10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– (By leave.) - It is with pride and pleasure that I announce to the House that Captain Kingsford Smith and his companions arrived safely at Brisbane soon after 10 o’clock this morning.
Honorable Members. - Hear! hear!
– On behalf of the Government and the members of this House, and of the people of Australia, I take this opportunity to congratulate them upon their wonderful and gallant exploit. The resolution and determination with which, despite great financial and other difficulties, they have accomplished their enterprise, invite and must obtain the admiration of the whole world. Their achievement is the moro remarkable because of the long distances that they have flown over the vast waste of ocean, and because throughout its long air journey, their plane has been in wireless communication with the world. Moreover, the shortness of the period within which an immense distance has been traversed, distinguishes the flight from almost every other similar exploit.
It has been decided by the Government to make a grant of £5,000 to Captain Kingsford Smith and his associates, as a recognition of a feat of aviation of which all Australians are proud.
.- (By leave.) - On behalf of those honorable members who sit on this side of the House, I desire to endorse most cordially, the congratulatory statement of the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham). I agree with the honorable gentleman that the flight of Captain Kingsford Smith and his gallant companions has many wonderful features. It is a performanceby Australians of which Australia ought to, and does feel proud. I read recently the statement of an American writer that the six leading flight men of the world all hail from this country. That is a distinction of which we have every reason to feel proud.
– I desire to bring to your notice, Mr. Speaker, the dangerous condition of the corridor on to which one steps after leaving the King’s Hall to proceed to that portion of this building which is utilized for the refreshment room, members’ lounge, &c. The cement is so smooth that one might imagine that oil had been spilt on it. On two occasions I have almost lost my footing on it, and I think it should be made less slippery.
– The matter shall have attention. I suggest, however, to honorable members generally, that complaints of this description will receive as much attention if made directly to the SergeantatArms instead of being brought up in this House.
– Is it the intention of the responsible officials, so soon as Parliament rises for the winter recess, to dispense with the services of the majority of the lady typists who attend to the correspondence of honorable members? Would it not be possible for them to be employed in other departments?
– Steps have already been taken to ascertain if anything can be done on the lines indicated.
– The late Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) was made aware of the dumping into Australia of petrol pumps manufactured abroad. Those petrol pumps were being sold by the importers for thesum of £900 until they had to compete against the local product, which was sold for £120. Our manufacturers are now being threatened with disaster because the Americans are flooding the market with their pumps. One firm alone will he landing very shortly no fewer than 500 petrol pumps. Will the Government consider the advisability of an immediate application of the provisions, of the antidumping act with a view to preventing the importation of those pumps?
– Full inquiries will be made; and they will be facilitated if the honorable member will furnish details in relation to importations.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral yet been able to make any arrangements to supplement the mail services on the Murray Flats, particularly to Tepko, Millendella and Sanderston, which were reduced as a result of the curtailment of the railway services?
– I shall ascertain how far our negotiations have progressed, and supply the honorable member with the information when it reaches me.
– There is a grave fear in the mind of the public that within a comparatively short space of time we may find ourselves in the grip of a broadcasting monopoly. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to say whether it is proposed to grant an option to the combined broadcasting companies before the existing licences expire, -and also over what term of years the new licences will extend?
– The whole matter is engaging the attention of the Government at the present time, and no announcement can be made until some conclusion has been reached.
FLIGHT OF MESSRS. McINTOSH AND PARER.
– In common with every other Australian, I am proud of the success that has attended the flight from America to Australia of Captain Kingsford Smith. I should like the AttorneyGeneral, -however, to remind the Cabinet of the almost miraculous flight of the young Australian, Ray Parer, and his gallant comrade, Mcintosh. As it took place so soon after the brilliant flight of the Smith brothers, it seems to have passed almost without national recognition. It was made under conditions that from the commencement seemed to spell failure. Can the. Government see its way to give recognition to the feat of those gallant airmen? I ask not for a monetary grant, but that there should be some national acknowledgment of so daring, and able an adventure.
– I have no doubt that the circumstances of that flight were taken into consideration by the Government at the time that it was made. I. cannot, however, speak from a personal knowledge of the matter. I promise the honorable member,to bring to the notice of the Prime Minister and the Minister who is in control of aviation the question that he has asked.
– In Sydney and Melbourne electricians must pass a qualifying examination and pay 5s. for a certificate of competency. When they come to the Federal Capital Territory, however, they are called upon to pay a further 10s. for a permit to enable them to engage in their calling here. I ask the Minister for Home and Territories whether he will consider the advisibility of granting such men immunity from that charge ?
– I shall have inquiries made into the question that the honorable member has raised.
– I ask the Attorney-
General whether it is a fact that Mr. Skewes has been appointed Chairman of the Public Service Board ; and, also, . whether the Government will appoint a person selected by the Public Service to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Sir Brudenell White?
– No appointment to fill the vacancy on the board has yet been made. The makingof such an appointment is the responsibility of the Government, which will certainly bear in mind the necessity for having upon the board persons who understand the conditions that exist in the Public Service.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
With reference to the question by the honorable member for Kalgoorlie on the 27th March last, as to what is the average cost per square yard of the granolithic footpaths in Canberra in material and labour, and what is the total number of square yards laid down and the total cost to date, to which the Minister replied as follows: - “The average cost per square yard of concrete footpaths is 9s.6.84d. The total area laid down and completed is 11,931 square yards, at a cost of £5,709 2s.11d.” - will the Minister inform the House if overhead charges for supervision, &c., are included in the amount of £5,709 2s.11d., and, if so, what is the amount. If overhead expenses are not included in the sum named, what is the additional amount of that charge?
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
– On the 7th June, the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), made an inquiry regarding the construction of the Widgeon Amphibian.
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member that Wing-Commander Wackett has been responsible for the design and construction of the Widgeon, Mark II., from start to finish. Its failure to take off from the water at Port Darwin with full tanks, had nothing whatever to do with the workmanship embodied in its construction. The whole machine was constructed under WingCommander Wackett’s direct supervision, and no other person was responsible for the construction in any way.
– On the 31st May, the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), asked me what was the present position in regard to the amount of £1,800 provided for the establishment of a wireless station on Lord Howe Island for the purpose of communicating with the mainland.
The item to which the honorable member refers, is one for which provision has been made on the estimates of the Postmaster-General, whose department will carry out the work.
The position at present is that the Prime Minister is in negotiation with the New South Wales Government regarding the selection of a suitable site for the erection of a mast or masts and buildings for the accommodation of the plant. Consideration is also being given to the provision of the materials required for the operation and maintenance of the station, and to the selection of a wireless operator and an assistant. Every effort is being made to expedite the establishment of the station.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea Act-Ordinances of 1928 -
No. 8 - Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement).
No. 9 - Copra.
No. 10 - Explosives.
No. 11 - Legal Practitioners.
No. 12 - Judiciary.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinances of 1928 -
No. 1 - Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement ) .
No. 2 - Royal Commission.
In committee (consideration resumed from 8th June, vide page 5699).
Clause 27 (Security on Reference).
– This clause provides that a judge may require an organization to give security to his satisfaction or the satisfaction of the registrar for the observance of an award. By it the principle embodied in section 33 is extended and clarified. The existing section enables the chief judge to require security, and the proposed new section enables any judge to require security to his satisfaction. The maximum security that may now be required is £200, but it is proposed to increase the maximum to £500. The form of the security is prescribed in the clause.
– What is the reason for the increase?
– The amount required in any particular case would be determined by the judge, but £500 is proposed as a maximum amount because that amount is conceived to approach more nearly the possible damage that might be caused by a breach of an award. Everything will depend on the facts and circumstances of the case, but £500 is not considered an unreasonable maximum.
There is a further provision that if an organization has been made liable under its bond by reason of the acts of some of its members, and the organization has taken action against such members, the court may order that the bond or security be not eniforced against it. In other words an opportunity is provided in sub-section 4 for the organization to free itself from this pecuniary liability in consequence of a breach of an award, if it takes action, as it is empowered to do, against those responsible for a breach of an award.
Proposed sub-section 5 provides that if an organization has been ordered and fails to give security, the judge may order that the organization and its members shall not, for such time as the judge directs, be entitled to the benefits of the award.
.- There are two outstanding features in this clause, the first of which is that by it a much heavier maximum penalty is to be imposed. For some inscrutable reason, the amount of the bond forfeitable is to be increased from £200 to £500. The only excuse or reason for that increase given by the Attorney-General is that £500 seems to be an amount which could be better applied for a breach of an award by an organization. I have no knowledge of a ‘ bond ever having been forfeited by any organization in Australia.
– In one case in which a bond was given for £200, it was, I think, enforced to the extent of £50, in consequence of a breach of an award.
– Notwithstanding that the act has been in operation for many years, the Attorney-General can cite only one case in which a bond has been enforced.
– And only £50 was paid.
– It was enforced to the extent of £50; the amount was determined by the circumstances of the case.
– Because of one, perhaps obscure and unimportant, case the Attorney-General has determined to increase the forfeitable amount from £200 to £500.
– I did not say that the proposal was made because of that case.
– What other justification is there for it? I strongly ob ject to the Minister continually putting up bogeys, and provision being made for unnecessarily high penalties. In many instances the penalties provided in this measure will not operate. Although the act has been in operation since 1904, and has been amended from” time to time, there has been no need for effect to be given to many of its provisions. The Attorney. General’s proposals remind me of the action of a mischievous boy in throwing something into costly, complicated and intricate machinery, in order to see what may happen. The committee last night passed a clause affecting State and Federal authorities, in which provision was made to deal with hostile and friendly States, and to provide all sorts of penalties, which, like a spanner thrown into an intricate machine, may render our arbitration system ineffective. We have passed provisions giving a person the right to go to the court, and declare that a State law is inconsistent with a Federal award. No reasons have been given for increasing the penalty unless it is that if a strike takes place it looks better to forfeit a bond of £500 than one of £200. The Attorney-General is academic rather than practical. He has decided that certain things shall be done under this bill. He is submitting proposals which are being blindly supported by honorable members opposite, with the exception perhaps of one or two who do know something about the subject. The enforcement of bonds is not a practice followed by the court. I do not know of one case in which an organization has been, asked by the court to lodge a bond.
– It would be of advantage if it were done more frequently.
– It is all very well for the Attorney-General to criticise the operation of the court ; but if an Arbitration Court Judge had adopted the same tactics as he is adopting in connexion with this measure there would be endless trouble. He seems to forget that there is more than one party to a dispute, and all his energies have been directed towards penalizing one section of the community. If the Minister were an Arbitration Court Judge and acted on the assumption that the members of trade unions were always in the wrong, it would not be long before he would be in difficulty. Under this measure additional powers, which I have frequently criticised, are being given to the court. I have always recognized that Arbitration Court Judges have a difficult task to perform; but if this measure becomes law, their duties will be even more difficult. Under this measure the court will be required to do work which should be done by a body specially appointed to investigate the economic conditions of industry. That is entirely wrong, as is the whole principle upon which this measure is based. Is there any warrant for increasing the amount of the bond from £200 to £500? I say that there is no justification for it. It is only another bogy which the AttorneyGeneral has set up without any reason. I do not know how he arrived at the conclusion he has come to.
– What is the objection to the increase?
– What justification is there for it?
– What is the objection to it?
– I am not responsible for the clause; I did not originate it. The clause has been submitted by the Government, and surely I am entitled to ask the reason for the alteration. I asked the Attorney-General why it was embodied in the bill, and he could not give any reason.
– That is not the point.
– The honorable member for Fawkner is. not now before a jury. He is a member of an important legislature, only half of the members of which understand the subject under discussion. The honorable member for Fawkner should not place the responsibility of answering on me when it rests upon the AttorneyGeneral. When an argument is advanced by the honorable member for Fawkner in a court of law, he is usually expected to substantiate it. In the same way, I am asking the Attorney-General for his reasons for increasing the maximum from £200 to £500.
– I have given my reason.
– The AttorneyGeneral has not given satisfactory reasons. He may have satisfied himself, but he has not satisfied honorable members on this side of the chamber.
– What would the AttorneyGeneral do in the case of a small union which cannot provide a bond of £500?
– That is a very pertinent question.
– The answer is that I should not do anything. It is the judge who determines whether a bond shall be asked for, and the amount of the bond.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral given serious thought to this matter? Has he had any evidence placed before him by the Arbitration Court judges? If so, he should tell us what it is. Has he consulted the industrial organizations to obtain their views on the matter ?
– We might appoint a royal commission to discover his reasons.
– Some reason should be given for proposing to increase the bond from £200 to £500. Up to date the Attorney-General has not given any satisfactory reason whatever. There are 129 workers’ organizations registered under the court, and all of them might be asked to lodge bonds for £500. There are also 27 employers’ organizations which might be asked to lodge similar bonds. But there are a host of employers who do not belong to any organization, yet are bound by the awards of the court. Apparently there is no provision requiring them to lodge a bond ? That is a very lop-sided arrangement. I repeat that this bill is not intended to operate against the employers’ organizations. If it were honestly desired that it should, some provision would be made to cover the thousands of private employers who, while being bound by the awards of the court, are subject to no penal clauses for breaches of an award, except through an ordinary prosecution in the courts. They are not required to lodge any bond as a guarantee of good faith. All the responsibility is thrown on the employees.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition made one point which requires an answer. As he truly said, this clause does not give power to order individual employers to give a bond. It applies only to organizations which submit industrial disputes to the court. No individual employer can submit an industrial dispute to the court under our system of arbitration.
– Under the proposed new clause, they can do it by means of voluntary arbitration.
– That proposed new clause has been withdrawn. A dispute can be submitted to the court only by an organization. This requirement for a bond is the result of applying that principle.
– There can be a dispute between an individual employer and an organization.
– That is so, but an individual employer cannot submit a dispute to the court. This section applies only in the case of an organization which invites the action of the court. That is the important feature of the clause, and it enables a judge to require security as evidence of bona fides. It is difficult to see how any objection can be taken to such a requirement in the case of an organization which elects to ask the court to make an award, whether it be an employers’ or employees’ organization. This explanation shows why the section is limited to organizations. Then as to the amount. When a bond is required, the amount will be determined by the judge in accordance with the circumstances of the case; but it is difficult to believe that a maximum of £500 is excessive. Take, for example, the present position, when we are confronted with a maritime dispute. Would the enforcement of a bond of £500 be unreasonable in such a case? - I say, .no, and I doubt whether any honorable member will disagree with me. Remembering that £500 is the maximum, and, in the circumstances, a moderate maximum, I submit that there is no real substance in the criticism of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition. The principle is sound. The bond is a guarantee of good faith. Therefore I ask the committee to accept the clause.
. To my mind, the real question is not whether £500 is excessive or £200 inadequate, but whether any such provision is necessary at all. The Attorney-General admitted that during the whole of his experience, there had been only one case in which a forfeiture of £50 was made by an organization. The arguments of the Attorney-General on this matter seem to be in keeping with his statements about shadowy union leaders who run away from their responsibilities during industrial disturbances.
– I hold the view that It would be a very good thing if a bond were required in every case.
– That may be; but the honorable gentleman has) admitted that, so far as his knowledge goes, the forfeiture of a guarantee has taken place on one occasion only. The Government is simply going out of its way to irritate the workers when it says that, because of that one isolated case, it is necessary tobring in a provision increasing the bond from £200 to £500. The AttorneyGeneral seems to have followed the same practice right through the. framing of this bill. Wherever there is a possibility of increasing the penalties, or of doing something which would get the industrial organizations on the raw,, he seemed to take a delight in doing it. There is no other explanation for this proposed increase. As the honorable member for Darling said, the Attorney-General is like an irresponsible schoolboy trying to see how much mischief he can make. I am against the increasing of the maximum from £200 to £500, believing, as I do, that £200 is quite adequate. No; useful purpose can be served by increasing the amount of the bond to £500.
– I am afraid that I cannot agree with the honorable member for Werriwa, and other members of the Opposition. This amendment is a move in the right direction. The tendency for many years now has been in the direction of a more or less contemptuous disregard of the awards of the Arbitration Court. If a union goes to the court and asks for an award, it should be prepared to be bound by that award. Unionists have every reason to be satisfied with the operation of the court during the last 20 years. They should be pleased with the treatment that has bees meted out to. them, and with the improved conditions brought about by the court. It is a very small thing to ask the unions, when they go into the court to ask for improved conditions and higher wages, which may involve the payment of an extra £500,000 pounds a year, that they should give effect to the provisions of the award when it is made. I, myself, have asked for increases in wages for waterside workers which involved the payment of an extra £250,000 a year. When a large body of men is concerned any increase in wages amounts to a very substantial sum. As the Attorney-General pointed out, £500 is the maximum. In the case of a small union, the court might consider that £50 or £100 was enough. The court would temper the wind to the shorn lamb, and fix an amount in keeping with the financial standing of the union. I see no hardship in this provision, nor do I think that any union can honestly take exception to it. What the unions want is even-handed justice. The only real point which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition made was that to which the Attorney-General has replied, namely, that this provision will not apply to the employers as individuals. That is so. Looking at the matter from the point of view of the unions, I can understand the attitude of honorable members opposing this clause. This is an amendment of the existing law, and it certainly does increase the amount payable by a union at the option of the court; but no injustice will be done, and I shall support the clause.
.- I think that it is rather significant that I failed to obtain a reply to the question which I asked the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and which seemed to me to be a pertinent question. I asked whether he could give me any valid reason why the amount of £200 should not be increased to £500. The honorable member absolutely refused to reply to the question. Knowing from past experience that he is always prepared to reply to a question if he has an answer ready, I can only conclude - and I think it is a logical conclusion - that he refused to reply because he had no reply to give. I have listened carefully to the remarks of honorable members opposite concerning the various amendments proposed by the Attorney-General. It seems to me that in every instance their attitude is in keeping with the manifesto, to which I referred in the debate on another clause, issued by the organized industrial forces, declaring that every amendment of the act submitted by the Attorney-General has been framed with the deliberate intention of smashing trade unionism.
– That cannot be said of all the amendments because the AttorneyGeneral has accepted a number of suggestions made by honorable members on this side.
– I accept the qualification suggested by the honorable member for Maribrynong. Nevertheless the criticisms of the measure by honorable members opposite indicates that, in their view, this bill has been designed by the Government with the deliberate purpose of smashing trade unions.
– Give us reasons why the maximum bond should be increased.
– The honorable member for Werriwa puts a pertinent question. It was replied to by the AttorneyGeneral, who pointed out that the issues involved in some disputes that come before, the Arbitration Court for settlement are immense and may involve a huge loss to the community or a section of the community. In the circumstances a maximum bond of £500 is not by any means large. I should be prepared to leave this matter to the discretion of the court, and allow that tribunal to determine the amount of bond required, having in view the issues involved and all the circumstances of the case. I am quite content to draw my own conclusions from the fact that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has advanced no valid reason why the bond should not be increased. I shall therefore support the clause.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . .11
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Section thirty-four of the principal actis repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: - “ 34. - ( 1 ) In order to prevent or settle industrial disputes the Chief Judge may appoint, for such period as he thinks proper, conciliation committees consisting of such persons as he thinks proper, and of a chairman appointed by him.
The Chief Judge, if he thinks proper, may appoint a conciliation commissioner as chairman of any conciliation committee appointed under this section.
Any person who objects to being represented by the representatives specified in any order made under the last preceding subsection may, within thirty days after the publication of the order, or such further time as is allowed” by the court, apply to the court for an order setting aside or varying that order, and the court may upon such application make an order allowing that person to appear separately or may make such other order us it thinks just.
13 ) All plaints, summonses, orders or other documents served upon all the representative respondents appointed by an order under sub-section (10) of this section shall be deemed to have been served upon all the interested persons specified in the order and the representative respondents shall, in the matter in relation to which they are appointed, represent all the interested persons so specified. . . . “
Section proposed to be amended -
The court may temporarily refer any matters before it to a conciliation committee consisting of an equal number of representatives of employers and employees, who shall endeavour to reconcile the parties.
– This clause introduces a new factor into our arbitration system in the form of conciliation committees. It has been developed and worked out after a very careful consideration of what appeared to be some of the defects of the law. Honorable members are aware that frequently criticism is directed against the Commonwealth arbitration system, on the ground that it is too legal in character and that it would perhaps work better if the parties were given an opportunity to meet and discuss their differences at a conference, though not necessarily a compulsory conference presided over by a judge. The provisions of sections 16 and 16a are largely used and are of the greatest service. They provide that a compulsory conference of the parties to a dispute may be convened under the presidency of a judge of the court. It is a regular part of the court procedure to hold such conferences in relation to every dispute. I think I am right in saying that no dispute comes into court to be determined by arbitration until the resources of conciliation have been exhausted at a compulsory conference.
– Has the Government exhausted all the resources of conciliation in connexion with the trouble with the marine cooks ?
– Yes. At the beginning of that dispute the conciliation commissioner convened a conference of the parties, over which he presided, and other conferences have been held since the matter has been before the court, but honorable members will know, from the reports that have appeared in the press, that the union concerned unfortunately adopted an attitude of deliberate defiance of the court. The arbitration authorities of the Commonwealth have taken every possible step, up to the present, to bring about a settlement of that trouble. Last uight the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) communicated with the Premiers of all the States and received a reply from Mr. Hogan, the Premier of Victoria, expressing a doubt whether all constitutional and legal means had been exhaused, and asking the Government to take steps to influence the Arbitration Court to intervene in the dispute. This view was expressed by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) last night. In response to the suggestion made by Mr. Hogan, the Government sent his communication on to the Industrial Registrar, who is the executive officer of the court, stating that while the Government would consider it wrong to attempt to control or even to influence the discretion of the Arbitration Court, the Ministry considered it only courteous to the Premier of Victoria to inform the court of the communication which he had sent to the Government. Mr. Hogan’s telegram has been placed before the court without any expression of opinion from the Government as to what action should be taken. I can assure honorable members, therefore, that every effort has been, and is being made, to utilize the machinery of the Arbitration Court to end this most unfortunate trouble.
Returning to clause 28, as I have said, objection has been taken to the’ existing procedure of the court on the ground that it does not provide sufficient means for the parties themselves to meet face to face to endeavour to settle their disputes. There is already provision for compulsory conferences, and this method as I have stated, is utilized in practically every dispute that arises. It has proved very valuable. There are also boards of reference appointed under awards for the purpose of dealing with various matters. The scope of these boards of reference, at which the representatives of the parties meet around a table under the presidency, as a general rule, of the industrial registrar, is being extended by the provisions of this bill.
– Will members of boards of reference be paid?
– I think not. Nor will members of the conciliation committees be paid. It is thought that there is room for still further development of the round-table procedure. The proposed new section, therefore, provides that the Chief Judge may appoint conciliation committees, consisting of representatives of employers and employees with a chairman to be appointed by the judge. I propose to introduce an amendment to allow the parties to nominate their own chairman, and that, I suggest, will improve the original clause. If they are able to agree upon a chairman, so much the better. It is proposed also that employers and employees may make recommendations for appointment to the committee.
– Why should they not select?
– That would make the system unworkable. Reference has been made to the recent award in the clothing trade. I think there were 9,000 respondents in that case, each one of whom had to be served with a copy of the log and the proceedings of the court. It would be impossible for them to select representatives on a committee because no practicable means could be provided for them to meet.
– The road to peace is very hard for the trade unionists.
– Under a system of election by which every body interested would have the right to vote, months would be occupied in selecting representatives of the employers, and enormous expense would be caused. That would cripple the system.
– If they cannot meet to select, what are they to do?
– Proposed sub-section 5 reads -
Before appointing the members representative of employers or of organizations of employees, the Chief Judge shall take into consideration any recommendations made by employers or by organizations of employees in relation to such appointments.
Thus those interested are given the power to make recommendations which the Chief Judge will take into account when making appointments. That, I think, is as far as we can practically go towards the attainment of a desirable object. The employees will experience little difficulty. In this matter the road of the trade union is not hard but easy, because it has always been a principle of the Arbitration Act that employees shall act only through their organizations. These bodies will readily make their nominations. The process may not be so easy for the employers, but there are registered organizations representing large numbers of employers. It is true that they number only 29, but they include very big individual enterprises and large aggregations of employers. Amongst them are the Commonwealth Steamship owners, representing all the interstate shipping interests; the Timber Merchants and Sawmillers, the Graziers, the Picture Showmen, the Licensed Victuallers, the Metal Trades’ Employers, the printing and allied trades, and the Showmen’s Guild. The individual industrial enterprises that are registered include the Broken Hill
Proprietary Company, H. V. McKay and Company Proprietary, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and Nestle’s and Anglo-Swiss Condensed Milk Company. Generally it may be said that the organizations registered under the act represent a substantial proportion of the leading industries of Australia. Accordingly, the provision for the appointing of conciliation committees, after consideration of the recommendations of employers and employees, should prove quite workable. The number of members of a committee is not limited, except that half must be representative of the employers and half of the employees. Many modern industries are complex and intricate, and seldom, if ever, can one man effectively represent all the departments of his particular industry. There should be a degree of flexibility in the constitution of these committees, and the parties should not be limited to single representatives <.or even two or three representatives each. In fact, in Great Britain, industrial matters arc often dealt with by committees representative of employers and employees with a membership of up to 40.
I propose to move an amendment to provide that the chairman of a conciliation committee shall not have a vote. In New South Wales conciliation committees have been appointed, and a great controversy has been waged in the courts as to whether the chairman is entitled to vote. The Government considers it proper to make it clear that the chairman shall not have a vote. The reason is that this procedure is intended to be conciliation and not arbitration. When an independent chairman is brought in to decide a dispute, we at once get into the domain of arbitration, and when we leave the domain of conciliation we must, owing to the provisions of the Constitution’, comply with whatever arbitration demands. The arbitration procedure hitherto has been rightly considered to entitle every interested party to give evidence. Thus, if the chairman of a conciliation committee were given a vote, we should have to provide for ever so many arbitral tribunals, with all the procedure for subpoenaing witnesses and so forth. That is not desired. We wish to keep these meetings of employers and employees on a conciliation basis. If the representatives of the parties are unable to agree, conciliation fails and the matter will have to go to arbitration. But the failure of conciliation may not be complete. It will at least have afforded an opportunity for employers and employees to meet under the presidency of a person chosen by themselves, if they can agree, and discuss their industrial difficulties. From such gatherings there may be at first no apparent result, but the mere meeting in conference is all to the good. Therefore, I sincerely hope that full advantage will be taken of the new procedure.
The proposed new section provides that if an agreement is reached it can be registered under the act by being certified in the ordinary way, and have the effect of an award. If the agreement is as to part only of the matter in dispute, it also may be certified, and that will represent so much gained. If, on the other hand, it is impossible to settle any of the matter by agreement, an entirely new procedure is provided in proposed sub-section 8 and the following sub.sections. A conciliation committee or the majority of its members, excluding the chairman, may make a recommendation for an award ; the whole matter in dispute may be worked out in detail by men who are conversant with and directly interested in the industry, and it is hoped that this procedure will save the court a great deal of work. When such a recommendation for an award is sent to the court, .the registrar will issue a summons calling upon all parties concerned to show cause why an award should not be made in the terms of the recommendation. It would be unjust for an award to be made on the basis of a committee’s recommendation without the parties, interested having an opportunity to express their views. The summons will be accompanied by the full terms of the recommendation.
– No special pleaders are provided for.
– There is no provision for anybody to participate in the conciliation proceedings other than the representatives of the parties and the chairman. On the return of the summons any employer will be able to attend and show that a certain provision in the proposed award is unsuitable to his business, or is unfair and should be amended. It is hoped that in this way the conciliation committees will be able to solve most of the difficulties, and that it will not be necessary to incur the delay and expense of hearing evidence in court. The court will be limited to points of difficulty and difference which remain after the conciliation committee has given its best mind to the subject. Then, after everybody has been given an opportunity of being heard, the award will be made by the judge in such terms as he thinks proper. This proposed section also provides for the utilization of the procedure of representative orders, on exactly the same lines as those to which I referred yesterday.
The honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) has an amendment dealing with this clause, but he will find that some of his suggestions have been incorporated, in effect, in amendments of mine which have been circulated. I assume that the honorable member desires to address himself to his own amendment before I say anything about it.
.-! think that the committee will be in general agreement with this proposed section. If it does not do any good, it certainly cannot do any harm, and I am sufficiently optimistic to believe that it can do a considerable amount of good. The conciliation section of the principal act has done a considerable amount of good in preserving industrial peace.
I wish to refer to the rather urgent situation that has been referred to by the Attorney-General. The honorable gentleman informed the committee this morning that the Prime Minister had received a telegram from the Premier of Victoria which, apparently, is practically on the lines of the suggestions which I made last night. It urges that, instead of applying the Crimes Act to the existing situation, we should exhaust the possibilities of conciliation under the existing Arbitration Act. I expressed that view last night, and I reiterate it now with emphasis. I do so with all sincerity, because I am satisfied from my knowledge of human nature, and of the trade union movement, that a false step has been taken in applying the Crimes Act when other methods are at hand, the application of which, I am satisfied, would meet with success. I have been in touch this morning with the heads of the trade union organizations of Australia, and I am assured that it is their strong conviction that if a compulsory conference were called between the ship-owners and the cooks there would be an immediate settlement of the dispute. The Government has gone some way along the lines suggested by me last night and by the telegram from the Premier of Victoria, of which I knew nothing last night, and I gather that it has been transmitted to the Industrial Registrar, I presume for submission to the court. The terms of that telegram at least indicate to the court the opinion of one State Government, but surely it is more important to convey to the court, through the Registrar, the opinion of the Federal Government. I do not suggest that this Government should attempt to instruct or control the court, but surely the Government may move the court to action by conveying to it the view of this Parliament which, if unanimous, is the view of the Australian people. I believe that every honorable member in this chamber desires to have this trouble settled. If that is so, we should have it recorded that it is the unanimous decision of this Parliament that a compulsory conference should be called at once. I do not want to burk the position. I know that the court did move in the matter and that its efforts failed. I am not condoning the action that’ led to its failure, and I am not withdrawing what I said last night as to the action of the cooks’ union in ignoring the advice and the recommendations of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. But I repeat that it is a fundamental error to endeavour to make a crime out of something which is not criminal in character. The effect must be the very antithesis of that for which we are striving in this conciliation clause. Such an action at once does an injustice to somebody. No matter how much one may be opposed to the action of somebody else, when one tries to bring into use the sledge-hammer and to penalize that person unduly, he at once arouses general sympathy in favour of that individual, and inflames the passions of the trade union movement. That is what must follow the manifest injustice of bringing into operation the provisions of the Crimes Act to deal with actions which are, of themselves, not criminal. If an individual is guilty of any act of a criminal nature, the criminal code is in existence to deal with him, but an industrial act is not a criminal one. No parliament should declare it criminal, and no government should apply the criminal code to acts which are not criminal.
I make an urgent appeal to the Acting Leader of the Government to get into touch at once with the Prime Minister, and to transmit to the Registrar of the Arbitration Court a message from this Government, similar to that which has been forwarded from the Premier of Victoria. I am satisfied that, in the circumstances, no court would feel that its self-respect was injured, or that it is being instructed as to what it shall do. It would realize that the intimation represented all sections of political opinion, and the opinion of all shades of industry, that it is the desire that another effort shall be made, by means of a compulsory conference, to bring the parties together. I am satisfied that the result would be peace.
– For the information of honorable members, I mention that I propose to circulate at once an amendment to meet the point raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) yesterday, and another amendment which will enable employees to sue for wages under an award, subject to a period of limitation of six months.
– I regard this clause as the most important one in the bill, because” I believe that it is much easier to settle disputes by conciliation and friendly argument, than by direct action, or even by compulsory arbitration. My experience has been that it is very much easier to lead than to drive men. We have all heard that you can lead an Irishman almost anywhere, but that you cannot drive him. I believe that that applies with equal truth to Australians, and to many other people with whom I have come into contact. It is absolutely essential to have a provision of this nature in the bill.
It is extraordinary to me that the Government, after having sent to America a delegation composed of an equal number of representatives of employers and employees to inquire into industrial matters in that country, -has not moulded this measure more on the lines of the recommendations made by that delegation. The report of the delegation is a most illuminating document, which deserves study by every honorable member and all who take an interest in the country’s welfare. In Australia, and in New Zealand, there is a system of so-called compulsory arbitration in existence. I understand that the principle does not obtain in any other country in the world.
– It does, to a certain extent, in Germany and in Italy.
– I use the term “socalled” compulsory arbitration advisedly, because no law can be absolutely compulsory. One will always find people who will rebel against a harsh law. I believe that compulsory arbitration in Australia has been a failure, principally because it has been obeyed only by one side. We have an excellent example, in the present cooks’ strike, of how it is disobeyed by the workers. I know that honorable members opposite claim that the employers also disobey the law, but I know of no example. I have an amendment, which will liberalize the proposed section. I move -
That sub”-section 1, proposed new section 34, be omitted with a view to insert the following sub-sections in lieu thereof - “ (1.) An organization or person which or who is a party to an industrial dispute may apply in the prescribed manner to the Chief Judge for the establishment of a Conciliation Committee. “ (2.) Upon receipt of an application under the last preceding sub-section the Chief Judge shall, upon being satisfied that an industrial dispute exists to which the applicant is a party, within fifteen days of the receipt of the application order the establishment of the Committee. “ (3.) The Registrar shall, upon the making of an order under the last preceding subsection forthwith cause a copy of the order to be served upon each party to the dispute. “ _( 4. ) Each Committee appointed under this section shall consist of three members selected in accordance with this section and appointed by the Chief Judge. “ (5.) The employers’ and employees’ parties to the dispute may respectively within Ave days after the service of the order upon the parties to the dispute recommend to the Chief Judge the name of one person for appointment as a member’ of the Committee and the Chief Judge shall appoint those persons accordingly. “ (6.) If either the employers or the employees fail to make a recommendation under the last preceding sub-section the Chief Judge shall as soon as possible after the expiration of the said period of five days appoint a person to represent thora on the Committee. “ (6a.) The persons appointed respectively to represent the employers and the employees on the Committee shall within five days of their appointment recommend to the Chief Judge the name of one person for appointment as third member of the Committee and the Chief Judge shall forthwith appoint that person accordingly and in the absence of any such recommendation within that period the Chief Judge shall forthwith appoint a person as third member of the Committee. “ (6u.) The third member of the Committee shall be the Chairman thereof. “ (6c.) As soon as possible after a Committee has been established under this section the Registrar shall notify the parties to the dispute of .the names of the members and Chairman of the Committee. “ (6d. ) A Committee appointed under this section shall frame a recommendation for the settlement of the dispute in relation to which it was appointed and shall lodge it with the Registrar for submission to the Court. “ (6b.) Every member of a Committee appointed under this section shall hold office from the date of his appointment until the recommendation of the Committee has been lodged with the Registrar under sub-section (On.) of this section. “ (6f.) The Registrar shall supply a copy of any recommendation of a Committee to each organization or person party to the dispute and to the representative of any newspaper published in Australia who applies therefor. “
The amendment differs to some extent from the proposals in the bill.
– Is it proposed that the chairman shall have a vote?
– Yes. I do not see how the committee could be expected to make a recommendation unless the chairman could vote, for it would often happen that the other two members of it would be on opposite sides. *
– Then the chairman would really decide the matter ?
– Yes. If the amendment is agreed to it would be mandatory upon the judge of the court to appoint a conciliation committee in the event of either party to a dispute asking for it. I submit that that would be desirable, for it would result in a speedy consideration of the matters at issue. My proposal is based upon the Canadian system of conciliation which has been in operation for many years, and when I was in the dominion some years ago I was informed that it worked excellently and resulted in the settlement of 90 per cent, of the disputes that occurred. As it is still being used there, we are entitled to assume that the Canadian people are satisfied with it. I believe that the adoption of the roundtable conference method would be equally successful here.
– There would be no power to bind the parties to the conference.
– That is so. Unless the parties could agree, the court could not give effect to the decision. The law in Canada is that before the employers may legally lockout their employees or the workers legally go on strike the dispute must be submitted to a conciliation committee for consideration; but the finding of the committee is not binding except by agreement.
– Any person can be bound by an agreement if he is willing.
– One advantage of my proposal is that under proposed section 6f the whole of the facts on both sides would be made public. Honorable members will agree, I think, that public opinion generally settles a strike. The sooner public opinion can be expressed upon a dispute, therefore, the sooner it is likely to be settled. I submit that the system which I have proposed would be much more satisfactory than our existing methods.
– The two could not work together.
– They may not, but I am hopeful that if conciliation committees were set up they would be effective in settling many disputes. The system that I propose is similar, in many respects, to that of the United States of America. I know that different American States have different methods, but voluntary conciliation and round-table conferences are common. This matter is referred to in the report of the industrial delegation to the United States of America, from which I should like to quote several extracts. First let me point out that in a report submitted to the Delegation by the Secretary of Commerce of the United States of America there is the following suggestive sentence: -
The high standards of living enjoyed by the American people are the result of steadily mounting per capita productivity. 0” page 25 of the report of the Delegation, under the heading, “Relations Between Employer and Employee,” the following passage appears: -
An important part of the management is the conduct of industrial relations between it and the working force, and it would appear that strikes and lockouts in manufacturing industries are diminishing…..
The effort of employers generally to understand the wants and requirements of their employees, and, on the other hand, the readiness of the employee to grasp the idea of the employer that the interests of both are identical is very pronounced. *
That indicates clearly what is taking place in the United States of America, a country in which there is no compulsory arbitration. Disputes there are settled by conciliation and friendly argument at the round table, and the old methods have been p’ractically abandoned. On page 26 of the report the following paragraph appears: -
In many industries the militant domination is being supplanted by constructive activity in the form of union-managements co-operation. Wherever we found this operating there were undoubted proofs of contentment amongst the workers and management, and prosperity with progress in the industry.
Many unions and the American Federation of Labour apparently subscribe to the view that it is better to convert money, that previously was spent in fighting, into studies of what an industry can pay under proper organization brought about by co-operation between managements and the trade union movement. As a result we found strongly organized unions employing technicians, professors and consulting engineers, engaged on research work for the unions.
This system, where it obtains, has aroused and maintained the interest of employees, who to-day feel as though they have “ invested “ their labour - their all - in the industry and are anxious that it should prosper. They appear to feel that they have a voice in the management or control of their industry and arc anxious to assist. They no longer object to the introduction of more efficient machinery and methods. They welcome scientific management and encourage amongst members increased production, which cheapens the product and thus makes it available to many more of their fellows.
Silting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.
– On page 30, the report states : -
Tables taken from the American Labour Year-Book for 1927 show that in 1917 there were 4,450 disputes reported in all industries. In 2,325 cases the number of workers affected was given, the total being’1,227,254. The number of disputes together with the number of employees affected has gradually reduced until in 1925 the disputes totalled 1,301. In 1,012 cases the number of employees affected was given, which gave a total of 428,218 indicating a reduction by one-half at least. . . Wage earners per thousand of the population in 1925 were 16.1 per cent, fewer than in 1919; nevertheless, there was an increase of 25 per cent, in the quantity of goods produced.
That shows how co-operation, voluntary conciliation, round-table conferences and friendly argument, instead of compulsion, have led to a reduction in the number of disputes, and brought about a large increase in output. Again, on page 32, the commission reported : -
Arbitration as it is known in Australia does not exist in the United States of America. The number of industrial disputes which occurred throughout the United States of America caused a great majority of the State legislatures to enact laws designed to prevent cessations of work, caused by strikes or lockouts. Not only are the objectives of the various measures similar, but in all cases the methods closely resemble one another. A feature common in all such laws is the absence of any provision compelling the parties to submit the matter in dispute to a third party, but, instead, they authorize a “ body “ to intervene and endeavour to persuade the parties to meet in conference and thereby reach a settlement; further, in the event of such conference failing to eventuate or to reach a settlement, to persuade the parties to agree to a settlement by arbitration. . . . There is a provision in the law that work shall continue and the relations between employer and employee shall continue unaltered by either party until the Commission, Board, or Arbitration ends its jurisdiction, which jurisdiction is always limited to a specified number of days after the hearing of evidence.
On page 34, the report states: -
The most popular method of settling disputes is by the parties meeting, selecting their own Arbitrator, and entering into working agreements. Many of such agreements provide for the appointment of Arbitrators for future requirements.
There is undoubted hostility to any form of compulsory arbitration - that is, any law compelling parties to submit their troubles to a permanent tribunal for settlement.
Professor A. H. Tocker, who holds the Chair of Economics at Canterbury College, Christchurch, New Zealand, has made a special study of the compulsory arbitration system in New Zealand. In the course of a lecture, delivered in Sydney in February last, he stated, in referring to the coal industry: -
Australia, with arbitration, is having in that industry, infinitely more trouble than America is having without arbitration.
In that I quite agree with him. We have a good deal more industrial trouble here than the United States of America has. Professor Tocker went on: -
Some claim that arbitration has raised wages. Wages have been raised but prices have risen, too, and what matters to the worker is not so much the amount of money a man gets as the amount of goods he can buy with the money he gets. It is the purchasing power that really counts. Statistical investigations in New Zealand indicate that real wages now are no higher than in 1900, and the rise in Australia, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, has been comparatively slight. Though it may be true that the court has raised wages, prices have also been raised, and the worker in New Zealand is no better off. In the United States, the purchasing power of wages, or the amount of goods which can be bought with wages, is estimated at 25 per cent, greater in 1925 than in 1914. During the last few years, there has been a very decided rise in the workers’ purchasing power there. Wages have gone up, and prices have gone up, but wages have gone up far more than prices. In a country where labour conditions are practically unregulated, wages have risen very greatly. In our country, where we have strictly regulated conditions, real wages have not risen.
In face of the testimony of the Australian Delegation to the United States of America, on which both sides in politics were equally represented, there is ample room for inquiry into the wisdom of continuing the present system. The report showed conclusively that the workers in America are much better off with the voluntary system of arbitration, with co-operation, conciliation and round-table conferences, coupled with payment by results, than are the workers in Australia.
– Is that not due more to the attitude of the American people than their arbitration laws ?
– I think that the absence of compulsion in arbitration has a good deal to do with their success industrially, and I do not know why honorable members opposite do not recommend the workers to adopt the American system. I do not believe that compulsory arbitration has reduced industrial strife in Australia; it has rather increased it. Under a system of voluntary conciliation and arbitration there would be fewer disputes, because compulsion tends to antagonize the two parties, and produces a frame of mind in which they are not likely to settle their disputes amicably. I do not understand the attitude of the Opposition.
Most honorable members opposite must be regarded, I should think, as being in favour of compulsory arbitration ; but the speeches of a number of them would lead us to a different conclusion. I notice that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) said that if conciliation committees were appointed they would be preferable to arbitration. The honorable member, I take it, means compulsory arbitration. If so, I am in agreement with him; but it appears that he is not in favour of compulsory arbitration.
– Oh, yes!
– The speech from which I have just quoted does not indicate it. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) remarked that we should use our best efforts to bring about harmony and peace in industry, but not by . force of law. With that, also, I agree. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) said that the basis of arbitration should not be an appeal to force, but an appeal to reason. To my mind, that is directly opposed to compulsory arbitration.
– What happens when a conciliation committee does not come to an agreement?
– The parties must then fight the matter out. In any case, that often happens even under the system of compulsory arbitration. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) stated only last night that there should be more conciliation, and he gave it as his experience that round-table conferences usually led to the settlement of disputes.
– I said nothing about round-table conferences, but I am a strong believer in conciliation.
– So am I, but I do not know how the honorable member reconciles his present statement with his advocacy of compulsory arbitration.
– The majority of disputes to-day are settled by conciliation, and not by compulsory arbitration.
– We require a system that will bring conciliation into more general use. I should like to see it made the leading feature of this bill. It should be moulded much more than it is on the lines of the legislation of Canada and the United States of America. Th, workers in the United States of America under voluntary arbitration, co-operation, and the system of payment by results, now actually own thirty-six banks that have a total capital of £25,000,000. They are also large shareholders in many of the leading manufacturing businesses, and in some cases I think that they hold a controlling number of shares.
– The control still remains with the employers.
– That may be so in practically all cases, but the workers hold very large interests.
– The workers in Australia put their surplus money into the savings banks.
– But a system that has brought about remarkable results in the United States of America is surely worth trying in Australia.
– The workers could have almost owned the coal mines to-day, if they had liked.
– Yes. A system of conciliation and round-table conferences would prevent most of the strikes, and, coupled with payment by results, would enable the workers to attain a position equal to that of the employees in America. The amendment of the clause in the manner that I propose would bring it more into consonance with the system obtaining in Canada and the United States of America.
.- -The object of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) is, I understand, to introduce into the Arbitration Act some provisions corresponding with the Canadian industrial legislation which has been in operation for many years. The Canadian system is complete in itself, and under it, it is possible for any party to refer a dispute to a board representing employers and employees. The parties may agree in advance that the recommendation of the board, whatever it may be, shall be binding upon them. If, however, they do not so agree, the recommendations of the board, majority and minority, are made public, and the matter is left to the arbitrament of public opinion.
– The Minister may also issue instructions calling the board together.
– That is so. Nothing is binding upon the parties unless they agree to be bound ; therefore, it is a voluntary system. The amendments of the honorable member for Riverina do not propose a voluntary system, because in the first place, they provide that an application may be made for the appointment of a conciliation committee, that notice shall be given to the parties, and that the committee shall be appointed and may make recommendations for the settlement of a dispute. In addition the recommendations of the committee may be available to the organizations concerned and to the newspapers for publication. But the honorable member leaves standing the rest of the clause which provides that the committee’s recommendations may be brought before the court in the form of a proposed award, and that the court may make an award after hearing the parties concerned.
– That is the only course open to me under the bill as introduced.
– The amendment is plainly a mere variation of the preliminary procedure proposed under the clause, but in the end it is still compulsory.
– That is so, unfortunately.
– That is, unless there is an agreement between the parties. Therefore the question which arises is whether the procedure proposed by the honorable member is preferable to that proposed under the clause. Let me say that there are many industrial disputes which at present are adjusted by negotiations between the parties concerned, and it is a very good thing that that is so. It would indeed be unfortunate if on every occasion that an industrial dispute arose, the aid of the court, or even of the official conciliation machinery had to be invoked, and there is nothing in the bill which limits the opportunities for dealing with disputes by direct conferences between the parties concerned. There are certain portions of the amendments proposed by the honorable member for Riverina which I am quite prepared to accept, and I shall move amendments incorporating them. In the first place the honorable member proposes that an organization or person which or who is a party to an industrial dispute may apply in the prescribed manner to the Chief Judge for the establishment of a conciliation committee. The clause under consideration merely provides that the Chief Judge may appoint conciliation committees. The honorable member’s proposal is that a party to a dispute may apply for the appointment of a concilation committee.
– My amendment makes it mandatory.
– I shall deal with that aspect in a moment. The honorable member proposes that a party to a dispute shall have an opportunity of applying for the apointment of a conciliation committee. That, I agree, is a desirable improvement. As the clause stands at present it leaves it entirely to the initiative of the Chief Judge. I have no objection at all to adopting the substance of the first sub-clause of the honorable member’s amendment. I shall, therefore, move that instead of an application being made to the Chief Judge, which suggests the trouble of making application in the court and the like, the application be made to the Industrial Registrar in which case there would be no need for the party concerned to appear in the court to make the application. Unless the honorable member’s amendment is carried by the committee, I shall later move a new subclause as follows providing that -
An application for the appointment of a conciliation committee may be made in the prescribed manner to the Industrial Registrar by any party to an industrial dispute.
I have included the words “ in the prescribed manner “ so that the details may be prescribed.
– How will the Chief Judge be notified ?
– That can be prescribed by regulation. The second subclause of the honorable member’s amendment proposes that the appointment of a conciliation committee shall be mandatory - to use his own words - whenever an application is made. I suggest that it would be a mistake to adopt such a provision. I would remind the honorable member of the examples that I have frequently given in this chamber, of thousands of employers being parties to an industrial dispute. If the honorable member’s amendment were carried, any one of those employers might force the appointment of a conciliation committee, although the other employersconcerned were out of sympathy with him and desired the dispute to be dealt with by a compulsory conference or in the ordinary course by the Arbitration Court.
– Only if the judge agreed that an industrial dispute existed?
– In one dispute which was dealt with by the court, 11,000 respondents were cited. How would it be possible to administer a system giving to each of thoserespondents the right to have a conciliation committee appointed at any stage of the dispute, perhaps after it had been partly heard in the court, or partly settled by a compulsory conference? If the right were conferred upon either party to an industrial dispute, independent of the discretion of the Chief Judge, to secure the appointment of a conciliation committee, we might have several agencies working on the same dispute at the same time. That wouid complicate the procedure, and the system would be capable of ready abuse. I am, therefore, unable to accept the suggestion that a party to a dispute should be able to compel the appointment of a conciliation committee. It is far better to leave that to the discretion of the Chief Judge, after he has taken all the circumstances of the case into consideration.
The third sub-clause of the amendment moved by the honorable member for Riverina, provides that the Registrar shall, upon the making of an order under the last preceding sub-clause, forthwith cause a copyof the order to be served on each party to the dispute. Subclause 6c of the amendment provides that the Registrar shall notify the parties to the dispute of the names of the members and chairman of the committee, and sub-clause 6f provides that a copy of any recommendation shall be supplied to each organization or person party to the dispute, and to the representative of any newspaper. That procedure involves, on three separate occasions, notification of certain facts to all parties to the dispute. Take the case of a dispute in which thousands of respondents are concerned. It would cost hundreds of pounds to send three separate notifications to each of them. In addition, that portion of the clause which the honorable member proposes to leave unchanged, may entail a further notification to each of the parties concerned. If this amendment were carried, the procedure would be very expensive and complicated, and might be liable to be challenged if there were a slight discrepancy in carrying it out. It would certainly be a complicated procedure, and the clause, as it stands, proposes a much simpler, speedier and cheaper procedure.
Then the honorable member proposes to confine the membership of a conciliation committee to three. I suggest that the Chief Judge, after receiving recommendations from the parties concerned, should determine the membership of the committee. If the parties require more than one representative each, as in complex industries they are almost bound to do, why not allow them to have more ? Take, for example, a mining dispute, involving miners, engineers, men working on the surface, in fact, all of those engaged in the large number of separate occupations which are associated with a mine. Those concerned in the dispute would naturally desire individuals who understood the separate functions common to mining to be their representatives. It is seldom that one representative can satisfactorily handle all the elements of an industry, and I suggest that it would be a mistake to confine the membership of a committee to three. There are other difficulties associated with the honorable member’s amendment. For example, he stipulates periods of fifteen days and five days. I suggest that it would be better to leave these matters flexible. It must be remembered that we are dealing with interstate disputes, which may be on an all-Australian scale, and to provide a period of five days for the appointment of a chairman would prevent the appointment if a suitable man could not be found within five days. In the same way a time limit of fifteen days would be too rigid.
– We want these disputes to be settled promptly.
– To require the Chief Judge to appoint within fifteen days re,presentatives to a committee is imposing upon him an onerous duty, and this handicap might lead to the defeat of the whole procedure. It is important that the persons appointed to a committee should be genuinely representative, and it might be such men could not be found within a period of fifteen days.
I am prepared to adopt the first part of the honorable member’s amendment that either party to a dispute may apply for the appointment of a conciliation committee, and I shall later move an amendment to provide that if the parties to the dispute concur in nominating a person as chairman, the Chief Judge shall appoint that person as such. Honorable members must agree that it would be undesirable to allow the ‘majority of the representatives to appoint the chairman of a conciliation committee. As the clause stands at present it provides only that the judge shall appoint the chairman. I propose to move a proviso to the effect that if the members of the committee concur in nominating any person as chairman, the Chief Judge shall appoint that person as chairman.
– It must be a unanimous decision.
– Yes. I am prepared to accept certain portions of the honorable member’s amendment, but I submit that the adoption of the whole of it would introduce a degree of complication that would defeat the very object that the honorable member has in view.
– Does not the AttorneyGeneral consider that there should be a time limit to the appointment of a committee ?
– I propose to leave that to the discretion of the Chief Judge. It is of no use to fix an arbitrary time limit; it might defeat the object of the honorable member altogether, because of the difficulty of finding suitable men within the time prescribed. If a time limit were imposed it might even lead to the appointment of an unsuitable committee.
.- Few honorable members are likely to oppose this clause. In my opinion, it is a step in the right direction. For a long time I have been endeavouring to include such a provision in the Industrial Peace Act. It is a very necessary clause, although, I submit, the Minister might have gone a little further than he has. The honorable member for Riverina stated, in support of his proposed amendments, that I had said, during the course of ray second-reading speech, that I preferred conciliation committees to arbitration. That is perfectly true; but the honorable member should not draw from that the inference that I am against compulsory arbitration altogether. Chat is quite a different thing. I believe in settling all disputes that may arise, if at all possible, by conciliation. I have always advocated that, but I do not wish my position to be misunderstood. I have repeatedly informed this committee that if some of the clauses of the bill are given effect, they will assuredly destroy compulsory arbitration; so honorable members must realize from that statement that the honorable member for Riverina has gained a wrong impression of my attitude. The amendment foreshadowed by the Attorney-General is important. If conciliation committees are to be a success we must allow the parties to a dispute to decide, if possible, who shall be the chairman. If they fail to agree, then, of course, the appointment must be left to the discretion of the Chief Judge. Before the system of compulsory arbitration was introduced, the parties to a dispute appointed their representatives to meet in conference, and on one or two occasions in my district I was so appointed. When a chairman could not be agreed upon, some prominent person in the community, a judge or a Minister of the Crown, was asked to recommend someone for the position. In that respect the amendment foreshadowed by the AttorneyGeneral is satisfactory.
– That is the procedure in connexion with the Victorian Wages Board.
– It was the procedure before compulsory arbitration was introduced. In one instance, the late James Curley and myself represented the workers. We could not agree with the other representatives as to the chairman to be appointed, and one was appointed by ait outside authority. That chairman decided against us; and let me say that we found no fault with his decision, although it was against us. A similar provision to that foreshadowed by the Attorney-General should be included in the Industrial Peace Act. The great trouble in connexion with disputes, especially in the mining industry, is that there is no v means by which immediate steps may be taken to deal with them as they arise. Although a special tribunal may be appointed to deal with disputes, it is impossible for it to deal with all the disputes that may arise throughout Australia. By the appointment of committees an/l boards, disputes can be dealt with on the spot, and this procedure, in many cases, would prevent the extension of disputes.
– Would not a decision in one State affect other States?
– I am coming to that point. If a dispute were dealt with on the spot by a committee of conciliation, there might be no stoppage of work at all. May I recite my own experience in support of what I am saying? The last mine at which I was employed, was the South Waratah. At that time, Mr. McGeaghie was the general manager. He had under him a number of mine managers. I regularly represented the men. He used to say to me, “If there is any trouble, do not bring about a stoppage; send for me. If I am not available immediately, I shall return as soon as possible. Even if it should take me a week to get back to the mine, I shall come. “ The result was that we kept the mine working even at those times when we could not agree with the mine manager. As soon as Mr. McGeaghie arrived he would send for me, and we would discuss the matter with the under manager and the manager. When we presented a good case to him, he yielded to our representations; but when we found that he had right on his side, we always accepted the position. There was never any trouble. During the whole of the time that I was there, although it was the dirtiest mine in the district, all our differences were settled in that manner, and we did not have one day of idleness. That is why I advocate so strongly the voluntary settlement of disputes.
My chief reason for rising was to draw attention to another aspect. The new sub-section 2 reads -
A conciliation committee may be appointed in relation to industrial disputes in an industry, or in a branch or section of an industry defined by reference to locality or otherwise.
I am doubtful as to how far we can go in that direction. As the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has pointed out by way of interjection, an industry may extend beyond the limits of a State. It must do so before the Commonwealth has power under the Constitution to deal with it. A conciliation committee may be appointed to deal with a branch or section of an industry. Any agreement arrived at must be forwarded to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court for its ratification. Supposing some person outside the particular State in which the agreement is come to considers that the decision affects him, will it be valid even though it has the approval of both the parties to it? I am not sure that it will.
– Is not the right reserved to any person who is interested to intervene and show cause why the recommendation should not be accepted by the court?
– It is. If there should be such an intervention and the court should find itself compelled to disallow the agreement on account of the limitation placed upon its constitutional powers, the honorable member must see that the work of these conciliation committees would be nullified. That is the sole difficulty that I apprehend. If some person should intervene and claim that the conciliation committee did not have the power to do this thing, even though the two parties had agreed to it, the court would be placed in the position of having to come to a decision according to its constitutional powers. I have doubts as to whether this can really be done; but I am not a legal man. The Attorney-General knows that I have advocated this principle in private conference with him. I had thought it would be possible to bind these committees legally so long as they were made subordinate to the Industrial Peace Tribunal or the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The whole question is, whether that can or cannot be done.. I have no objection whatever to the proposed new sub-section; I believe that it is a step in the right direction if it can be carried out constitutionally. The Attorney-General probably considers that it is within the constitutional power of the Commonwealth to enact it. If it is, I should like him to extend the principle to the mining industry so as to avoid, as far as possible, even those small troubles that from time to time cause a stoppage of operations for only a week or two. There has not been one hold-up in the coal-mining industry since the Industrial Peace Tribunal was appointed, some years ago. That is a fact that we should not forget. Practically all the troubles in the coal-mining industry are sectional in character, and if this principle were adopted, they would be fewer in ‘ the future than they are to-day. If action along those lines is possible under this measure, I see no reason why it should not be taken.
– I am well aware of the efforts which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has made to extend the scope of the Industrial Peace Act in certain directions; but difficulties of a constitutional character have prevented the consummation of his desires. However, I am prepared to investigate the matter once more, more particularly if representations upon it are made by the coal-mining industry.
The honorable member for Hunter has alluded to the constitutional aspect of this matter. I consider that the proposed new sub-section 2 is constitutionally valid. The action to be taken under it will depend on what is done in each case. The proposed new section provides in the first place for conciliatory procedure, and in so far as the parties succeed in agreeing, no constitutional difficulty arises ; but if compulsion has to be exercised or if any legal obligation is to be imposed on either party as apart from the law, then the constitutional aspect of the case has to be considered. Provision is made for that in this section. First of all it must be recognized that it would be a great mistake to urge the parties to a certain course of procedure and then leave them with something which afterwards might be found to be invalid. Provision is made to guard against that.
If an agreement is arrived at in the settlement of a dispute, it may be certified under section 24 and have the effect of an award, but yesterday the committee added a proviso to section 24 providing that the court shall not- certify an agreement unless it is satisfied that it is in settlement of an industrial dispute. That amendment was made to conform with the provisions of the proposed new section- 34 now under consideration. It was thought that it would be misleading to provide that an agreement arrived at should be certified and have the effect of an award under section 24 unless it was in settlement of an interstate dispute ; and the proviso therefore requires the judge to satisfy himself that the agreement hae been made in settlement of an interstate dispute before he purports to give it the effect of an award by certifying it. From the legal stand-point therefore that possibility is provided against.
If the parties fail to arrive at an agreement the proposed section provides for the service of a summons to show cause why an award should not be made. Every person concerned thus has an opportunity to attend before the court and submit reasons why an award should not be made, and the court is given power to make whatever award it chooses to make. The matter will then be in the hands of the court, and it will operate under the constitutional limitation that it can deal only with an interstate dispute. When the work of the conciliation committee results in either of the conclusions contemplated by the proposed section, that is to say, an agreement or an award, there is a provision which secures in the opinion of the court the validity of the agreement or the award as the case may be.
I come now to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), the position as to small disputes which are not interstate in character. The circumstances referred to by the honorable member indicate a difficulty which is inherent in all our legislation on this subject, and nothing that this Parliament can do would avoid or abolish it; but a great deal may be done on a. legal basis, and that is provided for in sub-section 2, which sets out that conciliation committees may be appointed in relation to an industrial dispute, not only in an industry, but also in a branch or a section of an industry defined by reference to locality or otherwise^ There are Federal awards in existence in most of the in- dustries of Australia which desire to obtain them, and it is hoped that even in cases where an award has been made, it will be possible to appoint a conciliation committee to deal with matters arising in the industry in relation to the award. For example, take the case of an award which prescribes certain conditions of labour. A difficulty may arise under that award in a single State, and it oan be dealt with by a conciliation committee.
– But what wil happen if the subject-matter of the difficulty is not in relation to an award, and is confined to one State?
– In those circumstan-‘ ces the Federal Arbitration Court would have no constitutional power to handle it, and nothing this Parliament can do would alter the position. Nevertheless something may be achieved by the appointment of a conciliation com:mittee. It may successfully handle even such a matter as that referred to by the honorable member. If the machinery exists the use of that machinery will be a matter for the parties, and I hope that many difficulties will be satisfactorily adjusted without legal proceedings.
– Is that possible if the court cannot take cognizance of a local dispute ?
– I hope that the effect of this legislation will be that conciliation committees with some permanence of character will be appointed in relation to industries and sections of industries, that they will meet from time to time, and that a great many matters will be adjusted on the basis of agreement after conference without going through the legal formulas of certifying an agreement or making an award. I hope that giving to the parties an opportunity to meet will result in the settlement of difficulties among themselves which, perhaps, could not be dealt with satisfactorily under the Commonwealth’s powers. The utmost we can do is to provide machinery for dealing with those matters which are within our constitutional powers in the hope that when the parties meet face to face they will utilize that machinery for the adjustment of other difficulties between them-‘ selves.
.- In regard to this provision, I am anxious to preserve the interests of persons engaged in industry in the smaller States. I understand that the Attorney-General is prepared to amend the clause and provide another method of appointing conciliation committees. It is possible that the amendment will afford a better opportunity to persons engaged in the industry in the smaller States to secure representation on these committees, but if that is not done these persons will be at a great disadvantage compared with persons engaged in industries in New South Wales and Victoria, whose prominence and importance will give them almost the whole of the representation on the appointed committees. I am afraid that that will have a serious effect on industries in States like Western Australia and Tasmania.
– And South Australia.
– And probably South Australia. I do not think that it should be left to the Chief Judge to make these appointments, except on recommendation. I understand that the Attorney-General proposes to have proposed sub-section 12 omitted with a view to inserting another sub-section.
– That is so.
– I am advised that there is a possibility of a common rule being made under this clause, and I should like the Attorney-General if he speaks again to tell me if that will be possible. If industrial disputes could be settled by the means provided in this proposed section it would be preferable to having them submitted to judges, but we have to take into consideration the enormous area of Australia, and the difficulty of having the remote States represented on conciliation committees. For instance, if a dispute in the timber industry breaks out in Queensland, it will be difficult for South Australia and Tasmania to be represented on any conciliation committee which may be appointed to deal with it. To my mind the States themselves can best handle and regulate State industries, because of the great difficulty there is in making Federal awards applicable to the varying conditions of each State.
– The honorable member has raised the position of the smaller States under the provision which provides for conciliation, particularly if there should be a recommendation by the majority of the members of the conciliation committee for arbitration on a certain basis. Under the conciliation provisions of the bill the employer cannot be bound unless he has agreed, and the employer in the smaller States is, therefore, fully safeguarded. On the other hand, under the arbitration provisions it is provided that notice of a proposed award must be given in a manner set out. It must be either by personal notice to him or by a representative order which is published in the Government Gazette. Before any of these circumstances arise, there must be a dispute and that means, in the ordinary case, that the employer has been served with a log in the ordinary way. Summarizing the position, the employer either agrees to that by which he is bound, as the result of conciliation to which he is a party, or is made aware of the existence of a dispute by means of the service of a log so that he knows that something is happening to which he had better pay attention, or, after the service of the log, he is either personally served with an order setting out the recommendations of the conciliation committee, or a representative order is made subject to the safeguards mentioned in the section. This provision does not compromise the position of employers in the smaller States, nor does it alter the situation in regard to a common rule, which can be declared by any industrial tribunal in Australia with the exception of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. In that court, the procedure has to be followed of creating a dispute between all the persons concerned. The honorable member apparently believes in that procedure and prefers it to the wages board system and other State procedure which enables a common rule to be made applicable to the whole of an industry within a State. The position in that respect is unchanged by this legislation and, as the decision of the High Court at present stands, the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has no power to declare a common rule.. No employer can be bound by an award unless he has been served with notice of the proceedings, and no employee is entitled to the benefit of an award unless he is a member of a union which has been a party to the proceedings.’
.- I wish to thank the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) for seeking to give effect to his declaration that there is too little conciliation and too much force in this measure. Other honorable members have also expressed themselves in that way. I believe that every honorable member, in his heart, would prefer to see 99 per cent, of conciliation, and 1 per cent, of force. I should like to give honorable members the benefit of the information I gained in South Africa, a dominion that has had the most bitter experience of any dominion under the British flag in the matter of strikes and lockouts. Before a striker in South Africa is permitted to see if other men seek employment in an industry where a strike exists or before the employers in the case of a lockout, endeavour to fill the places of the strikers, the representatives of the parties must meet. Picketing is not allowed by the unions, and the employers are not allowed to engage nonunion labour until both parties have appeared before a council duly appointed by the law of the South African Union. That is a system that is worth considering, because the Attorney-General and other honorable members know that in that country at one time there were terrible industrial struggles resulting even in bloodshed. Almost every clause in this bill provides a punishment or a penalty, many of which should be removed. Honorable members will agree with me that Mr. Stewart, who was Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and whose conciliatory efforts were in most cases unknown to the general public, has done more in preventing strikes or cases going to the court, than any other man in Australia. My principal reason for speaking to-day is because I see nothing in this measure, or in this clause in particular, that will prevent heavy and unnecessary expenditure. I propose to quote some of the figures in connexion with the Councils of Prud’ hommes, a system under which 70 per cent, of the cases are settled by con ciliation. These councils started first under the genius of Napoleon and the influence extended from France to other parts of Europe. The principle was accepted in Belgium, from Belgium it extended to Germany, and from Germany to six Swiss cantons, which have sovereign rights in respect of certain matters. Under this system two committees are appointed. In the first place a committee representative of the employers and employees is appointed in exactly the same way as our wages boards. If the committee cannot agree on the appointment of a president or vice-president, such an officer is selected by the authority which has the power to appoint the committee. The first committee, which consists of three members, deals first with the disputes. Pulgrave’s Dictionary shows that of the 43,000 cases dealt with under this system 60 per cent, were in connexion with wages, 13 per cent, for dismissals, 10 per cent, for alleged misbehaviour, 5 per cent, in relation to apprenticeship, and 12 per cent, for various other reasons. Of the cases heard 70 per cent were not carried beyond the first committee and the cost incurred was only 3d. which was for a letter of invitation to attend. If the first committee of conciliation fails to settle the dispute, the case is heard by a higher court or committee consisting of five members. According to The Contemporary Review, vol. xliii, page 546, the costs of a suit are borne by the loser unless the court specially orders each side to pay some costs. The following is the table of fees: -
That is sufficient to show that there are at all events some schemes which are worthy of emulation. The Federated
Tramways Employees’ case cost the men over £10,000 before the case was settled by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, and I feel sure that it is not the wish of any honorable member* to assist in passing legislation under which such heavy expenditure is incurred. Of the 43,000 cases which have been heard in France, the 8,000 in Belgium and 97,000 in Germany, fully 70 per cent, were settled by the first court at the nominal fees I have mentioned.
– I strongly support the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) and other honorable members who have expressed the belief that the appointment of conciliation committees, as provided for in this clause, can do much to prevent and settle industrial disputes. I listened very carefully to the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen) who, if I understood him aright, said that he believed compulsory arbitration in this country had failed. I am sure the honorable member will agree with me when I say that that view is not shared by the majority of those engaged in the great pastoral industry.
– I am not sure of that.
– I am. For the information of the honorable member I quote the following, whcih appeared in the Sydney Mail of the 16th May of this year-
While compulsory arbitration is being seriously questioned by the leaders in a number of industries, the pastoral industry in New South Wales is standing solidly for it.
For many years arbitration has been the industrial policy of our pastoral interests, as expressed by the Graziers’ Association. There is no evidence whatever that our organized pastoral interests have any desire to change this policy. They have found that compulsory arbitration ° has worked satisfactorily in their industry, and they desire to continue it. It is especially worth noting that in the shearing, which is the main section of the pastoral industry covered by compulsory arbitration, there is piecework. The shearer is paid according to the amount of work he does. For example, the shearer who shears 150 sheep in the day makes 50 per cent, more money than the man who shears 100 sheep. “ This means “, Mr. F. H. Tout, president of the Graziers’ Association, points out, “ that the more efficient men make more money, and this is on the side of progress and a square deal. “ Mr. Tout further expresses the opinion that “ it would be ever so much better for the secondary industries and consequently for the Commonwealth, if piecework were introduced generally. “ It is a remarkable fact that, while se many unions express the keenest hostility to piecework, the Australian Workers Union, which is one of the largest and most powerful unions in the Commonwealth, finds that piecework works well in the pastoral industry, and accepts it as the right policy. It is true that there is a small extremist section in the Australian Workers Union that occasionally attacks the principle, but the great majority of the members have shown that they are not prepared to fall in with this small though militant minority. Shearers, it is generally admitted, make “ big money “, but the point is that the better they work the more money they make. There is no suggestion whatever in the shearing industry of “ slavedriving, “ or of undue speeding-up”. It is left to the individual shearer as to how many sheep he will shear, and the fact that shearers continue in the industry for a great many years shows that the piecework principle is in no sense of the word a menace to them - rather it is an attraction. It is pleasing to note that serious industrial troubles in the pastoral industry are very rare. Wages and conditions are amicably settled in the Federal Arbitration Court, and the awards are in the main, loyally accepted. Both sides are well organized, and it can be said that official relations between the Australian Workers Union and the organized graziers, are very satisfactory. Here is certainly an example of the value of compulsory arbitration.
It is also interesting to note that among the registered organizations of employers under the Federal Arbitration Act are the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales, the Pastoralists’ Association of West Darling, the Pastoralists’ Union of South Riverina, the Pastoralists’ Association of Western Australia Incorporated, and the Shearers Contractors’ Association of New South Wales. During the second-reading debate on this bill, the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Forde) referred to the fact that I was once associated with the pastoral industry, as my family has been for generations, and also to an article which was published in the Pastoral Review of 1921. I have not been able to find in the Library the copy in which it appeared, but I think it referred to migration, and in it, according - to the honorable member, it was said that the view of the graziers was that no advance could be made until compulsory arbitration was abolished. Personally, I think that the more conciliation we can bring into our legislation the better for all sections of the community, but :that in no way detracts from my view that while the present system is in operation we should try to make it as acceptable and workable as possible.
– I move -
That after proposed sub-section (1) the following sub-section be inserted: - “(1a) An application for the appointment of a conciliation committee by the Chief Judge may be made in the prescribed manner to the Industrial Registrar by any party to an industrial dispute.”
This and the next amendment I intend to move are in accordance with what I stated in reference to the proposals of the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Killen). This is one of his suggestions which I am very glad to accept.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-
That at the end of proposed sub-section (3) the following proviso be inserted: - “Provided thatif the other members of the committee concur in nominating any other person as chairman, the Chief Judge shall appoint that person as chairman.”
That after proposed sub-section (3) the following new sub-section be inserted: - “(3a) The chairman of a conciliation’ committee shall preside over meetings of the committee, but shall not be entitled to vote on any question before the committee.”
– I move -
That proposed sub-section (12) be omitted.
This is in accordance with the amendment already carried dealing with representative orders in an earlier part of the section. It is really a consequential amendment. I propose to insert another sub-section providing the right for any party toappear if he so desires.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendments (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-
That the figures “ 10,” proposed new subsection (13), be omitted and the figures “ 11 “ inserted in lieu thereof.
That after proposed sub-section ( 13 ) the following proviso be inserted: - “ Provided that the making of an order under sub-section (11) of this section shall not prevent any person from appearing separately if he so desires in any proceedings relating to the dispute.”
Clause 28, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 29 to 31 agreed to.
After section 38b of the principal act the following sections are inserted: - “ 38c. The court shall, in the caseof every industrial dispute, consider if there is anything….. which makes it more desirable that the dispute …. should be dealt with by the court than by any State industrial authority . . . “
– This is a provision concerning which I have already addressed some observations to the committee. It provides that the court shall consider whether an industrial dispute should be dealt with by a State industrial authority rather than by the Federal Court. Only when satisfied on that point shall the Federal Court proceed with the matter.
– It proposes to delegate authority.
– It is not a matter of delegating authority. The court is to consider whether it is in substance a Federal or a State matter, and the court will go on only when it is satisfied that it is a Federal matter. It does not necessarily and automatically follow that the Federal Court should deal with a dispute because it is technically interstate in character. As honorable members know, it is easy to create an interstate dispute; it requires only formal action. There are some matters, as honorable members opposite have truly said, that are better dealt with by State laws or State awards. This is a direction that the court shall not deal with a dispute unless it definitely makes up its mind that it should be dealt with federally.
– It is side-stepping the Constitution.
– Not at all.
– If it is an interstate matter, how can the court constitutionally refuse to hear it ?
– The honorable member asks me how the court can constitutionally refuse to hear a case if the matter is an interstate one. The answer is that the method of dealing with cases depends entirely on the intention of this Parliament which may give the court jurisdiction, within constitutional limits, to whatever extent it thinks proper. For instance, there is no doubt whatever that this Parliament might say that the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall deal with interstate disputes only in the transport industry, and there would be no doubt as to the validity of such a provision. In this clause, Parliament is not limiting the jurisdiction of the court, but is requiring it to satisfy itself that the matter is one that ought to be dealt with federally rather than upon a State basis. Some objection has been raised to this clause. It has been said that it will require a separate hearing on the question as to whether the matter shouldbe dealt with by the Federal Court, and that it is only after that has been determined, and a declaration made, that the court will hear the dispute itself. That is not the intention. In order to avoid any foundation for such a supposition, I move -
That after the word “ consider,” proposed new section 38c, the words “ in the course of the hearing “ be inserted.
The proposed new section will then read : -
The court shall in the case of every industrial dispute, consider in the course of the bearing if there is anything in the nature or circumstances of the industry, or any other reason, which makes it more desirable that the dispute or any part of it should be dealt with by the court than by any State industrial authority…….
This amendment is in accordance with representations addressed to me from various quarters by interested parties.
– Can a State industrial authority deal with an interstate dispute?
– A State authority can deal with anything within its borders unless the exercise of its powers is inconsistent with a Commonwealth law, including any action taken under a valid Commonwealth law, such as the making of Commonwealth awards. This proposed new section will operate, where it does operate, by preventing a Commonwealth award from being made and therefore will leave the field free for the activities of State industrial authorities. It is an attempt to deal with a very difficult question - the division of Federal and State powers in the industrial sphere. Instead of asking this Parliament to take the responsibility of saying that only certain industries shall fall within the Federal sphere, we are making it the duty of the court, under this provision, to consider and determine this particular matter in every case.
– Could not a judge determine whether the case should be dealt with by a State authority before considering the merits of the case itself ?
– Separate hearings would be a mistake and would increase the expense and complexity of a case, because it would become apparent, in the course of the hearing, as to whether it was desirable that the matter should be dealt with by the Federalcourt or by a State authority.
– I should like to have an expression of opinion from the Attorney-General as to how this proposed new section will affect State public servants and employees of State railways, who have become members of federated organizations. Early attempts were made to secure Federal awards on the passing of the 1904 Arbitration Act, but at that time legal issues were raised. The High Court in 1906 in the Pedder case and Webb case declared, in effect, that the Federal Arbitration Act in a certain respect was ultra vires, because the Federal Parliament, under the Deakin Ministry, specifically included railway men in the act. There are approximately 130,000 workers in the State railways and State public services. These State public servants have either been working under or are in process of securing Federal awards. What effect will this section have upon that large body of employees? The court may decide that in certain cases they may approach the Federal Arbitration Court or, on the other hand, it may remit their claims to a State authority.
– It is a question not of. remitting cases to a State authority, but of leaving State officers under the jurisdiction of a State tribunal.
– Not always. I take the view that State public servants are citizens of the Commonwealth, and should have the same rights as other people. Why should they be excluded from the benefits of the Commonwealth arbitration system? The High Court, as later constituted, decided in the engineers’ case that the decision of the court in 1906 was wrong, and declared that there was nothing in the Constitution of the Commonwealth to prevent the Federal Parliament from legislating in respect of industrial disputes affecting employees of State instrumentalities. It was then discovered that there was sufficient power in section 4 to include employees of State instrumentalities and it was held that they had every right to registration in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Accordingly they made application, and after much expense secured registration. As Australian citizens and taxpayers, all employees of State instrumentalities should be subject to the same laws as other citizens. Is it not possible under this proposed new section for the judge to have the right to say to members of such organizations - “As State railway employees or public servants, you may seek redress in this court, but I have the right to say whether or not you should not submit your claims to a State authority.” As I have said, the later decision of the High Court was emphatically in favour of including State instrumentalities within the ambit of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. I think the decision of the newly-constituted court with Sir Adrian Knox as Chief Justice, occasioned some surprise. I should iike to know definitely if under this proposed new section the employees of a State are likely to suffer.
– This clause does not affect the matter to which the honorable member referred. Under section 4 an industrial dispute is defined as including
Any dispute in relation to employment in an industry carried on by or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State.
This definition will not be affected by the bill unless the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) is carried. I have agreed to re-commit the bill to permit him to move it. His amendment raises the definite issue whether or not State railway employees shall be included in the Federal arbitration system. The honorable member for Maribyrnong also asked whether the proposed new section compromises the position of other employees of a State. As it happens, it does not. All that it declares is that the court shall have the duty of considering the matter. Already it has the power to do that under section 38 (h), which provides that the court has power to dismiss any matter or part of a matter or refrain from further hearing or from determining a dispute if it appears that the dispute is proper to be dealt with by a State industrial authority. In the railway dispute, application was made to the court under that section, inviting the court to exercise its power. The application failed and it was renewed at a recent date, when the court re-affirmed its prior decision. The Arbitration Court has proceeded with the hearing of that case because it expressly decided that it was not a dispute that is proper to be dealt with by a State authority. The clause, therefore, only imposes on the court the duty of doing what the court already has power to do.
– What about the position of other public servants?
– As I have shown, the court may, under section 38 (h), refrain from dealing with or hearing a dispute which the court thinks proper to be dealt with by a State industrial authority. There appears to he some misunderstanding as to the position. The act deals only with industrial disputes, and can only deal with industrial disputes under the Constitution. There is still outstanding a question as to the extent of the meaning of the words “industrial disputes.” In the case of the railways, and what are obviously industrial enterprises conducted by a State, such as, for example, the growing and selling of meat, or therunning of ships, that question has been decided in favour of the inclusion of those employees within the Federal Arbitration Act. I am not giving an opinion on the matter, but honorable members should be informed that it must not be supposed that these decisions necessarily cover the case of ordinary civil servants employed by a government, but who, speaking generally, would not be supposed to be engaged in industry That is a matter with which this Parliament cannot deal. Either these persons are engaged in industry, or they are not. If the High Court says that they are not engaged in industry, the act does not apply’ to them and this Parliament is unable by any action it can take to include them within it.
.- There is no doubt, I take it, that if we agree to this proposed section, we shall in more emphatic manner than hitherto, give legislative approval to a practice which is already in operation under the provisions of section 38 h of the principal act. To my knowledge, the court has on a number of occasions, already declared that matters brought before them might have been more appropriately dealt with by State tribunals. The first question that arises in this connexion is whether their Honours are not really considering to some extent their own comfort and convenience in remitting to State tribunals matters over which they have jurisdiction but do not wish to deal with. That may be regarded as a somewhat unworthy suggestion, but as one accustomed to dealing with matters in other jurisdictions I know that it is not an uncommon thing to hear the judge protest against cases being submitted to his court which might have been dealt with effectively elsewhere.
– Did not the Chief Judge say recently, that his court was being clogged with State disputes?
– If he said so, I presume that it represents his view. But J suggest to the Attorney-General that as a general rule, it is not for the judiciary to declare that it will not deal with matters on the ground of over-work or otherwise, because they might have been dealt with by another tribunal. We know that many matters are brought before the Supreme Courts of the States, which might perhaps have been more cheaply and equally effectively dealt with by County Courts. Their Honours sometimes express themselves to that effect. There is machinery, it is true, for remitting cases to less expensive courts, if good reasons can be stated for doing so; but apart from that it does not, as a general rule, rest with a court to say that it will not deal with the matter submitted to it, and I very much doubt whether it would be a good principle to introduce. The proposed section, as the Attorney-General desires to amend it, reads : “ The court shall in the case of every industrial dispute consider, in the course of the ‘ hearing . . .” The addition of these words “ in the course of the hearing” may lead to unexpected results. The jurisdiction of the court may not even be brought into question. « We spent a good deal of time this morning discussing the complicated machinery which must be put in motion to enable these matters’ to come before the court. The number of respondents to be cited was mentioned. I think the Attorney-General said that in the clothing trade, between 9,000 and 10,000 respondents had to be served. We are seeking, in this bill, to minimize that trouble by providing for the issuing of representative orders. But I ask the Attorney-General to recollect that before a case is actually being heard before a court, a great deal of work has been done and expense incurred by the organizations concerned. In such circumstances it would be disturbing if “ in the course of the hearing” the court, although it had jurisdiction to proceed with the case, declared “it more desirable that the dispute or any part of it should be dealt with “ by a State industrial authority, and refrained from continuing the hearing. It is true that in the past it has been possible for the court to refer a matter to another tribunal, but we are now asking it affirmatively to declare that a matter might, with more propriety, be dealt with by a State tribunal. I cannot understand why the clause has been couched in these words. It would surely have been sufficient to state the point in a negative rather than a positive form. Why has this particular wording been used? One may be pardoned for regarding with grave suspicion any proposal by this Government, or- the interests which it represents, to discourage Commonwealth tribunals from dealing with Commonwealth matters. There may be cases of Commonwealth concern which could be dealt with more effectively by a State tribunal.
– The honorable member was eloquent in arguing the converse point last night.
– I stand by what I said last night. If the honorable member for Wannon is fair to me, he will admit that, on that occasion, I was arguing that the Commonwealth authority should be paramount in dealing with
Commonwealth matters and matters in which there was clearly a conflict between Commonwealth and State legislation. I stand firmly for that. The point I am making at the moment is that a Commonwealth ‘court shall not be invited, when dealing with a case in which it has clear jurisdiction, to shirk its duty and refer it to another court.
– There will be no shirking of duty if this proposed section is agreed to, for if the court referred a case to a State tribunal it would only be giving effect to a legislative provision.
– I object to the legislature making such a provision, for it would be an encouragement to the court to evade a responsibility which rests upon it. Many courts other than the arbitration .courts are congested in this country, and no one knows it better than the AttorneyGeneral. But I do not think that any court should be authorized to abstain from hearing a case merely on the ground that it might have been dealt with conveniently elsewhere. If I am able to’ read the signs of the times correctly, the courts already show a disposition to do that kind of thing. We have not been in a position hitherto to criticize this tendency, for the matter has not been before us; but we are entitled now to indicate quite clearly that we do not approve of Commonwealth ‘courts evading - I do not use the word offensively; I should use another to express my view if I could find it - the responsibility which the law imposes upon them of dealing with the cases with which they are competent to deal.
.- I have always been under the impression that an inherent obligation of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court was first to determine whether it had jurisdiction to deal with the matter submitted to it. I look upon this provision as an attempt to amplify the discretion of the court. If a court decided, because of developments which occurred during the hearing of a case, that the matter before it was really a State dispute which had been manufactured into a federal dispute, and, therefore, should be dealt with by a State tribunal, it should be quite in order for it to make a declaration to that effect.
– Will the honorable member name an industry in which a declaration of that kind might apply?
– I have often said that, in my opinion, the only Federal industry is that of the Australian mercantile marine operating within territorial waters. I can see no distinction between a man harvesting a crop of wheat in Victoria and another in New South Wales, or in shearing sheep in one State or in another. The operation is the same in each State. One arrives at the conclusion that this matter of attempting to unify industry is an attempt to put a super-court over the State industrial tribunals. The fact that, by artificial methods, a dispute may be extended beyond the borders of a State in order to bring it to the Federal Court, reduces compulsory arbitration to a farce, and circumvents, the operations of the State industrial tribunals. I believe that this proposed section is redundant. ‘ It seems to me that, in the ordinary course of events, a judge may, before* hearing a case, determine whether it should or should not constitute a Federal dispute.
– That is already expressly provided for iu section 38 of the principal act.
– But this clause provides that the judge shall direct his mind to that point. I should say that that is part of his ordinary duty.
– That has not been part of his duty up to the present.
– Is not the honorable member confusing the two things? First, the judge has to determine whether it is an industrial dispute extending beyond the limits of one State, in order to establish his jurisdiction. After that is done, he must still direct his mind to this point.
– He may decide that he has improperly exercised his discretion in the first place.
– Not at all.
.- It can be easily understood that a feeling of apprehension prevails in the minds of the majority of public servants as to the application of this . amendment should it become law. I ask* the Attorney-General what is the driving force behind the proposal if it is merely to lay emphasis upon that which he says is clearly indicated iri the existing law. It appears to be emphasizing a section of the act in such a manner that it will limit very largely the discretion that has hitherto been left to the Federal Arbitration Court.- I understand that those who are directly interested in the passing of this proposed section, having taken counsel as to the nature of its application, are extremely apprehensive as to its results, as they feel confident that it will deprive them of privileges which they are now enjoying. “We are all familiar with the sustained effort that was made by the members of the Public Service, particularly of those engaged in State instrumentalities, to gain access to the Federal Arbitration Court. It was only after considerable litigation, including an appeal to the Privy Council, that their claims were recognized. Does the Government now contemplate the withdrawal of . those privileges ? Is the amendment sought by the judiciary? Public servants recognize that they have received absolutely impartial treatment from the Federal tribunal. At least one body of 130,000 men is extremely apprehensive about this withdrawal of its privileges, and its claims should be considered.
– Is the honorable member referring to the railway -employees quoted by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) ?
– No. That number includes the federated body of unions covered by State instrumentalities. I believe that it includes the Teachers’ Federation, amongst others. Surely their claims deserve consideration?
– The Attorney-General explained that the proposal principally concerns those engaged in the industrial enterprises of the States and that, actually, the limits of that class has not yet been determined.
– In view of the feeling of alarm that exists amongst public servants I urge the Attorney-General to reconsider his proposal. 1 do not wish to reflect upon any State tribunal, but I want to feel assured that our public servants shall enjoy the full rights to which they are entitled as citizens of Australia. ‘This proposal may seriously injure those who previously had access to the Federal Arbitration Court, and who place great confidence in it as an authority to determine their wages and working conditions.
.- I confess that I am not quite clear as to the necessity for this clause. I should like to ask the Attorney-General what would be the position of the arbitration court were this clause not in existence. Suppose that a dispute comes before the court; as was pointed out by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan), the mere fact that the court is entertaining the dispute shows that it is satisfied that it is a dispute extending beyond the limits of one State, and that it has jurisdiction. Suppose that, after the matter has been opened, the court comes to the conclusion that in the circumstances it is more desirable that it should be determined by the State court? I should think that the court then has the power under the law as it now exists, to say “ We have come to the conclusion on the facts as they have emerged that it is more desirable that this should be determined by a State authority rather than by this court and we propose to go no further in the matter but to leave it to that State authority.” I should like the AttorneyGeneral to elucidate that point.
.- Under the existing law, when an industrial dispute is brought before the court, the court proceeds to deal with it upon being satisfied that it is a dispute over which it has jurisdiction. In section 38 the powers of the court are defined in paragraphs running from a to u. One is a power to refrain from hearing a dispute which, in the opinion of the court, should properly be dealt with by a State industrial authority. This power to refrain is exercised only upon application. Iu the absence of application the court proceeds with anything which is prima facie an interstate dispute. Occasionally applications have been made to the court to exercise its power to refrain from hearing and to dismiss the dispute. The effect of the new proposed section is that in every dispute the court must consider the propriety of dealing with it. The section says frankly enough that the court, before making an award. must affirmatively determine that it is better that it, rather than a State authority, should deal with the dispute. It alters the existing position by substituting for a power, which may or may not be invoked, a definite duty. The reason for the alteration is that if we are to have a coherent scheme of industrial legislation, we must endeavour t.o have a Hue drawn between Federal and State jurisdictions, It is impracticable to do this politically; attempts to arrive at agreements with the States have failed. Now we are proposing that the court shall be, required to satisfy itself that it is better that the matter before it shall be dealt with by it than by a State authority. In making up its mind the court has to consider principally the nature or circumstances of the industry affected. Unless we are to abandon all attempts to define the areas of the Federal aud State industrial authorities, we should impose upon the court the definite duty of determining in every case whether the matter should be dealt with by it or by a State authority.
– I am not convinced that the AttorneyGeneral is not imposing more duties on the court than he is taking away. Under paragraph h of section 38, the court has discretionary power to decide whether a matter shall be dealt with by it or by a State authority. The provision now before the committee makes such a determination mandatory in all cases, and I can conceive of considerable argument taking place before the court as to whether the case should be tried by it or referred to a State tribunal.
– I agree.
– Much time may be wasted in preliminary argument.
– It will not be wasted, because it is most important to determine whether the dispute should be dealt with by the one authority or the other.
– The court will have to decide that in every dispute that comes before it.
– It should do that in any circumstances.
– It has discretion to do so Under the existing law. We know of the protracted arguments that take place in the court on matters much less important. To the unions on the one side and to the employers on the other, it may be of the utmost importance to have a case heard in the Federal Court, and perhaps after days and weeks of argument the court may decide that the matter should be referred to a State authority.
– There is another point. The case may have proceeded for a considerable time before the question of jurisdiction arises.
– That happens at the present time.
– I agree with the objection raised by the honorable member for Fawkner ; there is no necessity for this new provision. In reply to questions I asked earlier, the Attorney-General expressed himself satisfied that the employees on State railways will come within the operation of the Federal law.
– Unless the amendment of the honorable member for Swan is carried.
– I understand that. The Attorney-General expressed doubt, however, as to whether public servants would be in the same position as the railway men. The court, he said, would have to decide whether the ordinary public service is an industry. If it is not, public servants will probably be excluded from the benefits of the Federal Court. The Government Printing Office in every State has a large staff, partly technical and partly clerical. The functions of the clerical and technical staffs are interrelated, but I ask the Attorney-General to realize the similarity between a clerk in that . establishment and a clerk in an ordinary Government department. We should make this legislation so explicit that both employers and employees, whether engaged in State instrumentalities or private enterprises,, will know exactly how they stand in relation to the court.
– That is the difficulty.
– The difficulty is that what this Parliament says or does can make no difference. Under the present act, every State employee has access to the Federal Court, if he can be a party to an industrial dispute. But we are unable to do anything to extend this legislation beyond the limits set out in the Constitution.
– Of course if there is art insuperable constitutional barrier it is futile to argue the matter any further.
– The present act is as favorable as it can conceivably be made to the public servants of whom the honorable member is speaking. Nothing further that can be done within our present constitutional powers will make the act more favorable.
– If that is so I regret that the public servants in the ordinary departments, even though their work be of a technical character, have little chance of coming under this industrial legislation.
.- Would it not be at least fair to so frame this proposed section as to provide that the court shall, in every ‘ industrial dispute, as soon as it has decided that there is a dispute of which it can take cognizance, take the action which the remainder of the section directs. Otherwise, all this elaborate machinery may have been put into operation, the parties may have been put to a great deal of expense, and the case may be part heard before the court throws the plough out of the ground. Such a happening would cause a great deal of dissatisfaction. The first thing that the judge has to decide is that there is a cognisable industrial dispute. Having determined that point, if he is to fall down on the job, he should fall at once. If any direction is to be given to the court let it be a direction to come to this decision as early as possible.
– Several of the organizations concerned have made representations to me quite contrary to the suggestion by the honorable member ».f or Batman (Mr. Brennan). What the organizations were afraid of was that there would be two hearings - one to decide whether it was desirable that the court should deal with the case, and the second the hearing of the case itself. The point put before me by the organizations was that the court should make up its mind on the matter in the course of the hearing, in order to avoid a double hearing. That is why I have moved the amendment to add the words “in the course of the hearing. “ To provide for cases such ‘as that to which the honorable member for Batman has referred, I am prepared to alter the amendment by adding the words “ or at any stage which the court may think proper. “ I do not want to compel the court to begin a hearing if the parties want the other matter of a dispute determind first.
– I hope that the AttorneyGeneral will not put my view in antagonism to that of the industrial organizations.
– No, I am only stating the facts. I have been urged by the organizations to leave this matter to be determined in the course of the hearing of the dispute.
– Exactly. All I say is that that point should be determined in the course of the hearing, and also as early as possible.
– Then I am quite prepared, with the leave of the committee, to amend my amendment -to read that after the word “consider,” proposed new section 38c, the words “in the course of the hearing and as promptly as possible “ be inserted.
– Would it not be practicable to decide immediately whether the matter should be determined by a State industrial authority ?
– It is possible to do that under section 38, paragraph h. If this clause is agreed to, the application could be made at any stage under section 38, paragraph h, and it could be dealt with before the hearing, if the parties so desired.
Amendment, by leave, amended accordingly.
.- In my opinion the clause is unnecessary, and the only change that would be effected by the amendment is objectionable. If the parties conform to the law they have a right to go to the court, and we should not make it mandatory on the judge to declare that it is more desirable that a case should be heard by the Federal court than by a State industrial authority. Unless the judge made such a declaration, he would have to dismiss the plaint. I can quite understand that, if he thought it desirable that a State court should hear the case, he should dismiss it; but suppose that the case might just as well be heardby by a State court as by the Federal court.
– Then I should say that the State court should deal with it.
– That is inconsistent with previous clauses, and with the contention of the Attorney-General that the awards of the Federal court should prevail. One of the objects ofestablishing Federal courts is to obtain uniform laws throughout the Commonwealth. The existing provisions are ample to meet every possible case. The present clause savours of instructing the court to drive the parties away from it. Numbers of clauses that have already been passed, are calculated to have that effect, and now the committee is invited to agree to another of the same nature. I oppose the clause.
.- The more I consider this clause the more unnecessary it seems to he. It appears to cast a reflection on the court. We give the Federal court power under paragraph h of section 38 to refer a matter to a State court, if it seems to the court to be desirable that it should be dealt with by a State tribunal. This clause seems to be a reflection on the court, because one ought to assume that if the court thought it desirable to refrain from dealing with the matter, or to refer it to a State court, it would do so as a matter of duty. If we require the court to determine whether it is more desirable to hear a case in the Federal than in a State court, it will open up a tremendous field of discussion.
– But the honorable member says that that field of discussion might be opened up in every case under the existing powers.
– I suppose that it would be under paragraph h of section 38; but we ought to leave the matter at that.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the clause as amended be agreed to -put. The committee divided.
Majority . . 9
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 33 verbally amended and agreed to.
Clauses 34 to 40 agreed to.
Clause 41 (Inspectors).
– At present the Commonwealth make no provision for the administrative enforcement of the Arbitration Act by securing the observance of awards, but it is now proposed to acquire power under this provision for the appointment of inspectors whose duty it will be to secure the observance of the act and of all awards and orders made under the act. These inspectors would perform in relation to Commonwealth awards duties comparable with those performed by inspectors appointed under State factory and shop legislation. It is the desire of both sides in industry that inspectors should be appointed. The clause provides that where it can be done, agreements shall be made with State Governments for the utilization of the services of State officers. It may be possible to save considerable expense in that way. There will he some expense entailed, hut I am sure it will be money well spent. The only question that arises is as to the position of union officials. At the present time the court under its awards fairly frequently orders that accredited officers of the unions, generally with the consent of the registrar, may inspect establishments where work is proceeding which is subject to the conditions of awards. On the one hand the Government has been asked to give statutory power to all union officials to go into works or factories for the purpose of seeing that awards are observed. The Government has refused to accede to that request. It considers that as a general rule it is proper that the duties of inspection and enforcement should be in the hands of officers of the Commonwealth and not in the hands of representatives of one of the parties to an award. On the other hand, employers have asked the Commonwealth to make provision for the exclusion of all union officials from works, but the Commonwealth Government has also rejected that request. It is. prepared to run the risk of making itself unpopular with both sides on this matter. It is clear that, so far as possible this work should the done by officers who are impartial. Nevertheless, the Government must recognize the existing condition of affairs under which the union officers have the right, when the court itself has provided for it in awards, to enter works and factories, subject to conditions prescribed by the court, for the purpose of seeing that those awards are observed. It may be that after the appointment of a sufficient number of inspectors there will be a less onerous task imposed on the unions in this respect; but the passing of this clause will not prevent the court, where it thinks proper, giving powers of policing an award - to use the common phrase - to union officials. Under section 41 of the act, persons may be empowered to inspect places where work is carried on, which is under consideration in an industrial dispute, or as to which an award has been made. It is not proposed to repeal that section. The judges, accordingly, will still have the same power to make awards in which, in cases where they think proper, union officials may be given this right’s of inspection. These union officials have not such a right at present except where the judges think it proper that they should have it. In future Commonwealth inspectors will, I anticipate, relieve the unions of a good deal of expense that is incurred by them in policing awards.
– Can the Commonwealth make use of the services of existing inspectors in the States?
– Under proposed new section 50a, subsection 3, arrangements may be made in accordance with section 78 of the Commonwealth Public Service Act for the purpose of utilizing the services of officers of the public service of a State, and the services of those officers will be utilized to the extent that they are available to perform the work required of them by the Commonwealth. The Government’s proposal in this respect does not compromise the position of either party in industry, and the clause ought to be agreed to, I submit, on the ground that it is a recognition of the responsibility of the Commonwealth to administer and enforce the laws of the Commonwealth.
– I am pleased to hear that the AttorneyGeneral does not intend to deprive the Arbitration Court of the power to authorize officers of unions to inspect works and factories. All honorable members will, I am sure, admit that properly accredited union officials are not . likely to interfere with industry or make themselves obnoxious to employers. They cannot carry out their inspections unless they are appointed by the court. I have received a letter from Mr. Carter, the General Secretary of the Federated Clothing Employees of Australia. Mr. Carter, who is a member of the Melbourne City Council, writes that even if Government inspectors are appointed, they will not be able to carry out all the duties, but he thinks that the Commonwealth inspectors and union inspectors can be very helpful to one another. It is part and parcel of the award in the clothing trade that inspectors should be appointed by the union and Mr. Carter writes that although there are some exceptionally strict judges on the bench at the present time, he does not know of any complaint having been made that these inspectors have taken advantage of their position or done anything. detrimental to the industry.
– The only persons who resent the visits of these inspectors are those who seek to break the law.
– As a matter of fact, the employers welcome the appointment of these inspectors. Ample notice of a visit of an inspector has to be given to the employers, as is provided for in the following award given by Judge DrakeBrockman : -
At least six hours’ notice shall be given by such authorized person or persons prior to his or their actual going on the premises, and the employer shall be notified of his or their arrival, and shall in person, or by his nominee, be entitled to accompany the authorized person or persons and shall provide access to the wages book or time sheet or records of any employee including outdoor workers bound bl the award. The work and duties of the employees shall be interfered with as little as possible by the authorized person.
I hope that the Attorney-General will allow the present system to remain. The judge has to satisfy himself as to the qualifications of the persons appointed as inspectors, and the inspector who does anything derogatory to the rules laid down can be removed from his position at very short notice.
.- I hope that on the appointment of inspectors there will be no dual inspection. One of the most fruitful sources of friction is the action of an indiscreet officer when making inspections. I am quite prepared to submit an industry to inspection, but not to a dual inspection. In any locality in which inspectors are appointed there should be no possibility of persons representing either side in industry making further inspections in that industry. If the Attorney-General makes that quite clear, I shall be satisfied, but if not, I propose to move an amendment to the clause.
– I understand that the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) is suggesting that the power of the official inspectors to inspect should be made exclusive, and that the courts should not have power to permit any other person to ascertain whether an award is being carried out ? “ Mr. Rodgers. - That is quite clear.
– I am not prepared to accept an amendment of that kind. We have at present scores of awards operating all over Australia, and we should be quite unjustified in endeavouring to appoint inspectors to visit all the places in Australia at which work is being carried on.
– I am not suggesting that. I ask the Attorney-General to make an arrangement that will prevent dual inspection.
– That matter is far better left with the judges of the court. For example, an inspector may be appointed for waterside work, or for certain trades or industries, and because it is specialized work he will be required to make himself familiar with particular conditions in those trades or industries. If a full staff were later appointed it would not be necessary for the court to allow union officials the right of inspection ; but, at the present time, I put it to the honorable member that it is wiser for the Commonwealth to appoint inspectors where it considers the appointment advisable, and to leave it to the court to decide, having regard to the provision of Commonwealth inspectors, whether it is necessary or desirable that representatives of the union should have the right to police awards.
– I shall be quite satisfied provided that the Attorney-General definitely assures me that there will not be two inspectors employed on one class of work.
– I am quite unable to give such an assurance. If there is a sufficient number of inspectors for a particular industry, it may very well happen that the judge will decide that it is unnecessary to confer any rights of inspection on the union officer. That matter must be determined by the judge after having taken into consideration the circumstances of the industry concerned. It would be impossible to legislate to provide that so soon as inspectors are appointed the representatives of the unions, shall have no right of inspection. To appoint a horde of inspectors in the beginning is impossible and undesirable, and to-say that all rights of inspection by union “officers shall cease as soon as the first inspector is appointed, say in Melbourne or Sydney, would be quite unjustifiable. I accordingly suggest that the committee accept the clause as it stands.
.- The honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) has said that the inspection of certain union officers has been a source of friction. I invite him to give the committee some instances of that, because we have it from a judge of the court that there has not been one solitary instance of friction from that source. In fact, he has spoken in the highest terms of the manner in which the awards have been policed by representatives of the organizations.
– The judge does not conduct the industry.
– Is the honorable member suggesting that the judge is incompetent to express an opinion regarding inspections of industry?
– No, but I should like to see a judge attempt to carry out some of thu awards.
– The honorable member is, of course, opposed to arbitration, and one can quite understand his irritation on this occasion. Any honorable member who is not against arbitration must believe in awards being policed. To contend that because a few inspectors are appointed, awards will be properly policed is to make a grave mistake. To police awards properly, we should need a large staff of inspectors, and I do not think that that is contemplated by the Government. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) mentioned the case of the clothing trade, in which
Borne 31,000 respondents were cited. That case concerned thousands of large and small workshops situated in the capital cities. The staff of inspectors required to police the awards applying to that industry would be greater than that which the Government is prepared to employ.
– I am not asking for an increased staff.
– We cannot avoid dual inspection. Take the case of an inspector whose duty it is to inspect the clothing trade and the workshops in connexion with it. If he is to carry out his work properly, he must be continually employed in that industry. We know from experience that several officials of the clothing trade union are constantly employed in visiting workshops and policing the awards under the direction, instruction and authority of the court. These mcn have been commended by the court for their work, and I know of no case in which their actions have been objected to by the employers. The only employers who would object to their inspection would be those who are evading the awards. It would bc a serious blow to arbitration to take away from the court the power to authorize representatives of organizations to police awards. If the awards were not effectively policed, it would mean the beginning of the end as far as arbitration is concerned. The organizations at one time asked that the representatives of the unions should be given a statutory right to police awards, and there is a lot to be said in favour of that request. The other extreme has been requested by the employers. The AttorneyGeneral has taken the middle course and the existing conditions are to stand. That certainly meets with my approval. Under this clause a few inspectors may be appointed, but it would need a large army to police properly and effectively the awards of the Arbitration Court.
.- Neither the Attorney-General nor the Leader of the Opposition has stated my objection to this clause correctly. All that I ask is that in localities in which inspectors under this section are appointed to police awards, prior appointments shall terminate-
– What does the honorable member mean by locality ? The city of Melbourne is a locality.
I welcome the provision for the appointment of inspectors, because I think that such action is necessary. I have no objection, either, to awards being policed by union officials, where inspectors have not been appointed. All I ask is thai duality shall be avoided.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 42 and 43 agreed to.
Subpna of the Clerk.
– I wish to inform honorable members that the Clerk of the House of Representatives has been notified that a subpoena has been issued requiring him to appear in Sydney on Monday next, 11th June, before the royal commission presided over by Judge Scholes, and to produce the letter dated 18th January, 1927, in which Mr. W. G. Mahony tendered his resignation as an honorable member of this House. Unless objection is raised, I shall take it that the House approves of the Clerk or some other officer of the House attending before the commission and producing the letter asked for.
– Is it not necessary for the House to give authorization by specific resolution ?
– On the previous occasions on which a similar request has been made, Mr. Speaker has merely announced the fact to the House, and no objection being taken, has assumed that the House approves of the course proposed.
– I have always understood that the officers of the House are under the control of Mr. Speaker. If that is so, why is it necessary to consult Parliament in the matter?
– Standing Order 43 expressly requires that if the House is sitting its consent must be obtained to the production of documents which have been laid before the House. If the House is not sitting, such consent may be given by Mr. Speaker. Adopting the practice followed on two previous occasions in similar cases - in 1904 and in 1912 - I have brought the matter before the House.
– I certainly have no objection to the Clerk appearing before the royal commission.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) agreed to -
That the Holme, at its rising, adjourn until Monday next, at 11 o’clock a.m.
House adjourned at 5.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 June 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280609_reps_10_119/>.