10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. SirLittleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Introduction on Imported Brushes.
– A few days ago I asked a question relating to a reported case of anthrax arising from the use of a shaving brush manufactured in Japan. During the discussion of the tariff I brought under the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs the fact that tooth brushes manufactured in Japan and branded “ Made in Britain “ were being imported into this country. The Minister promised to furnish me with some information on the subject, which he has done. J. understand him to say that he has no power to deal with these importations, and that it is quite competent for Japanese manufacturers to send to Australia brushes which will spread anthrax. Is it the intention of the Government to introduce a measure at the earliest possible moment to prevent these importations, or to deal with the persons responsible for the introduction of such goods?
– There is, I think, a misconception in the mind of the right honorable member with regard to the power of the Customs Department to deal with’ importations that are marked in such a manner as to deceive the consumer. We have power to stop the importation of Japanese tooth brushes and shaving brushes, or any other goods carrying a misdescription asserting that they are of British or Imperial manufacture; but there are many provisions in the Commerce Act which prevent the Customs Department from going so far as it would like to go in this matter. The Government has under consideration an amendment of the act, which is now twenty years old, which will give the Department full control with regard to these and other importations of the same kind.
– Will the Prime Minister, before proceeding with the debate on the States Grants Bill, cause to be circulated for public information a report of the speeches made last month at the conference between the Federal Government and the State Premiers ?
– Proofs of the report of their speeches were sent to the various State Premiers for revision, and have only just been returned by them. As I promised last week, as soon as the revised report has been printed, copies of it will’ be made available.
– I ask the Minister in charge of Repatriation whether instructions have yet been issued to State officers of the Repatriation Department regarding the wider and more generous interpretation of the term “material degree” introduced into the act of 1921 concerning pre-war disabilities.
– Instructions on the matter referred to have been issued to officers of the Department in the different States.
– I wish to ask a question of the Prime Minister concerning the bounty on cotton. By way of explanation, I may be allowed to point out that I am receiving numbers of telegrams from those interested in the cotton industry in Queensland, asking when the Federal Government will come to a decision regarding the proposed Commonwealth bounty on raw cotton. This is the season in which the growers must prepare their land, and they wish to know what return they may expect from their next crop. 1 ask the Prime Minister when he can make available to these people the decision of the Government on the question?
– The facts which the honorable member has mentioned were brought under my notice by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) a few days ago. The reply I gave to his question was that the Government has received the report of the Tariff Board, that it is now under consideration, and that I hope it will be possible to make a statement on the subject in a few days.
– I, too, have brought the matter before the Prime Minister on many other occasions.
– When the Government is considering the proposal to pay a bounty to cotton-growers, will it- also consider the payment of a bounty to the manufacturers of cotton yarn?
– In reply to a similar question last week, I stated that it was not customary for the Government to make statements of policy in reply to questions.
– I ask the Treasurer whether his attention has been drawn to a statement appearing in this morning’s press, made by Mr. Forgan Smith, Minister for Agriculture in Queensland, to the effect that the Commonwealth Bank Rural Credits Act had dismally failed to function in the direction in which its sponsers said it would, and that it should he amended. Will the Treasurer say whether there is any justification for this criticism?
– There is no justification whatever for the criticism referred to, nor is there anyneed to amend the act. Under it all the bene fitsprovided for can be extended to such pools or commodity boards as can give legal control of their products to the Rural Credits Department of the Commonwealth Bank. I should like to add that the Queensland Government, by its action in trying to restrain the Rural Credits Department from giving advances to pools has prevented use being made of the act to the extent that it might have been used.
Honorable members interjecting.
– I ask honorable members to keep order. It is impossible for me to hear the Minister’s answer to the question put to him. I askhim, in making his reply, to keep as closely as possible to the question hewas asked.
– I was pointing out how the act had succeeded in func tioning. Inintroducing thebill, I said that there were two wayswhereby its usefulness would be demonstrated. The firstwas by the indirect stimulation of the existing financial agenciesto give more liberal accommodation for marketing produce, and the second was by direct advances from the Rural Credits Bank. As to that I should like tosay-
– I ask your ruling, Mr. Speaker, as to whether the Treasurer is entitled to make a speech in replying to a question?
– I have already indicated to the honorable the Treasurer that he is not entitled to expatiate at length in replying to a question. The object of a questibn is the eliciting of information, and I therefore ask the honorablegentleman to confine his remarks to the subject-matter of the question.
– My remarks have elicited so much applause because of theirapplication to thesubject-matter of the question. During the last three months the directors ofthe Commonwealth Bankhave several times requested me to proclaim other raw products as being suitable for advances by the Rural Credits Department of the Bank. Although that branch of the Bank’s business has been in operation barely six months, it has already shown a profit; but the Commonwealth Bank was in existence for two and a half years before it showed a profit.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the House last Friday, I brought under the notice of the Prime Minister statements made by Sir Joseph Carruthers in Sydney to the effect that the low moral standard of the people in Australia was checking migration. Such statements by public men in this country injure Australia’s reputation on the other side of the world, and Ishould like the Prime Minister to take steps to prevent them from being circulated.
– I apologize fornot having replied tothe honorable member when he mentioned this matter on Friday last. I have not seen the statements to which he has referred, hut if such statements have been made by responsible persons in Australia, they are very much to be deprecated. I shall do everything in my power to prevent an erroneous impression being created by them.
Dr.NOTT. - Is the Minister for Health yetable to inform the Houseof the resultof the investigation by specialists of theSmalpageserumtreatment?
-I propose, with the permissionoftheHouse, to make a statement onthis subjectat a later hour.
– (By leave) - Interim reports on Dr. Smalpage’s system oftreatmentof tuberculosis, up to the 1st June, are now to hand from five States, and also from the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories. The treatment of patients will becontinued for the full period of three months;so that the final reports will not be available for six or eight weeks. The reports from each State are indicated by a letter of the alphabet, and are as follow : -
We are of the opinion that in no case did the use of this antitoxic serum control the toxic symptoms associated with clinical tuberculosis; and we are of the opinion that the serum sickness associated with the use of this preparation in these patients tended to aggravate the general symptoms. Further, so far as our present investigation goes, we have not observed any improvement following the use of the lymphocytic or splenic extract, other than such a degree of improvement as would have been expected to follow general treatment.
The use of the antitoxic serum produced a considerable amount of illness, and is not unattendedby risk. There is no evidence that it diminished or removed the toxaemia from which the patients were suffering. There is no evidence that the splenic extract has produced any improvement inthecondition of the patients.
From. State Committee “C” -
All the cases developed mere or less severe serum rash after a few days of the antitoxin; in some of these, thereaction was very severe. Taking the results of treatment altogether, no appreciable benefit resulting from the treatment wasseen.
The committee is of the opinion that the treatment was harmful to the majority of the cases treated, especially to theearly cases; and that there is no evidence that it is of any beneficialvalue.
No beneficial results have accrued to the patients treated in accordance with the principles laid downbyDr. Smalpage.
The report of one of the State committees has not yet been received. The Laboratory experiments show: -
The summary by the Acting Director of the Commonwealth Serum Laboratories of the present results of the experimental work is that these results indicate that neither the serum nor the extract has been of the slightest avail in saving the lives of guinea pigs inoculated with human tubercle bacilli; on the other hand, the results indicate that death has been hastened by the use of these agents, for a large percentage of the treated animals have died, and all the controls are yet surviving.
– Controls are the animals which have been inoculated but not treated, as distinct from those which have been inoculated and into which the serum has been injected.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members’ questions are as follow: -
Derby to Wyndham
askedthe Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he place upon the table of the Library the file dealingwith the question of extending the aerial mail service in Western Australia from Derby to Wyndham?
– The file in connexion with the proposed extension of aerial service to Wyndham has been placed on the table of the Library.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Action by Skin Wool Owners.
asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Markets and Migration, upon notice -
– The information asked for by the honorable member will be obtained and supplied as soon as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
In view of the fact that thousands of people, mostly workers, think that they are safe in sending various sums of money in notes in registered letters -
Is it a fact that registration only insures value up to £2?
Can senders, by putting on more stamps, insure for larger amounts?
If so, will he have posted up in a prominent place in the various post officers a notice to prevent persons being liable to loss when sending notes of more value than £2?
What are the fees charged, and what are the methods of charging?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The minimum fee (3d.) covers compensation only for the loss of the article. Payment of a higher fee covers compensation for damage to, or loss of, contents, as well as entire loss of article. The fees are payable in postage stamps, affixed by the sender to the article.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he state, if the present States Grants Bill is passed, whether -
re-classification of the land tax assessing officers will be proceeded with and officers receive retrospective salaries from 1st July, 1923;
officers of the Land Tax Assessing Branch, Sydney, will be paid salaries in accordance with Assessors’ Award No. 6 of 1923;
payments will be made retrospective to those officers who have recently been appointed to Section 1 work and who have been performing that work since 1st July, 1923 (the date of determination of that award) ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– On the 27th May the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the following information : -
– On the 3rd June the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Parsons) asked the following questions : -
I am now able to furnish the following information : -
1st July, 1925, to 31st May, 1926, £360,085.
Debate resumed from 8th June (vide page 2769), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which Mr. Charlton had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after the word “ That “ be left out with a view to the insertion of the following words in lieu thereof: - “the bill be withdrawn with a view to eliminating clause 2 and substituting therefor the following:
Section fifty-one of the Constitution is altered -
by omitting from paragraph (i) the words “ with other countries, and among the States.”
by omitting from paragraph (xxxv.) the words “ Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State “ and inserting in their stead the words - “ Labour and employment, and unemployment, including : -
the terms and conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, occupation, or calling;
the rights and obligations of employers and employees;
strikes and lockouts;
the maintenance of indus trial peace; and
the settlement of industrial disputes ; “ and
by adding at the end thereof the following paragraph: -
Trusts, corporations, combinations, monopolies, and arrangements in relation to -
the production, manufacture, or supply of goods,or the supply of services; or
the ownership of the means of production, manufacture, or supply of goods, or supply of services.
This hill is the most important that has been before the House this year, since it deals with matters that vitally affect our whole industrial system, and thus are woven into the very fabric of our economic and social life. This has been recognized by all parties. I should like respectfully to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and other honorable members of the Labour party who have addressed themselves to the bill, on the statesmanlike way in which they have recognized and accepted it as a non-party, broad, national measure. Personally, I was glad that the Leader of the Opposition so frankly suggested a conversation with the Prime Minister, and stated plainly that in his opinion the present industrial machinery of the Commonwealth and the States was quite inadequate and unsatisfactory. I trust that the result of the conversation will be an agreement which after debate will have the approval of practically every honorable member. It is apparent that we all recognize that the power at present possessed by this Parliament is inadequate to secure either industrial peace or prosperity, and that an amendment of the Constitution is necessary to equip it with larger powers. The Government, recognizing that the best way to get a thing done is to do it, has introduced this measure. Some honorable members have complained that it has acted hastily; but I ask them to adapt to the situation the maxim, “ He gives twice who gives quickly.”
– Why not apply that to other problems.
– We cannot do everything at once. He who acts promptly acts better than well. Honorable members opposite have for many years advocated industrial arbitration as the panacea for our economic and social ills, and the recipe for industrial prosperity and harmony, and I am satisfied that they have honestly believed what they advocated. I have no fault to find with those honorable members opposite who have advocated the doctrine of industrial arbitration. I, at one time, believed that it would prove a panacea for the majority, if not the whole, of our industrial troubles, and I regret that it has failed to do so.
– It has not failed in all cases.
– Years of experience have led me to the conclusion that if it has not been a failure it has at least not been a success.
– Does the honorable member refer to recent years?
– Yes; I refer to industrial arbitration as it exists to-day. With that limitation, I am in cordial agreement with the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), who upon this bill delivered a very thoughtful: and able speech. Our system of industrial arbitration has apparently functioned on wrong principles from its commencement. There has been little or no conciliation, and almost too much arbitration. Decisions have been based upon evidence, and deductions drawn from evidence. Such decisions, however impartial they may be, can never be as satisfactory as those which are based upon actual personal knowledge. It must be recognized that each trade or calling presents prob lems and difficulties that are peculiar to itself , and no person can expect to become acquainted with them without personal contact with the industry to which they attach. In many cases the result has been that neither the workers nor the employers have received the justice to which they have been entitled. Both have suffered considerably from the fixation of wages and hours upon a standard which has taken into account nothing but that which is vaguely described as “ the cost of living.” The term “ cost of living “ appears to me to call for some satisfactory definition. Some persons believe that it embraces the purchase of only those things which are necessary to sustain life. Others contend that it is the cost of high living, rather than the high cost of living, which causes all our troubles. I am out of agreement with both of those schools of thought. I consider that the cost of living involves the maintenance of that standard of comfort which the community demands shall be given to our people; and, in Australia, that is a little better than it is in the majority of other countries. I hope to see it a great deal better. Some persons refer to the cost of living as something which involves merely wages. They overlook the fact that as certainly as wages rise the purchasing power of money becomes less. In Australia £1 13s. is required today to purchase what could have been purchased with £1 not so many years ago. There are persons who measure their progress and prosperity by the number of pounds, shillings and pence that they receive. That is a most misleading criterion, which cannot be accepted. After the signing of the armistice, the coal miners in the Ruhr received from their Government as sustenance money 100 marks a week. That allowance was subsequently increased to 1,750 marks, and later still to 5,000 marks. Ultimately, 10,000,000 marks could be bought for11/2d.; proving conclusively that very little importance can be attached to the nominal value of money. The mark was originally worth11.8d., and the possessor of 1,000,000 marks before the war was able to live on the income which could be derived from their investment. Yet, to-day, 10,000,000 marks can be purchased for11/2d.
– Not to-day.
– I refer to the marks which were issued at the conclusion of the war. Another feature of industrial arbitration is that it has separated, rather than brought together, the employer and the employee. Before its introduction a very large number of miners worked in Charters Towers and the mining fields in the north-western part of Queensland. They were, to a greater or less extent, shareholders in the mines in which they were engaged, and they boasted of their capacity to excel in their work. That has been altered in recent years. One of the causes of the failure of the mining industry has been the intrusion of a different spirit.
– Does the honorable member say that the miners of any other country can take out more than the miners of Australia?
– I do not; on the contrary, I say that miners of other countries take out less. From the stand-point of both output and industrial peace, the mining history of North Queensland has been a great deal more satisfactory than that of any other part of the world with which I am acquainted. But latterly quite another tendency has manifested itself, and the men - especially the young, single men - now boast ofthe small amount of work that they do.
– The honorable member’s experience is an isolated one.
– I admit that I am reciting isolated experiences, but it cannot be denied that these conditions exist; whereasin earlier years the universal practice was for the miners to rejoice in their ability to work harder than their neighbours.
– The honorable member is referring to contract work.
– I am not. I am referring to ordinary shift men - machine men, hand miners, truckers, mullockers, and so on. In the pastoral and agricultural industries the most friendly and cordial relations have always existed between the employers and their employees, but that spirit has not been the result of industrial arbitration.
– Has industrial arbitration had a detrimental effect upon the output?
– I think that it has. The primary producers especially have suffered from it. I recognize that the advancement of our secondary industries increases the general wealth of the nation, develops our community life, and provides a market for our primary products. The tendency of industrial arbitration is rather to choke than to help primary industries. The imposition of costly conditions renders unprofitable and increases the hardships of developing the more remote parts of Australia. With the vicious circle of high wages and less output, and the consequent increased cost of production, everything that the man in the country has to buy has increased in price. As the increase in wages has not kept pace with the increase in cost of production, and as the purchasing power of money has decreased, the capacity of the people to purchase the products of the country has become less. The cost of transport has also increased, and the primary producers, except the wool-growers, are receiving a smaller return for their products and facing a higher cost of living. It is necessary, of course, to develop our secondary industries; but we cannot lose sight of the fact that Australia is, will, and must for many years, be a country dependent largely upon primary production. As a matter of fact, primary production is to-day carrying Australia on its back. By developing our secondary industries we shall find a market for our primary products, and so place the producers on a better footing. Without successful primary production it is impossible to build up a sound superstructure for our secondary industries, because we should lack both raw products- and markets. The primary and secondary industries must coordinate to bring prosperity to this country. The northern cattle-growers should be able to obtain a reasonable price for their bullocks, which they are at present rearing under high production costs. A large station in Northern Queensland has for the last four years netted less than £4 10s. a head for bullocks, and yet has had to pay higher wages, higher rents, and higher prices for all its supplies. I know that, in Melbourne and Sydney as much as £28 and £30 is paid for a prime bullock. If the cattle on that station could be sent, either alive or chilled, to Melbourne, Sydney, and the southern centres, we should be able to obtain very much cheaper and certainly not inferior beef, and cattle-growers who are at present almost despairing for their industry would receive a more satisfactory return. Australia is also producing enormous quantities of high-grade wool. Townsville last year shipped 110,000 bales of merino wool. I hope to see the time when not 1 lb. of wool will leave Australia until it has been at least scoured and combed. We shall then be able to establish a process of secondary industries entirely dependent on the wool industry of Australia. The primary producers, being widely scattered, have suffered severely under the arbitration system. They lack means of communication and of concerted action; having few opportunities of presenting their difficulties, problems, and the conditions under which they work, to the Arbitration Court. They suffer in comparison with the industrial groups which as trade unions are strongly united, and thus able to take concerted action. The position of the primary producers alone under industrial arbitration clearly justifies, and indeed demands, an amendment of the present system. Putting aside the position of the primary producer, industrial arbitration has not given satisfaction to either the employer or employee in the large manufacturing centres. For the last five years the States and the Commonwealth have functioned in some way in industrial arbitration. All the States at first appointed wages boards and then adopted courts of industrial arbitration and conciliation. In 1920, because of strikes and lockouts in Australia, we lost 3,587,267 working days, involving a loss in wages of £2,370,387; in 1921, we lost 1,286,185 working days, involving a loss in wages of £970,475; in 1922, we lost 85S,685 working days, involving a loss in wages of £751,507 ; in 1923, we lost 1,145,977 working days, involving a loss in wages of £1,275,906 ; and in 1924, on the’ last figures available, it is estimated that we lost 918,646 working days, involving a loss in wages of £917,699. The aggregate . loss in wages over the five years involves the colossal sum of £6,285,574. Although that sum came out of the workers’ pockets, yet the actual loss was suffered mostly by their, wives and children.
– From what authority is the honorable member quoting?
– From Federal official statistics. Queensland commenced with an Industrial Peace Act, and in 1916 appointed a court of industrial arbitration. That State has confessed the failure of the court by establishing in its stead a board of trade. New South Wales began with an Industrial Peace Act and then passed an. Arbitration Act, but that State has confessed the failure of that legislation by appointing an industrial commission. Victoria has appointed wages boards, and it must be recognized that that system has proved the most successful. South Australia has mixed its procedure by having both courts of industrial arbitration and wages boards, the latter, unfortunately, to a limited extent. The Commonwealth has shown its versatility by appointing an Arbitration Court and a Public Service Arbitrator.. So that we have all kinds of commissions and methods of dealing with arbitration, and not one of them is functioning satisfactorily. It must not, however, be thought that industrial arbitration alone, however amended or by whatever system carried on, will bring either industrial prosperity or industrial peace, and, of course, there can be no real industrial prosperity without industrial peace. Other4 forces in our economic situation must carry a full measure of responsibility for the present unsatisfactory conditions of affairs. The science of economics must be earnestly studied, both by workers and employers. Efficiency must have that high regard which is its due, and we must get away from the idea of paying a flat rate for a certain number of hours worked without regard to either the quality of the work or the measure of the output. We must look with increased satisfaction to the payment of higher and still higher wages to men who, by their skill and industry, give a greater output. In this way only can we increase wages, decrease the cost of production, and raise the standard of living. Labour which is found inefficient and unsatisfactory in one vocation must be transferred to other, and still other, vocations, until every worker is employed in congenial work, for I am satisfied that every man who does not suffer physical disability is capable of being a success at something, and only those fail who are engaged in uncongenial occupations. This advance can never be made under any system of industrial arbitration or conciliation alone. To bring it about itwill be necessary to separate trade or craft unionism from political unionism. Under a system of craft unionism the officers of a union will be experts in their trade, will have first-hand knowledge of all its conditions, its disabilities, and its problems, what number of hours should be worked, how the work should be remunerated, and what conditions are best for the health of the workers. They will be in close contact with the employers, and over council . tables the representatives of employers and employees can settle most of their differences without the intervention of any tribunal. This has been done with a great measure of success in Canada and the United States of America by a system of walking delegates and meetings between employers and employees. In Australia to-day every industrial and trade union movement is obsessed with politics, and political advantage weighs more heavily than actual economic and industrial considerations.
– Does not that apply equally to organizations of employers?
– It is universally applicable. The result of this political movement is an ever-widening gulf of class consciousness and class hatred to the detriment of both parties, but especially of the worker. The Australian workers are, with few exceptions, men of high character, with a genius for observing the law inherited from their Anglo-Saxon forbears, and in many of the proposals brought before Parliament they would heartily concur were they not told by persons with political design that the workers distrusted or were angry with such measures; in other words, the workers do not find out that they are either angry or distrustful until they are told so by their political leaders. I do not say that these loaders are actuated by dishonest, motives; I recognize that many of them sincerely believe that what they are doing is in the interests of their fellows.
– Does not the honorable member credit the workers with ability to think for themselves?
– They have the ability to think for themselves if they are allowed to do so. Very often, all the facts are not presented to them. Most of the workers readonly so-called labour newspapers, in which all problems arestudied from the one viewpoint. Iadmit that the employing class also is too often misled by a one-sided statement.
– To what newspapers does the honorable memberrefer?
– I am speaking particularly of the QueenslandDaily Standard and the Worker. Neither journal gives to its readers a fairand unbiased statement of any matter. If the workers would study both sides of every question, and make up their own minds, great good would result to them and to the community. Unfortunately, they are trained to see only the one side. I do not wish honorable members to think I am suggesting that a political labour movement is not desirable; I think it is both desirable and necessary, but it shouldbe separated from the trade or craft union movement, as it is in the United States of America, and not until that is done shall we have true industrial peace and prosperity. Inthis country we have very few of what are called the “idle rich,” nor have we more thana small number of those friendless persons known as “ fat “ men.It is true that we have a considerable number of men who are possessed of capital, that is, of more money or goods than is sufficient to supply their present needs; but this class includes a very large proportion of manual workers and members of trade unions. That is attested by theamount of wealth held by trade unionists in savings bank deposits, shares in companies, houses and other real estate. I look forward to the day when every married man will own, at least, his own home. Men should not, however, be thrown into one political camp or the other merely because of the circumstances of their birth or vocation. Thanks to our system of free and compulsory education, we are becoming a cultured and enlightened people. Unfortunately, the moral tone of our communitysuffers agreat deal by reason of the fact that our State school education issecular and non-religious, and that isevident in the lack of public conscience which is manifested throughout
Australia to-day. Not even the vilest outrage or betrayal of trust seems to shock the public conscience; that is unfortunate; but thedenominational schools everywhere now being established should tend to improve and change this condition. With our educational system we should encourage the study of social science, economics, and national development along scientific lines, so that each unit in the community might be in a position to discharge the full duty of citizenship inelectoral matters by personally weighing carefully the merits and demerits of the policy of each political party, and supporting that policy which reason declares tobe best for the whole people, regardless of the party from which it emanates. It seams to me wholly iniquitous that a child, evenbefore his birth, should have his politics ordained and forecast for him by the social and economic circumstances of his parents. That is what the parliamentary Labour party contends for to-day, and in my view it is utterly and entirely wrong. It is true that a very great many industrialists and workers in the community have too much sense to accept that doctrine, but it is none the less true that that is thedoctrine which is forcedby the Labourparty upon industrialists wherever possible, and they are taught, trained, and induced to believe it. I have read and carefullyconsidered thebilland the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. Isay that whateverproposals are submitted to thecountry -and I havea pretty open mind concerningthem - whether those of theGovernmentor of someof those suggested by the Opposition, ora compromise the result of conversations between the Prime Ministerand the Leader of the Opposition, I trust we shallbe able to go to the countryunited upon them, and will be able to carry them. But I think that it is necessary here and now to consider the machinery that will be required to give effect to the desired reformsif the referendum proposals are carried. In view of what has been said by several speakers,and particularly by the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), and the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), and in view also of my own experience, I hopethat the machinerydecided upon will take the form of the pre-eminently satisf actory legislation regulating industrial matters in Canada, or the wages board system, with direct representationof employer and employee, and of one other person representing the community, as a check. Thereshould be also an ultimate court ofappeal constituted as a Commonwealth court of conciliation and arbitration with not less than one resident judge in each ofthe different States. That isnecessary because of the varying conditions which exist in different parts of the Commonwealth. It must be recognized that provisions applicable and entirelysuitable to Victoria would have no application to the northern parts of Queensland. Here people live in a temperate region, having an abundant rainfall. In the north of Queensland we have a tropical region, and in central and western Queensland a. sparse rainfall. The conditions in widely separated parts of the Commonwealthare entirely different, social and economical. It would not be possible for any manor small body of men functioning at one centre to adequately grasp and deal with activities carried on under widelydifferent circumstances and conditions.
-Weacknowledge that by paying Tasmania and Western Australialump sums to enable them to keep pace withtheother Statesof theCommon wealth .
– All these circumstances require to be taken into consideration. I suggest that the court of appealshould be called upon to work only when wages boards and round-table conferences had resulted in a stalemate ; to determine broad general principles where that is found to be necessary; or when either party to a dispute feels aggrieved by the decision of a lower tribunal, whether State or Federal. If such a scheme were in operation it would furnish machinery to protect employees against an unscrupulous employer, to protect a fair employer against an unscrupulous competitor who might be exploiting labour,and to preventthe exploitation of employers by such things as “ lazy “ strikes, irritation strikes and other unfair formsofobstruction from which we are not, in Australia entirely free, though I do not suggest that in this regard we are much worse off thanother countries. Above all, it should operate to prevent thatengineof destruction in the past - the strike. Strikes never have done any good, and have done very little to achieve the purpose of those responsible for them.
– Does the honorable member thinkthat we are much worse off in Australia in this respect than are the people of any other country.
– I do not say that we are worse off in this respect than are the people of other countries, nor, although strikes are unlawful, do I contend that they are always unjustifiable. I have known strikes which I considered were amply justified. That, however, is not the question.They are unlawful, and in view of modern conditions and the knowledge possessed by the worldto-day of social, economic,andscientific development, it should not be necessaryto resort tostrikes asameans of settling industrial disputes. I wasverymuch interested in what I would like to refer to as the learned and thoughtfulspeechof the honorablemember forReid (Mr. Coleman). Ido not agree with hisviewsand conclusions, but Ishouldlike respectfully to pay acompliment to the very thoughtful preparation of his case by the honorable member, andthe admirable manner in which he presented it. He pointed out that even under the existing law the Commonwealth Courtof Conciliation and Arbitration cam virtually control all mattersnow dealt with in the Statecourts. He criticized the bill before the House from thatviewpoint. At this stageof the honorable member’s remarks I made an interjection, not with aview to interrupt him, but in order to obtain his opinion. His time was short, and he did not answer my interjection. What I suggested was that whatever he had urged against the bill could be urged with equal force and weight against the amendment of the Leader ofthe Opposition.
– That is how I view it. Referring to the proposed amendment, I should like to add that it is in the highestdegree undesirable to legislate in sucha form as to render it possible for this House tobe the cockpit for the discussion and settlement of industrial disputes. It seems to me that it is necessary thatParliament shouldlift itself altogether above such an atmosphere. It is quite true that this Parliament should be the final tribunal. It must be supreme in these matters. It is equally true that Parliament must be the final tribunal on questions arising under the criminal and civil laws and dealt with in the courts of the States and in the High Court. Parliament is supreme on all such questions, but carefully assumes such a position that it has nothing to do with the actual measures taken to secure the observance of the law, and it should assume a similar position with regard to industrial arbitration. Of course, the final prerogative rests with the Sovereign, but that does not get away from the fact that the Parliament must be supreme; but it should so arrange these and other matters that its time may be devoted to the legitimate functions of national government rather than to the duties of conciliation courts and other courts of the land. The amendment, as I see it, is open to the further objection that proposals for the amendment of the Constitution in this or a somewhat similar form have already been rejected on no less than four different occasions. I am very much inclined to pursue the policy indicated by the merchant who said to the boy endeavouring to take a large handful of nuts out of a small opening in a cask, “ Let go half the nuts my boy and then try.” I think it is better, if we can, to obtain from the people the powers asked for in the bill than to risk another refusal of the powers asked for in the amendment. For these reasons, I wholeheartedly support the bill as a step in the direction of industrial peace, and therefore of industrial prosperity. It must be recognized that we can have no prosperity of a lasting character unless it is accompanied by industrial peace, and a reasonable and continuous uplifting of the standard of living of our people. I am certain that it is the earnest desire of every member on both sides that we should have industrial peace and universal prosperity. Given industrial peace, there is no reason why this fair land of Australia, with its manifold advantages aud rich natural resources, should not have a bountiful measure of prosperity and progress. Given industrial peace, I am satisfied that prosperity will follow as certainly as day follows night.
.- The honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G.
Francis) has truly said that this is one of the most important measures ever submitted to this House. I compliment the honorable member upon the delivery of an interesting and informative speech, although I disagree with many of the statements and arguments he put forward. There have been many interesting speeches, and many devoted almost entirely to the subject of arbitration; the question whether arbitration laws are good or bad is only incidental to the measure before the House. The question before us is the grant of wider powers under the Constitution to this Parliament. That is the question we have to consider, and it should be considered in the broadest possible way. A bill has been presented by the Government to widen the powers of this Parliament with respect to industry and commerce. An amendment has been submitted from this side, not to destroy, but to amplify and extend what the Government proposes. We are not, in the amendment, putting forward the whole policy of the Labour party on this question, but only so much of it as we can bring within the title of the bill now before the House. For the information of honorable members, I may say where, as the Labour party, we stand on this question of the Australian Constitution. We stand for unlimited legislative powers for the Commonwealth Parliament, and such delegated powers to the States or provinces as the Commonwealth Parliament may determine. That would give to the Commonwealth Parliament completely sovereign powers, and it would then be impossible for any act of the Parliament to be unconstitutional. In addition, we ask in the special portion of our programme on industrial matters for power to decide upon a common rule. That is specific, but the first statement of our programme is general and embraces all. Some may describe our policy in the matter as unification, but I am not frightened or concerned about names. I believe that at the stage we have reached, and because of the experience of the past, we should come to the conclusion that the passing of legislation which the people asks for should be within the powers of this national Parliament. I am forced to that view because I believe in progress. I object to the stand-still policy that marks conservatism. The conservative idea is the preservation of that which exists. Those who enjoy privileges denied to the great mass of the people want no change.
– Conservatism stands, not for that which is, but for that which is good.
– Conservatives want that which is, because it suits them. The Labour party, ‘ being a radical and progressive party, should stand for changes of the existing order of society. So long as we have any restrictions upon the expression of the will of the people by constitutional methods, so long will we deny that progress to which the people are entitled. This question of the Constitution and the restrictions upon Parliament is an age-long question. It goes back to the dim ages of the past. I do not propose to take the House back so far, but I briefly mention that the question arose in the old struggle between the King and the Parliament, and, later, between those who possessed property and those who did not. Down to the present age, we have not yet reached the stage when any parliament is practically free to express the unfettered will of the people. There is somewhere something which blocks the way. Parliament has a limited franchise in most countries. There is a limited franchise in five of the six States of Australia to-day, in which we have Upper Houses, four being elected upon a property qualification. Property qualifications have preserved privileges which often have been unjust privileges. Although we in this Commonwealth have the broadest and most democratic franchise in the world, we are limited in our powers by a written Constitution, which has the same effect as a limited franchise in obstructing the will of democracy. That is why the Labour party says this national Parliament should have unlimited powers to legislate for all the people on the broadest franchise in the world. It is not necessary to point out to honor.able members, but it may be necessary to mention for other reasons, that there is a vast difference between accepting the bill brought down by the Government to widen, the powers of this Parliament under the Constitution, and accepting the bills that may be brought down to exercise those powers. We may agree with honorable members of the party opposite to extend the powers of this Parliament, but we may find ourselves in opposition to them on their subse quent legislation. As to that, I do not prophesy; but even if we do oppose the subsequent bills, there will be no inconsistency in our attitude. We stand for this Parliament having the right to rule, unfettered, and we leave the people to decide who shall control this Parliament. What is the history, briefly, of this Constitution of ours ? Let me state it in my own way. The Constitution is 25 years old, and those who framed it copied slavishly the Constitution of the United States of America, which was then a century old. I am prepared to say for them that they did the best they could with the material then at hand. There were warring States and State jealousies, which I am sorry to say have not all disappeared, although they are less manifest now than they were then. They did one desirable thing when they made provision for the amendment of the Constitution. For that we thank them, although we complain that they made the amendment of it too difficult. In order to alter the Constitution, it is necessary to have an aggregate majority of the electors of Australia, and a majority of electors in each of the four States. But it is provided that if we can make the people see the desirability of alteration we need not forever be ruled by the dead hand of the past. Surely, after 25 years of experience, we have reached the time when we should say that the dead hand of the past shall no longer rule us ! Early in the history of federation we discovered the limitations of the Constitution, and found, also, that those who framed it thought that it gave to this Parliament wider powers than it actually did give. The Constitution was not seven years old when acts, the bills for which were presented to this Parliament by men who had framed the Constitution, were declared by the High Court to be ultra vires. The principal illustration that occurs to my mind is what is commonly known as the Harvester case, in which the question of the new protection was raised. In the election of 1906 three parties faced the electors. There was the party led by the late Sir George, then Mr., Reid; the party led by the late Mr. Alfred. Deakin, and the Labour party. The Labour party and the Liberal, or Deakin, party both had the “ new protection “ on their programmes. The new protection meant that the manufacturer, while protected by the Customs tariff, should not be allowed to exploit the people by making exorbitant charges, and should not be permitted to employ sweated labour. An overwhelming vote of the electors was cast in favour of that policy, and I have yet to learn that an overwhelming majority of the electors of to-day does not favour it. Yet although the electors declared in favour of it in 1906. from that day to this this Parliament has been unable to give effect to it. The first attempt to give effect to it was made by the Deakin Government, supported by the Labour party, in 1907. The act then passed was tested in the High Court, and declared to be unconstitutional.
Mr.Watt. - It was not declared unconstitutional because it invaded the area of the State powers, but for other reasons.
– It was declared unconstitutional because the court held that this Parliament had not the power to regulate wages or prices under the limited industrial and commercial powers of the Constitution.
– That was not the main contention, so far as I remember.
– My recollection is that the judgment was that it was not competent for this Parliament, under cover of its taxation powers, to do what it had not power to do under other sections of the Constitution.
– The Constitution says that taxation measures shall deal with matters of taxation only. That was the objection taken in the Harvester case.
– Quite so; but the honorable member must know that those who drafted the new protection law were forced to use the subterfuge of employing taxation measures, because of the restricted power in connexion with trade, commerce, and industry. It was then laid down that neither directly nor indirectly had this Parliament power to pass the legislation that the people asked for in 1906. After that decision, Mr. Deakin promised that at the earliest opportunity he would appeal to the people for an amendment of the Constitution. When he made that promise, I believe he meant to keep it; but a change came over the political horizon, and a fusion government was formed of the Deakin and Reid parties, and on the next appeal to the people in 1910 the promise was not kept. On that occasion the Labour party reiterated the policy it put forward in 1906, and promised that if returned to power it would ask for an amendment of the Constitution to give the Commonwealth Parliament power to carry out, not only the plank of new protection, but many other planks which were then, and still are, in the platform of the party. We were returned to power with a substantial majority, and we redeemed the promise by going to the people in 1911 with proposed amendments of the Constitution to widen this Parliament’s powers. We were met with severe opposition and much misrepresentation. All the tories and monopolists fought our proposals, and the plunder of the profiteers was poured out to finance the propaganda against us. We were defeated by an overwhelming majority. Although in 1910 our party secured a majority of over 62,000 in the aggregate vote for the Senate in the six States, and won every one of the eighteen Senate seats, when we asked for enlarged powers under the Constitution a year later, we were defeated by 248,000 votes.
– That shows how unstable public opinion is.
– The honorable member should not emphasize the instability of public opinion, because I have vivid recollections of his eloquent and forceful opposition in the past to extending the powers of this Parliament. I shall be interested to see how he acts on the present occasion. Our defeat in 1911 did not deter us. When we went to the electors at the general election in 1913, we took our political lives in our hands, and submitted our proposals again, although on the previous occasion there were nearly 250,000 votes against us. We were defeated as a party, and we were defeated on our referendum proposals, although we came much nearer to success than on the previous occasion. The majority against us in 1913 was 26,000. Since then we have not had an opportunity to submit our complete proposals again. Proposals brought down in 1915 were subsequently withdrawn, because the States promised to transfer certain powers tothe Commonwealth; but those promises have not been redeemed. With that history in mind, I am naturally pleased to find that those honorable members who- once opposed the Labour party’s proposals have now seen the light, and are following the lead we gave them sixteen years ago, even though they are not going so far as we should like them to go. When representatives of that great monopoly, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, were asked on oath to deny that the company gave £50,000 to the fund for fighting us, they would not deny it. Enormous sums of money were poured into that fund by the monopolies of Australia, and we know how quickly they recouped themselves afterwards by raising the price of everything they controlled. The effect to-day is that this Parliament is still working under the weakest federal constitution in the world.
– Outside of America.
– Not excluding America. Ours is certainly the weakest constitution in the world.
– Does the honorable member think that the States would ever have federated under the policy of the Labour party, which seeks to give supreme power to the Commonwealth, with delegated powers to the States?
– The question is irrelevant. The people made the Constitution, and the people are being asked to alter it. If the electors of 25 years ago would not have voted for our policy, that does not prove that the people of to-day would not do so. At least, they will be given the opportunity if we get into power, and I am encouraged to hope that the people of to-day have changed their mind, seeing that honorable members opposite have changed theirs in such a marked degree. Every parliament in the Empire possesses the power that is sought for this Parliament; and, with the exception of the Canadian Parliament, also possesses the full power that the Labour party would repose in this Parliament. Even the Canadian Parliament has infinitely greater federal power than this one.
– The Canadian provinces were in a very different position at the time they federated from that of the Australian colonies at the time the Commonwealth was established.
– The difference between our system and that of Canada is that, under our written Constitution, the power of the national parliament is limited to certain specified matters and the residual power is vested in the States, whereas under the Canadian written Constitution the provinces have specified power and the residual power is vested in the national parliament. The parliaments of Great Britain, South Africa, and New Zealand have complete power and can do as they wish. Yet it is suggested that all the horrors imaginable will follow if merely an extension of power is granted to the Australian Parliament. The people of Australia have direct control over this Parliament. They are able to make and unmake it. One grows impatient at the statements that are made both inside and outside of this House that this Parliament cannot be trusted with full powers. It is said that governments may abuse their power. This Government, as a matter of fact, has abused its power, and it may also abuse extended powers. But the people have opportunities of dealing with parliaments from time to time. If they choose to return to office a government that has abused its power, that is their business. In my opinion this matter should be viewed, not from the point of view of State rights, nor from that of the Federal Parliament versus the State Parliaments, but from that of the people’s right to rule. The power of this Parliament is granted under section 51 of the Constitution. Paragraph xxxv., which it is now sought to amend, reads -
Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.
The bill proposes the deletion of the last eight words of that paragraph, which restrict the power of Parliament to deal with industrial matters. I suppose I could say quite truthfully that every letter in those eight words has cost our trade unions at least £1,000 in unnecessary litigation, not as to the merits of disputes submitted to the court, but as to whether the cases should have been submitted to it at all. The result has been, as the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) himself admitted in his speech on the second reading of the bill, that the practice has grown up of creating artificial disputes and of fomenting instead of allaying trouble between employers and employees. But in not one case that I know of have the workers tried to restrict the authority of the court by their interpretation of these eight words. Every case of that nature has been submitted by the employers with the object of preventing the workers from having access to the court. One would be led to think, by the criticism of honorable members opposite, that all industrial turmoil, stoppages of work, bitterness, and industrial strife have been due to union advisors ‘ or leaders or the workers themselves.
– The workers have found law and order a most expensive luxury.
– That is so. Almost every attempt that they have made to settle their disputes by lawful and constitutional means has been blocked and frustrated by the expenditure of huge sums of money by the employers’ organization in preventing them from getting to the court. The money has been spent, not in fighting the merits of the various disputes, but in attempting to prevent v.he workers from crossing even the threshold of the court. Mr. Justice Higgins, who, in my opinion, has done more than any other man in Australia to arbitration workable, in speaking from the bench on one occasion, said -
The way to the court is through a veritable serbonian bog of technicalities.
That statement has been quoted on many occasions, but it bears repetition. That was a remarkable metaphor. It compared the court to the treacherous Egyptian lake which swallows all who enter it. Mr. Justice Higgins also said -
The cost and delay of arbitration are chiefly due to the efforts by some to prevent any arbitration at all.
In describing the methods employed to prevent the workers having access to the court he said -
We are engaged in a game of infamous word-splitting.
That is quite true. The present Chief Justice of Victoria, Sir William Irvine, was a member of this Parliament in 1910 and 1912, when the Labour Government introduced bills with the object of having the words “ extending beyond the limits of any one State “ struck out of the Constitution. In describing the limitations which they imposed on Parliament he said -
When these words are gone I, as a lawyer, will lose an old friend.
There is not the slightest doubt that every lawyer who has been engaged in constitutional arguments before the High Court as to the meaning of those eight words will lose an old friend when they ultimately go. Both the bill and the amendment that my honored Leader has moved aim at deleting them, and I venture to say that no one in this country will grieve at their departure except possibly some lawyers, and even a good many of them are honest enough to say that they ought to go. It was a wretched state of affairs that an army of counsel, kept by the shillings and sixpences paid in levies by the workers who desired to settle their disputes by constitutional means - should be arrayed week by week in the High Court disputing about the meaning of the words. They were not at all concerned with the merits of the dispute which caused their appearance in court. With all due respect to them, I say that the Arbitration Court is no place for them.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– They have no move right to discuss the merits of industrial disputes in an Arbitration Court than they have to discuss the methods of constructing a bridge in a conference of qualified engineers. They have not the slightest idea of what is a fair wage and a reasonable working day in many of the industries that they .have argued about, and they should not be permitted to appear in the court.
– I take it that the honorable member would be agreeable to their appearance in a court of appeal.
– I would not permit them to have anything to do with determining the merits of industrial cases. In very many instances they know no more about the details of the matters they are arguing than a roaring lion knows about grand opera. Legal disputants have more financial interest in prolonging disputes than ‘ in settling them. I suggest to honorable members who have criticized the working of the Arbitration Court, or’ damned it with faint praise, that, considering its limitations and the atmosphere that has been created by the setting up of artificial disputes, it has done wonders. In saying that I do not wish it to be understood’ that I think it has been a complete success. The honorable member for Ken- nedy (Mr. G. Francis) said that there was very little conciliation about the Arbitration Court. I wish to inform him and honorable members generally that practically all conciliation in industry takes place before a body that is known as the Trades Hall Council Disputes Committee.
– Hear, hear!
– That body, in my opinion, has done more to preserve industrial peace than any court in the land.
– Hear, hear!
– And a lot of thanks it has received.
– It has received none. It has been denounced by the very people who should have praised it; but, nevertheless, it hasdone, and is doing, great work. A good many employers have been big enough to sit around the table with it and conciliate, instead of slamming the door in the face of the workers, as the Prime Minister did on a momentous occasion during the shipping strike. The honorable member for Kennedy also observed that the Arbitration Court had destroyed the friendly relations that once existed between employers and employees in the pastoral industry. To any one who knows the history of the pastoral industry that statement is laughable. From my knowledge of the industry, which goes back to my boyhood days, I say, without fear of truthful contradiction, that the only friendly feeling that ever existed between the employers and employees in it was created by the Arbitration Court. I know of only one occasion on which the great Australian Workers’ Union called its members out on strike against an award of the court; and it did so then for the reason that it was convinced that a serious mathematical error had been made. Eventually that was admitted. The Australian Workers’ Union, which is the largest trade union in Australia, has been loyal to the principle of arbitration often against the best interests of its members. The conditions which now prevail in the pastoral industry would never have been possible in the bad old days of strife. I wish to refer to only one other remark that the honorable member for Kennedy made. He said that we should separate trade or craft unions from political unions. I am. quite in the dark as to what he meant, but, if his idea is that we should condemn unions that are interested in political action, then I suggest that he should join one of the very few trade unions in this country which believe in direct action as against either political action or arbitration. If he supports the unionist who is opposed to all political action, he ranges himself alongside Jacob Johnson, of whom we have heard quite a lot lately, because the other day that gentleman was fined for having refused to record his vote. I leave that matter, and I return to a consideration of the patience with which the great body of unionists has borne the limitations which have been imposed upon the court by the Constitution. Let us pay them our tribute, and endeavour to remove any prejudice that may exist. The Bootmakers’ Union spent over £6,000 in fighting the constitutional question whether, when an award was given, it should apply to every one who was engaged in the industry. It has been ruled that an award can apply only to those persons who are cited before the court.
– That rule has since been modified.
– But it is still the rule that, if a union desires an award to apply to the whole of the industry, it must cite every employer in that industry. If one employer is missed, the award does not apply to him. If a variation of an award is obtained, and, in the meantime, the name of a firm has been changed, the varied award does not apply to that firm unless both the log and the summons have been served upon it under its new name. That is a disability which will be removed if this amendment of the Constitution is carried. All political parties have made the declaration that they favour the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes. Ifwe believe in the principles of arbitration, and wish to ensure the supremacy of legislation passed by the National Parliament, we mustsupport an extension of our industrial powers. I am extremely glad that, after the lapse of sixteen years, this principle has been accepted by all political parties in Australia. In a few years’ time, if this amendment is carried, we shall be told that the Labour party had no hand in its passage. That has been our experience in regard to old-age pensions, factories legislation, and quite a number of other reforms. Labour has pioneered the way, the reform has been introducedlittle by little with its support and blessing, and in that way progress has been made. I have no quarrel with that, except for the delay incurred. If I believes that the best interests of this country are being served by any measure, I shall not blame the hand that brings the gift. If the Government misuses these extended powers, it can be dealt with by the people of this country. We, in our turn, will have an opportunity to operate any additional powers that may be granted to this Parliament. So far as it proposes to extend our industrial powers, the bill should prove effective. It contains a clause to which we on this side have taken exception. That clause provides for granting to the Parliament the power to delegate authority to do certain things which the Parliament itself may not do. To a certain extent, that is a limitation of the power of this Parliament, but the limitation is more imaginary than real. It is something in the nature of a legal fiction. Some honorable members opposite are in agreement with these proposals, because they believe that under them all industrial questions will be entirely removed from Parliament.
– The Prime Minister practically made that assertion.
-He did. I believe that he was wrong. Other honorable members oppose the granting of these extended powers because they believe that this Parliament will not have the power to legislate. My opinion is that, as the power to appoint these authorities will be vested in this Parliament, it may appoint what authorities it likes, and remove them when it likes. Therefore, it is foolish to refer to any of these authorities as an irresponsible body or an oligarchy. They will be subject to the will of this Parliament, and will exercise only such powers as Parliament confers upon them. Those powers may be withheld, withdrawn, or amended at any time. Therefore, Parliament will be supreme.
– The personnel may be altered.
– The personnel may be altered whenever Parliament so decides.
– But it is clear that Parliament must work by these implements.
– It is quite clear that Parliament must use these agents. But my contention is that Parliament may appoint whatever agents it likes, and can instruct those agents in whatever way it chooses. It may be said that these authorities, such as the Arbitration Court might consist of judges, who, under the act, would be appointed for life, and that any future government might find itself in a difficult position if it believed that they were not performing their duties in a proper manner. Even if the Constitution did not limit our powers, and the court was appointed for life, exactly the same difficulty would be experienced. We should be careful to see that we do not confuse the bill under which the judges will be appointed for life with this proposed amendment of the Constitution. Although I do not believe in the appointment of judges for life, the Constitution demands it. They are to have judicial powers. The Government ought to have brought down a further amendment of the Constitution to remove that disability and enable judges to be appointed for a term, as they are appointed by other parliaments. But, so long as the Constitution demands the appointment of judges for life, to enable them to be clothed with judicial powers, I am prepared to lend that proposal my support, because I believe that the Arbitration Court should have power not only to make but also to interpret its awards.
– And to police them.
– That is so. The absurd position has arisen that, after an award has been made and a dispute has occurred, as to the meaning of portion of its phrasing, instead of the interpretation being given by the judge who made it, the parties have had to obtain that interpretation from an entirely different tribunal.
– It is a most absurd position.
– I agree with the honorable member. It has brought us to the verge of some very big industrial upheavals. But that matter also can more properly be discussed under the Arbitration Bill which will be placed before honorable members whether these amendments of the Constitution are accepted or rejected. I point out to honorable members that, although the proposals of the Labour party in 1911 and 1913 did not provide that Parliament should operate’ the praters through authorities,, but should have the power to do what it liked with regard to industrial matters^, it was made clear to the country that it was proposed to operate the power through tribunals. The official document issued by the party in 1913-, entitled The Case for the Referendum, set out that the proposal’ was to strengthen the Federal court and to appoint Tocal and’ district tribunals. We do not believe that the court as constituted to-day should be the only tribunal established to deal with the whole of the ramifications of industry. We believe in local1 tribunals. We believe in having in the different States local authorities1, whether set up by State parliaments or this Parliament. There must, however, be some co-ordinating authority to see that competition between State and State is carried on on a fair basis. Finally,, there must be some power of interpretation by some central authority; otherwise the whole of the meaning of federation disappears.. If you do not have the power, you revert to the old unfair competition. We do not permit that competition to exist between Australia and foreign countries. For what purpose have we built up a tariff wa-11?
– It is a remarkable thing that the United States of America does not suffer front the lack of a coordinating authority.
– The honorable member has made frequent references to the United States of America. I should be very sorry if the industrial conditions in Australia conformed to those of that country. It is an easy matter to quote the earnings of skilled workers in the skilled trades in the United States of America. The conditions of the so-called unskilled, unorganized workers, furnish material for quite a different story. They have not the protection of the law which is given to the unskilled workers in Australia. We have built up a high tariff wall so that we may protect Australia from the competition of other countries, because of the difference in the economic conditions and the scales of wages. At the inauguration of federation the barrier was rightly removed as between State and State. But we are bound to set up a central authority that will coordinate the different decisions relating to wages and hours of labour, and make the’ competition between State and State fair and reasonable. It has been argued that according to the latest decision of the High Court of Australia, the award of any federal body that may be set up will supersede the laws or the awards of the States,, and the workers may be deprived of the 44-hour working week. That can be done at the present time without any amendment of the Constitution. Certain employers have already taken steps- to become registered in the Federal Arbitration Court. They can cite every union, bring it before the court, and obtain an award which will be paramount over the laws or the award’s of the States. I agree with the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) that if a drastic change rs; made in the industrial conditions which the workers of Australia enjoy to-day they will not accept it without protest. For all practical purposes the industrial powers with which the bill deals are satisfactory; but I prefer the terminology of the proposals submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and the powers for which he asks, because an indignity is placed upon this Parliament when it is suggested that we cannot trust ourselves, and that it is necessary to delegate these powers to other bodies. I regard these limitations demanding the appointment of authorities as being more foolish than vital, and not sufficient to prevent any one asking for the giving of extended powers to the Commonwealth Parliament.
For all practical purposes, the industrial powers as proposed under the bill are satisfactory ; but the reason that we quarrel with the proposals of the Government is that no proper control is to be exercised ove”r commerce, trusts, and corporations, and no one will deny that wages, hours of work, and prices of commodities are interwoven one with another. They must be controlled and regulated. It is useless to fix wages and at the same time allow irresponsible commercial interests to fix prices and rob the people of all the advantage of increased wages. By having a complete extension of powers relative to trade and commerce, and to corporations, much good would result to the community. If we can get a substantial “ leg in “ by obtaining increased powers for this Parliament under this bill, I am prepared to- support it, because I believe that if the proposals are carried by the people it will be easier to take subsequent steps to extend still further the powers of this Parliament. There is some justification for the query being raised- in the ranks of the workers as to the desirability of supporting the Government’s proposals when one remembers the things that were said at the election, the “ stunts “ that were performed, and the amended Crimes Act that was passed through this Parliament, which has remained a dead-letter ever since. Still, there it is, and the atmosphere of politics at present does not tend to inspire the confidence and trust of the workers. My answer to those who say “Po not extend this Parliament’s powers, because the bill is being introduced by the Government that passed the amended crimes Act” is that the people can choose the Government that it wants in the future, that we arc dealing with constitutional matters that are long overdue for alteration, and the Government of to-day may not be the Government of to-morrow. The Labour party when in power, with its ideals and objectives, could, and would, do infinitely more good for the masses of the people than the present Government would dare to do harm; and because of that I am not troubled with the fears expressed by some honorable members concerning the harm that may be done to the trade unions if additional powers are granted to this Parliament. I believe that if great danger threatened the trade unions of this country, they could be seriously injured under the existing constitutional powers: but these powers are not sufficient to enable the Labour party to carry out its progressive programme, and we must therefore look ahead. Some honorable members have argued that the proposed constitutional powers are limited, and others that we cannot trust the Government with additional powers. One argument destroys the other. If the amendments are carried, we shall be giving greater powers to the national Parliament. When we asked for an extension of our constitutional powers under the bill introduced in 1910, the great constitutional lawyer. Sir William Irvine, said that these powers were necessary for this Parliament. That was the lawyer speaking; but when the politician spoke, he said, “ We cannot trust the Labour party with
Mr. Scullin. these powers.” We viewed his attitude with contempt and derided it from end to end of this country. It is impossible to extend the Constitution to suit one party to-day, and to alter it to suit another party to-morrow. We must give to this Parliament the powers necessary to enable it to function properly. I am prepared to support any amendment of the Constitution on the lines of tha Labour party’s programme that will make a substantial step along the road leading to complete powers for the National Parliament. We on this side would extend the powers asked for, but probably one or two conservative members opposite would prefer to limit them. The form in which the bill emerges from its final stages will determine the attitude of the Labour party; and, if it contains any concrete proposal to grant increased powers to the National Parliament, as I hope it will, I shall be prepared, irrespective of the government in office, to assist in convincing, the people of the need to frame the Constitution in such a way that it will readily, respond to the will of the majority of the people of Australia.
.- The bill before the House proposes to refer to the people certain amendments of the Constitution, which, being as it is, the fundamental instrument of government under which all Australians live, should not be lightly changed. Before any such amendments are adopted, due care and caution must be exercised. At the same time, the Constitution must not be regarded as sacrosanct. We should be prepared to profit by experience, and should seek to provide for the needs of the present and anticipate, as far as possible, the requirements of the future. The Constitution is different in character and importance from the rules of a union or the articles of an association or company, to which one honorable member referred. Any alteration of the Constitution may have the most profound effect upon the well-being of the people. We should not, therefore, speak or think lightly either of this instrument as it now stands or of the labours of its founders. Our predecessors did a great work in bringing about the federation of six Australian States, which had their own separate interests and their own individual views of those interests, Many difficulties had to be surmounted before Federation could be consummated, and the Constitution under which the union took place has, on the whole, worked very well. It would be wrong to say that, because of certain decisions of the High Court, the Constitution is full of imperfections. That there are imperfections in it all of us agree, although our opinions as to what the precise imperfections are do not coincide. That is one indication of the difficulty caused by the ‘ consideration of constitutional matters. The honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) made an interesting and thoughtful speech, and yet presented a view of the Constitution which is notsupported by . evidence, and not in accordance with fact. .He said that in the last 25 years there have been about 1,000 decisions of the High Court upon the legislative powers of the Commonwealth. That is by no means the case. I am afraid that my honorable friend has made the error of believing that all the decisions reported in the Commonwealth Law Reports deal with Federal powers.
– I took the list as directly or indirectly affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth.
– I have had worked out the number of constitutional decisions of the High Court, including the decisions which are at present reserved, and arrive at the total of 189 decisions affecting the constitutional powers of the Commonwealth. While it is far from true that millions of money, as the honorable member said, have been spent in interpreting the Constitution, still there has necessarily been a considerable amount of litigation respecting it. That will always happen when a number of legislatures are operating in the same field, whether the central legislature, as in the case of Australia, possesses enumerated powers, or whether the powers of the States are specified and residual powers belong to the central legislature. These difficulties always arise when the powers of legislative or rule-making bodies are limited, and English law is familiar with such limitations. One may safely say that for centuries there have been legislative bodies with subordinate powers. A modern instance is a municipal council. Questions frequently arise as to the limit of those powers. Canada has a constitution under which defined powers are given to the central and the provincial legislatures, and there again the courts have to determine whether certain legislation is within the powers of the legislature which has passed it. In the United States of America the position is substantially the same as in Australia. Until the people determine to dispense with federation, so that all powers on all subjects are vested in the Federal Parliament, difficulties incidental to a separation of powers will always arise. The argument used by the honorable member for Reid was not directed against the bill, but was in favour of complete and universal legislative power being given to this Parliament. Such an argument may, of course, quite properly be advanced by any honorable member who believes in it, but it should not arise during this debate. Under this bill no attempt is being made to examine the whole framework of government in Australia. The Government has been anxious to deal separately with one specific subject - the regulation of industrial conditions in Australia. An argument for unification would possibly be relevant to any legislation with which this Parliament, has to deal, because any honorable member who believes in it would be at liberty to say “ Why should we limit ourselves in this way; why not do something else ?” But that question does not properly arise in respect of this bill.
– The fact that the Government is introducing the bill for one purpose only is causing much suspicion and opposition.
– There ‘ would be a great deal more objection to the bill if the Government proposed that the Commonwealth Parliament should have full and complete powers to legislate upon every matter affecting Australia. It is impossible to please everybody, and the Government has submitted to the House a. series of proposals which, honorable members almost unanimously agree, represent a very considerable advance upon the present position.
Some honorable members have spoken of the High Court as if it were a particular burden upon this Parliament. The constitutional questions which it has to decide are whether certain measures are within the legislative competence of this Parliament. If they are not, such legislation is entirely ineffective and will be disregarded, not only by the High Court, but by any supreme court, county court, or even a police court. The invalidity of particular legislation is due not to any declaration of the High Court, but to the fact that the people of Australia have not thought fit to entrust this Parliament with complete legislative power under a unitary system.
– I should not like my remarks to be construed into an attack upon the High Court.
– I am not suggesting that they were. The difficulties which have arisen under federation are such as are to be expected in connexion with the institution of a new system of government. It would be unreasonable to expect new legislative machinery to operate without any friction, and to require no adjustment. The proposals now before the House are the best evidence that the lessons taught by experience have been learned, because the bill aims at meeting specific difficulties which have arisen, and have been increasingly realized during the 25 years of federation.. Honorable members should recollect that this measure will go before the people for their approval or rejection, in the form in which it leaves this Parliament. Therefore, any abuse of the Government for submitting these proposals - there has not been much, nearly every speaker having debated the subject upon the higher plane - is rather out of place, becausethe Government is not able to ask Parliament to legislate effectively upon these matters until a majority of the people, voting in a majority of the States, have signified their approval.’
The object of these amendments is to remove obstacles from the’ path of industry, which have been created by the limitation of this Parliament’s constitutional powers. Everybody in Australia is dependent upon the prosperity of industry. Those who work obviously are so dependent; and those few - if there be such - who toil not, would be utterly helpless if other people were not working. Accordingly, all sections of the community are dependent upon the well-being and progress of industry. That, in turn, requires the willing and effective co-operation of labour and capital, employer and em ployee. As has often been said in the course of this debate, efficiency is required from both sides, and it cannot be obtained under conditions of industrial unrest, irritation, and suspicion. The success of industry, and the happiness of the people are conditioned by the terms upon which employer and employee can co-operate. A satisfactory arrangement cannot be achieved by individual bargaining. We have to recognize the existence of two powerful factors - the aggregation of workers in industrial and craft unions, and strong aggregations of capital. The operations of these organizations intimately concern the whole community, and the regulation of both is essential to the public well-being. They cannot be allowed, uncontrolled, to do exactly as they separately or even in agreement think best. The proposals in the bill are based upon the view that, despite certain disadvantages incidental to the system, there should be regulation and control of working hours, wages, and other conditions of labour, in the interests of those immediately concerned and the general public: It is against the interests of the whole community that any honest form of work should be conducted under unnecessary disadvantages.
It is not suggested that the legislative provision of machinery for the regulation of industry will alone settle the industrial problem. Such a consummation depends upon the ability, brains, and goodwill of employers and employees, but the legislative regulation of industry does facilitate adjustments which otherwise might be impossible. Those honorable members who have suggested that the whole arbitration system should be scrapped fail to realize its importance in our present-day life. No government could maintain its position as a government if it were to leave to unregulated bargaining the settlement of working hours, wages, and conditions of labour.
I turn now to the circumstances which have made this bill necessary. This is a Parliament with limited powers, and unless legislation is in exercise of a definite authority conferred by the Constitution, such legislation is invalid. The only power of this Parliament to deal directly or indirectly with industrial matters is to be found in section 51, paragraph xxxv., which gives us authority to legislate with respect to “ conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputesextending beyond the limits of any one State.” In the early days of federation the limitation expressed in the words, “ extending beyond the limits of any one State,” was understood to mean that before Federal authority could intervene there must be a general strike or lockout extending beyond the boundaries of any single State. If the industrial power of this Parliament had always been interpreted in this way then the Arbitration Act would indeed have been, what many of its critics still declare it to be, a means of creating and fomenting industrial strife.Ultimately, however, the High Court decided that a dispute might be properly said to extend beyond the boundaries of one State if a demand were made in more than one State for identical conditions in the same industry. Accordingly, a paper dispute is now an interstate dispute within the meaning of the Constitution, and either side in industry is able at any time to bring any particular industrial matter within the jurisdiction of the Federal Arbitration Court by making identical demands in any two States. The distinction which the Constitution purports to make between disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State, and other disputes, has been shown by experience to have no real meaning. It is within the power of either employers or employees to create an interstate dispute, and so bring it within the Federal jurisdiction.
– Is not that the fault of the Arbitration Act?
– It is the fault of the Constitution. Honorable members will realize that if either party so desires, the control of the Federal Arbitration Court can be introduced into any industry, so long as that industry is conducted in more than one State, which, I think, is the case with nearly every Australian industry. Some critics of the legislation submitted by the Government say that it is proposed to extend very greatly the possible power of the Federal Arbitration Court. That is to say, that under the constitutional amendments asked for, it would be possible to confer a great deal more power upon the court. So far as the spread of control of the court over indus tries is concerned, the bill would really not affect the present position, because at present, as I have sought to explain, any industry may, at the will of either side, employers or employees, be brought within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court.
– Under the proposed amendment of the Constitution it would be absolute.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) expressed grave apprehension lest rural industries might be brought under the Arbitration Court. I understood him to argue that the bill ought to be opposed because it would make possible the bringing of rural industries under Federal control.
– That is not exactly what I said.
– On that point, let me remind the honorable member that, in 1904, the term “ industry “ was defined in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act in such a way as to exclude all rural industries - agricultural, horticultural, and so on; but that was amended in 1910, and it is now possible to bring all rural industries which are carried on in more than one State under the Federal Arbitration Court if either side so decides to do. Honorable members are aware that the pastoral industry, which is our leading rural industry, and one upon which we very greatly depend, is in all the States, with the exception of Queensland, controlled by awards of the Federal court. Accordingly, the fears of the honorable member for Wannon should be as lively under the existing system as if the proposed amendments of the Constitution were carried.
– Except that the existing system does not operate.
– The position would be exactly the same if the extended powers were given; that is to say, it would depend upon those concerned whether the powers should operate. So much for the word “ extended.” I hope I have shown that that word is quite misleading as used in connexion with the powers of the Arbitration Court.
– It has led to the expenditure of a lot of money.
– That is so. It has, in many cases, led to the expenditure of a great deal of money, but not of millions, as the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) suggested.
– Might I interrupt to say that that was a lapsus linguae?
– The honorable member taxed it down to thousands.
– I accept the statement that it has cost thousands of pounds. In the past, a great deal of money has been spent in determining the preliminary question whether a dispute extended beyond the limits of any one State. There can be no justification for the continuance of that position. The first amendment proposed by the bill will meet that position and save a large amount of entirely useless expenditure.
Now I come to consider the word “ dispute,” as it appears in section 51, paragraph xxxv. of the existing Constitution. The arbitration power conferred by that section is indeed a fearful and wonderful power. It is a power to legislate for conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of disputes. A little consideration shows at once that if people are friends it is impossible to conciliate them: that there is no work for the conciliator to do. If people have no differences there is no dispute, and there is nothing for the arbitrator to do. Accordingly there must be a dispute before the legislative power can be brought into operation. Everything centres in the idea of a dispute. All our legislation is necessarily founded upon the existence of a dispute which has to be settled by the Arbitration Court. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. “Watt) said that the conciliation jurisdiction of the court had not been utilized to a sufficient extent by Mr. Justice Higgins, a former President of the court. I am not aware whether the right honorable member has turned up the figures of the number of conferences held, but I am sure that if he were to do so he would find that many hundreds of conferences were held, and that a large number of agreements was come to as a result of those conferences presided over by His Honour Mr. Justice Higgins. I take this opportunity of saying that, though the work which His Honour did is open to criticism, and though there may be many of us who, on this or that point, dissent from some of his decisions and from some of the principles he enunciated, Mr. Justice Higgins did great work for Australia in laying the foundations of a system of industrial law. It was a very difficult task, indeed. Its performance at various points was doubtless open to criticism, but if an angel from Heaven had done the work it would still be criticized by some of us. His Honour Mr. Justice Higgins is entitled to recognition for the work he did in very difficult circumstances, including the very keen criticism to which he was subjected while occupying a judicial position.
It follows from the inclusion of the word “ dispute “ in the section giving the power of legislation to this Parliament that there must be definite parties to the dispute. It has been determined in the High Court that, unless there are definite parties, there cannot be a dispute upon which the legislative power of the Commonwealth can operate. The result is that we have to define the parties, and every one sought to be bound by an award must be served with the proceedings. In a number of cases thousands of respondent employers are served by the union prosecuting a claim.
– How could that be overcome?
– It can be overcome if the proposed amendments of the Constitution are carried. At present it can only be overcome by running a risk. If we had to legislate under our present power, I would be prepared to suggest a means to overcome it; but I would do so, saying at the same time that we would be running a risk, and that the legislation might be declared invalid by the High Court. There is no real reason why, for example, in one case now pending in the court, 5,000 employers should be served first of all with the log. The log costs a good deal to print, and, posted as a registered letter costs 4½d. for postage alone. Then there is a conference, which will probably be perfectly formal, so that the parties may refer the matter into court. There will then be service of the order on all the respondents. Then when the case is commenced, theoretically, every one of the respondents will be entitled to appear in court and put his case personally.
– A goodjob for the lawyers.
– This Parliament has made the mistake of excluding lawyers from the court. The present arbitration system is maintained simply by the good will of employers, because, by exercising their right to appear in person and examine and crossexamine witneses, they would be able, if they thought of so doing, to congest the court to such an extent that it could not possibly work. There is no justification in reason for procedure such as that, which is practically forced upon us by the form in which the Commonwealth power is at present expressed.
It further follows from the use of the word “ dispute “ in the section that an agreement or award made binds only the parties to it. An employer who is not a party to a dispute, or who, if a party to it, is not served with the proceedings, is not bound by the award. He is at libertyaccordingly to work under other than award conditions, and pay other than award rates, and to compete upon those terms with other employers who are bound by the award conditions and rates. Further, an award operates only in favour of the members of the claimant union, and therefore even an employer bound by an award is not bound to pay award rates to a person who is not a member of the claimant union.
– Has that not been modified?
– It has been suggested that this was recently modified by reason of a decision of the High Court in the Burwood cinema case. But that is not so. All that was decided in that case was that there could be an industrial dispute with an employer who was not at the time employing any members of the claimant union.
– That is to say, that he would be bound by the award if he did employ a member of the union ?
– That is so. But that decision leaves quite unaffected the position first of an employer who is not a party to the dispute; secondly, an employer who is a party to the dispute but is not served with the proceedings; and thirdly, a new employer who comes into the industry after the award is made is not affected by the award. The Burwood cinema case, and the other case to which the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) referred, leave these mat ters entirely unaltered. It is therefore plain that it is impossible under the present arbitration power of the Commonwealth to provide for a common rule, that is to say, a rule in industry generally. It cannot be done. There has been a decision by Mr. Deputy President Webb that the Arbitration Court has power to direct that an employer be bound by an award, shall pay award rates and observe award conditions in the employment of non-unionists. That is not in accordance with the law as it has generally been understood, and no nne can tell with any degree of certainty whether it will be maintained as a sound decision until the matter is determined by the High Court.
– With respect to new employers, is there anything to prevent a union applying for a variation of an award and citing new employers?
– It is impossible to bring in a new employer by varying an existing award. To do that it is necessary to create a new dispute. I have spoken of the common rule. There is a great deal of misunderstanding, not so much in. this House, but outside, as to the meaning of that phrase. Many people appear to think that a common rule means a uniform rule all over Australia - the same for Tasmania as for the north of Queensland. That is not the meaning of it. A common rule is a rule applying in industry as such. A determination of a wages board in Victoria is a common rule, because it binds all employers who engage in, and all persons working in, the industry. In the case of a Victorian wages board determination affecting, say, motor mechanics, every one who employs a motor mechanic to do the work referred to in the determination is bound to pay him the award rate, and it makes no difference if the employer was not in the business when the determination was arrived at. Nor is it material that an employee is not a member of a union. A Federal award covering motor mechanics, on the contrary, would bind only certain named persons - those who were served in the proceedings - and it would operate in favour only of members of the union concerned. If the decision of Mr. Deputy-President Webb is upheld, non-unionists will still have no right to claim or sue for award conditions. It is impossible to obtain, under our existing powers, the common-sense procedure of a common rule for an industry.
We are faced with a further remarkable state of affairs. Suppose the two sides in an industry meet and make an agreement as to the terms and conditions under which that industry shall be carried on, that agreement, even if they wish it to be so, cannot be registered in the court as an agreement, or be made an award of the court, unless the parties generate a dispute about it. If they create a dispute, they can make an agreement to settle that dispute; but, if they make the agreement before they have the dispute, no legal effect can be given to it by the court. Surely there is no justification in reason for that. It arises not from the form of the legislation which this Parliament passed, but from the limitation of our constitutional powers. The Arbitration Act deals, in Part VI., with what are called “industrial agreements,” but that part of the act has been found to be practically ineffective.
Our powers fire also limited, not only by the words to which I have referred, but also by the words “ conciliation and arbitration.” The only subject-matter upon which this Parliament can legislate is “ Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement,” &c. We have no power to legislate for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, but only with respect to conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of certain industrial disputes. Accordingly, it follows that we must use the methods of conciliation and arbitration. Some honorable members have spoken enthusiastically of wages boards as an ideal means of preventing and settling industrial disputes. They undoubtedly have functioned usefully, and have done good service, in several States; but whether they are a perfect or a complete system is, I suggest, open for inquiry. A number of them, working without coordination, may cause a great deal of industrial unrest and dissatisfaction. Although they represent the right idea, there is need for co-ordination between the decisions of boards in different industries.
– Have not the States power to arrange that co-ordination?
– They have the power, but they have not used it.
– They would have the power only within their own State boundaries.
– That is so. The essence of the idea is that a wages board is a round-table conference under an independent chairman. Apart from the chairman, every one present is an expert in at least some department of the industry under consideration. It is not necessary to take evidence, or to sit in public, and the members of the board are able to get right down to the facts at once. That system cannot be adopted under our present Commonwealth powers, because it is not “ conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes.” I have tried to show that our present powers depend upon there being a preliminary dispute, and that the wages board system operates independently of the existence of a dispute, and does not follow the methods of the Arbitration Court, which require that each party to a dispute shall have the right to adduce evidence in support of his case. Under the proposed extended powers, wages boards will be passible. The right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) spoke in terms of warm enthusiasm of wages boards, apparently believing, for some reason which I was not able to grasp, or even to guess, that the proposed legislation will make it more difficult to establish wages boards. The truth is that a Federal wages board on, say, the Victorian plan, is impossible under the present constitutional powers; but under the proposed amendments they will be possible. Accordingly, I find it rather difficult to understand portions of the speech of the right honorable member.
Another final point is that it follows from the limitation imposed by the word “ dispute,” that an award or effective agreement can be made only with reference to, and within the limits of, a dispute. If the wages paid in an industry are 14s. a day, and a claim is made for 16s. a day. it is impossible for the court to do anything but award a rate between 14s. and 16s. If an award is made for a three-yearly period, and if the cost of living rises tremendously, the award rate cannot be varied during that period above 16s., although every one in. the industry may agree that 17s. is a fair rate. Suppose, on the other hand, that the cost of living markedly fell, so that 12s. was worth as much as 14s. previously. Even then no variation could be made below 14s. My remarks are intended to illustrate the limitation of the power of the court; the court itself decides whether it shall follow the cost of living in fixing wages, or take account of other factors also. That is not a constitutional matter.
Difficulties have arisen because of the relation of the Commonwealth to the States in the industrial sphere. There is a dual set of tribunals ; in fact, one might say, since the New South Wales Parliament entered the sphere, that there is a triple set of tribunals. Industrial conditions may be determined either by a Federal award, by a State agency, such as an industrial court or wages board, or, possibly, even by a State parliament, lt is quite naturally the desire of the workers, who are vitally concerned in the conditions under which they labour, to make the best of the two worlds, or three worlds, now open ‘to them. What solution is there of such a difficulty ? It is indefensible that there should be a number of competing jurisdictions without means of co-ordination. Only one or two honorable members have suggested that the provision in section 51 should be repealed without substituting anything for it. Some honorable members look forward to that as the result of the appeal to the people, and they hope to show the people that any degree of control of industry by the Commonwealth will be foolish and impossible. I submit with confidence that it is quite impossible to run away from this difficulty; it has to be faced, and it is no solution of it to say that we will not have anything to do with it, but will leave it to the six States. It appears to me that honorable members who speak like that have no adequate idea of the extent to which industry is already regulated by Federal awards. In introducing another bill, I stated that over 330,000 employees have their industrial conditions determined by Federal awards, which indirectly affect many more.
– How many employees are affected by State awards?
– Over 500,000. It is impossible to throw everything overboard and abandon this sphere. Another solution that has been suggested is to give all the power to the Commonwealth in industrial matters. Some honorable members think that that would be proper; but such a power would have to be either exclusive or concurrent. It has not soberly been suggested that it should be an exclusive power - that this Parliament should have the sole power to deal with industrial matters. If it is a concurrent power, there will still be the difficulty of drawing a line between the two powers operating in the industrial sphere. It has further been suggested that, certain industries should be assigned to the sphere of Commonwealth regulation, and that others should be left to the States; but even those who say that that is the solution cannot find many persons to agree with them as to the industries that should be reserved for Federal control. It has hitherto been impossible to obtain anything even remotely approaching a general agreement as to the industries that should be reserved for Federal action. Practically, it cannot be done. Accordingly, the solution is to recognize that the subject is far too big to be dealt with completely by the central Parliament of Australia, that centralization in industrial matters would be a profound and fundamental mistake, but that there must be Commonwealth action, because there are some genuinely interstate industries which, can only be regulated from the Australian, as distinct from the State, stand-point. Recognizing that there are spheres for the Commonwealth and the States, the solution is to be found in such co-ordination and cooperation as will be possible if the bill is adopted.
– Will not the same difficulty arise under this arrangement as under the old one ?
– If the constitutional amendments are approved, we shall have power to handle difficulties in different spheres in a way that is impossible now. At present, Commonwealth awards are supreme. Section 30 of the Arbitration Act provides that a Commonwealth award shall prevail over any inconsistent State award, determination, or law. The High Court held, in the Whybrow case, in 1911, that there was no inconsistency in awards if both could be obeyed. Accordingly, if one award fixed 15s. a day and another award 18s. a day for the same class of work, it was held that there was no difficulty in the employer obeying both awards by paying 18s. a day ; or that, if one award fixed 18s. a day for a week of 48 hours, and another 15s. a day for a week of 44 hours, the employer could pay the higher rate for the lower number of hours, and so avoid trouble. The result is that industries have been governed by varying awards the true position under which was difficult to ascertain. In the case of Cowburn versus The Glyde Engineering Co., known as the 44-hours’ case, which was heard only this year, the High Court laid it down that the test of inconsistency was not the possibility of obeying both awards or determinations, but whether the federal award sought to cover the ground so as to provide for settling a dispute and regulating the industry in the precise manner set out in the award ; if so, any State award or determination or law dealing with the matters covered by the award would be invalid as being inconsistent with the will of the Commonwealth Parliament as declared by an agency which operated under its authority. That is the most explicit determination of federal superiority in matters as to which this Parliament has power to legislate, that has yet been given. It shows that no State Parliament has power to undermine the effect of action taken under powers conferred by this Parliament. Federal awards and determinations are unquestionably supreme under existing conditions. Some honorable members, notably the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), have argued that an effort is being made by means of this bill to set up a judicial autocracy. That is not so. Perhaps it would be wrong for me to suggest that the right honorable member mixed the speech he intended to deliver on this bill with the one he intended to deliver on the Arbitration Bill ; but the fact remains that this bill has nothing whatever to do with setting up any form of judicial autocracy. It is for this Parliament, to determine the character of all the authorities it proposes to set up. Judges operate only within the sphere that Parliament assigns to them, and Parliament could limit or abolish any authority it set up if it wished to do so. No honorable member has the right to complain because a properly-constituted body carries out the statutory duties demanded of it. It is of no use for us to waste language oy suggesting that some outrageous new proposal is being made to confer on the Commonwealth Court power to override State awards and determinations.
– Is not the Government seeking industrial power now which can already be exercised by the Commonwealth Court if disputes are extended beyond the limits of one State ?
– If disputes are created, the court has the fullest power to deal with the disputants, provided that they are brought before it, but the power falters and fails if either an employer who is not a party on the one hand, or a man not .a member of the claimant union on the other, is concerned .
– Employers who create a dispute and bring it to the court can get an award that will override a State award.
– But it would not be necessary for the employers to. serve every individual unionist : they could serve the organization to which, he belonged ?
– That is so. As things are, there is no effective method of preventing conflicts from arising between State and Federal awards, determinations, or laws. The recent High Court decision dealt with difficulties only after they definitely arise. A properly co-ordinated system would prevent conflicts from arising, for it would provide tribunals to make regulations, and even a common rule to cover certain industries.
The subject of the duplication of tribunals and awards has many aspects. We find, for instance, that the same individual is sometimes subject to both a Federal and State award, and that the same industry is subject to many awards with widely-varying terms and conditions. As an example, I may mention the Sunshine Harvester Works, which is one of the most successful enterprises in Australia. It employs 120 different kinds of workmen and is subject to many awards and determinations, which vary in numerous ways. A consequence of this is that men work side by side under different conditions and rates of wages. The following examples illustrate the difference in overtime conditions in different trades in this factory: -
Engineers. - Time and a half for the first four hours and double time thereafter.
Timber Workers. - Time and a half for the first two hours and double time thereafter.
Carters and Drivers. - Time and a half for all overtime.
Agricultural Implement Workers. - Time and a half for all overtime.
Moulders.- Time and a half for the first four hours and double time thereafter.
Electrical Workers. - Time and a half until midnight, and double time thereafter.
Ironworkers’ Assistants. - Time and a half for all overtime.
Blacksmiths. - Time and a half for the first four hours and double time thereafter.
Carpenters and Joiners.- -Time and a half for the first four hours and double time thereafter.
Builders’ Labourers. - Time and a half for the first two hours and double time thereafter.
Leather -workers and Sail-makers. - Time and a quarter for the first three hours and double time thereafter.
The terms of employment are directed to be hourly in some cases and weekly in others; some awards provide that the pay shall be fortnightly, and others that it shall be weekly; some that it shall be weekly on Mondays, and others that it shall be weekly on Fridays. [Extension of time granted.] All these varying conditions in the awards mean an entirely unnecessary charge on industry, the useless employment of staff, and a waste of human endeavour which cannot be justified. There should be power to meet such circumstances, perhaps on the basis of the particular industry, and possibly even on the basis of particular factories. Certainly it would be only sensible to provide some co-ordinating authority. Under present conditions, there may be an interstate engineering dispute at one time and an interstate timber-workers’ dispute at another, either of which may dislocate an industry only remotely concerned in it. The result is that there is a criss-cross of interests and almost complete confusion in some cases. No effective remedy can be applied under present conditions. The existing remedy is only effective when there is a dispute and the disputants are expressly denned.
Under the terms of the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, the people would be asked to equip this Parliament with power to deal with industrial matters by direct legislation. I suggest to honorable members that that is wrong in principle. No honorable member that I have heard speak in this debate, or whose speech I have read, has suggested that that is a practical method of solving our industrial problems. It is wrong in principle to determine in Parliament these matters that are essentially economic and industrial. They should be determined by authorities chosen by Parliament for the purpose. Civilization has reached the stage of recognizing that, as with individual disputes between citizens, industrial disputes must be regulated by their own relevant law, applied by independent and impartial tribunals. In an earlier stage of the human race, the head of the tribe was the legislator, the judge, and the executive. In the development of humanity, those functions became separated, and we have now fully grasped the distinction which exists between the legislator and the judge. Individual disputes are dealt with, not upon the floor of Parliament, but in a court of law. The Government puts forward its proposals in the belief that it is generally recognized that industrial disputes are best handled in a similar manner, by authorities distinct from Parliament.
I have mentioned certain specific limitations that obstruct the free exercise of a useful power by this Parliament. These amendments are designed to meet those difficulties. It is not expected that they will usher in the millennium, or that any action which this Parliament may take will result in the establishment of complete industrial peace. The first amendment proposes that the words extending beyond the limits of any one State “ shall be omitted from paragraph xxxv. I have endeavoured to show that those words are really meaningless, and that they mark a distinction which does not in fact exist.
The next amendment proposes to add a new paragraph, giving this Parliament power to legislate with respect to establishing authorities having such powers as the Parliament confers, for the regulation and determination of the terms and conditions of industrial employment and the rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters.
– It will be competent for Parliament to invest these new tribunals with such power that they will be able to undermine even the Federal Arbitration Court?
– The Federal Arbitration Court would be the first of these authorities to be appointed.
– What other authorities will there be ?
– I propose to mention what authorities could be established. The constitutional relations between the Commonwealth and the States will not be altered under these powers. Any action taken by an authority established under legislation passed in pursuance to these amendments will be superior to, and will prevail over, any State law, award, or determination. It will, however, be observed that where at present a Commonwealth award can be made only when a dispute has been created, under this power Parliament will be able to confer upon an authority the power to make regulations and, therefore, to introduce a common rule
– Such a regulation will have the force of legislation ?
– Undoubtedly. Under such a regulation, it will be possible to bring about co-ordination.
– Will the regulation operate in only one Stale ?
– It will operate over whatever area the authority provides within the powers granted by the Parliament. It will not be necessary for every regulation to apply to the whole of Australia. Local conditions can be considered and provided for as at present, but more effectively. It is desirable to avoid undue centralization. No one body, whether it be composed of three, five, or six judges, can satisfactorily deal with the whole of the industries of Australia. People who are living 3,000 miles distant from the centre in which an authority is sitting may very properly feel that their interests are not being adequately represented. Accordingly, there is a provision under which existing State authorities, or State authorities which may hereafter be brought into existence, may be invested with any of the powers that the Parliament has vested, or has power to vest in any authority which it has established. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) has asked me to name the authorities. My answer is that they will be such as this Parliament considers it proper to establish. We cannot presume to bind future Parliaments by providing what form of authority they shall elect to establish. It rests with the Parliament to say, from time to time, in what way the powers which the bill proposes to confer shall be exercised. An arbitration court, or arbitration courts, may be set up. The existing Arbitration Court could be invested with the power to make determinations and regulations. Wages boards could be established, either as independent bodies or in conjunction with an arbitration court. Courts with assessors representing both sides in an industry could be set up if, in the opinion of Parliament, that were the best method to adopt. The whole of these authorities can be adjusted to the needs of particular industries. Provision could be made for round-table conferences, Whitley councils, or - as the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Mann) suggested - courts in every State. On the other hand, there may be a development of the principle of conciliation boards. These are merely suggestions of the forms of authorities that can be established under this amendment.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) b.ns moved an amendment which the Government finds itself unable te accept, because it goes beyond the necessities of the case, and deals with matters that are not germane to the question directly before the House. First of all, that amendment seeks to have the words “ with other countries and among the States” struck out of the first paragraph of section 51, the object being to give this Parliament full and unrestricted power to deal with trade and commerce without any interstate limitations.
Sitting suspended from 6.28 to 8 p.m.
– The final clause of the bill proposes to confer upon this Parliament power to legislate with respect to trusts and combinations in restraint of trade, trade unions and associations of employers or of employees for industrial purposes, including the formation, dissolution, regulation and control thereof. The connecting link between those various subjects is the words “ restraint of trade “. Honorable members, by looking at any legal definition of a trade union as contained in the legislation of the various
Australian States or of England or elsewhere, will find that a trade union is a body of employers or of employees who have joined together under restrictive conditions that operate to limit the freedom of their members in disposing of their labour or their goods, or in providing services. Accordingly, the governing idea is restraint of trade, the underlying conception being that this Parliament shall have power to deal with any organization operating in restraint of trade. It ha3 been generally agreed that there should be power to legislate as Parliament thinks fit in relation to trusts and combines, and to trade unions. These organizations are very powerful, the one set controlling large amounts of capital and property, and the other the working power of large bodies of Australian citizens.
– “What is the necessity for the words ‘ ‘ restraint of trade “ ?
– They are essential, otherwise the Government would have power to legislate in respect to trusts and trustees generally. That would hand over to this Parliament the whole domain of equity covering ordinary private trusts, and I do not think that any honorable member desires that that should be done. All trusts with which is is desired to deal operate in restraint of trade. If the word “ trusts “ appeared without the words “ in restraint of trade “ it would include all private trusts under wills, deeds of settlement and the like. No honorable member has suggested that all that domain of law should be handed over to this Parliament. No Australia-wide trade union is or can be under the effective control of any State by act of parliament, and this Parliament has no power to legislate with respect to trade unions as such. It can only specify the conditions under which trade unions shall be allowed to enjoy the benefits of the arbitration system. That is obviously an insufficient and incomplete power. A sense is growing throughout the community generally that legislation on the lines of friendly society legislation might with advantage be applied to trade unions. I ask honorable members to consider ihe present position of the Seamen’s Union, with its members quarrelling among themselves. Suppose that union had large assets, by what means could they be effectively protected in the interests of the members of the union? The only way to do this would be for an individual member of the union to institute an action in the Supreme Court of one of the States for the administration of the affairs of the union, and the control of its property. It would be difficult and very expensive for the Supreme Court of any particular State to handle the case. No member of the union now has any effective means of finding out whether the union has property, and no court has the power to deal effectively with such matters. If this Parliament had power to legislate as is proposed under the bill, it would be possible to institute a system of registration and of audit to protect the interests of the members of a union.
I come now to the precise terms of the amendment moved by the Leader of tha Opposition (Mr. Charlton). In the first place, it is proposed to strike out tha limitation respecting interstate trade and trade with foreign countries from the trade and commerce power in section 51 of the Constitution. The allocation of power in relation to trade and commerce is a very important matter, and involves the consideration of many circumstances. There must surely be some distribution of power between Commonwealth and States respecting trade and commerce, which is a very comprehensive term, and includes every kind of exchange or dealing, wholesale or retail. It extends to all sales or purchases of goods, wares, or merchandise, and includes intercourse for purposes of trade. The amendment, if carried, would give this Parliament full power to legislate with respect to vessels, railways, and other conveyances, freights and fares, roads and bridges, and ports and harbours. All those things at least would certainly be included under a power to legislate on trade and commerce generally. This is an important subject; but it is not necessary to deal with it among industrial matters.
– The taking of powers would not make it mandatory to exercise them.
– That argument lias been used in the case of every proposal for an extension of powers; but we have to recognize that the Commonwealth is a federation with powers distributed between the Commonwealth and the States, and that the subject of trade and commerce ought to be more carefully examined and explored before we seek for power to deal with so extensive a field as it embraces. It is not associated with the present industrial proposals, which can be dealt with without any amendment of the trade and commerce power, provided that we have further powers respecting trusts and combines as specified in the bill. The subject of trade and commerce may very well be left for consideration, in all its manifold ramifications, during the constitutional session, when the whole range of constitutional relations between the States and the Commonwealth will be discussed. The second part of the amendment asks for power to legislate directly upon industrial matters, such as labour and employment, &c., as set out therein. It has not been suggested that the power proposed under the bill is insufficient to accomplish any of the objectives to which honorable members have addressed themselves during the debate. The distinction in this case is between direct legislation and operating by means of authorities. Every honorable member has said that the powers asked for, even if granted in their fullest form, should be exercised by means of agencies or authorities outside Parliament. That is the proposal of the Government. The third paragraph of the proposed amendment reads: -
Trusts, corporations, combinations, monopolies and arrangements in relation to -
Those words are rather difficult to construe. I presume that they ought to be read in this way - trusts in relation to those matters; corporations in relation to those matters; combinations in relation to those matters, and so forth. If so, I point out that the amendment would give, not a general power over corporations, but power to deal only with corporations in relation to the matters set out. In that case, we should not be able, under the heading of corporations, to enact a uniform company law for Australia. Fur ther, there is involved in the amendment the difficulty which was emphasized in the case of Huddart Parker, in which the High Court decided that the power to legislate with respect to corporations, as now existing under the Constitution, meant that if the Parliament found a corporation in existence itcould then legislate with respect to it, but that Parliament had no power to legislate in relation to the creation of corporations. Under this amendment the position would possibly be exactly the same, and Parliament would again find itself unable to legislate for the creation of corporations, and for the determination of the conditions under which a trading company, for example, could be formed and registered. The phrase, “ arrangements in relation to the production, manufacture, or supply of goods, or the supply of services “ is very wide, and it is difficult to see what it would not cover. An arrangement in relation to the supply of goods would cover the bargains that we make every day with our butcher and baker. An arrangement for the supply of services would include all contracts for ordinary household services, and contracts of employment generally. It is not the intention under the bill to cover all these things. The real intention of the Leader of the Opposition is to deal with arrangements in the nature of rings and combines, and this can be done only by including in the bill a reference to restraint of trade. Everything that is thought to be included in the last paragraph of the amendment is provided for in the bill in the words “ trusts and combinations in restraint of trade, . . the formation, dissolution, regulation and control thereof.” For these reasons, therefore, the Government is unable to accept the amendment proposed by the Leader of the Opposition, and asks the House to support the proposal under the bill. Bysubmitting it to the people apart from other constitutional amendments that will be discussed at a constitutional session we shall have a better chance of obtaining a clear vote on it. This problem calls for immediate attention. If its consideration is deferred, as some honorable members have suggested, nothing will be done for nearly three years after thelast election, because the decisions of the constitutional session, if held next year, will possibly not be submitted to the people until the next general election .
– By the same token, the matters with which this bill does not deal will be postponed for three years.
– Yes, unless Parliament should sanction theholding of a referendum before the general election. By submitting the proposals contained in the bill to a special referendum, the people can give judgment upon them uncomplicated by unconnected issues, and if an affirmative vote is recorded, this Parliament can proceed next year to endeavour to solve, under happier conditions, the problem presented by the industrial position at the present time.
.- The need for a comprehensive alteration of the Constitution, so that this Parliament may be vested with the powers necessary to enable it to legislate for the peace, order, and good government of Australia, is generally admitted. An instrument of government that was suited to the needs of Australia 25 years ago is not adequate to meet the needs of to-day. So much being admitted, the only common-sense way of dealing with this matter would be for Parliament to calmly and deliberately consider all aspects of the Constitution in order to discover in how many respects its amendment is necessary. Instead of following that course, the Government has thrown this bill upon the table and told the House that it must come to a decision, in about two weeks, upon the very important issues involved. This procedure is courting defeat ; the Government has doomed the proposals to failure. Nobody can ram down the throats of the people something which is obnoxious to them, or something they do not understand. For financial reasons, and in the best interests of Australia, it would be better to postpone the consideration of the bill until Parliament has an opportunity to review the Constitution as a whole. The proposed amendments are the outcome of hysteria on the part of one section of the composite Government, and a crafty and carefully planned scheme, by the other more subtle section, to spike the guns of Labour and prevent the people from getting placed on the statute-book the legislation they desire. To discover the genesis of this measure, we must go back to the 17th November, 1924, when the Prime Minister addressed a select gathering at the Hotel Australia, Sydney. I quote from the Daily Telegraph of the 18th November, 1924 -
Mr. Bruce’s Plan
The establishment of a dictatorship to evolve schemes for the development of Australia’s resources and closer co-operation of traders for the solution of national problems were interesting points of a speech delivered yesterday by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), at a lunch given by Sir Owen Cox at the Hotel Australia.
At this luncheon, given by that great leader of democracy, Sir Owen Cox, the Prime Minister said, among other things -
The more he had seen of this amazing country the more he was convinced that the development of Australia called for special measures. The idea of a dictatorship of six of the best brains of the land had occurred to him.
And this miserable measure is an attempt to put that brilliant idea into operation. We are told that it is to give extended power to the Commonwealth Parliament. In reality, it is to do nothing of the sort. It is to create a dictatorship - to set up authorities, outside Parliament, that will be responsible to nobody and will exercise exclusive powers. Even the AttorneyGeneral admitted that these irresponsible authorities which the bill will create can govern Australia by means of regulations and ordinances. Of course, they can exercise only the powers conferred by Parliament, but - and this is the nigger in the wood-pile - those powers can be operated only by them. This Parliament will be able to do nothing except through extra-parliamentary bodies. In New South Wales, Queensland, and other States, Labour Governments are in office. The New South Wales Parliament has enacted the most comprehensive and uptodate workmen’s compensation law in the world, and it is significant that the passage of that measure should synchronize almost exactly with the introduction of this bill, by which the whole of the existing industrial conditions can be upset. The bill proposes -
Establishing authorities with such powers as the Parliament confers on them with respect to the regulation and determination of terms and conditions of industrial employment and of rights and duties of employers and employees with respect to industrial matters and things.
Those words cover the whole gamut of existence. Anything and everybody in Australia can be governed by these established authorities. In effect, the Government is proposing to quietly transfer the whole industrial power of Australia to a special junta. By this means the Government can nullify the industrial laws of the States and even of the Commonwealth itself, because if the Government refrains from referring any matter to this outside authority, nothing can be done in respect of it. Will the AttorneyGeneral say that the Government can operate the industrial powers” that are sought for the Commonwealth except by a specific reference to an established authority? All this Parliament can do is to confer on the authorities certain powers. What will happen if one of them makes a determination that is detrimental to the interests of the people? Will the Government have power to upset such a decision or to disestablish the authority? These bodies are to exercise judicial powers. Any proposal to make them the plaything of parties will be repugnant to the principles of British justice and offensive to the people.
– I do not care from whom it emanated ; I am stating my own opinion, and I warn the Government that if it thinks it can control these authorities in that way it is mistaken. Immediately the people understand that a judicial authority is being made the plaything of a political party they will wipe that party out of existence. Once the Government establishes any of these authorities, it must stand or fall by them. Whilst I am prepared to admit that this Parliament is not the place in. which the pros and cons of an industrial dispute can be calmly investigated - the Labour party has always advocated the settlement of these matters by arbitration - I insist that this Parliament cannot surrender its right to legislate directly on any subject. We should be giving up the rights of the people if we dic? that. Who will say that this Parliament has not the right to fix by legislation a uniform maximum number cif hours of work per week in Australia ? This Parliament should possess that power, and also the power to declare a basic wage. Then we might have arbitration courts deliberately created by this Parliament to deal with industrial disputes as they arise, and settle conditions and terms other than those relating to maxim um hours of labour and minimum rates of pay already laid down by the Parliament. Surely it is the duty of Parliament to say what limit shall be put upon the number of hours to be worked by men in a decent community, and to fix a standard of living below which no industry should be allowed to carry on. It is not only the right, but the duty, of this Parliament to do these things. It is the right of the people, through this Parliament, to govern themselves as they think fit. The one safe course to adopt is to give full freedom to the people to govern themselves as they choose. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that public opinion has always to be reckoned with. The moment any political party goes beyond what public opinion stands for, and shocks the public conscience, the public may be trusted to give it a shock at the next elections. There is our safety valve.
– That is our hope and Our salvation.
– It is, indeed, as my honorable friend very rightly puts it, our hope and our salvation. One can easily imagine the shrewd move of the subtle section of the Government in submitting these proposals. If they are agreed to by the people it will be possible for the Government to create, not a soviet dictatorship as the right honorable member for North Sydney suggested, but a fascist dictatorship. The Government can appoint six men, like Sir Owen Cox, and set up a dictatorship which will decree what shall be the conditions under which every industry in Australia shall be carried on. Then we shall have functioning, not democratic government by a democratic parliament, but a despotism of fascisti. Remembering what the Prime Minister said at the high-toned meeting at the Hotel Australia in Sydney about his dictatorship, I can quite understand that by the introduction of this measure- he is determined to create a fascist dictatorship for Australia.
– How does the honorable member think the people of Australia would regard such proposals 1
– Provided they understand them, I believe the people of Australia will turn them down. Make no mistake about it, they will have the danger explained to them during the referendum campaign.
– The honorable member might himself be one of the dictators. How would he view the matter then?
– If I were a dictator I should deal very effectively with the honorable member for Lang (Sir Elliot Johnson). I wish now to refer to the Government’s proposals with regard to trade unions. The Attorney-General made a great deal of the fact that the proposals would give this Parliament ample power to deal with trusts and combines acting in restraint of trade. They refer, also, to trade unions, associations of employers and employees for industrial purposes, including the formation, dissolution, regulation, and control thereof. The difficulty with which we are confronted, in dealing with trusts and combines, is to prove that they exist. What is a trust or a combine? It should be remembered that these organizations have control of unlimited funds, and if any attack is made upon them they can fight it from court to court, and can employ the best legal talent available to defend their privileges. We know that in the United States of America it was found practically impossible to deal with trusts and combines, because of the difficulty of proving their existence.
– I do not think that is the difficulty. The difficulty is to prove, on their part, restraint of trade to the detriment of the public.
– The proposal of the Government is to deal with trusts and combines acting in restraint of trade, but it must be proved that they exist as well as that they act in restraint of trade. Any charge made against them will be taken from court to court, and there must be endless litigation before they can be dealt with. I ask honorable members to mark the difference in dealing with trade unions. In spite of the definition given by the Attorney-General a trade union is an organization registeredunder the Trades Union Acts of the different States or under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Its existence is proved by its registration as a trade union. There can be no difficulty in proving the existence of a trade union.
– Will not the same difficulty with regard to great trusts and combines confront the honorable member whatever powers are given to the Parliament?
– We shall always be confronted with the difficulty of proving what is a trust or a combine. The only way in which they can be dealt with is by giving unlimited power to this Parliament to secure the peace, order, and good government of Australia. Under that comprehensive power the Parliament could by legislation decide what is a trust or a combine. That is the only way in which to overcome the difficulty.
– Does not the Constitution give full power to deal with the matter ?
– Not at all. I have said that there is no difficulty in proving the existence of a trade union. The bill further provides that the power asked for to deal with trade unions shall include the formation, dissolution, regulation, and control thereof. One can realize the anxiety of the Government in this matter. It wants the power first to dissolve a trade union, and then to form a trade union. Some industrial disturbance may arise in the. Commonwealth, and the Government will put this power into operation. It will dissolve the trade union concerned in the disturbance, and form oneof its scab organizations. Our experience of the trade union movement has been a bitter one in this regard. On the seafront in Sydney not long ago we saw the formation of a scab union. Under this bill the Government seeks the power to form scab unions.
– I think that we also saw in Sydney some very solid tyranny exercised by some of the unions.
– Not nearly so solid as we would get from the fascist juntas honorable members opposite propose to set up to govern Australia. I wanted to enter my objections to this measure. They are fundamental. It is proposed to deprive Parliament of power. It is proposed that Parliament shall be shackled, and the purpose is that when Labour wins at the next election the
Labour party shall not be able to directly legislate in accordance with its programme, a programme which will have been approved on submission to the people. We shall be faced with the difficulty that we must go again to the people to approve of a further alteration of the Constitution to give us the power to legislate in accordance with our own platform and programme.
– The honorable member has not told us which aide he proposes to take.
– I think I have expressed my opinion very fully and clearly. The Government’s proposals are fundamentally unsound and repugnant to the ideal of democratic government. Any amendment of the Constitution that would deliberately restrict the legislative power of the Parliament is wrong, and should not be accepted by the people. Were this bill designed to ask for full legislative power for the Parliament I could understand it, because then a government representing either party would be in the same position. It would have to submit its programme to the people. If the people set its seal upon it the Government could introduce measures to give it effect. Those measures would have to be passed by both Houses. The full light of publicity would be shed upon them, and Parliament would be able to legislate in accordance with the wishes of the people. The Government really proposes that there shall be no limit placed upon the powers to be exercised by outside authorities. What honorable members and the people must bear in mind is that what the Government proposes is an alteration of the Constitution. This is not merely the passing of a measure which another can be introduced to repeal. If the Constitution is altered as proposed, what is done can only be undone by another referendum. The Government’s proposals are pernicious. They represent a direct attack upon democratic government as we know it in Australia. They represent also a deliberate and crafty attempt to enable this Parliament to legislate so as to prevent State Labour Governments giving effect to the Labour platform. If these proposals are agreed to, industrial legislation so far as legislative enactments by this Parliament are concerned will be handed over to a dictatorship of the six best brains that stand so high in the estimation of the Prime Minister. We can conjure up visions, almost, of a star chamber, to which we may be called up and ushered in amid all the pomp that will surround these six black-shirted fascisti. I am wondering whether the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) will be one of them. One oan imagine him sitting as one of the six and doing what he said he would do - “ Give it to them in the neck.” When industrial trouble is on, the general would call forth his fascisti corps, and if that was not strong enough, the chief fascist, the right honorable the Prime Minister, would appoint another corps and send it to the aid of the gallant general. My advice to the workers of Australia is to have nothing to do with these proposals. Theyare dangerous, and are the greatest menace with which the trade union movement has been confronted in the history of this country. I think I speak for a large number of electors when I say that these proposals will get very short shrift.
– I have listened with interest to the remarks of several honorable members. I do not propose to weary the House, but I wish to express my opinion, as an old trade union secretary, and a man who has spoken upon previous referendums submitted by the Hughes and Fisher Governments. If the Government had proposed to ask the people to give to this Parliament full power over labour and industry, and trade and commerce, I should have been one of the first to support it ; but it is asking only for power to deal with industrial organizations. Under this proposal it cannot deal with companies, monopolies, and combines. The sooner the working man finds out that the object of the proposals is to deal with workingclass organizations, the better for him. It is not even decent camouflage. As a member of the working class, who has slaved in the mines, the factories, the shearing sheds, and the bush of this country, I stand here to fight for my people, and to tell them what I think. My advice to them is to vote against the Government’s proposals. What we want is that full power shall be given to this Parliament over trade and commerce, and labour and industry.
We do not want the hands of our representatives in the State Parliaments to be tied. We have control of the State Parliaments, and we would control this Parliament if the party opposite did not gerrymander the electorates. We do not wish to have power taken out of the hands of the State Governments. We would support a referendum in the terms of the first Hughes , and Fisher referendum. I travelled over four States in that campaign. It is all very well for the honorable the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) to tell a plausible yarn to this House. I wonder whether he thinks that Labour men are all fools. Does he think that there are no lawyers, doctors and constitutionalists in the Labour party? His speech was an insult to the members of this party. Some members of this party know more about the Constitution than he can ever hope to know. It is all very well for a sophisticated lawyer, a Uriah Heap, to come here and smooge in that way; but we on this side do not take it all down. He failed to put up a case. A child of six years of age would have done better. His speech was too plausible to carry conviction. It was so unpalatable and so dishonest - not intentionally - that we cannot believe it, and will not accept all he said without a grain of salt. Twenty-five years ago, when the Constitution was framed and approved by the Imperial Parliament, the people of Australia knew what they voted on, and the alteration which they will now consent to make is to give the Commonwealth Parliament full power over labour and industry, and trade and commerce. They will not agree to any distinction being made with the objectof crushing trade unions. I say to the trade unionists of Australia, “ Whatever you do, do not vote for this thing unless it is to give full power over labour and industry, and trade and commerce.” As a well-known man in the Labour movement, whose advice will be listened to by more than half the electors, I advise them, “ On your life never agree to the proposals of the Bruce Government.”
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the question - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 23
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The honorable member, having already spoken is not entitled to speak again.
– I spoke only on the amendment.
– I understood that the honorable member spoke on the motion also.
– On the point of order I wish to say, sir, that I addressed the House after the Leader of the Opposition had moved his amendment. If there had been an announcement from the Chair that it was the intention to bake the motion and the amendment together, I should not have risen now; but I certainly spoke to the amendment, and therefore have not exhausted my right to speak on the general question.
– It has been the practice of this House when an amendment has been moved to a question such as the second reading of a bill, to allow the debate to proceed on the question, and the amendment, and unless an honorable member announces that he intends to speak to the amendment only he may not make a second speech on the original motion when the amendment has been disposed of. In the circumstances I cannot allow the honorable member for Wannon (Mi1. Rodgers) to speak now on the general question. If 1 conceded to him the right to do so, I should have to concede the same right to every other honorable member who has spoken. That I could not do.
– I do not propose at this stage to traverse the whole debate on the second reading of this bill. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), in speaking to the motion, suggested a consultation with me, as Leader of the Government, to see whether some basis could be found on which the important proposals contained in the measure could be submitted to. the people with the endorsement of honorable members generally, and several subsequent speakers referred to the suggestion. In matters involving the alteration of the Constitution, which far transcends any question of party interest or difference, I consider it highly desirable that the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Government should consult as to the possibility of finding some common ground on which both parties could stand. Honorable members on both sides are united in the view that it is desirable, in the interests of Australia, that the Commonwealth Parliament should be equipped with greater constitutional power; but there is some divergence of opinion as to the extent of the extra power that should be sought, and in these circumstances I considered it desirable to consult with the Leader of the Opposition with a view to removing any misunderstanding that might exist, and bo see whether it would be possible to submit the questions to the people in a form acceptable to all parties. I am glad to say that as a result of our discussions we have been able to come to an understanding, and in committee I shall submit to honorable members pro posals which I hope will meet with general acceptance. The Leader of the Opposition asked that the Government should accept the whole of the amendment that has just been defeated ; but I had to inform him that as it diverged in principle from the proposals of the Government, I could not agree to that. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), in speaking this afternoon, discussed the wider powers in relation to trade and commerce which the Opposition desired to have incorporated in the Constitution, and I need only briefly say that the Government could not accept the proposal of the Opposition that it should seek full and complete power over trade and commerce within the Commonwealth. It believes that an amendment of the Constitution to equip the Commonwealth Parliament with larger power in that respect is necessary, but that it would be going too far to give the absolute power the Opposition desires, which would cover many things which, in the opinion of the Government, it is undesirable that the Commonwealth should control. The extent of the power that the Commonwealth should ask for may be determined in a full discussion of the subject in the constitutional session of this Parliament which is to be held later. Our conversation with regard to the Commonwealth power over industrial matters has led the Leader of the Opposition and myself to agree that new paragraph xl of section 51 of the Constitution will meet the wishes of both parties; but we differ as to the nature of the power to be taken. The Government is of the opinion that power should be sought to enable the Commonwealth Parliament to create authorities to deal with the matters which are the object of the amendment, whereas the Opposition view is that the power sought should enable Parliament itself to deal with those matters. The third subject involved in the Government proposals is the control’ of trusts and combines. The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that in the opinion of himself and his followers the wording of the Government proposal - “ trusts and combinations in restraint of trade “ - was not wide enough to include corporations. The Government was of opinion that that phrase was wide enough, and that it did, in fact, include all trusts and combinations whether composed of individuals, or of corporations, or of individuals and corporations; but so that there should be no possible misunderstanding, we have agreed to add after the words “ trusts and combinations “ the words “ whether composed of individuals or of corporations or of both.” The Leader of the Opposition expressed very strongly the opinion that power should be taken now to deal with corporations generally. The Government, too, is of the opinion that corporations should be brought within the control of the Commonwealth Parliament, and there can be no question but that that was the intention of the framers of our Constitution. But the High Court has held that the wording of the instrument does not give us the power to deal with corporations which it was contemplated to confer. The Government had it in mind to correct this error when the whole question of amending the Constitution was being dealt with, and did not consider it germane or necessary to the present request for enlarged industrial powers. But, in consequence of the representations of the Leader of the Opposition, the Government, after a careful reconsideration of the matter, has no objection to dealing with the subject now. The reason why it was not originally proposed to deal with it was that it was not thought to be necessary in order to equip the Commonwealth with adequate power to deal with industrial matters. We included trade unions and associations of employers and employees in our present proposals, for that was obviously necessary to our purpose; but it was not thought that larger control of corporations was necessary to it. Still it must be admitted that the views of the Leader of the Opposition and those who support him are the views of a considerable proportion of our people, and if they are of the opinion that wider powers to deal with corporations are needed to make absolutely effective the power to deal with industrial matters, the Government is quiteprepared to include a request for the power in these proposals. Consequently, when the bill is in committee, the Government will accept an amendment providing for the omission of the existing paragraph of section 51 which deals with foreign corporations and trading or financial corporations formed within the limits of the Commonwealth, and the substitution of a new provision in the following terms : -
Corporations, including -
the creation, regulation, control, and dissolution of corporations;
the regulation, control, and dissolution of corporations formed under the law of a State; and
the regulation and control of foreign corporations ; but not including municipal or governmental corporations, or any corporation formed solely for religious, charitable, scientific, or artistic purposes, or any corporation not formed for the acquisition of gain by the corporation or its members.
There is no necessity to take, under paragraph b, power to deal with the creation of a corporation, for the reason that its creation has already occurred in the State; and we cannot take power to deal with the creation or dissolution of foreign corporations, so that those words have been omitted from paragraph c. An amendment is proposed in relation to trusts and combinations to make it perfectly clear that we are taking power to deal with corporations that, either by themselves or in conjunction with individuals, act in restraint of trade. That has been our intention from the commencement. In conclusion, I may say that I am extraordinarily pleased that the Leader of the Opposition and I have reached an agreement. It is but fair to him to say that he fought for his amendment in its original form. I could not agree to that; but I tried to meet him so far as possible without departing from anything which the Government regarded as a fundamental principle. The result goes very much further than a mere agreement between political parties. These proposals will have in the country the support of all political parties in this Parliament, and that, I feel sure, will ensure the acceptance of this very necessary reform, and promote the happiness and prosperity of the people of Australia.
.- (By leave) - It is true, as the right honorable the Prime Minister has stated, that I have held several conferences with him upon this measure, and I did so with the approval of my party. The right honorable gentleman correctly outlined the proceedings at those conferences. Although I am in agreement with him upon the amendments that he has foreshadowed.
I regret that those which were proposed by this party were not accepted in their entirety. We all realize how necessary it is for the Commonwealth Parliament to have greater powers than it now possesses. Several attempts have been made to secure those powers; but they have all failed. I believe - and I think my party is with me - that we should strive to obtain the widest possible power, so that Australia may be governed in the best interests of its people. If these proposals are carried, the Commonwealth Parliament will be clothed with very much greater power than it possesses today. The right honorable gentleman stated that the trade and commerce proposal will remain in abeyance until it can be dealt with in a constitutional session. I regret the delay. On the other hand, the bill asks for very much greater power in regard to industrial matters. If the power asked for is granted, this Parliament will be able to appoint as many authorities as it likes, and it will be for whatever government may occupy the Treasury bench to decide how the power shall be used. That would be a very big gain. In relation to trusts and combines, the people have, on several occasions, been asked to increase the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament, but, unfortunately, honorable members have been divided, and have not approached the electors as a united body. Many honorable members who opposed this proposal on the last occasion will, in this instance, support it. It is an excellent thing that we have been able to come closer together in the pursuit of a power which we all deem it necessary that we should possess. If we continue on those lines, we have a reasonable hope of success. The latest proposal in relation to corporations, is a distinct advance upon the provision in the bill as introduced, and its significance should be appreciated by the people. It is a power which it is absolutely necessary to vest in this Parliament. We have adopted the language which was placed before the people of Australia by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when at the head of a Labour Government. The grouping of the different matters, instead of having them stated separately, will be an inducement to the people to accept them as a whole. These corporations control an aggregation of capital which represents from 70 per cent to 80 per cent. of that invested in Australia. They control the economic and industrial, and very often the commercial, situation. I hope that this Parliament will be granted the powers that we are now seeking.
Question - That the bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . 54
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title).
.-I desire to congratulate the Labour party on having, after many long years, worn down the opposition to a great fundamental principle.
– Order! The clause under discussion relates to the short title of the bill.
– Does the Chairman rule that I am out of order ?
– It is not in order to have a general discussion on clause 1.
Clause agreed to.
Floating Dock at Newcastle.
That the House do now adjourn.
It is within the knowledge of honorable members that negotiations between the. Commonwealth Government and the Government of New SouthWales have been in progress for some time respecting the establishment of a floating dock at Newcastle. The original proposals submitted by the State Government provided for a floating dock of a capacity of 13,000 tons, for which the Commonwealth agreed to pay a subsidy of £120,000. Subsequently, in order to accommodate the new 10,000-ton cruisers, it was found necessary to increase the capacity of the dock to 15,000 tons, and the Commonwealth Government agreed to increase its subsidy to £135,000, subject to an agreement being arrived at between the technical advisers of the Commonwealth and the State authorities. That agreement has now been completed, the Commonwealth naval advisers having stipulated certain requirements which the Government of New South Wales has accepted. Accordingly, a subsidy of £135,000 will be paid by the Commonwealth. The agreement provides for the payment of half the subsidy at the time of its signing, and therefore the amount of £67,500 will forthwith be paid to the New South Wales Government as part of the current year’s finance, and will appear in the Supplementary Estimates. The remaining £67,500 will be included in the Estimates for the coming year.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at9.40 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 June 1926, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1926/19260609_reps_10_113/>.