10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr Speaker . (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Prime Minis ter consider the advisability of giving the Public Service direct representation upon the. Public Service Board When appointing a successorto Sir BrudenellWhite who is about to retire?
– The advisability of appointing a member of the Public Service to the vacant position will certainly be considered by the Government.
– In regard to the answer given yesterday by the Minister for Home and Territories to a question I asked concerning the massacres in Papua, has the honorable gentleman received confirmation of his earlier statement, that the native police, as distinct from the village constables, were in no way concerned?
– On the 2nd May I informed the honorable member that the native police were not involved in the massacres. So far as I know that statement is correct.
– The Prime Minister announced yesterday the intention of the Government to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the alleged offer of £8,000 to certain honorable members as an inducement to retire and make their seats available for another candidate. Will the right honorable gentleman extend the terms of reference to include the frequent statements concerning an amount of £4,000 alleged to have been paid to the honorable memberfor Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) as an inducement to withdraw from the contest for North Sydney in favour of the present representative of that constituency (Mr. Hughes) ?
– I stated clearly yesterday that the scope of the inquiry would be restricted to recent allegations reported in the press as having been made by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert) and. an ex-Minister of the Grown in New South Wales.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Forfeiture of Leases - Lighting and Rating - Housing
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Block 7, section 28, Ainslie -
Block 2, section 24, South Ainslie -
John Murray, Angus McLennan, joint lessees.
Block 10, section 11, Blandfordia, No. 5 subdivision -
In all cases the leases were forfeited under the provisions of section 13c of the City Area Leases Ordinance 1924-1926 for failure to sign and execute the prescribed documents when called upon. 2.Onthe 20th March, 1928, notifications were sent to 79 lessees asking them to show cause why their leases should not he forfeited as they had not complied with the building covenant or made application for extension of time. Since that date some have taken steps to comply with the building covenant, and others have applied for, and have been granted, an extension of time. The number who failed to reply to the Commission’s notification is 28, and their cases are under consideration.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Will he make a detailed statement to the House showing on what basis (a) the present rates for the Federal Capital Territory of 4d. general, and 2d. lighting, were arrived at, and (b) the value of land was assessed for rating purposes? .
– I regret that the information is not yet available; but I shall make a statement on the subject as soon as possible.
On the 10th May, the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), asked me the following questions : -
I am now in a position to give the following replies: -
The total cost could be £5 7s. 3d. per fortnight.
Sir Neville Bowse.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Directors op Military Abt.
asked the Minister re- ‘ presenting the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Superannuation Fund fob Public Servants - -NAKANAI Murders.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Commonwealth Government or of the Administration of the Mandated Territory of New Guinea to establish a superannuation fund for the public servants of the Territory; if so, when?
– The establishment of a superannuation fund was provided for in the New Guinea Superannuation Ordinance 1927, which contained a provision that it was to commence on a date to be fixed by the Administrator. The commencement of theordinance was, however, postponed by the
Administrator in order to enable consideration to be given to certain suggestions of the Advisory Council of the Territory for amendments of the scheme. It is proposed to give effect to a number of the suggestions of the Advisory Council, and, as soon as a report which the Administrator has been asked to furnish on certain other points in connexion with the scheme is to hand, the necessary new ordinance will be promulgated.
On the 4th May the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath) asked, inter aiia, the following questions -
I am now in a position to furnish the following information to the honorable member : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow -
Mr.FORDE asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made with aview to the information desired by the honorable member being furnished as early as possible.
Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether the tenancy of the canteen on board H.M.A.S. Melbourne has been allotted, and, if so, is the successful applicant a returned sailor or soldier?
– Yes. Mr. S. V. Zammit, the successful applicant, was strongly recommended by the Captain and the ship’s company of H.M.A.S. Melbourne. He has been associated for the past fifteen years with the Royal Australian Navy, either as Canteen Manager or tenant, and for practically the whole period of the war served in one of H.M.A. Ships in this capacity.
asked the Minister in charge of Repatriation, upon notice -
– It is not customary to announce the policy of the Government in answer to questions.
– On the 10th May, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) asked the following question : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information -
Export - Excise on Fortifying Spirit.
– On the 3rd May, the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook) asked the following questions -
I am now able to furnishthe honorable member with the following information - 1. (a) 1,516,616½ gallons; (b) 1,339,934½ gallons; (c) 122,707 gallons. Item (b) of the question refers to bounty at 3s. The bounty was1s. 9d. per gallon, and draw-back of1s. 3d. per gallon was also paid.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Australia Act - Ordinances of 1928-
Central Australia -
No. 5 - Venereal Diseases.
No. 6 - Endemic Diseases.
No. 7 - Prison.
North Australia -
No. 5 - Venereal Diseases.
No. 6 - Endemic Diseases.
No. 7 - Prison.
Public Service Act - Appointments of E. V.
Keogh, F. Trenerry, E. A. North and W.R. Trembath, Department of Health.
Railways Act - By-law No. 47.
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government(Administration) Act -
Ordinances of 1928 -
No. 8 - Animals and Birds Protection.
No. 9 - Cotter River.
No. 10 - Pounds.
No. 11 - Housing.
Debate resumed from 15th December, 1927 (vide page 3292)) on motion by Mr. Latham -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- This bill was introduced by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) in a very able speech ; but its clauses require very careful consideration to reveal its deeper meaning and to enable us to grasp the full intent of the proposed amendments. For almost a quarter of a century there has been a Conciliation and Arbitration Act in operation in the Commonwealth. From its inception it has been resisted by many large employers. It has also been criticized, and even condemned, by a small section of the workers ; but in the main has been regarded by the’ majority of the people as ‘ a wise advance in industrial legislation. Ever since the first act was passed many attacks have been made upon this legislation, mainly by large employers of labour. A considerable number of employers welcomed it as providing a means for the settlement of disputes and . bringing about uniformity in the conditions of labour throughout Australia. ‘ Fairminded employers know that the Arbitration Act is a protection not only to their employees, but also to themselves against the sweaters who compete with them in business. Although many attacks have been made on. this legislation and its operation, the .introduction of this bill is the first serious blow struck in this Parliament against the Arbitration Act. It is a blow calculated, to destroy not only the community’s faith in the impartiality of the law, but. also the faith of the workers of this country in the principle of arbitration. During the last five or six years there has been .a constant agitation foi’ the abolition pf this law. A few years ago there was formed in this country an organization called “ The Single Purpose League,” its object being to repeal the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It has bent its energies in that direction, particularly by propaganda, and now, after years of untiring effort, its work is bearing fruit. This Government is not prepared to shoulder the responsibility of repealing the act; but is endeavouring to make it such that it will be rejected by those who believe in a fair trial and a fair deal by means of arbitration.
As late as last Monday, I read in thipress of an attack by the Victorian Chamber of. Manufactures on the Arbitration Court. When the workers dare to ask for increased wages, they receive condemnation from all sides ; but there is not even one passing comment when organized employers attack the Arbitration Court. Last Monday the Victorian Chamber of Manufactures deliberately stated that the court does not realize its responsibility to the community, arid referred to the judgments and awards of the court as burdensome. One is asked to believe by the representatives of employers that the Arbitration Court is piling burdens upon industry bv fixing high wages and better conditions, and that to-day the workers are living in the lap of luxury because of the exorbitant charges’ they are making upon industry. I invite honorable members to examine the statistics of this country to ascertain the effective wage that the workers are receiving; not the nominal, wage, but the wage after toll has’ been taken by the profiteering gentlemen of this country. The effective wage is to-day 5 ‘per cent, lower than it was in 1922 ‘; yet the whole of the propaganda indulged ‘ in by employers has been an endeavour to show that the workers are receiving better arid better conditions, and yet are not satisfied.
A review of’ this Government’s attitude generally to the workers of this country is not calculated to inspire confidence in its impartiality. I do not propose to go into details ; but I invite honorable members to recall this Government’s hostility during the last few years to the organized workers of Australia. I refer first of all to the attempt at deportation, which ended in a fiasco; and attacked ihe principle of trial by jury. It was proposed just before the last general election to deport’ from this country two citizens who had lived here for the best part of their lives, and whose presence in Australia it was said, made ( it impossible for industry to be carried on.
Yet, when the election was over, and the Government got the power conferred by the Crimes Act, it failed to exercise it. Those two men have been permitted to remain in this country, although while the election was in progress, it was asserted that they would be deported. Under the Crimes Act, which was passed for the purpose of saving the face of the Government, deeds that in no other civilized country are regarded as crimes, were declared to be criminal. I, in common with others, described that act as a disgrace to the statute-book of the Commonwealth.
And now we have this latest move of the Government, this provocative measure called a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. In reality, it is a declaration of war against -the organized workers of Australia, although the Government talks of bringing about peace in industry. It had not the courage to face this Parliament with clause 48 of the bill as originally drafted. Already it has weakened its tyrannical intentions; but in regard to one clause only. Clause 48 is now proposed to be amended before any discussion of the provision has taken place in this chamber. The Government is taking this action because of discussion outside, and because of the fear, even amongst its own supporters, that such a clause would establish a precedent that would strike at the property of both trade unions and organizations of other descriptions. Here was a proposal - and I refer to it because it indicates the mind of the Government when the bill was framed - to confiscate the funds of the unions. It was proposed that, upon the cancellation of the registration of a union, the Court could dissolve the union, wind up its affairs, and vest its property and affairs in a voluntary association. The Government has weakened on that proposal, because it realizes that if it were put into effect it would create a precedent for some other government to take similar action with regard to corporations other than those of organized labour. Yet no Labour Government has attempted to act towards any corporation of capitalists in the same way as is proposed in this bill with respect to the funds of organized unions. Many attempts have been made by employers to foster bogus unions; but this would have been the first attempt in the Commonwealth Parliament to foster such unions and hand over to them the funds of the legitimate trade organizations. The Government has now circulated an amendment for the deletion of this clause; but, as I have said, it indicates the mind of the Government when the bill was framed. It shows its hostility to the unions of Australia, and it explains to us why this provocative measure, called a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, has now been brought forward.
Whilst the Government has withdrawn the attack upon union funds and union property, because, I suppose, it regards all property as more or less sacrosanct, it has not withdrawn the obnoxious clauses that assail the rights of the workers. The Prime Minister endeavoured to create what he called a peace atmosphere; but what kind of atmosphere has been created? When he talked of the strikes that were in progress, and issued threats against the workers at large, was he talking peace ? He called a peace conference, when hanging over the heads of the workers was this bill, including the clause whose deletion has been proposed only in the last few days, by which the unions were to be smashed up, and their funds “and property distributed among other organizations that would favour the employers rather than the workers. With that provision in the bill, while the sword of Damocles was hanging over the heads of the workers, the Prime Minister summoned the representatives of the industrialists to meet round a conference table to discuss peace terms. The very speech with which the Prime Minister launched the proposal for a peace conference, was provocative and partisan. It was delivered before a partisan body, the Australian Women’s National League, the most bitter anti-Labour body in the Commonwealth. He talked about peace; but all the time he denounced the workers, and never once mentioned the lock-outs and pin pricks by employers, and the mean tactics adopted by a certain class of employers - not all of them, I am glad to say - who dismissed their men on Christmas eve and re-engaged them the day after New Year’s day, in order to evade the award of the court that provides for payment for holiday time. He said not a word about that, but had much to say about the workers’ defiance of the law.
I agree that peace in industry is desirable, just as universal peace is much to be sought after, and I have never done anything to destroy peace in this country. Notwithstanding the gibe of honorable members opposite about union leaders not doing this and not doing that, those honorable members speak in their ignorance of what has been done. Men on this side in politics have done much to preserve industrial peace - in fact a great deal more than honorable members opposite who criticize them.
– They say that for electioneering purposes.
– Yes. Those persons who employ the gibe that industrial Labour leaders live on strife-
– They live on it them- selves.
– Quite so. They would not be here in such large numbers if they did not talk as they do. There are men at the head of the industrial movement who have spent the best part of their lives in settling disputes that inevitably break out between the buyers and sellers of human labour. The statement about union leaders living on strife is as puerile as it is false, and none know it better than they who utter it. I believe that industrial peace is desirable; but I want peace with justice. Discussions may be useful, but we can have no peace discussions while threats are held over the heads of the representatives of Labour. It is possible to whip a dog and then coax it; but that cannot be d.one with men, although it is what the Government, and the Prime Minister in particular, have been endeavouring to do.
In order to prepare the public mind for this coercive legislation, the Prime Minister has been going round the country freely quoting strike figures concerning the appalling losses - to use his own term - that have occurred as the result of strikes. Not once has he suggested that any persons other than the workers are to blame. I have never said that all the fault lies on one side. I believe that it takes two to make any quarrel; but I refuse to say that the workers are always in the wrong. I consider that in the main they are on the right side; that they have taken up the cause of justice. I admit that they may at times indulge in action that is not justified; but they are fighting for principles and for their very existence. The assumption of the party opposite is that when there is a dispute the workers are always wrong, and every set of figures quoted is used as an indictment of organized Labour. The Leader of the Government has indulged in this type of propaganda more than any other Prime Minister has done. He heralds to the world the “ appalling losses “ due to industrial disputes, and the dreadful position in which Australia has been placed in consequence of them.
– The honorable member does not like the truth.
– The best answer that I can make to the honorable member is to quote the remarks of the AttorneyGeneral when he introduced this bill. They contain a rebuke that should sink into the minds of the Prime Minister and many of his followers. The AttorneyGeneral said -
The number of unions registered in the court is 149, and there are 27 employers’ organizations. Most of these are working in peace under the awards of the court. It is necessary to remember these facts, because it is ……… often alleged that Australia is a land of strikes. A great disservice is rendered to Australia by emphasizing its troubles, and by representing Australia as a land of constant strikes.
I echo those sentiments. No greater disservice has been rendered to this country and to its credit abroad than by the repeated statements made by the head of the Government and his supporters suggesting that Australia is a land of strikes. The Attorney-General continued -
If we compare the position of Australia with that of England, we find that we are very fortunate indeed in relation to strikes.
I made that comparison, and I took the figures over the last five years, because I believe that one cannot obtain a fair result by taking only one year. Without worrying honorable members with details, let me say that the average number of working days lost in Australia during the past five years was . 71 per wage-earner per annum; whilst in England forthe same period the average was 2.37 per wageearner per annum. Through disputes, the workers in England lost three times as many working days per wage-earner as did the workers of Australia.
– How do the figures compare on a population basis?
– I am making the comparison per wage-earner. For the information of the right honorable gentleman, the average number of working days for the period mentioned were 1,243,000 for Australia, as compared with 38,193,000 for. England for the same period. According to the Commonwealth Statistician the number of wage earners in Australia and England respectively is 1,749,000 and 16,110,000. I have taken the number of wage-earners in England and Australia and divided them into the number of working days lost. One has to consider whether the position is becoming worse in Australia. The suggestion has been broadcast that it is. Again I compare two periods, the last and the previous five-year periods. For the five years from 1918to 1922, inclusive, the working days lost in Australia through industrialdisputes numbered 10,500,000; while for the last five years the days lost numbered 6,215,000, showing that . 4,000,000 more working days were lost in the previous five-year period. The number of days lost in the one year, 1919, amounted to four times more than the number of days lost last year.
– That reflects great credit on the Bruce-Page Government.
– The honorable member may if he pleases take all the credit for theBruce-Page Government, but I contrast his boast with the statement made by the Prime Minister only two or three weeks ago, : that the position is becoming worse.
– So it is.
– That then is a reflection on the Bruce-Page Government. In support of the statement made by the Attorney-General that it is a great disservice to Australia to exaggerate the effects of disputes, I shall demonstrate how those effects are frequently exaggerated. In a recent statement the Prime Minister dealt with the losses that have occurred in the coal industry through industrial disputes. The coal industry is always held up as one which is subjected to great lossesthrough industrial disputes. I shall quote from Labour Report No. 17 for 1926, the latest I can obtain, which gives the official figures of the Commonwealth Statistician. It states that the principal dispute of the year was that of the engine-drivers and firemen employed on coal mines in New South Wales and Victoria. It involved a loss of . 502,996 working days. This represents approximately 40 per cent. of the total figures for that year. It isimportant to remember that the average working week in coal mines is one of from three to four days.
– They work from three to four days a fortnight.
– I do not wish to overstate the case. Even allowing a working week of three to four days, the percentage quoted is a very poor one. The strike referred to closed the coal mines for seven weeks. As a result, all surplus and reserve stocks of coal were sold, and on resumption the mines worked full time until the stocks were replenished. In support of that contention I quote the figures ofthe Statistician, which disclose that for the year1925 the value of the coal produced was £9,302,000, while for the year 1926 the value of the coal produced was £9,436,000, an increase of £134,000. And 1926 was the year of the big strike! How can it be claimed that that dispute caused an appalling loss to Australia? The appalling losses to the workers and general population of this country occur through unemployment, for which neither the workers nor industrial disputes can be held responsible.
– Does not the honorable member think that those disputes caused losses in trade?
– The percentage of unemployment that is not at all associated with disputes is infinitely greater than that caused by disputes. The Commonwealth Statistician states -
The percentage of unemployment disclosed by trade union returns is accepted as representative of the state of unemployment for the year 1927.
Unemployment averaged 7 per cent. in the unions reporting, and that percentage is taken to apply to the whole of the wage-earners. The Statistician also gives the number of wage-earners in
Australia as 1,749,000. If one takes 7 per cent, as the average perecentage unemployed the number of unemployed in 1927 was 122,000. If that perecentage is applied only to trade unionists, who number 851,000, the average works out at 59,500 unionists unemployed. That percentage of unemployment was in no way connected with disputes, being due to sickness and other causes. The days lost in Australia through strikes and lockouts for the past five years represent a loss of less than one day per wage-earner . per year, whereas the loss through unemployment for the same period works out on an average of two weeks per wage-earner per annum. ‘ Because-. no one desired to employ them our workers have lost more time through unemployment in one month than they have through disputes in a year.
This bill contains clauses that are an affront to the intelligence of the people’ of Australia. One of its clauses is a complete and definite departure from the fundamental principles of our arbitration law. A fundamental principle laid down by the very first President of the Arbitration Court was that there should be established’ a minimum living wage for the workers, below which nobody should be expected to go. It was to be sufficient to maintain a man, his wife, and his family in reasonable comfort, living as reasonable, decent citizens, in a civilized community. This principle has been accepted by the Arbitration Courts of the country and. also, I am - convinced, by all intelligent and reasonable people in Australia.
– No, it has not.
– The honorable member can speak for himself, and say that he does not stand for the right of the working people of this country to the minimum of a living wage.
– I do not accept that interpretation of my remarks.
– That view has. been expressed by a few others on that side of the House, and I should like all those who support it to state their opinion frankly so that we may see just how many of them there are. Let them stand up in support of their convictions, and then we shall’ see what is behind this proposal.
– Let the Prime Minister also say where he stands.
– Yes, I wish the Prime Minister to state also if he stands for the attitude indicated by the honorable member for Wilmot in his interjection. The antagonism- of honorable members opposite to the living wage explains their support of this measure^ The clause which I have been discussing strikes a blow at the principle of the basic wage, at the fundamental principle of fixing a minimum wage on the cost of living. Under proposed new section 25d it is provided that before making an award or certifying ah agreement the Arbitration court shall consider the probable economic’ effect in relation to the community, and the probable economic effect on the industry. The workers’ standard of comfort may go, but the court is compelled to consider the economic effect of its awards.’ As a matter of fact,’ the court, has always, to a large extent, taken into consideration the economic effect of the awards which it is asked to make, but here it is made mandatory upon it to do so. This, I claim, is striking a blow at the principle of the basic wage. Hitherto, the understanding has always been that the court,, in fixing its award, must take into consideration a certain definite . standard of comfort for the workers. I did believe at one time that we were getting beyond the stage when there was anybody so benighted as to deny the principle of & living wage. It is further ^provided ir. this bill that, before certifying any agree-, ment between employers and employees, the court shall consider the probable economic effect on the industry concerned.
This Government has always boasted about its desire to bring about conciliation in industry, and honorable member* behind the Government have also expressed their desire for more conciliation and less arbitration. With that sentiment I agree. The more conciliation replaces arbitration the better, but this bill is the very anthithesis of that principle. It strikes a blow at the conciliation provision in the act as originally framed. The principle has been recognized since the beginning of arbitration in Australia that where a voluntary agreement waa entered into between employer and employees it should be automatically registered by the court. Arbitration machinery, legal process, and argument were swept aside, because it was recognized that when the employers and employees came to an agreement, that was the end of the matter. The fixing of conditions and wages by mutual agreement was a practice which we strove to increase. This bill, however, will work in the contrary direction, because it lays it down that, before an agreement can be certified, the court must weigh up the situation, and consider the economic effects of the proposed agreement. It is now proposed to arbitrate on the very things that employers and employees have agreed upon.
– Does the honorable member say that the court is not to take into consideration the economic effects of such agreements ?
– I do not; but [ say that, under the act as it now stands, the Arbitration Court has discretionary power in such matters, and this power is ample. Here, however, it is proposed to make it obligatory upon the court to consider the economic effect of all proposed agreements. This, I maintain, strikes at the very root of the principle of conciliation. It is a judicial invasion of agreements between employers and employees, and no encouragement is given to either the workers or the employers to come to an agreement. Particularly does it discourage the employees to be conciliatory, because they are not likely to give anything away in an agreement, recognizing that such action might prejudice their case when it came subsequently before the Arbitration Court for review. The inquiry by the Arbitration Court into the economic effects of a proposed agreement will not, it is certain, result in any increase in wages or any improvement in conditions for the workers. Honorable members know how difficult it is to secure agreement between employers and employees, and this bill, if passed, will make it more difficult, if not impossible. Clause 21 deals with the same principle, and will also tend to discourage agreement between the parties. This clause provides that the court may refuse to certify agreements if, in its opinion, such agreements are not in the public interest.
– It is time, too.
– Yes, it will suit the honorable member for Warringah. He does not represent the working class, the toilers, the people who build the nation, and make the community prosperous. He represents the money masters, the parasites who live on the toil of the workers. I expect that sort of interjection from him. I come now to Clause 7, an extraordinary clause, though not the most extraordinary in the bill. I believe that the arbitration system was established first to settle industrial disputes, and, where that was not possible, at least to limit those disputes as much as possible, and to prevent their extension to other places or industries. Under the existing system of wages and conditions, it is not possible to ensure perpetual industrial peace over the whole field of industry. Such disputes will occur, though I maintain that their effect has not been so appalling as has been suggested. However, it has always been the aim of the court hitherto to prevent the extension of industrial trouble, because of the detriment to the whole community. But what does this bill propose? It encourages the extension of disputes. Under clause 7, should a small dispute occur in any section of an industry, the employer may apply to the court for an order that a dispute exists.
– The honorable member is not reading the clause.
– I am giving my own interpretation of it. Honorable members know that, if I read all the clauses of the bill right through, I should exhaust the whole of my time in doing so. Therefore, I propose to give my interpretation of certain clauses, and, if I misinterpret the intention of the bill, honorable members may take me to task for it. The Attorney-General will not deny that, under clause 7, an employer may, if a small strike occurs in a section of an industry, apply to the court for an order declaring that a strike exists. On the other hand, if there is a lockout in a section of an industry, the workers may apply to the court for a declaration to the effect that a lockout exists. Is that a fair interpretation of it?
– Yes. Except that the clause does not say anything about a small strike, or the size of a strike.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral deny saying in his second-reading speech that the clause would apply to a dispute in a section of an industry?
– I do not; it includes that certainly.
– Whenever the AttorneyGeneral finds himself in a difficulty advances a legal quibble to escape from it; but that kind of thing will not carry him far with the general public. It is quite clear that the court may make an order that a strike exists even when there is only a sectional strike. If the employers apply for such an order the court is under an obligation to grant it ii the facts warrant it.
– That .is not what the clause says.
– That is what it means. The only suggestion behind the interjection of the Attorney-General is that when an applicant asks the court to declare that a strike exists, and supports his request by facts, the court may nol make the order. But it is surely obvious that if it can be shown on the facts that a strike exists, the court must make an order to that effect; otherwise it would stultify itself. An employer may find that about 50 men in one branch of his establishment are on strike; he will then be able to. go to the court and ask for an order which will have the effect of locking out 5,000 men. It may be said that the provision will apply to both sides; but I ask what have employees to gain from bringing about a general strike. An employer may possibly gain something from it ; but it must mean loss to the employees. It is, of course, plain that a general strike is of no use to the community at large.
But the speech of the Attorney-General shows clearly that this power is intended for the use of the employers only. This is apparent not only from the definite language of the Attorney-General in regard to the clause, but also from the illustrations that he used. The clause has, as a matter of fact, been specially designed to enable the employers to use the big stick of the general lock-out with the ob- ject of bringing to starvation any group of workers who may protest, to the point of striking, against their wages or conditions. The Attorney-General said -
Even if there is a strike in a portion of an employer’s establishment-
That shows that he had in mind small or sectional strikes ; the words “ portion of an establishment “ can mean nothing else. The quotation proceeds -
If in such a case an employer were to lock out the members of the union engaged in other portions of his workshop a solution would . . . readily be reached.
– I said it would “in many cases “ readily be reached.
– That is another quibble. The honorable gentleman proceeded as follows : -
The position in connexion with the engineers’ strike in Sydney was that the other employers were unable to support the firm or companies against which the strike was directed….. while on the other hand the union was supporting its members.
The honorable gentleman a second or two later observed -
Clause 7 is designed to deal with such a case.
It is clear, therefore, that the object of the clause is ‘ to give an employer the power to declare a general lockout of the whole of the men in his employment. We reach the position therefore that a sectional strike legalizes a general lockout’ and a sectional lockout legalizes a general strike. That is- the Government’s way of limiting disputes and of bringing about peace in industry!
There are things with which no wages board or arbitration court award can cope. Among these is a bullying foreman who treats his men in such a manner that in order to assert their manhood they are obliged to down tools. No law that has ever been framed can deal effectively with a situation like that. But if this clause is passed, the employer may have power in such a case to lock out the whole of his men. It is an outrageous provision to put into a conciliation and arbitration bill.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition deny that there is such a thing as job control?
– I do not deny it. Will the honorable member deny that there is such a thing as a lock out?
– Let the Leader of the Opposition name one.
– Honorable members opposite are too one-eyed to see this subject in its true light. There is now a lock-out in the shipping industry. I do not say that there was one previous to yesterday. There was a strike until then. I endeavour to be fair in dealing with these questions. It was a strike until yesterday.
– That is the first time that the honorable gentleman has said so.
– Nothing of the kind. But this is the first time that I have had an opportunity to say so in this chamber. I have no wish to mince words in discussing these issues. The plain truth is that to-day there is a lock-out in the shipping industry. One would imagine that these men who work in the galleys of boats, and whose only outlook upon life is through the porthole of a ship on to the boundless ocean, are the only ones who ever do wrong, and that their employers are angelic beings who never have treated and never would treat their men unfairly. It is a great pity that honorable members opposite cannot see that there are two sides to disputes of this character. We have been told that the object of this clause is to limit disputes; but the fact is that it will, if it becomes law, be an encouragement, if not a direct invitation, to extend them.
Another injurious effect of a provision of this character is that a declaration by a court that a strike exists will undoubtedly prejudice any proceedings against individual unionists that may occur subsequently in other courts. In the event of an application by the employers for an order declaring that a strike exists, the employees may not be heard ; but subsequently they may be charged with an offence in another court and have produced as part of the case against them a judicial declaration that there was a strike.
The whole tendency of this bill is to increase the number and harshness of the penalties which may be imposed upon trade unionists. It is designed, in my opinion, to deal with them and not with the employers. An attempt has been made in the drafting of the measure to hide this objective, but it has not been successful. The main purpose of the bill is undoubtedly to penalize trade unionism. Penalties are to be imposed on organizations as such. It is only registered organizations that would be affected by this provision. I have said that 149 trade union organizations are registered under the act, but only 27 organizations of employers. The 149 labour organizations contain 690,000 members. These are the persons who will suffer if penalties are imposed upon organizations. The great majority of the employees’ organizations are registered in the court, but only a few of the employers’ organizations are registered, although the employers are just as well organized as the employees.
– I point out that the individuals are liable.
– They are not liable to suffer the penalty provided for organizations. The plain truth is that the penalties on organizations will be applicable in the main only to trade union bodies.
My interpretation of clause 8 is that any organization which retains the services of an officer or member who may be found guilty of an offence, may be fined £1,000. This applies to even an officer of a branch or small committee of management. If such a person who has no real authority advises the men to refuse to accept employment, the organization to which he belongs will be liable to a penalty not exceeding £1,000. The mind of the Government is indicated by the proposal to amend section 8 of the act, which provides that the union shall be liable for the act of its officer, “ unless the court before which the proceedings are brought is satisfied that the committee of management was not cognizant of the matter.” Those words are to be omitted, and even though a union should be able to prove thatit knew nothing of the offence of its officer, that, indeed, his action had been taken without the authority of the union, or in opposition to the direction of the committee of management, it may still be liable to this heavy penalty. It is true that the punishment may be reduced if the union can show that it was not responsible. The officer of some small far-distant branch or local committee of management of a union with 50,000 or 60,000 members may call out 20 or 30 men on strike, and the main organization may be held responsible and fined up to £1,000. If the union goes so far as to remove from office, and even expel from the union the officer who disobeys its instructions - and what more could the Government expect the union to do to prove its bona fides - it may .still be fined £100. If the offender is readmitted to membership within twelve months the fine may be increased to £1,000. If this is not a blow at the very heart of unionism, what is it? The controlling authority of the union, hearing of some likely trouble, may have issued instructions to its member not to strike. If the central authority is defied, and the offenders are expelled, the union funds will still be liable. What is that bur, coercion ?
Clause 10 of the bill makes the union liable up to £50 for strike penalties imposed on any officer. The officers of a small branch or committee may be fined £50 each, and the union will be liable for that penalty, notwithstanding that such officers may have acted in contravention of the instructions from head-quarters. Similarly, the union may be fined £50 in respect of every one of its members or committees who takes part in a strike, even in defiance of its instructions. Clearly, this is ari assault on the very principles of unionism. British law provides that the principal may not be held responsible for the act of an agent unless the agency is proved. Surely the same principle should be preserved in this legislation ; the prosecution should be required to prove at least that the strikers were acting with the consent of the union. Instead, the fact may be established that men are acting without authority, and even in defiance of the union, and yet the union may; be held responsible. Apparently what is bad in common law is good enough to apply to members of a trade union !
Provision is made for secret ballots. Certainly no trade unionist will object to that principle. It is a system which the Labour party has always favoured.
– And in practice. The officers of almost every union in Australia are elected by secret ballot. If there are exceptions, they but prove the rule. Referendums of unionists are taken on many important questions. Therefore, we take no exception to the principle of the secret ballot, but no thinking person can fail to object to the ludicrous manner in which it is applied in this measure. These provisions prove that the framers of the bill have no conception of the management of a big industrial union. It is provided that a ballot may be taken at any stage of a dispute, and even though the majority of the union members favour a strike, it is still illegal. Therefore, the will of the majority, by which the Government lays such store in other circumstances, does not prevail in this instance. As a result of a poll, the majority of the 50,000 members of a union may declare in favour of a strike, but any member of the union may be penalized if he goes on strike. If the Government believes so firmly in a secret ballot for deciding whether .or not men shall strike, no doubt it has an equally sincere belief in the system as a. means for deciding whether a strike shall be declared off, and that would mean a repetition of the whole ballot procedure.
To make this bill more ludicrous and earn for it the scorn and contempt of reasonable people, a provision is included that ten members of the union may make a secret application for a secret ballot, and an amendment which has been tabled provides further that the ten men need not apply together, but may apply singly or in twos and threes over a period of three weeks. All this is to enable the unionist to free himself from the “ tyranny” of the union bosses! I have no doubt that the Prime Minister and his supporters will spread themselves about the tyranny exercised over members of unions. They may make a number of bald general assertions, but I challenge them to produce any facts in support of them. It is proposed that ten members may, singly or unitedly, make a secret request for a secret ballot on any question affecting their organization or a branch of it. In other words, ten disgruntled members of a union with a membership running into thousands may put the organization to the trouble of a ballot. Such a ballot is to be supervised by an officer of the court, but how it is to be taken is not explained. An officer of the court cannot actually supervize a continent-wide ballot of members of the Australian Workers’ Union, the Railways Union, the miners, or the seamen. And who is to pay the cost of such a referendum? The bill is silent on that point. If this proposal is ever put into operation - and no law should be placed on the statute-book unless it is. intended to be operative - unions will become unworkable. Probably that is the purpose of the Government.
The bill completely disregards the ordinary laws of evidence. Ten men may secretly apply to the court for a secret ballot which may cost thousands of pounds and months of work. Surely the union which is so much concerned in the cost and the time employed should be entitled to be heard through its representative before the court in opposition to the application for a ballot; but that right is denied. Ten disgruntled members, may appear before the judge to state reasons why 50,000 members of the union should be involved in the trouble and expense of a ballot, and the representative of those 50,000 members may not have the opportunity to put the other side of the case. That proposal is solemnly submitted to this House by a gentleman learned in the law.
Under proposed new section 56r, any person who counsels another not to vote in a ballot shall be liable to a fine of £50 or imprisonment for six months. This is a savage penalty typical of the temper of this measure. A dispute may occur amongst a section of the men engaged in a widespread industry. . The union officials, aided by the disputes committee representative of all unions, may succeed in effecting a settlement, which is reported back to a mass meeting of the members. At that meeting there may be ten members who do not want a settlement, and under this bill they may demand a secret ballot ; if that demand is refused they can apply to the court. In the meantime, the strike cannot be declared - off, and the settlement that has been effected cannot operate, because, at the instance of ten men who do not want it to operate, a secret ballot is being held. That can, and will, happen. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General dabble in these big industrial problems with their eyes f focussed on one side of the question only.
The bill proposes to delete section 61, which has been in the Arbitration law since the first enactment in 1904. That section was designed to prevent the intimidation of unionists by forcing them to leave the union during the process of arbitration. It is one of the safeguards which have made the arbitration system practicable, but without any explanation the Government propose to repeal it. I think the reasons for their proposal are fairly obvious.
Proposed new section 18ba provides “ that any employers in an industry and any employees of those employers may apply in writing to the Registrar for the determination of any matter relating to their industry by voluntary arbitration. That is a very dangerous proposal. In connexion with conciliation committees, provision is made for the representation of the employers on one side and the employees on the other, but in this proposed new section that principle is departed from. Certainly an amendment which has been circulated modifies the original proposal to some extent, but it does not ‘ remove its objectionable features. One of them is that any single firm may make application to the court for a judge to consider a request for voluntary arbitration, and any number of employees of that firm may join in. It is true that any determination or award of that judge’ would not be binding, but what effect would it have in prejudicing the case of the unions when eventually they approached the Arbitration Court ? If a body of men, say, company unionists - and they cause many disputes - join with a single firm in approaching the court and getting its imprimatur placed upon the application, they may yield various points to the employers and have an award made by voluntary arbitration. It is only natural that when the unions subsequently appear before, perhaps, the same judge their case is prejudiced in his eyes by the very fact “ that certain employees have consented to vital alterations in the claim. This provision strikes a serious blow at one of the principles of arbitration, which is arbitration as between organized labour and organized capital. Section 2, paragraph vi., of the act lays it down that one of the objects of arbitration is to facilitate and encourage organizations. The Attorney-General has admitted that a single firm may approach the court and any non-union employees of that firm may join in a request for voluntary arbitration.
There is much more than I could say on the subject. What I wish to point out to the Government is that in attempting to disband and to smash the unions it is flying in the face of history and tradition. Away back in the ages when workers were servile, and to a large extent led a life of slavery, there were laws in Great Britain and other countries that made illegal any combination or organization of labour. Despite those laws the workers formed their association, because it was their inherent right to organize and to fight for better conditions. We are now discussing similar legislation. It outrages every sense of justice, and brings the law into scorn and contempt, because we cannot thrust down the throats of the workers laws that are not based upon justice. The States have tried to give effect to coercion laws, but with little success. Where are their coercion laws to-day? There may be some on the statute-books of the States, but no State government has dared to enforce them. This Government by introducing this legislation is flying in the face of public opinion, and is bringing the law into contempt. No previous Federal Government has had the interests of the workers less at heart. The Prime Minister went to the country and spoke soft words. He declared that he was as good as a Labour man. He sympathized with the workers, and told them what he would do for them. He made many promises, but I ask honorable members to view them in the light of his perform^ances, including an attempt at deportation, the amendment of the Crimes Act, and now the introduction of this law. [Extension of time granted.] Soft words have been spoken, but the action taken has been tyrannous performances for the workers have been like a kick with a hob-nail boot. There are people who say that awards should be obeyed, and that we cannot have both arbitration and strikes. I agree that we cannot have it both ways. When- a union or an employer enters an Arbitration Court they should be prepared to obey its awards; but I ask the Attorney-General and his supporters what becomes of disputes that break out and are not covered by awards ? There are various causes for such disputes, and none more prominent than the non-unionist question. Men band together to better their conditions, pay their subscriptions, and do their work; but a small section outside reaches out its hands for the benefits won by the “unionists. That small section of workers is responsible for most of the industrial trouble. The following is an extract from the speech delivered by Senator Pearce in another place, when the original measure was being discussed. He said -
Without preference to unionists, this bill would become a tyranny. It would take away from trade unionists the right to strike without conferring on them any protection against their employers victimizing them simply because they are unionists
The Australian Industrial and Mining Standard of 1925 published an industrial code, in which is laid down some drastic proposals for preventing strikes; but it also includes proposals for removing the cause of strike. One of them is that no non-unionist is to be employed ; another is that full wages are to be provided for unemployment, accident, and sickness. The proposals are summarized as follows :- -
The legal machinery of Australia shall obviate any conceivable need for a strike or a lockout. Then, and not till then, it constitutes a strike and a lockout illegal.
There is no attempt made in this bill to remove the causes of troubles and disputes, but there is in it that which will bring about discord and strife. This law, immediately it operates, will meet with the scorn and contempt of the great bulk of the workers of this country, who have given faithful and loyal allegiance to the Arbitration Court. Despite the fact that most of the unions have suffered defeat at the hands of the Arbitration Court, by not having had what they considered to be their just claims recognized, they are consent to accept the judgements of the court, The Attorney-General himself pointed out that the men were working under the awards of the court, and I ask him to consider the few occasions upon which the awards have been broken. This law to the unions is anathema. We have been fighting for industrial peace for years, and we strongly condemn this attempt to unwarrantedly interfere. No previous Federal Government has ever attempted the tyranny proposed to be enforced under this bill. This measure is the surest way of killing arbitration by rendering it unworkable and making it unfair. The object of the Government is apparently to have the unions deregistered and to lower the standard of living of the workers. It has been said that the Labour party stands for the workers. I admit that we are here to champion the cause of the men struggling for existence, and when they are right up against it and trouble threatens them, we fight for them. Honorable members behind the Government fight for the employers, whether they are right or wrong. I have never heard the Attorney-General or any of his supporters say one word against an employer in connexion with any dispute. It must be remembered that there is a vast difference between the position of the employers and that of the employees, when an industrial conflict occurs. The former fight for profits and dividends and the latter for something only a little more than a bare existence. The worker fights, as the Scotch poet has said, “ for weans and wife.”
To sum up, this measure is oppressive and one-sided. It adds severe penalties to the law, and is directed wholly against the trade unionists. It is a blow at arbitration, and undermines the foundations of fairness and justice in the trial of industrial disputes.
.- Unless thu Leader of the Opposition has seen hobgoblins, his attitude to the bill is difficult to understand. His last declaration may, perhaps wholly account for it. He said that his party stand by employees on all occasions and in all circumstances. If that is his position, one can understand why the bill is entirely unsatisfactory to him. On the other hand, if any honorable member on this side adopted the same attitude in regard to the employers, the bill would be equally unsatisfactory to him. Moreover there are in the ranks of both employees and employers men who would love to see arbitration scrapped. But the Leader of the Opposition, who spoke about history, is living mentally in the past, and not amid the circumstances of to-day. If he had realized the changes that have taken placein Australia - that is the country with which we are dealing - he would have seen that many of his arguments were utterly inapplicable to this legislation. It is perfectly true, and let there be no mincing of these matters, that there would have been no arbitration law and no industrial movement had it not been for the actions of despicable and individual employers who were always prepared to exploit men whose economic circumstances were such that they were unable to fight their own battles. It was this that caused men to band together in organizations such as to-day constitute what is known throughout the world as the Labour movement. No one on this side of the House is blind to that fact, and we are all prepared to admit that there are in the ranks of the employers certain individuals who would willingly scrap the arbitration laws to repeat all the evils of the past. But we cannot forget that there are in the ranks of the employees individuals who would love to scrap the arbitration laws because they know that evil would ensue, aud that Mr. Jock Garden and his imps would be helped in their efforts to lead the way to revolution. Between those two sets of extremists stand a body of sane individuals who are anxious to see law and order applied to industrial as well as to ordinary civil affairs. Honorable members opposite are aware that their raison d’etre as a particular force is that the workers had the courage to fight for the placing on the statute-book of the legislation with which we are dealing to-day. Iri every rank of life will’ be found imperfection, and extremists on both sides would like to see the Arbitration Court scrapped; but the question we have to consider now is whether our arbitration law is to-day good enough to meet the difficulties ahead.
The Leader of the Opposition commenced his speech by saying that he saw in this bill an attempt to scrap arbitration. That was not a fair statement to make. In the first place, no one who heard, the Attorney-General, and certainly no. one who has had time to read and reflect upon his speech, can truthfully say that there was the slightest indication on his part that the Government intended to scrap the arbitration laws. These charges may perhaps be made on the platform and escape contradiction, but any one who reads the Hansard report of the Attorney-General’s speech will see that the Government stands four square for arbitration.
– The Attorney-General spoke with his tongue in his cheek.
– If we cannot give the Attorney-General credit for sincerity, it will bc hard to discuss this measure at all. I give such credit to the Leader of the Opposition. I believe that he was perfectly sincere; but, because he is an advocate for one side alone, he imagines things that do not really exist. It is unfortunate that a measure vitally affecting the interests and welfare of every man and woman in the community - the clothes they wear, the houses they live in and the food they eat - should be discussed wholly on party lines; those on one side declaring that they stand for a section only of the people, and those on the other having their honesty impugned when they say that they stand for justice for all sections of the community.
Let me take first the general statement of the honorable member that he sees in this bill an attack on arbitration. I shall refute that charge completely. There is no justification for it in the speech of the Attorney-General, nor, as I shall presently show, in the bill itself. The honorable member tried to buttress a wretched case by reference to the attempted deportation of Walsh and Johnson. I was among those who thought that those individuals were attempting to lead this country to wreck and ruin. It was evident to me that they were not only leading, but were trying to drive the unions along the route of revolution, and I felt that it would have been a good thing if men of their type could be sent out of the country. The deportation law was passed. But, as the honorable member has referred to the condemnation that he imagines to be pouring on the heads of the Ministry from all parts of Australia, let me ‘ remind him that the Government went to the country at the last election upon the Walsh and Johnson incident, and upon proposals some of which are contained in this very bill. What an overwhelming majority of the people then said, not through party newspapers, but by their votes at the ballot-box, was that the Government was on the right track, because it proposed to give a fair deal to all parties. The reference to this incident by the Leader of the Opposition was most unfortunate. He said that the Government had passed legislation which failed, and then had not the courage to take other legislative steps to do what it said it would do. What occurred was not due to want of courage; it was due to the fact that we had in power Ministers who, having made a mistake, did not intend to misuse their power. The deportees applied to the court, and, rather than take steps in this Parliament that would impel the court to give effect to what was desired, the Government allowed matters to remain as they were, and thus two individuals, who had been hissed from one end of the country to the other, were allowed, under the system of British justice that we enjoy, not only to escape deportation, but also to obtain costs and damages for the arrest to which they had been subjected. That incident was not to the discredit of the Government’; it was an occasion on which all right thinking men would say the Government did well.
The Leader of the Opposition referred to the case as instancing what is in the heart of the Government with regard to the working classes. But, despite the power the Government had of bringing down further legislation to impose the heavy punishment that had been intended for these individuals, punishment which the people had by their votes authorized, it preferred to leave matters as they stood, and not have it said that it had interfered with the course of justice.
If we eliminate the extremists on both sides, and look at the bill from the point of view of those who wish arbitration to succeed, there is quite a different story to tell from that narrated by the Leader of the Opposition. Those of us who can throw our minds back to the old days remember how men suffered, and what a fight they had to put up to obtain protection against certain classes of employers. We know how they had to organize to get their cases brought before a court, and how they eventually succeeded in eliminating from the economic conditions of Australia sweating and worse evils. Does not the Leader of the Opposition realize that since the advent of the Labour party great progress has been made by the industrial section of the community ? I give the Labour party credit for the initiation of industrial arbitration, but the present members of the party cannot step into dead men’s shoes and take to themselves that credit. The injustice of the past brought the Labour party into being, and those in the vanguard of the movement did wonderful work in the cause of social justice and economic advancement, despite the extremists on both sides. But we have now arrived at a time when the tribunals of this country erected under the arbitration law take care whenever application is made to them to see that sweating conditions do not exist. It is useless for the Leader of the Opposition to hark back to the time before the movement had erected tribunals to act as a barrier between employers and employees. Now we have these tribunals from north to south, and from east to west. They are busy day in and day out, through every month of the year, seeing that justice is done to the various labour organizations. We must discuss conditions as we find them, and not try to draw from accidental phrases in this bill the suggestion that we are going back to past conditions.
– Accidental phrases!
– The use of that term was unfortunate; what I wish to convey is that the Leader of the Opposition in taking sentences from their context, read into them some meaning not conveyed by the wording of the clauses from which they were taken.
– Does the honorable member suggest that I deliberately misrepresented the meaning of any clause in the bill?
– No; but the honorable member did misrepresent the provisions of the bill, and probably misled himself in regard to them. Unfortunately, he is filled with the spirit of the advocate, and did not look at the subject in the interest of the people as a whole.
– Does the honorable member’s party seek to abolish arbitration?
– The honorable member knows from what the Attorney-General has said that no one on this side of the House, even those who are hotly opposed to some of the actions of the union leaders, is against arbitration. The removal of the present arbitration system would spell chaos to industries into which we are trying to bring order. It is the want of peace and harmony that is the tremendous obstacle to Australia’s economic progress.
The Leader of the Opposition has misunderstood and misrepresented the speeches of the Prime Minister, and has endeavored to make them seem to conflict with the speech of the AttorneyGeneral on the second reading of the bill. I have heard the Prime Minister on many occasions lament, as all decent citizens do, no matter what side they take in politics, the economic distress that follows upon industrial disputes. The Leader of the Opposition quite lost the significance of the right honorable gentleman’s remarks. Nobody suggests that Australia is worse off industrially than other countries. No Australian preaches such a doctrine, and of all men in the House, the Prime Minister, who is as good an Australian as any one else here, would not do so. As an employer of labour, as I knew him before he entered politics, he endeavored to pave the way to co-partnership amongst his own employees, so that instead of being merely wage-earners, they would be co-partners with their employers in industry.
Mr.West. - Is the honorable member to be the next Minister for Trade and Customs ?
– The Prime Minister has lamented that economic strife occurs in Australia, and for a good reason.We have higher standards and ideals applied to our industrial conditions than any other part of the world, and that is a tremendous handicap in our competition with other countries. When we compete with nations overseas who have cheap labour and no arbitration courts, the fewer the obstacles in the way of selling our goods to advantage the better it is for us. While maintaining industrial ideals, and upholding to the utmost limit the remuneration and working conditions of those engaged in industry, it is essential that we should, by good will and harmony, remove whatever obstacles there are to the profitable sale of our goods overseas. The Prime Minister has always emphasized that argument, and no intelligent man in the country fails to endorse it. The object of this bill is to remove some of the difficulties that now present themselves. The Prime Minister’s statement with reference to the need of making our arbitration system work smoothly is not prompted by a desire to suggest that he does not believe in Australia. He has full faith in this country, but he wishes to secure its further progress. The Attorney-General had a similar object in bringing forward this bill.
I now come to the specific arguments that have been advanced by the Leader of the Opposition against this measure. The first argument of the honorable member was that this bill did away with the minimum wage. Where did he find that provision ? I can forgive him for having hobgoblins, as some minds are so pessimistic that they have nightmares during the day as well as at night; but I defy the honorable member or any of his colleagues to point to any clause in this bill which specifies that a minimum wage shall not have effect. There is not any suggestion of that sort in the measure, which stipulates very rightly that the court shall in future have some regard to the effect of any claim on industry. Now-a-days when applications come before the court it is not dealing with the elimination of sweating conditions, it is considering whether wages may be raised, hours shortened, or conditions improved. While one, through softness of heart, may be prepared to take leave of his senses, and say that hours must be shortened, wages increased, every worker provided with a palace in which to live, a Rolls Royce to drive, and other evidences of wealth, the obstacle in the way of such a. procedure is that there is not sufficient wealth in the country to allow it tobe followed.
– It would reduce dividends.
– If this debate is to he modelled in deference to the views of those who declare themselves definitely in favour of one section only of the community, rightly or wrongly, we can understand that every suggestion that will be advanced by the Government will be censured on the plea that it affects dividends, or something of that nature. Honorable members who pursue such a narrow policy do great injustice not only to themselves but, also, to their opponents. Every application that comes before the Arbitration Court is a request for more dividends out of industry, either for employees or employers, and the court has to consider the rights of other persons concerned. One can easily imagine that the employers and employees of an industry might come together and propose to inaugurate an agreement that would raise the price of boots to a prohibitive figure, but, because the men engaged in the clothing industry might not be able to inaugurate a similar agreement with their employers, they would be penalized. Can it be maintained that a court that is considering the granting of greater profits, either to employees or employers, is not under an obligation to consider the rights of others who may not be able to obtain advantages from the court.
– Is not the consumer entitled to consideration.
– The consumer is a third party, and his rights have to be preserved. All too long the cycle of rising wages and tariffs has been going on, without any resultant adequate benefit to the worker. I have experienced the direst poverty as well as enjoyed comfortable circumstances, and without hesitation I contend that ‘ a large portion of the increases iri’ wages that are granted to employees by the Arbitration Court do not benefit them because their purchasing power is not increased. In many cases wage increases cause clothes and other wearing apparel to increase in price, and the workers are penalized. That vicious circle has brought with it disastrous economic conditions to Australia, and it is time that the Arbitration Court had its attention directed to the needs of the consumer in every case where it has to consider whether employees or employers shall be granted more profits. This bill makes no attack on the principle of a minimum wage. All that is suggested to ; the court is that when fixing conditions at shall take into consideration the unfortunate position of those persons who have to buy the products of the industry concerned.
– Did not similar facilities exist before this clause was introduced ?
– Possibly, but not exactly in the same terms.
– We are objecting to the terms.
-J am definitely of the opinion that the court needs this indication - and it is nothing more than an indication. The court is merely asked to take into consideration certain things? It is not commanded, after taking those things into consideration, to alter the minimum wage. If an injustice is to be done to the purchasers of the commodity concerned, that injustice may be ‘avoided. If it cannot be avoided, the court will proceed as heretofore. The court will have greater powers than it previously possessed, and it is possible that the action which it will take will mitigate some of the evils that have emanated from our industrial arbitration.
The Leader of the Opposition says that he does not like the provision which allows employees and employers to como to an amicable and voluntary agreement. Why should they not do so? Previously when an agreement was arrived at, it was certified and registered in the court, and there it ended. Why should it end “there? If the employees find - as all employees with any sense do find - that they *can raise themselves from wage-earners to -co-partners in an industry why should they not do so? One realizes that there was a necessity for the introduction of an arbitration law, as some protection to those men who were being exploited by their employers in the past was essential. But now we are sending our boys and’ girls through free and compulsory educational systems in Australia, and we expect them to emerge from their training, intelligent and self-reliant individuals. They will not always, like horses, content to be fed, rugged and stabled. They will have ambition, and the way should be opened whereby they may elite. into industrial agreements with their employers, and establish their interest as copartners. Honorable members opposite appear to desire to keep them down in thi capacity of what they term “wage plugs.” If an opportunity is given to an employee to earn a little more, because of his ability or greater energies, he may later be able to share in the control and profits of the business. When honorable members opposite claim that that opportunity should not be granted to the cohorts of wage-earners whom they lead, they endeavour to prevent those wage-earners from realizing their ambitions. Undoubtedly when employees and employers come to a mutual agreement, and present it before thu Arbitration Court, they should not be bound by its continuance unless that is their desire. If employees find that their employers have tricked them, they still remain an organization, registered under the act, without need to apply to the Arbitration Court to have the agreement annulled. That is the reason why the Attorney-General has inserted in the bill a provision to the effect that if a voluntary arrangement is come to and put into operation without the court, neither party is bound by the agreement if it is found to be unsatisfactory, and no application need be made to have it annulled.
The Leader of the Opposition dealt with lockouts and strikes, and objected, where a lockout existed, to employees having the right to have a strike ‘ declared legal or, where a strike existed, for the employer to have a lockout declared legal. Evidently because his vision is purblind, the honorable member declares that the provision is only for the benefit of the employing class. It is nothing of the kind. It is available to both sides. The honorablemember wants to know why it should be inserted. There are times when an agreement is arrived at between two individuals or corporations. The terms of the agreement are obligatory on both sides for the period of the agreement. If one party to the agreement fails to honour his obligation, there is no reason why the other party should not be released from the agreement, whether he be employer or employee. The Attorney-General is merely introducing a principle of equity which obtains in the civil courts, but here neither side is liable to pay damages.
The honorable member dilated upon the penalities that he alleges appear in the bill, but sees nothing but fresh obligations imposed upon the worker. He could not have examined the bill very closely, or he may have been blinded by his passionate desire to serve only one class. For the first time there appears in this bill provisions in favour of unions and officers of unions that should have been made long ago. For 24 years the prohibition of industrial disputes has been in existence. During that 24 years the Labour party has been in office, but no attempt was made to alter the provision, indicating that that party does not regard an industrial dispute as a dislocation of industry, and therefore most unfortunate for Australia. The Labour party recognizes that when an award is made it should be observed by both parties. Under the law as it existed an organization that permitted a breach of an agreement was liable to a penalty of £1,000. Here in this bill, for the first time, the intelligence of the Attorney-General has altered that provision somewhat. The honorable gentleman realized that no union official would be able to meet a penalty of £1,000, and he is now imposing a penalty that can be collected. The penalty applicable to officers of an organization for a breach of an agreement has been reduced from £1,000 to £50, while a penalty of £1,000 may still be imposed upon an organization. The bill goes further. In the past if an organization was found guilty of a breach of the act it was liable to pay a penalty of £1,000. This is not something new. It is 24 years old, and it has remained on the statute-book without anyprotest from the
Labour party untilnow. It makes one think - though, perhaps, it may not actually be so - that the Labour party is trying to make it appear, for party purposes, that the present Government is proposing to bring in new penalties. Twenty-four years ago the penalty provided was £1,000, and the only thing which the Attorney-General has done is to reduce that penalty in the case of certain officers of an organization, or where an organization is able to bring before the court evidence to show that it has done everything possible, as a collective body, to force its members to obey the law. That being so, it makes one wonder what the Leader of the Opposition is talking about when he says that new penalties: have been imposed under this bill. As. a matter of fact, everything has been done; in this bill to make the penalties more lenient, and not more drastic.
– Prove that statement.
– He has just done so.
– The proof is here: The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) referred to the penalties imposed under this bill; but I contend that where any remodelling of the penalties has taken place, it has been, not in the direction of increasing them, but of reducing them.
– I ask the honorable member to prove that.
– The honorable member can prove it for himself by comparing the different paragraphs of the present act with the provisions of the new bill. In the present act there is a flat penalty of £1,000 imposed on an organization which commits a breach of the act. There is nothing in the act which makes any provision for a reduction of the penalty in favour of any officer of an organization.
– I can point to provisions in the bill imposing new penalties.
– There are new penalties, because new matters have been added; but the penalty for strikes has not been increased; reductions have been made on every hand. It is useless for the honorable member to say that, because penalties are provided in this bill, they are necessarily new, or greater than those in the act. The Leader of the Opposition wanted to know why the bill had been elaborated so as to include not only organizations and committees of management; but the members of the committees of management, the officers of an organization or branch of an organization, and the officers of a committee of a branch of an organization. The reason must be apparent. At the time the present act was passed, the capacity of an organization or its committee of management to avoid a penalty for a breach of the law was not fully known. Let me point out here that the law provides a penalty for any breach of the act. That is the intention of the present act, and no honorable member on the opposite side of the House has ever attempted to say that the penalties ought not to be invoked or applied. One knows from experience that an organization, through its officers or individual members, can do things that the organization itself could not do. The penalty clauses of this bill apply to employers as well as to employees, and if they are to be made effective they must be elaborated in such a way that no organization can escape them merely by telling one of its officers or members to do something contrary to the law. Under this bill it will not be possible for an employers’ organization to evade the responsibility of its action because it told Mr. John Smith to do something which it was not lawful to do itself. In order to make these penalties effective, it is necessary to see that the tools used by an organization for the purpose of breaking the law are held responsible as well as the organization itself.
The Leader of the Opposition said that he was in favour of secret ballots. I am very glad to hear it. He would be a poor democrat who would not be in favour of the secret ballot, but the fact remains that, in spite of their rules, many unions do not hold secret ballots.
– It is not always necessary.
– I have had sufficient experience to know that members of unions are sometimes stampeded into strikes by resolutions carried at noisy meetings where the more responsible members have no chance of making themselves heard. It is very necessary, when deciding whether or not a strike shall be held, that the bread-winner should have an opportunity of expressing his untrammelled opinion. Why should a man be stampeded into a strike, and his wife and family be deprived of bread and butter, because a small, noisy section takes charge of a meeting and howls him down. These secret ballots can only be demanded by the men themselves. The Leader of the Opposition ridiculed the idea of ten members applying to the court for such a ballot. He deprecated the idea of ten men, who might keep their names secret, having the power to force a ballot to be taken. However, those who have had experience of industrial turmoil, know that there are persons who will not stop short of doing injury to the persons as well as to the property of men who oppose their will. It is for the protection of members of unions that this provision is put into the bill. The Leader of the Opposition is wrong in saying that ten men, unknown and unseen, can approach the court and secure an order for the holding of a secret ballot without any opportunity being afforded to the other members to have, their views heard. There is no such provision in the bill. It is provided here that if the applicants can establish their bona-fides, and satisfy the court that the matter is sufficiently important, an order may be made for the holding of a ballot. In order that the court may be satisfied on this point, it is necessary that the other side shall be heard.
– I claim that it is not. Will the honorable member quote the clause ?
– The provision to which I am referring is 56a. Every one associated with the dispute has a right to be heard before the court, and argument will be presented by both sides. The idea that a court will, in some subterraneous way, make a declaration without any one other than the applicants knowing anything about it, is entirely wrong. Ample notice will be given, so that all those who object to the holding of a ballot may be heard. But when the court is satisfied as to the bona fides of the applicants, and the importance of the subject, it will order that a secret ballot be held. If, after hearing argument, the court comes to the conclusion that a secret ballot is necessary in the interests of the members of the union, no reasonable person can object to an order for such a ballot being made. There is no such provision in the act as it now stands, and this amendment is, therefore, necessary. What objection can any one, except those who are battling for the extremists, have to this clause? If their only object is to secure fair play, and a democratic vote for every member of the union, they can have no logical objection to ten members of a union going to the court and asking for a secret ballot. Let me remind the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), who spoke about this clause bringing down upon the Government the condemnation of the whole country, that I, and many others on this side of the House representing industrial constituencies, fought our last election campaign on this issue. We promised that, if we were returned, this amendment to the Arbitration Act would be made, and we were returned by an overwhelming majority. In bringing in this measure the Government has taken another step towards redeeming its election promises.
The Leader of the Opposition pointed out that clause 61 of the present act, which prohibits members from resigning from an organization, either of employers or employees, during the pendency of a dispute, is to be repealed by this bill. I wish to ask honorable members who are not wedded to one side only, but who want to see fair play for all, whether there can be any objection to a member of an employers’ organization or an industrial union resigning his membership if his organization takes some official action of which he deeply disapproves.
– The fine of £100 can still be inflicted.
– It is an extraordinary thing that an honorable member who claims to be one of the greatest democrats in the country can be prepared to force a man to remain in a union with the actions of which he strongly disagrees. I am referring now to the clause dealing with resignations from an organization while a dispute is still before the court. Let me mention my own organization, the legal union. If the lawyers’ union embarked on a course of action of which I was deeply resentful, I should feel that I was suffering a grave injustice if I had not the right to resign from it. It should be the inalienable right of every one who joins an organization to resign from it if he thinks it is doing something which is not right. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) is not restricting freedom by this clause ; he is widening it.
I have dealt with the specific objections raised by the Leader of the Opposition to this bill, and I do not intend to trespass further on the patience of the House by reviewing arguments which might or might not be advanced for or against the measure. The Attorney-General and this Government are to be complimented on bringing in this bill. In part, they are carrying out the promises given to the electors during the last election campaign. They are reducing, and not increasing, the penalties in the present act. Where there are fresh clauses in the bill that involve penalties, it will be discovered that they are, elaborations of clauses in the present act which also embody penalties, but which were ineffective because they were evaded. In giving the members of unions control of their own organizations, despite the action of a noisy minority, this bill will materially assist the cause of unionism. The bill in every respect widens, rather than restricts, the opportunities for economic progress in this country.
I have no hesitation whatever in affirming that if an investigation were made at the end of this debate it would be discovered that the arguments advanced against the bill had no foundation in fact, or were based upon a misinterpretation of the provisions of the measure, or were enunciated by persons who represented only one section of the community, and had no desire to see equal fair play for the employers, the employees and the consumers. My reason for saying this is that in many cases the constituency which selects honorable members opposite to contest the electoral divisions which they represent in this House is controlled by noisy agitators who have no ambition above the advancement of their own interests. I feel sure that the day is not far distant when there will be placed upon our statute-book a measure to provide for the holding of secret ballots under proper conditions for the selection of candidates for the Senate as well as for this House. There can be no legitimate objection to the provision for holding secret ballots in connexion with the administration of our industrial law, and the industrialists of this country will, I believe, be grateful to the Government for inserting this provision in the bill. It will give them the opportunity of conducting a secret ballot in which they can express their own opinions without hindrance or intimidation.
I have nothing but praise for the Government for having introduced the bill and I trust that it will receive the approval of the great majority of members of the House.
.- The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) presents an interesting study. In the stadiums of Sydney there are held every Wednesday night what are called try-outs, at which the vigorous youth of our suburban areas gather with the object of determining who are the best men. They fight with all their might, and, display their prowess in every way within their power, so that they may win the’ prizes which are offered. The honorable member for Barton is evidently a trier for a trophy that’ is well worth a contest. In short, he is endeavouring to secure the portfolio of the late Minister for Trade and Customs.
– The same may be said of the honorable member for Darling in connexion with the Deputy Leadership of the Labour party.
– But there is this difference, that I have secured the position. I anticipate that there will be a number of aspirants for the portfolio to which I have referred. I advise subsequent triers, who may participate in this debate, to rely a little more than the honorable member for Barton has done upon argument, logic and facts and a good deal less upon veiled reference to all kinds of things not connected with this bill. It is quite evident that the honorable member has not studied this complicated measure.. I go so far as to say that although on five separate occasions he reprimanded the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) for misrepresenting certain clauses of the bill, he has in it devoted to the study of it one-tenth of the time that my honored leader has done. The bill requires a good deal of study, but perhaps the honorable member for
Barton may be excused to some extent ou the ground that he has recognized in the new measure a number of old friends in new guise.
This bill i3 one of the most farreaching pieces of industrial legislation ever submitted for the consideration of a deliberative assembly such as this is. It is an attempt to strike a fatal blow at trade unionism; but like previous attempts to do that, it will not maim, much less kill, this great movement. The bill is political rather than industrial. I decline to believe that the Attorney-General was sincere when he cried to the heavens in his second-reading speech that the desire of the Government in introducing the measure was to bring peace into industry.
Numerous attempts have been made to stem the tide of trade- unionism in Australia, but they have all failed. Many years ago, what was known as the Irvine Coercion Act was passed by the Victorian Parliament, with the object of meeting conditions brought about by the Victorian railways strike. Certain provisions of that measure were considered in those days to be extremely reactionary, and it was thought that they would impose great hardship upon the working classes. But those provisions were of a milk and water nature compared with certain provisions in this bill. Years ago the late Sir Charles Gregory Wade was instrumental iri getting the New South Wales Parliament to pass a measure known as the Wade Coercion Act, with the object of destroying the organization of the coal-miners of Nev.’ South Wales. Under its provisions, Mr. Peter Bowling, one of the leaders of the coal-miners, was arrested, handcuffed, leg-ironed, and thrown into prison. But a few months after he was released he was regarded as just as good a citizen as the Premier of the Government which sponsored the act under which he was gaoled. The Irvine Act did not in any way hinder the growth of trade unionism in the Victorian railways service, nor did the- Wade Coercion Act have the slightest detrimental effect upon the development of trade unionism among the coal miners of New South Wales.
But perhaps the honorable member for Barton was chosen to speak on this measure this afternoon because he was a member of the New South Wales Parliament in 1918, when the Beeby Industrial Bill was placed before it by the Fuller Government. The honorable member was at that time, as now, an aspirant for Ministerial office. He realized his ambitions on that occasion. He had a good deal to do with the passing of the Beeby Act. There is a strange likeness between that measure and the bill now before us, which suggests to me that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) consulted it frequently during the preparation of this bill.
– I assure the honorable member that I have not seen the act to which he has referred, and that this bill was drawn without any reference to it.
– I accept the assu rance of the Attorney-General on that point; but I feel confident that the draftsmen who put the bill into its present form perused the Beeby Act: That measure is the only piece of industrial legislation in Australia which contains provisions for the holding of a secret ballot, though such provisions are contained in certain industrial legislation passed by the New Zealand Parliament. But the secret ballot provisions,of the New South Wales act are not nearly so comprehensive as those contained in this bill. There is’, for instance, no power in that act for the court to appoint returning officers to take possession of the whole machinery of the union for the purpose of conducting a secret ballot. The Beeby Act contains a provision that a person who takes part in the instigation of an illegal strike or aids the holding of it, or refuses to take part in a secret ballot shall be liable to a fine of £50 and six months imprisonment. Is it only an extraordinary coincidence that exactly the same penalties are provided in this bill? The Beeby Act provides that any newspaper which shall publish any matter which advises or instigates the holding of an illegal strike shall be fined £100. A similar provision appears in this bill. The Beeby Act provides that the penalty for declaring any commodity “ black “ shall be £10, or three months’ imprisonment. This bill provides that the penalty on any person who commits such an act shall he £20, and on an officer of any organization which does so. £100.
The Government has not gone so far as to attempt to include in this bill the provisions of the Beeby Act in respect to the use of union funds for political purposes. These provisions were incorporated in the Trades Union Act passed last year by the House of Commons, a measure which was regarded by the British Labour party and the trade unions of Great Britain as extremely reactionary. But a comparison of it with this bill convinces me that the Tory Government of the United Kingdom has a great deal to learn in regard to reactionary legislation. In an attempt to undermine trade unionism, a great deal of legislation has been directed exclusively against one section of the community. The first arbitration measure was passed by this Parliament with an honest desire to provide machinery by which employers and employees might be brought together in conference, and thus avoid constant industrial strife and turmoil. We have advanced a long way towards the stage at which such disputes may be settled by conciliation, agreement, and the determinations of arbitrators. This bill, instead of furthering that progress, is wholly and solely a punitive measure, directed against the trade unionists. Even the abundant penalties prescribed in the original Arbitration Act did not satisfy this Government; so it enacted the Crimes Act, which provides that if the GovernorGeneral is of opinion that serious industrial disturbance exists, he may issue a proclamation, after which any person who takes part in a strike or continues to strike, or incites others to strike, shall be liable to twelve months’ imprisonment, and, if not born in Australia, deportation. Under the authority of that oppressive legislation, men’s homes may be entered without warrant; at any hour of the day or night men may be torn from their homes, and, without being afforded an opportunity to consult their families or legal advisers, committed to prison. By it, for the first time in the history of Australia, industrial offences were brought under the criminal code. The bill now before us does a great deal more to bring industrial matters into the criminal court. One cannot but admire the extraordinary mental agility of this Government in devising methods of imposing penalties upon the workers. It even went to the length of introducing into the immigration law provisions similar to those contained in the Grimes Act. Under the amended Immigration Act, Messrs. “Walsh and Johnson were incarcerated, and convicted by a picked tribunal which, to say the least, was not partial to them. When they appealed, however, their conviction was quashed. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) spoke of the magnanimity of the Government in taking no further action against those men. As a lawyer, he knows perfectly well that the Government overstepped the bounds of decency, as well as the law, when it imprisoned Messrs. Walsh and Johnson and endeavoured to deport them. The attempt of the honorable member to give kudos to the Government for not further prosecuting them is another indication of the mental agility of the conservative element in this House.
The Government, apparently swollen with arrogance as a result of repeated victories at the polls, believing that it is the salt of the earth, and goaded by every meeting of directors, the Employers’ Federation, and other organizations which represent vested interests and contribute to ministerial electioneering funds, has introduced this measure, which can be regarded only as a direct challenge to the workers. It has decided to make a last effort to stem the tide of trade unionism and undermine the power of the workers. But that power is great, and the division between the true and the false is but a hair’s breadth. With only a slight tip of the political scales the present Government will become the Opposition, and the Opposition the Government. Apparently the Government believes that by passing this legislation and enforcing it at a favorable opportunity, resentment will be aroused in the workers which will create that strike and revolutionary atmosphere so beloved of honorable members opposite. The tide of democracy cannot be stemmed by these puny measures; it will ignore I he behests of the Bruces and Pages as the waves ignored the commands of Canute.
The Tories of England and other countries qf the Old World must look with amazement upon the reactionary legislation to which this young country has given birth. My most diligent search has failed to find its equivalent on the statutebooks of any country. Nothing to equal it has been proposed in England, or even in Fascist-ridden Italy. To democratic Australia is left the unenviable distinction of leading the backward march of reaction. I can imagine my colleagues of the British Labour party perusing a copy of this bill and thanking God that the Bruce-Page Government is not in office in the United Kingdom. One wonders what part the Employers’ Federation took in the drafting of the bill. The familiar phrase about overlapping awards makes one suspicious. Every self-respecting director, manager, foreman, and pannikin boss for the last ten years has been deploring overlapping awards. The AttorneyGeneral makes three stabs at this evil, and it is to be hoped that his thrusts promise some benefit to those whose interests he is seeking to protect.
The bill purports to be fair, and in theory impartially consigns both the bosses and the employees to the dungeons. So we are told that any reference to an organization applies to an organization of employers or employees. Imagine the president of the. Employers’ Federation languishing in gaol for a breach of this legislation ! There are in Australia 149 organizations of employees with a membership of 690,000; there are only 27 organizations of employers, and one does not delude himself into the belief that this bill will, or even can be, applied to them. It is aimed directly at the workers, and every clause has been framed, on the assumption that the workers are acting, and will continue to act, to the detriment of this country; they are prejudged, their guilt is assumed, and they are to be punished under this legislation. So far from the bill being impartial, it is directed solely against the liberties of organized labour. The principles of conciliation and arbitration are conspicuously absent. Such provisions as purport to be conciliatory are nullified by others which preclude the possibility of bodies of workers and employers meeting together and arriving at an amicable settlement of their difficulties. Always the judge will dominate them; he must make certain investigations before he will even certify a memorandum of agreement between them.
The 690,000 men and women who are organized in various’ trade unions constitute a very powerful and influential body. I do not propose to speak about the origin and growth of trade unionism ; suffice it is to say that the greed and vindictiveness of a few employers, and the sweating, long hours, low-v. wages, and the degrading poverty of the workers, compelled labour to organize industrially and politically. Every year brings an increase in the membership of the trade unions, which now wield such political and industrial power that their place in society, as well as their rights and liberties, are generally recognized by all but the ultra-conservative, and even they will not gainsay the incalculable good that unionism has won for the struggling workers. It has raised wages to a fair standard, and the workers instead of living in degrading poverty, have been enabled to feed, clothe, and house their families decently, and to educate their children. It has done marvellous things in. a short period, even in less than four- decades. It has undoubtedly conferred large benefits upon at least 90 per cent, of the people of Australia. When the purchasing power of the masses of the people is limited, trade and commerce must also be restricted. To-day the limited purchasing power of over 120,000 men and women, who are out of work, is noticeably decreasing the circulation of money, and the result is a moribund and languishing state of trade and commerce. In Australia we have always conducted our organizations openly. We have not had to resort to secret associations such as were formed in days gone by in the older countries of the world; but this bill if given effect will inevitably force the workers of this country to band together in secret organization.
The bill has been drafted by a body of men who do not understand the workers and the industrial conditions of this country. They could not even understand and visualize the effect of the first draft of the bill. A few months ago the Attorney-General introduced this measure and dealt with several principles underlying it, many of which are highly offensive to members of the working class: The bill was laid on the table and was discussed only by the Attorney-General, yet to-day we have before us three pages of amendments. It is indeed a great pity that this Government has no supporters with a knowledge of the industrial movement of Australia or of the psychology of the workers. The dusty and legal terminology of the High Court of Australia and of the lower courts frequented by the Attorney-General and his lawyer friends who are behind the Employers’ Federation and all organizations of employers in this country, is not suited for the wording of legislation to promote industrial peace.
The honorable member for Barton sought to critize the interpretation by the Leader of the Opposition of that portion of the bill dealing with lockouts and strikes. The honorable member and also the Attorney-General sought to bolster up their case from the bill, the former attempting unsuccessfully to make it appear as though the Leader of the Opposition had wilfully misrepresented the provision in question, but for the edification of the honorable member I shall quote from the bill itself. Subclause 6 of proposed new clause 7 reads : -
Upon an order being made under this section declaring that a lockout exists in the industry or a section or part of the industry, anything in the nature of a strike (lone hi that industry or in any section or part of that industry shall not, while the order remains in force, be a breach of the act or of any award or order of the court.
The Attorney-General, when he said that under that provision a small section of an industry could not bring about the stoppage of the whole of that industry, apparently did not fully understand the bill. The Leader of the Opposition made a complete reply, and with him the Attorney-General reluctantly agreed.
– That is not so.
– The AttorneyGeneral in his speech instanced an establishment; he did not even deal with an industry.
– The clause covers that case, which is quite different from saying that it is confined to that case.
– Take, for instance, the case of a firm in Sydney such as the Clyde Engineering Company Limited, which manufacture agricultural machinery. The section of workers manufacturing bolts may go out on strike. Under the bill it would be competent for the Clyde management to lockout all their employees after having procured a declaration from the court that a strike exists.
– Only after the court had so declared.
– If the court decides that a strike exists, then the employer may lockout all his .employees. The clause goes further, because in a case such as I have referred to the other engineering establishments in Sydney might also lockout their employees, and thus arrest the whole of the industry. The bill really legalizes lock-outs by bringing economic pressure to bear upon the workers to make them more amenable to the discipline which some employers, aided and abetted by this Government, wish to impose upon them. The honorable member for Barton spoke of the remissions that are being made under the bill. He knows perfectly well that there are quite a number of additional penalties imposed.
Let me instance some of them. Section 42 of the act provides a penalty of £10 for hindering or obstructing a judge. Proposed new section 56f provides a penalty of £50 or imprisonment for six months for obstructing the taking of a secret ballot. Proposed new section 5Sf provides a penalty of £50 for refusing to carry out the order of the court. Proposed new section 72 provides a penalty for refusing to supply certain information, of £100 in the case of an organization or branch, and in the case of a secretary or other prescribed officer, £2 for each week in default. Section 83, as proposed to be amended, provides a penalty of £100 for contempt of court. Proposed new section 83a provides a penalty of £100 or imprisonment for six months or both, for creating a disturbance near the court. Section 84 of the act provides a penalty of £100 for refusing to give evidence or ‘to produce books.
– Some of the penalties are contained in the act of 1904.
– The AttorneyGeneral has given the lie direct to the honorable member for Barton by interjecting that some of these penalties are already provided iii the act. There have been no remissions in the following penalties in the original act: - Hindering a judge, £10; disobeying an order of the court; refusing to give evidence, £100; disclosing trade secrets, £500 or three months’ imprisonment. There have, however, been new penalties imposed as follows : - 58f. Non-observance of order of court regarding observance of rules, £50; 72a. Refusal to forward information to Registrar, £100; 72a. Refusal to appoint qualified auditor, £50; 72a. (3) Auditor failing to report to Registrar, £50 ; 83a. Disturbance near court, £100 or six months’ imprisonment; 86a. Boycott of goods, £20 for person, £100 for officer; 86b. Imposing illegal penalties on members, £500 ; S6c. Moving motion held to be abusive, £20 ; 86d. Newspaper publishing such resolution, £100. . The penalties in some instances have been increased, but in only one case lias there been any remission.
Under one provision of the bill, a member of the committee of management of an organization or branch of an organization may render the union liable if, in the opinion of the court, he is responsible for a strike. Again, I say that the drafting of this legislation shows that the persons responsible for it have no knowledge of the industrial movement. The Australian Workers’ Union covers some 60 industries in Australia, a number of which are under Federal awards. If a member of a small section of that organization, say an obscure committee of management, arrives at a decision which precipitates a crisis - and he may have had complete justification for doing so - the whole organization is liable to a fine of £1,000; but if the member responsible for the crisis is dismissed or expelled from the union, the fine is to be £100 for an offence of which the Australian Workers’ Union may Lave had no knowledge or evidence. This is what may happen. The Australian Workers’ Union, with its ramifications extending throughout Australia, has a constitution which provides for the appointment of committees of management, and there are such committees all over Australia. They have power to take certain action in respect of settlement of disputes and the fixation of wages and conditions. That union could not prevent an expelled member from obtaining a ticket. For instance, a person expelled in Queensland could cross the border and obtain a ticket from a New South Wales branch and no questions would be asked. He may be shearing, cane cutting, or constructing railways. After being given his ticket he may be appointed as a representative to act on behalf of the union, and be given a responsible position. In such a case the union could be fined £1,000. I admit that the organization has certain responsibilities, but it should not be held responsible for the action of obscure members. Some protection should be given the union. Surely the Government, in its desire to protect the employers of this country, should give some little consideration to the protection of organizations of employees. The bill does not pretend to do this.
Then, again, the honorable member for Barton strongly criticized the Leader of the Opposition for claiming that one of the effects of the proposed amendment of section 24 of the act, and of proposed new section 25d, would be to make ir possible for the court to award less than the minimum wage. The honorable member apparently has not given sufficient study to the bill, or else he is attempting to “put over” a huge bluff. He may have been able to “ get away with “ that sort of talk in the New South Wales legislature; but he cannot do it in this parliament. Section 24 provides that an agreement shall have the same effect as an award, and the bill proposes that the following proviso be added : -
Provided that the court. may refuse to certify any such memorandum if it is of opinion that the agreement is not in settlement of an industrial dispute or contains clauses which the court has no power to insert in awards, or that it is not in the public interest that it should be certified.
Proposed new section 25d, dealing with the economic position, reads -
The court shall, before making any award or certifying any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry or industries concerned.
It is mandatory on the judge to make an investigation of the economic conditions of the industry or industries concerned, and he must also make au investigation of the effect of awards upon the community in general. Does that mean that the judge will investigate the history of the employers’ companies? Does it mean that watered stock and fiscal influences will be taken into consideration? Will the judge constitute himself a royal commission? Are powers to be given to him under this act which he does not now enjoy under the Constitution, but which at various referendums the Commonwealth Government has endeavoured to secure? For many years there has been a constant fight between the workers and a section of the employers, who are endeavouring to break down the basic wage. In the pastoral industry, for instance, employers have told the court that they cannot pay the award claimed; but on every occasion the union has been able to prove that they can pay it. If a burden is imposed upon the people, owing to the tariff protection given to an industry, it is borne by the whole of the people and not merely by a. section of it. We have established a system of bounties to assist certain industries that cannot be protected by a tariff, and the cost of that system is met by the community as a whole. The principle is enunciated from time to time by conservatives, such as the members of the Employers’ Federation and similar organizations, that, if an industry is languishing, the employees should be content to accept less than the basic wage. That principal is re-affirmed in this bill, which has received the blessing of the Attorney-General and the Government I have no doubt that the measure also has the unanimous blessing of the Employers’ Federation and similar organizations. It gives power to the court to say that this or that industry cannot afford to pay the basic wage. It is no use any honorable member trying to cloud the issue so far as that provision is concerned. If the court is to make an investigation regarding the history of every company connected with the cases brought before it and the effect of awards upon the industries concerned, we shall require. 50 or 60 judges to hear the claims likely to be brought forward at the present time.
In order that the people may be led to believe that the Government has conciliatory desires, portions of the bill deal with conciliation; but in these we find provisions that positively prevent the conciliatory settlement of disputes. I have just mentioned one of them, and have shown that the bill provides machinery to bring the parties together, to arrive at an amicable settlement, but contains other provisions that completely nullify its effect. The Government cannot offer an olive branch to the workers with one hand - and a miniature olive branch at that - if in the other hand a big stick is held over them. The Government says, in effect, “ Gentlemen, let us be conciliatory and arrive at .some equitable arrangement for the carrying on of industry “ ; but at the same time it demands that the unions shall relinquish control of their domestic affairs and allow the court to take possession of the machinery of their offices.
If the Government is in earnest about conciliation, it can resort to the Industrial Peace Act. That is an admirable measure, designed with a knowledge of the industrial conditions of Australia, but that cannot be said of the bill under review. This proposal will bring about a system of espionage. No matter what Labour organization one may take, a certain percentage of its members will be amenable at any time to the employers’ wishes. In any of the big industrial organizations, probably 10 per cent., or, may be, up to 15 per cent, of the employees are merely ticket unionists, who are prepared to sign requests to the court for secret ballots. Under proposed new section 56c, any number of members of an organization, not less than ten, may demand a secret ballot.
– Does that apply to the employers ?
– No. It is not intended to do so.
– It applies to every organization.
– Only to those that are registered.
– “ Organization “ means any organization registered pursuant to the act.
– The Minister may tell that tale outside to those who do not understand industrial conditions and legislation; but I remind him that honorable members on this side are not children to be misled by such specious arguments. The honorable member for Barton said that the court must make an investigation before ordering a secret ballot. He claimed that the judge would not be compelled to take evidence, and then decide whether or not a secret ballot should be taken. I have looked carefully through the bill, and can find only one reference to any investigation to be made by the judge. Sub-section 3 of proposed new section 56c 3 of proposed new section 56o, states -
If a judge is satisfied that ten of the persons so applying are members of the organization and that the application is bona fide and relates to a matter of substantial importance the judge may give directions for a secret ballot to be taken by the organization or the branch upon the question with or without provision for absent voting, or may give directions for the conduct of a secret ballot (with or without such provision) under the control of an officer of the court.
There is nothing in the bill to compel the judge to take evidence from officers of the organization. Proposed new section 56d provides -
The court may order, at any stage of the proceedings in relation to a dispute, that any matter upon which the court thinks fit to ascertain the views of the members of an organization or of a branch of an organization which is a party to the dispute submitted to a vote of the members of the organization or of the branch thereof taken by secret ballot (with or without provisions for absent voting) in accordance with directions given by the court.
But it is not mandatory on the judge to take evidence in that regard. Again, clause 56e provides, “If upon complaints made to the court and after such investigations as the court thinks proper….. “ That is the only place where an investigation is mentioned, and even there it is not mandatory upon the judge to call officers of the organization to give evidence in rebuttal of the statements of the ten secret men. In order to make sure that ample time shall be given to the employers to bring about turmoil and strife in an organization, the AttorneyGeneral has brought down an amendment which provides that if within 21 days, ten members, whether individually or collectively, lodge an application for a secret ballot, the applications shall be treated as constituting a single application. There is no intention to call evidence in support of the application for the secret ballot. The new amendment provides that the application for a secret ballot shall be enclosed within an envelope, which shall be marked, “ Secret Ballot.” Any person other than the registrar who dares to open that envelope shall be fined £100.
– Order! I ask the honorable member not to go too much into detail, as the amendment is not yet before the House.
– I have been handed an amendment in this chamber, therefore it is before the House, and must be taken into consideration when one is dealing with the bill.
– The honorable member is out of order in making more than a passing reference to an amendment, which, although circulated, may perhaps not be moved.
– I can help the honorable member by saying that I propose to move the amendment.
– That does not make the reference in order.
– The utmost secrecy will be maintained in all details concerning the ballot. I confirm the statement of the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that this party does not object to secret ballots. It is the established custom of the trade unions of this country to have secret ballots on most industrial questions. But we do object to this Government, through the agency of the Arbitration Court, taking secret ballots of this nature, impoverishing the unions and assisting to smash instead of help industrial organizations. Under the provisions of this bill an employer can, with the assistance of ten or more members, keep a union in a continuous state of turmoil. There is no matter concerning the members of a union upon which a secret ballot cannot be demanded, and the judge can, and I have no doubt will, on many occasions, grant an application for a ballot without consulting the officials of the organization concerned. Any system which allows a judge to arrive at a determination without taking evidence is immoral, and should not be tolerated. This legislation provides that evidence may be dispensed with, and there are no safeguards to protect an organization from personation by members.
– That is very important, and a plank should be inserted to cover the omission.
– The bill is of such a character that no matter how many planks were inserted it could not be made efficient, particularly against personation by members of a union. When an application is received for a secret ballot the registrar opens the envelope containing the application. The application is signed by ten alleged members of a union. It is shown to the judge, and only he and the registrar are to know the names of the applicants. How can they certify that the applicants are bona fide members of the union? There should be a provision that the judge must send an officer of the court to interview the applicants, take their signatures and compare them with those on the application. Otherwise there is no means of indentification. It is possible for a lawyer representing an employer to get any Tom, Dick or Harry to sign ten names, which appear on the list in the court which is available to any employer, and send the application to the judge, without guaranteeing that the applicants are bona fide members of the union. [Extension of time granted.’] That permits personation to take place, and no safeguard is granted to the organization. The judge can not only take possession of the books of a union to assist him to take a ballot of the members, but an officer of the court may go into the union office and practically take control of it. He may order that this and that shall be done. The Arbitration Court judge can determine the very question to be submitted on the ballot-paper. The union, its officers, executive council, committee of management or branch management have absolutely no say as to the language in which the ballot-paper shall be couched, once the court takes possession of the office. Lack of knowledge’ on the part of the Government has caused it, before the bill has been discussed, to propose to omit quite a considerable slice of clause 47. There was a stipulation that no alteration of the rules of . an organization should be made unless approved by a vote of the members of the organization. That was one of the most ridiculous clauses in the bill, and I cannot make myself believe that it was drafted by the Attorney-General. Whoever drafted it shows a complete lack of knowledge of the conditions of large organizations in Australia. It would be an absolute impossibility to adhere to that clause and conduct an organization. I am pleased that the good sense of the Attorney-General has prevailed, causing him to modify the clause. It is a great pity that he does not allow his good sense to prevail and omit practically the whole of the bill. There was also a clause provided that, upon deregistration, an organization shall be wound up. Evidently some of the Attorney-General’s enthusiastic employer friends convinced him that the funds and property of the organization should be apportioned among the remaining members of the union, or that they should be handed over to a reformed association of the remaining members. The honorable gentleman spoke in favour of the provision but, before it could be discussed, his better judgment prevailed and he decided that it should not be proceeded with. One wonders whence such clauses emanated. Evidently they come from people who have no knowledge of the workings of industrial organizations in Australia. Provisions are set out which cannot be administered.
If a community regards a law with contempt and refuses to abide by it, no government in the world can enforce it. From time to time, laws of an intolerant character have been passed and the people have disregarded them.
When a government realizes that the people disregard and hold a law in contempt, it usually has sufficient imagination and native wit not to endeavour to administer that law.- The Government should see that this legislation is not brought into operation. The bill allows vindictive attacks to be made on trade unionism. It allows interference with the domestic affairs of trade unions, which have hitherto been properly conducted, their rules and regulations being registered either in the Federal or State courts. If this bill is administered, it will compel such organizations to work underground, to carry out their operations in secrecy and endeavour to evade legislation of this character.
.- In addressing myself to this subject, I wish to express my surprise at the lack of cogent reasons advanced by members of the Opposition to show that the bill should not be passed. For some weeks the Opposition has been fulminating against it, yet neither in the speeches which I have read, nor in the two which I have heard from the Leader of the Opposition and the Deputy Leader, has any structural alteration of importance been suggested. I maintain that the bill is an honest attempt to improve the present system of arbitration, and deal out evenhanded justice, not to one section alone, but to every section of the community. Not one word has been said to-day by honorable members on the other side to show that there is anything in this bill that is unfair to the unions, the general public, or to the consumers, who have for too long been forgotten when the subject of arbitration was under discussion.
Let me preface my remarks on this bill with a few observations on trade unionism itself. It is true that many years ago trade unions in England and other countries had to hold their meetings in secret, but it is grotesque to say that anything in this bill, would compel the same sort of thing to be done in Australia. It is exaggerated statements of that kind by responsible labour leaders that deceive the workers, making them believe that things exist which have no foundation in fact. I do not suppose that there is an honorable member on the other side of the House, let alone on this side, who really believes that this bill will lead to the formation of any secret society, yet we have heard the opposite view gravely advanced here this afternoon. In Russia, right up to the period of the war, trade unions were secret societies, but we know that to-day they are an integral part of the Soviet system of government. In England trade unions “were suppressed all through the centuries until the dawn of the manufacturing era in the eighteenth century. By the acts of 1871 and 1876 trade unions were allowed to assume a character which has remained fundamentally unaltered to the present day. There are still only 4,190,000 workers belonging to trade, unions in England, and when this is. compared with the total number of workers, it is evident that unionism is not so strong in the Old Country as it is in Australia. In the United States of America trade unionists number 4,443;000. In both of those countries trade unionism has been -until recently entirely industrial, as it should be. Samuel Gompers, the pioneer- of the labour movement in America, and its leader for 43 years, was a persistent advocate of industrial unionism. His successor is W. H. Green, who likewise is not desirous of using the unions for political purposes, but is anxious to secure for them co-operative arrangements with the employers. No effort is- being made in .New South “Wales or Australia to-day to conduct the unions on similar lines. The .American unions have gone into banking, and have established 30 banks with deposits aggregating over 100,000,000 dollars. Nothing of that kind is being done here by the unions, which are being used simply as political levers.
I wish to quote the views, on unionism of some ‘ of the industrial leaders of England. The following is an extract from, an article entitled “ Industrial Peace.” by “W…F. “Watson in the January issue of the Fortnightly Review-
Addressing the delegates at the last annual meeting of the National Union of Railwaymen, the general secretary, Mr. M. J. H. Thomas, said - “Industrial peace is worth fighting for, and 1 I ‘ refuse to associate myself with any policy that lays it down that the workers, especially in the railway, industry, are not to associate” with others in ensuring the success of their industry. Can you do otherwise than realize that unless you make a success of your own industry as workers, you must inevitably suffer.”
Where does one find the leaders of trade unions or Labour’s political leaders in Australia giving advice of that kind to the unions here ? The article continues -
In a vigorous article contributed .to an evening contemporary, and entitled “.Fighting has failed.” Mr. Ph i iii v Snowden said - “Both the great body of employers and trade unionists have no sympathy with the reactionary .elements in their ranks. Enlightened employers and experienced trade unionists are beginning to realize the suicidal policy of internal strife.”.
Mr. J. R. Clynes in a speech at Sheerness recently, stated - “ I am eager for peace, <and believe that it is the workers ,interest to reach a good understanding, and if possible fix agreed terms especially after the exhaustion and uncertainties pf recent years.” “ I stand for peace,” declared Mr. Ramsay McDonald to a recent’ meeting of South Wales miners, “ because I believe it is the only way for you to rebuild your homes.” “ I do not agree with peace at any price,” says Mr. John Bromley, “ but I am not going out of my way to denounce every approach made in that direction.” The redoubtable Mr. Ben Tillett, who has had as much to do with strikes as any other trades union official, in a speech at Barrow-in-Furness expressed his pleasure at the fact that “ The great combination of employers were seeking an understanding with the mighty factors of Labour.”
Such well know leaders as Messrs. George Lansbury, C. T. Cramp, Arthur Pugh, J. T. Brownlie, Frank Hodges, Havelock Wilson, W. A. Appleton, A. G. Walkden, Robert Smillie, . and Miss Margaret bondfield, have at various times proclaimed their desire for industrial peace.
In another paragraph the writer of the article states -
The first paragraph of the Emergency resolution framed by the General Council as a reply to the Prime Minister’s appeal to the leaders of the unions to give a lead towards peace, reads as follows: - “This congress, having noted the repeated appeals of the Prime Minister to the leaders of Labour on the subject of collaboration for industrial peace, points out that no section of the community is -more desirous of peace than the workers.” In moving the resolution, Mr. Ernest Bevin declared emphatically that the unions did not exist for warlike purposes, and that “ such machinery for conference and conciliation as existed had sprung up out of the demands of the unions.”
In the debate the general secretary, Mr. W. M. Citrine, stated that; “ He believed more was to be gained by the leaders of industry on both sides - :by men who understood the problems - than by the interference by politicians bent on playing the party game.”
If the two speeches by members of the opposition this afternoon indicated anything at all, they indicated that the speakers were politicians bent on playing the party game at the expense of the unions in Australia. In the history of trade unionism in England, two very important cases have come under review: One is the Taff Vale case, which was heard in 1901. At that time the law in England laid it down that when a union inflicted irreparable damage on an industry, it was a fair thing for a court to give judgment for damages against the union. When the case was heard, the court awarded £42,000 damages to the Taff Vale Railway Company against the Amalgamated Society of Railway Servants for damages caused through a strike. That was the state of the law until 1906, when the Trade Disputes Act was passed by Parliament exempting the unions from having their funds attached in that way.
– That was the best thing that ever happened.
– In the opinion of the honorable member, no doubt it was; but Lord Halsbury, a former Lord Chief Justice of England, described the bill as the most outrageous measure that was ever attempted to be placed on the statute-book. Mr. Justice Darling said that “ it placed trades unionists in England in the humiliating position of being different from all the rest of His Majesty’s subjects.” Yet my friends opposite say that what was done on that occasion was a very proper thing to do.
– They never recognized the unions in England until after the Taff Vale case. That was the turning point.
– They recognized them some years before that. I desire to refer now to the Osborne case, which was decided in 1909, when the House of Lords interpreted the Trades Union Acts of 1871 and 1876, as to the powers which those acts conferred on trades unions. The facts of the case were briefly that a union had made a rule compulsorily levying upon its members for the purpose of subsidizing a member of Parliament to speak and vote according to instructions. The House of Lords held that the Trades
Union Acts did not confer any power to levy contributions for political purposes. In consequence of this decision the Trades Union Act of 1913 was passed. This gave power to unions to apply funds for political purposes, subject to certain restrictions therein laid down. The restrictions were -
The political objects to which these restrictions applied were, inter alia -
Payment of election expenses of any candidate; expenses of political meetings or literature; maintenance of a member of Parliament; enrolment of electors; selection of candidates.
The law remained thus until the Baldwin Government passed the Trade Disputes and Trades Unions Act in 1927. This act alters the 1913 act in one important respect. In place of the provision that any union member might signify his objection to contribute, the law now provides that -
It shall not be lawful to require any member of a trade union to make any contribution to the political fund of a trade union unless he has, at some time, . . . before he is first required to make such contribution, delivered …. notice in writing of his willingness to contribute to that fund.
The result is that whereas formerly a unionist was presumed to be willing to contribute unless he said he was not, he is now presumed to be unwilling unless he says he is.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– An important industrial conference of the leaders of British trade unions and the captains of industry which took place in England recently was convened by Sir Alfred Mond, Sir Josiah Stamp and other noted capitalists, with the object of exploring the difficulties which confronted British commercial enterprise. Was the invitation to it refused by the British industrialists? It was not. On the contrary, it was eagerly accepted.
I ask honorable members to contrast the attitude of British industrialists with that adopted by the leaders of Australian, industrial unionism when they received an invitation from the Prime Minister to attend an industrial peace conference. The Labour movement in Australia could find time to send an accredited leader to attend an Asiatic communist conference at Shanghai; but not one prominent Labour leader could be found to advocate the desirableness of appointing representatives to attend a conference here to investigate the economic problems which the nation is facing. Because a handful of communists hold a good deal of authority in Australian trade unionism to-day the recognized leaders of labour are too timid to express their convictions. Their attitude is that of the noted French cynic who said, “I am their leader, therefore I must follow them.”
For many years there has been legislative provision in Great Britain* to oblige trade unions to keep separate accounts of contributions for political and industrial purposes. That legislation was deliberately retained a short while ago. It must appeal to all fair-minded persons that it is wrong to compel a working man who has to join a trade union in order to retain his employment to contribute towards funds for conducting labour propaganda with which he is entirely out of sympathy. If I were a struggling workman faced with the necessity of obtaining regular employment in order to support my wife and family, I should protest most vehemently at having to contribute to funds to propagate labour principles which were repugnant to me. It is very well known that thousands of trade unionists in Australia contribute by compulsion to Labour funds, but religiously vote for National candidates. It is just as unfair to compel working men with Nationalist sympathies to contribute to the Labour party funds as it would be to compel Nationalists with Labour sympathies to contribute to the funds of the Nationalist party. I suggest that a provision should be inserted in the bill to oblige unions to keep a separate account of contributions received for political purposes and to make it optional for trade unionists to contribute to a political party.
The Nationalist party is by no means out of sympathy with the legitimate aspirations of organized labour. If I were asked to define the attitude of our party on this subject I should say that it recognizes that the trade union movement is a perfectly legitimate factor in industrial life. As a matter of fact many of the 850,000 trade unionists in Australia vote for the Nationalist party. We hold that it is just as reasonable to permit the working men and women of Australia to combine their forces to secure shorter working hours, better pay and more leisure as it is to permit employers to combine in order to protect their interests. The Nationalist party - and I make it perfectly clear that these are my personal views, although I have no doubt they would be endorsed by the great body of National supporters - would be the last to place any obstacle in the way of trade unions performing their legitimate functions. It would be folly for us to take any other stand, for many honorable members on this side of ‘ the chamber receive a considerable number of votes from the workers. Many of us, myself included, are workers and the sons of workers, and have every sympathy with the wage earners.
In my opinion there is not a clause a the bill which will do any harm to legitimate trade unionists. On the other hand there is a great deal in it which is calculated to increase their industrial power, though perhaps it may to some extent reduce their political power. It can hardly be argued that the Nationalist party has no right to point out to trade unionists that they are in danger of marching along the wrong road, seeing that their so-called leaders are afraid to do it. It is my firm opinion that the time is not distant when trade unionism will look to the Nationalist party and not to the Labour party for support. Some empty-headed honorable members may laugh at that statement, but I make it in all seriousness. When the communists, the foreign agitators, the bolsheviks and the self-seeking politicians have finished white-anting the trade union movement, the Nationalist party will be urged to stand by the unions and enable them to discharge their proper obligations to the sections of the community which they represent.
I cannot remember a single piece of industrial legislation which has been introduced into the various parliaments of Australia in the last decade or so by Liberal or Nationalist governments which has not met with violent opposition from the Labour party. It was hardly to be expected, therefore, that this bill would be an exception. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) referred this afternoon to the Industrial Disputes Act passed by the Wade Government of New South Wales. That measure was roundly condemned by Labour when it was before Parliament, but Labour advocates who are to-day ap;pearing in the arbitration courts of the country readily agree that it is one of the best instruments ever forged by a State government for maintaining industrial peace. I believe in the ‘days to come similar admissions will be made in respect of this bill.
This measure seeks among other things to prevent the overlapping of Commonwealth and State awards. Surely no reasonable objection can be offered to that. It will be wholly to the advantage of the general community to prevent either side from playing off a federal award against a State award or vice versa. The measure also provides for the co-relating of all awards of the courts and for the taking into consideration of economic realities. One would imagine from’ the remarks that have been made on this aspect of the bill that this was an entirely new departure in industrial legislation, but that is not so. The 44-Hours Week Act, passed in 1925 by the New South Wales Parliament, contains the following provision: -
The ordinary working hours in any industry may be increased beyond those prescribed in this section if the court or board is of opinion that in the public interest such increase should be allowed.
The words in “ the public interest “ mean neither more nor less than thateconomic realities should be taken into consideration. The New South Wales Eight Hours Amendment Act of 1922 contains the following provision : -
The ordinary working hours in any industry and the number of days upon which they are to be worked may be increased beyond those limited in this section if the court or a board is of opinion that the public interest requires that such increase should be allowed.
That also indicates that economic realities should not be overlooked. These measures were passed by Labour governments. A similar . provision was contained in certain industrial legislation passed by the last Fuller Government. It has been suggested that if the provision in this measure that . economic reality shall be taken into consideration is agreed to, the minimum wage will be in danger. I totally disagree with that view, and suggest that the honorable members who have expressed it have not been honest. No honorable member on this side of the chamber believes for a moment that anything in this bill will endanger the minimum wage. But there is one aspect of this matter which should be borne in mind. The Labour party years ago advocated what it called “ The New Protection,” the main object of which was to insure that when manufacturers obtained an increase in the price of their commodities they should grant a similar increase in wages ‘ to their employees. We hear very little of that- to-day, for the reason that the tariff is being inextricably hound up with our arbitration court system. That was never intended. The position has become so serious that the Tariff Board has felt compelled to draw attention to it. This is an instance in which economic realities should be considered.
The provisions relating to voluntary arbitration and conciliation are prominent features of this measure. For many years I have held the opinion that in this country compulsory arbitration has developed to an extent never intended. At first it was intended merely for .the settlement of disputes, but to-day we find that it has resolved itself into nothing more nor less than a subordinate form of government. We have, on the one side, employers armed to the teeth, and on the other side employees equally armed, and they are fighting one another without the least regard for the industries from which the employers’ profits are drawn and out of which the employees’ wages have to be paid. I am not one of those who believe in the scrapping of compulsory arbitration. There are many of us on this side of the House who believe that the present system can be amended by the development of provisions relating to conciliation and voluntary arbitration. In that way, we believe, many of the difficulties that are now embarrassing industry because of compulsory arbitration may be minimized. It is only the extremists on both sides - the extremists on the Nationalist side and the communists on the other side - who advocate the scrapping of compulsory arbitration. That the Nationalist party stands for compulsory arbitration is evidenced by the introduction of this bill, and it is therefore clearly wrong for honorable members opposite to lay the least charge against the Government that it is endeavouring to subvert or undermine the principles of compulsory arbitration. At the same time I am firmly of the belief that the voluntary system is the best basis for the solution of the difficulties confronting industry to-day. That it is a system which is acceptable to honorable members opposite was demonstrated a few moments ago, because they were contending that the settlement of industrial disputes should be left to the people who are engaged in the industries and know all about them. In my opinion, that is the position to which we should revert in our industrial legislation.
There are provisions in the bill relating to voluntary agreements between employers and employees. But although these agreements may seem advantageous, they may be a source of considerable danger to the community as a whole. Agreements have been drawn up by representatives of capital and representatives of labour, without the least regard for the interests of the consuming public. They have arranged for the placing of fictitious prices on commodities and for the payment of wages entirely out of proportion to the value of the work done. Two results have followed. The prices of commodities have been raised to an extent that has been burdensome to the people who buy them, and no protective duty has been able to afford any benefit to the industry affected, simply because it could not be raised sufficiently high to prevent the importation of articles similar to local manufactures. On that account we find in some industries a willingness on the part of capital to give up a portion of its profits; but at the same time labour, rightly or wrongly, will not consent to a reduction of its high wages. The provision in the bill for an examination of these voluntary agreements or determinations, in the interests of the consuming public, is a wise one, and one that should have been made in industrial legislation many years ago.
Reference has been made during this debate to the responsibility of officials of unions. Pictures have been drawn of insignificant officials in far distant parts of the Commonwealth doing things which the unions cannot control. If that is the way in which unionism is conducted to-day, it is time some alteration was made. That which is made by this bill is not a blow at unionism, as it has been described by honorable members opposite; it may be said to be a blow at the management of unionism. All the penalties for which provision is made may be avoided by having efficient management and control of unions. Is it not reasonable to expect the efficient management and control of unions? To-day, when every man is compelled to join a union to earn a living, it is only right that the Government should see that the union he joins is carried on, not by a small coterie of officials doing as they like, but in a proper way, so that no man compelled to join it may be prejudiced. Is it reasonable for an official of a union to prevent the sailing of a huge mail-boat and inflict a terrific amount of inconvenience on thousands of people on the boat and on shore, and for the union later to repudiate what he has done, and say, “ We do not know anything about it ?” It is all very well for the unions to get what they want done, and then repudiate the man who has done it. I agree with the provision of the bill that compels the union to accept the responsibility for what its responsible official does.
The bill has met with very little real objection on the part of the Labour party. Honorable members opposite have taken no exception to any of the principles involved. Their opposition has been directed towards details. If they will meet the Government in a reasonable spirit, with a view to making the measure a suitable instrument for the control of industry, I am sure the Government will be prepared to meet them half way, Take, for instance, the proposal for secret ballots. The Labour party has, and can have, no objection to secret ballots. The secrecy of the ballot is a matter for which it fought for many years, and is a principle that should be sacredly safeguarded. Provision for holding secretballots has been incorporated in the constitutions of all democratic countries. Quite recently, at meetings of the Bread Carters’ Union of New South Wales, blows were struck and recriminations were freely exchanged, the meeting resembling a brawl. The members of the union were not fighting for any principle; they were merely having a dispute among themselves as to who should be the paid secretary or paid advocate and similar matters. Eventually, Dr. Evatt and a strong bar were briefed, and the court was asked to order a secret ballot to be taken. Had there been provision in the New South Wales arbitration legislation for the holding of a secret ballot, the members of the Bread Carters’ Union could have taken their ballot without going to all the trouble and expense of asking the court to order one. Many unions in Great Britain have rules providing for the taking of secret ballots. For instance, the Miners’ Union has a rule providing for the holding of a secret ballot before a strike can be declared. Its rules provide that a strike cannot be declared unless it is agreed to by a twothirds majority. The provisions in the bill before us relating to secret ballots are, therefore, no new feature. If our friends opposite have any information to give as to the way in which ballots could be properly taken, I have not the least doubt the Government will readily listen to their views, and, if they are of any value, incorporate their suggestions in the bill.
During the course of his remarks, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) referred to what he described as “the hostility of the present Government to the workers.”
Opposition Members. - Hear, hear!
– I defy honorable members who say “Hear, hear,” to cite any instance in which the Government has displayed antagonism to the workers of this country. The fact that thousands and thousands of workers voted for the Bruce-Page Government at. the last election is unassailable evidence that they did not regard the Government as antagonistic to their interests; and nothing has happened since to remove that impression. A great deal has been said about the attempt to deport Messrs. Walsh and Johannsen. It has been said that the Government was tyrannous in its attitude towards .those men, but I claim that it took up a very reasonable attitude. When the court was against deportation those two men were not deported, and later on, when the law would have permitted their deportation, the Government took no steps to deport them.’ Had it done so there would have been a cry to heaven about its tyranny. It is my opinion that a good many honorable members opposite would have been only too glad to see Messrs. Walsh and Johannsen deported, and that all their talk is merely to hide their disappointment that these two men have been left in Australia as a disturbing factor in politics. We know that they are causing considerable unrest and uneasiness in the ranks of labour.
Reference has also been made to the Prime Minister’s speech about the proposed industrial peace conference, but again I defy honorable members opposite to cite a single instance in which the Prime Minister, the leader of the National party, has ever attacked the workers of this country. On the contrary, it can be shown that he has said harder things about the capitalists and employers - whether rightly or wrongly is another matter - than he has ever said about the workers. The rank and file of labour in Australia realize this, and for that reason they are prepared to support him. They regard him as being absolutely disinterested, and only desirous of doing what he thinks is best in the interests of all sections of the community, and not of one section only. If Labour ever occupies the Treasury bench, it must be absolutely disinterested, and must act on behalf of all sections of the community. To-day the Leader of the Opposition says that he “ stands for the men,” but if he becomes Prime Minister he will change his views, and stand for all sections of the community. At least he will declare that he is doing so. I suggest that he might make an early effort in that direction, and consider the bill from the point of view of the whole, community, and not in the interests of one section only. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) said a good deal about the penalties to be imposed under this legislation. I pointed out previously that those penalties can be avoided by efficient management of the unions. I have before me an article written by the honorable member and published in the Worker under the heading, “ Sinister attack on Trade Unionism.” It looks very wise, and no doubt the honorable member’s supporters regarded it as a highly intelligent contribution. On analysing it, however, I find that it consists mostly of extracts from the bill, supplemented with a few misconstructions.
– The writer showed great wisdom in confining his article to quotations from the bill.
– Yes, because it was not necessary for him to display much knowledge, but when he departed from the extracts he revealed the weakness of his case. The honorable member sought, this afternoon, to show that the bill imposes a number of new penalties, and the Attorney-General, who attempted to correct him, was howled down by honorable members opposite. The first penal provision quoted by the honorable member was this -
No person shall hinder or obstruct the president or any person authorized as aforesaid in the exercise of any power conferred by the last preceding section. Penalty: Ten pounds.
The honorable member said that that provision is new, but I am quoting it from the 1904 act. The last one he mentioned was that providing for a penalty of ?100 for wilfully insulting or disturbing the court, or interrupting the proceedings of the court, or using insulting language to the court. That also is contained in the 1904 act. I acquit the honorable member of a deliberate attempt to mislead the House.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) said that this bill made certain remissions. I replied that the new penalties were more numerous than the remissions, and I proceeded to mention those which had not been remitted.
– I listened carefully to the honorable member’s speech, and understood him to refer to the penalties I have mentioned as new.
– (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom). - The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has given an assurance that he did not say what the honorable member for “Warringah has alleged. It is usual to accept an honorable member’s assurance.
– I do so. I have been struck with the weakness of the arguments advanced against this bill. The fulminations of honorable members outside the House led me to expect that a much stronger case would be made against the bill at this stage. But having heard the Attorney-General’s explanation and the very unconvincing replies of honorable members opposite, I am convinced that the bill will be hailed by all reasonable trade unionists, the great middle-class, and those with least personal interest in .this type of legislation, as the finest instrument for industrial peace that has ever been introduced in any parliament.
.- At one stage of his speech the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) must have thought that he was on a platform in his constituency. He spoke of bolshevists, self-seeking politicians, revolutionaries and communists - all the usual stuff which he feeds to his electors. The fact that they returned the honorable member upon such political claptrap says little for their intelligence. I am often tempted to wonder if the honorable member is not one of the self-seeking politicians. ‘ Does he not “ aspire to a seat in the Cabinet? .
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) spoke at great length of the old Labour party that did wonderful things of which he approved. The Labour party of today, he said, is not as of old; we are all revolutionaries. That sort of stuff has been told to the Australian people for many years. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) was at one time the Leader of that old party. Mr. W. A. Holman, now a VicePresident of the Nationalist organization in New South Wales, and a candidate for
Martin, was also a member of the old Labour party, and in a debate with the late Sir George Reid proclaimed himself a believer in more advanced socialism than the party advocated. He was obliged, he said, to tone down his ideals to conform with the platform of the Labour party. Upon these and other men, who were at one time accused of desiring to abolish the marriage tie, introduce free love, and let loose the socialistic tiger, the Nationalists depend for leadership. The wild men of a generation ago are today amongst the most’ trusted leaders and champions of Nationalism. The man who no doubt will be elected to represent Martin is identical with him whom the conservatives in New South Wales tried to railroad into gaol and whose photograph, even after he had won his case, was kept in the rogues’” gallery for years until a Labour Government came into office and removed it. Yet, when he enters this House honorable members opposite will listen to him with bated breath. So much for the labour men of the good old days. The Labour party of to-day is the saint as it was when the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) and Mr. Holman were members of it. Its ideals and aspirations are unchanged, and it intends, as opportunity offers, to give effect by safe constitutional means to every plank of its platform.
The honorable member for Warringah complained that no honorable member on this side of the House has offered any constructive suggestions for the amendment of the bill. It is not our intention to do so. Our attitude to the bill is one of unqualified and unremitting hostility at every stage. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) stated that on the whole trade unionism was well managed, guffaws came from honorable members opposite. A man would be foolish to deny that huge aggregations of assorted human beings will make mistakes and reveal failings. Until human nature becomes perfect, no organization of men will be infallible. But that is no excuse for introducing a drastic measure of thi3 kind to crib, crab, and confine the industrial unions. How does the management of private enterprise compare with that of the trade unions? What of the bankruptcies and frauds, watered stocks and fictitious balance-sheets, faked balancesheets and bogus prospectuses? Conditions more rotten, corrupt, and chaotic than would be thought possible at this state of our civilization are the characteristics of capitalistic management; these are the hallmarks of individualism im. excelsis. Over such practices this Parliament has no control. But honorable members opposite who will fight to the death to maintain private enterprise and all its evils have the effrontery to talk of the failure of trade unionism, and to allege corruption amongst unionists as a justification of this measure. Any workers’ organizations in the world will compare more than favorably with any capitalistic organization engaged in private enterprise.
The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) lauded the industrial unionism of America and said that more of that sort of thing was wanted in Australia. Yet he described as bolshevists and revolutionaries the men who are endeavouring to establish industrial unionism in Australia. There is a direct cleavage between two distinct schools of industrial thought - that which still believes in sectional or craft unionism, and that which seeks to organize the workers on the basis of one union for each industry. The agitation for industrial unionism as distinct from craft unionism is used on every platform to flog the workers and prove that they are revolutionists seeking to attain forcibly the control of industry. I welcome the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) into the ranks of the revolutionaries. Anybody acquainted with American industrialism knows that a few skilled men who are able to hold up an industry are able to obtain from the employers high wages to the detriment of the masses of unskilled men who are not able to exert the same pressure. The masters do not mind, paying high wages to a few men, so long as they can get the last ounce of effort out of the unskilled workers for the minimum consideration. Because the Labour party long ago realized that that kind of unionism enabled one worker to be played off against the other, so that the unskilled masses paid by their economic degradation for the high wages of the skilled few, it sought to bring about a re-organization of the workers, and by political action to have industrial problems solved in a constitutional way.
The honorable member for Warringah declared also that trade union organizations should not be obliged to vote funds for the support of the Labour party’s platform, and suggested that the present was a terrible state of affairs. Cannot the same be said of chambers of manufacturers, chambers of commerce, and employers’ federations, as well as of shareholders in big limited liability companies? Can the honorable member for Warringah guarantee that all members of such organizations and companies are supporters of Nationalist political aspirations? How can he or any one else know the political views of shareholders of companies or members of employers’ organizations? If Labour were in power and if a Labour Ministry brought down legislation to prevent employers’ organizations from subscribing to the funds of the Nationalist party he would be the first to rise in his place in this House and squeal in protest against it. The honorable member referred also to the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that we, on this side of the House, stand for the workers, and he endeavoured to make it appear that the honorable member for Tarra had declared that the Labour party was indifferent as to the interests of other sections of the community. What the honorable member for Yarra said was that in the ultimate analysis the Labour party stands for the workers who, we claim, represent the great mass of the people in this country, but that it also believes in a fair deal to all sections of the people.
In his references to the position in the coal mining industry the honorable member for Yarra stated that, in the main, the coal pits in New South Wales were working on only three days a week. Honorable members supporting the Ministry at once challenged his statement. Actually he erred on the conservative side. I say without fear of successful contradiction that not one coal pit in New South Wales has worked three days a fortnight over any length of time.
– Who destroyed the coal trade ?
– It was destroyed during the war.
– That was a long time ago.
– As the honorable member for Newcastle has stated, the Commonwealth coal export trade was destroyed during the war, and the coalowners have not recaptured it. When speaking on this subject some time ago I quoted figures, obtained from an authoritative source, showing that under the sliding scale for wages laid down by the coal tribunal during the war the higher prices charged by mine owners returned to them £11,000,000 in excess of the increased wages paid to the men who cut the coal. This is my answer to the honorable member for Swan, who suggested just now that the miners were chiefly responsible for the loss of our coal export trade. Australia’s position in this matter is due to the avariciousness of the mine-owners who, like Oliver Twist, are continually asking for more. All those who have any knowledge of the industrial position in our coal mining districts know that almost without exception the mines are worked intermittently. In some mines in my electoral division the whistle has not blown for a fortnight. The honorable member for Warringah stressed the importance of keeping the wheels of industry moving. If he is sincere in his attitude will he support a proposal to force mineowners to keep the mines open and allow men to cut the coal, irrespective of whether it is being sold or not? If he will not, then it is useless for him to endeavour to put all the responsibility for industrial depression in the coal-mining industry upon the shoulders of the miners. Although the honorable member for Yarra quoted official statistics which showed immense losses in the coal-mining industry due to stoppage of work, it should be borne in mind that, as the mines, in the ordinary course of operations, are worked not more than three days a fortnight, the official figures were to some extent misleading, because of the suggestion that, but for the stoppages the mines would have been working full time. The position is entirely different.
The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) had something to say concerning the rise of trade unionism. The AttorneyGeneral also dealt with this subject. I can assure the House that the spirit which forced trade unionists many years ago to organize for their own protection is abroad to-day, and that this measure, which, I am convinced, aims at the destruction of industrial unionism, will do much to stimulate it. The movement is not, as the honorable member for Barton suggested, in the kindergarten stage of economics. It knows all about the doctrine of economic pressure. The honorable member further assured us that he was entirely opposed to extremists in the ranks of the Nationalist organizations, as well as in the ranks of Labour. He declared, of course, that Messrs. Walsh and Johnson should have been deported years ago for their participation in certain industrial movements. Will he now advocate the deportation of extremists in the Nationalist party, and in the employers’ organizations? Will he advocate the deportation of John Brown, the coal baron of New South Wales - the racehorse proprietor, the man who spends so much money on racehorses and gives more thought to them and to his prize roosters than to the conditions of the men who delve in his coal mines; the man, in fact, who declared that if the coal-mining industry is to prosper the owners must get back to the wages of 1914?
– Does he defy the law?
– I did not suggest that he does. I was merely inviting an expression of opinion from the honorable member for Barton, who declared that, if he had his way, he would get rid of all extremists irrespective of their political views. I am sorry that he is not now in the chamber, as I should like to hear what he has to say concerning this suggestion. There are many others of John Brown’s way of thinking. They, also, would like industry to get back to the wages of 1914. Possibly they pray in secret that it may, but they have not the courage to declare themselves openly. The honorable member for Barton stated further that he had no time for those who did not support the principle of compulsory arbitration. On that point I should like to quote briefly from a little pamphlet sent, I presume, to all honorable members opposite through the post by the Metal Trade Employers’ Federation.
This is what Mr. John Heine, the president of that body, said at the annual meeting in New South Wales a short time ago-
The result is that there is a great deal of unemployment in the metal trades - unemployment for which the manufacturers refuse to take any particle of blame. The employers have told both the arbitration judges and the unions that there can be no expansion in the metal trades industry, while it is shackled to old-fashioned ideas and the fetish that all machinery and metal parts must be “ made “ by a skilled mechanic in opposition to the “ manufacturing “ methods adopted by Australia’s competitors beyond the seas.
This mean3, of course, that skilled men employed in the Australian metal trades should be satisfied with the pay of unskilled labour. There is a definite move on the part of this powerful employers’ organization to get back to low-wage conditions. With regard to their attitude towards arbitration, I should like, also, to quote from an interesting little booklet entitled Nationalist Notes for Speakers, edited by Mr. Archdale Parkhill, now the honorable member for Warringah. When it was published the Nationalist and Country parties were in bitter opposition to each other, and the- honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), then leader of the Country party, but now the Treasurer in this Government, had declared war on the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was then Prime Minister. If the honorable member for- Barton wishes to get rid of all those who are opposed to arbitration, he should, in view of the statement of the honorable member for Warringah, immediately take steps to get rid of every Country party member in this House. This is what the honorable member for Warringah stated, when secretary of the Nationalist movement -
On broad principles, the platforms of the National and Country parties agree in many respects. This fact alone would make the action of the Country party in coquetting with Labour inexplicable if it were not for the selfishness of the members whose only ambition is to gain the Treasury benches. One important difference in the platforms of the National and Country parties, however, is that the Country platform proposes to dispense with the force of law behind all industrial settlements. This is a conservative reaction from the acknowledged principles of liberalism for many years. To call such a policy liberalism is a farce. It is not even conservatism masquerading as liberalism.
That, in 1922, was the Nationalist party’s considered opinion of the Country party. The two parties have now combined, otherwise the fight between them would be more bitter and the abuse more vitriolic. The honorable member for Barton says that the workers to-day view arbitration as a means for obtaining, not a living wage, but more and more of the profits of industry. I remind him that on nearly every occasion that the employees have placed their claims for increased wages before the Arbitration Court, they have had to give detailed evidence respecting their bare living expenses. In one instance the shop girls and typists had to give sworn evidence before the court respecting the prices that they paid for intimate articles of apparel. I wonder if honorable members supporting the Government would like their wives and sisters to be placed in a similar position. According to the press, these girls, when giving evidence, were the subject of jokes and laughter. I wish to know from the honorable member for. Barton whether he considers that those girls are receiving some of the profits of industry or a wage barely sufficient for their needs. A living wage is usually prescribed by the Arbitration Court except, perhaps, in highly skilled trades, for which a margin for skill is allowed.
I wish now to deal briefly with the bill itself. In the first place, it postulates a country seething with industrial unrest. This applied to Australia is untrue. If we were to-day in the throes of a violent industrial upheaval, while I should not support the measure, at least, I might admit that the Government had some justification for introducing it. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 30th December last published an article containing these words - “ There were few strikes of importance in New South “Wales during 1927.” Indeed, there were few in the Commonwealth; but according to honorable members supporting the Government, New South Wales is the storm centre of industrial unrest, and is the gatheringplace for the revolutionaries of the world ; that, in fact, some day it will be the starting place of a revolution throughout Australia. This bill can be considered only as an instrument forged by the Government to destroy trade unionism as an effective weapon for improving the conditions of its members. It is a hostile move by a hostile Government, with a vicious desire to destroy. The Attorney-General, by his speech, proclaimed himself a man blinded by bias and actuated by malice.
– I object to the words “ blinded by malice.”
– I ask the honorable member for Werriwa to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw them. With the illogical enthusiasm of a bitter partisan, the Attorney-General sees nothing good in trade unionism, and nothing bad in the employer. He mentioned lock-outs here and there as a matter of form, but during the whole of his speech, which was a denunciation of trade unionism, there was not one word of blame for wrongdoing that could be laid at the door of the employer. The words “ general good will,” so frequently used by him, were so much humbug.
– The honorable member must not use the word “ humbug.”
– I withdraw it.
– Had the honorable member read my speech he would have noticed that I said many things about the employers.
– I have read the speech carefully, and what the AttorneyGeneral said about employers was well sugar-coated.
With reference to the proposed industrial peace conference that has been referred to during this debate, the action of the Prime Minister and of the AttorneyGeneral can be likened to that of a sabre-rattling junker who opens his so-called peace negotiations with a straightout declaration of war. Proposed new section 25 repudiates arbitration by reversing a universally-accepted principle, and makes it an instrument to legalize sweating. This provision makes it impossible for industrial organizations to accept arbitration if it ceases to be a guarantee of a mere living wage. It is all very well for honorable members behind the Government to say that the bill makes no attack on the basic wage. It means what it says, and the Government intends to carry out its purpose, with the assistance of the judges of the Arbitration Court. The provisions of the bill are watertight, and in many cases the judges will be compelled to give awards below the living wage. Mr. Justice Higgins, twenty - years ago, laid down the principle that an industry, to justify its existence, must at least be able to pay a progressing living wage. The position that the Labour movement takes up is that industries that cannot pay a living wage are of no use to Australia.
– And yet the honorable member has voted for the ‘granting of bounties to such industries.
– That is another matter. I am always prepared to assist an industry by protection or by bounty to enable it to pay a living wage.
– But the honorable member said that such industries should not exist.
– My statement is clear and definite. If the Government refuses to assist an industry and it cannot pay a living wage, it is of no use to Australia. Under the proposed new section 25 (d) such an industry will be able to appear before the Arbitration Court and force the employees to accept a sweated wage.
– What does the honorable member consider is a living wage?
– That is decided by the Arbitration Court. In any case, the living wage should be fixed in accordance with the cost of necessaries of life, and should provide at least the reasonable comforts of life. In New South Wales the basic wage is fixed for a man and his wife, and therefore must be subsidized by child endowment. That has been the contention of the masses of our workers ever since the system of arbitration was instituted in this country. As a trade unionist in this House, I should not have subscribed to arbitration had there been no guarantee of at least a living wage. The Government wishes to return to the conditions of industry which existed in the past. Mr. John Brown, a prominent member of the Nationalist party, who has used his money in trying to secure the election of Nationalists to Parliament, said recently that we must get back to the conditions and wages of 1914, which, on present-day prices, would mean a return to the conditions of the 80’s and 90’s. The spirit of those days is still living. The President of the Shopkeepers’ Association, when giving evidence before a royal commission in Victoria, on the 17th April, 1901, said -
No nation was ever built up by legislation of this character. Unrestricted sweating has been allowed in England, and we have there a nation built up unparalleled in the history of the world. A great deal of sweating goes on, but though it is unfortunate to the individual, I fancy it is beneficial to the nation. You cannot get the extreme benefit out of a man without breaking some up. You cannot win a battle without killing a lot of men.
That was the frame of mind in which the representatives of the employers approached the matter. The Employers’ Federation knew the opinions he held, and sent him there to give evidence on their behalf. That was also the attitude of a large section of the employing class in 1901. If unionism is destroyed, the only weapon which the worker now possesses for fighting his battles will have been taken from him. Clause 7 can have no other effect than to increase industrial unrest, and I can conceive of no reason for its insertion in the bill other than to create a psychology similar to that which was created prior to the last Federal elections, and resulted in the present Government being returned to office. Under its provisions, if a few men in a small clothing factory in Goulburn were to go out on strike, the employers could ask the Arbitration Court to declare that a strike existed in the industry; and in spite of the endeavour of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) to prove the contrary by interjection while the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) was speaking, the judge would have no option but to make such a declaration. It would be a matter of fact, not of law. The employers could then bring about a lock-out in the whole of the industry. The bill does not provide that before the judge declares the existence of a strike he shall be furnished with proof that the workers concerned in the stoppage are unionists, or are controlled “by industrial organizations. Everybody knows that certain industries are not organized, and that in many country towns there are thousands of men who are not members of unions. If a few men choose to strike because of a local dispute with their employer, that has nothing to do with the industry as a whole; yet under the bill it will be sufficient to lead to a lock-out in the industry and industrial turmoil throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Honorable members who sit opposite would then be able to stampede the electors into the belief that the Labour movement had been responsible, and that it was necessary to return them to the national parliament to preserve law and order. That provision has been inserted purely for political purposes. Clause 8 has been included in the bill in an endeavour to blackmail trade union leaders to remove from office and from membership of their organizations some of their officials. I use the term “ blackmail “ in a wide sense. What other construction can be placed upon a provision which reduces the penalty against an organization if it agrees to practise victimization? This is characteristic of the legislation which, throughout the ages, has been passed by other countries for the repression and suppression of workers’ organizations. Whenever an individual has shown greater courage than his fellows, and has been prepared to advocate their cause, he has been subjected to victimization. The Attorney-General, in his secondreading speech, enlarged upon the provisions which relate to voluntary associations and the adoption of conciliation measures. They are not worth a snap of the fingers. It is childish to endeavour to persuade the people of this country that those provisions will benefit either the employers or the employees. Cannot the worker now meet his employer at a roundtable conference; can he not make agreements independently of the Arbitration Court; and is there anything to prevent those agreements from continuing, so long as both sides honour them? It appears to me that the Attorney-General has endeavoured to make it appear that he is giving something away. The honorable gentleman had an opportunity to display magnanimity when the industrial organizations throughout Australia wanted him to amend the Industrial Peace Act. Deputation after deputation, headed by the then Leader of the Opposition (Mr.
Charlton), and accompanied by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins), and myself approached the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and requested him to broaden that measure. The industrialists would have assisted the Government to make it a powerful instrument for the preservation of industrial peace. If the principles which it enunciated had been broadened the confidence of the industrialists would have been secured. The Prime Minister said that the action then proposed was unconstitutional. If it was unconstitutional then it is equally unconstitutional now. When the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), was Prime Minister, he promised quite definitely to have local boards established. That was either in 1920 or 1921. Since that time the miners have continued to agitate, by every means in their power, for the constitution of those boards. On at least two occasions they made that request to the present Prime Minister, but he would not agree to it. Now the Government comes along with a measure which will lash them into fury. It is designed to irritate, and its effect will be similar to that which a red ragi has on a bull.
There are many provisions which I believe the High Court will declare to be unconstitutional. I do not think the Attorney-General will be prepared to argue that those provisions which deal with the over-Tiding of State arbitration laws are constitutional, and can be enforced. The advantage which the honorable gentleman claimed would accrue under the voluntary arbitration provisions has been nullified by a subsequent clause. After the employers and employees have come to an agreement, the court has to say whether it will have any effect on the economic conditions of the industry. If it determines that the industry is likely to be affected detrimentally, it will not allow the agreement to stand. That provision appears to have been devised for no other purpose than to bring the more tolerant and humane employer down to the level of the gentleman referred to by the honorable member for Barton, (Mr. Ley), as the vicious man who wishes to sweat his employees. Under this provision the Arbitration Court can be used to prevent the liberal or indulgent employer from giving a little more to his employees. Many references have already been made to the penalties that are fixed, so I shall not labour that matter further. I believe that the principle of appointing inspectors to police the act is a good one ; but we cannot expect the employers to be embarrassed by inspectors who are appointed by a department which is controlled by the gentleman who is responsible for the introduction of this measure.
– The honorable member is making a mistake. The period of appointment is to be determined by the Minister, as it is rather in the nature of an experiment; but the appointments are to be made by the Public Service Board in accordance with the- provisions of the Public Service Act.
– It may be an experiment in Commonwealth arbitration legislation, but for as long as I can remember the States have made that provision in connexion with their Arbitration Courts and wages boards. For many years union secretaries had the right to police State awards. A similar course should have been adopted in connexion with this legislation. The representatives of the trade unions ought to be afforded facilities to exercise a check over the inspectors, and to see that they are carrying out their duties in a proper manner. A great deal has been said about the belief of the Labour party in the principle of a secret ballot. I do not intend to argue the relative merits of the secret and the open ballot; but I do say that the unions should have the right to determine in what way their domestic affairs shall be conducted. That is the whole point. As a trade unionist, I am not prepared to accord the Government the right to say that a secret ballot must be held. That is a purely domestic matter for a union itself to decide. The unions are voluntary organizations; but I realize that they are made compulsory to some extent owing to the granting of preference to unionists under some awards. It has been pointed out by both speakers who have preceded me on this side of the House that in many cases secret ballots are held. In the important mining industrial area in my electorate, the miners have a small lodge at every mine, and when their central council places certain proposals before them, each lodge votes for or against them. If they are defeated by a majority of the lodges, they are not adopted by the organization; but if, on the other hand they are accepted by a majority of the lodges, they are adopted as part of the policy of the organization. Some of these lodges are separated from one another by many miles, and one has no influence over another. If the Miners’ Federation had to take a secret ballot it could only be done at the pit’s mouth. Two men would have to be paid the full day’s work to stand at the pit head and record the votes of the men. Ballotpapers would have to be printed, and a returning officer would be required. A ballot of that character, in the small section of the south coast mining district that falls within my electorate, would cost, I should say, from £40 to £60 on a most conservative estimate. If ten members of an organization could secure a secret ballot, as proposed by the bill, this could be demanded on almost any matter. Not only would it bring about turmoil in a union, but it would also make the cost of operating the organization prohibitive and it would cease to exist. Why does the Government insist upon this secrecy? Is the Attorney-General afraid that sometimes it would be impossible to find ten members of an organization willing to apply for a secret ballot ? The bill savours of the dark ages, the Inquisition, the Star Chamber. Why I ask again, should there be all this secrecy ?
– To defend unionists from some of their own comrades.
– The party opposite does nothing to save the small business man from being browbeaten by his big competitor and being forced to subscribe to “ gentlemen’s agreements “ which are of no use to him, and which he does not wish to sign. More men are victimized in one year by the employing section than in ten years by industrial organizations. In substantiation of my statement, let me remind honorable members that, despite the turmoil and bitterness caused by the 1917 strike, we find unionists working to-day side by side with men who on that occasion were classed as “ scabs.”
The lapse of those men has been forgotten. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook), the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook) and one or two others on the opposite side talk about victimization by unionists but they have nothing to say concerning victimization, by employers. This bill makes no attempt to control the employing section or to require them to take a secret ballot. The heavy penalties provided in this bill are reserved entirely for trade unionists.
Then we are told we must take into consideration the economic condition of industries. No inquiry is to be made as to whether an industry is hampered by over-subscribed capital or watered stock, whether it is well managed or mismanaged, or whether it is overloaded with fees to parasitic boards of directors, who do nothing to carry on the industry. Under this bill the employer can go into court and make a statement, and his word will be accepted without question. No provision is made for the books of employers to be inspected. Why should not his balance-sheets and his profit and loss accounts be open to examination? If, by any chance, what is termed a trade secret is devulged by an employer, and a unionist dares to mention it outside, he will be prosecuted, and may be fined £500. That is what the Attorney-General calls fair legislation that deals equitably with both parties to industry!
Let me add a word regarding strikes and lockouts. I differ from those who say that this measure can even hit at the employer on the ground of his having caused a lockout. The Attorney-General stated in his speech that lockouts could be easily proved. I wish that the Minister would prove one, but he could not do it. If an employer decides to shut down his works he attributes his action to a falling off of business, and no inquiry can elicit any other cause for the workmen’s loss of employment. In New South Wales there is a Masters and Servants Act on the statute-book, and it is supposed to operate in the same way towards employers as towards employees. But when the whistle does not blow on a mine on the South Coast, or when a business in the city is closed down, it is impossible under that act to” force the employer to give work to hia men. If he wishes to brow-beat unionists, he closes down, on the ground or lack of business, and it is impossibleto prove that he has been guilty of creating a lockout or of victimization. If an employer desires to get rid of an employee, who would be described by the Attorney-General, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley), or the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) as a “Bed,” because he was prepared to spend some of his leisure in organizing his fellow workers in the industry, he puts off several men for a few days, including the individual who is in special disfavour, on the ground that trade is slack. Later on he says that trade is brighter and takes back several of the men, but not the unionist with “ red “ tendencies. This bill contains no provision to deal with an employer who practices that trick. It is impossible to bring an employer before the court and make him liable to one penalty for creating a lockout, practising victimization, or committing any similar offence. That is one reason why the industrial unions, their leaders, and political Labour generally refuse to countenance penal provisions in legislation of this character. If a man in Sydney commits burglary, whether he be an employer or an employee, he is sent to gaol; but, under this bill, employees only can be dealt with. The Government can give effect to this measure; it can have its day. In its stupid arrogance it can force this bill through Parliament; but trade unionism will grow, and finally play its full part in the evolutionary economic growth of society.
.- I was sorry to hear the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) say that the Opposition had no intention to help the Government to improve this measure, but would simply give it their unbounded hostility.
– Why try to improve a bill that one considers useless and vindictive ?
– How can we build on a rotten foundation?
– Every honorable member should endeavour to improve the measure, if he wishes to do his duty in Parliament. I have listened to the speeches of honorable members opposite, and it seems to me that they have greatly exaggerated the probable effect of the bill. If the unions take a reasonable course and do their duty to the community, which has every right to -expect that of unionists in common with all other members of society, there will be n’othing to fear from this measure. If the Opposition can advance good reasons why some of the clauses should be amended, there are numbers of honorable members on this side of the House who have an open mind on the subject, and if they can be convinced that such amendments are needed, they will be ready to help the Opposition to give effect to them.
– Not a bit of it. The party opposite has made up its mind.
– Honorable members opposite have their instructions.
– Not at all; I have read the bill carefully, and I consider it a tribute to the capacity and skill of the Attorney-General. The industrial position to-day is a most difficult one to deal with, and, in view of the rejection of the referendum proposals submitted to the country some time ago, the Government’s scope under the Constitution is limited. Therefore, I think that the Ministry has met the situation excellently. Both this bill and the Crimes Act, for which the Attorney-General was largely responsible, furnish monumental evidence of the skill and capacity displayed by the honorable gentleman and those associated with him. Irrespective of whether or not honorable members agree with the contents of this bill, if they have regard for the difficult position with which the Attorney-General and those helping him were faced, I think it will be agreed that they have carried out the intention of the Government of the day in a masterly manner, and that the two bills I have mentioned will stand to their credit for a long time. I do not know why the Opposition complain bitterly about the contents of this measure. They know quite well that it is to give effect to part of the Government’s policy as announced at the last election. Surely if the Labour party came into power they would be the first to claim the right to put their policy into operation, and its supporters would expect that of them. Some honorable members have said that those opposed to our present industrial system are extremists. I am opposed to compulsory arbitration. I claim no one can regard me as an extremist, yet, believe that our present arbitration machinery must eventually break down under its own weight. I cannot see how we can secure industrial peace under the industrial system now in operation. The parties to a dispute are frequently compelled by it to go to the Arbitration Court, and this puts them at arm’s length and makes them feel that they are bitter opponents. The employers on the one hand secure all the evidence available in support of their case, whilst the representative of the employees on the other hand puts the position as strongly as he can for those whose interests he is paid to protect. A case before the Arbitration Court cannot be regarded in the same light as an ordinary law suit, where the difference is between two individuals and where the verdict given affects only those immediately concerned. An award of the Arbitration Court affects not only the employers and employees in an industry, but very often the whole community. It is the responsibility of the employers to make an industry profitable. It is easy for the court to make an award for the payment of a certain wage, but wages so awarded cannot always be paid by the industry. When an industry languishes in consequence of the compulsory payment of wages which it cannot afford, unemployment necessarily follows. In some instances employees, as the result of the award of the court, receive higher wages for the time being, but when the cost of living is increasing at a greater ratio, their position becomes worse than it was. The increased cost of living is still following wages in a vicious circle, and. its effect is being felt by the whole community. It is not so much a question of a living wage as a real wage. It is the duty of employers to treat their employees well; and it is the responsibility of the employees to do a fair day’s work for the remuneration they receive. It is more a matter of what an employee produces for the wages he receives than of the actual wages paid. If the employees in an industry do not produce sufficient for the money they receive, the industry must cease. In many instances that is not done. Our present arbitration system is also cumbersome and expensive. There is so much delay in reaching the court that by the time an award is given, the union representative, who is paid to protect the interests of employees, and who is anxious to hold his job is very often ready with another list of grievances. I am not condemning all union representatives, because I know many of them do their utmost to prevent strikes. They have, however, to show the employees that they are working in their interest; and in doing so, do not always consider whether the industry is able to pay the wages, demanded. A union secretary is sometimes between the devil and the deep sea because he -knows that if he does not support the claims of the men, whatever they may be, and whatever may be his views concerning them, there are others willing to take his job. Conciliation conferences are often unsatisfactory, because the union representative is afraid of the consequences if he agrees to a reasonable proposal submitted by the employers. When a conference fails, disputes are referred to the court, and when an award is made the men sometimes receive more than was offered for which the union representative receives the credit. Perhaps if I were a union secretary, I would pursue a similar course; but the attitude of such men is not always fair to the industry or to the community.
We have to face the position as it is, and see if we can bring about industrial harmony and prosperity in Australia. Under the present system, employers pay for eight hours’ work a day and a higher rate for overtime; the employee receives his remuneration irrespective of what he produces. High wages are not necessarily a solution of the high, cost of living problem. In Australia the cost of living must be reduced or we must produce to such an extent that the wages at present ruling can be paid with advantage to industry. I wish to see wages on the highest possible level and a fair return given for the remuneration received. High wages should be an indication of prosperity. It has been said that there is an inherent desire on the part of workmen to-day to do as little as they can for the money they receive, so that the job will last longer.
– That is a slander on the workers.
– The honorable member may regard it as such, but the’ statement is frequently made. If the’ workers are of the opinion that it is to their advantage to make a job last as long as they can, all economists aire against them. The only remedy for the present position is greater production and efficiency. Recently an industrial delegation visited the United States of America, and presented a very valuable report, which was signed by all the members of the delegation. In the report reference is made to the good relations which exist between the employers and employees in America, and to the extent to which modern machinery is used in production. The report also states that the best scientists available, bring their knowledge to the aid of industry, and that the workers are willing to assist in encouraging labour-saving devices. They realize that the introduction of more efficient machinery may result for the time being in unemployment, but they have sufficient foresight to see that it leads in the end to more extensive production and development, additional employment, and greater prosperity.
The honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) quoted from a statement circulated by certain manufacturers in the metal industry, in which they complained that the unions had objected to an award of the court providing for the employment of certain skilled labour. I do not think that the employees need be afraid that modern appliances will cause unemployment. We cannot expect to progress if we do not employ the most efficient means of production. It is only by the adoption of the most modern methods of manufacture that employers will be able to pay real wages. If Australian manufacturers and their employees were as keen on this matter and on working together as are the American manufacturers and their employees, our industrial position would be much more satisfactory than it is to-day.
– Does the honorable member think that the American system should be adopted in Australia?
– The report of the delegation to -which I have referred mentions several systems in operation in the United States of America, and I do not know to which system the honorable member is referring. It is evident, however, from the information contained in this valuable document, that in America the employers and employees confer, and, as a result, solve many of the industrial problems confronting them. They are not always at loggerheads as they are in Australia, for which our present arbitration system is largely responsible. Australian employers and employees should be brought together. That would be of advantage to industry, and would be the first step towards economic success. After all, we have to face the economic facts. On page 10 of the report of the Industrial Delegation to the United States of America there appears the statement -
About 1922, manufacturers and employees realized that both had to live, and that each must consider the other’s point of view - that the manufacturer’ was not going to work without profit and that a workman must get sufficient from his earnings to enable him to live decently.
Later, there appears on the same page-
It was early recognized that increased earnings meant greater purchasing power, and that cheaper production meant a wider range of buyers.
Tq America they appear to look at things from a common-sense point of view. It is no use honorable members opposite talking slightingly of the American system. This report is the product of all the delegates who went to the United States of America, not of one or two only, and it is enthusiastic about the system that prevails there. On page 21 the report reads -
Production has increased in a remarkable manner in the United States, chiefly due to the development of power research and the invention of labour-saving machinery, in combination with a greatly improved management, with which labour has acted as ‘a real co-operator.
Such co-operation may occur in isolated instances in Australia, but it is not general. The report continues -
The ever-increasing home market, the development of large-scale production, standardizing products, together with efficient transport, have tended to lower costs.
We need to increase the purchasing power of wages, and so make them real wages. Those who receive £6 a week to-day are not as well off as they were ten or fifteen years ago, when they were receiving only £4 a week. When an employee is getting a little ahead of things he falls into a more contented frame of mind.
– The worker cannot “get ahead of things” because the friends of the honorable member, the profiteers, pop on the prices and rob him daily.
– It is all very well to talk loosely about profiteering. I have offered suggestions whereby the profiteer may be laid by the heels, but no one has yet been able to do that. I do not think that profiteering is so rife as some one would have us believe, although, when I pay my bills, I often think that it exists. At present its existence is merely hypothetical, and cannot be proved by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton). If he thinks he can prove its existence he should, in the public interest, make the endeavour.
There has been too much passing on of costs in Australia. When a worker makes a demand for additional wages, and his demand is granted, the employer passes more than the wage increase on to the cost of his goods. That is where profiteering may occur. If the honorable member for Maribyrnong can devise a way in which to prevent the practice he will have my whole-hearted support. Both the employer and the employee are wrong, when they ignore the third party, the public, who, after all, is the most important party to consider. Just as the punter keeps the bookmaker going, so the public keeps employer and employee going. An endeavour should be made to effect a greater output, which would reduce costs and increase the purchasing range- of wages. I do not wish honorable members to misunderstand my position. I refuse to be termed an extremist merely because I am prepared to abolish the compulsory side of arbitration. I wish to replace it by something better. It would have been much better for Australia had it adopted, 24 years ago, a system similar to that . which now prevails in Canada.
I am confident that this bill will tend to promote goodwill between employer and employee. Clause 14, providing that employers and employees may get together and effect a voluntary arrangement, is an excellent scheme, and I congratulate the Government on the innovation. Honorable members opposite who have spoken during this debate have really not expressed the view of the majority of the workers of Australia. I believe that when the workers learn the real effect of this bill they will recognize that the olive branch is being held out to them and will be very ready to grasp it. If honorable members opposite speak to their constituents as they speak in this House, the electors will never learn from them the true position. But there are other means of acquainting the electors with the facts ; and judging by the result of the 1925 election, the workers of Australia are prepared to listen to what those opposed to the Labour party in politics have to say. The proposed new section 18ba (1) provides -
Any employers in an industry and any employees of those employers may apply in writing to the Registrar for the determination by a judge or a conciliation commissioner by voluntary arbitration of any industrial matter relating to that industry.
– That is the law now.
– No ; it is a new provision. It has not the force of law as has an award of the court or an agreement. The principle is not unlike that contained in the Canadian legislation. After inquiry has been made, and a report submitted, the line of action recommended has not necessarily to be accepted by the parties to the dispute. Should the employees not agree with the recommendation, they are at liberty to strike; similarly, should the employers be dissatisfied with the recommendation, they may order a lockout. Eventually public opinion controls the situation. Should a union secretary in Canada cause strikes of which the people generally do not approve, he soon finds himself in trouble. When its provisions are understood by the workers of Australia, this legislation will be acclaimed by them.
The bill also provides forconciliation committees.
– That is nothing new.
– The provision, as it appears in this bill is new. In the principal act the court may temporarily refer any matters which are before it to a conciliation committee consisting of an equal number of employers and employees, whose duty it is to endeavour to reconcile the parties. Clause 28 improves the position, and materially alters the procedure. Should the parties to a dispute come to an agreement, the agreement can be registered; thereafter it has the effect of an award. Australia’s great need is industrial peace. Without it disaster is inevitable. Every report issued by banking institutions and large commercial organizations during the past two or three years has contained the warning that Australia is drifting quickly towards financial disaster. One of the chief causes of that drift is our unsatisfactory industrial position.
Mr.Fenton. - Australia is better off industrially than are many other countries.
– That does not solve our difficulties. It is not sufficient to say that the number of strikes in Australia is less than in other countries. The fact remains that there are far too many strikes in Australia. Before we can attain permanent industrial peace, there must be a change of heart, a greater desire for co-operation. No industry can succeed when employers and employees are seeking to take advantage of each other. Unfortunately, that is the position in many industries in Australia to-day. If much of the arbitration machinery were scrapped, the parties would come together more quickly. The scrapping of that machinery would not jeopardize trade unionism, because it is so firmly entrenched in the minds of the people of Australia that no undue advantage could be taken of the employees in industry. If Australia is to prosper, employers and employees alike must recognize their obligations to each other and to the public. They must be made to realize that their interests are identical, and that only by working together can they hope to make their industries prosper.
I am not a great believer in penalties. If we can not getthe right spirit in industry, the imposition of penalties will not help to bring employers and employees closer ^together. Honorable members opposite have exaggerated the position so far as penalties are concerned. No union which keeps reasonably within the law will be penalized by this legislation. I am not opposed to trade unionism. I know of the struggle through which the workers have passed, and what trade unionism has done for them. But, when trade unionism uses its strength to exploit other sections of the community it does that for which it condemns others. Democracy is not consistent with the existence of any privileged class in the community. Unionism if true to its principles will not make of itself a privileged class. Trade unions are entitled to justice; but when they abuse their powers they become as tyrannous as any other section of the community. If I were an employee in industry, I should not lightly relinquish my right to strike. That right is the best weapon the worker has. But it is a dangerous weapon, and should be used only when all other means of obtaining justice have failed. I have no desire to take from the worker his right to strike. It is one of those things which, if used rightly, can be very good, but if used badly, aa has been the case in Australia during recent times, it can be a tremendous evil. Strikes have been called for very trivial causes, and stoppages of work have occurred for no proper reason. Personally, I have always advocated the secret ballot. There will be some disappointment among the public when it is learned that we are providing for- the. holding of a secret ballot only on the initiative of members of the unions. I think that the impression in the minds of the public was that there should be a secret ballot before a strike was declared. One hears very often that in a given industrial dispute the majority of the members of a union are against a strike, but they cannot make their voices heard because of intimidation. It is only fair that an opportunity should be provided these men to express their opinions through a secret ballot. In no other way is it possible to obtain the real opinion of the majority of the members of the union. The ballot should not be conducted by officials of the union, but should be as secretly and fairly managed as is any ordinary election. However, I do not propose to press this matter, and I shall accept what the Government has given to us as the best that it is possible to do at the present time.
I heartily agree with that clause which makes it compulsory for a judge, when a dispute is before him, to take into consideration the economic effect of any award which he may make. My friends opposite claim to have all the sympathy and love for the workers, but I dispute this. There are many on this side of the House who have just as much regard for the workers as they have, and who have just as many friends among the workers as they have. It sounds unsympathetic to say that men are not in all cases entitled to a living wage. Of course they are entitled to a wage that will enable them to live decently; but I do not think that it is right that an industry should be wiped out because it is not able to pay a wage of, say, £5 a week. It might be possible for the industry to manage if it could pay a smaller wage, and the workers might be prepared to accept something less rather than be out of employment altogether. After all, half a loaf is better than no bread. Perhaps when a judge has to give regard to the economic effects of an award he will not be so ready as in the past to grant everything asked for by the unions. There is more likelihood of his making an award that will create employment rather than unemployment. Under this clause the public interest will receive consideration. In the past awards have been made in which the public has never been considered at all, and this has led to a greatly increased cost of living. I remember the time when it was possible to get a steamer ticket for 30s. that to-day costs £2 10s. At that time it wa3 also possible to obtain a return ticket available for six months for £2 10s. Now return tickets cannot be obtained at all, and the full fare has to be paid each way. Yet the men are not actually any better off now than they were before. I am not complaining about the workers any more than I am about the ship-owners. The owners have been inclined to say, “ Oh, let them have what they ask, and we shall pass it on to the public.” In the United States of America there is always plenty of money available for investment in industry, but it is very hard to get money for this purpose in Australia. This is because investors here do not possess confidence in the industrial future of the country. They prefer to invest their money in war bonds rather than put it into the promotion of business enterprises.
– Surely the honorable member does not disapprove of the investment of money in war bonds?
– No, but I am complaining about the disinclination of investors to put their money into business concerns. At the present time it is impossible to get a building contractor to give a straight-out estimate for a building. He makes all sorts of allowances for contingencies, such as new labour award, and allows himself a. very safe margin on which to operate. We cannot carry on in Australia unless a better industrial spirit is displayed than that prevailing at the present time. Australia should be a magnet for people in all densely-populated countries. Our wonderful potentialities should be sufficient in themselves to bring migrants here ; but, unfortunately, our industrial conditions are such that there is no spontaneous flow of migrants to Australia. As a matter of fact, we are spending millions in trying to encourage people to come here. New settlers in Australia do not have to face the hardships that the pioneers had to face 50 years ago; but, notwithstanding that, we are not getting the right type of migrant. British people seem to show a reluctance to come here, and Australians do not appear to be satisfied with other nationals who are arriving. If we could stabilize our industries we should be able to increase our population much more rapidly than we are doing.
I trust that the Opposition will not persist in its unreasonable opposition to the bill, but will give the industrial movement a lead in the matter. Unfortunately political Labour leaders appear to be afraid to speak their minds on industrial matters in these days. Years ago I accused the Hon. Andrew Fisher, who was then Prime Minister, of being afraid to take a firm stand in connexion with a strike that was in progress in Brisbane. Our present Prime Minister, has often similarly accused the Labour? leaders of the present day. I admit that-, all the faults are not on one side… Matters could be improved greatly if the employers would take more pains to enlighten their employees upon the financial; side of the businesses in which they are engaged; but they do not do it. It would be easy for me to take a few balance-sheets into a successful factory and inflame the minds of the workers with the idea that they were being sweated;: but it would be wrong for me to do so. Honorable members opposite could do a good deal to encourage the adoption of profit-sharing and co-partnership in Australian industries. If other than Labour members attempted to do it they would be subjected to all kinds of unjust accusations. At various times the Government has sent promising young officers abroad to study industrial methods. When these men have returned and have been asked to indicate how conditions in industry in Australia could be improved, they have frequently suggested that piece-work should be adopted. Several public officers did so when they gave evidence before the Public Accounts Committee during the period I was a member of it. But, whensuch proposals -were placed before union secretaries they were roundly and unreasonably condemned.
I believe that 75 per cent, of the working men of Australia wish to do the fair thing by their employers. They are not socialists and have no desire to adopt revoluntionary measures. But it is natural that they should be annoyed when, even after their increases in wages, they find themselves worse rather than better off. A wage of £6 per week to-day is not worth any more than £4 per- week ten years ago. The men cannot see any end to the vicious circle ; but if honorable members opposite would do a little. propaganda work for the good of their country the industrial atmosphere would soon be improved. We must bear in mind that that there is a psychological effect in thesematters; it is not merely a question of rates of wages.
I was much struck some time ago on reading the report of a speech by the chairman of the Chamber of Manufactures in one of the States. He pointed out that Australian industry was getting into an absurd position. The Government, on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, would grant a certain rate of duty on commodities, but as it was followed by an increase in wages the good effect of it was nullified. A further increase in duty had subsequently to be granted to enable the industry to maintain its position ; but this, also, was invariably followed by the granting of increased wages by the Arbitration Court. Manufacturers were, therefore, never sure of receiving a fair return on the capital which they had invested in their businesses.
– What does the honorable member regard as a fair return on capital?
– It all depends upon the nature of the industry and thu circumstances of the case. A return of 5 per cent, is a fair thing in some industries; but a good deal more than that is required in others. Facts are stubborn things, and it is useless for either the Opposition or the industrial movement generally to close their eyes to them. Honorable members opposite are not the only friends of the Australian workers. The Prime Minister and ministerial supporters generally are keenly interested in their welfare. Consequently I hope that we shall be able to join, forces to make this bill as perfect as possible.
.- The credulity of the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) is amazing. He has indulged in so many flights of imagination, as to the extremities to which industrial labour will go, that he is now in a state’ of mental dizziness which prevents him from comprehending the actual position in the industrial field to-day. If the honorable member when he addresses his constituents indulges in similar flights of imagination it is very difficult to understand how he comes to find a place in this chamber.
I have listened with intense interest to the contributions to this debate from the ministerial side, and have been rather amused at the inside knowledge that some honorable members opposite profess to possess concerning organized labour. They would make it appear that they have had a lifelong association with labour, and that they have been permitted to enter into the inner councils and gain the confidence of those who are responsible for advising and guiding the great forces of industrial unionism. But their ignorance of the true position of industrial unionism is lamentable. Those who know the actual position can assure them that their speeches, when read by unionists’ will not be taken seriously, and will only tend to prove their real ignorance of matters industrial. Solicitude for the workers comes with rather bad grace from honorable members on the ministerial side, who for the greater part of their lives have been closely associated, not with any movement to advance the interests of labour, but with those whose outlook on life is wholly different. That any working man should be so credulous as to accept the pleasant platitudes and expressions of solicitude and kindly thought from those who sit opposite is beyond my comprehension, but I must acknowledge the correctness of the statement that has been made that the Government owes its present position to the very substantial support it has received from many of the working people of Australia. Those who make that claim, however, are not justified in attempting to speak on behalf of organized labour, and the fact that the Government has received support from so many of the workers does not give it the credentials to declare that it is here specially to plead their cause or to protect the interests of unionism against the unions themselves.
The bill before us proves that there is a distinct desire on the part of those who are associated with the Government to suppress as far as possible the legitimate claims of trades unionism. The motive behind the Government and its supporters is to render the present system of arbitration so unworkable as to make it unacceptable and undesirable, and thus achieve the objective of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Manufactures, and the Employers’ Federation, whoare directly opposed to compulsory arbitration. Who but the Government and their supporters in this House represent the political views of the Chamber of Commerce, the Chamber of Manufacturers, and the Employers’ Federation? It cannot be said that the Labour party has any affection for those associated with the institutions I have named. Those bodies do not come to the members of the Labour party to secure any of the political advantages which no doubt they seek in other political spheres. It is true, therefore, that honorable members opposite have a special cause to plead, and that is the cause of the Employers’ Federation, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Chamber of Manufactures. That being so it is natural that they should desire to engraft on our arbitration system these coercive and despotic powers. It would appear from what honorable members opposite have to say regarding the position of organized labour in Australia to-day that it is solely responsible for all industrial unrest, and for all the disruption that has prevailed from time to time in the community. Nothing could be further from the truth. Whilst honorable members opposite have accused members of the Labour party of looking at this legislation only from the point of view of the workers, and of not taking them to task for their part in industrial troubles, nothing has been said by them in criticism of those employers who fail to recognize their obligations towards their employees, and their responsibility to contribute towards the maintenance of industrial law and order. We readily admit that the worker is not free of responsibility for some of the stoppages of work that occur. No doubt mistakes are made, and bad counsel is acted upon, but one may be sure that in the majority of instances the workers have a real grievance before they take the extreme step of leaving their employment as the only effective means of expressing their resentment or sense of injustice. It is not easy for a workman to take a step that jeopardizes the bread and butter of himself and his dependants.
Rarely does he strike without due consideration of the consequences. Usually the strike is resorted to as the only re: maining means of asserting his rights, conserving his manhood and self respect, and preserving reasonable standards of living for himself and his family. Therefore, I hope that honorable members opposite will look a little more deeply than they have done into the causes of industrial trouble, and realize the factors that are responsible for them.
Unfortunately, the Government is endeavouring to deal with the effects of industrial strife instead of eradicating the root causes. The first action to be taken is to make the wages of the worker more effective, and to assure him of a ready means of redressing his wrongs. If, instead of having to wait two years for the hearing of their plaint, unions could have their claims dealt with by the court promptly, there would be less irritation and more continuity of goodwill between employer and employee. There is, however, a mischievous tendency to coerce the worker, and force upon him conditions which he resents. I warn the Government, in all seriousness, that the imposition of unjust conditions by legal coercion will only breed hatred, and when the opportunity comes, the worker will take the law into his own hands in order to retaliate upon his oppressors. Infuriated by a sense of his wrongs, he will be deaf to all pleas for mercy. We should not legislate in such a way as to breed sentiments of hatred and vindictiveness, which are the seeds of revolution. We should inspire the workers with confidence in the legal tribunals as the speediest and most effective means of redressing their wrongs, and in all the instruments of constitutional government, so that no one who is aggrieved will feel called upon to take the law into his own hands. We wish to avoid those outbreaks of disorder and lawlessness which have become too common in other countries, damaging the national prestige, and causing untold suffering. I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 May 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280516_reps_10_118/>.