along in its own particular orbit, and having its own grievances. When one such organization Wcom.es involved in a ‘ dispute and attempts to have its grievances adjusted, it calls on (he other unions for assistance and soon there is an ever-widening circle of discontent, resulting eventually in the paralysis of the entire community. To-day there are many hundreds of awards covering different industries. Perhaps the Bureau of Research and Statistics could occupy its time devising a better way of classifying the workers of Australia. My own opinion is that the workers could be divided into about 30 categories. For instance, the plumber would be grouped with the carpenter, and with other tradesmen with comparable skill. The only excuse that they could have for a strike would be a demand to get into another grade, and, in order -to have a strike, everybody in the grade affected would have to he in agreement. In my opinion, industrial disputes are encouraged by the fact that unions consist of groups of workers concentrated in small organizations. If all workers in Australia were classified as I have suggested, with appropriate wage rises from one grade to another, a great deal of the incentive to strike would be removed. Under such conditions it would be very easy for the Arbitration Court to fix margins above the basic wage. Every man would know what grade he belonged to, and the amount of his margin above the basic wage.
– That is so now.
– No. The margins fixed by the Arbitration Court could not be altered within any particular industry. The only alterations permissible would have to cover all employees in the grade affected in all industries.
– That applies now.
– No. That does not apply at all.
– What about margins for skill?
– I am talking about margins for skill.
– The honorable senator does not know, what he is talking about.
– I know a great deal more than does the honorable senator. The suggestion which I have made is new to him. It is difficult for him to realize that anybody else could evolve a new method of settling industrial disputes. The simplicity of the method should be apparent. If employees were divided into. grades as I have suggested, with appropriate margins above the basic wage, there would be no inducement for small groups of -workers to go on strike. If the workers in the motor body building industry, for instance, wished to strike, they would have to secure the co-operation of workers in the same grade from probably 50 other industries. I recommend this scheme to the Minister and suggest that it should be investigated by the proposed office of statistical research. The idea is not new. In fact, it originated in Russia, whose industrial methods are acclaimed from the housetops by the J. J. Browns and others of their kind. They praise the good things .that are done in Russia, but overlook the bad things. In Russia, the workers are divided into categories and paid according to their skill. Of course, Russia has other schemes which neither I nor anybody else would like to see in operation in Australia. For instance, any Russian who goes on strike is either sent to Siberia or shot. . However, the system which I have mentioned has a great deal to commend it. Under our present system, many small unions are not strong enough to act by- themselves. They’ need the support of other organizations whenever they wish to approach the Arbitration
Court. Under the system which I advocate, the workers would not be able to make snap decisions to strike, and the Arbitration Court and the conciliation commissioners would have time to become au fait with any cause of discontent before disruption occurred.
The Minister summed up his secondreading speech with a great burst of eloquence. He said -
The wisely chosen words of that power - “ conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes “ - convey no idea of formality, of technicality, of legal procedure, or of the atmosphere of courts. They breathe the spirit of informality, of practical methods, of the absence of all .technicalities, of conciliation and, when all else fails, a settlement of industrial disputes by arbitration rather than by the ordeal of legal battle.
He should have said that they breathe the spirit of unfairness, of muddling procedure, and of the. absence of all restrictions on the work of untrained commissars. The people of Australia are beingbamboozled into the belief that this is a conciliation measure. It is nothing’ of the kind. There has never been a harsher judicial measure in any country. There is nothing of conciliation about it. The conciliation commissioners will not conciliate; they will make -arbitrary decisions. They will be able to make decisions after taking evidence in public or in secret, or without taking any evidence at all. There will be no appeal of any kind from their decisions. I assume that the Government will take great care in selecting men for appointment asconciliation commissioners, and I hope that it will take great care to safeguard the interests of the community generally, as well as those of the workers. I hope that, although the commissioners will be lacking in knowledge of the rules of evidence, they will have at least a semblance of impartiality. I have no great hopes regarding the’ success of this measure. I believe that the Government will soon realize the futility of its high hope? of settling industrial disputes by this legislation. Instead of settling disputes, the bill will create a breeding ground for them. Disputes can easily be fomented by the very presence of conciliation commissioners. As soon as a commissioner appears in a district to investigate rumoured unrest, the workers will begin to wonder what he is doing in that, locality, and a dispute will arise at once. They will say to themselves, “ This man has come all the way to this district with the object of settling a dispute. Well, we shall have to make sure that he has a dispute to settle Therefore, instead of leading to peace in industry, economic development throughout Australia, and the general welfare of the community, I am afraid that it will cause the reverse to happen. I am particularly disappointed that there will be no appeal against decisions of the commissioners. I propose, in committee, to submit an amendment providing that the Arbitration Court shall be able to grant leave to appeal. This would do away with all frivolous appeals and, at the same time, would afford the parties to a dispute the opportunity to appeal against an unfair decision. I hope that the Minister will decide, after mature consideration, that that is not a very big concession to make. As the bill stands, the commissioners will be completely untrammelled, and will be able to do exactly as they please. It would be strange indeed if,, among fourteen or fifteen commissioners drawn from here, there, and everywhere, there were not one or two, at least, who were quite unfitted for the work entrusted to them. There should be a right of appeal from the decisions of such men.
– Is there any appeal against decisions of the Arbitration Court?
– Yes, of course there is. Parties, may appeal to the High Court on questions of law. The honorable senator wishes to eliminate the trained lawyer from arbitration proceedings. He pins his faith on men who have not had any legal training and who will be selected haphazardly from the hoi foll.oi of the general public.
– Such men are likely to know more about industrial dispute? than lawyers.
– I disagree. Arbitration Court judges are trained in the taking and sifting of evidence. They have been engaged for years in that sort of work. According to the bill, conciliation commissioners will not be obliged to take evidence. I hope that, in committee. the Minister will agree to some modified form of appeal. After a long life, most of which has been devoted to industrial matters, I know that the bill contains all the elements of disturbances, rebellion, unpleasantness, and loss to the community. Instead of being a milestone oh the road of industrial progress, it will probably lead to restrictions that will throw industry back many years. Australia is on the verge of vast industrial expansion and has -the opportunity to cultivate a big export trade. We have high hopes of the prosperity of the manufacturing and primary industries. These may be dashed as the result of this legislation, under which conciliation commissioners may run wild. These nien will not have any obligation to consider the effects of their decisions on the nation’s economic problems. They may raise wages to such high levels that it would be impossible for Australian industries to compete with industries in other countries. Thus, when’ the world eventually settles down to a normal manufacturing programme, we may find that there will be little work in Australian industries, except those which have been sheltered by- the Government. I hope that the bill will be amended.
Senator- AYLETT (Tasmania) fo.15]. - T am not so optimistic as to believe that this bill will put everything right in industry for all time, or that there will not be some loss of time due to stoppages. Nevertheless, I know, from my own experience, that it will effect a great improvement by keeping industry continually in production. The main purpose of this bill is to bring employers and employees closer together. Undoubtedly, as has been pointed out by honorable senators on both sides of the chamber, a great deal of prejudice has arisen amongst employers and employees, and until we can eliminate that prejudice we shall continue to have chaos in industry. If we could by. some form of conciliation procedure, remove that bitterness and induce the parties to come together, we should be on the road to peace and industry. Unlike the honorable senator who has just spoken, I speak from experience, because I have taken part in industrial disputes, and 1 know that many of these disputes arise because awards of the court are wilfully flouted by ‘ employers. Many of the employers are beyond reproach, but too many of them indulge in pin-pricking tactics in order to evade the spirit of awards. In some cases that has led to lockouts. Employees’ ~ organizations which have endeavoured to have their grievances redressed by the courts have found that they have had to wait for long periods before the court will hear them. I, myself, have been in disputes where the only verdict the court could have given would be to tell the employer to go back and “ read the award “. This has happened after men have been locked out for months and endured considerable privation. When they did get to the court they found there was no redress. This ‘ bill, however, provides, that when a dispute occurs, no matter how small, a conciliation commissioner shall investigate it immediately and make a prompt decision. It is inconceivable, when a dispute has occurred and a conciliation commissioner has investigated the matter on the spot, comparing the actual conditions obtaining with the provisions of the relevant award, that any employer should attempt to escape his obligation. As I said before, the Government seeks to eliminate the bitterness and distrust which is responsible . for so much of our industrial trouble, and it proposes to do this by the appointment of the proposed commissioners. But the Government is not content with that; it goes .further, and seeks to prevent disputes before they arise. The bill provides machinery for the settlement of disputes before they occur, and all that is required is that the parties shall be reasonable; and we believe that most employers and employees are reasonable when, they are brought together.
Opponents of this bill have said, “We have an Arbitration Court; what more do we want?” But there is no provision in the present Arbitration Court to prevent disputes. If a dispute arises in Victoria the Commonwealth Arbitration Court cannot intervene because the dispute does not extend beyond that State. The inevitable result is that disputes are deliberately extended to other States.
– But even the service of notice of a dispute is accepted as evidence of the existence of a dispute.
– That may be so, but aggrieved parties cannot approach the court until the dispute has been actually extended to at least one other State. That is the reason why we have had so many nation-wide stoppages. That very provision in the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. has provoked interstate .disputes. As the Arbitration Court is now constituted it does not start from an even mark in the settlement of a dispute; it has- to start miles behind scratch because the. dispute must have spread to other States before it can exercise its jurisdiction.
– The honorable senator is taking an extreme case and is not dealing with the real position.
– I am not taking an extreme case; I am speaking from practical experience over many years - experience which the honorable gentleman has not had. I have been a party to an industrial dispute and my’ organization has made every effort to reach a settlement. When we found that we could not be heard by the Arbitration Court, we asked the court to appoint an arbitrator; and our members abided by his subsequent decision. But the fact remains that we could not get a hearing before the court. The provisions of this measure will prevent many such disputes arising by nipping them in the bud. In preventing disputes from arising, and by settling them promptly, when they do arise, we shall not only prevent industrial dislocation, with its consequent hardship to the community,- including the wives and families of the workers concerned, but we shall also prevent the substantial losses which employers suffer in these disputes. Of course, we know that in some cases employers deliberately foment these disputes because they find that after they have made certain profits, further profits are limited by taxation, and so they discontinue amassing profits. For that reason they sometimes seek deliberately to bring about a stoppage. However, if we can bring about peace in industry we shall accomplish a great deal.
Senator Leckie had a lot to say about the qualifications of the commissioners it is proposed to appoint. Like others, he suggested that they should be men with, legal training. But why. is it suggested, that the commissioners should be legal men? The answer is obvious: employersand their representatives in this chamber know that when a dispute occurs an employer can avail himself of legal technicalities to delay decisions of the court, and even when those decisions are pronounced they can exercise their right of appeal. In that way disputes can be extended indefinitely. While ever machinery exists for appeals and further appeals, and the adjournments incidental to those appeals, we shall have lawyers exploiting the position for their own gain. Employers win these legal contests because they retain a battery of barristers who know how to exploit the technicalities involved so as to get away altogether from .the actual merits of the case. The result is that the lawyer lines his pocket, the employer wins his case, and the worker and his family have to suffer. Obviously, by appointing men who are not lawyers but practical and experienced industrialists, ‘we shall get much ‘more speedy justice.
I note with pleasure that the commissioners it is proposed to appoint are to be adequately remunerated and their economic security properly safeguarded. That is’ essential, because otherwise a commissioner might be subjected to all kinds of temptation. That fact has been recognized in drafting this bill, so that the commissioners will be adequately remunerated while they are in office and properly provided for when they retire. Because of thos6 provisions- I think we can look forward to the appointment of men- who will adjudicate fairly and fearlessly. So far as the selection of personnel for these appointments is concerned, I may say that there are gentlemen on both sides of this chamber who would make ideal commissioners: Qf course, I realize that the responsibility attaching to the position of a commissioner is not so great as that of the positions they -now occupy, and notwithstanding . that the salary to be paid to the commissioners is £500 more than the allowance honorable senators receive, I am sure that no member of this chamber will apply for appointment, because honorable senators have too great a realization of their present responsibilities. ‘ Listening to honorable senators opposite one would think that the conciliation commissioners would override the Arbitration Court. That may be so to some degree, but most of .the work which the conciliation commissioners will perform has never been done by the court. Legal questions, such as the interpretation of an award, or any matter affecting the whole of Australia, as, for instance, the working week, sick pay, annual leave, and the basic wage, will still be .in the ‘hands of the court. They will be fought out in the court before three judges. Ample protection is given in the matter of interpreting awards which may need interpretation.
One of the most pleasing features of the bill is that the decision of the court will be final, and that there will be no appeal to the High Court of Australia. Senator Leckie took strong exception to that provision, no doubt because it will obviate legal battles which may continue foi’ weeks, months, or even years. Tn the future it will not be possible for an industrial war to be carried on to the High Court, or until the men are forced to give in.
Although I approve of the bill generally, it contains some features with which I am noi in agreement. Part 3 of clause 9 provides that an employee who has been paid less than award rates may receive back pay for twelve months. Previously the period was nine months. I have no quarrel with the provision that the employee may claim arrears, but I do strongly object to the limitation of the period to twelve months as provided in the bill. Should an unscrupulous employer engage a man who is not acquainted with the award, and pay to him rates less than those contained in the award for, say, two or three years, he should not be let off with a payment of arrears for twelve months only. He should be compelled to pay the full amount of the arrears, and the amount in excess of the arrears for twelve months should go into Consolidated Revenue. No man should he allowed to exploit his fellow men by flouting the award of a conciliation commissioner, or of the court. There should be severe penalties for flouting awards. It is useless to say that awards are not flouted at times. It may be argued that union secretaries should police awards, but it is is not- their ‘job to act continuously as policemen. The policing of awards should be the responsibility of the AttorneyGeneral’s Department, which should have sufficient inspectors to detect breaches and to prosecute offenders. That job should not be left to the union secretaries. In the event of conflict between a Commonwealth award and a State’ award the former would override the latter.
I shall not be happy until all workers in all industries come under awards made by either conciliation commissioners or the Arbitration Court. When that stage has been reached, it should be possible to have an army -of inspectors policing all awards, and covering all industries. There are some Commonwealth inspectors operating to-day, and their activities have resulted in tens o”f thousands of pounds of under-payments to employees being collected. I have never yet known a government to prosecute an unscrupulous employer for a breach of an award. If penalties were provided foa’ breaches there would not need to be so much policing of awards. I do not like to see employers flouting awards and escaping just punishment. An employee who is nol sufficiently awake to claim his rightful pay should not get the full benefit in the event of the breach being detected, and the employer having to pay the arrears. I agree that he should be paid arrears for twelve months, but if the employer has underpaid him for a number of years the balance should go into Consolidated Revenue.
I am particularly interested in this measure because of Tasmania’s increasing importance in the, industrial life of the Commonwealth. Some people seem to think that Tasmania’s only industry is the growing of apples and pears. They do not know that that occupation forms only a small part of the activities of that State. The production of apples and pears provides employment for timber workers and canning factories and the making of boxes. Tasmanian mines have been producing wealth for over 100 years. ‘ We once had the richest tin mine in die world situated in that State. So great has been the demand for labour on a number of occasions that workers have had to be recruited from Victoria to work in Tasmanian mines. Tasmania does not have many stoppages of work. “Whenever a dispute threatens early attempts are made to nip it in the bud. There is little evidence of communist or fascist activity, and when a dispute threatens there is no one to rush in and throw petrol on .the flames. This bill will help to keep such people out of Tasmania. Unlike New South “Wales and Victoria, whose industries are centralized, the industries of Tasmania are scattered throughout the State. One effect is that the industrial development of Tasmania is not recognized as it would be if those industries were concentrated in one area. Statistics show that, on a pro rata, basis, less time is lost in Tasmania through industrial disturbances than in any other State. The people of Tasmania desire that- the harmony for which their State is. noted shall continue. The reason for Tasmania’s freedom from industrial disputes is that the State has had conciliation commissioners for many years. They have brought employers and employees together and in numerous instances have settled disputes before they have developed to such a stage that some “ Commo “ arrives and throws petrol on the flames.
Senator Leckie was perturbed at the absence from the bill of provisions to penalize employees for breaches of awards of conciliation commissioners, and at the absence of provisions designed to prevent strikes. Apparently, the honorable senator does not realize that no per=on could guarantee to stop strikes by legislative action. Stoppages are not peculiar to Australia; they occur in all countries, indeed, Australia’s record in this respect compares more than favorably with that of most other countries. There is greater continuity of work here than in the Unite( State of America, Britain or Canada. Gaoling, or deporting, strikers, or putting them in leg irons, will not prevent, or settle, disputes. Senator Leckie has suggested no alternative. Perhaps, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay), who has not yet spoken in this debate, will suggest concrete, means to stop workers from going on strike, or means of dealing with them after they go on strike. Up to the present, however, all that honorable senators opposite have suggested is that strikers should be prosecuted and pu-t in gaol. Those coercive measures have been applied in the past by governments politically akin to the Opposition parties. Those governments tried gaoling and deporting strikers and putting them in leg-irons, but on each occasion the application of such measure* only aggravated disputes. I recall that when workers in this country first banded together to form trade unions, or to fight for their rights as was done at Eureka, governments of the day called out troops and police- and ordered them to fire on the workers. Do honorable senators opposite want to witness a recurrence of events of that kind? The policy of this Government is’ to bring employer and employee together by conciliatory measures, and by that means establish greater harmony in industrial relations. , Senator Lack p actually condemned the conciliation commissioners proposed to be appointed under the bill. The fact that appointments have yet to be made did not deter him in his attack. He said that the appointees to these offices would be men who would hold the country up to ransom and bring about industrial chaos. In effect, he described them as a band of “ gogetters “. One could not draw any other inference from his remarks. I presume that should any supporter of the Opposition parties be appointed a conciliation commissioner he would stand condemned by Senator Leckie. The honorable senator said that no good could possibly come of the system proposed under the measure. He said that only men with legal training should be appointed as conciliation commissioners. I do not share his high opinion of legal men in that respect. ] have been both an employer and an employee; and as an employer I. have always paid wages above the award rates. I have had some experience of disputes from the point of view of both sides, and from my experience I have come to the conclusion that very few members of the legal profession have any knowledge of industry that would fit them for appointment as conciliation commissioners. I know of only one legal man who was not employed as a jackeroo in his younger days. That is about the only experience they have had of industry. They have not had experience that would enable them to appreciate the worker’s point of view. Of course, legal men as a rule are quite good at figures and can best deal with technical matters arising in court. I contend that no man who has not had experience in industry is capable of giving an unbiased decision in an industrial dispute. In addition, the appointees to these positions should have some experience in administration. I am confident that under the bill the Government will achieve its objective, and E hope that when it proves successful the Opposition parties will be generous enough to admit that the legislation has been fully justified. I agree with Senator Herbert Hays when he says that all improvements of our arbitration system during its long history were effected by those sitting in Opposition, because for the last quarter of a century, with the exception of a brief interval, the Labour party has been in Opposition in this “Parliament, and has initiated the majority of the amendments of our arbitration law.
.- The Government claims that legalism and technicalities have impeded the efficient functioning of the arbitration system, and, therefore, greater stress must be laid upon conciliation. We are told that fifteen conciliation commissioners are to be appointed. At present there are eight. There. are obvious advantages in enabling a conciliator to get at the root of an industrial dispute before it spreads. The successful implementation of this policy will depend upon the calibre of the men appointed to administer it. The appointment of rejected politicians, or even accepted politicians, or others strongly imbued with party, or class, prejudices on one side or the other, would be disastrous. The commissioners must be free from bias due to prior associations, and of a type and character to command the respect and confidence of both sides in industry.
It is alleged that much of the industrial unrest is due to delays on the part of the Arbitration Court in dealing with cases referred to it by conciliation tribunals; that months pass before a judgment is given. Surely, the proper course is to increase the number of judges. Subject to correction, 1 am informed that only one appeal in six has been upheld by the court. If so, this means that questions in dispute might not necessarily have been frivolous, but should have been settled around the conciliation table. I also understand that many matters in dispute should never have reached even that stage, but should have been adjusted at a round table conference in a spirit of goodwill with all parties placing their cards on the table, and obviating legal expenses entirely.
Not all trade union secretaries are professional agitators with an axe to grind, nor are all employers destitute of sympathy towards employees. Agitators who regard all employers as enemy number 1, and who never stop to think whether an industry can meet their requests and still survive, are in the same category’ as those employers who demand the last ounce out of their employees with the object of making excessive profits. To survive, an industrial establishment must make a profit after meeting normal overhead expenses. Paw materials have to be ‘ purchased. A reserve fund must be created and expanded for the replacement of machinery and, purchase of more modern machinery, and for the payment of income tax. Employers generally must also increase the volume of production so that a quicker turnover of consumer goods will eventually reduce prices. I hold no brief for the employer, or group of employers, who seeks to make excessive profits at the expense of the living standard of their employees and their families:
The Government hopes that its policy for streamlining conciliation will make the industrial machinery work more efficiently. That remains to be proved. The Minister in charge of the bill has not said whether, or how, awards so made will be enforced. There is nothing in the bill to indicate the government’s policy in that respect. Nor is any provision made for an appeal from any decision of a conciliation commissioner to the Arbitration Court. The right of appeal is most important because, whilst conciliation commissioners will be required to act with justice and impartiality, no Machinery is provided in the bill to ensure that they do so. Denial of the right of appeal invites abuse of power and trust. It also removes protection against hasty, unwise or incorrect decisions. It is, in short, a negation of the rule of law and of elementary natural justice. Nothing the” Opposition can say or do will prevent the passage of the bill which clearly is an experiment. If it proves effective no one will welcome its success more than I shall.
Sitting suspended from 5,57 to S p.m.
– I am pleased ‘ that this measure has been brought before the Parliament, because it represents an honest attempt to eliminate the industrial unrest with which we have been beset. Lt is gratifying also to learn that there are one or two honorable senators opposite who are inclined to give the measure their blessing. As I listened to the debate my mind went back many years .to incidents with which I had personal association, or in which 1 was interested. Soon after I first came to this country, in 1908, I strolled into the Water Police Court in Sydney and listened to a plea for higher wages and better conditions put forward by .the New South Wales Tramways Association. I was new to arbitration courts and court procedure. In the Old Country, I had been accustomed, as a member of the engineers’ union, to the collective bargaining system about which I shall have something to say later. I soon became convinced that, under the arbitration system operating in this country at that time, the poor pleader was the dupe. I listened to legal argument for several days. The hearing had been going on for some weeks before I became interested in it, and it concluded a week or two after I ceased listening. For about five weeks, therefore, these men, . with all sincerity and pious hope, tried to convince a bench composed of a barrister and two solicitors - one representing each party to the dispute. I believe that the barrister’s name was Bretnall. My impression was that the workers were being not only duped but also outrageously “ fleeced “ or “ rooked “. The good money that they had paid in contributions to their union was being poured into the hands of the solicitors and the briefless barrister on the bench.
I was new in the country, and I was asked for my opinion of the proceedings. I said, “ My impression is this : The chairman is deserving of some payment for the ear-bashing that he is getting. The men who are giving evidence in all sincerity are earning the Iron Cross every day; but it is all a sheer waste of time”. I then explained that, in my view, the chairman was concerned only with deciding how strong the union concerned was in relation to the enterprise that it covered. If the answer was that the union represented 90 per cent., of the workers engaged in the enterprise, it would be given a relatively high award, but if it represented les? than 50 per cent., its claims would bt ignored.
Later, I became’ an active member of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and gave evidence before every wages tribunal that dealt with the union between 1910 and 1915.- I then became an executive officer of the union and undertook other activities. By this time I had come to the conclusion that the Arbitration Court was being used by briefless barristers in and around Sydney as a milch cow. They were getting fat fees and doing’ little in return. As a trustee of my union, an official of the paying branch, it was my experience to pay for one award - and only that portion of it relating to the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, now the Amalgamated Engineering Union - the sum of £4,630 in fees. A. further £1,100 was paid by the Australian Society of Engineers, and actually the unions got very little out of the award. I became more and more disgusted as I watched the operations of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and I - realized that my first impression of the arbitration system was correct, namely, that an applicant union would be awarded just as much as the man sitting on the bench thought it was strong enough to demand under the threat of direct action. On one occasion, we paid fees amounting to £11,000 for our portion of a wages award, and in that case, the hearing took place three years and two months after we had filed our claims. That was typical of the working of the institution that Senator Herbert Hays claimed as the work of the parties now in Opposition. I asked the honorable senator, by interjection, whether he. considered that the industrial position that existed was entirely attributable tq the efforts of his political colleagues, and he saw the light and would not speak any more on the matter.
Before proceeding further, I shall deal with the approach to this measure of honorable senators opposite. I felt rather sorry for Senator Cooper. He is a delightful person, but it was obvious to me that in dealing with industrial arbitration, he was like Alice in Wonderland. I shall not deal at length, therefore, with his speech. He did say, however, that he believed in extending” the existing legal set-up. I am convinced that if any one wants to make the workers distrust him, he need only double-cross them a few times. He may get away with it once or twice, but he certainly will not get away with it a third time.
Senator Herbert Hays also said in answer to an interjection by Senator Finlay that he would deny, so far as possible, the right of the workers to strike. Many times in this chamber I have claimed that some members of the Opposition should have lived in the dark ages, because they do not even know that the earth is not flat. They are still living in the days of the rope’s end and the marlin spike. It is inconceivable that in 1947, a member of this legislature should admit that he would deny the right of a worker to sell his labour as he chooses. If that i.–. not chattle slavery, I do not know what it is - not that I think that chattel shivery is any worse than the economic slavery in which the workers of this country existed for . many years while anti-Labour administrations were in office. I could not impugn the honorable senator any more than he has impugned himself by that statement.
Senator Leckie seemed concerned mainly with the lack of restrictive measures in this legislation. He also believes, apparently, in carrying the stock whip. In his opinion, only a man who is legally trained is capable of interpreting an act or award, whereas to me, a layman, an individual who has worked with hand and brain in industry, year in and year out, must be,’ when his mentality has reached maturity, a far better judge of the conditions that should be applied in industry than any legal luminary who may be found in a search through Sydney. Senator Leckie also made some play in regard to the provision in this measure for the imposition of fines. He said that a fine of only £10 could be imposed and he asked whether it would be imposed upon the secretary or organizer of a union. Senator Gibson said, by interjection, that it could be imposed on every member of a union, and that is quite true. I shall read the clause with which the honorable senator .was dealing to illustrate the methods that he so astutely adopts. Section 78 of the act states - ( 1 . ) Any organization or person bound by an industrial agreement shall for any breach or non-observance of any term of. the agreement bc liable to a penalty not exceeding such amount as is fixed by the industrial agreement; and if no amount is so. fixed, then to a. penalty not exceeding in the case of an organization Five hundred pounds, in the case of an employer Two hundred and fifty pounds, and in the case of an employee Ten pounds.
Why did he fail to mention the other part of that section ? These are debating tricks that we all learned many years ago, and which some of us have forgotten.
– The honorable senator is referring to the original act, not to the hill.
– I am referring to the act, from which the honorable senator quoted. Those methods should not be employed. As I have said, there were interminable delays. The organization to which I belong experienced delay in securing an award. Briefless barristers found that the Arbitration Court was a very fine honeypot around which to assemble. There was an extraordinary lack of conciliation in those days. Those were the days when Judge Heydon’s Harvester judgment established a basic wage of 8s. a day. I well recall a slogan that men sang in those days, “Eight hours work, eight hours pay, eight hours sleep, and eight bob a day”.’ They realized that, at any rate, they had progressed one step along the road to industrial justice as the. result of JudgeHeydon’s award.
– That was the Higginsaward, which Judge Heydon copied.
– It was Judge . Heydon’s award. Judge Higgins did not come into the picture until some years later. Several mistakes have been made on this point by honorable senators in this debate. Judge Heydon delivered the Harvester judgment. I am confident of that. Before that judgment was given, employers paid their workers any old price that they could fix by means of astute bargaining. I know from experience what conditions were like in those days, and I am very proud of one of my achievements in dealing with employers. I went to the north coast area of New South Wales to work for the British- Australian Timber Company. At that time, my organization, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, had submitted a claim for a wage of 10s. a day, but a decision had not been given by the court. At first I worked for the timber company as a labourer, but later I was offered a job as a tradesman. When that offer was made, I asked what wages I would be paid. The manager turned to the foreman- and asked, “What did Gardiner get?”. Gardiner, incidentally, was a good tradesman. The foreman answered, “ Gardiner was paid 8s. 6d. a day “. I said, “ I am sorry, I cannot work for less than 10s. a day “. ‘ I was rather “ green “ in those days. I knew that my union had claimed a rate of 10s. a day, although the claim had not then been granted. I was successful, and so [ blazed the trail for the union on the north coast. I have had much experience of industrial affairs. I was a member of the executive of my union during the famous 1917 strike. As a matter of fact, [ was the bad boy who, being a senior union delegate in the railway service, actually called that strike. I make that confession to honorable senators opposite. 1 also confess that I did not have faith in the wisdom of calling the strike. However, I was a democrat, and a majority of members of the union had decided to 3trike. , Therefore, my duty was to call the strike and I did not quibble. I was badly hit financially, but that did not deter me in any way. That strike was consequent on a very serious breach of Faith on the part of the Commonwealth Government. An elderly member of the House of Representatives was then
Prime Minister. I recall reading a memorandum issued by him to all unions asking them to cease industrial conflicts and bend all their efforts towards winning the war. In return for this, the government and the employers guaranteed that no pin-pricking tactics of any sort would be employed against the workers..
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) will no doubt recall establishing a famous shipbuilding industry tribunal, before which’ I gave evidence. There was a breach of faith in that instance. The sequel was the strike which I have mentioned. The workers had kept their part of the bargain with the employers, but from the time the United States of America entered the war early in 1917, it became obvious that the Allies would win the war and it also became obvious to us that the employers were spoiling for a fight and were determined to force a fight upon us. I, and other unionists, purposely restrained thi’, eagerness of our colleagues who were anxious to go on strike. However, their persistence became so great that, when the employers tried to introduce that American system known as the (Taylor card system, we decided to strike. The unions held the view that they might as well fight on that issue as on any other. That was the spirit in which the 1917 strike was commenced. I remind Senator Herbert Hays, whose confreres introduced the arbitration system, that the atmosphere in industry in those days was different from that of to-day. ,
I have referred to the breaches of faith which occurred in those days in order to show how easy it is to inflame the minds of the workers and how difficult it is for the men to retain a calm air of indifference in the face of repeated irritating tactics. I do not pretend to defend the recent action of the unions in Melbourne, although there was some merit in it. I am not prepared to condone the waging of war on ordinary citizens. I believe that the men should have called off the strike much sooner than they did, even though there was some justification, for their action. The workers have not forgotten, the introduction of the infamous Crimes Act by the Bruce-Page Government. Do honorable senators opposite believe that men have such short memories that they will forget such things? It is all very well for them to sleep comfortably at night, believing that nil is well because we have an efficient police force. They rely on force to impose their will on the workers. The workers have been double-crossed more than once in recent years. As recently as the latter part of 1939, an effort similar to that which I mentioned previously was made to obtain uniformity of operations and continuity of work in industry, and the organization of which I am a member was asked to open its ranks to dilutees and “ elevatees “ - labourers who had been working with fitters and who, with a little tuition, had learned enough to be able to work as fitters. Men were trained for a few months at technical colleges and were admitted to the union. f.n addition, the organization admitted thousands of women workers, a concession completely foreign to its policy. This involved the abrogation of rights that had cost the union not only money but’ also the blood of its martyrs through the years. I am not speaking lightly when I say that workers shed their blood to gain,those rights which the union surrendered in 1939 in a spirit of pure patriotism. What happened? A subsidiary of Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited at Port Kembla chose to put a false interpretation on the word “ elevatee”, and the union found it necessary to appeal to the High Court in order to secure observance of the terms of the agreement which, it had made. I told Senator Leckie earlier in my speech that I was sorry I had not heard the beginning of his speech this afternoon. He may be interested to know why I was not present at the time. I was engaged on conciliation work myself. I was acting as a conciliator to prevent a dispute involving engineers and electricians in Canberra. T believe that we have managed to scotch the trouble by taking conciliatory action at an early stage. Had we not done so, there might have been an upheaval very soon.
– And why not ?
– Because I do not believe in permitting disputes to break out. That is why I acted as a conciliator. There was plenty of arbitration and plenty of law, but darned little con ciliation in the old days. I applaud this measure, because it provides for that element of conciliation which is essential in bringing men closer together and giving them a clearer understanding of each other’s points of view. There has never been enough conciliation in industrial affairs.
Honorable senators opposite have said a. great deal about arbitration and their desire to have legal luminaries interfering in the relations between employers and employees. I ask them to study the history of industrial affairs in the Broken Hill district, where the Zinc Corporation operates. Although that locality is a hotbed of unionism, which once seethed with discontent under the outmoded arbitration system, there has not been a major strike there for many years. Trade unionists without legal training have proved their ability to run the affairs of that district in a very satisfactory manner. If the shire clerk should misbehave, his organization would bring him before the Barrier District Assembly, he would have his ankles caned, and everything would be all right again. I do not know of any district in which there is a more friendly spirit amongst the workers. I have been in better towns, but I have never seen a greater display of civic pride than in Broken Hill. It is a labour town run by the Barrier District Assembly, as many honorable senators on this side of the chamber know. After the community found it had been, doublecrossed the average engineer said, “ What is the use of voting Labour? “ and general apathy developed. ( There is no more important general in this world than “ General Apathy “, and there Ls no one more capable of exploiting general apathy than that organization which calls itself “ the Communist party I say, calls itself the “ Communist party “ because I have never at any time admitted that this crowd, which masquerades as Communists, are in reality Communists; on the contrary, I have frequently declared in this chamber that they are more akin to anarchists. Eight, out of ten of their members could not tell you what the aims of communism are. But they have fed on the apathy of the workers. They have always given lip-service to the word exploit “, and I know of no men who so constantly exploit the apathy of the working men as the Communists of today. As I say, communism feeds on apathy, and that apathy has been contributed to by the treatment which the workers have received from this famous arbitration system of which Senator Herbert Hays is so proud.
– I said “ arbitration and conciliation”.
– But I have never seen any conciliation nor has the honorable senator. I have .mentioned Broken Hill as an example of what can be done. There has not been a major strike there in years, and that is’ a municipality dominated and run by unionists. Some time ago I beard a statement by a wellknown gentleman who recently returned to this country, Mr. Ernest Thornton, lie is one of the leaders of the Communist party, and he has publicly condemned our arbitration system. Some time ago, I led a delegation to the United Kingdom and I found that arbitration was not the prevailing system of dealing with industrial disputes in a number of countries, including Canada” and South Africa. While I was abroad I engaged in a debate with the strongest exponent of collective bargaining in England, a gentleman named Coppeck. Honorable senators who have been to Great Britain will probably remember him as the leader of the building trades union in Great Britain. He would not countenance our arbitration system, and I challenged him to a public debate. Although his arguments did not impress me, apparently his influence was successfully exerted on Ernie Thornton, because Thornton, on his return to this country, condemned our arbitration system and advocated collective bargaining. Collective bargaining means, in effect, holding a pistol at the head of the boss if he is not prepared to listen to unionists’ arguments. As I say, I debated the matter with Mr. Coppeck, and I flatter myself that I had the better of him.
South Africa is now talking about adopting our arbitration system. The difference between arbitration and collective bargaining . can be explained “briefly. Collective bargaining usually operates in this way. A number of highly-skilled men in some industry assemble and arrange for a meeting with a number of employers in a particular area. They discuss their demands with the employers and finally some sort of agreement is obtained. Then the semi-skilled men, who are usually not so well organized, do likewise, but inevitably they get a poorer award. And when the unskilled men get an unsatisfactory award they cannot, as a rule, do much about it because they are not well organized. In effect, it seems to be a case of “devil take the hindmost”. That -is how collective bargaining operates in the United Kingdom and in other countries. Our system, however, is based on’ a living wage for a man, wife and, at the moment, one child ; and no male adult can be employed in any industry at a wage below the computed basic wage. With that as a basis, margins for skill are introduced. Incidentally, quite a lot has been said in this chamber about the computation of margins for skill, but I do not think that the gentlemen who discussed it know much about the matter. A man who has some special skill or training and who is able to convince the court that his margin for skill is inadequate receives some increase, As an example of the application of margins for skill, the union of which I was a member received, many years ago, a margin of 6s. a day .from Mr. Justice Higgins, who delivered the famous judgment in the Harvester case.
It was a development arising from that. judgment which precipitated the recent strike in Victoria, because the Amalgamated Engineering Union was demanding that that principle be fairly applied to their award. In our system of arbitration we work on the principle of improving from the bottom, whereas collective bargaining is a matter of establishing the top and the devil take those underneath.
I have always claimed that we should have much more conciliation in our arbitration system. I remember an occasion when an employer was trying to . introduce a system of classification amongst his engineers. The employers wanted to establish first, second and third-grade fitters and first, second and third-grade machinists, and our union agreed to his proposal, which was later embodied in an award of 1912. .
The contention advanced by the employer and accepted by us at the time, “was that all tradesmen are not equal in ability, and the employer undertook to pay a high rate to first-class men. However, at the end of three months, we found that practically no men were classified as first grade. After that . experience, we did not agree to any proposals of that kind. When this matter was being dis.cussed and the relative merits of first-class machinists were being debated, some one mentioned efficiency in the use of precision tools; and I was asked whether a man using a bar undercutting - a matter about which judges could not know anything - and was doing a good job. I replied, Yes, because the man has almost . to stand on his head to see what he is doing”. I was then asked this question: “ If a man were doing that for only two hours of the day and for the rest of his time was simply drilling ordinary holes, would you consider that he’ was entitled to first-class’ tradesmen’s wages for the whole of that day?” I asked the chairman whether I might he permitted to answer it by asking a question of Mr. John Himey, of the Power Press, who had asked the question in the first place. I said to him: “If you had an engineering shop and it required a 30-h.p. motor to keep the shop running efficiently, but occasionally you needed to use a 50-b.p. motor, what sort of a motor would you install ? “ He replied : “ Naturally, I would have to install a 50-h.p. motor “. I said : “ You would be using the big motor for only part of the time, but you would have that reserve of power up your sleeve. Now, from your question, you want to engage a man who is capable of a highly efficient and intricate job, and hold him up your sleeve in case you require his services, but you do not want to pay him for it.” I said to the chairman: “ This means, in effect, that these people are concerned more with inanimate matter than they are with the human factor.” That was the spirit underlying the old arbitration court established by our friends opposite.
I have always claimed that every trade unionist of any intelligence regards strikes as a double-edged weapon, and no intelligent unionist has employed that weapon until he has exhausted all other methods. When a unionist feels so incensed that he becomes desperate, he says: “Well, I
know I am going to get ‘ .cut but I shall have the satisfaction of knowing that the other fellow will be ‘ cut too “. That is the spirit in which the strike weapon is wielded, and I do not want to see it wielded again. I have seen too much suffering caused by strikes. The appointment of conciliation commissioners, who will not necessarily wait for a strike to occur before they act, will eliminate a great deal of industrial trouble. They will act on hearing even the faintest whisper of trouble, just as I did this afternoon, when I spent an hour and a half of my time settling an industrial dispute in the Australian Capital Territory, the repercussions of which might have been felt in this chamber. Because of my background of long industrial experience, I believe that I would make an excellent conciliation commissioner, but, unfortunately, like some other honorable senators, I must confess that my age debars me from aspiring to such an office. I am so well versed in industrial’ matters that, with a legal training, I think I should at least have become a Justice of the High Court!
– The honorable senator is too modest.
– I have often thought so.
– Would the honorable senator favour raising the age limit?
– No. I am not bitten by the money bug. I get enough to live on and to meet my commitments. The fact that a conciliation commissioner will be paid £1,500 a year until he becomes 65 years of age does not tempt me.
I believe that the bill is a step in the right direction, and that, even though it may .not prove a panacea for all our industrial ills, it will take, us a great distance along the road to:peace in industry. I believe that after it has been in operation for three or four’ years we shall find a -better spirit existing between employers and employees. I know that the measure will be passed, and I hope that it will ensure peace in industry and ultimately lead to an industrial millennium.
– I have listened with interest to the debate on this important bill, and have been pleased to notice that honorable senators on the Government benches who have had wide experience in industrial matters have approached it in a reasonable spirit. All honorable senators will agree that the maintenance of peace in industry is the greatest problem awaiting solution by this Parliament. It was obvious to those members of Parliament who went abroad in 1945 that Australia would have to face a period of great industrial unrest. I give credit to the Government for being just as anxious as we on this side are to solve the problems confronting industry. Unfortunately, during the war and in the post-war period little progress has been made in this country towards creating a. higher standard of living or developing export markets. Those who follow world trends and take a keen interest in economic problems must be disappointed when they reflect that Australians generally have not made good use of opportunities to increase production, and so improve our economic condition that when a period of deflation comes we shall be in a position to .meet it. The more one looks at these problems, and compares conditions in Australia with conditions in other countries, the more one is convinced that the lowliest person in Australia is well off by comparison with people generally in most other countries. The Government and the leaders of the Labour movement have a great obligation to give a proper lead to the people. In 1943 the Government presented to the Parliament figures relating to the national income and showing that per cent, of the income earners of Australia were in receipt of less than £400 a year, and that only 1^ per cent, had incomes exceeding £1,000 per annum. I do not think that there is another country in the world where the national income is so evenly divided. “When advocating higher wages and shorter hours Government supporters should pay more attention to the effect of changed conditions on that S6£ per cent, of the people. It may be all right for one section of the community to receive substantial rises of wages, coupled with shorter working hours, but the first consideration should be the effect of any such change on the great bulk of the people.
As one who is keenly interested in Australia’s export trade, in both primary and secondary products, I am greatly concerned, as are also the Government and its advisers, at the rising costs of goods manufactured in Australia. That rise is taking place despite the fact that prices control in this country has been more effective than in most other countries. Since the war ended, a small section of fanatics has upset the industrial world because they want to get as much as they can and to do as little as possible. That policy is having a disastrous effect on Australia’s economy and the living standards of the people. In dealing with a bill of this kind that is one of the major problems that ought to be considered. That all three parties in this Parliament believe in compulsory arbitration, is an indication that fundamentally the principle is sound.
Since 1904, when the first Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act was passed, there have been about fifteen amendments to the original legislation. In my opinion the best conciliators are the employers and the employees themselves. I am sure that some members of the Government agree with me. Only when conciliation fails is it necessary to apply to an umpire, who may be a conciliation commissioner or a judge. I suggest that we shall not improve the relations between employers and employees bytaking their problems to either a. court, or to a conciliation commissioner, especially when the latter occupies a dual position, in that he holds in one hand certain conciliatory offerings and in the other hand dictatorial powers under which he can make decisions which cannot be upset because there is no right of appeal against them. “When a dispute reaches the stage that it is brought before an umpire, it is not possible to get the best out of the industry affected. The first thing on which all parties should concentrate, with a view to giving a lead to the people, is the best means of securing greater co-operation and more goodwill in industry. Harmony in the industrial field will result in increased production, greater prosperity, and an improved standard of living. I realize that, whatever we do, problems which will be difficult to solve, will arise. 1 regret that the Government did not proceed with the original proposal of the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) to hold a conference of representatives of employers’ and employees to discuss means of ensuring peace in industry. I shall not say who was to blame because that conference did not take place. I am sure that the Prime Minister was as anxious as anybody else that it should take place. I regret that it was not held, and I submit that when this measure is passed, as undoubtedly it will be, the obligation will still rest- upon the Government, and Labour governments in the States, to do all they can to restore industrial peace and establish cooperation and goodwill between employers and employees in the interests of the community as a whole. Compulsory arbitration involves certain fundamental weaknesses which it is almost impossible to overcome. For instance, it is much easier to inflict penalties upon employers and organizations, than upon employees. It is clear that the court can fix a minimum wage rate which the employer must pay; but it is equally clear that no authority can compel an employee to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay.
– But the majority of employees do so.
– I agree; and if the majority of workers were left alone by fanatics, extremists and “ commos “ we should not have the industrial unrest we are experiencing to-day. I am not unmindful of the fact that in the past, and to a degree at present, a very small section of employers does not hesitate to grind employees down to the lowest possible rates in order to increase their own profits. It would be useless to deny that fact. But reputable employers, through their organizations, such as the Employers Federation, Chambers of Manufactures, and the Graziers Association, wholeheartedly support compulsory arbitration in order that unscrupulous employers shall be made to toe the line. 1 regret that before the war, during the war and since the war, groups of people have been allowed to organize themselves to enforce what is known as the “ go-slow “ policy in certain industries. T am surprised that we still tolerate the fixation of a darg whereby the worker’s daily output is restricted to certain limits. I am also surprised that at a time like the present, when we need so urgently to proceed with reconstruction and to provide homes and other essential commodities to the community, a section of the leaders of the workers is able to induce employees not to work overtime. I deplore those facts, and I am disappointed that the Government is not prepared to tackle those problems under this measure. Any group of people who organize themselves with the object of inflicting their decisions upon the community regardless of the loss they cause to the community should be subject to severe penalties. Provision along those lines should be made in this measure.
I am amazed to hear Senator Large, Senator Nash and other honorable senators opposite saying, in effect, “ We support compulsory arbitration and believe that the employees should have the law of the land to protect their lawful rights’; but we believe that the workers should still have the right to strike”. If the Government and the Labour movement stand for that principle we have no hope of maintaining industrial peace in this country. I uphold the inviolable right of every individual to say where and when he will work as an individual; and powerful trade unions should not be permitted to deny equally important rights to the worker as an individual. Powerful unions should not be able to deny the right of a worker to join a trade union. When groups of people so organize themselves as to be able to force a strike or a lockout, and thus defy the law of the land, all parties in the Parliament should have the courage to uphold the law of the land. We can best do that by providing penalties in this measure with the object of outlawing strikes and lockouts. The absence of such provisions is one of the fundamental weaknesses of the bill. I recall that in 1930, following the defeat of the Bruce-Page Government, the Scullin Government, in keeping with its election promise, introduced legislation to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act in order to free the arbitration system from legal entanglements and establish peace and goodwill in industry. That was how the right honorable member for
Yarra (Mr. Seullin) described the objectives of that legislation; and they were, similarly described in this chamber by the late Senator Daly. It is significant that similar phrases are being used to-day by spokesmen of the present Government. However, in 1930, ex-Senator Sir George Pearce, a wise and experienced man, indicated that the removal of the penalty provisions from the arbitration law would merely encourage strikes and lockouts. His prediction has been borne out by events in the intervening period. I cannot understand why members of Parliament, who know the value of the law, and know that it cannot be upheld unless penalties are provided for breaches, reject that principle of penalties in connexion with industrial law. Honorable senators opposite now argue that trade unions should have the right to defy the decisions of the Arbitration Court and conciliation commissioners. The sooner the Government makes a more realistic approach to that issue, the nearer we shall be to restoring peace in industry. Some honorable senators opposite say that in spite of penalty clauses workers will still strike. But we know also that in spite of the penalties prescribed under civil law, we cannot entirely eliminate such crimes as murder and theft. However, it is equally clear that should the penalties in respect of civil offences be removed, our society would be thrown into chaos. Therefore, I can only conclude that the reason why the Government’ has- failed to provide appropriate penalties in respect of breaches under this measure is that it is frightened of the political repercussions of such action among its own supporters and the powerful trade unions.
– Does the honorable senator believe that if we prescribed the death penalty for theft, thieving would be entirely eliminated? ‘
– The honorable senator cannot deny that- the provision of penalties in respect: of civil offences acts as a very effective deterrent. I submit that any law which does not provide appropriate penalties in respect of offences, must inevitably become farcical ; and any government which is. not prepared to uphold the. law is guilty of- criminal negligence.
Of course, considerable difficulty confronts the Government because of’ thefact that the trade union movement in. this country has become party political. To some degree, I sympathize with theGovernment in that respect. To-day, the trade union- movement is able to influence the Government. We know the influencewhich unions exert in the councils of the Australian Labour party as well as in the ministerial party room. I deplore as much as anybody else the fact that industrial arbitration, particularly the. fixation of hours and wages in industry, has become the plaything- of party politics. Unless the problem of industrial arbitration can be removed from the political arena - and it will have .to beremoved sooner or later, compulsory arbitration will be destroyed. I come now to the record of the Labour party in the industrial field during the last five and a half years. I believe that when the history of that period is written, havingregard to conditions during the recent war and since the end of the war, the present Government will be rightly characterized as a government of appeasement and retreat, because it has failed to take appropriate action against those elements in industry which have been- attemptingto hold this country to ransom by defying the law of the land, and in’ so doinghave ca.used untold hardship to all sections of the community. At the same time, those elements have retarded production which we so urgently need in the immediate post-war period. The Opposition parties are diametrically opposed to certain provisions of this measure. We are not opposed to the principle of compulsory arbitration, or to the principleof preventing and settling disputes as speedily as possible. However, we are opposed to the approach which the Government is making to those problems under- this measure. It is proposed to increase the number of conciliation commissioners from nine to fifteen, and, at the same time, to give very substantial powers to those officers. Honorable senators opposite have hailed this measure in the most- eulogistic terms for no other reason than that it contains such phrases as - “streamlining arbitration”, “speedy decisions “, and “ prevention of disputes “, as though- the mere employment of those phrases automatically gives those virtues to the bill. I remind honorable senators opposite that during the lastfive and a half years the Government applied to the coal-mining industry the very principles which are embodied in this measure and have been eulogized by ministerial supporters. For instance, it appointed a layman, Mr. Willis, as Coal Commissioner. Mr. Willis is an expresident of the Australian Labour party in New South Wales in which State he was also editor of a Labour paper. So great were the powers vested in him that lie was able to over-ride decisions of the Arbitration Court itself. The Government said that in that way it would be able to establish peace in the coal-mining industry. But, what was the result? Strikes actually increased in that country in spite of that policy and in spite of the fact that the Government took over a coal-mine and ran it at a financial loss. Even then the coal-miners remained dissatisfied. Ultimately Mr. Willis was dismissed, but I have never heard the reason for his dismissal. If Mr. Willis was not successful in bringing peace to the coal industry in which he had spent most of his life, how can the Government believe that these conciliation commissioners will be any more successful in the many industries that will come within their jurisdiction? I venture to say that the chief reason for the increase of the number of strikes after disputes have been dealt with by the various tribunals, is that this Government has lacked courage to back up the decisions of its own tribunals. When a government adopts this weak attitude, what can one expect but chaos and disorder such as we have endured ever since Labour has been in office? To further emphasize the argument that I am advancing, I shall quote the remarks of Mr. Justice Davidson, an outstanding man who has had wide experience of industrial problems, and who has been held in high regard by the coal-miners of this country. This Government appointed Mr. Justice Davidson as a Royal Commissioner to inquire into the coal industry, and in his report, the learned judge said -
The most paralysing of all - defects that hinder the success of compulsory arbitration is extraneous to the system itself and consists of the failure of governments to support judicial decisions. The rule of the law is the only safeguard of peace in industry as it is ofsocial life in a democratic community. Without enforcement of the law, any system must fail in the absence of rigid self-discipline in the community or the savage rule of a dictatorThe former of these alternatives is lacking inthe coal industry, and the other alternative isnot desired.
I submit to the Minister for Health (Senator McKenna), who has had legal training and who, I am sure, has the highest regard for Mr. Justice Davidson, that in considering the problem of industrial unrest generally, he must have due regard for the opinions expressed by that learned judge who is not a supporter of any political party, but is a man anxious to find the truth.
This Government has been responsible for much industrial unrest because of it3 insistence upon the continuation of wagepegging. I believe that the Government is actuated by a genuine desire to prevent inflation, but it cannot shut its eyes to the fact that continued strikes and a continued drop in production have done more than anything else to assist inflation. Looking back over the two years that have elapsed since the end of the war, I cannot help feeling that the Government, in taking upon itself the task of enforcing the wage-pegging regulations, has usurped the functions of the Arbitration Court and caused considerable industrial dislocation.
I do not wish to deal at length with the proposals contained in this measure, but I shall refer particularly to one or two proposed amendments of the principal act to which the party that I represent is diametrically opposed. We believe that the power of the- Arbitration Court is being weakened, whilst the powers of conciliation commissioners are being increased to such a degree that the court in reality will be subordinate to them. The problem could have been solved better by appointing additional Arbitration Court judges, and giving them power to delegate certain functions to conciliation commissioners. That would have meant keeping the whole organization under one roof, thus facilitating uniformity and making possible much better results than will flow from this proposed system. The conciliation commissioners are to be clothed with wide powers. As I have said, they will be not only conciliation commissioners but also small dictators. A decision unfavorable to a union may lead to considerable trouble because of the lack of penal clauses in this measure. Political pressure will be brought to bear upon the Government and, as in the past, it will not be courageous enough to stand behind, the decisions of its industrial tribunals, whether they be composed of conciliation commissioners or judges. My views on this matter have been reinforced by an opinion expressed recently by no less an authority than Sir Robert Garran, a man whose opinions are respected by a large number of people in this country. Dealing with the appointment of the conciliation commissioners, Sir Robert Garran said -
It will be hard to find fifteen men who have not only Mie impartiality and the inside knowledge of the industry that are predicated, but also an adequate outlook on public interests outside the industry. The system will greatly increase the number of disputes brought before the commissioners, and delays will be worse than ever.
Obviously, if “access to industrial tribunals is made easy for disputants the number of people who will seek redress before those tribunals will increase considerably. Sir Robert Garran further said-
It seems to me that one danger will be lack of harmony among the fifteen commissioners, leading to inconsistencies in dealing with mcn of the same trade, or of cognate trades, in different industries, and a consequent crop of discontents that may breed further disputes.
I support that view and the Opposition supports it. It will be argued, that it would be just as difficult for a number of judges to preserve uniformity in awards as it will be for these conciliation commissioners, but I maintain that the judges would be working under the one roof and that, with the co-operation that has been a feature of arbitration work in the past, they would get nearer to uniformity than will be the case under the present proposal to appoint fifteen conciliation commissioners, clothe them with wide powers, and let them loose in the industrial field. I am convinced that one of the major causes of delay in the settlement of industrial disputes by the Arbitration Court has been the failure of this Government to appoint more judges. Why is it that at this late hour, after the Government has been in office for five and a half years, it has suddenly come to. the conclusion that the Arbitration Court has not enough judges ? If that be the position to-day, it was exactly the same some years ago. It is regrettable indeed that the Arbitration Court has lost the late Judge O’Mara. I understand also that Judge Kelly and Judge Piper are both ill. These men have rendered excellent service. The appointment of conciliation commissioners to do work hitherto performed by Arbitration Court judges is a retrograde step. Whilst it will not destroy altogether the authority of the court, it will lower its prestige and status below that of the conciliation commissioners. That is-most undesirable.
The denial of the right of appeal from decisions of conciliation commissioners is a big mistake. A determination may be made by a conciliation commissioner that is wrong in principle and may have disastrous effects upon the economy of the country; but no appeal against the decision can be made. One conciliation commissioner may consider it his duty to make wages as high as possible and working hours as few as possible in a particular industry, thus placing workers in other industries in an invidious position; but there can be no review of his award. It is argued, of course, that the court itself retains its jurisdiction over the basic wage, working hours, annual leave, and rates of pay for .female employees; but these matters do not come up for consideration every week or every year. As Senator Leckie said, the court will find itself with very little work to do. It will be obliged to look on while the work that i’t has accomplished over the years is slowly destroyed.
If the Government would heed the suggestions that have been made from this side of the chamber and incorporate them in this measure, it would be taking a forward step towards the improvement of relations between employers and employees, and facilitating an industrial condition that would assist production and benefit our economy. The result would be a higher standard of living than that to which we have been reduced during all this industrial turmoil. Let us all do what we can to promote peace and goodwill in industry. Let us clothe the conciliation commissioners and the court itself with authority to enforce their decisions. Let us have regard for the law. Let us do all we can to outlaw strikes, and restore to the court its former authority. Let us appoint more judges and give them power to delegate work to concilia-ion commissioners. Then we shall he . making a substantial “contribution to the smoother working of our conciliation’ and arbitration system, and doing something to impress upon both sides in industry the necessity to work together, to increase production and make production more efficient, so that we may enjoy that standard of living that can only result from high and efficient production.
Senator FINLAY (South Australia) 1 9.28]. - I am pleased that the Government has at last brought before Parliament a measure to expedite the settling of industrial disputes in this country. What have been the principal causes of so much industrial unrest? When the Arbitration Court was constituted, there were few judges and before they could exercise their powers, it was necessary that there should be an interstate dispute. That meant, that if it was desired that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court should handle a matter, it was necessary to create an interstate dispute. The effect of that upon the industrial movement was to foster federation. Many unions became federated. As industry developed throughout Australia, it became necessary for conditions of work, rates of pay, and hours of labour to be made as near uniform as possible so that competition between industries in different States would be fair. As a result, the work of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court increased. How could honorable senators who know anything at all about industry expect three judges to give expeditious decisions in respect of the great number of claims which they were called upon to determine? Interstate disputes became more frequent with the passage of time. After the Harvester judgment of 1907 established the minimum wage payable in industry, the unions set about trying to improve on that standard. As a result, various margins for skill were fixed by the court. As the court became more and more over burdened with work, delays in securing decisions became more prolonged. What was the ultimate result of that? We must realize that unions had to go through certain procedure before a claim could be heard. They had to file a claim, and then wait until the court was able to deal with it. During this delay, conditions in industry would become worse. Unions would apply for an increase of the basic wage because their members could not live decently on the existing wage. Sometimes the delay in having the matter brought before the court would be” as long as twelve months. During that period, the workers would have to suffer on the low standard wage. The court would not make a retrospective decision. As soon as its decision was given, prices .would begin to soar, and the advantage gained by the increase would be quickly lost. As a result, the unions would be forced to make another application to the court for a further review of the basic wage. In spite of this cumbersome procedure, the number of Arbitration Court judges was. not increased beyond three. I ask honorable senators opposite, as reasonable men: What other result could there be than chaos in industry? Some unions were anxious to act in a constitutional manner. However, they found that applications filed in accordance with the rules of the court were pushed back on the list. Why did this happen? Because other organizations said, “ The wheel that squeaks gets the grease “, and started to “ squeak “ and talk of strikes. A threat to strike was all that was necessary to have” a. claim brought before the court immediately, with the result that other claims on the list would be deferred. What effect did that have upon the law-abiding organizations? They said, “ Well, if Tom, Dick and Harry can get immediate decisions from the court because they squeal, the best thing that we can do is to start squealing too “. Thus the unions were no longer prepared to suffer the delays occasioned by sub.mitting their claims through constitutional channels.
Three judges could not reasonably be expected to handle the work of the Arbitration Court with satisfaction to all sections of industry. Therefore, the Commonwealth Government began to appoint conciliation commissioners. However, these commissioners were not empowered to make awards in settlement of disputes. They were empowered only to hear disputes and make reports to judges of the court. The judges then determined whether they would hear the claims themselves or whether they would make awards upon the recommendations of the commissioners. There is notting new about the proposal to appoint conciliation commissioners. Honorable senators opposite would have us believe that it represents a revolutionary departure from the present arbitration system. It is not a revolutionary proposal at all. The bill merely proposes to extend the powers of commissioners so as to enable them to give expeditious decisions in disputes. I was disgusted to hear the innuendoes cast by some honorable senators upon the probable character of the appointments that will be made by the Government. They suggested that some of the commissioners might be unscrupulous men, who would make decisions without giving v due consideration to the ability of industries to pay the rates fixed by them. Would any honorable senator cast such aspersions upon the integrity of conciliation commissioners who have been appointed under the existing law? I shall mention the names of some of them. Commissioner Blakeley has had a great deal to do with the investigation of industrial disputes. In South Australia, Commissioner Rowlands and Professor Portus have assisted the Arbitration Court in settling numbers of disputes. In Victoria we have men like Mr. Mooney and Mr. Murray Stewart. Probably these men will remain as conciliation commissioners in the new organization. They have had valuable practical experience, and I am sure that the Government will pay regard to such experience in making appointments.
– How many commissioners are there to-day?
– I believe that the number is eight. Mr. Morrison is another commissioner who operates in New South Wales. Would any honorable senator cast a slur upon him? Another commissioner is Mr. Findlay, who works in the Australian Capital Territory. Does anybody suggest that he does not possess the qualifications necessary for his work? There are other commissioners whose names I am not able to mention offhand. They have all done magnificent work, but, unfortunately, under the powers vested in them, they have been able to make only recommendations, not determinations. I suggest to honorable senators opposite that the Government will retain the services of the eight commissioners already appointed. If the seven new commissioners possess the same qualities as those now in office nobody in Australia will have reason to object to their appointment.
– Some are laymen and some are solicitors.
– That is so. I am very pleased that the bill will prevent members of the legal fraternity from battening on industry any longer. I honestly believe that the introduction of legal men into the field of industrial arbitration has caused many disputes. Consider what has happened in the largest industry in Australia - the motor vehicle industry, of the growth of which we can all be proud. The Arbitration Court was not called upon to adjudicate in disputes in this industry until some time after 1930. ‘ Previously, all awards were framed at round-table conferences, which were attended by the employers, not by their legal representatives. The employers had personal contact with the industry and a personal interest in the welfare of their employees. At these conferences we managed to make decisions, which satisfied the employers, the employees, and the trade unions.
– That is the spirit !
– However, the industry expanded until the employers found that it was too large for them to handle unaided. They then employed counsel to watch their interests in the Arbitration Court.* Immediately, the personal contact between employer and employee was ‘ lost. The legal representatives of the employers strove to satisfy them by setting out to save expense by beating down the claims of the unions. The fight has continued ever since. The bill will not prevent employers from having representation by legal experts in arbitration proceedings. They may employ lawyers as industrial officers for that purpose. That is made clear in the proposed section which provides that employers may be represented by an employee or a’ member or officer of an organization of which the employer is a member. This means that an employer may engage anybody to act as an industrial officer. The more efficient such an officer is, in. respect of industrial matters and- the interpretation of awards, the more valuable will he be to his employer. Alternatively, an employer can become a member of the Chamber of Manufactures, which employs men to represent its members in the Arbitration’ Court. These representatives are just as efficient as the highly paid legal experts who have battened upon industry for many years, causing great expense both to employers and employees. The trade unions had to meet force with force. They found that laymen, like myself, were opposed in the court by King’s Counsel, who represented the employers. It would have been unfair to the huge army of unionists to take a chance of being defeated as the result of the greater legal knowledge and more persuasive powers of King’s Counsel as opposed to untrained men who had risen from the ranks of industry. And so trade unions were forced to employ counsel to combat the counsel engaged by the employers. Because of that the cost of arbitration became enormous and unionists wondered whether they were deriving any benefit from it.
Under this bill we not only seek expeditious decisions but we hope- to return to the stage where the parties can talk to men of industrial common sense, men who know the value to be attached to particular jobs. . When Senator Leckie spoke of achieving a minimum number of classifications in industry I interjected and said : “ That has already been done,” and in some industries it has been done. But it could be done even more often, if employees could meet their employers in conference. To take the motor industry as an example, employees who have legitimate grievances could meet their employers and say: ‘“The margin for skill for men in the top section of this industry, the toolmakers and fitters. should be so and so ; for men in the second group who are engaged in the production of the vehicle, the rate should be so and so ; and for men in the third classification who are not required to exercise a great deal of skill or concentration the rate should be so and so.’’ The trouble to-day is that when one ‘endeavours to approach these things in a common-sense spirit, one finds that one has to deal with a legal man representing the employers, whose whole purpose is to level men down instead of levelling them up. Whenever any suggestion is made to introduce appropriate classifications, one invariably runs against the stumbling block of the “ levelling down “ process. Furthermore,, the employer seeks to take advantage of the application of science to industry at’every turn. He is not satisfied with the benefits accruing to him from’ the introduction of scientific machinery but he seeks even greater profits by dispensing with skilled men. When he has successfully installed a new machine he says to some of his employees : “ Now that I have this man-made machine I do not need to pay you the same margins for skill, so after a certain date your margins will be reduced.” That inevitably creates a dispute. When the employees seek redress before the Arbitration Court the employers claim that all the men performing certain operations and working the same machines should all be regarded as’ process workers and their margins for skill reduced accordingly. I regret to say that in a great many cases the courts have acceded to that argument, particularly in the motor industry. These things have been going on for years. Can any one wonder at the discontent that has been created? We are made to feel that machines were created for the exclusive benefit of one section of the community, -whereas we should all participate in the advantages which enlightened invention has conferred on the world. If we can lighten labour and improve . production by the application of science to industry then obviously one section alone is not entitled to the exclusive benefit; we should all share alike in it.
This bill does not propose to take away anything substantial from the powers of the Arbitration Court. Despite what
Senator Leckie and other honorable senators have said the judges of the Arbitration Court are going to be fully employed in controlling industry. The Government does not propose to hand over to a body of commissioners the right to say what shall be the basic wage or the standard hours or the amount of ‘ annual leave; all those things are to be left to the determination of the Arbitration Court. The reason is that all States of the Commonwealth may be affected by awards and it is essential in the interests of uniformity that there should be a standard wage, standard hours and annual leave. All that is proposed to be left to the determination of the commissioners is the fixation of margins for skill, and such questions as whether or not piece work shall be applied to a particular ‘industry. ‘
– Can the commissioners refuse an application for piece work?
– Legally they can but in practice I doubt whether they will.
– Supposing the commissioners awarded piece work in the shearing industry?
– The shearers prefer piece work because it is a seasonal industry and they are naturally anxious to earn as much money as they can in the limited time available to them. Unfortunately, workers have had most unhappy experience of systems of piece work and they have learned very bitter lessons from them. It will take quite a lot to convince them that any system of piece work can function to their advantage. Conditions in industry have, of course, been revolutionized since I worked in industry, but to-day the employers have a scientific approach to the problem of what an employee can do. They have carefully “ time-studied “ every movement of their employees and the slightest waste of effort is eliminated. Take the case of an assembler. If he has to .walk a few feet from here, that is regarded as waste effort, and his work is brought to him. In that way he is kept employed every minute of his time. “When every fraction of waste effort has been eliminated a certain period is allowed which is called “ fatigue allowance “. If a worker in his “ fatigue “ period wants to obey a call of nature or to leave his job for some other necessary purpose, some one else steps into his place immediately and carries on his job. When employers have reached such a stage in the organization of their employees’ activities, they say to them : “ We will allow you so much per shift as the output you must achieve, and over and above that we will pay you a bonus for your excess production. “ But before the employer does that he has satified himself that his employees are achieving the maximum production, and the only way they can qualify for the bonus is by working excessively hard or by devising some, means of doing their job more quickly.
– In some cases men on piece work are making £20 a week.
– I should like to have details of such a case.
– But how long would they last?
– That is a matter oh which I could say quite a lot. My purpose is not to address the Senate on piecework but to discuss the effect of the application of science to industry and to allay the fears of honorable senators opposite as to what will happen if the proposed commissioners are appointed. The greatest obstruction to industrial peace will be removed when we eliminate those who are fattening on industrial friction; when we can enable the employees directly to approach their employers instead of having to combat men whose whole purpose is to set themselves up .as indispensable advocates in arbitra- tion by saving their employers as much as they can. The great need today is for a personal contact between employer and employee, and I hope we can return to the stage where employers will take a personal interest in their employees. If we achieve that I feel certain that the human contact, which has been lacking, so long, will operate to their mutual advantage and smooth functioning of industry. I believe that this measure will make that possible. If we can eliminate the hard words and the hard feelings engendered by the present system of arbitration we shall have gone a long way in eliminating misunderstandings.
It is proposed to appoint a’ chief conciliation commissioner who will be in charge of the other commissioners and who will direct their activities. Senator Leckie asked, “What are the judges going to do?” This bill conferson the judges of the Arbitration Court complete power to determine any point of law which may arise during the hearing of a dispute before a conciliation commissioner. If a commissioner wants a ruling on a point of law he has only to refer the matter to the Arbitration Court for decision. If he has not already made his order he makes it in accordance with the ruling of the judges. If he has made an order the court directs that he shall alter it in accordance with its direction. I consider that ample protection is provided, and that employers will come to appreciate the value of this legislation in saving them from heavy legal costs in presenting cases before the court. The employees will be contented to know that, instead of having to wait twelve months or longer to get a decision, their claims will be dealt with promptly. As an instance of the delays that occur, I remind the Senate that the basic wage inquiry commenced last May and that only recently an interim decision was arrived at. Such instances show how overburdened with work the Arbitration Court is. Honorable senators opposite say that, with this legislation in operation, the Arbitration Court will have little to do, but the time occupied is dealing with the basic wage case suggests that the court will be fully employed in the future. As the purchasing power of the people diminishes because of rising costs, it may be that further applications will be made to the court in order to maintain the standard of living. The working week, and such matters as annual and sick leave, will still be matters to he determined by the court.
It is proposed to appoint fifteen conciliation commissioners. Should they not be sufficient to keep the wheels of industry moving, I would favour the appointment of additional commissioners, rather than allow delays to occur. I strongly urge that the provision debarring legal practitioners from participating in hearings shall be adhered to, and that we shall return to a common sense basis of adjusting industrial disputes, because I believe that by so doing most of the time lost in industry will be eliminated and, as the Leader of the Opposition put it, we shall really achieve peace in industry in this country.
Debate (on motion by Senator Clothier) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) proposed -
That the Senate do nowadjourn.
– I am concerned at the slow progress that has been made . towards ‘ the production of an all-Australian motor car. Something has gone wrong. Yesterday, in reply to a question, the Minister for Munitions (Senator Armstrong) informed me that investigations were being undertaken in the United States of America, and that it was hoped that an all-Australian car would be produced in 1948. Over two years ago the Government was active in its endeavours to place an Australian-made car on the market. General Motors-Holden’s Limited was interested in the proposal and worked on it for eighteen months. It was generally understood that that company had completed arrangements for the making of a motor car which would meet Australian requirements. That pronouncement was sweet music to the ears of those engaged in the motor body building industry, because they believed that with so much wealth in the hands of the people, because of savings made by them during the war, their industry would revive. It was hoped that it wouldbe possible to produce an Australian motor car at a price within the reach of many Australians, as that would ensure full employment in allied industries. In to-day’s, Adelaide Advertiser it is reported that Mr. E. J. Hartnett, who, as manager of General Motors-Holden’s Limited, had shown keen interest in the production of an Australian motor car and had co-operated with the Government in its development, had relinquished his position with that company, and would proceed to the United States of America to investigate the possibilities of producing an all Australian vehicle. Newspaper reports also state that the Kaiser organization in the United States of America is interested in the production of a car for the people. It would appear that, despite their interest in this subject, these companies have done very little, because there is still no people’s car. Had General Motors-Holden’s Limited proceeded with its proposal it is probable that an Australianmade car would now be available at about £400. I wonder whether the trade regarded it as uneconomic to produce an Australian-made car to be sold at that price when imported cars were being sold for as much as £850. The Australian people are entitled to know why General Motors-Holden’s Limited has not proceeded with its programme, and why it is necessary for Mr. Hartnett to tour America. The press statement further intimated that the Prime Minister (Mr. Chifley) had announced that the Government had decided to admit only utility trucks and similar vehicles and to exclude motor cars. Does thatmean that the Australian industries . are now in a position to manufacture a complete Australian car, including chassis and body ? If not, what does it mean? As the representative of thousands of employees engaged in the motor-body building industry, I am anxious to know, because unless Australia can produce a motor car at a price which the average Australian can afford to pay theindustry will lag. I hope that the Minister will be able to give a satisfactory, reply to my representations.
– in reply - I regret that the Minister for Munitions (Senator Armstrong) is not in the chamber at the moment because of other pressing duties. Earlier to-day I heard the Minister’s reply to a question asked by Senator Finlay regarding the manufacture of an all-Australian motor car. The honorable senator is disturbed because of a press report. I assure him that it will be investigated, and I am confident that when the Minister for Munitionsreplies to his representations his fears will be removed.
The. decision of the Government to restrict the importation of motor vehicles to utility trucks and similar vehicles has no bearing on the production of an allAustralian car, but is governed by the dollar position.The Government believes that it would not be justified in allowing the importation of luxury motor cars in large quantities when there is a shortage of utility and goods-carrying vehicles and when, in the interests of Britain particularly, every effort must be made to preserve dollars.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Public Service Act - AppointmentsDepartment of Supply and Shipping W. D. Keating, D. F. Urquhart, J. E. Webb;
Papua-New Guinea Provisional Administration Act - Ordinances - 1947 -
No. 2- Supply (No. 2) 1946-1947.
No. 3 - Native Labour (Wages and Conditions of Employment) 1947.
Senate adjourned at 10.11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 May 1947, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1947/19470508_senate_18_191/>.