8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I understood last night that the Government declined to treat the motion of which the Leader of the Opposition gave notice as one of censure ; yet to-day it appears first on the businesspaper. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, what is the reason for this?
– The motion appears first on the business-paper in accordance with established parliamentary usage, as stated in a ruling of the late Sir Frederick Holder on a similar occasion. On the 20th October, 1908, Mr. Speaker Holder said - Hansard, vol. XLVII., page 1301-
The motion to which the honorable member refers has been given precedence, not at the request of the Leader of the Opposition, or of the Government, or of any honorable member, but simply in accordance with invariable parliamentary custom in Great Britain, and which has certainly been - whenever such occasions have arisen - the practice of this House since its first meeting.
When a notice of motion of censure or of no-confidence is given by the Leader of the Opposition, or with his concurrence or sanction, it is the practice to place it first on the business-paper for the following day, but such a motion by a private member without the sanction of the Leader of the Opposition would be treated like any other notice of motion in arranging the business-paper. What has been done on this occasion is in accordance with established custom.
– I have received an intimation from the honorable member for Illawarra, that hedesires to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The serious unrest in the coal mining industry, and the. necessity for prompt remedial legislation.”
– A very fine trick! Are the Government afraid of the censure motion?
– If this is the Government’s game, they will get all they want.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
– I make no apology for asking the attention of the House to a matter which is of vital importance to all the industries of the Commonwealth. It is within the knowledge of those honorable gentlemen who are now trying to prevent me from speaking that at the present moment the coal-mining industry of Australia is threatened with an upheaval which would involve the country in immense loss.
Honorable members interjecting -
– I direct the attention of the House to the concerted interruption of the speech of the honorable member for Illawarra, and I ask that it may cease. It is impossible for me to hear a word of what the honorable member is saying. Honorable members should observe the Standing Orders, and allow the speech to be heard in silence.
– It is the freedomofspeech party that is interrupting.
– There has grown up in this House a practice of interjecting immediately after Mr. Speaker has called the House to order. Such an interjection is not only gravely discourteous to the Chair, but is also a breach of the Standing Orders, and an insult to the assembly itself. I ask honorable members to discontinue the practice.
– Under the Standing Orders, only a brief time is allowed me for placing this matter before the House, and I have the right to expect that the members of the Opposition, who particularly claim to represent the working classes, will allow me to speak without interruption. It is known to them, and to all who take an interest in the industrial welfare of the country, that there is the gravest reason to apprehend industrial trouble in the near future, unless prompt steps be taken to provide means . for settling disputes without resort to strikes. The history of the coal-mining industry is full of warnings. I have always’ been, as- 1 am now, a firm believer in the wisdom of settling industrial troubles before they have advanced to a stage at which they are beyond control. As every trade unionist knows the majority of industrial troubles are due to the failure of the parties to-
– I rise to order, my point being that the honorable member is anticipating a motion already on the business-paper, which provides for the discussion, among other things, of the Government’s failure to take steps to deal with the causes of industrial unrest, of which the unrest in the coal-mining industry is part.
– The honorable member is quite in order. His motion, which relates to a specific matter, viz., “the coalmining industry,” and is not general in its terms, covering any other matters, does not anticipate any other of which notice has been given.
– I find it somewhat difficult to place before the House in their proper sequence the facts to which I wish to draw attention, because of the attitude of some honorable members toward me. I wish to draw attention more particularly to the dangers arising in the coal-mining industry, as in others, from the congestion of the Arbitration Court. Some, at least, of the most serious disputes that have occurred in thi? country recently have been due to the failure of the Court to settle speedily the issues between the parties.
Honorable members interjecting -
– I am reluctant to take extreme step3, but if these interruptions continue I shall be obliged to take serious notice of them.
– Some of the most serious disputes that have occurred in the Commonwealth of late have been due to the natural and justifiable feeling of trade unionists that the Arbitration Court does not afford’ that speedy means of settling disputes thatwas intended when the Court was set up. I do not blame the Justices of the Court for this, because I recognise the difficulties under which they labour on account of the limitation of their powers by the Constitution. As we have- failed to secure from the people the right to extend the powers of the Col,rt. it seems to, me that those- who seek to- promote industrial peace must now look for some other means of settling disputes.
– The honorable member is doing some fine dirty work for the Government by staving off the motion of censure ‘.
– I ask the honorable member for Darling to withdraw that remark.
– Then, I shall say that he has been put up for the especial purpose of preventing the discussion of the censure motion of which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has given notice.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw the expression to which exception was taken.
– I withdraw it, but I would rather have the censure motion, proceeded with.
– All. students of our industrial legislation must have the greatest sympathy with the Court because of the limitation of its powers, . but it is manifest that under present conditions some more speedy means of dealing with industrial troubles is needed to prevent them from reaching’ the stage when they are beyond control’. It would have been well for the Commonwealth if, in the days when honorable gentlemen opposite administered its affairs, they had provided means for the speedy settlement of industrial disputes.
– I wonder if the prize is to be a seat in the Ministry!
– I ask .the honorable member not to interject.
– It will be remembered that a, special tribunal was set up to deal with disputes in the coa>lmining industry in 1915. Every one who regards the results of that departure from established custom must admit that it was for the benefit of the whole of the people of this country. On. a subsequent date, when the then Acting Prime Minister and Treasurer (Mr. Watt) intervened in similar circumstances with a view to preventing Australia being thrown into the turmoil of a great industrial dispute during the war, there were considerable criticisms of his action; but I think time has shown that he did a service to the Commonwealth. I am not so much concerned with the methods by which these things are done as with the results achieved when they are done. I stand by the action that the then Acting Prime Minister took when he met the miners in conference and settled that dispute, and so prevented others from being diverted from the work of prosecuting the war, which was then of supreme importance.
To-day we see on every hand evidence that, unless some such effective action is taken by the Government, outside of any action which is possible to .the Arbitration Court in the present congested state of its business, and with its- limited powers, this country may at any day be plunged into another of those great industrial upheavals which cost the people such immense sums of money. It is impossible to overestimate the losses to the working people of the Commonwealth due to industrial troubles that could have been cured had they been taken in hand at the proper time and in the proper way. Speaking with a long experience of these matters, I say it is the imperative duty of the Government immediately to take such steps as will enable the disaffected coal miners to place their case before an independent tribunal which has power to take the . steps necessary to effect a just and reasonable settlement of the questions at issue between the parties.
I am reluctant to discuss the matter as it affects the Arbitration Court to-day at any great length, nor is it necessary that I should do so, but I do ask that the Government may, at the earliest possible moment, provide for this industry a continuing tribunal which shall be able to take notice of troubles in their early stages, before they develop into the serious issues which they so rapidly become, and which shall be able to keep an oversight of’ the industry continuously, occupying, as it were, the position of conciliators, trying to ‘bring the parties to agreement in the early stages of the conflict. That, it. seems to me, is the principal work of arbitration. We thought when the Conciliation and Arbitration Court was established that conciliation would form tie principal part of its work, but we have lived to see that, owing to the legal technicalities with which the Court is surrounded, and the limited powers it possesses, most of its time is devoted- to matters remote from the issues that cause industrial disputes. So I hope that at this period the Ministry will immediately take into consideration a method of setting up a conciliation tribunal to deal with the coal-mining industry, and that, when that is dealt with, the principle may be extended to other of the larger industries of the Commonwealth, whose welfare- is inextricably bound up with the industrial and commercial life ‘of tho community.
.- It is quite true that the coal-mining industry is in a disturbed condition, and it is necessary, in the interests of tho industrial life of Australia, that a tribunal should be granted to it. We all know that the Arbitration Court is so congested, that it is utterly impossible for it to deal with an industry like coal mining, which requires immediate action when disputes occur. If they are .allowed to remain in abeyance for any length of time they become magnified, and,, as a result, industrial trouble disastrous to the whole Commonwealth ensues.
– Is the State Arbitration .Court congested?
– The miners have always appealed to the Federal Arbitration Court. They are an Inter-State body, because the ramifications of their union .extend -throughout Australia, and the industry affects all Australia. They, therefore, come within the purview of the Commonwealth Court.
I understand that the Prime Minister intends to meet the representatives of both ‘parties during next week, with the object of granting a Commission to inquire into the existing dispute. The miners, who held aggregate meetings about a week ago, decided that, in view of the probability of this tribunal dealing with their case in the near future, nothing drastic should be done. There is an impression abroad that the coal miners take undue action which is not justified in view of the wages they earn. I want to point out that the articles appearing in the Argus during the last day or two, written, I am convinced, by some one representing the coal-owners, are misleading. They do not convey to the public the true position. One would think that in consequence of the tribunal granted during the war the conditions of the industry had been made such that tho miners were able to make over and above a reasonable wage; but if we compare their earnings, especially those of the offhanded men, with the earnings of men in other parts of the world, we find that their increase is nothing like the increase obtained by the miners of Great Britain and elsewhere. The cost of our coal is lower than that of coal in any other part of the world, yet we are constantly told that we are increasing the price unnecessarily. The Minister for the Navy informed me recently that we paid £2 15s. per ton on board for the best Welsh coal for the use of our warships. We supply coal at Newcastle for 17s. 6d. a ton. If the people of Victoria are paying an exorbitant price, the increase must take place between the port of shipment and the delivery here.
– It is not so much the price of coal in Victoria; it is the inability to get any.
– That is so. There is a shortage here, and it is contended in the Argus articles that that shortage is due to the men not working. I can assure the House that during the currency of the war no men suffered more than the coal miners because of the irregularity of work. The articles I have mentioned suggest that there were so many strikes and so many lost days in the year through the action of the men themselves. That is wrong. Whilst there may be a disturbance in one particular mine in the district it docs nor affect the output of the- coal unless there is a demand for the whole of the coal produced, and they are unable to meet the demand. We put large quantities of coal on the grass during -the war to find employment for men who were starving. “The British Government bought the coa] in order to find work for men who were out of employment in consequence of the f oreign trade beano- cut off during the war, and also because the ships formerly engaged in carrying coal from Newcastle were taken off our coast. Yet we are asked to believe that the coal miners are responsible for the dearth in the supply of coal. As a matter of fact they are supplying more coal to-day than they did at any period during the war. 1 am glad to say that as great a percentage of miners went to the Front as of any other body of men in Australia. As those men come back, they are returning to their old occupation, and producing more coal. The output is being increased, but the rate of wages they are receiving is not in keeping with what they are entitled to in comparison with the high cost of living. While their wages went up 39 per cent, the cost of living has gone up by over 60 per cent.
The labourer who works in the coal mine is getting 13s. 6d. per day, but he does not receive that- every day, although the public are led to believe that he does. He gets only pit time, and sometimes av» occasional day over pit time.
– The cost of coal has gone up from 12s. to 18s., or 50 per cent.
– Yes; the cost of coal went up during the war, and the wages of the miners went up accordingly, but our coal to-day is cheaper than any other. Latest newspapers from England show that Yorkshire coal for bunkers was selling as follows: - Screened, 80s. a ton; unscreened, 75s.; slack, 60s. Welsh coal for export was from 110s. to 112s. per ton for large, and 97s. 6d. for small. We sell the very best of ours for 17s. 6d. We sell what is called “ shandygaff,” or unscreened, for lis. or 12s. per ton; so that our commodity is produced very cheaply compared with what is charged in other parts of the world.
– Are those English prices at the pit’s mouth?
– Yes ; and they are cutting off the export at Home at the present time because of the shortage. The main pivot of the present dispute here is the pay of the coal-mine labourer, although there are other claims which have to be settled between now and October. The labourers, as I said, get 13s. 6d. per day. At a recent conference in Sydney the owners promised to give them lis. 6d. Many people are under the impression that that would mean six days’ work at 14s. 6d. a day. Let me show honorable members what the labourers have been earning during the last year or two. From 15th May, 1919, to- 23rd March, 1920, their wages were as follows: - At Aberdare the number of days worked was 162-jr, and the men earned £109 17s. each for the year. Do honorable members think a man can live and support a family decently on £109 per annum? At Burwood, the men averaged £2 2s. lOd. per week for the same period; at Cessnock. £2 7s. per week; at Dudley, £2 lis. 7d. ; and at the Co-operative, which is the highest I have, £2 13s. 7d. per week. Those figures are vouched for as showing the exact amount of money that these men have lifted during recent years. The result is dissatisfaction; but can we expect anything else? Can men support families on such wages? Some action must be taken immediately. It is not fair to say that, the men are responsible when a dislocation of industry takes place. They have given ample notice and have endeavoured, by conference, to have the whole matter adjusted. The off-hand men are asking for £1 per day, and in view of the present high cost of living that is little enough for them. They may average, during the year, only three or four days’ work per week, and in that event will earn only £3 or £4 per week.
– We found it necessary to increase our own allowance. Must it not be more necessary for them to obtain increased pay?
– Exactly . In view of the high cost of commodities it is only fair that these men should be granted an increase. On different occasions in this House, when I have been dealing with the question of high prices, I have heard it said, “ What about the miners? Are they not exacting all they can from the public?” I hope we shall not hear that statement repeated. The coal miners, during the war, behaved splendidly, and the Prime Minister’s action, at that time, in appointing a tribunal to settle their differences was quite justified. Since then the> cost of everything has increased. Miners’ tools, for instance, cost to-day 120 per cent, more than they did before the war.
– There has also been a big increase in the cost of explosives.
– Yes ; they cost over- 100 per cent, more than they did before the war. The same may be said with regard to detonators and fuse. The cost of everything used by’ the miner has considerably increased. Many miners are paying, out of their wages, as much as £2 per fortnight in respect of their tools and the union and other charges.
– Not £2 per fortnight more than they did before the war.
– No. Before the war their outgoings in that respect probably amounted to about 10s. per fortnight. Costs have increased to such an extent as to amply justify the appointment of a tribunal before which the miners’ grievances may be brought ‘and adjusted. To leave the settlement of these differences to the ordinary routine of the Arbitration Court would be very unsatisfactory. Both sides would welcome the appointment of a special tribunal for the industry, before which they could go from .time to time and state their grievances, so that on the evidence given a decision as to what was a fair thing could be arrived at. ‘The miners themselves do not desire any dislocation of the trade and industry of the Commonwealth. They are most anxious that their disputes should be amicably settled, and there can be no doubt that they must be adjusted. The men cannot continue on a mere pittance, quite insufficient to support them and their families. If they cannot promptly obtain redress from us we must expect industrial trouble. From that there can be no escape. I hope therefore that the Prime Minister will grant a tribunal to the industry. Such action on his part is absolutely necessary if a crisis is to be averted. I think I can safely say, on behalf of the leaders of the miners, that if we give them a fair deal they will do all they can to keep the wheels of industry going. They have publicly stated that they will ; they have made such announcements at meetings of the men. It is very hard for the officers of the unions, at the present time, to restrain the men, who ara very anxious to have their wrongs speedily righted. The men say - “What is the use of any longer deferring action?” Those who have held responsible positions in industrial organizations know what it is to be called upon constantly to advise a body of men to postpone definite action in tho hope that something will turn up to relieve the position. When disappointment follows disappointment, the men ultimately become exasperated. Their patience gives out, and when that happens they get out of control. No matter how anxious the officials may be to prevent strikes, when week after week goes by without any improvement in their position, the men ultimately say, “ We will not work, since we cannot get redress of our grievances. It is useless for the officials to promise time after time that they are going to do suchandsuch a thing, and to find that they are unable to have ‘a tribunal appointed.” It is only right that, when the leaders of the miners are trying to keep the wheels of industry going - and, having perused the reports of the speeches at the aggregate meeting, I. know that they are - we should help them ‘by granting, this tribunal to . deal with the difficulties of the miners. I hope that the Prime Minister will agree to this request, and that we shall have a permanent tribunal before which the disputes which emanate from the miners from time to time may be settled in a proper and satisfactory way.
– I have listened with considerable interest to the .speech .just delivered by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. -Charlton), who is more familiar with the conditions of the industry than is any other honorable- member.
– Ls this a “ stone-wall speech ? ‘
-No ; I hope that it will be a constructive speech.
– The honorable member’s motive is .’apparent.
– Honorable members opposite listened in comparative silence to the honorable member for Hunter., and I hope that they will ex-tend the same courtesy to me. I propose to deal with one or two of the matters mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter, who has rightly said that the question of coal is of the utmost import.ance to every State in the Commonwealth. It affects practically every home, and indirectly every phase of industry, so that it is of paramount importance to the Australian public. The honorable member dealt calmly and dispassionately with this question. He showed a complete grip of details, and the information he gave in regard to the wages, costs, and expenses of the miners has contributed very materially to the knowledge of the House, so that I think we owe him our thanks. While he was speaking, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) interjected that the inability to obtain coal was the chief trouble. I understood the honorable member to reply that that was not .so, but I do not wish to misrepresent him.
– What I said was that the difficulty was due to the removal of vessels from the coastal trade, and that, in the meantime, the British Government, in order to find employment for the workers, had purchased a lot of coal and placed it at grass.
– Quite recently I have heard evidence given before a Select Committee, appointed by this House, in regard to ,the shipping situation on the Australian coast. Honorable members may be interested to learn that evidence was given, before that tribunal that at the present moment shipping was being held up at Newcastle and kept waiting for coal. I confess (that I heard that statement with some- astonishment.; but, since it was made calmly and -cool’ly by a man who is in a position to secure ^absolutely authentic information, we must attach weight to it. In the circumstances, there must be a good deal in what the Leader of the Opposition interjected in regard to the difficulty of obtaining- coal. The coal shortage cannot be attributed .to the absence of shipping facilities, because, our own Inter-State colliers have quite recently been held -up for cargoes of coal at Newcastle.
– One of the causes contributing to that difficulty is that when the Prince of Wales visited Sydney we had two days’ holiday at Newcastle. That interfered with the coal trade.
– I am glad to have that explanation. I was surprised at the statement to which I have referred, and I thought that possibly some reasonable explanation of it could be given by the miners. I do not wish to throw stones at them, but I repeat that Inter-State colliers quite recently have been held up at- Newcastle.
– I can give the full reason for that.
– I shall leave it to the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) to explain,, since he muso be familiar with matters relating to his own constituency.
I wish to emphasize what the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) urged, despite the various interruptions to which he was subjected, as to the need for the appointment of a tribunal to .deal with the particular difficulties that confront the coal trade at the present time. On both sides of the House there is a recognition of the fact that the tribunal created under the War Precautions Act was necessary, and that since that Act and the regulations made under it will shortly disappear some other tribunal for the industry should be created, so that employers and employees may. meet before it, and have their- grievances dealt with. In the first speech that I made in this House after my return from the. United Kingdom last year, I outlined my strong belief in and support of proposals to bring together employers and employees, so that my attitude in supporting the honorable member for Illawarra this morning is entirely consistent with that which I have taken up since my return. I believe in the principles embodied in the report of the Whitley Commission, which must commend themselves to both employers and employees in this country. Knowing how employees in the . United Kingdom have been able, not in isolated cases, but in many instances, to improve their position, while employers in their turn have been able to look into the difficulties that confront their employees under the system recommended by that Commisison, I feel satisfied that its adoption here would bring about a better and more complete understanding .between the two’ parties. If, as the result of this debate, we obtain from the Ministry this morning a statement as to how they intend to deal with this question, the action taken by the honorable member for Illawarra will have been amply justified. I repeat that all the States- are interested in this matter, and I make noapology for referring to the Western Australian point of view. In that State we are dependent on- Newcastle for the bulk of our bunker coal.
– Is there no local coal?
– Yes. Collie coal has been tried, and in some instances-
– Has been found wanting.
– In some instances it has; been found- wanting,, while in others it has proved very satisfactory. Collie* in: its present stage-, of development, is. no worse than the– other coal-fields ware in their early stages. Bunker coal from
Collie is– used on- short runs, but Western Australia, -is dependent upon Newcastle for its main supply of bunker coal. It is as the representative of the chief seaport of Western Australia, and as one possessing a knowledge of how shipping is sometimes delayed, that I speak in support of the action proposed by the mover of this- motion. The mover of the motion, will deserve congratulation if, as a result.of his action, this morning, the House and the people have an opportunity of receiving from the Government a statement as to their future policy in this regard. I shall be interested to hear from the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) the reasons why Inter-State colliers have been held up at Newcastle during the past ten or fourteen days.
.- I do not propose to say a great deal on this motion, because the state of the coal industry is a matter of such importance that we could well afford to deal with it in more detail on another occasion.
– The’ matter needs a thorough overhaul.
– No doubt. The position of the industry is not fully understood by the people. During the period of the war the whole of the export trade was practically suspended, whilst, in addition, many vessels were taken off the coastal trade. As a result, the mines and . the miners had a very rough time. The. war having terminated, shipping is gradually returning to the coast. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) complained that coal is not being sent to other ports from Newcastle as quickly as it might be.
– Colliers are being held up.
– The honorable mem-, ber and I are both members of the Sea Carriage Committee, and he knows that . the late Controller of Shipping, although he found fault with other ports, had no fault to find with the handling of ships at Newcastle. If there is any hold-up of shipping at ^Newcastle to-day the fault does not lie with the miners or those whoload the ships. The real cause is, I believe, that certain people are putting their heads together to give preference to foreign orders, because of the fact that, coal brings a much higher price in France and other parts of the world than ire Australia.
– The honorable member means that oversea ships are being coaled.
– Yes. Quite a number of Japanese ships have been loaded at Newcastle, and one can only conclude that the profits to be derived by selling coal on the other side of the world are greater than those to be obtained in the local trade. That is a phase of the question into which the Prime Minister would be well advised to look. Whilst I do not wish to hamper or restrict the export trade in any way, I think that in respect of coal, as with any other commodity, Australian requirements should be met first.
Apart from the dislocation of the industry caused by the war, the coal miners have always been misunderstood and misrepresented. They stand in a different position from any other workers, inasmuch as they are, to a large extent, contractors, and although published statements of the gross receipts of a couple of coal miners would make it appear that those engaged in the industry are receiving a very good wage, yet, after deducting the expenses of upkeep of tools, lighting, explosives, and other charges, the net wage is considerably reduced. The wages of the coal miners are usually referred to by the daily rate instead of by the weekly or fortnightly rate. A man may in some instances be receiving £1 per day for three months while he happens to be working in a good place, but, on the other hand, he may be only working two or three days per week. In analyzing the earnings of men employed in this industry, we should take their weekly or yearly receipts instead of the daily pay.
– How many days per fortnight do they average?
– I have not worked out the average lately, but at no time do they work more than eleven days in the fortnight.
– The honorable member means that the men will not work on more than eleven days.
– No; it is mutually satisfactory to the men and the proprietors not to work on the alternate Saturday.
– When the proprietors wanted to work on the Saturday, the men were not agreeable.
– The Minister knows that before he or I was born it was found that the wear and tear in a coal mine was so great that one day a fortnight was required to put the mine in repair.
– The real reason is that tbe men will not work for more than eleven days.
– If the proprietors in my electorate and the Hunter district were asked to work on every Saturday, they would refuse at once. Of course, the men have never looked for work on every Saturday, because they have always been accustomed to work only eleven days per fortnight.
– If they were asked, they would refuse.
– Of course they would, because the eleven-day fortnight suits both parties.
– Eleven days is all right; but where a mine is held up by the action of a wheeler, the union ought to deal with the wheeler and get the mine going.
– Would the Prime Minister have said that on the wharfs?
– I have done so.
– The Prime Minister’s statement only emphasizes the need for appointing a special tribunal to deal with this industry, the conditions of which are continually changing. To-day the miners may be working in hard ground; next month they may be working in soft ground. The machinery of the Arbitration Court is not such as will give a speedy settlement in respect of irritation and disputes that arise from the constantly varying conditions of the industry. Prompt decisions by a competent tribunal would keep the industry going continually. I hope there is truth in the press statement that the Prime Minister proposes to consider a method of dealing with industrial disputes that would be more direct and speedy than the Arbitration Court. The coal-mining industry is second in importance to none, and I hope that Before this year is concluded the Government will have appointed a tribunal to regulate the conditions. The differences which arise out of the varying conditions of employment ought to be adjusted, and the industry placed on a basis which will insure continuous employment, so that the coal miners of Australia may be able to earn wages at least us good as those which obtain in the Old World to-day. No doubt, as the result of experience gained under war conditions, the conditions of the industry in England have been so improved that they are now even better than those in Australia. I ask the Prime Minister to appoint, at the earliest possible moment, a tribunal for the control of the coal-mining industry, and to take steps to insure that due attention is paid to local requirements of coal, without unduly harassing the export trade.
– The honorable member for Newcastle has put to me a question concerning a matter in regard to which both the employers and employees have had several conferences with me in Sydney; and I ought not to leave the miners any more than the mineowners and the general public in any doubt as to what the Government propose to do. I had not the advantage of hearing the whole of the remarks of the honorable member who moved the adjournment of the House. I am sorry that neither the occasion nor the scope of the motion permits one to deal with the question of remedial industrial legislation as fully as it deserves. It is, in my opinion now, as it always has been, the first question, the great question ; all others are subordinate. It is very evident that, unless production goes on smoothly, neither the financial, political, nor general circumstances of the Commonwealth can be satisfactory.
Honorable members know my views in regard to arbitration. I speak as onewho has had some experience in the Arbitration Court, and has had direct relations, as had the honorable members for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) and Hunter (Mr. Charlton), with the. unions themselves; and I say deliberately, as a result of that long experience, that I am moro than ever convinced that the present arbitration machinery is quite inadequate; and, indeed, unsuited for the purposes of many industries. Further, I cannot see how any alteration of the present machinery of the Arbitration Court - sweeping away this or that obstacle - can enable it . to grapple with the circumstances of an industry of this kind. I am sorry that the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) has moved the adjournment of the House just at this moment; but, since he has done so I will avail myself of the opportunity to say what I think upon this matter; because every act that I have taken ‘in the direction of dealing with disputes which have arisen has been the subject of very severe criticism, not only by the press, but by the President of the Arbitration Court. Now, as practical men, we have to deal with things as they are. Strikes occur. No doubt they ought not to occur ; but, as a fact, they do. And we have to deal with facts as they are. It is no good saying that when there ;is a strike we should sit down and do nothing. Strikes must be dealt with. When I was the leader of great unions I did exactly as I do now. I endeavoured to deal with facts as they existed. It is no good saying to the unions - any more than Canute to the on-coming tide - “ Thus far, and no further.” We have to deal with facts; and the great fact of the industrial world is industrial unrest, which sometimes, despite every effort at prevention, manifests itself in strikes. We say to the unions, “ Here is the Arbitration Court. Enter here; attorn to this jurisdiction; seek remedy for your grievances in a Court where, perhaps, if you are fortunate, you may get ail award in twelve months’ time.” I repeat what I have already said here. When I was leading tho transport workers, after having tried every other means to secure more speedy redress, and having failed, it became absolutely necessary to strike in. order to get into the Court. The union struck accordingly. And I would act again in the same manner if I were placed in the same position to-day. But if the coal miners were to strike, and remain on strike, what would be the position? They would immediately put themselves out of Court; for the Court, quite properly, has said, “ You cannot have strikes and arbitration too.” That is true, but one of the reasons for the precipitation of strikes i9 that arbitration is so tardy, the approaches to the Court are so tortuous, the pitfalls so numerous, and the expenses so huge. Conditions may change completely between the date of approaching the Court and the time of securing an award. A union may apply for an award to-day and get no relief until eighteen months’ time. Meanwhile, conditions may have drastically changed ; but the union cannot get an award adapted to thenewconditions for the reason that it is limited by its claim. In past instances I have appointed special tribunals to deal with specific cases, and for such actions I have been censured by the press and by His Honour. I do not deserve this censure, because surely it is the duty of a Government to endeavour to, find some means of reconciling industrial parties, and, if existing machinery does not afford such means, then the machinery must be created.
– That is what I wanted you to do the other day, in the matter of the Broken Hill trouble, but you would not do so.
– If the honorable member will consent to wait patiently, he will find that I have a general remedy to expound. As matters are now, the coal miners are working under awards or orders made under the War Precautions Act. A special tribunal was appointed under that Statute. The orders regulate the price of coal, the wages to be paid to the miners, and, indeed, all the circumstances of the industry. It was a convenient and flexible tribunal, always ready at the moment when it was wanted. I established this tribunal originally in 1916; and when I was away overseas Mr. Watt dealt further with the matter, and the miners are working under these orders or awards to-day. I am not touching on the merits of the case, but it is now said that circumstances have changed. It is stated, for example, that the lower-paid wageearners, who are receiving the 13s. 6d. rate, cannot make sufficient in. an elevendays’ fortnight upon which to live. That is the main point. They cannot get redress in the Arbitration Court for that principal grievance. There is no tribunal but the tribunal created under the War Precautions Act. The latter, however, will shortly expire, and, directly it does-
– When, will it expire?
– I remind the honorable member that I am not responsible for the war in Turkey. I am a Christian. I am making war against the infidel with all my mind and heart ; and if the infidel is not yet finished with, I am very sorry I have no power to accelerate or retard by one day the moment at which the Wax Precautions Act will cease to exist. But, - when it does cease to exist, all the awards dependent on it will also fall to the ground.
-Is that so ?
– Does the honorable member deny it?
– I do.
– Well, the honorable member will remember what Peter did. The fact is so obvious as to require no argument at all. When an award has been made under a Statute, and that Statute has ceased to exist, then the award made thereunder must also come to its end.
Honorable members interjecting,
– My time is limited, and I am not going to have it taken up with irrelevant interjections. If the honorable member for West Sydney is not satisfied with my assertion, and persists in his denial, I invite him to go and settle the subsequent procedure with Peter himself.
– Why does not the Prime Minister go and do like that other chap, and make use of a piece of good rope?
– Yes; what did Judas do?
– I do not want to have anything to do with him or with his modern associates. I am trying to expound a point which, I feel sure - whatever honorable members’ attitudes maybe on other questions - will be admitted as being appropriate for consideration in and by this Chamber. In my opinion, the coal trade cannot be dealt with by existing legal machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes. It musthave machinery set up which will be flexible, suited to all the circumstances of the industry, and ready at any and every moment to deal with every passing phase of unrest. ‘ That hypothesis involves the establishment of a special tribunal. It means, amongst other things, the appointment of a tribunal specifically to settle disputes and interpret awards or agreements in and for the coal trade only. Why not? Is there any good reason why there should not be such a tribunal? None whatever! The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) stated that the coal-mining industry was a basic industry. If we had no coal there would be an end to all manufactures, an end to the commercial and industrial activities of the country. And, therefore, it is worth while for us to endeavour, as far as possible, to bring about for that industry complete and lasting industrial peace.
Let me describe for honorable members the kind of tribunal which I believe in; and I wish them to think the matter over, because a Bill will be introduced next week to give effect to these ideas. I believe in a tribunal based somewhat on the lines of the shipbuilding tribunal. There is a body on which both sides are represented; and there is a chairman also. I do notsay for one moment that, in addition to a tribunal to deal with the coalmining industry as a whole, subordinate tribunals should not be appointed to deal with various parts of the New South Wales coal fields and, indeed, the scattered coal centres, no matter in what part of Australia. But I am speaking of the general principle. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The tribunal which deals with the shipbuilding industry frequently issues two and three awards in one week. As they come before me I read these decisions of my friend, Mr. Connington, with the greatest pleasure.They are models of what judgments in industrial matters ought to be. And, after all, the objective of all such legislation is to get and keep an industry going, and the outstanding fact is that the shipbuilding tribunal has kept the industry going ; which is the very best commendation one could utter.
– Does the Prime Minister know the reason why it is successful ? It is because the “devil’s brigade” - the lawyers - are kept out.
– I do not think that is the only reason. There are others, but it is not proposed that lawyers shall have access to the tribunals which I intend to create. I must say this on behalf of my much maligned profession, however, that I havefound, when lawyers have been excluded from the Court’s, that there has arisen a class of men, with regard to whom I am bound to associate the phrase cacocthes loquendi. They talk and talk and talk; and I am sure that no lawyer on earth could talk more fully or fervently. There is one such individual in particular whom I have in mind. He attends the Arbitration Courts in New South Wales. He is not a lawyer; but let anybody endure him, as I have had to do, for an hour, two hours, and three hours; and - well, Patrick Henry said, “ Give me liberty or give me death.” The American patriot did not know that there was a third alternative, namely that of having to suffer’ the eloquence of gentlemen such as these. [Extension of time granted on motion by Mr. Watkins.]
– I shall conclude in a very few words. The Government proposes next week to bring in a Bill for the creation of special tribunals for the control of different industries. These tribunals will comprise an equal number of employers and employees, presided over by a chairman. They will have jurisdiction over disputes and over the circumstances of particular industries. They may partake of the form of the shipping tribunal which is always available, so that, in the case, for instance, of the mining industry, if any dispute occur and a stoppage of work be threatened, there will always be ready to hand a tribunal! to which the miners and the mine-owners may turn. The shipping tribunal does settle in this way disputes such as demarcation troubles, the question as to which trade shall do this work or that work, and other similar differences. They thread their way through troubles which would puzzle a Philadelphian lawyer, and they keep the industry going. This legislation will be introduced next week, in order to enable me to give effect to my promise to the coal miners if they agree to the terms put forward by me for the appointment and jurisdiction of this special tribunal.
– Will this be compulsory!
– The tribunal may be clothed with all the powers necessary to make its decisions effective, and so far as the calling of the parties together -
– Doyou intend to follow the lines of the Arbitration Act ?
– It is not fair to ask me at this stage to deal with this matter other than in general terms. It is the intention of the Government to introduce this measure next week, so that I may keep faith with the miners and do all that is possible to prevent strikes, because that is the problem which we are up against. The War Precautions Act might go out any day. Certainly it will soon cease to be operative, so that if no other provision be made the miners will be left in mid-air again. Nobody will pretend that there is not something about coal raining that breeds a good deal of discontent. And that is only natural. I suspect that if I were a coal miner myself I should be at the head of all this agitation. I am notifying honorable members generally, and particularly the representatives of the coal-mining industries, the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond), the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), of the intentions of the Government to create special tribunals to deal with all disputes that cannot be, or are not, dealt with by the Arbitration Court. This should not be regarded as a reflection on the Arbitration Court at all. That Court has . done excellent work, but, in my opinion, it is not flexible, speedy, or economical enough to serve the varying circumstances of many industries in this country.
– No subject is of more importance to the general community than this question of industrial unrest, particularly in the coal-mining industry; and I should like to make one or two observations with reference to the proposed special tribunals mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I have always contended that a great centralized Arbitration Court must necessarily be a clumsy, slow-moving piece of machinery, quite unable to attack problems as they arise from time to time in the varied conditions of Australian industries. I believe a Court for every important industry will prove the ideal method of handling industrial disputes in the future. How can it be expected that a Judge of the Arbitration Court shall know everything of every industry? And yet it seems to be a fundamental theory of the Arbitration Court procedure that the Judge should be master of all the facts of all our industries, and thus be able to appraise conditions with an approach to equity. No man can be expected to possess all these qualities. I know of no one who is big enough and wise enough to handle all these problems in their own atmosphere and environment. The costliness of arbitration procedure is, to some extent, due to the fact that a Judge has to spend days and days possessing himself of the facts in relation to a dispute. These facts have to be hammered . into him by experts on either side, when in reality he ought, at the outset, to be thoroughly conversant with all the facts ‘in a broad and general way in relation to the industry concerned. Therefore, it seems to me to be proper that we should seek to set up special tribunals in the form of a Court for every important industry. I do not know that I should favour an elaborate Court such as we have to-day. I prefer some kind of simple Court of Conciliation, with arbitration in reserve, to attack the various problems as they arise, and on the spot. I have in mind the experiences of the Mother Country in this matter. Compulsory arbitration is not favoured in England. They can do much better by means of special tribunals comprised of men who devote the whole of their lives to the settlement of industrial troubles in relation to particular industries.
– Our Wages Boards approach more closely to that system than any other method.
– Yes; but they can also “ sack “ a man concerned in industrial troubles.
– I have in mind the very satisfactory results achieved by Sir Rupert Kettle in the coal-mining district of Staffordshire. For forty years he was called upon to settle ‘disputes in the coal and iron trades in chat district.
– Are the men satisfied with his decisions?
– No one has ever called his decisions into question. Both sides had confidence in his’ judgment. A sliding scale was adopted, and as the price of coal and iron went up, so did wages; and likewise, as prices came down so did wages recede. The condition? were adjusted quarter by quarter.
– That is a very old idea.
– No doubt; but it contains the germ of the machinery which we” shall have to set up here before we can hone to bring about industrial peace.
– Miners in the Old Country have evidently changed their minds lately.
– I do not know that they have.
– Well, what about the Sankey Commission? I would rather have Robert Smillie’s opinion than the Minister’s.
– No doubt the honorable member would prefer Robert Smillie’s. view, but that does not alter facts. This brings me to another point. In my opinion, there will Be no industrial rest in this country until there is a better appreciation of the facts in relation to all disputes.
– Very well; give us a Commission on those lines.
– The honorable member is talking about the Sankey Commission. Does he know what it established?
– Certainly I do.
– I will tell him. The Sankey Commission, in relation to the coal-mining industry, established the fact that, for every man engaged in the industry, it was necessary to employ £150 worth of capital. Does the honorable member get that fact?
– Go on. What did the Commission recommend?
– The honorable member is asking for Sankey, and I am giving it to him. I do not think he will like it so much when I have finished. The Commission also established the fact that, taking the industry by and large, the average profit on capital invested was 9 per cent. Therefore, the contribution of each man to the capital that employs him is 9 per cent. on £150, representing about £13 10s. per annum, or 5s. per week.
– Spread that over 1,000 men, and what is the profit?
– The profit is, 9 per cent. on the average, and means, as I say, about 5s. a week per man employed. Another fact that Sankey established was that there are whole counties in the Old Country where the coalmining industry does not pay at all.
– Is that why he recommended nationalization ?
– It is a reason, I suppose, that led him to recommend nationalization.
– To save the poor proprietors?
– No. Does the honorable member suggest that Sankey was out to save the proprietors?
– Judging by your wail on their behalf, it wouid appear so.
– I am “wailing “ on nobody’s behalf. The honorable member challenged me to show what Sankey had done at Home, and now that I am telling him, he does not appear to like the facts at all. The honorable member asked me for facts, but facts are such total strangers to him that he does not know what to do with them when he gets them. The best thing that could be done would be to throw the light of day on the facts of all these industries, . because nothing would so tend to cure the industrial unrest.
– Give us your policy on mining.
– I told honorable members the otherday here what I thought about mining; aud if my opinion is desired, I may say that I think the miner is entitled to every reasonable consideration; he is entitled to a good wage for his work, and also entitled to perform that work under the best possible conditions. In reply to the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) I may add that I have done more for the miner in my time, in the way of bettering: his conditions, than I am afraid the honorable member himself will ever do. The honorable member ought not to sit there and taunt me in regard to these matters. I remind him that I assisted in New South Wales in securing that every miner was paid his full weight, and I also helped to secure him good ventilation, neither of which he had enjoyed before.
– Is that all that the honorable gentleman did for the miner?
– Why be so bashful?
– In the past I have done my utmost for the miner, and there is nothing in reason that I would, not do for him now.
Mr.Considine. - The honorable gentleman has not done half as much for the miner as the miner has done for him.
– I take leave to doubt that. I am sure that the honorable member could not get anybody in Lithgow, who was there when I was, to agree with him.
– They all say it.
– Here is another “ Johnny-came-lately “ who knows nothing whatever about Lithgow and its conditions in the old days, but, because of that, only speaks with the greater confidence.
– I was born there.
– That may be, but the honorable member knows nothing whatever about the conditions of which I speak.
– I was wandering about Lithgow in your day, and know as much of your record as you do.
– The honorable member is not old enough to know anything about it. I do not know why there should be all these interjections. The moment I begin to lay before the House a few facts I am assailed in this way. I suppose I must apologize to my friends opposite for daring to express the slightest sympathy with the miner, seeing that they claim a monopoly of that sympathy. That, however, must not prevent mefrom expressing my opinion. Despite all this gibing and jeering, I still say that I think I have done as much for the miner as has any honorable member opposite, and there is nothing that I would not do to help him.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- It is rather refreshing to hear the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) taking credit to himself for all the good services he has rendered to the men who made it possible for him to enter into parliamentary life as the leader of his fellow workers who still remained in the mines.
– That is exactly your position.
– But I have not done what the Minister for the Navy did. I can quite understand the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) not failing to back up his predecessor in leaving the miners and the rest of the workers to look after themselves.
– It was the minerswho put me here, and that is what the honorable member did not like.
– If what the honorable member says is true, it is no wonder the miners are in trouble.
– Who are in the most trouble - the miners of Illawarra or the miners at Broken Hill?
– The miners of Broken Hill and the miners of Illawarra are both in the same trouble - are bothin the “ same boat “ - and mutually assisting each other in trying to get justice from those who in the past have paraded themselves as Labour leaders.
– I do not know about that, but I think that the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) and myself have done about 9,000,000 times more than you, or any of your kidney, have done for the miners.
– And I suppose you have also “done” about 9,000,000 more people than I have.
– You were never any good when you were in the Wharf Labourers Union, and were never any good when in the other union.
– Order !
– I was very sorry that I did not “chuck” you out then, as I would like to “ chuck “ you out now.
– The Prime. Minister has seen fit to give me a certificate of good conduct.
– You sat next to a Russian Jew-
– It is time we came to the question before the Chair.
– In passing, I may say that this is not the first time the Prime Minister has announced his intention of getting rid of my humble services, but he has not yet succeeded.
– Order ! That is not embodied in the motion.
– I am glad to see that the Prime Minister receives all the protection he needs. However, the question that the honorable member for Illawarra has brought forward this morning, in order to help the Prime Minister no doubt, in his laudable desire-
– The honorable member is “ stone-walling.”
– Not at all; I am endeavouring to deal with the position that the honorable member has laid before us this morning in his anxiety, as a good’ party man, to protect the Prime Minister. No doubt, he wishes us to believe that he is acting solely in the interests of the miners of Illawarra.
– And of the Newcastle miners as well.
– The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has been speaking for five minutes, and, so far, has not touched the motion.
– The motion,I understand, affirms the necessity of providing means for the miners to have their grievances adjusted in order that industrial trouble may be prevented, and I think I am justified in examining the bona fides of those gentlemen who are responsible for its submission. In my opinion, neither the present Conciliation and Arbitration Act nor the measure foreshadowed by the Prime Minister will prevent industrial unrest in this country ; it cannot be prevented by legislation of that character. The causes of industrial unrest in the mining districts-
– The cause of the industrial unrest in this country is addressing this House.
– The Prime Minister does me too much honour; but he knows full well that no individual, or any number of individuals, in this or any other country, is responsible for industrial unrest. The honorable gentleman knows that it is the present economic conditions that breed the unrest.
-i know that.
– I am glad the honorable gentleman apologizes!
– But I also know that you are one of those who, instead of settling matters in a peaceable way. have always advocated violence - always.
– The honorable gentleman is not now at Ballarat.
– No; but I remember you in the coal miners’ strike of 1909-10.
– That was the time I opposed you both inside and outside the union. That is the time you helped to “ railroad “ me to Darlinghurst gaol.
– I must ask the Prime Minister not to interrupt..
– But I think the honorable member should be called upon to withdraw the statement he has just made ; there is not a word of truth in it.
– I must ask the Prime Minister to withdraw the last part of his statement, and keep order, and assist me in doing so.
– Certainly. But what did the honorable member say? He said that I helped to get him into Darlinghurst gaol.
– The Prime Minister must know that the expression he himself used is contrary to parliamentary procedure. I must look to the honorable gentleman to assist me in seeing that the rules of the House are observed, and I ask him to withdraw the expression.
– Certainly, I shall be only too glad to help you, sir, in any way that I can, and if I have said anything against the Standing Orders of this House I am only too pleased-
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I must ask honorable members to cease interrupting. These personal interjections lead only to unpleasantness .
– I quite agree with you, sir. But as the Prime Minister has seen fit to refer to our mutual exchanges in the industrial arena in 1909, I am quite satisfied to place my record in the industrial movement alongside of his. I admit that, because of my years, it is considerably shorter than his, but it is also considerably cleaner.
– Order !
– That statement must be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) must withdraw that statement. He is now making a personally offensive allusion to the Prime Minister.
– No. What I have said, sir–
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw his statement.
– It must be withdrawn first, and the honorable member may say whatever he may choose to say after-1 wards.
– I will not withdraw.
– I hope that the honorable member will not persevere in that attitude. I am merely desirous of seeing that the decencies of debate are preserved, and that our Standing Orderspre observed. The honorable member, in making an offensive personal allusion to the Prime Minister, has transgressed the Standing Orders. Only a minute previously I called upon the Prime Minister to . withdraw an offensive interjection which he had made in regard to the honorable member himself, and I now cask the honorable member to withdraw the offensive statement which he has made concerning the Prime Minister.
– If I have said anything of an offensive nature I withdraw it.
– That will not do at all.
– Order ! The honorable member for Barrier may proceed.
– I again say that no individual who has temporarily occupied the position of mouth-piece of the industrialists -of this country can be held responsible for the prevailing industrial unrest. The unrest is inherent in the economic basis of society, and nobody knows that better than does the Prime Minister. So long as society is constituted as it is, neither the special tribunal proposed to be appointed by the Prime Minister nor the Arbitration Court can remedy it, because it is inherent in the conflicting interests of employers and employees. Therefore, my own view is that these periodical tests of strength between opposing forces must continue so long as society is constituted as it is at present. It is idle to apply plasters to the outside of the skin in order to cure a disease which is deep-seated in our economic system. As society is constituted to-day - divided as it is fundamentally into two classes, whose interests are opposed to each other - I contend that there can be no adjustment until the basis of our present economic system is altered. Holding that view, and expressing it as I intend to do both inside and outside of this Chamber-
– I do not hear any loud cheers whilst the honorable member is making his declaration of Labour policy.
– The reason for the cheer is absent in my case.
– There will be some weighty speeches undelivered to-day.
– Possibly. I can quite understand the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who has just entered the Chamber, being rather annoyed at the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) getting in on him with this motion this morning, seeing that there is still a portfolio to be filled. One views- with a certain amount of pleased surprise the number of individuals on the opposite side of the Chamber who take such a keen interest in the welfare of the miners of this country; and judging by the honorable member who yesterday nodded his approval of compulsory labour–
– Hear, hear! Like Trotsky, . Lenin, and others.
– I am glad to sea that the Prime Minister is also coming round to my way of thinking.,
– Long live Lenin ! Long live Trotsky! but to hell with Considine!
– It does not matter whether Considine goes to hell or anywhere else.
– Order ! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- As a home-grown Tasmanian, I claim to know something about the industrial conditions which exist in the island State, so far as they are affected by the coal shortage. Tasmania is not blessed with any gas coal which can be used for industrial or smelting purposes. But if the ‘ other States of the Commonwealth bad done what Tasmania has done, so far’ as their water supplies are concerned, there would be no coal trouble to-day. In Tasmania we have one of the greatest hydro-electric schemes to be found in the world. True, it is only in the process of making, though it is working at the present time. That scheme has helped Tasmania to carry on ifc3 industrial operations during the past few years, notwithstanding the troubles consequent upon a shortage of coal and shipping in Australia.
– What has that to do with industrial unrest?
– I am pointing out how we have had to help ourselves, and how pleased the people of Tasmania will be if the tribunal suggested by the Prime Minister be established. But, in addition to tho question of maintaining the output of coal, Tasmanians are directly interested in the question of shipping, and if the Prime Minister can provide us with increased shipping, he will be doing us a very great service indeed. I know that recently several large industries hare decided to -establish new factories in Tasmania. That mean3 that that State will be a bigger customer for coal than it has eyer been previously. Its people, therefore, are vitally interested in the establishment of the proposed industrial tribunal, and, as I have before stated, they are also intensely interested in the question of shipping. The statement made by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) regarding the output of coal for foreign parts is a serious one if it means that the industries of Australia are going to be faced with a shortage of coal. I hope that this particular aspect of the situation will not be lost sight of. I have no desire to occupy time unduly, because I understand that the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) wishes to reply, but honorable members opposite must surely recognise that the proposals which have been outlined by the Prime Minister will do something to ease the present situation. If they are not of that opinion, why do they not submit concrete proposals of their own? I sincerely trust that effect will be given to the proposals outlined by the Prime Minister, because I believe they will be to the advantage of the coal industry of Australia.
.- I intend to speak only for a few minutes. When the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) rose to speak to this motion, he questioned my right to smile, and asked me my reason for smiling. I think it is perfectly obvious to every honorable member why this motion has been submitted. The reason has been made clearer by the fact that both the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Navy have spoken at considerable length upon it. In short, their speeches smacked a good deal of Ballarat, and were evidently for the purpose of preventing a motion standing in the name of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) from being debated. Had the Government been sincerely desirous of preventing industrial unrest they could have taken steps long before this to make such amendments in our Conciliation and Arbitration Act as would have rendered the approaches to the Arbitration Court less .tortuous, and would have expedited the hearing of cases coming before that tribunal. They have not done these things, and, in; my humble opinion, no effective tribunal will be established to deal with these matters unless it has the power of deciding upon the purchasing power of the wages which it awards. After all, that is the real question. The Prime Minister stated that he had no power to bring to ani end the War Precautions Act, under which a certain tribunal now exists. I joined issue with him, and I denied his statement.
– Hear, hear! This is the second time that the honorable member has denied it.
– I propose to point out the section im the War Precautions Act which gives the Prime Minister the power which he says he does not possess. Section 2 of this Act provides that the GovernorGeneral may proclaim the date upon which the war shall be deemed to have ended. If the Governor-General issued such a proclamation, it would be issued on the advice of the Prime Minister and his Ministers, and there is no doubt that, in such circumstances, the Act would come to an end. But even in the absence of such a proclamation I intend to show, upon the authority of the Prime Minister’s own words, uttered in this House on the 1st October, 1919, that the War Precautions Act has expired. Upon page 12843 of Hansard of last year the Prime Minister is thus reported : -
Whatever powers we have at the present time under the War Precautions Act have their roots in the defence sub-section. From the judgments of even the majority in the bread case it is perfectly clear that, whatever powers we have, which are not strictly those belonging to the Commonwealth under the Constitution, spring wholly from the existence of a state of war, or of preparation for war. Neither of these conditions is now present. War is oyer; peace lias come to us with complete victory over our enemies. Neither war nor the need for preparations for defence against a declared enemy exists. In three months the War Precautions Act itself expires; our powers under the War Precautions Act have now shrunk, if, indeed, they have not altogether disappeared.
– That proves all that I have said to-day, namely, that it is necessary for another Act to support this tribunal.
– Yes, but what the right honorable gentleman said to-day was that he had no power to bring the War Precautions Act to an end.
– What I meant to say was that I had no power to bring the war to an end. I cannot extend the War
Precautions Act after the war has ended.
– I am very doubtful whether the War Precautions Act has not come toan end of itself.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
Orders of the Day having been called on,
That the Government is deserving of censure for its general incapacity, and more particularly -
for its failure to prevent an inordinate rise in the cost of living;
for its failure to keep its pledges with returned soldiers and their dependants;
for its failure to take steps to deal with the causes of industrial unrest; return to the Australian people for their wool and other primary products sold overseas;
for its failure to make definite binding contracts for the sale of such products which would have prevented any possibility of profiteering overseas in Australian products at the expense of Australian producers, and would have made it possible to secure a prompt adjustment of accounts in connexion with such sales.
This morning, in answer to the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), you, Mr. Speaker, said that you had placed this notice of motion at the head of to-day’s business-paper, and, therefore, I assumed that the Government were treating it as they ought to treat all motions of this character, particularly as simultaneously with the meeting of the Labour party yesterday morning, a meeting was held at Ballarat, where the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated that the Government were hanging on by a slender majority.
– Will the honorable member state his point of order?
– Yes. My point of order is that, as my notice of motion is at the top of to-day’s business-paper, the Government should allow it to be dealt with as the first item of business for to-day, or else adopt such other course as would permit honorable members to express their views on the merits of the motion, even if it only be by voting upon it. I contend that, as Mr. Speaker has placed the motion at the head of the businesspaper, I should have been called on to move it, and thus given the opportunity of putting my case before Parliament and the country, as far as the newspapers which oppose us would permit. If the Government had been desirous of having any other course adopted, it was their place to move that the notice of motion be removed from its place at the head of the business-paper, where, according to the answer given to the honorable member for Capricornia this morning, it had been placed by you, Mr. Speaker, in accordance with the usual practice and the ruling laid down by Mr. Speaker Holder. Finding my motion at the head of the businesspaper, which the Government always arrange, I naturally assumed that it would be the first business called on to-day. The Government, who admit they are hanging on by the skin of their teeth, have not been courteous enough to intimate that they had no intention of allowing me to submit it to the House or discuss its merits. I spoke to you, Mr. Speaker, this morning, and from what you told me I assumed that my motion would be called on as the first item of business to-day. I do not know what has transpired since. By not treating my motion as a censure motion, the Ministry are doing something which hasnever been done previously in the case of no-confidence motions. I can call to mind many instances in which motions of dissent from the rulingsof the Chair have been placed at the bottom of the business-paper, and honorable members thereby deprived of the opportunity of debating them, but the Government have not intimated to me, nor to any honorable member of the Labour party, as they should have done, that they intended to take similar action in regard to my motion. When I gave notice of the motion yesterday, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) said that it smacked too much of Ballarat, and that the Ministry would take no notice of it.
– I did not say that we would take no notice of it.
– I could draw no other conclusion from the Minister’s remarks. When the Prime Minister entered the chamber a few moments later, I asked him what action the Government intended to take in regard to the notice of motion, and he said that he would treat it in the ordinary way. The ordinary way in regard to no-confidence motions is to allow them to be called on for discussion. My point of order is that while my notice of motion stands on the business-paper, and at the head of the sheet, Orders of the Day should not have been called on; that is to say, the censure motion should be disposed of before any other business is transacted.
– Mr. Speaker realized that by placing the notice of motion at the top of the business-paper.
– Under what standing order was that done?
– The Government arrange the business-paper.
– But they cannot override the Standing Orders.
– The usual practice is for no-confidence motions to take precedence. If the Prime Minister or any member of the Ministry desiresto burke the discussion of this or any other notice of motion, and prevent the Opposition from having the opportunity of telling the people what the Ministry have done, or have failed to do, we shall not have that harmony in the House which is necessary for the transaction of business. If the Government intended to treat the Opposition in this fashion, they should have intimated, either publicly across the table, or privately, that they had no intention of treating my motion as a noconfidence motion, and would place it at the bottom of the business-paper; but, in view of the fact that you, Mr. Speaker, or the Government, or you and the Government, have placed my notice of motion at the top of the business-paper, it cannot be removed from that position except by a vote of the House. Let a Minister move to postpone it until Doomsday, or until the Day of Judgment. That, at least, would be an honest course, and would be treating the House with courtesy;but this method of burking the question and preventing honorable members from speaking on or voting upon it is absolutely unfair.
– I was not in the chamber when the honorable member took his point of order, but I have heard sufficient of what he has said to enable me to follow his argument.
He charges the Government with discourtesy. He claims that we should have notified him thatwe intended to act other than as provided by the customs of parliamentary procedure and the Standing Orders of the House. The Standing Orders are perfectly clear. The procedure to be followed is set out in standing order 119, of which the honorable member cannot plead ignorance, because on one occasion, when I had the honour of being a colleague of his, I was pulled up in the middle of a very spirited harangue on a motion which had been moved by my right honorable colleague, Mr. AndrewFisher, although I had not been going five minutes by the clock. I was pulled up because the operation of standing order 119 interrupted all further debate on the motion. As its effect was quite new to us all, this sank into our minds, and the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) knows perfectly well how the standing order applies. As to the question of courtesy, it has always been the practice, from time immemorial, for the Leader of the Opposition intending to move a motion of censure to give the Prime Minister : notice of it.
– I tried to find the honorable gentleman, but he was not here. He was in Ballarat.
– As a matter of fact, I was here before the. House met.
– I spoke to the Leader of the Opposition an hour before the House met.
– The Leader of the Opposition notified neither myself nor the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), who would, in my absence, act in my place. Instead, he waited until the House met, and then passed across the table his “ bolt from the blue “ - a most discourteous act, and, so far as I know, without precedent. The relations between the honorable member and myself are, indeed, as they have been through all our parliamentary lives, most friendly, and therefore it cannot be suggested that he took’ this course of action owing to lack of harmony between ourselves. Nor do I think the Minister for the Navy is one whom the honorable member is afraid to approach. I think I know what happened. As is the custom of the party which the honorable member leads - a custom of which I am, of course, not ignorant - it held a meeting-
Mr.Tudor. - I said that we held a meeting, and that we were deciding this matter at the very moment you in Ballarat said that the Government were hanging on by the skin of their teeth.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– It was in the Herald last night.
– It is absolutely untrue.
– It was reported that you had stated that the Government’s majority was very slender.
– I repeat that the statement is untrue.
– I do not care what is reported in the paper; the honorable member for Yarra is not going to get that in.
– I have already stated it tw ice.
– Then it will have to be taken out twice.
– Order !
– I will get it in again at Ballarat this evening.
– If the honorable member for Yarra persists in repeating that statement his conduct is calculated to lead to a miscarriage of justice. It is quite untrue, and I give the press report an unqualified denial. The honorable member’s statement has no foundation, and he alleges that that is the reason why he did not inform me of his intention to move a motion of censure.
– No, I do not.
-I must direct the attention of the right honorable the Prime Minister to the fact that he is not discussing the point of order.
– Very well, Mr. Speaker. I have already shown that under the Standing Orders the motion of the Leader of the Opposition was treated in a proper manner. So far as discourtesy is concerned, the honorable member has been most discourteous to me, although I have always been most courteous to him. There was no reason whatever why he should not have informed me of the step he intended taking. The Leader of the Opposition has spoken as if this motion was of some interest to the country. He must remember, however, that his party is now down to twenty-four or twentyfive.
– Twenty-six after tomorrow.
– The position of the Leader of the Opposition and his followers is well known in this House.
– The position of the Government is well known.
– Bah ! If the motion were intended to be in the public interest we could understand it. Let me remind honorable members of something.
– Order ! I cannot allow the right honorable the Prime Minister to proceed in this manner, as a point of order is before the Chair, and that is the only question at present open to discussion.
– I am discussing the point of order.
– I am afraid the Prime Minister is departing from the question before the Chair, and discussing quite a different, although very important, subject.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I desire to ask whether the Prime Minister is in order in using the expression “Pah.”
– I said “ Bah,” not “ Pah.” The members of the Country party and I are deeply interested in the’ wool question, and as I am meeting a deputation’ this afternoon in reference to matters relating to wool and sheep, it is surely a proper expression to use. The Leader of the Opposition knows very well why he is endeavouring to move his motion. I know what occurred upstairs last night.
– Order ! The right honorable the Prime Minister must discuss the point of order. It is one that can easily be decidedwithout assistance
– On a point of order, will you permit me, Mr. Speaker, to present another aspect that arises? I am not going to speak on the question of the ruling you may give on the point raised by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor). You, sir, placed this motion at the top of the notice-paper, and the Government are now proceeding with Orders of the Day. Consequently we have to deal with the Navigation Bill in Committee, and all questions placed by honorable members on the notice-paper will have to remain unanswered.
– Mr. Speaker, on a point of order–
– Order ! There is already a point of order before the Chair, and I cannot allow the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) to be interrupted at this juncture.
– I desire to point out that, it having now been decided to call on the first Order of the Day, honorable members are debarred from receiving answers to the questions they have submitted. If notices of motion must have preference, and the Government treat this motion in this way, there will be no possibility of receiving answers to the questions, because it can be kept there so long as this Parliament lasts.
Several honorable members rising,
– Order! I do not require any assistance from honorable members in connexion with this matter, and I am prepared to give my ruling. The point has been ‘decided long ago, and we have a well-established precedent for the course now being adopted. I can fully appreciate the position mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), but, unfortunately, that is a difficulty which is not of my making, and one which has resulted owing to the operation of our Standing Orders. The rule, as honorable members know, is that at the expiration of two hours from the time of the meeting of the House, all motions not then disposed of must be interrupted and Orders of the Day called on. That has been our practice whenever motions of this character have been before the House. Questions upon notice have, at times, been taken before Orders of the Day, with the concurrence of the House. But it is not strictly in accordance with the Standing Orders. The practice of calling on Orders of the’ Day on the expiration of the two-hour limitation for motions is departed from on occasions when the Government decide they will not transact any business until a noconfidence motion i3 disposed of. In this case, the Government have intimated their intention of going on with public business in the ordinary way; so, although the notice of motion in question is the first on the business-paper, and is placed before Government business, it must be dealt with before the expiration of two hours after the meeting of the House, at which time Orders of the Day must be called on or be interrupted. This question was debated on the 7th November, 1913, when the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) took an active part in a discussion relating to a no-confidence motion moved by Mr. Fisher. On that occasion, a Friday, the motion was reached and discussed, and after the expiration of two hours it was interrupted under standing order 119, and was set down on the following Tuesday’s noticepaper, a copy of which I have before me, as a first Order of the Day as private members’ business, Government Orders of the Day and Notices of Motion intervening. In this instance, the two hours allowed for motions had expired before this particular motion had a chance to be called on, and I had no option, under the circumstances, but to carry out the Standing Orders and allow the Orders of the Day to be proceeded with as the next business. The trouble this morning was that the motion was not reached owing to the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Lamond) moving the adjournment of the House to discuss a matter of urgent public business.
– It was a put-up job.
– I can only speak of the facts. Several honorable members rose in their places to substantiate the urgency of the motion, which, therefore, had to be allowed to proceed, and the allotted two hours were absorbed before the motion of the honorable member for Yarra was reached. The fact that this is a no-confidence motion does not alter the principle at all. I quote from a ruling in Hansard on the 7th November, 1913, where the following appears: -
The fact that this is a no-confidence motion does not alter the principle at all. If it had been intended to specially exempt noconfidencemotions from the operation’ of the closure provisions, it would have been so stated in those provisions.
– That does not apply. On that occasion a no-confidence motion was discussed at least two hours, but the. Government now will not even allow that.
– The difference on this occasion is that the two hours allotted had already expired before the motion was reached. A motion for the adjournment of the House to discuss a question of urgent public business had to be interrupted, and at the expiration of two hours it became necessary to call on the Orders of the Day, because the House had not ordered otherwise before the expiration of that time.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I desire to draw your attention to the fact that you have ruled, with reference to motions, that after two hours have elapsed the Government are quite in order in going on with their business. I contend that deals only with motions, and does not relate in any way to other business on the notice-paper. Standing order No. 92 reads -
After notices have been given, questions may be put to Ministers of the Crown relating to public affairs, and to other members relating to any Bill, motion, or other public matter connected with the business on the notice-paper, of which such members may have charge.
Standing order No. 95, relating to questions on notice, reads -
Notice of. question’ shall be given by a member delivering the same at the table fairly written, signed by himself, and showing the day proposed for asking such question.
Standing order No. 68 also provides -
The House shall proceed each day with its ordinary business in the following routine: - (1) Presentation of petitions; (2) giving notices; ( 3 ) questions on notice ; (4) motions and Orders of the Day, or viceversa, as set down on the notice-paper.
Whilst I have been a member of this House, I have never known such an extraordinary procedure as this to be adopted in connexion with the business set out on the notice-paper. Whenever the time expires for the discussion of motions, whatever their nature may be, questions upon notice have always been called on. No reason has been given to-day for the nonanswering of the questions on thebusinesspaper. No Minister asked that they should be postponed, and I contend that until they have been disposed of, either by being replied to in the usual courteous way, or by being postponed at the request of, or on the motion of, a Minister, other business cannot be taken.
– None of the points mentioned ‘by the honorable member really apply to the present position. Standing order 119 explicitly directs that, on the expiration of two hours from the time of the meeting of the House, Orders of the Day must betaken in rotation, “unless the House order otherwise.” That procedure has been followed.
– I move, in conformity with standing order 119 -
That the consideration of Orders of the Day be postponed until after the consideration of notice of motion No. 1.
– I cannot accept the motion at this stage, because it has been decided on many occasions that when it is desired to alter the order of business provided for by the standing order just mentioned, action must be taken within two hours of the meeting of the House. The point was raised and thoroughly discussed on the occasion to which I have referred.
– I move -
That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair.
– I support the motion. It seems to me that the House-
– The motion cannot be debated. The Orders of the Day have already been called on, and I should have already left the chair had it not been for the raising of the point of order, which it was desirable to settle before I did so. It having now been settled, I leave the chair in conformity with the Order of the Day for the further consideration of the Navigation Bill in Committee.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 8th July, vide page 2651) :
Motion (by Mr. Riley) put -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair.
Ayes . . . . . . 19
Noes . . . . . .36
Majority .. .. . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Clause 73 -
Section 231 of the Principal Act is repealed, and the following section inserted in its stead : - “231. (1) Except as prescribed, every foreign-going ship, Australian-trade ship, or ship engaged in the coasting trade -
carrying more than twelve passengers, or
being of 1,600 tons gross registered tonnage or upwards, shall be provided with a wireless telegraph installation, and shall maintain a wireless telegraph service, as prescribed, and shall be provided with one or more certificated operators and watchers, as required by the regulations.
Penalty, on master or owner : Five hundred pounds. “
Section proposed to be amended -
Except as prescribed, every foreigngoing ship, Australian trade ship, or ship engaged in the coasting trade, carrying fifty or more persons, including passengers and, crew, shall, before going to sea from any port in Australia, be equipped with an efficient apparatus for wireless communication in good working order in charge of one or more persons holding prescribed certificates of skill in the use of such apparatus.
.- On the second reading, I said this section had beenweakened by the Government insisting on adopting the provision agreed to by the Convention for the safety of life at sea. Apparently, those engaged in working a ship are not to be counted. A vessel of less than 1,600 tons may carry a crew of 100, but, they are not to count. Apparently, the view of the Government is that sailors’ lives do not count for anything. I object to that view. I indicated then my intention to move an amendment to count all the persons, and not merely all the passengers on board a ship. This is one of the most important clauses in the Bill. Many men who have learnt wireless at the Marconi School in Melbourne are anxious to obtain ships; but the shipping companies will not employ them until compelled to do so. I am anxious, for the safety oflife at sea, to provide that every vessel carrying passengers, or carrying over twelve persons as a crew, must be equipped with wireless. The lives of the sailors are just as important to them as the life of any person in the community is to him. It is all very well for honorable members opposite, who represent the wealthy classes, to think that they are the only ones that count.
– There is no justification for that accusation.
– I think it expresses the truth.
– Why does the honorable member limit the number to twelve? Are not the lives of crews of two or three just as valuable?
– I said every vessel carrying twelve persons, passengers or crew, should be equipped with wireless. Vessels which carry less than twelve are not likely to go into dangerous waters, although, of course, many lives have been lost on yachts and other vessels carrying crews of four or five.
– There are vessels trading from here to Tasmania with only three, four, or five menon them.
– They are sailing . vessels. I believe every vessel, steam or sail, should be included; and if the honorable member will move that every ‘vessel going from State to State shall be equipped with wireless, I shall support him. All seamen and firemen, whose working conditions, after all, are not the best in the world, are entitled to this safeguard. Why, then, do the Government fix a limit of twelve passengers? When section 281 of the principal Act was passed in 1912, the then Minister told me that it made quite sufficient provision for the safety of life at sea. It stipulated for wireless equipment on all vessels carrying “ fifty or more persons, “including passengers and crew.5’ We “ have made rapid strides in radiotelegraphy since then, but the Convention for the safety of life at sea adopted the principle and the number laid down in our Navigation Act. ‘.Chat Act has not been proclaimed as a whole, and the proclamation putting parts of it into force has been for some reason inoperative. It could not be said that the war was the reason, because the proclamation was issued after peace was signed, yet within a few weeks of its issue there was a change of policy, and the parts of the principal Act which had been proclaimed were not enforced. Many efficient wireless operators were compelled to remain here during the war, and I’ believe there are over 1.00 of them in Melbourne at this moment. There must be more in Sydney and other places, and they are all anxious that this provision should be brought into operation, because it will give them an opportunity of putting their training into practice. They will not get that chance so long as this provision remains inoperative. Every honorable member will admit that there is need for wireless equipment on sea-going vessels. Its value was proved quite recently, in the case of the oil-tank ship which was adrift in the Pacific. She had discharged her cargo of oil in New Zealand, and was coming to Australia, travelling light, met with an accident, and for some time
*was drifting about the ocean. Her supplies of fuel became exhausted, and in order to obtain enough power to drive the dynamo, and so operate the wireless equipment, it was necessary practically to break up and use the whole of her fittings. In all probability she was a vessel of about 4,000 tons, and would carry a crew of forty or fifty.
– Such a vessel under the clause as it stands would be compelled to have wireless equipment.
– That is so ; but I am anxious to extend this provision so that every vessel carrying a crew of twelve would have to be equipped with wireless. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will probably say that no such requirement was embodied by us in the Bill of 1912. I am quite willing to learn that that Bill is not as up to date as should be a Bill passed during the present session. Since 1912 marvellous strides have been made with wireless telegraphy. When the principal Act was passed, wireless was practically in its infancy. For every vessel trading to Australia which carried wireless in those days, there are now at least ten or a dozen; so equipped. Ordinary passenger ships find their wireless plants very useful in obtaining news for the information of those on board, while other vessels are equipped with wireless solely for the purposes of safety. Safety is the chief consideration that I have in mind.
– Since the honorable member would go so far in this case, he might as well make it compulsory for every home to have a telephone which could be used in case of fire.
– If the honorable member submits such a proposal I will consider it. Any proposal that I submit is treated with contempt by honorable members opposite.
– That is not correct. I remind the honorable member of what happened yesterday.
– Every amendment that I submitted yesterday while this Bill was under consideration was defeated. In regard to one amendment, I suggested to some members of our party that if it were moved by the honorable member Tor Hunter (Mr. Charlton), some honorable members from the other side would support it. As a matter of fact, since 1917 the Opposition in this House has not been able to carry one amendment which the Government have opposed.
– Is that unusual?
– Most unusual. In the early days of Federation, when we were dealing with non-party measures, the Opposition frequently carried amendments which were objected to by the Government of the day. To give a concrete illustration, when the original Public Service Bill was before us I secured an amendment of clause 40 dealing with temporary employees, and also an amendment in regard to the minimum wage. I was then sitting in the Ministerial Corner, while the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton), who was a member of the direct Opposition, also carried an amendment which the Government opposed.
– We gave the honorable member last night a postponement of the clause relating to shipwrecked crews.
– That is so; but honorable members opposite did not support any amendment moved by me.
In the course of my second-reading speech I dealt chiefly with the question of wireless and the necessity for compelling all ships to carry efficient crews. Wireless equipment is all important for the safety of shipping. It has been the means of summoning aid again and again to vessels in distress. Subsequent to the wreck of the Titanic, and before the holding of the Conference for the Protection of Life at Sea, the Voltuna caught fire in the Atlantic Ocean. By means of wireless she summoned to her aid vessels of almost every nationality ; but owing to the heavy sea that was running, not one of them was able to launch a boat to go to the help of her crew. Ultimately, by means of wireless, she got into communication with an oil tank steamer, which, on arrival at the scene, poured large volumes of oil on the waters, and so settled them as to enable a rescue to be effected.
– Why not give the Government time to consider this question by moving that the Chairman do now leave the chair?
– I wish first of all to hear the views of the Minister on this subject. I gave special attention to it on the motion for the second reading, and as I had the honour of piloting through the House the Bill passed in 1912, I think I am entitled to expect from him the courtesy of a reply. The Minister should state at once the views of the Government in regard to this question. I certainly am not “ stonewalling “ this clause. It is estimated by experts that on only about one day in five it is possible to launch a boat in the Atlantic. If a vessel has a list to starboard the davits on the port side are practically useless, and although a ship may be able to summon assistance, the chances of rescue are not great. But we should provide every opportunity of rescue, and that is why I plead for better conditions in regard to wireless. Many vessels that were torpedoed during the war remained afloat sufficiently long to summon assistance by wireless. Vessels that have lost their propeller have drifted in mid-ocean for days.
The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. , Marr), who was a wireless operator during the war, will realize the necessity for, proclaiming the Act, so that the men who were trained in wireless during the war but were not permitted to leave Australia, may have a greater opportunity of earning a livelihood at that profession. I shall listen to the Minister’s explanation for altering the provision in the original Act, and if it is not satisfactory, I shall move the amendment I have indicated.
.- I move-
That the clause be postponed.
The Committee is not in a mood to deal with this or any other business. We have had from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) and his colleagues this afternoon an exhibition of absolute contempt for the want of confidence motion of which notice was given by the Leader of the Opposition yesterday.
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter) . - Order !
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member, in offering reasons why this clause should be postponed, cannot traverse in any way a previous decision or action of the House.
– Immediately the honorable member for West Sydney commenced to discuss things that had taken place in the House I called him to order. The honorable member will be in order in offering reasons connected with the Bill as to why the further consideration of the clause should be postponed, but he cannot deal with matters outside the Bill.
– I do not intend to go outside of reasons which are absolutely relevant to the consideration of the Bill. I am not prepared to allow the Government to cross a “ t” or dot an “ i “ in this or any other Bill until the want of confidence motion has been disposed of.
– Order ! The honorable member’s remark is a threat of obstruction, and as such, is entirely disorderly.
– It is not a threat of obstruction, but an intimation of my frame of mind and I intend to adhere to it. The Government have thrown out a challenge and an insult to this party, and it is for us to accept the challenge.
– I am loath to intervene, but I again direct the attention ofthe honorable member to the fact that nothing that takes place in the House may be referred to in Committee.
– I do not intend to refer to anything that has taken place in the House, but I intend to refer to what I think will probably take place in Committee if the further consideration of this Bill is postponed till next week. I am hopeful that a new Government will then be in power, and I am moving the postponement of the clause in the hope that next week the Committee will be differently constituted, and that there will be in charge of the Bill another Minister who will be more likely to accept amendments. Of course, it is difficult to steer clear of the Standing Orders and to state the grounds upon which the Government are likely to be removed from office.
– Order !
– This is all nonsense. The honorable member is out of order.
– I ask the honorable member for West Sydney to confine his remarks to reasons why the further consideration of the clause should be postponed.
– That is what I conceive I am doing. I am stating, at all events, the true reasons that actuate me, and I am trying to do it in conformity with the Standing Orders. I am determined, as far as in my power lies, to prevent the Committee going one step further with this measure, and I am hopeful that if honorable members, particularly those in the Ministerial Corner, will do their duty–
– Order !
– The honorable member’s manners must have run short, in spite of the bountiful supply I gave him some time ago.
– It is a good thing sometimes for honorable members on this side totreat those on the Ministerial side with some of their own medicine. There is not the slightest doubt that an attempt was successfully made this afternoon to avoid discussion–
– Order! On several occasions I have asked the honorable member not to continue in that strain, and I again ask him to obey the Chair.
– I am sure you, Mr. Chairman, will understand the difficulty that confronts me. We, on this side, have not the brute force of a majority such as honorable members opposite have. It is necessary for me to elaborate my argument in order that honorable members may understand and appreciate the real reason for my action in moving the postponement of this clause, and also that people outside–
– And in Ballarat, particularly.
– No, not in Ballarat, because I have no doubt that the citizens of Ballarat have already made up their minds concerning what they are going to do to-morrow.
– Hear, hear; there is no doubt about that.
– Seeing that the right honorable gentleman has interjected, I may be permitted to retort that he and his colleagues have given ample evidence that they are very anxious not to have their defects exposed.
– On a point of order, sir, I submit that these remarks are quite out of order. The clause has relation to wireless. The remarks of the honorable member for West Sydney bear upon the Ballarat by-election, and have to do, also, with the condition of mind of certain people in Ballarat. I submit that these matters are not covered by the specific clause now under discussion, and that, therefore, the honorable member is out of order and will be continuing to defy the Chair in proceeding upon his threatened course. I suggest, further, although he is a new member, and thus has a right to be given every latitude, that you should make the honorable gentleman understand that he cannot longer continue to defy the Chair. I emphasize that none of his remarks are relevant; that, indeed, they are entirely out of order, and ought not to be continued or repeated.
– I have no intention of defying the Chair, or of disregarding any. of your rulings, sir; but, at the same time, I must, within the Standing Orders, express myself in such a way as to convey my real reason for moving the postponement of this clause. I am not. referring to anything that is in the clause, but am setting out my reasons why the Committee should not proceed with it.
– Order! Will the honorable member please resume his seat? The honorable member has now again declared that he is not referring to anything. that is contained in the clause. His motion is, in effect, that the clause be postponed. I have asked him to confine himself to a statement of his reasons, within the terms of that clause, and of the Act with which it is associated, and not to go outside of them. I once more request him to confine himself to those specific matters.
– You say, Mr. Chairman, that I must confine myself to matters within the clause. I am directing attention to things that are not in the clause, but which I want to have put into it.
– Now the honorable member’s observations, if they are not out. of order, are suggesting an infringement of the Marconi patent, and are equally unacceptable.
-. - Order ! I ask the Prime Minister, and all honorable members to cease from interjecting, in order that theChair may have an opportunity of hearing the debate, and deciding whether the proceedings are or are not in order.
– I do not know how long the Prime Minister proposes to proceed this afternoon with the consideration of the NavigationBill. If he will give an intimation, it may facilitate matters at this particular stage. Meanwhile, I am determined that the Government shall not make any progress if I can prevent it.
.- The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor), in the course of his remarks on the secondreading debate, stated that the proposed amendment of the Government in regard to the installation of wirelesswould weaken the Act, and that he would prefer to see the provisions, as originally defined for the safety of life at sea, embodied in this measure.
– On a point of order, I understand that the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) has moved a motion to postpone consideration of this clause. Is the Minister in order, therefore, in discussing the merits of the clause itself ?
– Would not a motion for the postponement of a clause take precedence over ordinary discussion? I maintain that that question must be disposed of forthwith.
– I understood that the Minister was speakingtothe motion.
– He was dealing with the details of the clause itself, and not with the motion for postponement.
– He was about to do so.
– No doubt, the members of the Ministry are able to read each other’s minds.
– Ballarat will know that you are blocking the NavigationBill.
– Ballarat will know that the Government is afraid to have its misdeeds brought to light.
– Order ! I insist upon honorable members paying regard to the Chair.
– I was about to show–
– I desire to raise a point of order. Do I understand, Mr. Chairman, that you have accepted my motion for postponement as taking precedence over all other business?
– That is so.
– If that is the question now before the Committee, do you. consider that the Minister for Trade and Customs is speaking to it?
– I was about to show, provided that the opportunity were given me, why, in my opinion, it is inadvisable to postpone the consideration of this clause. I propose to do so by indicating that the fears expressed by the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) were not well grounded, and that there was every reason why the Committee should make up its mind in favour of the Government’s amendment. I take it that I will be entirely in order in so doing, and, as a matter of fact, I think my remarks will be really more closely related to the motion of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) than those employed by the honorable gentleman himself. Iunderstood, when I rose a few moments ago, that if I was prepared to indicate the extent to which the Government proposed to proceed this afternoon, the honorable member for West Sydney would not seek to press his motion to a division.
– No; I want a division,
– I presume that we shall continue with our business to the usual hour of adjournment.
– Even if that business should be none!
– Even so. And if the honorable member intends to carry out the threat which he has made on two or three occasions during the past few minutes, namely, that he does not propose to permit the Government to do any business at all - that is to say, if he has made up his mind definitely that the seamen are not to be protected–
– Do not come that caper.
– There has been a definite and reiterated pronouncement by the honorable member for West Sydney that he will not allow the Government to dot an “ i “ or cross at “ t.” Here we are considering matters which relate closely to the safety of sailors at sea, and that is the particular subject which the honorable member for West Sydney has decided shall not be considered. I can only add that it reveals an utter disregard for the welfare of our seamen.
Honorable members interjecting,
– Honorable members opposite who cheer and support the honorable member for West Sydney in his efforts to block the Government are displaying that callous disregard to which I have just alluded, and nothing less.
– What does the honorable member for West Sydney care about the seamen ?
– He cares nothing. Honorable members opposite declare that they, and they alone, represent the working men of this country, and our seafaring community, and yet they have adopted this attitude simply because they are not pleased with the turn of events to-day, and find that their ignorance of the Standing Orders has allowed them to get into their present position. There is every reason why we should proceed immediately with the consideration of this clause. The Government in their desire to do the fair thing by the seamen, decided to extend, to a very much greater extent, the provisions relating to the wireless installation on vessels trading along our coast and to Australia. All this has been done in the interests of seafaring men.
– Proclaim the measure then.
– The principal Act–
– All this tripe is no good–
– Order ! The honorable member for Dalley is out of order.
– The principal Act laid it down that it was not necessary for vessels carrying under fifty persons - it did not matter whether they were passengers or crew - to be provided with wireless.
– We want that number reduced very considerably now.
– When the Act was passed this provision was considered to be sufficient, but after the Convention met–
– What are you dealing with now ?
– I am dealing with the wireless provisions of the Bill, and giving my reasons why consideration of the clause should be proceeded with.
– We cannot hear your “ S.O.S “ signals.
– I am sorry for the honorable member then. I am endeavouring to point out that in the Bill we have gone further than the recommendations of the Convention to which reference has been made over and over again. The Government felt that so far as coastal shipping was concerned, that provision was not adequate. I have had prepared a list of cargo vessels-
– All this is very interesting, but what are you going to do about the no-confidence motion?
– I have had prepared a list of cargo vessels trading to the port of Melbourne, not one of which, under the principal Act, will be obliged to carry wireless.
– What has this to do with the motion for the postponement of the clause ?
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. Chairman. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) was obliged to keep within the bounds of his motion.
– And the Minister can do what he likes.
– The Minister appears to be talking at random. I maintain that he is not entitled to any greater privileges than were allowed to the honorable member for West Sydney.
– What is the honorable member’s point of order?
– My point of order is that the Minister should confine his remarks to the motion for the postponement of the clause. The honorable member for West Sydney was required to do so, and the Minister should not have greaterprivileges.
– That is a reflection on the Chair which the honorable member has no right to make.
– I am not making any reflection upon the Chair. I am merely drawing attention to the fact that the Minister should confine himself to the motion. At the instigation of the Prime Minister or the Minister for ‘Trade and Customs, you, sir, did not allow the honorable member for West Sydney, and rightly so, to depart from the terms of his motion, though he tried to do so, and I maintain that the Minister should not be. allowed to introduce irrelevant matter.
– That is hardly a point of order. Part of what the honorable gentleman has said is quite correct. The honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) wandered from the motion on several occasions, and I called him to order. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), who is in charge of the Bill, attempted to do so too, and I also called him to order. Since then the Minister has confined himself most strictly to a statement of his reasons why, in his opinion, the clause should not be postponed. He referred to the urgency of the measure in the interests of the seamen, and was giving his reasons why discussion on the clause should proceed when the honorable member intervened. If the Minister attempts to go outside the motion again, I shall once more call him to order.
– I move -
That the Chairman do now leave the chair.
– The honorable member cannot submit that motion until the question before the Chair has been dealt with.
– Is not the Committee master of its own position?
– The honorable member must know that his motion cannot be submitted at this stage. It is not permissible to interrupt an honorable member who is speaking. The Minister, though called to order temporarily, is still speaking, and till he resumes his seat the honorable member for Dalley will be out of order in submitting his motion.
– I have been endeavouring, so far as is possible in the babble that has been accompanying my remarks–
– A babble for the purpose of blocking the Bill.
– The seamen will “block” this Bill if it is passed in its present form.
– I do not know why punishment should be inflicted upon the Chair because honorable members feel aggrieved at a certain procedure. Honorable members are evidently trying to put the Chair into a position in which it ought not to be placed. I ask honorable members in all parts of the House, including Ministers and Leaders of parties, to assist the Chair, and I point out that it is in their own interests, and necessary to the maintenance of the dignity of Parliament, that they do so.
– I am trying to show why, in my opinion, it is desirable that this clause should not be postponed, but should be discussed at once. When the last series of interjections started I was pointing out that the amendment to the main Act, which the Committee are asked to make, brings under the wireless telegraphy provisions a great number of vessels which are not affected by the original Act.
– The Minister has made that remark about six times in the course of his speech, and I submit that this is tedious repetition.
– I hope honorable members will not raise frivolous points of order.
– I am quite serious.
– Order ! The Chair must do its duty impartially to all honorable members.That duty I am trying to carry out, and I ask honorable members not to place me in a position in which I do not desire to be placed.
– I do not know whether I have repeated myself more than once this afternoon, but any honorable member who could tell exactly what he has said or has not said under the conditions would be somewhat of a marvel. So far as is humanly possible I have, at all events, endeavoured to make my remarks relevant to the motion. Iwas about to say that I have statisticsrelating to a large number of vessels which trade to the port of Melbourne, and which, under the original Act, are not called upon to have wireless installations, but which, under the amendment, must be so equipped. I do not ‘desire to read the list of such vessels, for it is a long one of over sixty.
– Let us have the list.
– I hardly think it is necessary to read it, but Ishall give a few examples.
– What has this long list of vessels to do with the motion of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan)?
– I apprehend that the Minister was about to read a list of ships which are not called upon to be equipped with wireless under the original Act, but which, under the amendment, will have to be.
– There is in this list of vessels the Aeon, of 3,763 tons, with a crew of thirty-five. There not being fifty persons on that ship, a wireless apparatus is not required under the original Act. Then there are the vessels of the Austral line, not one of which, with two exceptions, is under 4,000 tons, and, as the maximum crew carried is fortythree, wireless is not now imperative.
– The postponement of the clause cannot affect those vessels.
– On the statement of the Minister himself, these vesselsare already equipped with wireless, and the list, therefore, can have nothing to do with the motion.
– Order! I ask the Minister to proceed.
– I would like your ruling, Mr. Chanter.
– I shall give a ruling when a definite point of order is raised. It is the duty of the Chairman to intervene when he considers that an honorable member is out of order, and I shall do so in the case of the Minister if necessary.
– In order, Mr. Chairman, that you may Have definite information on which to act, I point out that the Minister has specifically stated, in reply to the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), that it is not necessary for these vessels, under the original Act, to be equipped with wireless.
– I was listening very carefully and acutely - as, indeed, is necessary, in view of the many interjections - and I take it that the Minister was dealing with one line of steamers called the Austral line, and pointing out that those vessels were already equipped with wireless. I apprehend that the Minister was about to show that other vesselsof similar description were not so equipped but would have to be under the amendment. The Minister is in order.
– That was the position. What I was. endeavouring to show-
– May I ask–
– I have several times asked the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) to cease interjecting. The honorable member knows as well as I do that it is distinctly out of order to interject, or make any noise, while an honorable member is speaking. This the honorable member is constantly doing, and I have had to call attention to the fact.
– I merely desired to ask a question.
– The time is past when questions may be asked. A very bad practice has arisen of honorable members continually firing questions ata member who is speaking, thus destroying the effect of the speech, and giving rise to disorder.
– My question would have helped the Minister.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to address the Committee, and may, if he chooses, take notes so as to be able to correct the Minister if necessary. .
– The assistance offered is such as I can well afford to do without. There are, perhaps, hundreds of vessels trading to Australia with crews of from twenty to nearly fifty, and not one of these; under the original Act, is called upon to install wireless apparatus. The principle which was laid down in the principal Act was that there must be a limit beyond which it is inadvisable to proceed. The position, roughly; is that the Government feelthat they should endeavour as far as possible to insure that ships trading along the Australian coast shall be equipped with wireless apparatus. It is obvious, however, that we cannot insist upon wireless being installed upon all vessels. When the Leader of the Oppositon (Mr; Tudor) was Minister for Trade and Customs, and was charged with the duty of piloting the Navigation Bill through this Chamber, it was thought that a vessel carrying fifty persons should be regarded as the smallest vessel upon which wireless should be installed. Personally, I think that that limit is too high. The Government, therefore, propose to grant a further measure of protection to our seafaring men. Under this Bill there are many hundreds of sailors who will be trading along our Australian coast, and who will be adequately protected by the installation of wireless, but who were not similarly protected under the Act which i9 already upon our statute-book. As the ordinary hour for adjournment has been reached, and as I shall probably have a further opportunity of addressing the Committee on this matter, I do not intend to unduly trespass upon the time of honorable members at this juncture. Although I have been on my feet for perhaps half-an-hour, I have not’ succeeded in making a five-minutes speech.
House adjourned at 4 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 July 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200709_reps_8_92/>.