4th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.3a a.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if he has read in this morning’s newspaper that another civilized country, namely, Portugal, has decided to spend’£8,000,000 at the earliest possible moment upon her. navy, and if he will keep these portents in mind, with a view to framing a liberal naval scheme later on?
– I have not read the statement referred to, but I say to this House and to the Australian people that, while the Government will safeguard the interests of the community by providing naval and military defence, it will not declare to the world that the aim and object of its existence is to spend money for defence purposes.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to convey to the world that self-preservation is no longer the first law of nations?
– I merely wish to say that what has lived in the world has been ethical ideas, not those asserted by force of arms.
– Ethical ideas plus big guns.
– In view of’ the bloodthirsty principles enunciated by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition while his chief is away, ought he not to be put under control?
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs yet received the record of the readings of the gauge on the Cotter River; and, if so, will he lay it on the table for the information of honorable members?
– I shall have great pleasure in doing so.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs yet received a report from Mrs. Barrington, giving the name of the swagman to whom she referred and the polling-places where he voted, and has she said whether he visited them by motor car or aeroplane?
– The Department is endeavouring in every way to bring together as soon as possible Mrs. Barrington, with her great imagination, and the swagman she mention’s, with his wonderful powers of locomotion.
Mr. KING O’MALLEY laid upon the table the following paper -
Federal Capital Site - Water Supply- Discharges of the Cotter River, 20th May to 29th June,1910.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. John Thomson) agreed to-
That a return be laid upon the table of the House, showing -
The total cost of establishing the Telephone Exchange at Ulmarra, New South Wales, setting out -
Cost of erection of lines.
Cost of supervision.
Total length of lines in network.
Average cost per mile.
Cost of eachsubscriber’s telephone instrument.
The number of subscribers.
What additional officers (if any) have been employed consequent upon the establishment of exchange at Post Office, with salaries paid.
The total revenue derived from such exchange including subscribers’ fees and trunk-line conversation charges.
– I presume that the honorable member does not wish the information to be printed. If he gets a copy of the return that will be sufficient?
Debate resumed from 27th July (vide page 773), on motion by Mr. Hughes: -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I hope that now that the members of the Opposition have had some considerable timefor looking into the very simple proposals contained in the Bill, they will be able to make up their minds regarding them. Those who have spoken appear to be very undecided. I am surprised that delay is asked for, seeing that most of the members of the Opposition were members of the House when the original discussion on the questions at issue took place.
– We had not had time to read the Bill when we were first asked to discuss it.
– It would not take long for capable men to grasp the meaning of the clauses of the measure, especially since these clauses deal with questions which they have heard discussed. A somewhat unusual expression applied by the honorable member for Parkes some time ago seems to me to fit the present case. He spoke about there being a large degree of inflammation in the discussion of certain subjects. That seems to me to fit the present discussion. The two great Melbourne dailies oppose the proposal for preference to unionists. The Argus does so on the ground that the union entrance fees may be prohibitive, overlooking the fact that a union whose entrance fees are prohibitive could not be registered, and could not apply to the Court. The leaders of trade unionism favour the open-door policy. The only instance in which a union has had somewhat restrictive entrance fees is the noted New South Wales case of the coal lumpers’ union. Whatever may be said from the point of view of the members of that union, it is well known that the policy of the Labour organizations has been to have an open door. Therefore the statements of the Argus are unfair even for an anti-Labour newspaper, and show what the honorable member for Parkes terms a large degree of inflammation. The Age, on the other hand, makes a wrong use of the statistics which are available. What we at present lack is statistics bearing on a number of phases of the social problem. But this being a goahead Government, questions are to be asked during the compilation of the census which will give us information regarding a variety of things about which we need it.
– I hope that the figures will be more accurate than some that are supplied to us.
– They will be as accurate as can be obtained. According to the Age, there are only 153,000 unionists in the Commonwealth, of whom 75 per cent. are in New South Wales. Every one knowing Australian conditions must be aware that there are proportionately as many unionists in Victoria as in New South Wales. The arbitration law of the latter State, however, requires unions which organize and register to send in returns. Many unions exist elsewhere which do not make returns. Their numbers, although known to us who are keenly interested in these matters, are not known to the public. The Age is also wrong in assuming that those who are not members of unions at any given time are non-unionists. In connexion with many of the unions, such as the Amalgamated Miners’ Association, men contribute only while in work, and, when not contributing, are not counted as unionists.
– Can they vote just the same?
– That depends upon the rule of the union. Some unions limit the time for which a man’s name may remain on the books after he has ceased to contribute. In other cases, men contribute to unions, as to the Shearing Union for example, only when they happen to be engaged in a particular kind of work. Some men who follow more than one occupation contribute to more than one union. The majority of the rural workers, who are now being organized, are also shearers and members of the Australian Workers Union. Many of these men are joining the Rural Workers Union, which is now being formed, and paying to the Australian Workers Union as well.
– And being counted in both organizations.
– No ; because the Rural Workers Union has not yet been registered.
– The Bill deals only with registered associations.
– Every child who can read could tell us that.
– A man requires to be pretty rich to belong to all these unions.
– That is not so. The fees are made very low, having regard to the position of the workers. There is just as much common sense among trade unionists as there is amongst commercial men. No class in this world has a monopoly of brains. Because a man possesses 4½d. more than his neighbour, that is no reason for inferring that he has more intelligence. Often he has less. I desire to put this matter from the stand-point of the public interest. I am not speaking now as a partisan. I am endeavouring to avoid manifesting any warmth or imparting any party colour to my remarks. I wish to put the case fairly as a representative of the people, -and to give such information as I possess. One feels a considerable amount of diffidence in addressing himself to this subject after listening to the utterances of the honorable member for Flinders, who observed that we on this side of the House know nothing about the matter, and are quite impracticable in our ideas, especially with respect to country interests. It was peculiarly interesting to hear the honorable member delivering himself. But I have yet to learn that the honorable member for Flinders has had experience of being roused out of bed at 4 o’clock on a cold winter’s morning to bring out the cows in a slushy yard for a “ refresher “ of £1 a week. On the other hand, some honorable members on this side of the chamber have had a good deal of practical experience. I have been engaged both in the harvest field and in dairying.
– It is the State cow that the honorable member for Flinders knows how to milk !
– I would not say that.
– Would the honorable member for Flinders know enough to become a secretary, and let others do the rouseabout work?
– Well, I have had some practical experience which, I venture to say, has not fallen to the lot of the honorable member. There is a considerable degree of misunderstanding, which is, perhaps, natural and excusable, on this subject, and which may not be entirely due to what may be called prejudice. The whole aim of this legislation is to secure industrial peace. Trade unionists have been asked to give up a very great deal. The only weapon they have ever had for securing better conditions - a weapon which has been used with varying degrees of success, but with a very large measure of success as far as it has resulted in securing better wages, shorter hours, and a better status generally - is the barbarous one of striking. That is a weapon that becomes more evil in its effects as society becomes more complex, and as the union movement - the collective system - becomes stronger and more widespread. Trade unionists, however, have agreed to give up this powerful weapon, and to submit their interests to the arbitrament of one man - a man not of their class, no matter how able he may be, but who is appointed to decide finally between employes and employers. His decision must depend upon his capacity, and upon the case presented by the parties to the plaint. That is the situation under the arbitration system. Under the Federal Arbitration Act with which Ave are dealing just now, and in which a few amendments are proposed,we are so limited by certain vague expressions in the Constitution that at present the law is not of muchvalue. What I am endeavouring to do this morning is not to indulge in word-spinning, such aswe heard the other night. I am not draAving a fancy picture ofwhat might happen. Iwish to deal with what has happened, andwhat is going to happen. It is of no use to talk about what may possibly occur under circumstanceswhich can onlywith difficulty be imagined. Wewant to knowwhat is likely to happen, and how the present lawworks and hasworked in the past. To use a term employed by the honorable member for Echuca,wewant to dealwith the matter in the light of experience, and not trouble ourselves with difficulties that may suggest themselves to the minds of legal men based uponwhat supposed persons may do under supposed conditions. We are, I say, limited by the Federal Constitution. At present only a few organizations can come under the Federal Act at all. Those are the larger organizations which are federated in the various States andwhich are intimately connected Avith a number of sections pertaining to various industries.
Having in view the present limitations, the Government have very wisely made provision for including smaller organizations. No one knowshow far this may carry us, because, unfortunately, our Court has been in the habit of applying the dicta of other Courts to Federal legislation. But whatever the effect may be in law, the aim is a right one, namely, to provide that groups of industries may come in under the Federal Act.
– Does the honorable member mean related industries?
– Yes, groups of related industries. The point is this : If we aim at securing industrial peace, and require registered organizations to give up the weapon of the strike, it is manifestly a foolish thing to leave it open to a small section of Avorkers Avho are unregistered under the Federal Act because of the small ness of their organization, to throw the whole of the big industry idle because they choose to go on strike. That, hoAvever, is Avhat can take place now owing to the loopholes in our legislation.
– Does the honorable member say that a small section in a trade can throAv the Avhole industry into idleness?
– The honorable member knows - no one better than he - that there are industries in which such a thing can occur. . Take the coal-mining industry. The wheelers belong to the large organization, but if the wheelers went on strike a mine could not work.
– Quite right.
– In the pastoral industry the same thing applies. If the shed hands go on strike the shearers cannot work ; if the shearers go on strike the shed hands cannot work.- In every industry there are subsidiary occupations the members of some of which have organizations df their own, whilst others have not. Those who have no organizations of their own and do not belong to the principal organization in the industry, often have it in their power to stop the whole industry without any recourse being had to the Court.
– The reason why I did not follow the honorable member was that he used . the term ‘ ‘ the whole industry “ in rather a loose sense. I took him to be, referring to the whole industry of coal -getting in any one particular State.
– What I have said applies to most industries. The coal industry, however, is so important that a cessation of work in it has the effect of throwing a large number of manufacturing industries idle. These considerations emphasize the point with which I am dealing, that we ought to have sufficient power to stop strikes absolutely - that we ought to find a means of preventing such a thing as throwing a whole industry into idleness. If we have not that power at present, we are not carrying out the aim of securing industrial peace by law.
– Does the honorable member think that any machinery we could ever set up will stop strikes?
– My opinion frankly is this- that the subject with which we are dealing is so inherently complex and difficult that no scheme which can be evolved will work entirely satisfactorily. But out of several expedients we choose the best; and I say that the system of conciliation first and of arbitration as a supplement to it is the best that can be evolved. Certainly it is a great deal better than letting matters alone. I do not. say that we shall ever succeed completely. There may be some odd strikes, but that is no argument against trying to stop them. Experience has shown, however, that, with a conciliation and arbitration system in existence, the strikes that occur are trifling compared with the evils that prevailed before we had this means of settlement. Even when strikes do occur there is invariably another side to the case. I do not, however, want to go into that matter now, because I admit frankly that you have to start by recognising that there are inherent difficulties. I only wish to have it remembered that it is of no use to bring forward little points, and to say that this thing and that can be done, as a reason for not passing this legislation. The trouble at present is that if a scheme of settlement is arrived at on behalf of an organization and its members, there are sometimes persons employed in subsidiary branches of the occupation affected who may not be separately organized, and who cause difficulty on their own account. Undoubtedly, therefore, power ought to be given to the Court to recognise the situation, and to include them in the settlement. It is therefore contended that power should be given to the Judge to deal wisely and fairly with cases brought before him, with the object of securing complete industrial peace. It would surely be a foolish thing to allow any one small section engaged in an industry to upset the whole. This is an argument against what was done by a previous Parliament in shutting out from the benefits of the Federal Act certain sections of employes. If the principle of conciliation and arbitration be a good one, why should any section of employes be able to commit a breach of the law or to upset what the law has decreed? There is no sense in leaving it open to one particular section of workers to go on strike whilst others are prevented from doing so. That is exactly what this Bill says. It is urged by honorable members opposite that the measure should not apply to farm labourers. Well, farm labourers are becoming organized. All sections of labour are becoming organized. Farm labourers at present often have it in their power to upset an industry. Consider what was done in New Zealand. We all know that when the grain is ripe and ready to fall to the ground, if it be not cut within a certain time loss to the farmer is entailed. The farm labourers, when the grain had reached that stage, went on strike in New Zealand and demanded 2s. 6d. an hour for their labour. They got it. The same sort of thing has taken place in Canada.
– How could this measure prevent that ?
– We are proposing to prevent such a state of things. It would appear that a number of honorable members .opposite prefer to give a chance to farm labourers to strike. I do not know why they- should take up that attitude. I do not know why they should desire such things to occur in “Australia as happened in New Zealand, when the farm labourers were able to insist on their demands simply because the farmers had to get their crops cut or the grain would have dropped out of the ear. Ours is a climate in which the grain ripens quickly, and has to be cut promptly. To leave the farm labourers outside the operation of such a law is wrong in principle. If it be wise to have certain conduct declared a crime for one section of the people it should be a crime for another section. Otherwise a very bad ethical effect is created. Other honorable members fear that domestic servants may get advantages under the Federal law. If they become organized they should get an advantage from it. It might be difficult to apply such a law to them, but we merely seek to declare that they shall not be differentiated from other sections of workers. If they become organized and registered we seek to provide that they shall not go on strike, but must, if they are discontented with their conditions, appeal to the law. There ought to be this equality, and for that reason the Government are acting properly in proposing to repeal the existing provisions.
– If rural workers strike, how can they be penalized ?
– The honorable member has only to read the Act to see that a penalty may be enforced against their organization.
– How can a penalty be enforced against thousands of men?
– The penalty can be enforced ‘ against their organization and its funds. The honorable member was not present when, in answer to an interjection, I stated that there are inherent difficulties in this form of legislation which have to be recognised. There is a limit to what we are able to do, and we are forced to make a choice of the best of alternatives.
– This is a very crude way in which to deal with the matter.
– It may be, but I should say that it is better than the old crude way of strikes. If the honorable member for Echuca is in favour of strikes, I can assure him that I am not, and never was. If he intends to oppose the repeal of the provision to which I have referred it must be because he is in favour of strikes and in favour of the farmer being placed at the mercy of his men at any time. I can assure the honorable member that if this provision is not repealed, the farmers will be placed in that position as sure as fate, because the rural workers are becoming organized, and the men who are taking the lead in that organization are veteran and experienced trade unionists, who have fought many an industrial battle, and know what strikes are. They will not consent to continue to labour under conditions which they do not approve, and the Government in this Bill, by repealing the provisions to which I have referred, are affording them an opportunity to secure the peaceful settlement of disputes by a judicial tribunal instead of by the old crude weapon of the. strike. Coming now to the question of preference to unionists, which is giving rise to a good deal of commotion, I should like to ask honorable members who took part in our previous legislation on this subject, what has been the effect of the limitations upon that principle imposed in the existing Act. I may remind them that this House, in dealing with the question, was almost unanimous on the subject of granting preference to unionists, but many believed that the application of the principle should be limited. The present Government, in the Bill before us, are proposing a limitation of the principle, which I do not consider fair. They propose that preference to unionists shall only be given where a minimum wage is fixed. I do not think that is a reasonable limitation of the application of the principle. Many cases may come before the” Court in which the question at issue will not be a minimum wage, and will not depend on the remuneration of the employes at all.
– It seems to me that the guarantee of a minimum wage in an industry should be regarded as a reason against preference, and not for it.
– I am giving my personal view of the matter”, and I say that I do not see the necessity for limiting the application of the principle in the way proposed. I think that preference to unionists should apply to every award which the Arbitration Court makes. I ask what has been the effect of the limitations we imposed in the existing Act, upon the granting of preference to unionists. We provided that the Court might give preference to the members of a union if its rules did not provide for money contributions for political purposes. That provision was modified, and we set out a long list of matters covering a great deal of industrial ground, which, if dealt with politically by the members of a union, should not debar them from preference. The provision was a half-hearted affair, and it was not worth our while to include it in the Act. In section 55 we embodied other limitations which, as pointed out by myself and others at the time, it was impossible for the unions to comply with. The provision was that preference might be granted by the Court in cases where the majority of those affected by an award were members of a union. That was a thing impossible of proof. We might just as well have refused preference to ‘unions, as that was professing to give it with one hand and taking it away with the other. It was an unfair provision, and was not creditable to this Parliament, because it was opposed to common-sense. We should have left it entirely to the Judge of the Arbitration Court, on the evidence, to say whether he will give preference or not. That was done in the original New South Wales Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Until certain cases were taken to the higher Court, when Mr. Justice Cohen was acting, and gave certain decisions, preference was regularly given, and I venture to say that no one ever heard a complaint of the working of the Act. No harm was done; there was no upheaval of society, and everything went on with greater harmony than before. 1 can give some of the effects of our legislation to emphasize my contention that the granting of preference to unionists exercises no coercive influence - that is, does not induce men to become members of unions. In 189 1, before this kind of legislation was enacted, the Shearers’ Union had a conference with employers, in which they gave up their previous claim to refuse to work with nonmembers. Some held that men had been coerced into joining the union, and they conceded the point, and -agreed to work with non-members. They made a collective bargain with the employers on those terms. What was the result? The opportunity was afforded for a test of the question whether, under ordinary conditions, men would voluntarily join or would leave the organization. The result was that men joined the organization in thousands. When the agreement was broken, after three years’ working, the organization was thousands stronger than it was before the agreement was made. Let me give an instance from the later experience qf the same organization, though it is now called the Australian Workers’ Union. Over three years ago we had a settlement under the present Act by Mr’. Justice O’Connor, sitting in the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The Australian Workers’ Union is openly an organization that takes political action, and spends money on political work. In the circumstances, it clearly could not look for a grant of preference. It had the choice of abandoning the rules under which it spent money upon political work, in order to secure preference to its members, because the organization fulfilled the other conditions upon which preference might be claimed. The Australian Workers’ Union declined to do so. It sacrificed the chance to secure preference to its members in order to retain the power of political action. What was the result? Instead of losing members, it has increased its membership by 18,000.
– Surely that is quite irrelevant. It does not touch the point.
– Possibly the honorable member does not see it, but if he waits a little I think he will see the point. The honorable member is aware that the principal argument against the proposal to give preference to unionists is that it interferes with the liberty of the individual, and is calculated to drive him against his will into a union. I am with the honorable member in objecting to coercive influence. I am endeavouring to show that, without the right of preference to its members, the Australian Workers’ Union increased its membership from 30,000 to, roughly, 48,000 at the present time. The Union has been extended to States in which it did not previously exist, but it has increased its membership by at least 15,000 within the area previously covered by its operations. Experience has shown that in all cases where, whether as the result of Court decisions or conferences, mutual arrangements between an employer and employ^ have been arrived at, the unions affected have increased their membership, and it is only when there is industrial contention that their membership decreases. Men readily join an organization when it has secured advantages for its members as the result of a conference. When the conditions of an industry have been improved, men voluntarily join the organization that has secured the improvement. Some honorable members ask why, if that be so, we should seek for preference to unionists ; but I am pointing out that there is a good deal of exaggeration in the statements as to its possible advantages to the worker, and certainly a great deal of exaggeration as to its coercive influence in inducing men to join unions, which is the only objection raised to it. I am answering the objection of the honorable member for Flinders, who claimed that the provision was intended to exercise a coercive influence in order to build up trade unions. I have shown that without preference to unionists organizations have increased their membership. There is, of course, always an increasing amount of propaganda work going on, and men are becoming sensible enough to see that collective bargaining is best. Experience has shown that wherever workers are organized, their wages and conditions are better than where they are not organized. I might quote the case of the bakers in Sydney, which is known to many members of this House. Before the Arbitration Act was passed at all, unionists in the baking trade were working for 56s. for a week of forty-eight hours, whilst nonunionists in the same trade worked for 36s. for a week- of ninety hours. In spite of this, master bakers employing unionists competed successfully with those employing non-unionists, because of the greater efficiency of the union bakers. I say that experience has shown that preference to unionists does not exercise a coercive influence in forcing men to join unions. Under peaceful conditions unions grow, and we have to consider how they affect the employer in his choice of efficient workmen. The honorable member for Echuca has appealed to the light of experience as a guide, and, following his example, I think I can show that, even according to the admissions of employers, the best and most intelligent workmen are to be found in the unions ; indeed, it would be remarkable if that were not so. And here I should like to emphasize the fact that brains are necessary in all branches of work - that there is 110 such thing as unskilled labour. Some people describe a man as having a “ happy “knack, “ as distinguished from skill; but what/ 1 ask, is “ knack “ but skill?
– The unions are against any one who is not at the zenith of his power.
– Unionism is a direct benefit to all classes, and I never knew a man who was not made a better husband, father, and citizen by being a unionist. I have studied unionists, individually and collectively, for very many years ; and it cannot be denied that a man, when he joins a union, is placed in an environment which tends to eliminate all selfishness, not only in his relations with -his fellow workers, but in his relations with his employer. It is admitted that the most intelligent men are naturally the first to take steps to improve their conditions ; and the moral suasion exercised has a tendency to squeeze out those who are only casually employed and who cannot be brought to see the benefits of organization. Seeing that the best men are in the unions, no hardship or injustice is involved in asking the employer to give preference to unionists - he is only asked to employ the most efficient men.
– Would he not do that without being asked to do so ?
– This brings me to a point which the Attorney-General replied to by way of interjection; but, of course, a question of the kind cannot be properly dealt with in that way. The question is - Who will have to decide as to the relative efficiency of the workmen applying? and to this the Attorney-General answered that the decision must be left to the employer. So far as I understand the question, the Judge, in giving an award, would have to show in detail how the employer is to give preference. If two men appear, has the employer to ask which is the unionist, or what has he to do? All such contingencies, however, can be provided for in the award without any trouble; but I understand that, other things being equal, the employer must give preference to the unionist or be guilty of an offence. Suppose a unionist and a non-unionist apply for work, and the employer knows that the unionist is incompetent - and no one will deny that some unionists are - and the employer takes the better man in the person of the non-unionist, he must succeed in the event of the case being taken to Court, because, under such circumstances, there would not be equality of efficiency, and preference need not be given.
– The Attorney-General informed us explicitly that the employer would have the right of determination.
– The honorable member is very impatient, and. apparently suffering from that “inflammation” of which the honorable member for Parkes told us. In a case where the employer knows the non-unionist to be efficient while he does not know anything about the unionist, preference must be given as provided in the Bill. The same rule would apply where both are unknown to him. The AttorneyGeneral no doubt means that there is no proposal to take away the control of an industry from the employer, and that, if a unionist be employed and is found to be inefficient, he maybe dismissed.
– Leaving the employer to fight the union in Court !
– Under such circumstances an employer cannot get info trouble, because it is recognised by trie union that he must control his industry, and has the right to discharge a man who proves to be inefficient.
– Not always.
– But an employer does exercise such a right, and I think the right honorable member is referring to another set of circumstances altogether. This principle has been in actual working in New South Wales without any complaint. In quite a number of industries in which the majority of men employed are unionists, it is common for the employer to send to the union office if he requires a man. True, I have heard some say, “ Yes, and nice sort of men are sent !” ; but no union secretary who showed any favoritism could hold his position for a week. The unions in this connexion have a properly-organized system with a regular roll of unemployed, and the secretary must give every man his chance in proper order.
– Is the honorable member sure that there is no social influence used?
– None whatever ; and I can assure honorable members that there is no more alert body of men than the union secretaries. There are numbers of employers, and there always have been, who do not employ any but unionists if these can be obtained ; and this they do simply because they have more faith in unionists, and for other advantages which such a policy undoubtedly confers. It is well known to any one of practical experience that there is a strong feeling against any man who refuses to join a union; but I must say that the number of such men is very limited. It is a mistake made by many people to regard every man who does not join a union as a non-unionist. We take unionism as a principle meaning something - as meaning character - and there are men, who, distinguished from those I have just mentioned, may be termed antiunionists.
– The honorable member once said that a man who refused to join a union was not entitled to Christian burial. I saw the report of the honorable member’s words.
– I do not think I used those terms.
– The honorable member was addressing shearers at the time.
– I never said that, but I have said stronger things. Anti-unionists are altogether of a different class from those who are simply not members of unions. . There are numbers of men who are not in unions, but who are unionists.
– I am not referring to the honorable member having spoken of anti-unionists; he spoke of “scabs” and “ blacklegs “ as not entitled to Christian burial.
– I said that they were of the criminal type - that they were absolute criminals - and I say so again here and now. Employers with any sense would not have such men about them, and those employers who have employed antiunionists at higher wages than are paid for unionists, have done so under fighting conditions, whereas now we have in view peaceful times. I do not wish to be drawn into extreme statements, but merely to be understood as distinguishing between men who are not members of unions and men who are anti-unionists, the latter being altogether of a different type, who do not deserve consideration. I was sixteen years secretary ‘of a branch of a miners’ union which averaged about 1,400 members, and in all that time I knew of only three cases of men absolutely declining to join. The rule of the district was that every man had to become a member, and that rule was recognised by the employers to their own benefit. The number of men who have to be coerced is so infinitesimal as not to be worth considering, and what coercion there is, is not against the employers. The honorable member for Swan evidently has in his mind conditions quite apart from those of an award or conference settlementIt is true that men have refused to work with non-unionists, and that there has been trouble on this ground over and over again. To those members, however, who desire to have absolute freedom, I point out that the employment of unionists is altogether to the employers interests. If a man in a factory or. elsewhere absolutely declines to join a union, he is generally found to be- a mean sort of person.
– He may be a man of strong principles.
– He is frequently a tale bearer for the boss, and generally makes himself a much disliked person. Human nature must be taken just as it is, and, doubtless, if such a man is not amenable to persuasion, there is generally some cantankerous individual found ready to make a ““set” on him, and humbug him in his work until eventually he gets the “ sack.” And who suffers by reason of this disturbing element in a group of workmen? Always the employer; and hence, in order to make his business pay to the best advantage, he secures, the most efficient men and desires the most harmonious conditions to prevail amongst them, even though he may be personally prejudiced against unionism. Mr. Justin McCarthy, in his History of Our Own Times, justifies what takes place on grounds something like these : He says that if an employer finds amongst his workmen a man who is a menace to the safety of his machinery, he very properly gets rid of him as a dangerous man to have there, and he argues on the same lines that, if the unionists find amongst them one who is a disturbing element, and working against their common interest, they are equally justified in refusing to work or to associate with him. In a condition of things where organizations have the power of striking, and so upsetting an industry, there is naturally a fear on the part of employers of their becoming too aggressive when they become strong ; therefore it is quite natural for employers to refuse to do anything that would strengthen n trade union. Hence their objections to being asked to employ unionists by preference, and no one could complain of that attitude on their part. It seems to them a surprising thing to ask for, and they say, “ Why should I strengthen these organizations?” But honorable members must recollect that we are now dealing with a condition of things where the men cannot strike, but are compelled by law to appeal to the Court, where a Judge gives an award that defines the conditions. That award is not given on union requests, or on union threats to an employer to strike and upset the industry, -and so cause loss to him, but, being carefully selected for his impartiality, the Judge calmly applies to the question his judicial faculties, and makes the award upon the evidence submitted by employers and employes alike. He sits as the representative of the public, and his first consideration is the common good of society. The award of the Court, therefore, does not contain conditions demanded or fought for, or wrung by force, from the employers, because the only interest which the- Judge has is to promote the common good, and give fair play and justice to both sides. Consequently the suggestion that preference should be given under an award of that kind bears an entirely different complexion, and what might be an unjustifiable thing to ask under the old conditions becomes fair and just under the new. I have touched briefly on some of the variety of reasons for which members of trade unions have declined to work with non-members, and the kind of men that the latter usually are, but I want to mention another reason which is not so apparent on the surface. Every organization, whether it is a trade union or not, is a good thing. A man who becomes a member of a group is always made better by it. These organizations do an immense amount of good in assisting cases of suffering; they look after the widows of their members, and many of them have benefit funds, and so on. Every pay day there are appeals to them for assistance, and there are frequently cases where these cantankerous men, to call them by no other name, who refuse to pay their fair share towards die fund that enables the organization to assist cases of the kind, meet with fatal accidents, leaving their widows and children to the mercy of the rest. If they became members, they would do far better for themselves and families, but I am proud to say that the members of trade unions have enough manhood in them not to punish the poor widows and children. All the same, one can understand that it is a bit of a strain on some of them to give the necessary assistance, when they know that the non-unionist in question had the same chances as they had, but declined to make any provision for emergencies. They say, “ Why should we have to make it up .to them out of our pockets, when they had the same chance of insurance as the rest of us?”
– If you fine a unionist six months’ pay, then you do hurt the wife and children, and I have known that done.
– I do not want to be drawn into details, but I could give the honorable member scores of ‘cases which show that a little incident such as he has quoted is not worth taking any notice of. No one can expect perfection amongst all men, but I have known of cases in hard times in Great Britain where the wives and families of unionists were maintained by their fellow workers for a whole year, at a cost of many thousands of pounds. All the coercive influence that is put upon a non-member in the shape of moral suasion is for his own good. If he joins the organization it makes him a better man. I have known a few cases where a certain amount of pressure had to be put on some men who prided themselves on resisting all appeals to them to join the union, and who confessed afterwards when tl:ey did join that they were all the better for it, that it had made them better men, and that their families had greatly benefited. I have known men who were careless about their pay, and whose wives have made them join and keep up their payments. Cases like that should lead people i-ot to be prejudiced, but to make a fair analysis of the actual circumstances. Under the peaceful conditions of an award there is no reason for an employer to object to preference to unionists. Let me put another reason why, from the point of view of the general good, preference should be taken out of the hands of the Judge and made mandatory. The basis of all this system is collective bargaining. Both sides must have organization before you can have proper collective bargaining. The whole measure is based on that principle, and it is important that its administration should be policed. “We hope that power will be given to make the Act effective, so that it may deal with those larger areas where competition comes in more keenly. Where there is competition, as there is in manufacturing, for instance, it is manifestly unfair to allow any one employer to get an advantage over another by defeating an award which is based on fair play and equity. Unless the organizations are recognised and encouraged, there are no means of policing and enforcing the Act. That in itself should be a sufficient argument. I contend that if no injury is done to any employer, and if organization and collective bargaining and industrial peace are recognised as good things, all these benefits are secured by giving preference to unionists against anybody who is cantankerous enough to refuse to join. Seeing that there is no coercive influence upon a man to join something that he should not join, there ought to be no objection to the clause being made to apply all around. The honorable member for Flinders made some statements on Wednesday which I regret that he did not clear up. He seemed to be put into a rather confused state of mind by being called upon suddenly to speak, and I was disappointed iri him in that respect. He said there were associations or organizations that. were not trade unions, and that the Act would not give preference to unionists. I do not know what he meant by that, and 1 am sorry that he is not here to explain it. An association becomes an organization when it registers, and it cannot register until its rules are approved. Apart from that, it is only those engaged in a particular industry that can form a union for that industry. I cannot understand, therefore, how an association can become an organization, and its members not be trade unionists in the ordinary sense. No one could be admitted to the union unless engaged in the particular industry concerned.
– The honorable member for Flinders said he had no objection to trade unions, but that he did object to their being used for political purposes.
– But the honorable member spoke of those who were not trade unionists. The question of political purposes is beside the mark; they are stil. trade unionists even if they apply their funds; to political purposes. Every organization*, including the churches, is more or less political to-day. Those engaged in one organization cannot take into membership men belonging to other organizations ; they cannot get an award unless they represent a particular industry, and hence those who organize must be the employés in that industry. Therefore, no other body than a> trade union can come before the Court.
– Was not the honorable member’s point that there could bean organization without a union, and a union without an organization?
– It . cannot be anorganization without being a union. Thehonorable member preferred the term. “ organization “ because the law recognises organizations. Under the New SouthWales Act you had to register as a tradeunion first, and then register as under theArbitration Court when it was in existence.- there. But our case is different. An organization it a trade union, and can be composed only of those belonging to the particular industry concerned. It is, therefore, a trade’ union in the full sense of the word, and preference means preference of employment in that particular industry. If the members of the union are also politicians, I arc glad to know it. We hope that every member of the public is a politician. The fanners and selectors themselves are now all openly political, and the time has gone by when that sort of thing could be objected to. The honorable member for Flinders, and others, suggest that to bring farm labourers, viticulturists, dairymen, and others under the Act will be injurious to those connected with those occupations. I should have liked to hear the honorable member elaborate that argument a little more. If that is to be the effect, he ought to have shown how it is to be brought about. I should like to know what arguments he would use to induce a poor fellow who is working for 15s. or £1 a week to believe that it will be injurious to him to get 30s. or £2 a week. I think he would find it difficult, with all his ability, to convince that man that he was going to be injured. What I think the honorable member was driving at is the old stock argument that we have heard for ages, . that some men are worth more than others. The way that has always been applied is, that you should have the best workmen at a certain rate of wages, and the rest all below it, and that the employer is to fix what the wage shall be. It is just as well to recognise that that idea is knocked out altogether. Public opinion is against it, and it is just as well that we should realize where we stand on this question. ‘ Public opinion is against sweating of all kinds. The Parliament of the Commonwealth has declared that every man should receive a fair and reasonable wage, and a Justice of the High Court has laid it down that a fair and reasonable wage is that which will enable the most unskilled workman to maintain his wife and children as they ought to be maintained in a civilized community. That dictum has been indorsed by Judges in Arbitration Courts, both in New South Wales and Western Australia, as well as elsewhere. In the circumstances, therefore, why should we hark back to the old idea of what is a fair remuneration to pay a man ? Where there are no rules laid down, who is to be the judge of what is a fair wage? I have met many employers who, according to their own statements, have been most unfortunate, and have never had working for them a man who could earn his tucker. The truth is that they are unreasonable men. There are unreasonable employers and unreasonable workmen. Human nature is not altered by its division into two classes ; employer and employed. We say that human beings must be recognised as such. If a man happens to be less skilled than some of his fellows, whose fault is it ? It is not always his own. Have we not heard of the difficulties in the way of apprentices being properly trained so as to become skilled tradesmen? We are not going to allow a man to be penalized because he chances to be a little less skilful than some one else, I repudiate the idea that in some classes of employment no skill is required. Skill is necessary in connexion with everything that a man has to do, and every worker is entitled to fair conditions. The minimum wage fixed in connexion with any industry must be in accordance with the principle that the Commonwealth Parliament itself has laid down. A minimum wage must be fixed, and if some men are better than others, let the employers pay them more than the minimum wage. Fear has been expressed that farmers will not be able to pay a fair and reasonable wage, and, at the same time, make a living for themselves out of their land. I do not think there is any cause for alarm. We have had already a little experience in organizing farm labourers, and it may be news to the. Opposition to learn that quite a host of farmers are in full sympathy with this movement. They do not object to it; they do not object to the wage for which it is proposed to ask. As a matter of fact, many farmers are already paying it.
– Some farmers in my electorate are paying even more.
– That is so. One of the first steps taken in establishing a new organization is to ascertain what a fair employer pays, and that is taken as a guide in determining what the minimum wage ought to be.
– And the men who pay a fair wage get the best workmen.
– Certainly they do. There is a highly exaggerated fear that farmers will be crushed if rural workers are brought under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We say that we should apply to every industry the principle that we have applied chiefly to the manufacturing industries, and say that sweating of every kind must be abolished. Let me cite the experience of a friend of mine engaged in the dairying industry in connexion with which it is supposed that certain conditions are absolutely necessary. I admit that it is impossible in the dairying industry to get away from a working week of seven days, but my friend, who- is a most experienced dairyman in New South Wales, never works any of his men more than eight hours a day. Further, he does not (hesitate to say that dairymen who work their men more than eight hours a day do mot know how to manage their business. He has been in the industry from his boyhood. As a lad he knew what it was to be roused at 4 o’clock in the morning in accordance with the old idea that a start should be made at that time,, and he declared that if ever he reached manhood’s estate and had -.children of his own, he would take care -that they should not suffer the same experience. As a matter of fact he has carried out his resolve and has been most successful. He is frequently called upon to act as a judge of butter and other dairy products at agricultural shows, and is regarded as a thoroughly up-to-date man. It is very often due to a mistaken idea prompted by greed, that low wages are paid. Some men think that cheap labour and long hours alone are payable, but that is an altogether erroneous impression. Neither a man nor a machine can be continuously kept going with success for more than a certain number df hours. I would remind honorable members of the experience of the Austrian coal and lignite mines, in which, from 1884 until 1902, men used to work for twelve hours a day. In the last-named year a change was made to a working day of nine hours, in respect of about 75 per cent, of the workmen, and. since then, the output of coal per man for a nine hours’ shift has been 6 per cent, in advance of the output for a twelve hours’ shift, whilst in the case of lignite, the output has increased by 9 per cent, per man. Thus the employers who fought against the reduction of the working day from twelve to nine hours were fighting against their own interests. I can. support this experience from my own personal knowledge of what has occurred in Australia, where, under a ten hours a day system, the output per man was less than is obtained under the same conditions for an eight hours’ shift.. It must be recognised that the employer who fights for long hours, believing that he will be ruined if he is called upon to give better conditions, is fighting against his own interests.
– Has the honorable member seen the statistics taken in London in regard to the number of bricks laid by bricklayers there as compared with the average in the United States.
– Everything depends upon the thickness of the wall that is being built.
– What was the result shown by those statistics? My reading of them was that the eight hours per day American bricklayer beat the ten hours per day English bricklayer.
– We do not desire to adopt in Australia the American idea that only the man who can “go the pace” should be employed. No doubt the honorable member for Parkes has read Foster Fraser’s book, in which he describes a visit to certain works in the United States, and states that when he inquired, “ Where are the old men,” his guide, filling his pipe, started to move away. “ Where are you going? “ asked Mr. Foster Fraser. “ I am off to the cemetery,” replied the guide, “that’s where the old men are.” We do not want Americanisms of that kind ; we must remember that there is a limit to the best a man can give. We cannot run even a locomotive continuously. It must be laid up now and again, otherwise it will soon fall to pieces, and we cannot expect a human being to be always working. I cannot help recalling to mind an experience that I had when harvesting for a “ cockie “ who used to wish that a modern Joshua would come along and cause the sun to stand still so that he might have a twentyfour hours’ day for his men. That is not the principle upon which the successful man works. Some fear that the making of an award by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court in respect of men employed in rural industries will give rise to difficulties, but I do not think that it will. I recognise that there are on the land small men who are struggling hard to make a living, and who are naturally timid of such legislation as this ; but, having regard to the conditions laid down for the guidance of the Court, there is no cause for anxiety on their part. If this Bill be carried it will apply, amongst others, to gardeners. Will any one say that gardening is not a skilled occupation? In many cases men become competent gardeners only by years of study, yet that industry has hitherto been excluded from this class of legislation.
In some districts the gardeners are organized, and I do not think there would be any diffictlty in fixing anaward to apply to them. Then take the case of men who follow threshing machines. Are they unskilled labourers? Surely it should be as easy to arrange fair conditions of labour for them as it is to fix them in respect of other industries. The farmer need fear nothing from legislation of this kind. Under the law he will have an opportunity to state his case to the presiding Justice, who must be guided by the conditions ruling in the industry, and must fix conditions suitable to each branch of it. There are some branches of dairying in which it is unnecessary for men to work at night ; there are others, such as that of milk supply, where trains have to be caught and men must work in the middle of the night. All these facts will be taken into consideration by the President of the Court in determining what award shall be made, and to suggest that an extreme or unfair award might be made in any case is to show a lack of faith in the justice of the Court. There may be on the land men who are unable to pay more than they are at the present time, but the fixing of a minimum wage would not mean any serious increase of expenditure to them, because they do not employ much labour. They have a man working for them now and again, and on the better class of farms, a ploughman may be kept all the year round ; but taken, as a whole, the fixing of a minimum wage would not mean much to them. Even if it would, they would be morethan compensated by the carrying into effect of other planks in the Labour party’s platform. Our desire is to give them cheaper land, cheaper machinery, and low freights, so that in this way they will be amply compensated, and will be enabled to pay what they want to pay - decent wages to their workmen. I give the farming community credit for desiring to pay a fair wage so long as they can obtain for themselves a reasonable living out of their land. A good deal of needless alarm has been aroused amongst the farming community by what are purely political associations working for party purposes. We must get away from that. Legislation of this kind should be far above party politics. We are working in the interests of industrial peace, and should never forget that the Parliament of the Commonwealth has already declared that every human being working for wages shall receive fair and reasonable remuneration. Some people entertain a mistaken notion that it is only unskilled inferior workmen who receive low wages. Man has not yet acquired the art of living without food, and many excellent tradesmen, when out of work, are obliged to take whatever they can get because they cannot waituntil something better turns up. Where there is no organization there is no proper rate of wages. The rate is fixed by the most careless persons in the industry, and hence there are many well skilled workmen gelling far less than they are entitled to receive. The old-fashioned belief that the law of supply and demand regulates wages must be dismissed. We cannot go back upon the declaration which we have made. Judge Heydon has said that an industry which cannot pay a living wage should not exist. If diere is an industry in which a living wage cannot be paid, the man who is carrying it on should’ give it up and seek some other occupation.
– There are scores of small industries in this country which could not pay a decent wage unless they were protected and bolstered up by the Tariff.
– That may be, but the people of Australia have decided that it is preferable to bolster them up in that way rather than allow them to pay low wages. We set out with the declaration that every human being is entitled to a fair and reasonable wage, and we wish to establish the machinery that will carry out that intention. I do not propose to say much more, because I recognise that most of the details of this ‘ measure can be better discussed in Committee. But before concluding, I wish to express my strong approval of that portion of the Bill which is intended to give effect to a principle that is embodied in the parent Act - I refer to the principle of conciliation. In my opinion, the best feature of this Bill is that it provides for the prevention of industrial trouble. I have always been a great believer in industrial conciliation. I am glad to say that the organization with which I have been so long identified is at present working under an agreement which was arrived at with the pastoralists as the result of friendly arbitration. This harmonious relationship in the largest industry of the Commonwealth has continued during the past three years.
– Does the honorable member call the Newcastle coal strike an evidence of harmony?
– I am not discussing the Newcastle coal strike. If the clause to which I have referred had been embodied in the principal Act, probably that strike would never have eventuated. It is because our legislation has omitted a provision under which employers would be compelled to meet their employes in friendly conference when called upon to do so, that that strike occurred. I do not think it is worth while attempting to make this Bill as perfect as we could make it, if our Constitution were amended. Personally, I believe that this class of legislation, notwithstanding all its drawbacks, has come to stay. As a matter of fact, I think that, in principle, our social system is upside down. I. do not believe in the wages system at all. I believe in co-operation. But our legislation is now conforming more to existing industrial conditions, and in it I think we are making due allowance for evils which are inherent in those conditions. That is preferable to allowing industrial disputes to be settled by the old method of strikes. Nothing could emphasize this fact more than did the recent Newcastle strike when ships, factories, and men were thrown into enforced idleness simply because a few employers refused to meet their employes in friendly open conference. Their action in that connexion was disgraceful, and had it not been for the one-sided ideas of the New South Wales Government, that strike would never have taken place. I contend that the clause in this Bill which provides for conciliation would have met a case of that kind. Of course, it may be argued that that strike was confined to one State. I regret that technicalities have been placed in the path of this class of legislation. My own idea is that the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court should be allowed to settle every industrial dispute upon its merits. But, unfortunately, as the result of the intrusion of technicalities, the benefit that would otherwise have flowed from our industrial legislation has been minimized. When we secure an amendment of the Constitution, I believe that the principal Act can be so improved that it will meet cases like the disturbance at Newcastle, and that Australia will have practically seen the last of strikes of any magnitude. I believe that we are gradually attaining that end. As honorable members are aware, strikes have been much fewer during recent years than they were previously, although there has been an odd one occasionally. I recognise that there is a growing disposition on the part of the public to secure industrial peace by constitutional methods rather than by re sort to extreme measures. There is a more intelligent discontent with our industrial conditions than was the case formerly. There is nothing’ in this Bill which will operate to the public detriment but, on the other hand, there is much which will work for the common good.
.- The Bill which is now before us is an important measure, and not one, as appeared to be indicated, which is intended to deal with certain technical defects in the principal Act. It presents several aspects of the fundamental principles of the law relating to conciliation and arbitration. All parties are agreed that it is highly desirable that, in. lieu of strikes, with their consequent train of suffering and dislocation of industry, there should be substituted a more peaceful method for securing economic justice in the community. There is a general desire that economic justice should be done as regards every employé throughout Australia. I think it is the wish of this House that every individual should receive a fair and reasonable remuneration for the services which he renders. Now, the intention of our Constitution is to give effect to this desire in two ways : through the Commonwealth and the State powers. It provides that the power of the Commonwealth must be exercised in all those great industries in which disputes are likely to extend beyond the limits of one State. The Prime Minister has admitted, ina statement which he made to the press, that there are certain cases in which it would be better for the industries concerned if economic justice were meted out on the spot by Wages Boards. But whether our object be attained by a Commonwealth arbitration tribunal, or by a State wages tribunal, the general desire is that social justice should be done, that there should be no strikes, that there should be no loss of wages by employes, and that injury should not be done to the commercial interests of Australia. We must all recognise that a strike does not merely affect the parties who are most intimately interested in it. The men who recently went out on strike at Newcastle were not the only persons who were affected by that dispute. Themarket prospects of coal were affected by it, as well as our own manufacturing industries, to say nothing of the comfort and conditions of home life. Our desire is so to frame our laws that we shall secure social justice in respect to disputes. When we endeavour to obtain social justice by the absolute removal of the necessity for industrial conflicts, we eliminate that bias and fighting spirit which, as a rule, prevents the fair consideration of human claims. Consequently, this legislation is essential. I propose to deal with a few amendments which are contemplated in the principal Act, with a view to showing how they fit in with the general structure of legislation that has already been enacted by this Parliament. We have “ power to make laws relating to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.” That, of necessity, implies the. creation of some organization or some tribunal to secure conciliation. It also implies the necessity for erecting a tribunal in order to adjudicate upon disputes. Further, it implies that there must be parties to any dispute, and such dispute must relate to industrial matters. These are fundamental points, and it is because they are touched by the proposed amendments of the existing law that I refer to them, and will consider them in their relation to the structure of our past legislation. Of course, the tribunal must have jurisdiction over persons, and, consequently, the question which we have to ask ourselves from the beginning is, “ Who are the persons to be included within our jurisdiction?” The general scheme underlying the principal Act is that the Commonwealth would deal with national industrial disturbances, such as .the shearers’ strike and the marine strike.
– Is not a gardener a national subject ?’
– Generally speaking, the object of our past legislation was to empower the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court to deal with those matters with which, of necessity, a State cannot successfully deal.
– That does not appear on the face of the Act.
– At any rate, that was our intention. We can only deal with industrial disputes which extend beyond the limits of one State.
– That intention cannot be adduced from the principal Act.
– It. has been held by the High Court.
– The very contrary has been held.
– The High Court has never held that the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration tribunal has power to adjudicate in industrial disputes which are confined to any one State.
– But the honorable member spoke of “national” disturbances. A dispute may be a very important one without being a national one.
– What I said was that the Constitution authorizes the Commonwealth to deal with disputes with which individual States cannot deal successfully.
– A dispute may be petty and yet be important; even the number of persons interested in it may be petty.
– I quite agree with the Attorney-General. The first definition with which we are asked to deal is that of “employe.” I understood the AttorneyGeneral to say that his object in seeking to alter the definition in the principal Act is to make it read - “ Employe “ means any employ^ in any industry, and includes any person whose usual occupation is that of employe1 in any industry.
Is his aim to deal with the cases of unemployed persons in any industry? It is conceivable that there may be a dispute in an industry in which, in fact, no contractual relations actually exist at the time I do not know whether the Attorney-General is attempting to put into statutory form the effect of the judgment which was given in the Broken Hill Proprietary case? In that case the High Court held distinctly that, because there had been a temporary cessation of the relations between employer and employ^, that circumstance did not oust its jurisdiction. Does the AttorneyGeneral desire to put into statutory form the judgment of the High Court in that case, or does he wish to go beyond that judgment?
– Where any doubt exists that ought to be done.
– In the Broken Hill Proprietary case the Court said -
The next objection to the jurisdiction of the Court is that before the hearing the relationship of employer and employ^ between the employes and the company had come to an end, and that, therefore, the dispute could no longer be called an industrial dispute.
– When did the Court hold that the dispute commenced - before the cessation of work or afterwards?
– I will quote the exact words of the judgment. It reads-
The question then is whether the relationship of employer and employes had ceased using those words in the sense in which they are used in the Act, and, having regard to the provisions of the Constitution. The subject matter of the legislation is industrial disputes. Ordinarily in industries the men are not bound for any long period of service, the masters are not bound to employ the men for any particular period, nor are the men bound to continue to work for any particular period. Very often the men are paid wages by the day or by the week. But, although the men who are employed for the moment are not actually bound to come to work the next day, still, in the ordinary acceptation of the terms, the relation of employer and employe is understood to continue to exist. When there is a strike the relation has, in one sense, ceased. The employes have gone out of employment and have refused to work. But, in another sense, in which the terms may be understood, they were the very class of persons with whom the legislature was dealing when it made provision for the prevention . and settlement of industrial disputes….. Therefore, interpreting the words “ employer “ and “ employ “ in the sense in which, I think, that they were used by the Legislature, I think that the answer to the question is that the relation did not come to an end.
The Courts are specially instituted to deal with the temporary cessations of work brought about by strikes.
– That decision is a different one from the decision in Brown’s case.
– It is the decision of the High Court, and, in my opinion, a right and proper one from the point of view of social justice.
– Obviously the High Court’s decision is covered by the wording of the Bill.
– The Attorney-General seeks to extend the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court to persons engaged in domestic service, agricultural, horticultural, viticultural, and dairying pursuits. Certain words are to be omitted from the principal Act with a view to bringing that about, though the honorable member said that he was not sure that that was necessary, because he thought that the intention was made fairly clear by many decisions of the Court. I should like to know what those decisions are. Later, he read an extract from a judgment of the Chief Justice in the Jumbunaa case -
The term “industry” should be construed as including all forms of employment in which large numbers of persons are employed, the sudden cessation of whose work might prejudicially affect the orderly operations of civil life.
The Chief Justice is there referring, not to the Arbitration Act, but to the Constitution, as his opening remarks show. The proposal to which I am referring was discussed very fully on a former occasion, when I, with others, voted against the in clusion of the classes named, and a large majority agreed to exclude them. I still feel that it would be difficult for a Court to make an award applicable to the agricultural or dairying industries which would be suitable for all parts of Australia. In my opinion, disputes in these industries can best be adjusted by local authorities. The Queensland “law provides for the creation of Wages Boards. Australia is so large that we have great varieties of climate, and conditions differ in other ways, for various reasons. The conditions of employment in the tropics are different from those prevailing in the temperate regions. It is natural to desire the prevalence of uniform conditions throughout the Commonwealth.
– We specially provide for that.
– In my opinion, the adjustment of disputes in rural industries could be better undertaken by Wages Boards and other local authorities than by a Commonwealth authority.
– There is only a slight variation in the wages paid in these industries.
– But the conditions of employment differ.
-They differ within the borders of one State.
– Quite so. For that reason it is desirable not to bring too large an area under one authority.
– Will it not be very rarely that the workers in this industry will take advantage of the law ?
– Then why bring them under it?
– There may be very urgent cases.
– In my opinion, it would be better to let each State legislate for the settlement of disputes in these branches of industry.
– The effects of a dispute extend beyond a State, though the cause may not.
– The rural industries are not like the manufacturing industries ; There is not the same competition between farmer and farmer. We have no power to legislate for purely local disputes. We cannot legislate except for disputes extending beyond a State.
– The character of rural industry is being fundamentally altered.
– Quite so ; but the conditions vary with locality. It w.ould be impossible to lay down a hard-and-fast rule for the agricultural production of Aus: tralia.
– That is not contemplated.
– Is there much variation of conditions now ?
– The conditions under which sugar is grown in Queensland differ greatly from those under which wheat is grown in South Australia.
– The same award would not apply to each industry.
– Every award should be made by persons knowing the conditions under which it would apply. A maritime strike is essentially a dispute to be dealt with by Commonwealth Courts. The vessels on which our seamen are engaged constantly move from State to State, so that any maritime dispute must extend beyond the borders of a State.
– But all disputes are local at the commencement. The honorable member’s arguments are against the Bill itself.
– No. I . say that we must have machinery for settling disputes extending beyond any one State, but that merely local disputes are best settled by local tribunals.
– In view of the increase of our wheat production, it would be a very serious thing if the rural workers refused to harvest the wheat.
– That is not likely to happen under existing conditions, and even if a dispute arose affecting the wheat industry, different awards would have to be made to suit the conditions of different localities. Such disputes will be best settled on the spot by Wages Boards.
– It must be remembered that conciliation is now an effective weapon.
– It may be under this Bill, but if effective for the Commonwealth it will be equally effective for the States. I am arguing a question of policy, and say that there is no justification for the proposed step. The States are developing policies to meet their circumstances, and we had better leave local disputes to them. Coming to another matter, the honorable member proposes to define an industrial dispute as one extending beyond the limits of any State in relation to employment in an industry carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State, or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State. The words relating to railway servants have been omitted, but it seems to me that the pro vision to which I refer must, on the general reasoning of the High Court, be of doubtful constitutionality.
– The decision of the High Court has not gone so far as that.
– Does the honorable member think the provision constitutional?
– Yes. A Legislature should not shrink from exercising powers which are not ultra vires.
– The provision to which I refer invites contention, the issue of which is certainly doubtful. Let me read from the ruling laid down in D Emden* v. Pedder, cited in the railway employes case - “In considering the respective powers of the Commonwealth and the States it is essential to bear in mind that each is, within the ambit of its authority, a sovereign State, subject only to the restrictions imposed by the Imperial connexion, and to the provisions of the Constitution either expressed or necessarily implied….. It follows that when a State attempts to give its legislative or executive authority an operation which, if valid, would fetter, control, or interfere with the free exercise of the legislative or executive power of the Commonwealth, the attempt, unless expressly authorized by the Constitution, is to that extent invalid and inoperative. And this appears to be the true test to be applied in determining the validity of State laws and their applicability to Federal transactions. In that case there is an attempted invasion by the State ot the ambit of the Commonwealth authority. This case is the converse; but the doctrine is equally applicable.”
The ‘Commonwealth has no power to invade Ihe State field of activity.
– It has no power to embarrass a State instrumentality.
– Quite so. Therefore, the question arises : What is an instrumentality? The Court has held, as regards the railway servants, that theirs is an industry which a State can carry on without interference from the Commonwealth. There are other industries that can be carried on by a State - say, a State coal mine.
– It was never contended throughout that case that a State could indefinitely increase its functions and call them State instrumentalities.
– The only issue in the case was as to the State railway servants, and a doctrine was clearly laid down, as regards them, that was to be applied in each case.
– What was laid down was something quite different.
– It is true that no definition was given of what is or is not a. State instrumentality.
– It was simply laid down that a State’s railways were an instrumentality of the State.
– Quite so, and, at the same time, it was laid down by the Court that no decision could be given as to what is or is not a State instrumentality. But we know that, as far as Australia is concerned, there is no rule as regards the application of the functions of a State. A State in this country - very properly - simply acts on the principle that it will take whatever action is necessary in the interests of the public. The Attorney-. General is simply putting into this Bill words which invite litigation.
– They do not.
– That is a matter of opinion. The next important point to which I should like the Attorney-General to give full consideration is that he seeks to include in the definition of “ industrial dispute” “any threatened or pending or probable industrial dispute.” The words are exceedingly wide. They are not limited in any way by any indication which would show that it is only intended that the measure should apply to those disputes which may probably extend beyond the limits of a State. -Does the AttorneyGeneral intend, by the use of these words, to give the Court power to interfere in a dispute that is entirely a State dispute - or threatens to become a State dispute - and is not likely, by its very nature, to extend beyond the particular State in which it occurs ?
– These words are necessary for the purpose of amending the section relating to the conciliation power.
– Are they intended to give the Court or tribunal power to interfere in the case of a threatened, or pending, or probable, industrial dispute, even if it is not likely to extend beyond the limits of a State? If so, I doubt whether this Parliament has power to deal with the matter in that way. Are these words intended only to apply to threatened, or pending, or probable, industrial disputes of an Inter-State nature? I call the AttorneyGeneral’s attention to this point, and ask him to consider it carefully ; because it seems to me that, unless the clause in question is limited in some way, we are simply assuming a power which it is exceedingly doubtful whether we possess.
– I think that the words are a valid exercise of the powers that we have.
– The next important point is that the Attorney-General is asking this Parliament to confer upon the Court power to deal with conciliation in a fuller measure than hitherto. As regards that point, I am entirely in sympathy with what the Government desire. Because the more we use our powers of conciliation for the purpose of preventing disputes the better it will be for all parties concerned. I do not, however, commit myself to the exact wording of the clause. Our powers of conciliation are powers for the prevention of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any State. I am quite prepared to assist the AttorneyGeneral in exercising all the powers that may enable the Court to fulfil its function of conciliation. It is my desire to see the Court exercise its functions and powers as far as relates to calling the representatives of the parties together before any bitterness arises, to reason with them, and to endeavour to bring them to realize the injustice they may do to society in general by causing a dispute. The more we can do that the better for all parties concerned. As regards clause 7, I certainly can see no objection whatever to the principle which the Attorney- * General is asking us to adopt, as regards the power of amendment. If at the present time,” owing ‘ to some technical provision of the law, it is impossible for the Court to settle a real dispute between parties, because, owing to some mistake in the original plaint, they have not referred to something which should have been referred to, then I say that it is a wise and proper thing that the President of the Court should have the power of amendment, in order that he may deal with the whole matter which is the subject of the industrial dispute between the parties. That, I say, is quite right. If, in the course of the proceedings, it appears that something has been omitted, or that it is desirable to amend some particulars, by all means let the Court do that. But a point arises on a further power which the Attorney-General takes to the Court; and that is that the Court may - include in the award or order any matter or thing which the Court thinks necessary or expedient for the purpose of preventing or settling the dispute.
I think that if the Attorney-General looks closely into our powers he will find, as regards the amendment, that the power will have to be restricted to an amendment to include something that really does relate to the industrial dispute.
– Or for the settlement of it.
– But of course when you have your plaint filed, and the Court is dealing with it, and the matter is fully before the Court, all that the Court has to determine is the actual industrial dispute that is before it. Under the Constitution the power of the Court is confined to the industrial dispute; and the Court will not be able, simply because of this power to deal with an industrial dispute, to exercise the power of giving an award, or make some varying condition relating to something which is outside the bounds of the dispute altogether.
– It cannot create a fresh one, the honorable member means?
– Quite so. That is all I wish to say regarding that point. 1 should like the Attorney-General to satisfy himself, and to see that the power is strictly limited to the case before the Court. The next point to which I wish to address myself is as to that important part of the Bill relating to compulsory preference to unionists. What this Bill proposes is perfectly clear. When any dispute comes before the Court, and the Court fixes a minimum wage, it is provided that the Court itself, of necessity, will be bound to award compulsory preference to unionists. That is the position. In the first instance, I ask the Attorney-General to consider whether we have power to insert a clause to this effect. I ask him to consider whether we have only the power, under the Constitution, to deal with laws relating to - conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of a State.
We can make laws dealing with conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, and we have power to create a tribunal to determine and deal with industrial disputes. We cannot go beyond that. The power which is sought to be exercised by this Bill is that, when the Judge is determining the industrial dispute, he shall give preference to unionists. This power is only to be exercised when the Court is giving its award. The Court is to have no discretion. The Court must give preference to unionists.
– That is not quite so.
– I think what I have said is correct. The point I make is this - that if the Judge makes an award which fixes a minimum rate of wages, or rate ot remuneration-
– And there is something else.
– Then an application is made to the Court, and it must give preference to unionists.
– The Court also has to do something else.
– What I have stated is the essence of the tiling - that if an application is made to the Court, when it has made an award giving a minimum wage, it is also to give preference to unionists. That is the clear aim of the clause. What I desire to urge is that all that we can give to the Court is power to settle and determine a dispute. We have no power to make a law which has in its effect a substantial legislative enactment, such as if we said that preference shall be given to unionists all over Australia.
– Not at all.
– The Attorney- General will remember that before Federation was accomplished, one of the. most serious strikes we ever had in Australia was the: strike that dealt with the subject of freedom of contract. The honorable membesfor Darling recollects that strike well;. The dispute in Queensland - and I think: that such was the case in other States also - centred around the point as to whether the employers were to exercise the right of freedom of contract in the employment of labour. Before they would consent to aconference, they desired that this right should be conceded. It was, in my opinion, a very unfair thing for them to ask for a conference on the understanding; before they went into it, that an importantpoint in dispute should be settled in their favour. They should have gone into theconference with the view of having the whole matter settled there. But, as I have said, the essence of the industrial dispute at that stage was a question of preference or non-preference. That was an industrial dispute of a kind that the Constitutionintended should be dealt with by the arbitration tribunal. It was decided by the Convention that the Commonwealth should have power to create a tribunal that should decide questions of this description. The Constitution gives us powerto create such a tribunal, and we also have power to endow it with the determination of much larger questions than whether preference shall or shall not be granted. But what are we doing now? We are taking away from the tribunal the powerwe are taking away from the Court the discretionand we are practically saying that, in a certain class of cases, if certain conditions are fulfilled, then, as by an act of legislation, preference to unionists shall be granted. It is true that we are not confined to judicial methods. We are enabled, to provide some method by which a dispute can be settled. But we are now going further than that, and we are saying that in certain cases no dispute whatsoever shall arise. We are saying that, in regard to the question of preference or no preference to unionists, no dispute shall arise.
– Is there not power to prevent a dispute?
– There must be a dispute before the Court can intervene.
– To “prevent” a dispute does not mean that you can legislate so as to establish a tribunal which shall decree that wages and conditions shall be so and so; that the hours of labour shall be eight per day; and so forth. What is the difference between fixing absolutely a rate of wages and determining the question -of preference as is done in this proposal?
– One is a principle, and the other is a matter of detail.
– The honorable member cannot get over the difficulty in that way. “The fight which took place in Queensland and threw the industrial affairs of the whole State into confusion was based upon :the question of preference to unionists.
– Does not the honorable gentleman’s argument apply to every term of settlement?
– Of course it does, and -my contention as regards every term of settlement is that it must be left to the proper tribunal. Parliament cannot prescribe it.
– We have the right to make any laws we please for the settle- - ment of disputes.
– Yes, for the settlement - of disputes ; but we have not the right to r settle them ourselves.
– Why not?
– Because it is not a legislative power given us under the Constitution. I think the honorable member must see that it is not.
– We give directions to the Judge of the Arbitration Court in a number of other matters, why not in this?
– Only in matters of procedure. We give no direction upon questions which may be a subject of dispute. What right has this Parliament’ to step in and say, “ We shall decide what is to be done, and not the tribunal which we “have been given the power to create for the purpose.” I ask honorable members opposite to bear in mind that we are dealing with the general principle, and though what is proposed in this Bill may tell in their favour to-day, it may to-morrow tell against them. We wanted industrial peace, and in order to secure it, Australia said that she would enable Parliament to make a tribunal to bring about industrial peace ; not that she would enable Parliament to make the law to settle a dispute itself.
– We empowered the Judge of the Arbitration Court to grant preference before, arid I do not see the difference in this case.
– Under the existing Act we gave the Judge discretion to grant preference. We said that he might or might not give preference. Honorable members will remember that in every tribunal of the kind, set up before the establishment of Federation this power was left as a discretionary power with the Judge. In New Zealand the Judge decided that the granting of preference was discretionary. His decision was referred to the Appeal Court, and the Appeal Court sustained his opinion. Then doubts arose, and the matter was about to be taken to the Privy Council, when the State Parliament stepped in and settled it by passing an Act giving- the Judge of the Arbitration Court the power. In New South Wales the grant of preference was discretionary. The power which was given in the Constitution to the Commonwealth Parliament was to make laws for conciliation and arbitration for the settlement of any industrial dispute, not the power to settle such dispute itself.
– We are not proposing to settle disputes at all.
– I say that under the provisions of this Bill the Government are assuming for this Parliament the power to settle disputes, because they are providing that as regards one class of disputes, resting on the question whether or not preference should be given to unionists, the Arbitration Court is to be given no discretion.
– The Court has discretion.
– The Government propose to take it away.
– On the application of an organization the Court may prescribe a minimum rate of wages.
– That is discretionary and it is proper that the Court should exercise that discretion. The Court may give a decision that the minimum rate of wages shall be, say, 6s. a day. Then a representative of. an organization gets up in Court and says : “ I apply now for preference to unionists,” and under this Bill the Court will have no discretion, and the Judge will be bound to give preference to unionists. It is the same as if Parliament passed a law in which it said: “On the fulfilment of certain conditions, preference shall be granted to unionists throughout Australia.”
– Is not that a common thing ?
– It may be a common thing in connexion with matters concerning which our powers of legislation are unrestricted. But where our powers are limited, as they are in this case, to the making of laws for conciliation and asbitration, Ave cannot go beyond those powers, and assume legislative control for this Parliament in this particular matter as if we had complete legislative control over the whole realm of industrial affairs.
– We have complete legislative control over the settlement of industrial disputes.
– We have complete legislative power to pass laws for the settlement of industrial disputes by conciliation and arbitration.
– Quite so.
– Where is the conciliation or arbitration when the Judge of the Court is not allowed to arbitrate, but is bound to give a decision in a certain way whether he thinks it right to do so or not? We provide that the Court, in an award made on the application of any organization, may prescribe a minimum rate of wages, but could we provide that the award shall not prescribe a rate over 8s. a day ?
– I do not see the analogy.
– What is the difference between claiming such a power and what is proposed in this Bill ? Two questions arise between employers and employes. The employes claim a certain rate of wages and preference to unionists. In the absence of the provisions of this Bill, should arbitration take place we should have arbitration upon both demands. The arbitrators would consider both questions; they might say, “ We think that the minimum rate of wages should be 6s. per day; and with respect to the claim for preference to unionists we think that, in this instance, as the unionists have fought hard, substantially represent the employes in the industry, have a registry for employes, and, generally speaking, have acted fairly towards the employers, their demand should be conceded and they should be given preference.” But under other conditions, the arbitrators might take a different view of the second claim and refuse preference to unionists. The point I am making is that we have the power to establish a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration to settle industrial disputes, amongst those being questions as to the fixing of the rates of wages and as to whether preference shall be given to unionists or not.
– We need not give the Court power to fix wages at all.
– Surely we must give the Court power to settle a dispute.
– We need not do it.
– Order ! I have repeatedlycalled the Attorney-General to order, and I again ask him to cease his continuous interjections.
– They have been rather helpful. Honorable members realize, I am sure, that this is not a question of party politics, but of our fundamental powers. We must examine both sides. The question involved is a very serious one, and I am sure we have no wish to invite people to go into court unnecessarily. I do not know whether the Attorney- General has carefully considered the point I have urged, but I think he will find when he comes to deal with this question that disputes based upon the question of preference are amongst the class of disputes that it was contemplated should be settled by this tribunal. I have already pointed out that in the State of Queensland we had a great industrial convulsion which turned on that very question. Dealing with the 1891 strike, this is what Mr. Reeves says in his work on the question -
The issue between the rival federations of employer and employ^ - the Pastoralists Associa-tion and the Shearers Union - was that of individual bargaining. The squatters, whose Association founded in 1884, had become a strong and widespread league, were resolved to assert their right to engage non-union men, and when the Union invited them to a conference in January they answered that they would only accept if this right of free contract was recognised, and by this they meant individual bargaining.
The result was that a general strike followed. That is just the class of dispute that was in contemplation when the Commonwealth Parliament was given power in the Constitution to make laws for the settlement of industrial disputes. What was in the minds of Australians was the power to create a tribunal which would settle these disputes which formerly were settled by the barbarous method of the strike.
– It does not matter what was in our minds at all.
– I am referring to what was contemplated by the framers of the Constitution.
– By the British Parliament.
– The honorable gentleman will find that in the judgments of the High Court special reference is made to the Queensland strike and the maritime strike as indicating the class of disputes in contemplation by the framers of the Constitution when they proposed to confer this power upon Parliament.
– Only because of their Inter-‘State character.
– They were Inter-State. The honorable member must know that I have referred to what was the leading issue. It does not matter what the cause of dispute might be; whether wages, hours of employment, or preference to unionists ; these were all subject-matters of industrial dispute, and what was intended by the framers of the Constitution was that society should step in, and say that in all these classes of dispute, instead of resort being had to the barbarous method of strikes for their settlement, they should be settled by the more peaceful method of conciliation and arbitration.
– Did that not contemplate preference to unionists?
– That is exactly my point. It contemplated the possible settlement of a dispute by the grant or refusal of preference to unionists by an arbitration tribunal.
– Not necessarily.
– What else could it mean? It meant that a body should be created to settle all these different classes of dispute. What the Government are proposing to do now is to take from this tribunal the discretionary power to settle a dispute on the question of preference to unionists. It is the same as if we set aside the constitutional provision altogether, and said, “It is the will of this Parliament that there shall be preference to unionists.”
– Where is the difference between conferring a discretion upon the Court and taking it away? So far as “our powers are concerned is not the principle the same?
– The contention is that we can lay down the conditions under which the Court shall exercise its jurisdiction. But the Government are propos- ing that something altogether different should be done, and that in respect of this class of cases the discretion previously given to the Court should be taken away. In this matter we are taking away the power left in the discretion of the Court under our power to legislate, and we are assuming to say ourselves what shall be done ?
– It is Parliament that says it.
– My honorable friend sees the point.
– It is the representatives of the people who are to do it instead of the High Court.
– My honorable friend sees the point exactly.
– If he does he sees what is not there.
– The honorable mem-‘ her has had a great deal of industrial experience, and I should be prepared to stand by his opinion as that of a sound commonsense business man. What is proposed in this Bill is that this Parliament by exercising a legislative power shall do that which should be left to the jurisdiction of the Court. It is proposed that we shall say to the Arbitration Court, “ You shall not exercise jurisdiction in this matter. We shall say what is to be done.” It is just as if we had the power to frame a whole ret of labour regulations. My contention is that if we can do this with respect to one subject-matter of industrial disputes we can do it with respect to every other. The Attorney-General should look at the definition of “ Industrial matters” in the existing Act. It reads - “ Industrial matters “ includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, required hours, privileges] rights, or duties of employers or employe’s, or the mode, terms, and conditions of employment or non-employment; and in particular, but without limiting the general scope of this definition, includes all matters pertaining to the relations of employers and employes, and the employment, preferential employment- and so on. When the Act was framed we contemplated that this class of dispute was one in which the tribunal we created would have to decide.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.1 j p.m.
– When we adjourned I was pointing out that, amongst some of the industrial matters intended to be submitted to the Court is the very subject on which we are now legislating, as shown by the words of section 4 of the principal Act, namely, “ the relations of employers and employes, and the employment, preferential employment, dismissal or nonemployment of any particular persons.” I was contending that if the House claims the right to be able to decide arbitrarily that preference .shall be given in one way, there is no reason why we should not lay down terms just as arbitrarily in relation to every industrial matter and dispute. If we can say that preference shall be given to unionists, we can say that certain wages shall be paid, certain hours shall be fixed, and only certain privileges granted, arid also, on the application of any of the parties, limit the number of apprentices to be allowed to the number of journeymen. If we decide all these different matters, we substitute the will of Parliament for the determination of the arbitration tribunal, and really put ourselves in the position of being judges in our own cause. Clearly it was intended that we should have power to constitute a tribunal endowed with the judicial power to determine disputes; but we are going further and saying not only that we will determine disputes, but will legislate in such a way as not to allow a matter to even be the subject of a dispute. We take away the liberty of the subject by abolishing the right of even raising a dispute on a point ‘at issue. Is Parliament a proper tribunal to settle disputes between employers and employed? Should we take the place of the judicial tribunal? It might happen that one side or the other was deeply tinged with political bias in favour of either one or other of the contestants. Are we to have a determination not by a judicial tribunal, but by a Parliament dominated by one of the parties to the dispute? Let us suppose, for instance, the Parliament was absolutely under the control of the employers ; would it be right and just, then, for Parliament to lay down conditions and decide the point at issue?
– The honorable member will admit that Parliaments have so done in the past.
– That is foreign to the point, which is the right or wrong of the position. I should be sorry to suggest such a thing, but it might happen that the majority consisted of secretaries, presidents, and prominent members of unions; and, under such circumstances, I ask whether it would be right, in a dispute as to the employment or non-employment of unionists, to leave the decision to such a tribunal? Would such a policy not be contrary to the first elements of British justice ?
– It is what the representatives of capital have been doing for years - for centuries.
– And I understood that honorable members opposite regarded that as so great a wrong that they determined, when they came to power, to remove the injustice.
– Honorable members opposite only discover the wrong when they lose the power !
– I appeal to honorable members opposite to show the strength of their convictions. I am appealing on the ground of abstract justice for what is right as between man and man. What is proposed now is to declare that Parliament, which may have a majority representing employers or employes, shall, without hearing the merits of a dispute, lay down an arbitrary rule deciding matters which’ hitherto have always been the subject of judicial inquiry.
– This is not a matter of a dispute, but of principle.
– It is a question of the exercise of power - whether this House should determine matters which have always been left to a judicial tribunal.
– The honorable member’s tenderness is heartbreaking when we think of his hard-heartedness in the past !
– I can appeal to every vote I have given in this House in contradiction of that suggestion.
– I do not speak personally, but merely refer to majorities of the past.
– One of the elementary principles of justice is that no man shall be judge in his own cause. So far that maxim has been applied to industrial disputes; and they have been removed from the realm of party strife and warfare. The determination has hitherto been arrived at in a quiet, judicial atmosphere; and every question of whether or not preference shall be given should be decided on its merits. What is proposed now is to consider these questions from a political stand-point ; and we have seen the effects already during the present discussion, in the aspersions which have been cast by some honorable members on others. From the very nature of these disputes it is essential that they should be submitted to a judicial tribunal. I raise two points, the first of which is that we are substituting the will of Parliament for the will of the Arbitration Court, and that it is open to serious question whether, under the Constitution we have power to do so. The second point is that, seeing this is a question that strikes fundamentally at the relations between employers and employed, and is essentially a subject for judicial investigation, even if we had the power, it is better to leave the determination of it to the Court. What is the power that the Court should have? I have always held in this House that the Court should have the power to give preference to unionists if it thinks it right to do so. I am still of that opinion, with one modification to which I shall presently refer.
– Suppose we proposed to provide that the Court should not give preference to unionists, what then?
– I should say that we were doing wrong.
– Could we do that?
– I doubt if we could - it is open to question - but, at present, T am speaking as to the merits of the case.
– If we omitted all reference in the Bill to preference to unionists, could the Court give preference?
– It is for Parliament to confer jurisdiction on the Court; but it is another thing to assume that we have legislative power in a matter which, under the Constitution, should be left to the Court.
– If we give the Court jurisdiction cannot we limit it?
– But we cannot impose the condition that the jurisdiction shall be exercisable in a certain way. We could not call upon the High Court to give a decision just as we desired ; and the Arbitration Court should be as supreme in industrial matters as the High Court is in its” own jurisdiction. The constitutional power stands quite apart from the question of what power should be given to the Arbitration tribunal. I quite agree that the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration should have power to accord preference to unionists if it thinks proper.
– In other words, we can create a power greater than Parliament, but we cannot limit that power?
– This Parliament can exercise only the powers it has under the Constitution, namely, to make laws for conciliation and for arbitration. We cannot, under the guise of that powder, act as if we possessed full jurisdiction to deal with every industrial question, and I have already said that, even if we did possess the power, we ought not to constitute ourselves judges in our own cause. Preference to unionists is essentially an economic question that should be determined in cases of dispute away from the political atmosphere, and that end can only be attained by leaving it to a judicial tribunal. As to what power should be given to the Court, I have always contended that it should have a discretion as to preference. Let us look at some of the decisions and see how a Court has acted. In the case of the Bakers Operatives’ Association of New South Wales, reported in volume vii. of 28th April, 1908, we find the Deputy President of the Court in New South Wales giving his opinion on an application for preference to unionists, as follows : -
I do not think that there is any necessity to say anything further about the matter, except as regards the preference to unionists, and as to that, I should like to say this is eminently a case in which there should be preference to unionists. It appears that, so far as skilled operatives are concerned, not only does the union practically and substantially represent the industry, but in addition to that they have provided a registry as a means of keeping up at a moment’s notice the supply of skilled labour, which the employers have very largely availed themselves of in the past, and of which I have no doubt they will largely avail themselves in the future. Under the circumstances it seems to me the case is eminently one in which we should be justified in exercising the powers con- ferred on us by the Act, and in giving preference to unionists.
– Where preference exists the Court indorses it.
– It does not exist; the fact is that the unions are in such a strong position that they are helping the employers by providing a register, and are showing themselves to be a working social force, but it is left to the Court to decide the question of preference.
– In other words, the unions are so strong that they can practically command preferencewithout the Court ?
– And the honorable member desires to legislate so that unions which are weak and useless shall all have preference. Is it not better to leave such a matter to the Judge to deal with according to the circumstances?
– I think that when the unions give up the power to strike,they should have some concession.
– So they should, and they may get this preference. And that is not the only concession the unions get. The honorable member forgets that they have a concession in an award which can be given in their favour on the whole subject matter in dispute. Unions do not fight in order to get members, but because they believe there is a social wrong to be remedied by the Court. The question of preference is really an incidental one, though it must have the effect of strengthening the unions or they would not be so eager for it. But why should we pass a law saying that in all cases, justly or unjustly, preference shall be given simply because, in certain cases, preference is desirable.
– We do not do anything of the sort.
– That is the effect. Again, we find that in several cases, in the exercise of the judicial discretion, preference has been refused I could quote a case decided in New South Wales in 1905, where preference was refused, the union constituting but a minority in the trade. The conditions are laid down very well in the case recorded in Reeves State Experiments in Australia, page 112, vol. IT. He is here quoting from New Zealand, to show the way the discretion is exercised -
Where it cannot be shown that the existence and aims of a union are a help to other workmen in ‘its trade, as well as to its own members, and particularly where union men are but a fraction of those working in the trade, they are not given preference. This is clearly laid down by Mr. Justice Edwards in the Christchurch Engineers Case in 1898.
These were the words of the Judge -
The claim of the union to a preference,’ in my opinion, necessarily fails when it is ascertained that the union is not really representative of the greater number of the workmen employed in the trade, and the claims of the union have not resulted in any practical benefit to the bulk of the workmen.
These are matters that can eminently be left to judicial determination, because, in a case like that, after the unions had made their application, and the circumstances were such as the Judge indicated, who will argue that there should be absolute preference to unionists all over Australia? I admit that there are cases in which it should be granted, but there are equally cases in which it should be refused. It is wrong for us. to take away that judicial determination from the proper tribunal, and establish it by a legislative act. I have shown that in the case quoted, the Judge pointed out that there were facts of such a nature that the discretion ought not to be exercised in favour of the applicants for preference. That was not decided by a politician or a public man, but by a judicial officer, accustomed to weigh evidence and to look at matters from the stand-point of equity and good conscience, in. a Court guided solely by these principles. In the tribunals in both New Zealand and New South Wales the Judges have the discretion.
– Is a Wages Board a judicial tribunal?
– We are not discussing Wages Boards.
– The honorable member is laying so much emphasis on the fitness of the judicial mind to settle these things.
– Perhaps the honorable member disapproves of Wages Boards, and prefers a judicial tribunal. If he does, surely he will allow that tribunal to exercise its judgment, and not substitute the judgment of political partisans. I have now taken the three points - first, the constitutional power; second, that, even if we have the power, this Parliament is not, by reason of its bias, the proper tribunal to exercise it; and, third, that such Acts have worked satisfactorily, the Judges have shown a wise discretion, and cases have been decided in which preference has been granted and refused. Therefore, in the light of experience, the existing practice has been justified. On the point as to whether it is right to make preference compulsory as a legislative act, I differ from the honorable member tor Darling. I believe in every power arid right being given to men to organize and form unions. Undoubtedly through organization, fighting for their rights, and making sacrifices, great good has been done in the matter of social justice by the unions. But it must be remembered that there are persons outside the unions. It may be right or wrong for those individuals not to join a union, but should we take upon ourselves to dictate to them that they shall join, and threaten that if they do not join they will be excluded from certain benefits ? It is all very well to-day to say, “ They can get jobs of other descriptions,” but we must consider times of distress when thousands of workmen are thrown out of employment. Are we to say that in all cases and under all conditions only one class of persons shall have preference in employment, and that they shall be the members of unions? I am not condemning unionism, or saying anything against it, but, in these modern times, when we pose as Democrats, and claim liberty and freedom of action, and where it cannot be shown that that freedom has done any great social wrong, we ought, as far as we can, to leave men free. If we can so adjust our social arrangements as to enable unions to be freely formed to do the specific work which they are capable of doing usefully and beneficially for society, without at the same time inflicting a wrong and arbitrarily putting compulsion on every individual, we ought to hesitate before we exercise that power of compulsion. The honorable member for Darling pointed this afternoon to the splendid way in which the unions are growing. He said that there had been an increase in membership of something like 15,000 during the last few years. This shows that under existing conditions, without any statutory privilege or right, the unions are able to increase in power and numbers. But although there has been this voluntary increase in growth, and they are so wonderfully strong, they say, “We are going to compel even the minority to come in.” It may be right that men should join unions; a man may be wise to join, and probably, if he knew the benefits of unionism he would, but that is not the point. The point is that it ought to be in . the exercise of his judgment, not yours, and his right, not yours, to join or refuse to join.
– That principle is not applied to other things. People are mad? to pay their rates and taxes.
– That is not the ground on which the honorable member has been arguing to-day. I could go through the honorable member’s arguments, but it would take up too much time. He put his case clearly. 1 will say this for the honorable member, that throughout his life he has been an. example of fighting for principle. He has always reasoned things out carefully, lucidly, and well, and, therefore, his arguments demand the attention of the House. His long experience in this House has led us to treat him with respect, and I hope we shall follow his praiseworthy example, and try to discuss the question in the light of pure reason and justice. I have attempted to do so. Let me pass to another aspect which, so far, has not been discussed in this House in the debate on the question. Another section which is being repealed by this Bill is section 55.
– That was the worst and most impracticable section of the lot.
– It imposed the condition that no organization should be granted any declaration of preference when and so long as its rules or other binding decisions permitted the application of its funds to political purposes, or required its members to do anything of a political character. But under that section “ political purposes “ do not include those matters which are fairly and legitimately the object of a trade union organization, such as the preservation of life and limb, compensation for injuries or death, sanitation, sex and age of employes, hours and remuneration of labour, the protection of salaries and wages, and other conditions similarly affecting employment.
– Very few of those subjects are under the purview of the Commonwealth Parliament.
– But they are all within the purview of State Parliaments, and a question of politics can be raised just as much in a State as in a Commonwealth Parliament. The High Court has also very properly held that a State organization is entitled to registration. But even although these matters are within the purview of State Parliaments, the aims and political objects of unions can become
Federal as well as State, and surely the whole range of politics can be covered by those organizations. For my part, I have always taken the stand that if a trade union or organization wants to become political, it is a matter that concerns itself. I have never objected to their becoming political, but when they become not only an economic, but also a political organization, and approach a tribunal and ask for a preference, which is an economic preference, to be given to them, and which has the effect of compelling men who may or may not agree with them politically to become members of their union and subscribe funds for political purposes to which they may object, the community is entitled to step in and say, “ That is not fair.”
– They cannot find those men who differ from them politically.
– I am glad to know that the honorable member sees no difference between the political views of members on this side of the House and his own.
– Honorable members opposite are not wage-earners, or workers for a “ cocky “ farmer.
– Not all political purposes - only some.
– I have already laid it down that everything that it is really within the scope of the unions’ rights to fight for in the relations of employer and employed, or in the conditions under which the employe carries on his calling, should not be included in any sense in the category of “political purposes.” Everything essential to the union that it may accomplish the purpose for which it exists the union should be left free to fight for.
– But, according to the honorable member’s view, they could not fight for a Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– I do not say that. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act mentions the very things that I have referred to.
– They do not come within the purview of that Act.
– Surely the honorable member will not contend, generally speaking, that the hours of labour, rates of wages, conditions of employment, such as sanitation, and so on, would not be proper subjects to be decided by the arbitration tribunal ?
– Under the law as it stands the unions could not spend their funds in endeavouring to secure a Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– If there is any doubt on that point, I should be prepared, without hesitation, to give the unions express power to do it. But it becomes another matter when the unions go into questions which are not within their legitimate scope. When we were discussing the question last time, I moved the amendment, which was supported by the Government of the day, and it was carried in this House against the views of the then Opposition.
– We did the best we could in the circumstances.
– If honorable members opposite now consider that they are entitled to alter their opinion, I do not blame them, but that does not alter the question as to what is right and fair for the community as a whole. That is the position we have to decide at the present stage.
– We took the least objectionable proposition.
– That is quite possible. At the same time, what was least objectionable to honorable members opposite was to my mind fair and reasonable, and in that respect I cannot see any reason for repealing that section of the Act. I am afraid I have been led by interjections to say more than I intended, but we are deciding a very important question, and our general desire throughout should be to do what is right and fair for all parties in Australia. With industrial peace there will be progress, security will be given for the investment of capital, and the opening up of our enormous resources will follow. With industrial peace, and with a tribunal to lay down its decisions fairly and equitably, there is no reason why every individual in Australia should not be able to reach that standard of life that we all desire him to enjoy. If we continue the Act as framed at present, and allow the States to come in to deal with purely local matters, as they do, there is no reason why we should not see Australia prosper by leaps and bounds, with its industries progressing, good feeling growing up between employer and employed, and a condition of life prevailing in this continent worthy of the Commonwealth to which we belong.
– I have listened with interest to the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Darling Downs, and must congratulate him upon his fair and reasonable, view of the legal aspects of the Bill. This subject, to my mind, presents three phases. In the first place, we have the legal aspect of the Bill ; secondly, we have the question of the desirableness of bringing under its provisions industries that have hitherto been excluded from legislation of this kind ; and, thirdly, we have what, judging by the arguments advanced, is the most important of all, the question of preference to unionists. As to the first point, those who have studied the Conciliation and Arbitration Act must admit that there are grave difficulties associated with it. A proposal to amend its machinery provisions ought to be above party politics, because it is as much in the interests of the employers as of the employes that we should have perfect machinery that will work cheaply and easily, and so give greater satisfaction to all concerned. I have had some experience of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court in connexion with the boot trade case. For over twelve months those concerned in the industry have been knocking at the door of the Federal Court. They have given evidence in each of the State capitals, and have incurred an expenditure of thousands of pounds, yet today no finality has been reached so far as the making of an award is concerned. There are so many pitfalls in the Act that no sooner is one point settled than the learned Justice says that there are other points that must be argued and determined. After endeavouring in vain to obtain a settlement under the Act the employers in the boot trade in Victoria have decided to meet their employes in conference, believing that in that way alone can a satisfactory settlement be arrived at.
– A common-sense proceeding.
– Yes, but I ask the honorable member to recollect that thousands of pounds Avere expended before that position was reached. The employes retained the ablest counsel to advocate their cause, but one phase of the question having been settled, the President of the Court had to refer other matters to the High Court, and consequently finality has not yet been reached. The position is regrettable from the point of view of the employers, whose time and money have been wasted, as well as from the view point of the employes, and I think that all parties should combine to try to make the law clearer and more explicit. The President of the Court, Mr. Justice Higgins, has asked for some of these amendments. Some of them are really necessary in the interests of good government, and I think we can rely upon the lawyers of the Opposition to aid the Government in framing a Bill that will be workable and acceptable to the people. I come now to the proposal to bring within the purview of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court rural workers. I cannot understand why they should be excluded. They are wage earners ; their feelings are similar to those of other men; they work long hours for a small pittance, and they desire to improve their condition. When Parliament sets up a machine to adjust industrial conditions, why should they be excluded? I cannot see the justice of excluding them, and I believe that die employers in rural industries are just as anxious as their employes that justice shall be done. I well recollect an application made by dairy employes under the old Arbitration Act of New South Wales for an award relating to their industry. Man after man went into the box, stated that he rose at 3 a.m. or at 3.30 a.m. and, after partaking of light refreshments, proreeded to milk his cows. He then harnessed up his horse, delivered his milk, and on returning at 9 a.m. had breakfast. He then had to wash his cart, feed his horse, cut chaff and start milking once more. . The evidence that these men worked continuously from early morn till late at night was uncontradicted. It struck me as peculiar that the men were not even cross-examined.
– I suppose” they were metropolitan dairymen ?
– Yes. I remember Judge Heydon saying, one day, when he left the Bench, while the inquiry was proceeding, “ This is a case in which we should be able to assist a body of unfortunate men.” But when the employers entered the box, what was the position ? They said,” It is true that our men work long hours and receive from 15s. to 22s. 6d. per week; but we are in the same position. We have to work long hours and cannot avoid doing so “ After the Court had inquired into the whole industry it found that it could not make an award that would be just to both parties. The reason was that in the country districts, from which Sydney’s milk supply was drawn, there was no organization in the industry. Dairymen in country districts were not included in the schedule to the old Arbitration Act of New South Wales, and had the Court made an award applying only to city dairies, with the object of raising wages and reducing the hours of employment, it would have put the industry almost out of existence.
The country employer would have been able to obtain cheaper labour and to undersell the city dairymen.
– It would be better for the health of the community if the city dairies were knocked out.
– The men who have invested their money in that branch of the industry do not say so. But they, and their employes, are practically slaves, because of the unfair competition of country dairymen. If we had in operation a law comprehensive enough to regulate the business in both the city and country districts, it would work to the advantage of all parties. The honorable member for Illawarra said that it would be better for the people if city dairies were wiped out of existence. I had the honour of acting as Chairman of an anti-sweating committee appointed by the Sydney Trades and Labour Council, before which evidence was given showing that if sweating is carried on anywhere it is in the dairying . district which the honorable member represents.
Mr.Fuller. - That is not correct.
– Men gave evidence before that committee that they rose early in the morning, milked a number of cows, fed stock, and worked in the fields till late at night. They then returned to the homestead and did more milking. There was no reasonable accommodation for them, no sanitary arrangements, and they were their clothes until they became so dirty that they nearly fell off them.
– That is not a sample of the district which I represent.
– I hope not. I contend., however, from my knowledge of the dairying industry - and I do not think this will be disputed - that the men engaged in it are the most underpaid workers in the community. Why should they be? They perform useful work and it cannot be said that farming as an industry is behind others. The manufacturers have brought to their aid up-to-date machinery, and they employ all the latest appliances to assist in the development of their industry. And so with the farmers. The inventive genius of man has brought to their assistance machinery calculated to reduce the hours of labour, while, at the same time, enabling them to produce more and to carry on their operations at reduced cost. If that is so, is it not reasonable that the manual labour of the industry should reap some of the benefits which the inventive power of man has bestowed upon the community? If we are to have a healthy rural population we must give the people healthy social conditions.
– Would the’ honorable member give preference to unionists in rural districts?
– I shall tell the honorable member. A country in which wages are low and the hours of labour long never makes any progress ; countries in which the highest rates of wages are paid, and the shortest hours of labour prevail, rule the commercial world. It is no advantage to a country that its people should be working long hours for small wages. Under this Bill it is proposed to place rural workers on the footing occupied by men in other industries, and I have heard no reason why that should not be done. These men have the franchise ; they have reasoning powers, and the right to vote, and they demand better conditions of labour. They ask that they shall be treated as other workers are. As to the question of preference to unionists the honorable member . for Darling has put a very good case before the House.
– Only one side.
– Surely the honorable member did not expect him to argue the other side.
– I thought that he was arguing from the stand-point of the capitalist all the morning.
– I think that the honorable member for Darling is too mild. As to the question of preference to unionists let me say at once that I Have never met a body of unionists or an individual unionist who wished to obtain any advantage over a non-unionist.
– Does the honorable member recollect the wharf labourers’ trouble in connexion with which men were blocked from joining a union ?
– When a man joins a union, and it becomes strong enough to be able to take action to improve his condition - when it brings the employers before an Arbitration Court or a Wages Board - there immediately springs up in the mind of the employer an antipathy towards that union. If an employer has hitherto been free to make his own terms and to dictate his own conditions he takes a dislike to the body of men which is trying to curb him. Quite unconsciously, perhaps, he looks upon unions and unionists as the cause of his having been brought before the Court and compelled to give higher wages or shorter hours of labour, and whether he knows it or not he is naturally inclined to give a preference to nonunionists.
– Of course that is very wrong !
– Let me reason out the matter. Unionists having contributed towards the cost of having an industrial dispute dealt with by the Court, having employed the best legal talent to plead their cause, and having in that way achieved something, not only for themselves, but for every man in the industry, ask for a preference, not for their own advantage, but to prevent an employer from giving a preference to the non-unionists. Naturally the employer will entertain a prejudice against unionists.
– The honorable member believes in doing one wrong in order to prevent another?
– Who pays all the expense connected with arbitration proceedings ?
– I have already said that the unionists pay it. I repeat that if two men - a unionist and a non-unionist - present themselves for employment, the employer will, in the great majority of cases, select the non-unionist. We recognise that, and to protect unionists from this great disability, we ask that some legal obligation shall be imposed upon the employer.
– Has not the honorable member known plenty of employers who prefer to engage unionists, because they can deal with their union as a corporate body?
– All intelligent employers prefer unionists. In the same way the employes of industrial organizations cannot deal with individual employers. The honorable member for Flinders affirmed that by granting a preference to unionists we should be depriving unionists of their undoubted rights. I would remind him that he belongs to a profession which deprives ordinary members of the public of their rights.
– The honorable member is quite wrong. One lawyer will appear in Court for a guinea, but another can command five hundred guineas.
– If I had occasion to appear before the High Court or the Supreme Court, or any other legal tribunal, I should not be allowed to defend my own cause even if 1 were competent to do so. In . other words, I should not be permitted to com pete with the union of barristers and solicitors. I admit that members of the legal profession are right in saying that only qualified practitioners shall argue cases in our Law Courts.
– That rule has been adopted in order to save time.
– If it be good for the legal profession that a preference shall be granted to its members, where is the consistency of the honorable member ior Flinders in declaring that unionists are desirous of depriving others of their means of livelihood? I might be able to command a fee of ^50 for appearing before the High Court-
– What about Mr. Sutch?
– Mr. Sutch appeared bebefore a Wages Board, not before a Court, so that the honorable member is off the track. Then take the case of the medical profession. There are plenty of persons who have studied anatomy-
– Members of the medical profession have to register in each State in which they practise, and to pay a fee of from two guineas to five guineas for such registration.
– If it be right that the legal and medical professions should be protected, why is it not equally right that the workers should be protected?
– How does a preference to unionists benefit the public?
– The honorable member ought to know that even in cases in which preference has been granted to unionists, the Court has power, should that preference be abused, to deprive them of it. I maintain that the granting of a preference adds to the security that is enjoyed by the community.
– Do not all the strong unions practically enjoy a preference now?
– Yes. I had the honor to be a member of the Arbitration Court in New South Wales which granted preference to dozens of unionists. Those unions have never abused that power.
– Yes, they have.
– They may have done so in isolated cases. But the fact remains that if there be a scarcity of labour in any industry they must aclmit men to their ranks. I believe that every man has a right to work and to earn his own livelihood. The honorable member for Darling Downs, in the critical analysis of the Bill to which he treated us, laid it down that we cannot make it mandatory upon the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Courtto grant a preference to unionists. ButI think that other Parliaments have prescribed certain penalties for certain offences. For instance, if a man is convicted of murder the Judge who tries him has no option but to sentence him to death.
– There is no analogy between the two cases.
– The honorable member for Dar ling Downs declaredthat it would be unconstitutional for this Parliament to make it mandatory upon the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to grant a preference to unionists. I have been associated with Mr. Justice Heydon, and I know that he has complained many times that Parliament has merely passed an Act without giving him any directions. I believe that he would be only too pleased to receive directions from Parliament as to the lines upon which his decisions should be based. I think, too, that we ought to prescribe minimum hours of labour.
– How would the honorable member insure the working of a minimum number of hours upon a dairy farm?
– It is merely a matter of employing more hands. The strong industrial unions already enjoy a preference. The coal lumpers, the trolley and draymen, and the miners have it. In the Cobar district in New South Wales unionists have been granted a preference, and it has not worked to the injury of that district in any way. On the other hand it has tended towards industrial peace. I believe that this Bill when it becomes law, will provide a greater guarantee of the maintenance of industrial peace in the future.”
.- At the outset honorable members upon both sides of the House may reasonably assume that they occupy common ground in that if we could frame a legislative enactment which would render it impossible for a strike to take place, every honorable member would be only too proud to assist in placing it upon our statute-book. In dealing with this Bill we have to recollect that it contemplates a number of enlargements of the principal Act - enlargements of far-reaching consequence. I listened with very great attention to the AttorneyGeneral whilst he was expounding its various provisions, and I must confess that I was considerably disappointed at the small modicum of real information which he gave to us, and I was still more deeply dissatisfied because of the element of uncertainty which evidently exists in his mind as to its real intent. His speech fairly bristled with such statements as, “I do not know,” and “lam not at all certain.” These phrases, which occurred again and again, evidenced that he is not at all sure what will be the effect of the Bill. For that reason I think we have reason to congratulate ourselves upon having been favored with exceedingly able speeches by the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Darling Downs, in regard to the legal aspect of this matter. The honorable member for Darling Downs raised a most important point when he urged that it would be unconstitutional for this Parliament to make it mandatory upon the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to discriminate as between two classes of workers. It would be well for the Attorney-General to take that point into very serious consideration. It appears to me that under sub-paragraph b of clause 2 a very grave situation is created. That provision reads - “ Industrial dispute “ means an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State, and includes -
I take it that the State Parliaments are, within the limits of their own Constitutions, supreme. But this Bill proposes to take from those Parliaments the exercise of a power which properly attaches to them under their Constitutions. Those Constitutions enable them to appoint certain individuals to positions and offices of trust, but this Bill seeks to bring those persons within its scope, thus taking away from them a power which is theirs by constitutional right. What the Government propose to take from the States they also propose to relinquish on behalf of the Commonwealth. In other words, under this Bill the Commonwealth Parliament will cease to be its own arbitrator, so far as its own employes are concerned. These proposals, if adopted, will have far-reaching consequences. They may lead to grave legal complications, and involve the Commonwealth in considerable expenditure before they are cleared up. Then paragraph d of clause 2 contemplates an enlargement of the scope of the principal Act by bringing various industries within its scope. This point is one of paramount importance. It was urged by the honorable member for Darling that we should bring these rural industries under the operation of the law. I give the honorable member credit for a great deal of knowledge regarding the shearing industry ; but I do not think that anyone versed in the conditions of farm life, viticulture, horticulture, and dairying, would urge that persons engaged in those occupations should be brought under this law. In my opinion, the law might well be allowed to stand as it is until it has more fully proved its worth as applied to the better organized industries. When it has proved successful in its present scope, it may be wise to enlarge its operations. In the meantime, it is to court failure to apply it to the rural industries. It must be ‘ remembered that employment in these industries is largely irregular. In times of harvest, sowing, fruit gathering, and the like, large numbers of casual labourers are employed. There is never a surplus of casual labourers; indeed, there are not enough of them for the effective performance of the work to be done. The production of Australia would be materially increased were more labour available for work of this kind. A natural result of this state of things is that the employe’s have nothing to complain of. I am averse to unnecessary legislation. I am acquainted with a great many persons who are employers, and with many others who are employed in rural industries, and know that good feeling exists between the two classes. I have not had it brought under my notice that the conditions of rural employment are unduly hard. It is true that men employed in milking cows commence very early in the morning and resume work again in the afternoon; but, generally speaking, they are much at leisure in the middle part of the day.
– They go ploughing when they are not milking.
– That is not so. Ploughing is done in the winter months, when the days are short, and those who are engaged in milking would not have time to do the necessary ploughing even if they were disposed to undertake the work. I am glad that the conditions of labour are improving. Nowadays a ploughman, instead of having to walk for miles following his plough, sits on it and drives. It is right to take into consideration, not only the hours of labour, but the conditions under which labour is performed ; and the fact cannot be ignored that on our farms, as well as in our factories, conditions are improving, and the amount of manual labour that has to be done is decreasing. I am pleased that this is so, and that the improvement will continue. But an effort to force the pace unnaturally will injure the employes rather than benefit them, because it will create conditions making it impossible to employ labour profitably. Of course, it is doubtful that the clause if passed will be operative; if it is operative it will, in my opinion, work only for evil. By the section which it is proposed by clause 8 to substitute for section 40 of the principal Act, it is provided that the Court may make provision for fixing a lower rate in the case of employes who are unable to earn the prescribed minimum wage. The honorable member for Darling urged that preference should be given to. unionists because the best men in every industry are unionists.. It is true that when a man joins a union he is generally, in his prime. But there comes a time in the life of every man when he is. not as good as he has been. When those who are now unionists have passed their best days, are they still to be preferred to others who are in their prime, though not unionists?
– We ask for preference, not to old men, but to unionists.
– Thousands of persons are to-day regretting the passing of legislation of this kind, because employers, being forced to pay certain rates of wages, and to work their men for prescribed hours, have been compelled, in their own interests, in order to make their businesses profitable, to dispense with all but the highest type of labour. That condition drives everybody but the very best workmen out of the market. When we come to subclause b of clause 8, we must ask ourselves seriously whether what is aimed at is conciliation and arbitration at all. Should it not rather be entitled coercion ? I am very sorry to say that, doubtless without intent
– With intent.
– I prefer to say without intent - my honorable friends opposite are developing into coercionists of the very worst type. The Bill provides that preference shall be given to “ such members, other things being equal.” The AttorneyGeneral was most explicit that the persons who were to decide as to the “ things being equal,” were the employers, but it has been made manifest from the speeches of legal gentlemen on this side of the Chamber, that it is not so. In reality the individual who will determine is the Judge of the Arbitration Court. The allimportant fact in connexion with this provision appears to me to be that if this Bill becomes law, and if it is upheld by the High Court, the right to work for a living will depend on whether a man is willing to be coerced into becoming a member of a union.
– And voting the union ticket ; that is the part that is important.
– Well, of course if this measure is being promoted for political purposes a still more disagreeable odour is given to it. The honorable member for Darling argued that there was no such thing as coercion in the Bill, and he was good enough to cite a case. He said that the shearers agreed to work with nonunionists. That is true. But they only agreed to work with non-unionists, because they were not sure of their ground. If, however, we amend the law so as to make them sure of their ground, there is nothing more certain than that they will stand upon their rights and insist upon being paid to the utmost, and on being given all the preference that the law allows. I hope that the Attorney-General will benefit materially from the legal opinions that have been advanced by my honorable friends on this side of the Chamber. That we are creating difficulties of a legal nature appears to me beyond question. We are also creating difficulties affecting the rural industries, which will decrease the sum total of production, decrease the sum total of work to be given to labourers,, and decrease the sum total of our exports. These facts cannot be gainsaid, and the result will justify everything that has been said from this side of the House.
.- I think we shall all agree that no one outside a lunatic asylum would deny that the principles underlying conciliation and arbitration are just, right, and such as become civilized communities. It will further be admitted that what we all desire in Australia is to see our people living under conditions such as we believe they should en- joy, and that in every industry throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, there should be such rates of payment and such conditions of labour as will enable workmen to live in accordance with these economic principles which are accepted as right and just. “With the general policy of this measure, therefore, I do not disagree. I have always contended that, where it is possible for men to concentrate in such a way as to insure that industries shall be conducted on lines enabling them to live comfortably and at the same time insuring industrial peace, that should be done. But there are within the scope of this measure two proposals which go. beyond that requirement. In the first place I do not think that they are just, and in the second place, I do not believe them to be practicable. I should like first of all to deal with the subject of preference to unionists. I use that term because it is one which we all understand, though, as the honorable member for Flinders rightly pointed out, there is strictly speaking no such thing as preference to unionists. The point that he raised, in a perfectly convincing manner, was that a man might be a unionist and still might not be a member of an association coming within the scope of this Bill ; and that preference can only be given to those who are within its scope. As a consequence, it is not really a question of preference to unionists, but only of preference to those associations which are registered under this measure, and in regard to which certain awards have been made. I emphatically believe that the principle underlying the granting of preference to unionists is fundamentally wrong, and for that reason I shall oppose the provision. I should like to congratulate, the AttorneyGeneral upon the brevity and crispness of the clause in which this principle is embodied. But I notice that he has introduced at the end of the clause a particularly short and crisp phrase which, to my mind, is the very acme of ambiguity. It might be possible to find a shorter phrase than “ other things being equal,” but it would be very difficult to discover a moreambiguous one or one which might be morevariously interpreted. I admit that the Attorney-General has merely adopted thephrase from the Act which he is seeking to amend, but inasmuch as he has told usthat it is the employer who is to be the judge as to whether other things are equal or not, I would ask him how it is possible with such a modification to give effect to the principle of preference to unionists ? What is embraced in the words “ other things “ ? Am I, as an employer, to be the judge of what are “other things”? For instance, I am an employer in an industry working under an award giving preference to unionists, and two men, one a unionist and the other a non-unionist, apply to me for employment. I look at the non-unionist and decide from my knowledge of human nature that he is an honest and straightforward, though, perhaps, not a particularly clever individual. I look at the other man and recognise that he is a particularly clever and unprincipled scoundrel.
– Is the honorable member such a judge of character as that?
– I do not for a moment say that I am. I come into contact with all sorts and conditions of men, and am able to form some idea of the character of different individuals. I have not the least doubt that the honorable member who has just interrupted me is equally able to arrive at some sort of a general conclusion as to whether a particular individual is a scoundrel or an honest man.
– Suppose the honorable member had a certificate of competency with one man and none with the other, what would he do then?
– I do not understand the application of the certificate. Is this question of character one of the “other things” referred to in the Bill, and which, according to the AttorneyGeneral, is left to the judgment of the employer? If it is, I ask whether the proposed provision will not be absolutely nugatory? I contend that it is one of the “ other things “ which the employer should be at liberty to take into consideration. If two men present themselves to me for employment, and I form a general idea of their character from their appearance, I should be able to say whether I will employ this man or that, independent altogether of the fact that one is a unionist and the other a non-unionist.
– The principle of preference to unionists has already been settled by this Parliament.
– I admit that at the present time the Arbitration Court has a discretionary power to say that preference shall be given to unionists in an industry in the working of which certain conditions exist, but this Bill goes very much further than that.
– But so far as the two men the honorable member has referred to are concerned, the facts are the same.
– Yes, but I direct the honorable gentleman’s attention to the particularly short and crisp phrase “ other things being equal,” and to the fact that he has told us that the employer is to be the judge as to whether other things are equal or not, and I then ask him what comes within the scope of the words “ other things.”
– I mean that so far as competence is concerned the employer is to be the judge.
– Does the phrase “ other things being equal “ limit my judgment to the competency or otherwise of the individuals who present themselves to me for employment?
– That is all that concerns the employer.
– Does the honorable gentleman mean to say that an employer asked to make a choice as to the employment of two men is not to take any notice of the character of the individual he decides to employ?
– I should not say so.
Mir. GREENE.- Then the honorable gentleman admits that that is one of the “ other things “ which the employer may consider-
– I say that it is a thing which concerns the employer.
– If that is one of the “ other things “ which the employer may take into consideration when deciding to employ a man, does it not make the provision to which I have referred practically nugatory ?
– Not at all.
– I must agree to differ from the honorable gentleman on that point. Apart from that altogether I say that, in adopting this principle of preference in employment to any particular body of men, we shall be going too far. There may be industries such, for instance, as the’ coal-mining industry, in which practically every man employed is a unionist, and, doubtless, in dealing with such industries, it would be practicable to give effect to the principle.
– In such industries the unionists already have preference. It is a case of “ Thank you for nothing “ then.
– But there are other industries in which the number of unionists is comparatively small, and, I believe, always will be small, while the great body of the workers are non-unionists ; and I do not think that it is just, under these circumstances, to give preference. The whole principle underlying this proposal is, to my mind, unjust. The moment you give this power into the hands of any body of men, it is very easy to see what great injustice it may work. It is absolutely wrong to place in the hands of any body of men, practically irresponsible, a power which will work with injustice to even one individual.
– They are not irresponsible.
– They are to a very great extent.
– They are a corporation under this Bill.
– Yes, but they are not responsible.
– They may practically boycott one individual.
– They do now.
– If they do it nowand the Attorney-General admits that they do-
– I say that they may do it now.
– Does it not say something against the very principles of unionism if it be possible for them fo boycott even one individual now?
– What about the barristers’ union ?
– All combinations proceed on this basis.
– Let us admit that the barristers have a union - a close borough - and that they have power to exclude from their ranks all but those who pass examinations and comply with certain conditions - within that close borough - does the barrister who receives £25, perhaps, for doing what a junior receives only a guinea for, try to bump the junior out? Not for a moment.
– There is no analogy.
– Oh yes there is. Further, we must remember that this close borough, strange as it may seem, is cieated for the protection of the public.
– There are legal men and there are lawyers - some are worth£1, and some are worth nothing!
– I must congratulate my honorable friend upon his wonderful discovery. Where we have a close borough’, created for the express purpose of giving protection to the public, there is no analogy with the position we are now discussing.
– Medical men, lawyers, and plumbers are all licensed, and none except those licensed can practise.
– The Attorney-General will admit, no doubt, that there is no analogy between the cases he has cited and the case under discussion. Where it is not a question of public interest, or of protecting the public in some way, but where it is simply a question of one or another having the right to work, it is not proper to give to any particular set of men the right to do that work to the exclusion of practically all who do not join the unions.
– Is the thing wrong in itself ?
– Then why does the honorable member permit it?
– In what way?
– Why does he permit unions to do this thing?
– What I say is that a union should not be given a power whereby only those within the ranks can undertake any particular class of work. Supposing I desire to employ men, and a dozen apply when I could only find work for six, and that half of these, members of unions, are in, comparatively speaking, affluent circumstances, with no wives or families, while the other six, non-unionists, have both wives and families to support, thus making the employment an absolute matter of bread and hutter to them - do honorable members opposite say that, under such circumstances, I should be compelled to employ the unionists?
– The honorable member is drawing a long bow !
– I am putting an absolutely fair proposition, and endeavouring . to show how and where the proposed preference means injustice; and the principle is unjust because it is wrong.
– Could the married men not join the union?
– The honorable member has “ let the cat out of the bag.” Is this, as the honorable member for Echuca told us, merely a coercion measure? Is it proposed in this particular form in order to rope into the unions every man throughout’ the Commonwealth who works with his hands? There are scores and scores who work with their hands, but who. do not Belong to the Labour party, and whose politics are not those of the Labour party.
– They will be in less than five years from now !
– That remains to be proved ; and I do not think that the anticipations of the honorable member are going to be realized. I know scores and scores of men who, day in and day out, toil, as I have had to toil, and I know that they do not share “the political opinions of the honorable gentlemen who sit opposite. Further, this very coercion which the Labour party are endeavouring, through, this legislation, to bring to bear, is just what will drive these men further and further from their ranks. If the desire is to make unionism grow, and to make its legitimate use what it may be to every industry throughout the land,this Bill is the worst possible means. If we desire to make unionism what , it is to a very great extent in Australia at the present time - a means of industrial peace - if we desire to make unionism a means whereby the workers’ position can be raised, the measure, in its present form, is the worst possible. It is an endeavour to force men to do what they do not desire, and that is not the best way to bring about the’ result aimed at. I do not intend to labour this point, because there is a great deal more I wish to say ; and I should like to know whether I can have leave to continue my remarks at a future sitting.
– How long will the honorable member take?
– I have not really more than started. The principle underlying preference to unionists is unjust. It is proposed to place in the hands of the unions a weapon which can be used in trie most unjust and tyrannical way. It will put men who are not in the unions in a most invidious position. The Government are endeavouring to force them into the unions, compel them to contribute to their funds, and make them bear a share of the cost of their political organizations. They are endeavouring in every possible way to draw money from those men to assist them in the particular cause that they have at heart. I have every sympathy with the unionist who gives his money freely from day to day in order to forward his own particular views, but it is wrong, unjust, and iniquitous to force other men into the unions and compel thtem to contribute funds to further purposes which they do not hold to be right or just. I shall be very much surprised if honorable members opposite can point me to any other piece of legislation of a like character throughout the length and breadth of the Empire. I am sure that no other piece of legislation can be found throughout the Empire which gives the same power of preference to unionists. Let me turn from that to the practical side of this great question. This Bill goes further than the party opposite have ever attempted to go before, by bringing within its scope a number of people who have never previously been brought within it. The definition of “ industry “ is to be amended by omitting all the words : - excepting only persons engaged in domestic setvice, and persons engaged in agricultural, viticuUural, horticultural, or dairying pursuits, and inserting in their stead the words -
And includes a brunch of an industry and a group of industries.
As one who has been for a long time engaged in these particular classes of industry, and who knows their technical details, I desire to place fully before the House their nature and peculiarities, and to give reasons why it will be almost impossible to bring them under the scope of this legislation without doing a serious injustice to a great many people engaged in them.
– The honorable member may have leave to continue his remarks.
– I ask for leave to continue my remarks on Tuesday next.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 July 1910, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1910/19100729_reps_4_55/>.