4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know whether the delay in circulating the instructions to the Sugar Commission is due to the fact that the Government, since they were laid on the table, have taken into consideration the need for altering them? ATe they being altered?
– A line was added after they were laid on the table, but full publicity was given to the addition, which was with a view to amplifying the inquiry. I shall be pleased to supply the honorable member with a copy of the Commission, if he desires it.
– With a view to assisting you, Mr. Speaker, in coming to a decision on a matter on which you .said you had not fully made up your mind yesterday, I ask whether your attention has been drawn to the statement in Todd’s Parliamentary Go vernment of England, Vol. 2, page 439, that the composition of Royal Commissions is a fair subject for parliamentary discussion.
– I am extremely obliged for assistance from any honorable member at any time, but adhere to the position that I took up yesterday, that any discussion regarding a Royal Commission must be on a specific motion.
– Has the Minister of External Affairs read the letter in to-day’s
Age which contains this statement -
It seems a most extraordinary thing that Australia, with its six highly-paid .Agents-General in London and its High Commissioner foi the Commonwealth cannot obtain a weekly Marklane Express cable giving the spot price of wheat iti the London open market, together with that authoritative journal’s comment upon present surroundings and future prospects.
Will the Minister endeavour to have that information provided for the producers of Australia ?
– I had not read the letter until the honorable member drew my attention to it. I shall look into the matter, and see if it is possible to do something of the kind suggested.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Reports by Mr. W. S. Campbell, ex-Director of Agriculture, New South Wales, regarding the suitability of certain land in the Northern Territory for the purpose of agriculture, and for the establishment of experimental farms.
Ordered to be printed.
Lands Acquisition Act - Return of land disposed of at Leura, New South Wales (old postoffice site).
– I wish to ask you, Mr. Speaker, a question as to the privilege enjoyed by newspapers in reporting what takes place here. A question was yesterday put to the Minister of Defence by the honorable member for Balaclava to which a full reply was given. That reply has been distorted by the Age, part of it being omitted from the report, although in justice to the Minister it should have been given.
– Is this a question of privilege ?
– I take it that the honorable member will conclude with a motion.
– The report in the Age is as follows : -
The Minister is aware that boys have to walk or pay their own train fares, but in view of the limited distances shown, no hardship is entailed thereby.” The latter portion of this statement was not written in italics. In a previous part of the reply it was mentioned that the furthest distance the St. Kilda boys would have to walk was 3£ miles, from the east portion of St. Kilda to the Port Melbourne Town Hall ; the furthest the naval cadets would have to walk to Williamstown was from 5 to 7 miles. And yet it was no hardship for children of fourteen or sixteen years, on whom the Labour Government has thrown the responsibility of defending Australia, to walk 4, 6, or 7 miles, drill for a couple of hours, and then walk back again, because the Government which makes them drill will not pay their train fares.
The reply did not show that they would have to walk 7 miles.
– Is the honorable member asking a question ?
– This is a question of privilege. I ask whether newspapers are allowed to distort what takes place here.
– Is the honorable member asking a question, or does he propose to conclude with a motion?
– I am asking you, sir, a question as to the privilege of newspapers to distort what takes place in this House.
– Will the honorable member state his question ?
– I am doing so, but I have first to read what took place. The reply to the question put yesterday was -
If any naval cadet at a distance from the drill halls desires, he can be transferred to the military training centre near his home, as sufficient numbers of naval cadets can be obtained within easy walking distance of the drill halls at Williamstown and Port Melbourne.
Are newspapers allowed to distort the replies of Ministers to questions put in this Chamber in any way they feel inclined? As a matter of fact, one would think-
– Order !
– That the naval cadets had to walk to Port Melbourne, whether they wanted to or not.
– The honorable member has no right to attempt to get in a statement when I rise to call him to order. I would further point out to the honorable member and to others that it is not fair to the Chair for them to rise to ask a question as a matter of privilege, and then to debate the question, because it is impossible for me to know what an honorable member is going to say. I would ask honorable members not to follow that course. In reply to the question put by the honorable member, I have to say that, while in some cases misstatements are made which the House generally, with myself, regrets, at the same time I have no control whatever over newspaper reports.
– Has the attention of the Minister representing the Minister of Defence been called to the paragraph, or has he noticed it ? If so, what does he propose to do in regard to it?
– My attention was drawn to the paragraph. I do not know that the Minister of Defence intends taking any action regarding it, but I may in the circumstances express my deep regret that any newspaper should seek to take advantage for party political purposes of any little dissatisfaction which may exist consequent upon the establishment of a new system of defending our country - a system which received the unanimous approval of the Parliament of the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
How many orders have been issued to prevent misleading statements being made upon labels, wrappers, and coverings of foods, medicines, &c, during the past twelve months?
– Four hundred and eight. In addition to these, seventy-two preparations have been analyzed and instructions issued to the effect that such preparations contain no drugs which have to be disclosed under Commerce Act Regulations, and bear no extravagant or misleading claims.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
When he intends to send the trawler Endeavour to test fishing areas on the Western Australian coast ?
– I shall be very pleased, if it be possible, to send the trawler Endeavour to Western Australia at a reasonably early date. It is proposed, after certain work is completed on the Victorian coast, to conduct investigations in South Australian waters, after which it is hoped she may be able to proceed to the West.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow : - 1. Yes. 2 and 3. Both these matters will be considered.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice^-
– The answers are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are-
Debate resumed from 24th October (vide page 1772), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That this Bill be now read a second time; Upon which Mr. Deakin had moved -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ no measure the effect of which will be to concentrate in any one person the control of all the conditions of carrying on all the industries of this continent can be other than impracticable and fraught with danger to the w.hole community.”
– I was endeavouring to point out last night that, difficult as would be the task of the Court in making an award where a claim was put forward by a craft organization spread over many industries, it would be infinitely more difficult for the Court to make an award in a claim made, for instance, by a workers’ union in the rural industries. I enumerated the different branches of rural industry, and showed how each branch was conducted under widely differing conditions in different parts of Australia. Contrast the dairying industry as carried on in Gippsland, where the settlers are struggling to make a home in densely-timbered country, with the same industry as conducted at Bacchus Marsh. The same award could not possibly be applied to such widely differing circumstances. When the whole Commonwealth is taken, the conditions vary still more widely. The same thing applies with more or less force to practically every branch of rural industry. If all rural pursuits were carried on upon the simple basis of each farmer going in solely for wheat-growing, or dairying, or horticulture, or potato-growing, or lucerne-growing, or grazing, the Court would still find almost insuperable difficulty in settling an award which would govern the whole of Australia. But the actual fact to be faced is that these branches of rural industry are rarely carried on solely by one farmer. Dairying is often associated with horticulture, or with potato-growing, or with lucerne-growing. Then we have grazing associated with dairying, and, sometimes, with lucerne-growing. Again, we very often have, for instance, potato-growing associated with horticulture. I could go on almost indefinitely enumerating various combinations if I were not limited to time. What I submit is, under the circumstances, the great difficulty in arriving at any general conditions. How can one set of conditions be applied when there are all these great variations?
– I do not see the application ; the man who milks the cow picks the fruit.
– Yes; but when it comes to wages, hours, and conditions, and such an investigation as the Court will have to make in order to arrive at an award with any degree of justice, and when these complex questions are met at every turn, how will it be possible for one man to lay down a common rule with one rate of hours and wages?
– No one asks that,
– If that is not asked for, the Government proposal still asks one man and one Court to settle the wages and conditions over the whole of the Commonwealth; and that is an absolutely impossible task. We might find some industrial Willis - some man so entirely consumed with his own egotism, and having such a great belief in his own infallibility that he would be willing to undertake the task. I have no doubt that a man like our Minister of Home Affairs, for instance, with a great belief in his own powers, might possibly accept the commission; but that would not make the proposal just or equitable. If any one did make the attempt, and an award were given, it would be the merest travesty of justice, and could not. work equitably from one end of the Commonwealth to the other. That applies with almost equal force to any widely-spread craft organization which is scattered over a great number of industries. It is impossible for any one Judge to conduct a judicial inquiry into the whole of the circumstances covered by the cases raised and come to anything like a just determination.
– There is provision for a delegation of power.
– That does not matter, because one man has finally to determine. If one Judge is sitting in one Court and another Judge in another, and ah award is sought in an industry which is spread over the whole of Australia, that award must cover the continent. There may be power under the Act for a Judge to have associated with him other men, but the extent and scope of the award is throughout the Commonwealth. The time I have at my disposal is practically gone; I agreed to speak for not more than a few minutes, and I am perfectly willing to be bound by that promise. Whatever the intention of the Bill may be, my own impression is that it amounts to an attempt to get around the constitutional limitations of our industrial power, to make every dispute an Inter-State dispute, to break down our Wages Board system, and to destroy the industrial powers of the States under the existing Constitution. It is an attempt to change tlie whole basis of industrial legislation as we have heretofore known it, and to set in its place neither more nor less than a sort of despotic industrial Cesarism. Whether that be the object or not, I believe it will be the effect if the Bill is carried into law. To avert that the amendment has been moved; and, for the reasons I have given, I shall support the amendment.
Mr. MATHEWS (Melbourne Ports)
I2.57]. - There is an amendment before us, but the debate seems to have narrowed itself to the question of whether Wages Boards are sufficient without extending the powers of the Arbitration Court, and whether the craft or the industry should be the unit. The honorable member for Kooyong must smile to himself when he regards the friends he has now in his advocacy of Wages Boards. He must remember how, for years, his present friends fought him and the Government with which he was associated in the Victorian Parliament against the application of any industrial legislation whatever. During the referenda campaign we had the whole of the reactionaries of Victoria advocating the worth and value of Wages Boards; and they dilated for hours on the great good the Boards have done for the workers. Yet the same arguments used now against the extension of the powers of the Arbitration Court were used by the same gentlemen against the adoption of the Wages Board system.
– The Legislative Council of Victoria knocked out the system last week.
– The Legislative Councils of Australia are determined to prevent, as far as possible, any extension of Wages Board conditions to the workers of Australia. Any legislation of the kind we have now has been wrested from them by force of a certain character that, perhaps, it will be impossible to exert in the future.
– Have there not been many Wages Boards established in Victoria recently ?
– Yes; but there have been just as many opposed. The very gentlemen who stumped Victoria during March and April last in advocacy of Wages Boards are now loud in their declamations against the extension of the system. It is contended by honorable members opposite that the Wages Boards are so efficient that it is altogether unnecessary to give greater powers to the Court. Why do the workers desire Arbitration Courts in preference to Wages Boards? Any honorable member could answer the question, and the answer would be sufficient to condemn the adoption of the Wages Board system in preference to that . of Conciliation and Arbitration. I admit that the Wages Boards have done a considerable .amount ofl good, but they have not been sufficiently extensive.
– They have been too limited.
– That is so. What is the difference between Conciliation and Arbitration and the Wages Board system? We are told that it is utterly impossible for a trained lawyer to estimate the value of the work done in any industry unless he has also had an industrial training, and that the value of such work can be assessed only by a Board consisting of representatives of the workers and the employers concerned. In ninety-nine cases out of a hundred the chairman of a Wages Board refuses to give a casting vote if he can possibly avoid doing so. The representatives of the workers on a Wages Board naturally advocate an advance of wages, and an improvement of working conditions, whilst the representatives of the employers fight the efforts of the workers to wrest from them what they consider a fair return for their labour. Let it be understood that I do not condemn the employers as individuals, although I do condemn them collectively. It often happens that .the employers’ representatives will say that the industry concerned cannot afford to pay the wage that the workers ask, even if they are demanding only what £n their opinion is a living wage. The answer to such a contention is that the industry that cannot afford to. pay a fair wage is not worth preserving. If, however, the employers engaged in it, notwithstanding adverse conditions, endeavour to pay the wages expected of them, it is the duty of the community to see that the industry is assisted by legislation so that it can be conducted with success, and pay a fair living wage, having regard to Australian conditions. In the Conciliation and Arbitration Court the presiding Justice has to take into consideration ail the facts relating to the industry which is the subject-matter of inquiry. In the first place evidence is taken as to what would be a fair wage to pay the workers - what would be sufficient to enable them to maintain themselves and their families in that condition of civilization that we ought to expect in Australia - and my experience is that the amount fixed is never unduly large. The Court then takes into consideration the question whether the con- ditions under which the industry is being carried on will allow of the payment of that wage. Where the Court decided that they would not, other assistance would have to be given to the industry either bymeans of a higher Tariff, or some other legislative action. If this Parliament had full power to legislate in respect of arbitration, the difficulties that have arisen in connexion with Wages Boards would disappear. The employer naturally resists an increase of wages, believing that it might upset his individual system of carrying on operations. I know that many employers are quite willing that their workmen should receive higher wages, and work under improved conditions, but unfortunately they have to compete with men who are not willing to risk any of the advantages which might accrue to the workers from a Wages Board or Arbitration Court. They fight to keep down wages as much as possible, and the outcome of the Wages Board system is that no attempt is made by other means to raise an industry to such a condition that it will be able to provide for better wages. Want of power is the trouble. The honorable member for Kooyong said last night that had the late Government remained in office it would have created the Inter-State Commission, and have empowered it to deal with such questions. As a member of that Administration he naturally has a high opinion of the virtues of the Inter-State Commission. The proposal sounds very good, but how would it be possible for this Parliament to clothe the Commission with powers that the Parliament itself did not possess?
– I pointed out last night that that could have been done under the Constitution by a delegation of power which had been agreed to.
– By permission of the State Parliaments?
– Not one of them has passed an Act making a delegation of power in this respect. In no case even has a Bill been introduced.
– The honorable member for Kooyong knows that to give life to the Inter-State Commission power would have to be obtained from the State Parliaments. I ask him whether, remembering the fights that he had to put up in the Legislative “Assembly of Victoria in days gone by, to secure even a small measure of- legislative benefit to the workers, he thinks that there is much chance of the
State Parliaments, constituted as they are, granting much power to improve the conditions of the workers.
– Even if the honorable member were correct, I would remind the honorable member that I said last night that our alternative was to ask for an amendment of the Constitution.
– The honorable member is giving away the show. The late Administration felt that it would be possible to secure this grant of power from the State Parliaments only by threatening them that if it were not conceded an appeal would be made to the people to amend the Constitution.
– There was no threat.
– I believe that on the occasion of the recent referenda the Conservative State Parliaments, consisting, not only of so-called Liberals, but socalled Labour men, feared a transfer of power from them to the Parliament of the Commonwealth, and were prepared at that stage to do practically anything to prevent it. The late Government intended to create an Inter-State Commission - whose efforts, I venture to say, would have been futile from the commencement - in the hope that they would be able to force the hands of the State Parliaments. The grant of power which they sought would have had to be acceded to, not only by the Legislative Assemblies of the States, but by the Councils, strongly representative as they are of vested interests. Tasmania - where the rates of wages paid are lower than those prevailing in any other part of the Commonwealth - refused point-blank to grant the desired power or to extend, by any method, more benefits to the worker. The Parliament of that State could, therefore, have prevented the operation of the InterState Commission there. As a Parliament knowing no State limitations, why should we be so selfish as to expect from individual States that which we could not get from Tasmania, in the interests of the workers ?
– Did the honorable member say that Tasmania would not agree to give the powers required for the InterState Commission?
– The honorable member knows that the Tasmanian Government was opposed to improving the conditions and increasing the wages of the workers.
– It is the other way round.
– Employers are naturally reluctant to make alterations. When a man is running an establishment on certain calculations, he does not desire to have them upset, even by decisions which may be humane and just ; but this Parliament can compensate employers in a way in which no State Parliament can. It can prevent the manufacturers of one State from undercutting those of another, and thus enable wages to be maintained at advanced rates without the disruption of industry. But if any State authority could wrest industrial power from another State it would do so.
– The Inter-State Commission would stop that.
– All that the InterState Commission could do would be to make suggestions to the State Governments, which have never shown any desire to assist this Parliament in legislating in the interests of Australia. The honorable member for Ballarat, when Prime Minister, always met with rebuffs when he approached the State Governments with a view to securing legislation which would be of advantage lo the Commonwealth.
– Not the last time.
– The State Governments not only objected to assisting, but thwarted him in every attempt to benefit Australia.
– The honorable member got so used to rebuffs that he has forgotten them. I have a better memory.
– Some were willing to meet us, but others resisted us.
– If any of the State Governments was willing to assist the honorable member, it had a marvellous power of concealing the fact. I do not remember any instance in which a State Government was willing to assist this Parliament in doing something for the benefit of Australia in regard to which the Constitution hampered us. The awards of Wages Boards take effect only in their own States, though they may cause wages to rise in other States. The honorable member for Kooyong will agree with me. however, that Victorian Wages Boards have sometimes been so long in considering matters that a strike or a threat of a strike has been needed to make them come to a decision.
– My honorable friend can enumerate very few instances.
– There was a disastrous strike in Victoria in the early part of this year. A Wages Board had been sit ting for seven or eight months without coming to a decision, the chairman refusing to give a casting vote on any point, and the employers fighting strenuously against every concession.
—Was that the cause of the strike referred to?
– It led up to it. The agricultural implement makers were fighting for an increase in wages. Knowing that it would be useless to attempt to enforce better conditions while half the men in the industry were out of the union, the ultimatum was issued that every one should join by a certain date. Thirty or forty men would not join the union, but the second day after the strike commenced the Wages Board gave the decision which had been clamoured for.
– Did that end the strike ?
– The men did not strike for an increase of wages, but to expedite the giving of an award. They felt it necessary to bring all into the union to enable them to make a demand. The engineering trade has sometimes been called the aristocracy of labour. Their union, feeling that what had been lost during times of depression should be made up again, asked for an increase, but the request was put off, and nothing was done until a strike was threatened. The Government was willing to pay certain rates if outsiders would pay them, and outsiders professed to be ready to pay them if the Government would do so. When a strike was threatened, the common sense of the employers led them to give the rise that was demanded.
– Does the honorable member believe in strikes?
– I have sufficient of the old Adam in me to feel that, other means failing, a strike is an effective method.
– Does the honorable member believe in having secret ballots before strikes are begun?
– I think it is fair, just, and right that every one should be considered, and therefore I advocate secret ballots in this as in other matters. I remember the first Wages Board decision in Victoria, because it was given in respect to a trade in which I was then making a good living.
– The honorable member must have been boycotted.
– I have been boycotted many times, but that has never deterred me from leading a strike. At the time, sweating was rampant in the clothing trade in Victoria. The State Government was composed of men who are now reactionaries. The decision which was given was only temporary, but the conditions had to be accepted as better than those formerly prevailing. The old gentlemen of the Legislative Council, and the Conservatives, whom we call Liberals now, held up their hands in horror at the idea of dictating to employers on the subject of wages. The trade got certain concessions, and has endeavoured ever since to better its conditions. Does any one think that sensible men would be satisfied with conditions that they thought unfair, and would not be justified in endeavouring to better them? Attempts have, therefore, been made to increase the original award. I was in New South Wales when the decision referred to was given, but I remember the article in the Argus which enumerated the items in regard to which set payment was to be given for certain work.
The honorable member for Richmond thinks it impossible for a Court to assess the wages of any craft in the different callings in which it is engaged throughout Australia. In every craft there are many different phases, so that that difficulty is met with .now, and successfully overcome. In the agricultural implement makers’ trade, which was dealt . with by the one Court, there were about thirty different occupations, and if it is possible to settle the wages and conditions of thirty occupations in one industry, is it not just as easy in Mie case of one craft, followed under thirty different conditions, in different portions of Australia? I suppose it is essential that I should notice the speech of the honorable member for Cook. I listened to it with admiration ; but while the question of the craft organization as against the industrial organization is debatable, I do not think the honorable member’s speech was by any means destructive of the Bill. The honorable member made out a strong case from the point -of view of the industrial union in which he is particularly interested ; but, like the honorable member for Richmond, he cannot conceive that a Wages Board or an Arbitration Court can give a man in charge of a large engine worth thousands of pounds a larger wage than it awards to an engine-driver who runs a stationary engine in a small factory. Yet such an award is easy to understand and make. In any trade where greater perfection is required, greater attention is necessary, and greater responsibility is imposed, the wages can be made higher. That is done all through life, and there is nothing to prevent a Wages Board or an Arbitration Court assessing different wages in one particular craft, as applied to the carrying out of varied industries.
– The Wages Boards really do it in Victoria.
– The honorable member is assisting my argument. If the Wages Boards can do it, an Arbitration Court can do it better.
– That is another thing altogether.
– It is not.
– The Arbitration Court does differentiate
– But the honorable member for Cook was afraid that it could not, and would not, and the honorable member for Richmond shared his fear. The honorable member for. Richmond, in enlarging upon the different branches of rural industry in different parts of Australia, drew a distinction between the worker employed by a man at Bacchus Marsh, where nature is pleasing and civilization is accessible, and the man who worked for a. dairy farmer in the almost inaccessible portions of Gippsland. He portrayed to the House the disadvantages of the man in Gippsland as compared with the great facilities possessed by the -man in Bacchus Marsh to get his produce to market; but will the honorable member say that the worker in Gippsland should not get at least an equal wage with the man employed under better conditions at Bacchus Marsh ? I admit the disabilities of the man in the wilds of Gippsland, because I happen to know them from personal knowledge and through personal interests; but when the honorable member depicts the unfortunate position of the employer there and the favoured position of the employer in Bacchus Marsh, ‘does he contend that the employe isolated in Gippsland should not be given even more consideration than the employe” at Bacchus Marsh ?
– Does the honorable member think that if an industry can pay more wages in one place than in another it should not do so ?
– The honorable member is asking me a question which I refuse to answer in the way he wants me to. I am not concerned about that matter at all. The honorable member is taking up the same position as the employer who tells a Wages Board that his industry cannot pay increased wages. When a set of circumstances of that sort occurs in a factory or in the back-blocks, other legislation should be passed, so as to give the employer in the one case an opportunity, by protection, to pay better wages, and to give the employer in the other case concessions which will afford him better opportunities of success than his isolated position at present allows him. Legislation can meet that difficulty.
– That is very wide.
– I am surprised at the right honorable member’s remark. The right honorable member is a gentleman who in the past has taken on any big scheme imaginable, and it is to his credit that he is always better in big schemes than in. small ones. There is nothing in the interests of the people of Australia that should be too wide for this Parliament to grasp, if we have the power to pass legislation that would effectively better both the worker and the man who employs him, under our present social conditions, wrong though they may be. Victoria initiated the Wages Boards of Australia, if not of the world, and when I hear gentlemen who, in other Parliaments, have had to practically drag concessions in that direction from those who had the power to block them by their votes, raising arguments in opposition to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, I would remind them that the very men who opposed their endeavours to create Wages Boards are now lauding the Wages Board system. They surely should see the significance of that fact. I would ask whether there may not be something better for the worker and better generally for the people in this proposed improvement of the Arbitration’ Court system, when we find those gentlemen fighting it just as strenuously as they fought the Wages Boards of old. Although I never like to say anything that I feel would hurt the feelings of others, I must say that, while honorable members opposite may be unwittingly taking up that position, it is undoubtedly a fact that the interests which they represent are afraid of the effectiveness of the Arbitration Court, and hence their present opposition in this Chamber to our proposals to strengthen it.
– - As most honorable members on this side know, I had almost decided not to take any part in this debate at this stage. All the matters relating to this Bill havebeen so thoroughly and efficiently canvassed so far as we are concerned that there seemed little which I could add tothe debate. I have listened to many de- . bates in this House, and am bound to say that I have never heard a more masterly argument than has proceeded from my own. side of the Chamber with regard to the constitutional setting of this question, and thepowers proposed to be taken by this Bill. I rise now only for the purpose of making, a few general observations with regard to’ some matters that have been debated, and some statements that have been made. I wish to say at once that I rise with nosort of joy or satisfaction to take the attitude which I am compelled with my confreres over here to take regarding the proposal to amend the Arbitration Act. But the facts that are transpiring at the present moment, and the course of events generally, make it necessary that one should speak plainly on this question, involving as it does the whole industrial peace of the community, and issues which, judging by the trend of events, will very soon land this Parliament in a position of peculiar difficulty and complexity. It should not be very long before there is no use for a Federal Parliament, if we are going to confer one power after another upon an outside body, judicial though it may be, consisting of one man acting in a judicial capacity. I believe there is no one man wise enough, and sane enough, and big enough, to control all the industrial affairs of this conti- .nent, and that is the gist of this Bill. It i, to confer still further powers, not of mere judicial determination, but even powers of legislation in their very essence, upon one individual. It is a step altogether in the wrong direction, antiDemocratic to the core, and will eventually. I believe, lead to serious trouble in the Commonwealth.
We were told last night by the honorable member for Maranoa that we on this side had, after a great deal of trouble, hatched an egg, that egg meaning die amendment which we have thought it our duty to move to the proposal of the AttorneyGeneral. The honorable member said that, after a great deal of hard work and trouble, and secret conclave, we had 1 hatched an egg, which he ventured to say would be an addled one.” There can be no doubt that that was an addle-headed remark, even, I should say, a “ fowl “ remark, for the honorable member to make ; but, before long, the honorable member will fmd that the so-called egg of Federal arbitration will prove to be addled indeed, if it is to be divorced, as seems likely, from the Wages Boards of the various States. In some respects this egg is a very fertile one. It has produced sixtyseven disputes in the first six months of this year.
– What hen is sitting on it?
– I should say it was the old hen that ought to have been put into the pot long ago - the hen of the Labour party. What are the circumstances under which we are considering this proposal ? There are strikes all around us - Mount Lyell, Lithgow, Sydney Wharf Labourers, with others too numerous to mention threatening, including some in the Post Office. That seems to be the most likely scene of the next trouble, if we may judge of what is transpiring at the present moment. There have been strikes recently settled, as in the case of the implement makers, and also in the case of the Adelaide disturbance; in fact, there are strikes in whatever direction we look, while we are trying as best we may to make more perfect our present arbitration machinery. We learned yesterday on the authority of the State Government of New South Wales that they are powerless to intervene in the purely local strike in Sydney, because we have taken it under Federal cognisance and have dealt with it in the shape of a registered agreement voluntarily entered into some time ago. In spite of the voluntary agreement, the men are on strike, proving the impossibility of achieving industrial peace by any such proposal as that before the Chamber. Notwithstanding all that is happening, we come here in the most confident way and express our belief that the latest amendment proposed is to insure industrial peace throughout the length and breadth of the continent - that nothing is needed to bring about that desirable result.
I have said that the so-called egg is likely to prove an addled one; and that may be easily seen, I think, by reference to some statement made during this debate. It is an interesting fact that in the corporate opinion of my friends opposite, as gathered during this debate, the Bill is already a futility. One after another, portion of the Bill has been attacked, and if all the attacks be taken together, they cover the whole of the measure with one solitary exception, to which I shall refer later. Take, for instance, the statement of the honorable member for Hunter, in which he expressed his doubt, at this time of day, in the usefulness of arbitration. He has had a most unfortunate experience in his own district ; and the reason is not very far to seek. It is owing to the way in which, in my own State in particular, all such matters have been placed in the control of one man in Sydney. He is a good and able man, impartial to the very core - I mean Judge Heydon - but, because he has attempted the impossible, a strike amongst the coal miners has taken place; and we have the responsible representative of the constituency telling us that his belief in arbitration is already shaken - that he is not so sure that he may not have to throw it aside as many other expedients have been thrown aside. I venture to say that that strike would never have taken place had there been a well-adjusted and widely-diffused system of Wages Boards in New South Wales, which are the only means to bring industrial peace to the coal-mining or any other community. What the Bill does is to strike a deadly blow at the only wise and sane means of bringing about industrial peace, and to provide for the continuation of industrial war on a larger and more extensive scale. The honorable member for Hunter desires as his next experiment to make a union to embrace everybody - one large union. I suppose that when we get one union for the whole of the continent there will no longer be any need for a Federal Parliament It seems to me that the honorable member is beginning again where he began twenty years ago - that he has worked his arbitration cycle out. This time he proposes to have one huge union for the whole of Australia. He does not give us any particulars, of course ; it is not wise to do so. It is always well, when making a short cut for the new Jerusalem, to talk in good, large, vague, general terms. So we have to leave the proposal where he left it, without any details, and without the slightest clue as to how the industrial affairs of the Commonwealth are to be regulated wisely and peacefully through the intermediation of one union.
And then we had the honorable member for Dalley, who is an old trade unionist, and secretary of one of the most successful organizations in the world, namely, that of the amalgamated engineers. That organization has been referred to time and again as the very aristocracy of labour and trade unionism ; and I believe it has done more in the direction of developing the craft or guild side of unionism from a constructive point of view than any other up to date. Here in Australia the amalgamated engineers are not doing quite so much on the social side of their guild perhaps as is done in some of the older countries, for instance, Great Britain. There, I believe, last year or the year before, .they distributed a very large sum, I think about 800,000 amongst their unemployed members; and it is the one craft which seems to me to be consulting the social interests of its members in an extraordinary and useful degree. I, therefore, think that the honorable member was entitled to say something on a question which so nearly concerns his guild; but what has he to say of the proposal before us? He told us distinctly that, in his opinion, the Bill cannot succeed on its constitutional side, since it is impossible, under the terms of the Constitution, that we can do away with the prohibition now vested in the High Court.
– The engineers favour this Bill.
– Of course, because the Bill is favorable to their craft or to their guild. I should not have so much objection to .the Bill if every organization in Australia were run on the same lines, and was as comprehensive in its aims and scope. But the singular thing about the guild is that, in proportion as it is efficient, it has less need of an arbitration tribunal of this kind. The engineers are able to win for themselves advantages in the Old Country, and here, too; indeed, they have been able to win for themselves advantages quite equal to any that the Arbitration Court has conferred upon them. Therefore, die better organized the craft, the less need there is for a system of Federal compulsory arbitration.
– What is the good of the guild without the Bill?
– I have been trying for the last five minutes to show that without such legislation as this, the engineers have been able to keep their wages rates at a. decent standard, to distribute unemployed pay amongst themselves, and, generally, to render mutual assistance to the very utmost. That is the kind of constructive unionism in which I, for one, believe; and the sooner we can give a constructive twist to the trade unionism of Australia, the better it will be for all concerned. The question of wages is not everything; there is a great deal more behind those old-time craft .guilds than wages. But, so far, we here have not yet even begun to exploit their possibilities. We rather look to the Government to do everything for us, as is the case with respect to this Bill and other legislation of the kind.
Then we had the honorable member for South Sydney as a critic of the Bill; and he, too, thinks that one-man rule is very unwise. He said he desired to see a representative from either side sitting with the Judge, because, as the result of his long and large experience in arbitration matters, he thinks one-man rule is not perfect. The honorable member was of opinion that one man rule was impracticable and unwise. Subsequently, the honorable member for Maranoa expressed the opinion that there should be four persons sitting with the Judge - two representatives from each side. We see that the Court is growing larger the more criticism we get from honorable members opposite. All the honorable members to whom I have referred say expressly that one-man rule in the industrial sphere is eminently dangerous and impracticable, and will result only in extending the sphere of the trouble, without the possibility of our being able to compass the end we all have in view, namely, the pacific settlement of all disputes. The only other critic opposite, and one well competent to deal with, the matter from his experience commented on the machinery provided. I mean the honorable member for Werriwa, who has not been seen in the House this week and part of last.
– He is away electioneering at Liverpool Plains.
– It seems to me that the honorable member has not much incentive or motive to go electioneering just at present. However, we know. ‘the clear head he has, and how much attention he has given to these industrial questions; and he felt called upon to criticise the machinery of the Bill. If we collect all these points of criticism, and put them together, they amount to an overwhelming demonstration of the soundness of the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition at the present juncture. They show that we have hit the nail on the head, when we say that the concentration of power in one individual, besides being undemocratic, cannot lead to the pacific settlement of disputes. On one point there seems to be a general agreement on the other side, with one exception, and that is that the legislative recognition of the guild or the handicraft as the basis of operations of this Court should be substituted for the industrial basis, which has been, as I think, rigidly fixed by the Constitution. It is agreed on the other side that we should make a further experiment in connexion with arbitration, and that that experiment should be on the basis of the handicraft taking the place of the organized industry as a whole.
As I understand the Bill it simply means - and I take this to be the main principle - that we should have a group of persons asking for an award of their own, notwithstanding that their occupation may ramify into a hundred kinds of general employment. That is to say, the skill offered by the operative must be the basis of the settlement of the wages in the industry, and not the organization of the industry, or the result of the general operations of the industry. It seems to me that that, if it be carried to its logical conclusion, will lead my friends where they do not want to go. I have nothing to say against these crafts or guilds. They have done useful work in times gone by, but are not in and by themselves sufficient to meet the complex conditions of our modern industrial life. They are excellent within their sphere. They have clone good work, for instance in the Old Country, and in Continental countries where the community is comparatively small, and where employments are not conditioned, modified, and varied by such things as climate, geography, and distance. But to seek to apply this principle to a continent such as ours, where we have tropical industries on the one hand and industries relating to the more moderate latitudes on the other, is to try to make a suit of clothes of the olden days fit our modern working man. That cannot be done wisely. There must be a misfit, even when the Government have done their best.
– We can do it; and we are going to do it.
– It is not being clone. The honorable member said last night that, perfect as his organization was, it did not take in more than 50 per cent. of those engaged in like industries in Australia.
– But we made the rates and conditions for the other 50 per cent.
– The honorable member knows that nothing of the kind was done.
– I know that what I say is correct.
– The honorable member’s illustrations last night were all taken from city houses. He did not give us one illustration taken from far-back industries. He did not deal with men engaged in tending irrigation plants on stations, for instance, in remote districts.
– We control them from the city.
– Within large centres, it is possible to control them ; but the honorable member’s craft cannot, and does not, make its influence radiate to the uttermost circumference of this continent. The honorable member confessed last night that only 50 per cent, of the engineers of Australia were comprised in his craft. He hopes, however, that this Bill will help him to bring in the other 50 per cent. Mr. Howe. - I do.
– That is the milk in the cocoanut. The honorable member hopes that this Bill will help him to do a little organizing in his own industry.
– In industries generally.
– And particularly in the industry in which the honorable member is specially interested. With all the perfect organization of which he spoke, only 50 per cent, of the engineers are embraced by his guild ; the other 50 per cent., he hopes, are going to be brought in by this Bill.
– The honorable member’s mind is not large enough to deal with a question like this.
– Every one knows the great reach of mind of the present representative of East Sydney. East Sydney has been many years in discovering my honorable friend’s greatness. lt has got him at last ; and we all know what a broad mind he has, and how capable he is of settling, in about five minutes, all the affairs of creation.
But let me come back to the statement made by the honorable member for Dalley, which reveals entirely the purpose of this Bill. This is an organizing measure. It is an organizing ‘ proposal in the direction of large general strikes, and not in the direction of pacific settlement. That is my fundamental objection to this Bill. I do not want the general strike. A general strike means general misery, destitution, and heart burning in the community. Class feeling is developing rapidly enough in Australia, the last place where it ought to have a foothold. Side by side with all that my honorable friends’ are doing to multiply the possibilities of peace, there is growing up in the minds of the great masses of the Australian people a more intense hatred than has ever previously been known. They are seeking peace, finding it not, and this Bill, I fear, is only another step towards the organization of large industrial upheavals
– If the honorable member had had to carry his swag in Victoria thirty years ago he would have known what class hatred was at that time.
– I venture to say that it was not keener than it is today ; and I have yet to learn that class hatred, organized; is any better than class hatred segregated. I’ believe in organization ; I bel:eve in organizing good things ; but- the worst thing that could be done is to organize the feeling of hatred in a community. It is idle for my friends to try to laugh away this matter ; they know tint what I say is correct. Side by side with their proposals for the pacific settlement of all these points of difference,, class feeling, instead ot diminishing, is growing.
The Attorney-General told us, when introducing this Bill, that we ought to face the facts in this matter ; and one of the salient facts of the situation, he said, is that the tendency of labour organization, and of the organization of capital, is to cover wider and still wider areas. That is true. Industry is becoming more complex every day - infinitely more complex than the two-hundred-years-ago-period referred to last night bv the honorable member for Dalley. The honorable member said that his guild went back 200 years. But there is no relation between the industrial life of to-day and that of 200 years ago. Then it was simple; to-day it is complex, and therefore the guild which fitted the industrial conditions of 200 years ago will not fit the industrial conditions of the present time. I could understand this Bill in relation to any craft which was coterminous with an industry - and there are some such ii, Australia. The craft to which the honorable member for Dalley belongs, for example, may practically be said to be so, because engineering, up to a certain point, is fairly well compassed by his guild. I know of no others, with the exception, perhaps, of the Marine Engineers Union, and some such like organizations. But behind and beyond all these are many collateral industries, and they branch off and down, so far as the quality of the service required is concerned, to chaff-cutting in the interior of Australia. In the old days, a guild stood for efficient standards. Are we going to apply that to these general industrial operations to-day? Are we going to apply it to industries where we come down to elemental things - where only the simplest forms of engineering skill are required? It seems to me to be impossible to fit in the craft or guild idea with all this diversity of industry and occupation. I do not think any judge could perform the task if he were asked to.
Let us take the position in regard to one industrial dispute alone - that of the shearers. The shearing industry is one of the simplest of which I know.
– Is it? It embraces engineering and all classes of work.
– But the engineers in the shearing industry have not yet been brought before the Court in connection with that industry.
– They have.
– T. see no mention of them in the shearers’ plaint. If they have been before the Court they have been brought there grouped with others under some general provisions of the Act. Speaking generally, the shearing industry may be said to be one of the simplest industries in Australia; and yet the recent re-consideration of the case relating to that industry occupied the Court for sixty-seven or sixty-eight days. I do not know what time was occupied by the two hearings. We are asked not only to throw on the presiding Justice the obligation of laying down principles and leaving them as they ought to be left, to the settlement of local Courts or local Boards, but to involve him in the obligation of “policing “ the awards. That is more than any one man can compass. It is beyond his power and his wisdom. He will never do it, and we shall never have industrial peace whilst the matter is being dealt with on those large and general lines. The Attorney-General says, rightly enough, that if we are to have peace in industrial enterprises, we must have settlement. To my mind, this proposal of his will not settle strikes. I can see in it only an opening for the multiplication of disputes of all kinds, and for bringing before the Court constantly recurring small troubles. It is proposed, for instance, that there shall be no restriction upon the scope of the Judge’s inquiry and determination. Aforetime there has been ; now, under this Bill, everything that the Judge cares to bring in, if he thinks it will in the remotest degree help the settlement of the dispute before him, may be brought within its purview. In other words, the Government are proposing to confer upon the Conciliation and Arbitration Judge not judicial, but legislative power. Nothing is more clearly laid down in the admirable judgments of the High Court than that the Conciliation and Arbitration Court is to be, not a legislative, but a judicial Court for the settlement of disputes, and not a Court for making general adjustments of industrial enterprises under the plea of preventing and settling disputes. It is proposed, for instance, to amend section 38b of the principal Act, so that, taken in conjunction with section 40 a of that Act, as proposed to be amended, it will read1 - Id making an award or order, the Court shall not be restricted to the specific relief claimed by the parties to the industrial dispute or to the demands made by the parties in the course of the dispute but 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.
The provision is to be made as wide as it is possible to make it. Anything relating to an industry, or to its working, even sanitary conditions, may be brought in. All these things are, if necessary, to come within the purview of the Judge. In connexion with a mining. dispute, for example, the Judge could say whether the miners were to cut the coal in the top instead of the bottom. He could say what sort of lamps they should use.
– In England that is dona without an Arbitration Court.
– Only the use of safety lamps is prescribed. There are mines in Australia where safety lamps are not needed, and the men do not want them, and others where they should be used. The Judge would have the right to say where lamps should be used, and what kinds of lamps, and how many cubic feet of air should circulate. These conditions, aru] many others, are prescribed by legislation, and the Bill gives the Judge the right to vary, and practically abrogate the legisla- tion of the States in any way he may deem necessary to bring about the settlement of a dispute. Many disputes do not relate to wages. The dispute now raging at Lithgow has nothing to do with wages, and is connected with an old custom of the district.
– Would the honorable member object to a Judge having full power to settle the Lithgow dispute?
– I do not think that a Judge could settle it. There is nothing in it, so far as I see; but each side has its back up.
– Suppose the Judge decided that the old custom should prevail?
– In my opinion, had the old custom prevailed, the dispute would have been settled long ago, without intervention of any kind. Lithgow has been seething with discontent since legislation of this kind was applied to its industries.
– Since Hoskins Brothers went there.
– There was trouble before. There has been trouble ever since the attempt was made to bring the men compulsorily before the Courts. The honorable member for Nepean knows all about it. The legislation for compulsory arbitration has provoked more disputes than it has settled. I say that with infinite regret. I do not contend that that proves the failure of the arbitration principle, which must be tried still further, although on simpler lines. There- must be more diversity in its application. Disputes must be simplified and segregated, and dealt with in the light of the local circumstances. They must be treated on the spot as they arise, and anticipated, if need be, by some swift and facile means, such as only efficient Wages Boards will provide. Honorable members opposite propose to take the settlement of these disputes further away from the men.
– Does the honorable member refer to the New South Wales Coercion Act?
– That is a brilliant interjection. The honorable member is saturated with the class feeling to which I have referred. His friends have been in office in New South Wales for more than twelve months, but the Act of which he speaks is still on the statute-book. The Labour Government has not removed it, even with the aid of Mr. Willis.
– They are too busy removing members of the Liberal party.
– The honorable member avoids answering my question.
– I did not think that the honorable member was serious. The Act referred to contains the only method likely to hold the field in the future. The honorable member will live to see the day when industrial disputes will be settled by the development of the idea contained in that much-abused measure.
– God forbid that we should ever see that day.
– I am not speaking of the coercion principle, but of the Wages Boards method, which has settled more disputes in New South Wales than all the Arbitration Acts. The figures prove it.
– The Act has caused more strikes. That is shown by comparing the number of strikes during the three years before it was passed with the number since it became law.
– Is the honorable member confining his comparison to New South Wales, because, if so, I differ from him? So far as all Australia is concerned, disputes are multiplying in proportion to the efforts of my honorable friends to settle them.
– There are Wages Boards almost everywhere in Australia.
– I think not. The Wages Boards system is in its infancy, and must be developed until more of the large homogeneous industries of the Commonwealth are embraced. Honorable members are afraid to give it a chance.
– Nearly all the big crises in New South Wales have been in industries which would not register under the Wages Boards legislation.
– They have no faith in it.
– In Adelaide the Wages Board did not stop the strike.
– Nor- have the industrial arbitration proposals of my honorable friends prevented the wharf lumpers from- striking in New South Wales. 1 do not think that strikes will ever cease so long as human nature remains what it is. But we can minimize them, and bring about a better feeling by the extension of the Wages Board system. We can secure to the men reasonable conditions of employment by means of localized tribunals, which will deal with disputes as they arise, and where they arise. The proposals of the Government remove the means of settlement further away from the people, and thus multiply chances of disagreement and discontent.
– How would the adoption of the amendment remedy that?
– The amendment lays down the principle that this arbitral power must be decentralized. We, on this side, declare that no man is able to compass all the ends in view.
– The Court, as it exists, was created by legislation introduced by the honorable member for Ballarat.
– My honorable friend forgets the constitutional limitations.
– Which the honorable member for Parramatta will not attempt to remove.
– No, not in their entirety, because I think that that would be for the worse.
– It is time that he went on strike.
– I have been on strike, but I do not suppose that my honorable friend has been. The trouble is that those who know nothing about strikes have most to say about them.
– We have had to contribute a good deal towards strikes. I belong to the Typographical Society, which has always avoided strikes.
– That society has obtained good conditions and wages without the aid of Arbitration Courts, and, generally, by means of Wages Boards.
– Not by means of a Wages Board.
– By what is tantamount to that.
The Bill seems to recognise, in a clumsy and very incomplete way, the Wages Board principle. I refer to the proposed amendment of section i6a of the Act. The President may convene a compulsory conference, and summon any person to attend. An amendment, to which we are asked to agree, defines “ any person “ as including - not only persons engaged in or connected with an industrial dispute, but also any person engaged in or connected with any dispute relating to industrial matters (whether extending beyond the limits of a State or not), and related in any way to an industrial dispute ; and also includes any person, whether connected with an industrial dispute or not, whose presence at the conference the President thinks is likely- to conduce to the prevention or settlement of an industrial dispute.
We are asked to pass a further amendment providing that, when a conference has been held, and no agreement reached, the Court shall have cognisance of the industrial dispute concerned. When there is a disagreement, the Judge may refer the matter to the Court, and then settle it himself. A Wages Board is, in its operation, almost what this compulsory meeting will be, but where there is a disagreement, the chairman can settle the matter. Under the Bill, however, the Judge, instead of settling the matter as President of the compulsory conference, must refer it to the Court over which he presides, and a long legal process must be followed to set the facts before him again, although he knows them all from A to Z. He cannot, as President of this compulsory conference, settle a dispute, but must refer it to the Arbitration Court over which he presides. I can see no possibility of settling these disputes as they arise from time to time by any of the machinery contemplated in this Bill. ! My point is that one man cannot do this work. In the case as to which all this trouble has arisen, I believe there are about twenty industries affected. By this Bill, the Government will multiply those twenty into 200, and for aught I know, into 2,000 over all Australia. The Judge has more than he can do now. Everything is in arrears, and if he cannot compass twelve or thirteen disputes in twelve or thirteen industries, how is he to insure the industrial peace of the entire continent ?
Here, again, is where I think disputes will multiply : The Judge is to be given power to bring in any extraneous matter that is not in the demand or plaint. It seems to me that, when an industry, as such, has been before the Court, and the workers are not satisfied with the award that has been made, it is the easiest thing for them to organize a craft dispute, which incidentally will bring the industry under the purview of the Court. That means a perpetuation of troubles. It means multiplying them. “ If you cannot succeed as an industry, try it on as a craft; and if you do not get full satisfaction then, try it on in some other craft incidentally related to the industry.” There is, therefore, no end to the trouble that is going to arise, if all these possibilities of rehearing before the Court, and all the unrestricted powers to be exercised by the Court, are made possible, as contemplated by this Bill. For instance, as the honorable member for Cook very clearly pointed out, if w#» go upon these craft lines alone, every employer of labour will have to register himself in quite a number of separate capacities. He will have to organize himself, say, as a boot manufacturer and as an engineer, and, in fact, in relation to every craft that is incidentally concerned in his industry. If industry is to be organized upon craft lines only in the way proposed, the crafts being, in most cases, so far as the big industries are concerned, coterminous with the continent, do honorable members opposite think that people in the interior of Australia will be able to attend at the. Court for sixty-eight days at a stretch? It simply means that they will not be able to look after these matters themselves. They will have to employ experts in the city at the Court to do it for them ; and so the industrial affairs of Australia must necessarily fall ultimately into the control of a small knot of experts at the point where these proposals are to be settled. It means the creation of a smallindustrial oligarchy, which will rule this continent industrially almost as despotically as any other oligarchy in any other sphere of government.
– It is carried out now in the building trade.
– It is carried out now upon a very limited scale.
– Is it? What about the circular which the honorable member received from- the Employers Union this morning with reference to this Bill ?
– I know nothing whatever about that circular. I did not even know that Mr. Walpole was back here. I thought he had gone away ; but it seems he has turned up again, to the infinite joy of my honorable friends opposite. They seem to be very fond of him, and he seems to be a very great friend of theirs, or, at any rate, they say so, and make good use of him. I have no objection to their making any use they like of Mr. Walpole. I only met him once in my life, and he struck me then as being a very able and astute gentleman. I fancy that they realize that, and hence a great deal of the trouble.
We ought, however, to consider this matter altogether apart from any person what-, ever. We ought to consider it only from the view-point of getting the best results for our workmen in Australia with the least disurbance to industry and the best general industrial results and conditions. That is the object we all aim at. My honorable friends opposite have reached this point nowadays - and it only shows the extent of their class consciousness, and where it is leading them - that if one dares to criticise any of their machinery, they regard him as being entirely opposed to the fundamental principle involved, and as an enemy of the workers, even if he only points out where they are running themselves into a dead end. They are doing that in connexion with this Bill. Instead of decentralizing our industrial functions, they are concentrating them. Centralization is the chief element in the Bill. It is dangerous ; it is absolutely impracticable. It is dangerous because it is impracticable. It can lead only to strife, to bitter feeling, to upsetting and trouble.
I believe that what is being done now is only to find further argument for the next referendum. I cannot believe that my friends are under the conviction that this is going to give them industrial peace. It is another experiment.
– My honorable friend admits it, and every one knows it. This happens to be a very convenient experiment for honorable members opposite. When it has been overruled by the High Court, they will be able to go out in connexion with the referenda and say, “ Here we are overruled again by the High Court. We cannot do anything without coming up against it, and you can never have industrial peace until you carry our referenda and alter the Constitution.” That is the object my honorable friends have in view. They are doing this thing very well, but they ought to tell us what their real and ultimate intentions are. Why is it that, with a Bill of this kind, so far-reaching in its consequences, we have had only one fifteen minutes’ exposition of it at the hands of the Attorney-General ?
– I will tell the honorable member our ultimate aim if he wishes to know - it is industrial peace with justice.
– That is our aim.
– Why, then, is the honorable member opposing the Bill ?
– Because, in the first place, it will not give justice, and, in the second place, it will not give industrial .peace. When one man has to determine the conditions of an industry which ramifies over all Australia, and is infinitely complex in its operations, he cannot apply justice unless he is at the point where the industry is operating. It is impossible for him to do it sitting away from and outside of the local circumstances which! make up the dispute. It cannot be too much emphasized that a great many of these disputes arise out of the very environment of the industry, and can be settled only in the light of it. One man sitting: away in the clouds, as it were, so far aslocal circumstances are concerned, cannot know all that makes up the dispute, and cannot, therefore, give the workers justice throughout the length- and breadth of Australia.
– We sometimes decide cases here on evidence taken in other countries.
– My honorable friend is quite right j but is such a proceeding always satisfactory?
– I have not heard any great complaints about it.
– Would the honorable member settle disputes here for England if he could be in England himself to settle them? Would he prefer to settle them on the spot, or 12,000 miles away?” Here honorable members opposite have the means to go to the spot and settle them where they occur, and they are deliberately refusing to do it.
– Sometimes a change of venue is desirable.
– Sometimes it is, and sometimes the honorable member makes a sensible interjection. That is one. Whenever it is desirable to change the venue, it can always be done.
The principle of the whole matter was wisely laid down by this Judge himself. I have quoted this before, and it is worthquoting again. This is the principle, true for all time, laid down by Judge Higgins himself at the time that this provision found its way into the Constitution. Whatever modifications time has shown to be necessary in the application of the principle, the principle itself is as sound now as it was then, and cannot be controverted. He said -
All I ask foi by this amendment -
By this arbitration provision - is that just as Victoria can deal with Victoriantrade disputes, that just as New South Wales candeal with New South Wales trade disputes, sothe Federal Parliament shall be enabled to deal with disputes which are Australian.
There is no escape from that principle. It is true, and it is capable of modificationto suit all the complexities of our growing industrial spheres.
I object to the Bill on these grounds : It will lead to trouble, and will not settle disputes. Every inch the Court is taken away from the centre of the trouble is a possible cause of further trouble. Ultimately, I believe the Court will tend to lower wages within these handicrafts. We must have a wage which will enable the poorest of the handicrafts to live, or, in the alternative, shut them. up. We have seen before to-day that the Federal control is average control, and the more you make these huge industrial crafts susceptible to the adjudication of one man the more you must tend to average wages and conditions. This means that the best paid will have a tendency to fall, while the lowest may go up a little. It seems to me to involve the application of a set of mechanical rules to industrial enterprise, and to shut out all possibility of co-operative arrangements between those who employ labour and those who have their labour to offer. Nowadays co-partnership, profit-sharing and so forth, which would make for industrial peace and efficient co-operation, seem to have been dropped altogether from the plans of my honorable friends opposite. It is no longer a point with them that the wages paid to the employe* shall have any reference to the returns of the industry as a whole.
What they are doing is to apply this principle of the minimum needs of die average workman ; and I never could understand the hysterics of the Prime Minister and his colleagues about this supposed industrial charter laid down by Mr. Justice Higgins What becomes of their doctrine of “ full fruits,” which .is in the forefront of their programme? Will this principle of the minimum needs of an average employe” get them, any “ forrader “ in that direction ? They say they are entitled to the “full fruits “ ‘of their labour ; but there is no such proposal laid down by the Arbitration Court. We have a mechanical law of wages which the Judge has said over and over again shall “bear no relation to die profits of the industry. We have been told in dispute after dispute that the Judge does not consider the returns of the industry as a whole, but is only concerned with the rate of wages in the industry - with the minimum requirements ot an average employ^.
– I do not think the honorable member can quote the present President of the Arbitration Court as ever having said that.
– I think 1 can find where the President of the Arbitration
Court has declared that he had nothing to do with the returns of an industry.
– He never said so.
– I believe he said, in the Harvester case, to go no further, that he had nothing to do with the profits earned by Mr. McKay ; and that all he was concerned with was the wages of the men - that, so long as the men could be given a fair wage which would keep them in employment and meet their minimum needs, that was all he had to decide.
– The honorable member is talking about the guiding principle of the Wages Boards.
– Nothing of the kind. I am talking about the guiding principle of Mr. Justice Higgins as enunciated in the implement makers case. I desire to know what becomes of the doctrine of “ full fruits “ ? It surely does not mean “minimum needs.”
– If we cannot get the minimum, how can we get the “ full fruits “?
– The “full fruits “ cannot.be obtained where the cases are submitted to a Judge who says he has nothing to do with the “ fruits “ at all - that he will not consider what an industry earns. This seems to go right in the teeth of the Labour party’s general propaganda. I submit, therefore, that the application of any mechanical principle of wages is not in itself a good thing. I believe that what an industry earns and what it can pay should, if need be, enter into the settlement of disputes ; and employes are likely to get justice more readily in this regard through a Wages Board than through the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member knows that we cannot get the “ full fruits “ until we are all in co-operation.
– I see; that is purely socialistic?
– Very near it.
– The honorable member is always candid, and I wish more of his friends around him would equally tell the truth straight out.
– The honorable member knows it is the truth, because he has read up these matters.
– I know it is the truth, and I know that it is as impracticable as it is true. At any rate, the employes cannot get the “ full fruits “ by a rule relating to minimum needs, or by refusing to consider what an industry can produce. The honorable member for
Darling Downs has handed me the judgment, of .Mr. Justice Higgins in the Harvester case, and there I read -
Fair and reasonable remuneration is a condition precedent to exemption from the duty ; and thf remuneration of the employ^ is not made to depend on the profits of the employer.
– That does not say that the Judge will not consider the profits of the employers.
– The Judge says somewhere in the judgment, and in -other judgments, too, that he has not to consider the profits of the industry. I believe he so laid it down in the Broken >Hill case.
Mi. Thomas. - He said that, irrespective of profits, there ought to be a living wage; and so there ought to be.
– But that ought not to be the beginning and end of it all.
– Hear, hear.
– No one knows better than the honorable member that a minimum wage is always the maximum wage, except in cases where, through the cooperation of the unions themselves, more can be forced from the employer. That is done in many cases, as, for instance, during the present boom in trade, when carpenters are being paid more than the Court awarded them. As I say, this doctrine cuts right into the teeth of the programme of my honorable friends opposite.
– The honorable member is against our programme, is he not?
– I am against some of it, of course. The honorable member for Darling Downs has pointed out to me another portion of the same judgment, which I had better read for the information of the honorable member for Batman -
It was strongly urged before me that I should compel the applicant to disclose his books, so as to enable the objectors to see what are his profits,’ and that if the profits are large the wages should be large also. The applicant objected to such disclosure, and I declined to compel him. I cannot find anything in the Act to suggest a scheme of profit-sharing.
Nothing could be more conclusive than that, I think. I cannot understand how honorable members opposite can reconcile this mechanical charter - which, in all conscience, is low enough in its application to Australia to-day, and which, if generally applied, would mean a reduction and not an increase in wages - with their desire to ultimately give the workers the “ full fruits “ of their labour.
I am against the Bill for the reasons I have given; and I may say, further, that the measure seems to me only another way of evading the referenda just taken. If the referenda meant one thing more than another, it was that the people were not inclined to put their industrial matters for settlement further away from them than at present. If there was one thing more than another that was the essence of the referenda, it was the fact that, as regards the settlement of industrial troubles, the people of the States prefer to keep them as far as possible in their own hands. The decision on that occasion was that the principle of the State settlement of State disputes should apply in the future as in the past, and that where there was any unfair competition, then, and then only, should there be a Federal tribunal to co-ordinate these matters and put them on a fair plane of competition.
I make the prediction that, before many years are over, the experience of facts will drive my friends opposite to the adoption of the proposal of the late Government, which they have affected to despise on all the platforms of Australia. We cannot settle these disputes on a satisfactory basis unless more than wages are considered. We must consider the whole surroundings of an industry, and its relation to the general prosperity of the country. We must consider industrial operations in relation to each other, and in relation to the competition of other countries. The latter is a point sometimes left out of count altogether. We are doing big things within our own borders; but, ultimately, we come to the point of international competition. There is an international setting to all these matters; and the whole surroundings of these disputes must come into focus before we can ever have lasting industrial peace. And we are more likely to get peace from a tribunal such as was suggested, which would be, in essence, a Board of Trade, with large legislative powers to deal with the whole ramifications of our industrial life, as well as, incidentally, to settle the wages and conditions of those employed in building up our industrial prosperity. It seems to me that we have got hold of only the wages end of the trouble. The view is not large enough, while the Court is too large; and, by breaking up the problem, and dealing with it in the light of local circumstances, we shall be taking the only way to effect a satisfactory solution. Our view holds the field, and will continue to do so; and within a very few years, honorable members opposite will adopt it; and then, I suppose, call it their own, as they call everything else that they adopt. However, the idea is there, and they will arrive at it in a very few years. That is the idea of the State helping the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth helping the State - the idea of their cooperating to bring about industrial peace and satisfaction so far as it is humanly possible - the State, within its own ambit, taking hold of its own disputes and settling than, and for ever rendering impossible what we see in Sydney to-day - a State Government standing helplessly by, and telling the world that it cannot act in a purely local dispute, because another outside power possesses the jurisdiction. That must be remedied. The State must try first; and by linking up this State action-
– There is nothing to stop the State acting in the case referred to.
– They say they cannot act. Does my honorable friend suggest that they will not?
– He does. He says that they will not take action.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral say that his confreres of the State Government of New South Wales can settle the dispute, but will not?
– I mean to say that it is a very convenient thing for them to follow their predecessor, Mr. Wade, and shove it on to us.
– I hear now that even Labour members will shirk their own duty, and seek to get behind another section of Labour members somewhere else in Australia. That is human nature, of course; and we are hearing now that human nature is rampant in the ranks of Labour as elsewhere. There ought to be inherent in the State Governments complete power to settle such a dispute. If the State Governments, in the light of that fact alone, will surrender further powers to the Commonwealth, except for the purpose already named, they will be very foolish. The people lately said, with a very emphatic “ No,” that they would not grant further power to the Commonwealth Parliament. That “ No “ was a wise one, and related to the larger view of things which the Federation was intended to set up. It is a Federal decision in its very essence, and a wise one, too; and we shall come to industrial peace the sooner if, instead of taking the power from the States, we try to supplement that power, leaving all the while the greatest facilities nearest the dispute, with a view to its swift settlement. Only so shall we get industrial peace. That was our proposal, and we hold to it. When all these measures have been tried and swept aside by the High Court, as every competent authority says is inevitable, then, in the very nature of things, I suppose the Labour party will try the referendum again. And, when they try it yet again and get another rebuff from the people, as I believe they will, they will fall back upon our proposal for a Board of Trade, consisting of three Commissioners, men of legal learning and commercial standing, who would be independent in every way, and would be commissioned to consider every relation of our industrial life, both as to the getting and the distribution of the wages which are to be paid. Then, and only then, shall we have in sight a settlement of these disputes. Then, and only then, when there is co-operation between all sections of the community, can we hope to see that peace, harmony, and prosperity, so much to be desired in a young country like Australia.
.- I do not intend, at this stage, to detain the House very long. Indeed, if it were not for the peculiar nature of the amendment that has been submitted, I should not think it necessary to speak. Although the Leader of the Opposition, when moving his amendment, said that we need not consider how far some of these proposals are within our constitutional limitations, since that would have to be settled by others, the principal, and, to my mind, the most important criticisms to which the measure has been subjected, have been directed at the constitutional limits of those very proposals. I do not intend to repeat those criticisms. Those levelled at the Bill by the honorable member for Flinders, and the honorable member for Angas, were exceedingly full and impressive; and I shall be much surprised if they do not result in some very material amendments being made in Committee. The question of our constitutional power foreshadows almost every measure with which we have to deal, and it is repeatedly raised in connexion with Bills that are afterwards held by the High Court to be constitutional. On the other hand, when we least expect it, we have a declaration of unconstitutionality. For example, honorable members generally were agreed on the Seamen’s Compensation Bill, and no question as to its constitutionality was raised in this House ; yet, as soon as a case arising under it went before the High Court it was declared to be unconstitutional. We cannot get away from the question of our constitutional limitations in connexion with the consideration of any measure with which we have to deal. But the fact that there is this difficulty should not deter us from trying to exercise our powers, and to make their execution as effective as possible. The people have given us. power to make laws with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes of an Inter- State character, and this Parliament in 1904 endeavoured to give effect to that power by enacting what the present Leader of the Opposition then said was recognised as the most experimental piece of legislation that had ever been or was likely to be launched in the Commonwealth. Was it to be expected that such a piece of legislation would be perfect? Did not the fact that it was largely experimental presuppose that we should have proposed amendment after amendment until it was made as perfect as we could make it within the limits of our jurisdiction ? In the administration of that measure difficulties have been met with, some of which have been cured, while others are incurable because of our constitutional limitations, and I do not think we shall be able to deal satisfactorily with these questions as long as our present limitation of power exists. At best we can only provide for these industrial matters, being dealt with on a very large scale, at the cost of a very large outlay of time and money, and by throwing an immense burden of detail upon the Judge who has to deal with them. Indeed, so heavy is this burden of detail that I have often wondered that the President of the Arbitration Court has not long since resigned his office. If he were to do so, I doubt whether it would be possible to get any one to take up the work that he has been doing, and doing so well. We have heard a good deal as to every honorable member being desirous of bringing about industrial peace on the basis of industrial justice, and it seems extraordinary that, although we are all so anxious to do- the same thing, we are utterly unable to do it. .
– Because we all know in our hearts that it is useless. Mr. WISE. - No. A remark made by the honorable member for’ Flinders when; addressing himself to this . question last week speaks volumes, and is worthy of our consideration. The honorable member said -
I have sometimes wished that in dealing with a subject of this kind, we could, for a few hours, throw aside our party clothes and endeavour in a reasonable spirit to deal with what is undoubtedly one of the most difficult problems that could come before any body of men. I know, however, that that is impossible.
That is a very sad reflection upon the way. in which Parliament carries out its work. It places Parliament far below the idea! that is supposed to actuate it in the fulfilment of its duties. Why is it impossible for us to set aside our party clothes ? Why cannot we act as we are supposed to act,, and deal with this subject in a reasonable spirit? The honorable member said that he knew it was impossible for us to do> anything of the kind, and he went on to say that he could not make a fighting; speech on the subject. It was remarkable that he should think he was expected to make a fighting party speech. I venture to say that if honorable members like the honorable member for Flinders and the honorable member for Angas, who in these matters appear from their speeches to be prepared to go very much further than other members of the Opposition, would only throw aside their party clothes and approach questions of this kind in a reasonable spirit, their example would Be followed by a great many men, weaker perhaps in their constituencies, and weaker also in their abilities.
– Would any notice be taken of their suggestions?
– I have not heard any one take notice of them; but if they set such an example to the House, I believe it would be followed. I wish now to refer to an interjection which I made last night whilst the honorable member for Kooyong was speaking, more especially as it relates to a matter to which reference has been made this afternoon by the honorable member for Parramatta. Whilst the honorable member for Kooyong was praising the_ Inter- State Commission which the Fusion Government proposed to create, I interjected, “ Why did not your Government create it?” He replied, “Because we did not have the opportunity.” I. answered, “ You did, but you dropped the
Bill in the Senate.” The honorable member’s rejoinder was, “ Nothing of the kind.” I repeated that it was so, and he said that it was not. I was certainly amazed at that flat contradiction, which recalled to my mind the remark made by Dr. Johnson, that it is more from carelessness of truth than intentional lying that so much falsehood abounds in the world. To say that it is not true that that Bill was dropped in the Senate by the Fusion Government is to state what is at variance with the records of this Parliament. On 29th September, 1909, Senator Millen, a member of that Government, obtained leave to introduce the Bill. The Bill was read a first time on the motion of the present honorable member for Kooyong on the ist of October, whilst on the 6th October the honorable member moved that it be read a second time, and fully explained its principles. It was then debated for an hour and forty-five minutes. On 13th October, it was further debated for three hours and thirty-eight minutes, and on the 14th October it was debated from 6.13 p.m. until the Senate adjourned. After that it was never heard of, although the Parliament continued to sit until 8th December. Many important Bills were passed by the Senate between 14th October and the date of prorogation; yet the honorable member says that the Bill was not dropped in the Senate, and that the Government did not get an opportunity to create the Inter-State Commission. In moving that the Bill be read a second time, the honorable member stated that he was introducing it to carry out the resolution of the famous Premiers’ Conference of that year and that they had promised to grant, by delegation, the increased powers which were necessary. Without those powers the Bill would not have been of any value. On the 17th October, Mr. Wade, then Premier of New South Wales, was asked what would be the position of the States if the Inter- State Commission Bill did not pass? He replied that the States were already taking steps .to hand over to the Commonwealth the control of industrial disputes where there was unfair competition between the States. Then, on the 14th October, two or three days before Mr. Wade’s remark, the Argus stated that it was expected that certain amendments,, which had been foreshadowed, would be defeated in turn, and the Bill carried in its present form. That was the opinion expressed by a newspaper which was supporting the Fusion
Government. And yet the Bill was dropped, and nothing further done with it.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ dropped. “
– That it was not proceeded with. That is the most effective way of dropping a Bill.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Bill was dropped because we did not want to proceed with it? Will he be fair if he can?
– I say emphatically that, between the 6th October - the date of the motion for the second reading - and the 8th December - when Parliament rose - many other Bills were passed, and in that fact we have conclusive evidence that the Government did not want it to go through.
– That, is rough on the present Government, so far as. some of their Bills are concerned.
– Let it be so. “I am prepared to apply the same remarks to any Government to whom they will apply. There is another reason for my belief, that the Fusion Government wanted to drop that Bill’ The Inter-State Commission Bill would have been of no value without a delegation of their powers by the States. When the honorable member for Parramatta was speaking, the honorable member for Hindmarsh interjected, “ We cannot- do anything until we get our powers altered,” . to which the reply was given, “ We do not intend to alter them.” I made a note of the remark, because it was a striking admission. Singularly enough, the Melbourne ship-owners had a private interview- with the then Attorney-General on the 14th October. They protested against some of the clauses of the Bill, and the measure was not proceeded with. That, of course, may have been merely a coincidence. Why was it considered desirable” to ask the States to delegate their powers ? Why was it not proposed to ask the people for them? During the referendum campaign, what was called The Speaker’s Handbook was issued. God help the man who used it when addressing an audience in which there was some one knowing the real facts. In that publication, the statement was- made that there was no need to “ask. for these powers from the people, because the States had agreed to give them, and the resolution of the Premiers was cited. Readers were not told that not one of the States had passed a Bill giving up any of its powers to the Commonwealth. The statement continued that the honorable member for Kooyong, who was then in the Senate, had introduced the Inter- State Commission Bill. But nothing was said about the Bill not having been passed. No State Government has introduced a measure for the delegation of powers to the Commonwealth. It is no answer to say that the Inter-State Commission Bill has not been passed. It was for the States to carry out their part of the bargain. We remain exactly where we have always stood. The honorable member for Ballarat, just before the Fusion Government was formed, travelled throughout Australia, advocating, amongst other policies, new Protection. He had, in a memorandum, previously said -
Effective and useful as States industrial laws have in many cases proved, their operation is circumscribed by State boundaries, and it can hardly be claimed for them that they either do or can secure uniformity in the conditions of manufacture throughout Australia. No authority but the Commonwealth Parliament can do this, and the attempt to do it, in the way that has been outlined, is in fullest .harmony with the Federal aims and character of the Constitution.
The honorable member for Parramatta, who was then opposed to the honorable member for Ballarat, was saying, “ Trust the States; ask them to give us these powers “ - a course which the latter, after he joined the Fusion, “took. But speaking at Toowoomba, he said -
The Opposition, on the other hand, in the matter of the new Protection appear to offer us nothing, but to promise inquiry and persuasion to be exercised by the Commonwealth upon the
States….. Judging by the results ‘of “ persuasion “ in the past in that direction the prospects were not extremely hopeful.
That statement has been confirmed by the experience gained in their failure to carry out his own agreement with them. If the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Ballarat were a mere declaratory motion, every honorable member could vote for it. I do not think that any one would hesitate to say that - no measure the effect of which will be to concentrate in any one person the control of all the conditions of carrying on all the industries of this continent can be other than impracticable and fraught with danger to the whole community.
The honorable member has carefully avoided saying that the Bill is such a measure. If it were, it would be unconstitu- tional. It is rather difficult to see the’ object of it. Remembering what took place last year, I think I can give a reason for this amendment. The Opposition is composed of two discordant factions, some of its members being pledged to arbitration legislation, while others have always been opposed to it. Last year, the Leader of the Opposition, after pointing out the defects of the amending Bill then introduced, said that its second reading would not be opposed. That statement gave dissatisfaction to many of his followers, some of whom stayed here until nearly 3 o’clock in the morning to call for a division, but, by a mere accident, a division was not taken. On this occasion, to avoid difficulty, the amendment has been proposed. That makes it unnecessary for any member of the Opposition to directly vote against the motion for the second reading. The honorable member for Ballarat stated that the Bill contains proposals which may be made acceptable, if they are not so now, and others which merit examination. Yet he has moved an amendment which, if carried, would prevent the further consideration of the mea-‘ sure. I shall vote against the amendment, and for the second reading, in order to have an opportunity to consider such proposals as he speaks of, and to make the Bill as satisfactory as possible.
Mr. mcwilliams (Franklin) [5.19]. - Those who have had the honour of sitting in this House for six or seven years will agree with me that many of the speeches on this Bill have been almost an echo of those delivered on the first Arbitration Bill. I opposed that measure, thinking it to be futile, and prophesied that Parliament would have to patch it up time and again, until it was discovered that its method of preventing strikes was useless. The honorable members for Maranoa, South Sydney, Hunter, and others, who are in close touch with unions, have declared that the men will never give up the right to strike, and that has been proved over and over again. No matter what arbitration law may be in force, the members of a union, who are dissatisfied with the conditions imposed on them by an award, will cease work. T.n the first speech which I made in this’ “House. I said that compulsory arbitration must fail, because there are not enough gaols in Australia to hold’ all the men who would be concerned in a big strike caused by what they thought a legitimate grievance.
– The honorable member knew that that was a gross exaggeration.
– It is a fact. In New South Wales there is in power a Labour Government which, although pledged to repeal the Coercion Act, has not done so. Men are being gaoled under that Act; but although sentenced to three and six months’ imprisonment, they are released after serving a week or two, and the whole procedure has become a farce.
– Should we not try to bring about the settlement of disputes?
– This legislation is so much waste paper. No power in Australia could prevent the members of, say, the Shearers Union from striking, whatever legislation might be passed. If they were dissatisfied, they would only decline to sign on.
– They went to work this year pending the decision of a dispute.
– They would not have done so if they had had the slightest intention to.strike. The award effected practically no alteration of their conditions.
– They gained ^100,000 or more by it.
– That has been contradicted by members of the Labour party.
– They arc working peacefully all over Australia to-day.
– They would have been doing so in any case. Between ist January and 30th June of this year, the number of strikes constituted a record for Australia, there having been sixty-seven in the half-year ; and the average has been well kept up during the last three months. In New South Wales there is Commonwealth and State legislation for the settlement of disputes ; but strikes are as frequent as ever. The Attorney-General suggested to his trade union that it could evade the law merely by declining to unload certain sugar - that that would not constitute a strike. There are so many ways of getting round, over, and under legislation of this kind, that Parliament wastes its time in passing it. Every honorable member knows in his heart that it is useless. No Parliament ever attempted more earnestly to provide a satisfactory method for the settlement of industrial disputes than did that which passed the first Commonwealth Arbitration Act. There were differences df opinion on both sides regarding the measure, and even among the members of the various parties then constituting the House. This House honestly and fairly tried, both sides combining, to pass a law which would bring about industrial peace.
– There are more organizations to-day working under awards than ever before in the history of the country.
– And there are more strikes. There is a record of sixtyseven within six months.
– What are they?
– There are some big strikes going on now.
– Every big organization is working under an award to-day.
– We were almost on the eve of another disastrous strike among the timber workers of Tasmania, and the whole object of those who stirred up those men to strike was to prevent them establishing a Wages Board. I believe the Wages Boards are the best, fairest, and surest way to secure industrial peace.
The real object of this Bill, if it could be made known, is to put a knife right up to the hilt in the Wages Board system, which does not suit honorable members opposite, because it is not confined to unions. It allows any man to come in and take advantage of it, and please himself whether he belongs to a union or not. I was one of those who opposed what I thought was a dangerous principle put into the first Arbitration Act - that of giving any man the power to say, “ You must not approach the Judge unless you first join a union.” I believe that is a wrong system.
To show the utter farce of some of the awards given by this one man, sitting as an Arbitration Court - a man we expect to know everything - let me give an instance. There has never been a more unjust judgment given in any Court than that given by the Federal Arbitration Court in the Mercantile Seamen’s Guild case. Under that award a man in charge of a passenger boat, who is at sea every night, taking the greatest responsibility that a man can take on Australian waters, with every week from 1,500 to 2,000 passengers’ lives in his hands, is being paid £12 per year less than a man who runs an old dugout between Newcastle and Melbourne, who is half his time in port, and who has no responsibility upon him at all. What can be thought of a Judge giving a deliberate judgment of that kind ?
– Order. The honorable member is now going beyond what is fair comment.
– Then i shall confine myself to the judgment. What would be thought of such a judgment if it were given by any other Court than an Arbitration Court?
– The honorable member is now trying to, evade the direction which I gave him.
– Am I to understand that we are not permitted to discuss a judgment given in the Arbitration Court?
– The honorable member was going beyond a fair discussion’ of the judgment.
– is the point of order that I am going beyond the allowable range of discussion or criticism?
– If the honorable member wants to discuss the action of a Judge he must do it by a specific motion. The honorable member in this case was doing it under cover of the Bill before the House.
– I do not like your use of the words “ under cover.” I was debating a decision given by the Federal Arbitration Court, under which we have a man giving a judgment on a subject which he knows nothing at all about.
– Order. I ask the honorable member not to pursue that line of argument.
– According to that judgment the wages of captains and officers are regulated by the tonnage of the vessels on which they are employed. A more stupid basis could not be imagined.
– I have twice .asked the honorable member not to follow that line of comment. If he continues to do so I shall take another course to prevent him.
– Is it not within the power of this House to discuss a judgment given in the Arbitration Court under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act?
– The method adopted by- the honorable member constitutes a veiled attack upon the Judge who gave the decision. I have asked him repeatedly, and I ask him now for the last rime, not to do it.
– i do not want to get round your decision. I desire to know exactly if a member of this House is not in order in discussing a judgment given in the Arbitration Court?
– When that question arises I shall give the honorable member a ruling. It has not yet arisen.
– Then I shall proceed now to discuss the judgment given in that case in the hope of getting your ruling on it.
– The honorable member will not be in order in doing so.
– I do not understand the position you take up.
– Will the honorable member resume his seat? The honorable member must discuss the question before. the House. He has been making a veiled attack upon a Judge of the High Court. I asked him not to do it, but he persisted. I again ask him not to follow that course.
– I had no inten-. tion of reflecting on any Judge of the High Court. I was pointing out that under the Arbitration Act we expect the Court to know every subject under the sun. It is proposed by this Bill to bring all the industrial affairs of Australia under the jurisdiction of one Judge, but to expect any one man. or Judge, or Court, to be thoroughly cognisant of the whole of the industrial life of Australia, can only result in such decisions as we have had in the case of the Mercantile Seamen’s Guild. We have a man running a coal-boat between Newcastle and Melbourne, who is in harbor more than half his time; but, because his boat is over 3,000 tons register, he is paid £1 a. month more than is paid to a man whose boat happens to be. under 3,000 tons register, but who has ten times the responsibility, and a great deal more arduous work
– Where is that passenger boat trading to?
– I refer to the
Loongana, trading between Melbourne and Launceston. Under these Arbitration Acts, honorable members opposite are trying to bring everything down to a dead average level all round, and losing sight entirely of the only consideration that ought to govern a decision - that is the arduous nature and responsibility of the work. Under the- particular judgment to which I have referred, some officers of vessels have absolutely had their wages reduced. That has been brought about through this attempt to establish a general all-round average, based on the tonnage of vessels. Such a system’ could obtain only in such a Court as an Arbitration Court. I understand that an arrangement has been made to terminate this debate at about half -past 5 ; and, although there were some other points to which I wished to allude, and I do not like such arrangements, I shall not break it.
– One or two statements have been made which appear to call for some reply from me, as Minister in charge of the measure. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is quite inapplicable to the Bill. It asks the House to reject the Bill because it is a measure, the effect of which will be “ to concentrate in one person the control of all the conditions of carrying on all the industries of this continent,” and it says that this “ can be no other than impracticable, and fraught with danger to the whole community.’’ As the honorable member for Gippsland pointed out, if we were asked to assent to this as a general principle, we should all gladly do so. No man, certainly no representative of the people, could refrain from agreeing to such a general and far-reaching principle, which, in effect, amounts to saying that this Parliament affirms that it will oppose any proposition which is not in the best interests of the people. But no such proposition is before the House. The whole question we are asked to consider is, what is this Bill trying to do? Let us look at the Act as it now stands. It was intended to promote industrial peace by creating a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for settling industrial disputes, and, as far as possible, preventing industrial disputes from arising. Has the Court been successful? We have heard lamentations from honorable gentlemen opposite that it was not as successful as they would have liked, and certainly not as successful as we should have liked. But every man knows why it has failed of success. We have not been slow to tell the country that the constitutional limitations are fatal to the success of the Court. The honorable member for Flinders, in his prefatory remarks last week, hinted at what sort of Court he would have if we could legislate in any direction we pleased. The President of the Court has; many times, and particularly in the Boot Trade case, lamented the limitations of the Court. This Bill is intended to remove one of those limitations.
The latest judgment aims a blow in a new direction. Hitherto, the decisions of the High Court have been to limit the juris diction of the Arbitration Court; but this is a blow aimed directly at the men who are invited by this Act to place their fortunes and their interests in the hands of the Court. It is a blow aimed directly ; the others were blows aimed indirectly through the Court by restricting its jurisdiction. The object of the Act is to promote industrial peace. Its virtue is derived from that paragraph of section 51 of the Constitution which enables us to pass legislation to create a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of one State. In the Boot Trade case it was decided, after long argument, that we Had power to set up industrial Courts of this description. ‘The honorable member tor Flinders, who appeared for the employers in that case, contended, in a very able speech, that the power conferred under the paragraph did not enable us to do so, but the High Court did not accept the honorable member’s view, and declared that the Court was intra vires. Seven years ago, under this Act, we set out to create Courts for the settlement of industrial disputes, and to devise machinery whereby industrial organizations throughout the country might register. At that time there were three Statutes of a similar kind, one in New South Wales, another in Western Australia, and another in New Zealand; and on these three Acts our Act of 1904 was avowedly based. The honorable member for Flinders, when I interjected the other evening that “ industry “ had been defined in the New South Wales Act as including organizations of craftsmen, said he did not admit the fact. I now desire to show, by reference to page 19, volume 11, Commonwealth Law Reports, that the honorable member, when replying to the arguments of counsel on the other side, himself said that -
The Act is based on the State Acts of NewZealand and New South Wales.
So that, whatever may have been the opinion of the honorable member the other evening, he was, when he made that former speech, quite sure that our Act was based on State legislation. Now I desire to show that the industrial legislation in New Zealand, New South Wales, and Western Australia was deliberately based on craft organization. The New South Wales Industrial Arbitration Act of 1901, on which our Act is based, provides that amongst the persons who can register are “ any trade union or association of trade unions” or any branch thereof. No employes could register unless they were first members of a trade union. Employers, on the other hand, might register if they employed fifty employes. In the New South Wales Act “industry” is defined as any “ business, trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling, or employment, in which persons of either sex are employed for hire or reward.” In our own Act “ industry “ is defined as any “ business, trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling, service, or employment” for “pay, hire, advantage, or reward.” In the Western Australian Act “ industry “ is defined as any “ business, trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling, or employment in which workers are employed.” In that Act it is provided that trade unions of persons employed, no matter in what way, may register; and amongst the organizations which registered were the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters and Joiners, the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, the Society of Engine-drivers, Firemen and Cleaners Association. Trolley and Draymen’s Association, and other organizations which the recent judgment will remove from the register. All these are organizations of craftsmen. The organizations registered under the New South Wales Act included those of the enginedrivers, the engineers, the carpenters, trolley and draymen, and labourers of all sorts ; and here, again, the organizations are all on a craft basis. In New Zealand the law is precisely the same in this particular. In the New Zealand Act “ industry “ is defined as any “business, trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling, or employment in which workers are employed.” Under the New Zealand Act any persons may register if they belong to a craft organization, and all along registration has been on that basis.
Again, the original trade unions in England were craft unions, which was the original and only basis of industrial organization.
The measure before us has for its object the maintenance of industrial peace. Strikes always occur between organizations of workmen on the one hand and employers on the other ; and the organizations of the workmen are very largely, though not wholly, on a craft basis. If this measure fails to enable organizations of workmen on a craft basis to get the benefits of the legislation, then the Bill wholly fails, because it does not deal with a large proportion of persons engaged in industrial occupations in this country. For instance, the decision of the High Court in the Engine-drivers case aims directly at the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, one of the oldest organizations, with branches all over the world. It exercises the most complete discipline of any organization over its members, and is composed of most reputable and highly skilled men. Of this organization, there are 7,000 members in the Commonwealth, engaged in occupations of so skilled and so necessary a character that a cessation of work by them would involve the whole of the community in chaos. Yet, if the basis of organization be not that of the craft, as well as that of the industry, none of these men will be able to obtain the benefit of the measure. Our Act was passed to supplement State legislation where necessary, and so protect the public from the evils of industrial war ; and, in so far as these men are unable to take the benefits of it, they will not register, and the community is not protected, for there are about 4,000 engine-drivers who are a very necessary factor in production. Then, again, if modern engines were stopped, all industry would be stopped. The trolley and draymen, too, are an essential part of that intricate machinery necessary in modern production, for they transport goods from one place to another, and when they stop, everything must soon be brought to a standstill. All these men will, if the basis be not that of the craft, be unable to obtain “any benefit from this legislation; and I might extend the list of such industries very considerably. The other night I read a list of some twenty societies that will be affected, and I have now. particularly referred to three of them, comprising 14,000 men. In addition, the Amalgamated Carpenters represent 4,000 men, and the labourers organization, I suppose, from 7,000 to 10,000 men, not to speak of those other industries of a lesser character, all of which will be outside the Act.
Was it the intention of this Legislature, when passing an Act to prevent strikes, deliberately to create a basis of organization which would exclude one-third of the workers of Australia ? If that had been the intention, it would surely have been set out in clear and unambiguous terms. In the light of the Acts of New South Wales, New Zealand, and Western Australia, on which our Act is based, we can come to no other conclusion but that the intention was, and is, to recognise craft organization.
The amendment submitted by the honorable member for Ballarat is calculated to create in the minds of the public outside some apprehension as to the intention and scope of the measure. One would imagine, from reading the amendment, that society was threatened in a new and terrible way by a measure wholly different in its nature, and in everything but the title, from that which now stands on the statute-book. Let us now ask ourselves whether that is true. What does the Bill seek to do ? It seeks to enable the engine-drivers, the engineers, the carpenters, the trolley and draymen, and sixteen other unions, containing some 20,000 men, to register, and to enable the Court tq maintain industrial peace. In addition, it aims at giving the Court such power as to prevent awards being defeated on legal technicalities - it aims at giving the Court power to make final awards which cannot be disturbed by prohibition, or in any other way. I am dealing with the matter very rapidly, because I hope to have an opportunity to discuss this phase of it at length when in Committee. My first point is that the scope of the principal Act is not affected by the amending Bill, which only seeks to carry out what we intended, and what the honorable member for Ballarat intended, in 1904. I say, most solemnly, that there never was a doubt in the mind of any man who voted for the Bill in 1904 that trade unions, as such, were eligible for admission for the benefits of the measure. The honorable member for Parramatta, and the honorable member for Cook, have protested against attempting organization on a craft basis instead of on an industrial basis; and the great bulk of the criticism against the proposal from honorable members opposite has followed those lines. According to those honorable members, if we prevent organization on an industrial basis, we shall do a grievous wrong to society, because the industrial basis is the atural and proper one. All I can say is that if we had no reply but one to that criticism, that reply would be ample. When I hear criticism from honorable members opposite against a proposal which will enable 20,000 men to register, and when we are asked to accept that criticism on the ground that an industrial basis would enable more men to register than any other, I look at the criticism askance, because I know very well that there never has been one step taken in the direction of making this measure of industrial arbitration effective to which we have, not had the opposition - not always direct and open, but none the less real and determined - of honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Flinders said last week that he wished he could deal with this measure from a non-party basis. Why does he not do so? What prevents him? This is truly an interesting situation. We have an honorable member on our side of the House dealing with it on a non-party basis although he is a member of a party that is supposed to be shackled and bound by a plank in its platform. On the other hand, the Opposition is supposed to be as free as the air, yet one of its chief members thinks it neither shameful nor extraordinary to calmly state that he is unable to do that which he knows he ought to do, which he says publicly he ought to do, because this is a party measure, and he must therefore follow his leader. It is a revelation to me, and I trust that it will be a revelation to the people of Australia. I feel sure that it will be noted that the party which is declared to be bound hand and foot was alone divided on this question, while the party which claims to be as free as the air voted solidly, and never uttered a word against the directions of its leader.
I want the people of this country to believe that this measure does not increase the scope of the Act, nor does it give to “ this one man “ - the President of the Arbitration Court, who was appointed by the Government of which the present Leader of the Opposition was the head - any more power than it was always contemplated that that one man should have.
I come now to the question of taking away from the High Court the power to issue a writ of prohibition directed to the President of the Arbitration Court. We seek to give the Court power to make an award which cannot be disturbed by a writ of prohibition. That is to say, to make the awards of the Court final. Under section 31 of the principal Act an attempt is made in the following words to make awards of the Court final -
No award of the Court shall be challenged, appealed against, reviewed, quashed, or called in question in any other Court on any account whatever. …
To the man in the street that means what it says.
– The honorable member is not the man in the street; I will come to the point that he wants to make. The man in the street would believe that by passing that section the Parliament gave to this one man - the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court - power to make an award that no other Court could disturb on any account whatever. What did the Legislature intend ? We must assume that it intended that finality should be achieved with as little circumlocution and expense as possible. What is the gravamen of the criticism of the Opposition? They ask for Wages Boards consisting of two men representing the employers and two representing the workers. Those men are to bring to bear their rough common sense in arriving at a decision, and finality is thus to be secured. There is to be no appeal from these tribunals, no delay and little expense. These are the virtues which are for ever being dinned into our ears. Yet when we attempt to prevent delay, decrease expense, and reach finality, we are met with this talk about the power of this “ one man.” But I would remind the House that it is always the Chairman of the Wages Boards who settles the decisions. I have listened with interest to some of my honorable friends opposite speaking about these two good men - the two assessors from the one side and the two assessors from the other - and the work they do; but I know what happens. These “ two good men “ from the other side stick like grim death to their particular purpose, and the man at the wheel - the Chairman - gives in reality every time the decision of the Board. If the honorable member for Flinders were an assessor, would he not say, as he did the other night: “I should like to deal with this case on its merits, but this is a party question, and I cannot afford to do so “ ? In the case of a dispute in the shearing industry, for instance, under the Wages Board system, one man would have to decide the whole matter, as he does now, and there would be no appeal. Under this provision as to prohibition, we propose to take away one of the greatest hindrances to the settlement of industrial disputes - the expense, the technicalities and the harassing delay and vexation caused by appeals to the High Court. But when we propose in this way to enable these awards to be speedy and cheap, we are told, “ You are placing in the hands of one man the control of industry.”
– The honorable member’s craft is being robbed in this way.
– I “have a very lively faith in my craft. It has endured the blows of adversity and the subtle and insidious attacks of men in all generations ; but it is going strong, and will be when you and I and all of us are dead. I want to say in a few minutes what I have to put before the House in regard to the question of prohibition. We do not for one moment contend that this Parliament can, by any device, take away from the High Court its right to question the jurisdiction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court in so far as the Constitution imposes limitations thereon. But what we do say is that we can give to ‘the Federal Court the power that the State of New South Wales gave or could give to its Arbitration Court. We hold that where our legislation does not clothe the President of the Court with all the powers that we are empowered under the Constitution to confer upon him, we can say, to that extent, whatever awards he makes shall not be challenged,, called in question, appealed against, or made the subject of an application for a writ of prohibition. Within the limits of our jurisdiction under the Constitution we are a sovereign Legislature. We can saythat the judgments of the Conciliation and4 Arbitration Court shall not be the subject of prohibition, and we can take away from the High Court the right to grant a prohibition, against the President. In delivering his judgment in Whybrow’s case - which was an application for a writ of prohibition - Mr. Justice Isaacs said -
I am of the opinion that the objection (that the High Court had no power to issue a writ of prohibition) fails, but foi one reason only, namely, that the power of control by means of a writ of prohibition is- a part of the appellatepower, and has not been taken away by Parliament.
It is a power that can be taken away by Parliament, certainly to the extent that we may have omitted to clothe the President of the Arbitration Court with all the power with which we can clothe him.. Beyond that, I do not for one moment say we are going, trying to go, or ought to go.. I am not going to deal with the matter at any further length. I am satisfied to have made one point clear: that the scope, of this measure is such as not to alter in anyparticular the plan and scheme of* theoriginal Act. It is rather to repair an error into which the Legislature fell when it assumed that “ industry “ would include all the organizations on a craft basis. As for the abolition of the writ of prohibition the attempt to do away with these continuous appeals against the judgments of the Court on legal technicalities is one which I venture to think the Opposition will think twice about before they oppose it. I feel sure that the public will be very glad if the decisions of this “ one man “ can be final, seeing that under the law as it is at present the people are now subjected to eternal litigation, expense, and delay. I shall deal later with die objections put forward by honorable members against the measure in detail. . The point to be made now is merely that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition is incongruous to the measure now before us. It has no application to it. The Bill does not take away from any human being a right that he had before. It does not take away or alter the basis on which organization, can be carried on. On the contrary it merely adds another method which we- were under the impression already existed. Any organization will Be able to organize on either the basis of industry or of craft. If there be in organization of industries the virtue which our friends declare, there is no obstacle to its operation; but we do say emphatically that where 20,000 men or more are denied an opportunity’ to come under the Act, not a day, not an hour, should be lost in remedying such a glaring and radical defect. I hope, therefore, that the amendment will be rejected, and the motion for the second reading of this Bill carried. Question - That the words proposed to.be left out stand part of the question - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment negatived. Original question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and considered in Committee, pro forma.
Order of Business.
– I move - .
That the House do now adjourn. If there is time to-morrow afternoon, and on Friday and subsequent sitting days, the consideration of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill will be proceeded with until it has been passed, as the Government consider it urgent. Tomorrow night, after the dinner adjournment, the Budget speech will be delivered.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 6.16 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 October 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19111025_reps_4_61/>.