10th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. MACKAY, as Chairman, presented the report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on PublicWorks, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed erection of a School of Public Health in Sydney.
Ordered to be printed.
– When I was in Bundaberg a few days ago some of the relatives of the victims of the serum tragedy asked me to ascertain when the report of the royal commission will be made available as . they are anxious to get copies of it. Can the Minister for Health furnish me with any information on the subject?
– I am unofficially informed that the report will be presented to the GovernorGeneral to-day. If that is done, I hope to be able to make a statement on the subject to the House early this week.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House of the date on which Captain Kingsford Smith and his companions will visit Canberra, and whether arrangements are being made to ensure that a suitable landing place will be available?
– In the congratulatory telegram which I sent to Captain Kingsford Smith and his companions T extended an invitation to them to visit Canberra. The matter was discussed during my week-end visit to Sydney. It was impossible to come to a final decision as to the date of their arrival here, but present indications are that they will be in Canberra on Friday next. The matter of providing a suitable landing ground is receiving attention.
– When Captain Herbert Hinkler arrived in Canberra the House adjourned for a whole day. I ask the Prime Minister whether in the event of Captain Kingsford Smith and his companions coming to the Federal Capital the compliment of the House cannot be sufficiently expressed by an adjournment for one hour only.
– I cannot in answer to a question express my personal view on the matter. The view of the Government will be indicated by the action which it recommends to the House. .
– Can the Treasurer inform the House if finality, has been reached in connexion with the investigation of the proposal for the taxation of incomes derived from Australian investments overseas?
– The investigation is not complete.
– The AttorneyGeneral, replying by interjection to observations I made on the Arbitration Bill, said that he could not state definitely whether the ordinary public service comes within the” compass of the Federal arbitration law. “Industry” is thus defined in the Act - “ Industry “ includes -
I ask the honorable gentleman whether the word “ service “ does not include also any public service.
– Although it is not usual to answer questions in relation to a bill before the House, I can inform the honorable member that, undoubtedly, the definition of “industry” includes any employment of any person in the service of a State. The effectiveness of so extensive a definition, however, depends entirely upon whether the employment is industrial in nature, and that can be determined only by the High Court,
-Replying to various questions asked by myself and other honorable members regarding the roads between Canberra, Goulburn, and Yass, the Minister for Works and Eailways promised to communicate with the New South Wales authorities, and furnish the House with information on the subject. I shall be glad to learn from the honorable gentleman whether there is any prospect of his making such a disclosure, and so relieving our minds before the House temporarily ceases its labours at the end of this week?
– I received telegraphic advice this morning that the Chairman of the Main Eoads Board of New South Wales will visit Canberra on Wednesday next. After consultation with him, reregarding the approaches to the Federal Capital, I hope to be able to make some statement to the House.
– In view of the prospect of a general election in the near future, will the Minister for Home and Territories instruct the Chief Electoral officer to issue to the press a statement summarizing the amendments that have been made in the Electoral bill recently passed by this House and to be dealt with by the Senate this week. Inquiries are being made by the public in regard to the alterations that have been made in the law, and the practice of not disseminating essential information until the eve of an election creates confusion, in the public mind.
– When the amending bill becomes law, I shall consult the electoral office about arranging for the alterations to have adequate publicity. .
Entry Denied toBritish Citizens.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a statement in the press that six marine stewards, British citizens, who desire to settle in this country, have been refused permission to land unless they produce £20 each ? Does the right honorable gentlemen approve of that embargo; if so, how does he reconcile it with the oftrepeated statement that the Government and the party supporting it welcome British citizens who ‘are prepared to settle in the Commonwealth?
– My attention has not been drawn to the matter, but I shall investigate the statement that has been published.
Services from Camooweal to Northern Territory and Charlevllle to Brisbane.
– The Quantas Company has just completed the second of two very efficient aeroplanes, fitted with Bristol engines, and capable of doing remarkable work. The planes were manufactured in Longreach, Central Queensland, and are a credit to our engi neers and artisans. Can the Minister for Defence say whether the Government proposes to provide aerial services from Camooweal to the Northern Territory and from Charleville to Brisbane, and, if so, when?
– It is the intention of the Government to establish aerial services on the two routes mentioned by the honorable member, butI cannot say on what date they will be inaugurated.
Remuneration of Commissioners
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
In view of the fact that section 7 of the Seat of Government (Administration) Act sets forth that - “The remuneration of the Chief Commissioner shall not exceed £3,000 per annum, and the remuneration of each of the other members shall be by way of fees a? prescribed “ -
What is the length of service of each of the present Commissioners?
) What is the total remuneration, including allowances, foes, salaries. &c. paid to each Commissioner ?
On what basis is the remuneration paid to each Commissioner?
What are the specific allowances paid to the Commissioners?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– I regret the information is not available.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Payments to Institutions
asked the Treasurer, upon notice - Regarding the payment to invalid and old-age pensioners, who are inmates of hospitals, will he state -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - (a), (b) and (c) When a pensioner enters a hospital his pension is suspended. For the first 28 days of his stay in the institution no payment is made. After 28 days the Commonwealth pays the pensioner 4s. per week as a hospital pension and pays the institution 10s. 6d. per week for his maintenance. On his discharge from hospital the pensioner receives payment of ordinary pension for the first 28 days of his stay in the institution. These payments represent the total disbursements by the Commonwealth in respect of pensioners who enter hospitals.
– On the 7th June, the honorable member for Reid asked the Minister in charge of Repatriation the following questions : -
I am now able to supply the following information. : -
– On the 6th June, the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Bayley) asked that detailed particulars of the amounts advanced to date by the Commonwealth to the States under the £34,000,000 agreement be made available.
I am now in a position to supply the desired information : -
Report on “ Bunchy Top “ Disease.
– On the 10th May the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) asked me a question with regard to investigations into the disease in bananas known as “Bunchy Top,” and in the course of my reply I informed him that I would communicate with the State authorities in New South Wales and Queensland with a view to obtaining information concerning the result of control measures being taken in those States. I accordingly communicated with the Premiers of New South Wales and Queensland.
I have now received a reply from the Premier of Queensland, containing a copy of a report which has been furnished by the Department of his colleague, the Secretary for Agriculture and Stock, as follows : - “ Control measures have been satisfactory in cleaning the Currumbin, Tallebudgera and Nerang districts on the South Coast, and whether they remain so depends mainly on the growers themselves.
The methods of control practised are briefly that planting is not permitted without permission, and then only with plants from a clean area; banana plants cannot be transported by rail without a special permit. Plantations are inspected by inspectors under the Diseases in Plants Acts, and, where infestation is found, orders are issued on the occupier or owner to treat infested plants for the purpose of destroying any aphis existing thereon; the whole stool is then to be dug out and the butt cut into small non-germinable sections. Insistence upon the terms of such orders is applied.
As the extent of infestation extended from the Southern Border to over 100 miles by rail northward, it was evident, after a reasonable trial in several localities, that a division of the forces employed was not conducive to best results. Consequently all inspectors were concentrated beyond the northern limit of infestation. A complete inspection of all plantations from 10 miles beyond the known northern limit of infestation has been made, and inspection will be continued in a southerly direction covering all plantations en route to the Southern Border. Prompt measures have been taken to ensure the destruction of all diseased plants and a general clean up effected of the plantations inspected. Failure to comply with the inspector’s order in this connexion will be promptly followed by legal proceedings.”
On receipt of a reply from the Premier of New South Wales, it will be made available to the honorable member.
Albert Hall - Hotel Tariffs - Canberra House - Cost of Hotels - Cost of Living Statistics - Meat Prices - Transport
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that the information is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain it.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
On the 6th June, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked me for a definition of the term “ permanent resident “ in relation to the tariffs charged to certain persons for accommodation provided for them in Federal Capital Commission estab lishments. I have investigated the matter and find the position to be as follows: -
The hotel and boarding-house accommodation which the Commission has available was designed to accommodate members of Parliament, the official staffs of Parliament, the Government, and the Commission, with a margin for members of the general public. It was realized that in all probability this accommodation would be taxed to the utmost during parliamentary sessions, but that ample vacancies would exist for the general public at other periods.
Practical experience during the last six months has demonstrated the accuracy of the Commission’s forecast of requirements, the whole of the accommodation having been called upon on several occasions. The Commission is now faced with the necessity of accommodating during the next few months, roughly 140 additional officers of the Public Service who are being transferred from Melbourne, and it could not provide additional buildings in the time available.
After a careful review of the situation the Commission finds itself unable to offer permanent boarding accommodation to all who desire it, and has been compelled to fix a line of demarcation which is covered by the use of the term “ approved permanent “resident.” In interpreting this the Commission properly feels that people who have established their business in Canberra should take advantage of the opportunity which has been, and is, open to them of providing their own homes in the city, and such people cannot reasonably expect the Commission to earmark for them some of its limited accommodation at a reduced tariff.
On the other hand, the Commission will endeavour, as far as it is able, to provide accommodation for persons who are for the time being permanently representing in Canberra businesses whose centre of activity is elsewhere, and who cannot reasonably be expected to build their own homes.
There are many blocks of land available for selection in Canberra, and the Commonwealth Housing Act will facilitate the construction of homes thereon.
Dr. MALONEY (through Mr. Fenton) asked the Minister ‘for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– I regret that the whole of the information desired by the honorable member is not yet available, but I am taking steps to obtain the particulars necessary to enable me to furnish a complete answer.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Public Works Committee as to the cost of certain hotels in Canberra, has the Minister noticed that the cost given in respect of the under -mentioned buildings is : -
– Ihave called for a report in regard to this matter and shall make the information available to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether he will secure a return from the Commonwealth Statistician showing the latest figures indicating the weighted average cost of living in regard to housing, food, and clothing in (a) Sydney, (b) Melbourne, (c) Adelaide, (d) Hobart, (e) Perth, and (f) Canberra.
– Yes. A return is now being prepared and will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
On the 7th June, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked me the following questions : -
With reference to his statement on 28th March, 1928 [Hansard, page 4225) that the buses recently purchased at Canberra were satisfactorily fulfilling the purpose for which they were purchased, will he state -
In view of the promise of the Minister (Hansard, page 4225) that he would discuss the matter of transport with the Commission “ to ensure that all reasonable requests are met,” what further action does he propose to take to ensure that the drivers are given some discretionary power on wet days and in emergencies.
I am now in a position to advise him as follows : - 1. (a) Yes.
All drivers of small ‘buses have instructions not to overload, as was explained by me on the 28th March, 1928, in replying to the question on this subject by the honorable member. The Commission considers that the position should be met by the provision of adequate transport rather than by giving discretion to drivers to overload vehicles.
I agree with the Commission’s views as expressed in the answer to question 1, and do not propose to take any action in the matter. .
FLIGHT OF LIEUTENANT PARER AND LIEUTENANT McINTOSH.
– On Saturday last the honorable member forWannon (Mr. Rodgers) asked the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) if some public recognition could be given to the flight of Lieutenant Parer and Lieutenant Mcintosh from England to Australia, in August, 1920, and was informed that the matter would be referred to me. The matter has been the subject of consideration on several occasions, as the members of this Government regard that flight as a very great achievement; but we feel that the question cannot now be re-opened. No doubt the matter was fully considered at the time by the Government of the day, of which the honorable member for Wannon was a member, which remained in office for approximately three years after the flight was made.
The following papers were presented : -
Northern Australia Act - Ordinances of 1928-
Central Australia -
No. 8 - Stock Diseases.
No. 9 - Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement).
North Australia -
No. 8 - Stock Diseases.
No. 9 - Maintenance Orders (Facilities for Enforcement).
In committee (Consideration resumed from 9th June, vide page 5735) :
Clause 44 -
After section 56 of the principal act the following sections are inserted: - 56a. Any ten members of an organization may, when any vote is taken or about to be taken in any election of the committee or officers of the organization or of a branch thereof or in respect of any resolution proposed for adoption by the organization or the branch, as the case may be, demand, either verbally or in writing, that the vote be taken by secret ballot and the vote shall thereupon be so taken accordingly. 56b. - (1.) If, after a demand made under section 56a of this act for a vote to be taken by an organization by secret ballot, the organization fails to hold the secret ballot accordingly, the court may, upon complaint made to the court, give directions for the conduct of a secret ballot under the control of an officer of the court with or without provision for absent voting. (2.) Where the court gives directions under this section for the holding of a secret ballot by any organization or branch of an organization and the organization or branch fails to hold a secret ballot accordingly, the organization shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Five hundred pounds. 56c. - (1.) Any number of members of an organization not less than ten may apply in writing to the Registrar for directions that a secret ballot shall be taken by the organization or a branch thereof upon any question affecting the organization or branch. (2.) The Registrar shall not disclose to any person other than a judge the names of the members so applying. (3.) If a judge is satisfied that ten of the persons so applying are members of the organization and that the application is bona fide, and relates to a matter of substantial importance, the judge may give directions for a secret ballot to be taken by the organization or the branch upon the question with or without provision for absent voting, or may give directions for the conduct of a secret ballot (with or without such provision) under the control of an officer of the court. 56e. If, upon complaint made to the court, and after such investigation as the court thinks proper, the court is of opinion that any secret ballot of an organization or of a branch has not been fairly and properly held, the court shall declare the ballot void and give directions for the conduct of a secret ballot under the control of an officer of the court with or without provision for absent voting. 56f. Any person who -
counsels any person entitled to vote at a ballot under this act to refrain from voting or prevents any such person from so voting; or
being ah officer of an organization, refuses as the returning officer requires, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Fifty pounds or imprisonment for six months.
.- The holding of a secret ballot, for which provision is made in this clause, is a matter which received considerable prominence prior to the last general election, and I have no doubt that the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), when he addresses himself to the clause will claim that the Government received a mandate from the people to introduce a provision of this nature. The election catch-cry of honorable members opposite at that time was, “ Give the unions control of their organizations.” It suggested to those who did not know anything about the control or management of industrial organizations that their members had no control, and that the organizations were conducted by an autocracy. Yet on examining this provision, one must come to the conclusion that it is not only an impracticable proposition and entirely useless, but also an unwarranted interference with the management of industrial organizations.
As to the underlying suggestion that the unionists do not control their organizations, I ask honorable members to examine the position. The organizations elect their officers by ballot, and occasionally submit important questions to a referendum in that way. For example, the Australian Workers Union on one occasion asked its members to vote on the question whether they favored arbitration, and an almost overwhelming verdict was given in favour of that principle. Union officers are elected annually by ballot, and when a big principle is involved, the opinions of unionists are obtained by holding a referendum. The proposal in this instance is that a secret ballot may be demanded and conducted at any time, but that is impracticable. The Australian Workers Union, which has approximately 100,000 members, has branches in each State, as well as sectional committees managing its affairs in different parts of the Commonwealth, Each State branch has its committees and permanent officers, such as secretaries and other officials, to manage each branch, and these are elected annually by a secret ballot. There are also federal officers of the union who are also annually elected by ballot. I have mentioned the Australian Workers Union, as that organization is typical of many others in Australia. Can honorable members say that unionists have no control over their organizations when the officers are annually elected by members of the union. In addition, annual conferences are held, the delegates to which are elected by the rank and file of the organization. I believe that in most cases the policy of the organization for twelve months is decided at these conferences. In what further way can the members of unions be given control over their organizations? If, in the light of those facts, it is contended that the control is not adequate, it must also be contended that the people of Australia have no control over this Parliament. The unions elect their officials every year; the people of Australia elect this Parliament on an average every three years. If the unionists have no control over their organizations, how can it be claimed that we have a democracy in the Commonwealth with a Parliament that is elected only once in every three years?
– What form does the election of union officials take?
– Take the case of the Australian Workers Union. Each State elects its own officials, and concurrently its representation on the Federal executive. A returning officer is appointed for each State. He causes the ballot-papers to be printed and sent out to the representatives on the different works. For example, the representative in a shearing shed receives a number of ballot-papers coinciding with the number of members who are likely to pass through the shed during the taking of the ballot, which usually occupies from August to December. The length of time which it takes to complete the annual ballot illustrates the difficulties that surround that feature of union procedure. In order to ensure that only members of the organization shall vote, each union ticket has printed on it a little slip which the member detaches and either gums on or pins to the ballotpaper. When the vote has been recorded, the ballot-paper is sealed and handed to the union representative, who posts it to the returning officer. He counts the votes in the presence of scrutineers, who also are appointed at the annual meetings of the organization. Honorable members, therefore, cannot fail to realize the absolute impracticability of taking a ballot at any time it may be demanded. The difficulty experienced by the Australian Workers Union is shared in like measure by the other big industrial organizations, and in lesser degree by the smaller unions. It will thus be seen that the management of the unions is elected just as this Parliament is elected; with this difference, that the election in that case is held annually instead of only once in every three years. What becomes then, of the cry “Restore to the unionists the control of their organizations “ ?
Again, if the unions are not controlled by their members, no company is controlled by its shareholders. Some company directors control perhaps millions of pounds on behalf of their shareholders, by whom they are elected annually. If the argument is sound that unionists have no control over the management of their organizations because they have an election only once a year, then shareholders in companies have no control over the management of their affairs, because their directors also are elected annually.
– There is no provision in the rules of industrial organizations for voting by proxy.
– Quite so. Each individual member of a union has to record his vote. I submit that if it is proper to embarrass the management of industrial organizations and increase their expenditure, it is a fair thing to apply a similar principle to private companies in Australia, and to provide that any ten shareholders in a company shall have the right to apply at any time for a secret ballot no matter what the cost may be. The management of a union has as much right to claim that it represents its members as the management of a company that it represents its shareholders.
We have been told that this provision will apply to employers’ organizations as well as to industrial unions. The language of the clause may carry that meaning; but the whole of the argument has revolved round its application to industrial unions.
– It is a delightful fiction.
– I agree with the honorable member. If it is a reality, in what way does the Government propose to carry it out ? Organizations of employers which are registered under the Arbitration Act will most certainly include companies as well as individual employers. If ten members of such an organization should apply for a ballot to be taken, and the court should grant the application, would every shareholder of every company be effected ? A detailed examination of the proposal reveals how ill-conceived it really is. The proposed new section 56u provides that the court may order a ballot to be taken at any stage of a dispute. I presume that that refers only to the dispute.
– Upon some question arising out of the dispute.
– That question might be, whether the dispute should develop into a strike or, if it has already reached the stage of a strike, whether the strike should be continued. But a strike is an unlawful act. What will the Government do if a majority of the members of a union, at a secret ballot, declare in favour of a strike? Having acclaimed the right of unionists to control their own affairs, it has provided that if those unionists should dare to vote in a certain way, their organization will be fined £1,000, and each member of the union who seeks to give effect to the decision of the majority will be fined £50. The only democratic feature of the proposal is the right to record a vote. If the members of unions vote according to the wishes of the Government everything will be all right; but if they do not, both they and their organization will be penalized. Even those who vote in opposition to a strike will be liable to a fine of upwards of £50 if they should come into line with the majority and observe the decision arrived at by the secret bollot. During the taking of the ballot it will be open to any member of the union to advocate that there shall not be a strike. He can address as many meetings and distribute as much literature as he likes, so long as it is in that direction. If, on the other hand, he should advocate a strike, he will render himself liable to the penalty provided for ordering, encouraging, advising or inciting his fellow-members to do something in the nature of a strike.
– He must vote in only one way.
– Both his advocacy and his vote must be in the one direction. Yet it is claimed that this law will give unionists full control of their organizations ! One wonders what has caused an intelligent man like the Attorney-General to frame such ridiculous legislation, and what has induced the Cabinet to place it before Parliament. If, during the taking of a ballot, an officer of a union should advise its members to vote for a strike, he will be liable to a fine of £50, of which his union can be compelled to pay £10 in addition to being liable to a further penalty of £1,000 ; and every member who advocates or votes for a strike will come under the penal provisions of the law. That is what honorable members opposite call democracy!
It is argued that a so-called autocracy, consisting of the officers of industrial organizations, must have its wings clipped, and that the rank aud file of those organizations must rule. Yet if a majority of members should declare in favour of a strike, which is unlawful, they can be penalized. But further than that, how can a strike be declared off once a majority of the members of a union, by secret ballot, have declared in favour of it? If honorable members opposite believe in the democratic principle of allowing the members of unions to decide for themselves by secret ballot what action shall be taken, once they have voted for a strike that decision can be reversed only by another secret ballot.
I come now to another precious provision - that if a vote is to be taken on a question, any ten members may demand a secret ballot. There is no need to consider suppositious cases to imagine what is likely to happen. Our experience proves that industrial disputes usually begin in a section of an industry. The practice has been to place the matter in the hands of a disputes committee elected by the Trades Hall councils of the various States. That committee confers with the employers. It frequently is able to effect a compromise, the terms of which may be favorable to either oneside or the other. It calls a mass meeting of the men concerned, and recommends that they resume work on the basis of the compromise. A vote is then taken, and in the majority of cases the men accept the advice which is tendered to them. But what of the future? Ten such men as are described as “Beds” will be able to demand a secret ballot, and thus hold up for a considerable time the settlement of a dispute.
– The unholy alliance again.
– As the honorable member for Batman says, the unholy alliance which has been referred to on previous occasions will again be able to make its influence felt.
– Would the court be likely to consent to a secret ballot being taken ?
– It would not. But honorable members must realize that the union would have to grant it.
– If the union should refuse to grant it, those ten men could go to the court and apply for it. In the meantime the wheels of industry would be standing idle. Our big transport services could be held up by this means. It will not be possible to settle disputes expeditiously.
– How can industry be held up, and why cannot disputes be settled expeditiously?
– I have stated how, and .why.
– The honorable member has not even indicated how and why the ten members may apply to the court.
– They can demand a secret ballot at the meeting, which is thus prevented from coming to a decision.
– Not necessarily. They can go to the court and apply for a secret ballot.
– Let us see what the honorable gentleman means. A meeting of a union may be called to consider the report of its officers as to the settlement of a dispute, and before any vote can be taken upon that report, which may recommend a settlement of the trouble, ten men may rise and demand that a secret ballot be taken. If the union grants that secret ballot there is a delay of weeks, and even months, during which period the dispute will continue.
– Is that stated in the act?
– It is a statutory duty to hold the secret ballot immediately it is demanded.
– Proposed section 56a reads -
Any ten members of an organization may, when any vote is taken or about to be taken in any election of the committee or officers of the organization or of a branch thereof or in respect of any resolution proposed for adoption by the organization or the branch, as the case may be, demand, either verbally or in writing, that the vote be taken by secret ballot and the vote shall thereupon be so taken accordingly.
– An amendment of mine, which has been circulated for some weeks, proposes to omit the words, “ and the vote shall thereupon be so taken accordingly.”
– I am glad that our criticism has had some effect.
– I have certainly paid attention to the criticism of the honorable member.
– This is the procedure. First of all a. meeting is held to settle the trouble. As had been admitted in this debate, very often a psychological as well as an industrial condition is involved. The meeting may be pyschologically prepared to accept the recommendation of its officers that a strike be settled. . Yet their efforts may be obstructed by any ten malcontents who demand that a secret ballot shall be held.
– Would it render the strike legal if the majority of the members were in favour of it?
– If a vote is taken as to whether there shall be a strike or not, and the majority vote in favour of it, the strike would be unlawful, notwithstanding the fact that the secret ballot was ordered by the court. The union would be liable to a fine of £1,000,. and each of its members who went on strike would also be liable to a fine. That is perfectly ridiculous. Proposed section 56b reads -
But first of all the court has to move, and perhaps a psychological condition favorable to the settlement of the dispute may be lost. I repeat, a meeting is called for a special purpose; the statement of the officers of the union is placed before the meeting. Ten disgruntled members demand a secret ballot, and proceedings are held up. If the ballot is refused, the court has to be moved. Meanwhile the strike continues. Can the AttorneyGeneral deny that that is correct? It is provided that if the court directs that a secret ballot shall be taken, and if the organization fails to hold the ballot, it shall be guilty of an offence and liable to a penalty of £500. But no’ provision is made for the carrying out of the secret ballot. The preparatory work involved in the taking of a secret ballot in such a union as the Australian Workers Union would be immense. At least fifty to sixty thousand ballot papers would have to be printed for one State alone, and probably 150,000 would be required for the whole of Australia, because provision would have to be made to supply a ballot paper to every member in each centre.
– The lack of a provision for a time limit for the taking of a ballot appears to be a weakness.
– It is well known that there could not be a time limit, because the Government’s proposals are impracticable. A penal section, 56f, is provided to deal with offences in relation to ballots. It reads -
Any person who -
obstructs the taking of the ballot under this Act;
counsels any person entitled to . vote at a ballot under this Act to refrain from voting, or prevents any such person from so voting; or
being an officer of an organization, refuses to assist in the taking of any ballot by providing for the use of the returning officer or his assistants such register and lists of the members of the organization as the returning officer requires, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty : Fifty pounds or imprisonment for six months.
Apparently it is not an offence to refrain from voting, as there is no provision to make the voting compulsory. It is surely an innovation to provide that the commission of an act is not a crime, but that it is a crime to advise any one to commit the act. Surely the committing of a burglary is a greater offence than merely advising that a burglary should be committed.
Does the Attorney-General propose to provide that when this ballot is made compulsory by an order of the court, the Government that inaugurated the legislation shall pay the cost of the ballot? . A principle is involved. The various States of Australia have made education compulsory, but they also made if free. Again, most of the States of the Commonwealth have made vaccination compulsory, but they have provided public vaccinations to do the work free of cost to those who are vaccinated. This clause provides that a compulsory ballot shall be taken, not in the ordinary course of the operations of an organization, but at any time that. the court considers fit. The taking of that ballot will necessitate the appointment of special officers to conduct it, and will involve the expenditure of a considerable sum of money. Is the Government going to pay the cost? Also, is the Government going to make provision that, after the secret ballot has been taken, the will of the majority shall be considered lawful and carried into effect.
– Evidently members of the Opposition are strongly in favour of the principle of a secret ballot, but they are opposed to every means suggested for carrying it into operation.
– That is not right.
– The Leader of the Opposition in the New South Wales Parliament (Mr. Lang) has, on two occasions enunciated, the views of his party on the principle of a secret ballot. In 1924, when a senator waa being elected, Mr. Lang said -
If an open ballot is provided many men will not exercise their vote in a conscientious marine!-. Open voting, in my opinion, is a futility. The right procedure is by secret ballot.
Last week, in proposing that voting in the election of another senator should be open, Mr. Lang, when speaking in the New South Wales Parliament, said -
Honorable members must, however, recognize that certain circumstances alter from day to day, and if it suited the Labour party to nave open voting, in order to facilitate tlie election of its candidates, I am faverable to it. .
The Government regards the secret ballot as sound in principle, applicable in the case of all parties to all elections in the political field, and it recommends to this committee that the principle be afforded an opportunity of application in the industrial sphere.
It is said that already trade unions, in their rules, have provisions for the taking of a secret ballot. The rules of all trade unions registered in the Arbitration Court are lodged with the court, and I have had those rules searched in order to find out how many unions have in their rules provisions which confer upon members the right to hold secret ballots. The officers of my department have discovered only seven unions with such provisions. The important matter to consider is whether there is a right to hold a secret ballot. I agree that many unions take secret ballots for the election of their officers, in the ordinary course of their proceedings, although their rules do not provide for a secret ballot. But that is not the point. It is a relatively useless thing to say that members of unions have the right, if they can succeed in carrying a resolution at a meeting, to take a secret ballot. That is not a full application of the principle of the secret ballot, and the resultant ballot is not a secret ballot as a matter of right. It is merely an open vote in a meeting as to whether a ballot shall or shall not be held. The existing rules of unions governing secret ballots, insofar as they exist at all, are quite inadequate to meet the cases with which the act proposes to .deal.
– I ask the AttorneyGeneral to name the unions.
– I intend to do so. In the rules of the Australasian Institute of Marine and Power Engineers there is a provision for the holding of a secret ballot, which is the best that exists in any union rules of which I have any knowledge except those of the Merchant
Service Guild of Australasia. It is a very uncommon provision. It reads: -
Any fifty financial members, by a requisition in writing to the General Secretary, may direct the Federal Council to consider any subject of general interest not interfering with district government. The Federal Council must submit the proposal, with any amendment thereon, to a ballot of the institute. Action affecting any award or agreement must be initiated and sanctioned by those members interested.
That is an effective provision, but anything like it is rarely found in union rules. Honorable members opposite have said that it is absurd to enable ten members to apply for the holding of a secret ballot, and have argued that in practice it would mean that ten disgruntled men would be able to hold up the business of the union and so cause chaos and confusion. They may therefore be interested to learn that rule 45 of the Merchant Service Guild of Australasia, which is the second of the seven unions I intend to mention, provides that -
Vacated offices shall be filled by a ballot of the members, and in case of an equality of votes, the member of the committee shall be chosen by lot. Such ballot must be demanded in writing by at least ten members within fourteen days of the vacancy occurring.
That union specifies ten as a reasonable number to demand a ballot. This is the only provision in the rules of the Merchant Service Guild for the holding of a secret ballot. Rule 52 of the Government Tramways Electoral BranchWorkers Association provides that a ballot must be taken if demanded by five members present at a meeting. That, of course, is quite different from the taking of a ballot of an organization. It is a ballot only of those present at the meeting. Rule 22 provides that the committee or meeting may order a ballot. That also is a very different thing from the members having the legislative right to demand a ballot of the organization. Rule 75 of the Seamen’s Union, which organization is now de-registered, provides for a ballot upon -
Any question or matter declared important by the members of the union, at a special meeting called for the purpose, or by general meeting of the members of the union.
The taking of the ballot in that case has to be decided at a meeting. That, ofcourse, does not give the members any right to obtain a secret ballot. Rule 120 of the Australian Railways Union provides, in paragraph h, that a ballot shall be taken before any strike action may be taken. The rules of the Australian Workers Union provide that there shall be an annual ballot for the election of officers. That is the only provision in them for the holding of a ballot.
– But surely the AttorneyGeneral is prepared to consider the practice that obtains.
– The Australian Workers Union elects all its delegates and representatives by ballot.
– Honorable members will realize from what I have said that, generally speaking, under . existing provisions, secret ballots may only be taken in unions when those in control consider it desirable. The proposals in the bill are intended to confer upon members generally the right to obtain a secret ballot in certain circumstances. The last union to which I shall refer is the Marine Cooks, Bakers’ and Butchers’ Association of Australia. Its rules provide for the holding of a secret ballot of a very limited description. A secret ballot must be taken in the industry “ before any industrial dispute is submitted by the Association “ to the Arbitration Court. Honorable members are aware that the Brisbane members of the union desire a secret ballot to be taken in connexion with the present dispute, but they cannot, get it, and have no right, under their rules, to demand it. The secretary of the unionis not elected annually, as is the case in the great majority of unions.
– We have no objection to providing for the election of officers by secret ballot.
– As an example of the necessity for some such provision as that contained in the bill, I quote the following letter which appeared in a section of the Sydney press a few days ago, over the signature of “ Jas. Payne, Federated Clerks, and Clovelly branch, A.L.P. : -
The rank and file of the New South Wales branch of Federated Clerks are dissatisfied with the mismanagement and neglect of the secretary and officers conducting their affairs. To prevent members from voicing their dissatisfaction, the secretary and officers concerned refuse to hold the periodical meetings embodied in the rules.
It has, therefore, been necessary for the members to present to the secretary a requisition (as per rule) signed by over 200 members, requesting a meeting being called. The secretary point-blank refuses to call one; the rank and file are, consequently, compelled to appeal to the industrial court to obtain redress, which is about to be done.
Honorable members will recollect that some time ago, certain members of the Breadcarters’ Union, in Sydney, obtained from a State tribunal, under the State law, a direction to hold a secret ballot, the result of which was that they declared their complete want of confidence in the officers then in control of their union.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral named the seven unions to which he intends to refer?
– I have. I shall leave it to honorable members opposite, who claim to be more familiar than I am with the rules of trades unions, to submit any other instances they can of trade union provisions for the holding of secret ballots; but if they quote any rule of that nature, I ask that they read the whole rule, for the value of it as a means of obtaining an effective secret ballot will depend entirely upon its terms. To say that a committee or meeting may order a secret ballot is not sufficient. That does not meet the case.
The Leader of the Opposition has asked whether it would be possible for a company to carry on its operations if shareholders had the right to demand a secret ballot. I refer him to the 12th and latest edition of Palmer’s Company Precedents, the leading work on company law, by Sir Francis Palmer. The author sets out, in Part I., the form of articles of association of companies, which are really the rules under which companies work, from which I quote the following, which appears on page 673: -
At any general meeting, unless a poll is demanded by the chairman or by at least five (or if thought fit any lesser number) members present and entitled to vote…..
It will be realized, therefore, that in the ordinary proceedings of a company five shareholders may demand a poll of all shareholders.
– Is that provision contained in any company law?
– It is the ordinary practice which companies- adopt. I quote the following from page 674 of the same work : -
If a poll is demanded, as aforesaid, it shall be taken in such manner and at such time and place as the chairman of the meeting directs.
A poll is an appeal to the whole constituency. That is the ordinary procedure.
– It is not laid down in any company law that five shareholders shall be entitled to hold a ballot?
– Let the AttorneyGeneral quote Australian, not English, usage.
– Evidently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) does not realize that Australian company law, or, at all events, the Victorian company law, with which I am most familiar, has been framed to a very large extent upon the English law, The two are substantially identical and, as I have shown, contain provision that five shareholders may demand a poll.
– A poll is not necessarily a secret ballot.
– It meets the purposes of a secret ballot ; it is generally taken by post.
– And there may be voting by proxy. One man may hold 1,000 proxies.
– Shareholders may vote by proxy at ordinary meetings. The statement of honorable members opposite that if this provision is agreed to ten members will be able to apply to the court for an order for a secret ballot and so hold up the business of their union, is far-fetched and fantastic. I remind honorable members that one of the rules I have quoted provides that members may, upon a mere request, obtain a secret ballot; but under the provision in the bill it will be necessary for ten members not only to apply to the court, but to satisfy it that the application is bona fide and relates to a matter of substantial importance. That is the safeguard which honorable members opposite have overlooked in the lurid pictures which they have drawn. To suggest that in practice this will lead to the holding up of trade union business is ridiculous. It has be’en- stated in propaganda circulated by the ‘Labour
Party in opposition to this bill that under this provision the Government, whenever it so desires, will be able to compel a union to hold a secret ballot. That is not the case, and there is not the slightest shadow of justification for such an allegation.
The Leader of the Opposition offered one objection to the provision as it appears in the bill, which is being met by an amendment I intend to move. As the clause was originally drawn, it provided that ten members might ask in a meeting for the holding of a secret ballot, and that it must thereupon be taken. It is proposed to omit the words “ and the vote shall thereupon be so taken accordingly.” The Government is perfectly prepared to accept the. help of the Opposition in framing this measure as well as other measures. It has also been objected that a union would not be represented before the court when an application for a secret ballot is being made. The Government has considered that point, and I propose to move an amendment to provide that the secretary of an organization or branch concerned shall be informed of any order for a secret ballot and that the order shall, in the first instance, be provisional in its terms. Then the organization will have an opportunity to submit a statement to the judge for his consideration, and in particular may state whether the organization or branch will itself take within any and what period, a secret ballot upon the question, or will take any other action in relation thereto.
– Will this provision give an organization the right’ to show cause why a secret ballot should riot be held?
– Yes. The amendments submitted by the Government will enable an organization to hold a ballot without supervision by an officer of the court, if it thinks proper. If the bill passes members of an organization will be given an opportunity to hold a secret ballot if they can satisfy the court that their application is bona fide and relates to a matter of substantial importance.
– Can the AttorneyGeneral point to any friendly societies whose rules contain similar provisions?
– I have not examined the rules of friendly benefit societies and therefore I cannot say if their rules contain these provisions.
Some criticism has been directed to the clause in the belief that voting at secret ballots is made compulsory. It is not made compulsory. All that it does is to give members of an organization an opportunity to express their mind on a particular matter.
– After the court .has made a provisional order.
– It is difficult to follow and understand the hysterical objections that have been made to this provision. Surely when the opportunity, given to an organization to express its will is limited as it is to matters determined by the court, to be of substantial importance, there should be no objection whatever to it on the ground of principle.
The Leader of the Opposition raised two specific points in his concluding remarks. His first was : Would the Government pay the cost of secret ballots? It is not thought proper that that should be done. If the Government were to defray the cost of secret ballots we may be sure that the provision would be utilized for the annual election of officers of a union. The holding of a secret ballot to determine matters of policy is as much the business of a union as is the election of its officers; therefore there is nothing wrong at all in the principle that if members of an organization have this opportunity to express their mind upon particular issues, the cost of a secret ballot should be regarded as the normal expenditure of an organization. The Leader of the Opposition asked whether, a secret ballot having been held, the will of the majority would be declared to be lawful. Certainly not. If a majority of the members of a union declares its will by means of. a secret ballot, it should be left to such members to see that the officers give effect to the decision. There is no need to invoke the aid of the law. The majority will be assured that it is a majority, and should see to it that its will is obeyed. If the majority cannot give effect to its will, as expressed in a secret ballot, then the majority must be regarded as a poor lot of men.
– Will that apply in the case of a decision where the members of a union shall or shall not strike ?
– Obviously the honorable member has in mind the possibility of an organization deciding, by secret ballot, in favour of a strike, and wishes to know if such action then would be legal. Certainly not. Earlier sections of the act state that all strikes are illegal. No member of the Labour party and no union in the trade union movement has been prepared to move for the abolition of those sections. The act rests upon the basic principles that all strikes and lockouts are illegal. Therefore, if any organization were foolish enough to take a secret ballot as to whether or not its members should commit a breach of the law, a majority vote so obtained would no more legalize that strike than would a vote of employers legalize a lockout. Neither strikes nor lockouts are affected by this clause. Questions which arise in strikes and lockouts can be determined by secret ballot under this proposed new section; questions whether certain demands shall be the policy of the union, or whether the officers of an organization enjoy the confidence of its members. Therefore, it will be possible, by a secret ballot, to deal with all the causes that may incite members of an organization to strike.
– In certain circumstances a secret ballot may hold up the settlement of an industrial trouble affecting the whole of the Commonwealth for a couple of months.
– The apprehension of the honorable member for Hunter is not at all justified. In the first place a strike, if it is in progress, is illegal, and should be stopped. The honorable member suggests that in the event of a dispute involving a strike, a decision as to the future course of action, if submitted to a secret ballot, may be long delayed in a large organization, and that the strike will continue until the views of members of an organization are obtained through a secret ballot. Such a state of affairs is inconsistent with the principle of arbitration, and inconsistent also with the attitude taken up by honorable members opposite, particularly in the discussion of clause 7>, that there should be neither strikes nor lockouts, so that no organization could justify itself in maintaining a strike by means of the secret ballot or otherwise. I wish to make it plain that a secret ballot of an employees’ organization, commonly called a union, or of an employers’ organization, whatever it may be called, will not make any unlawful act lawful. The Government does not propose in this legislation to allow an organization on either side to determine whether strikes or lockouts are lawful. The act specifically states that they are unlawful. That principle is not interfered with in any way by this clause. The object of this provision is to give members of an organization the opportunity to determine by secret ballot, as a matter of right, what the policy of that organization shall be. It will also enable them to control more directly their own officers. The principle is a sound one, and it is safeguarded by the amendment that an order for a ballot is’ to be provisional in the first instance. The organization will then have an opportunity to be heard, and the ballot can only be held if the application is bona fide, and is directed to a matter of substantial importance. Under the provisions in the act concerning regulations, it is possible to make regulations which will assist the court in determining whether or not an application is bona fide. I now move the first amendment to this clause -
That after the word “ organization “ first occurring, proposed new section 56a, the words “ or a branch thereof “ be inserted.
.- The subject of secret ballots which has been enlarged by this amending measure, first appeared in New South Wales legislation in 1918, when the Beeby Act dealing with industrial disputes was passed by the Fuller Government. One section in that act states that an award must be in operation for at least twelve months before a strike can take place, and then only after the holding of a secret ballot ordered by the Minister; also that fourteen days’ notice of intention to strike must be given, otherwise the organization responsible will be liable to a penalty of £500. Another section, 48b, reads -
The Minister may at any time during the progress of a strike or whenever he has’ reason to believe that a strike is contemplated, direct that a. secret ballot, as prescribed, be taken as to whether such member is or is not in favour of such strike.
That law has been on the statute-book of New South Wales for ten years, but has never been put into operation. Immediately it was passed it was forgotten, because even those who supported it realized that it was unworkable. The provisions which I have just quoted indicate the general trend of the act mentioned, which has gone into the limbo of forgotten stunt legislation passed during crises. It was left to the BrucePage Government, this bulwark of nationalism, to bring down a bill containing these more or less Gilbertian proposals. But the clause now under discussion is not the only absurd and impracticable provision framed by this Government - framed by men with academic legal minds, but with absolutely no practical knowledge of the working of industrial organizations in Australia. The proposed new sections provide that ten men may make application for the holding of a secret ballot. This number of members in an organization of 100,000 men is a very small percentage indeed. If ten men belonging to the Australian Workers Union can put into operation the whole of the machinery of that organization, the taking of a ballot may .occupy many months. It will be seen, therefore, that the provision is impossible and impracticable. If the Government desires to achieve its object it will have to adopt other methods than the holding of a secret ballot. The majority of members of the Australian Workers Union follow occupations that are seasonal in character, extending from July to October. Let us suppose that in January ten men, who may be in any of the six branches or in any one of the thousand local committees, bring a certain issue before the Arbitration Court, and that the judge believes that, a secret ballot is necessary. The Arbitration Court judges are only human, aud there are some powers which could very well be kept from them. This is one of those powers. A few years ago a judge of the Arbitration Court made a ridiculous mistake. He stated his intention of awarding a certain increase in wages. We asked him how he arrived at that figure,- and he told us. We then showed him that his calculations were wrong. He admitted that, and increased the amount by 5s., but his arithmetic was still wrong. This case occurred in connexion with a claim of the Australian Workers’ Union.
– In 1922.
– After amending the award and increasing the wage by 5s. he was shown to be still wrong, and a further increase was given. This clearly shows that his calculations cannot be relied upon. What would be the result” of ten men going to a judge who makes mistakes of that character? He might decide that the case was of sufficient importance to warrant a secret ballot, and order one to be taken of the whole of the members of the Australian Workers’ Union. If the ballot commenced in January it could not be completed until the end of December. How does the AttorneyGeneral propose to overcome a difficulty such as that? A secret ballot of the waterside workers would be a totally different proposition, because the men are employed on the wharves. They have a permanent location, and do not travel throughout the country such as do the men employed on cane cutting and pastoral work. In the instance that I have given, even if the court believed the application to be bona fide, and ordered a secret ballot to be taken, his decision could not be given effect.
– All these are obvious considerations, which would be reviewed by the judge.
– Does the AttorneyGeneral understand that if an application is bona fide and based upon legitimate grounds, the court must order a secret ballot to be taken, even though it is impracticable.
– That would be an excellent argument to address to the judge.
– Under this clause the judge must, if the application is bona fide, order a secret ballot to be taken.
– The honorable member has debated the whole of this bill as if the judges have no common sense.
– I have given one instance of a judge that had no common sense, or, at least, no mathematical knowledge. ,1
Mr.Latham. - The honorable member is showing strong feeling on the subject ; but he must remember that there is another view of it.
– I have a very strong feeling on this subject, especially in view of the instances that we have of a judge making a mistake and, as the Attorney-General has illustrated, of five judges discussing the meaning of the word “ consistent “ and not arriving at a unanimous decision. These things make one apprehensive about putting the powers proposed under this bill within the hands of the Arbitration Court judges. The bill was brought down to this chamber as the last word in industrial legislation. It contains machinery for putting the unions in their proper places, for hamstringing them and taking away from their members the domestic powers which they -have held since the inception of trade unionism. Soon after the bill had been explained by the Attorney-General, the Government commenced to alter its provisions. No criticism had at that time been levelled at the bill, yet four pages of amendments were printed and circulated amongst honorable members. The bill provides that at least ten men must make application for a secret ballot. The amendment provides that any number of applications made by at least ten members, either verbally or in writing to the secretary of the union, and in writing, of course, to the judge, will be sufficient to warrant the taking of a secret ballot. There is no provision in the bill to give the secretary of the organization concerned an opportunity to check the members making the application.
– In what sense does the honorable member use the word “check”?
– I shall explain that in a moment. I can visualize some of the smart lawyers of the various States drawing up an application for a secret ballot, and the boss ganger or foreman taking it round and getting the ticket unionists to sign it. The application will then be put in an envelope marked “ secret ballot, “ and placed in another envelope as provided by the amendment. I am reminded of a passage from one of Edgar Wallace’s books, describing the sleuth following the clue. In this case, the clue is placed in one envelope and that in turn is placed in another. God help the individual, unless it is the registrar of the court or judge, who attempts to open that envelope containing another envelope marked “ secret ballot. “ Ultimately the document will reach the Registrar, be opened by him and handed to the judge. There is no proof whatever of the bona fides of the application or of the signatures of the persons applying for the secret ballot. What does the AttorneyGeneral or honorable members supporting the Government propose to do about that? The only way to ascertain whether the application is bona fide is to call the men concerned to court, either openly or secretly, if secrecy is the desire of the Attorney-General, to prove that they are the persons making the application. Their identity can, in my opinion, be proved only by the union officials. Surely there is to be some protection afforded to the unions. They should not be left wholly at the mercy of the few individuals who sign an application for a secret ballot. There must be security against impersonation. I can quite understand, the desire of the AttorneyGeneral to protect the men making applications for a secret ballot, from victimization; but I submit that our criminal procedure and usage should apply in this case. When information is lodged with the police, when evidence is given in the criminal courts, as a matter of fact, in all our courts, certain protection is given to witnesses. When evidence is given before royal commissions, special investigations and inquiries, the whole of the procedure is open and above board. But this bill completely departs from that principle. Neither the Attorney-General nor any one of his supporters has shown any justification for these underground methods. The protection given to witnesses under our criminal law should apply under our industrial law. The Attorney-General says, “ No, we must have this secret ballot. “ He has brought the utterances of the late Premier of New South Wales into this question ; but what has that to do with the secret ballot? Nothing whatever. The AttorneyGeneral has stated that only seven organizations have rules providingfor a secret ballot. I Have bad a long experience in industrial organizations, and I know of no organization that does not use the secret ballot for the election of its officers, and every organization accepts the majority decision of its members arrived at by secret ballot. -
Sitting suspended from 12.1& to 2.15 p.m.
– The AttorneyGeneral has pointed out with a good deal of self-satisfaction that he has prepared quite a number of amendments for the bill. The attention of Australia has already been drawn to -the sheaf of amendments that was drawn up long before the bill was discussed.
– After it was introduced, and after I had invited suggestions from the whole of Australia, and received them from many sources. The Government is prepared to consider suggestions.
– The Minister would give the Opposition considerable satisfaction if he would disclose the names of the persons and organizations who made those suggestions.
– One was the Australian Council of Trade Unions, which is representative of all the trade unions.
– It is refreshing to have endorsement of the claim put forward by honorable members on this side that there are sinister forces behind the bill. The suggestions incorporated in the sheaf .of amendments that was drawn up before the main discussion of the bill took place, indicate that they came from the employers rather than from the employees. Of all these amendments, none will give the unions any relief. Take, for instance, the proposed new section 56ea, which makes the order of the court provisional for the taking of a secret ballot. “What relief does that give? “While it provides that the court is to inform the secretary of the organization of certain things, it does not alter one principle embodied in the other proposed new sections set out in the clause.
– The organization may then submit a statement to the court. That is the object of the provision.
– No person could be found guilty simply on a declaration being made by ten men, who might be irresponsible, or might make bogus representations to a court. Surely the secretary of the union concerned should be informed of the evidence submitted to the court, so that he could cross-examine the witnesses and compel those making complaints to prove their case. But under the new section suggested by the Attorney-General - it is not found in the bill, and it is apparently his interpretation only - if the secretary writes a letter to the court, and points out how wrong the court was in arriving at its decision, he is kept absolutely in the dark as to the evidence upon which the judge based his decision. When the court orders a secret ballot to be taken, its action practically amounts to a direct charge against the union of improper management of its affairs. The court finds the union guilty of maladministration, or refusal to conduct its affairs properly. Without any evidence the judge may find the organization guilty, and the union is informed of the decision without being given the ground on which the verdict is based. The union has no redress whatever. The court simply comes to its decision, and the union must take it or leave it. If it ignores the decision, the court immediately takes charge of the administration of the union, or the branch of the union. That means that, in the case of the Australian Workers Union or any other federated body with branches in the various States, the head office, first of all, is invaded by officers of the Arbitration Court, who temporarily take charge of it. All the books and documents necessary for the taking of a ballot must be made available. If the union refuses to hand over these things, heavy penalities are imposed upon any person or persons obstructing the officer. The union is not consulted as to the nature of the ballotpaper. The court takes complete charge of the drafting of that. Those who have had experience in the drafting of ballotpapers know that it is easy for a question to be unfairly ‘ stated. I am referring, particularly, to questions submitted to electors at referendums. For the purpose of illustration, I may mention that four questions are to be submitted to the residents of the Federal Capital Territory on the 5th September next. I do not suggest that those questions are unfair; but neither the “ wets “ nor the “drys” desire to vote on four issues. The court has no intimate knowledge of industrial organizations and their domestic affairs, but it will have power to draft a ballot paper, on which there may be one or six questions. Against this procedure, a union will have no appeal.
– But it could prevent it from being necessary.
– No. Once a court takes possession of a union office, and drafts or issues the ballot paper, anybody who interferes in that matter is liable to a heavy penalty.
– That is after the union has been heard.
– But the union is not heard. Recently the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) was concerned in an important criminal case. What would he have said if his client had been informed that the judge had arrived at a certain decision in regard to the case, and the order he was about to make was merely a provisional one, but his client could reply? Would the honorable member agree to that in criminal procedure?
– I can scarcely imagine such a case. A provisional order in regard to what?
– The honorable member is quite prepared to uphold the recognized procedure in criminal matters, and would probably be one of the first to object to any departure from it; but when the matter at issue is the treatment to be received by the trade unions of this country he adopts a totally different attitude. 1 contend that the accepted usage and procedure of our courts, whether equity or criminal, should not be departed from merely because we are dealing with industrial matters. The trade unions of Australia and their members are entitled to as much consideration as any other section of the community. A judicial system which allows of evidence being given in secret, and denies the right of the party affected to an opportunity to answer a charge, introduces a serious departure from past practice. I hope that the clause will be defeated, and that, even at this late hour, honorable members opposite will not permit this iniquity to be perpetrated on the trade unions of Australia. Let me say, in conclusion, to the Attorney-General and those supporting this principle, that if ever an attempt were made to administer the clause, the secret communication might be received, the decision might be arrived at by the judge, the notice thereon might be delivered to the secretary of the union, the court might take possession of the union office in order to hold a ballot, a ballotpaper might be printed, and all the machinery might be prepared for the taking of the ballot ; but could the court then compel all the members of the union to record their votes?
– Certainly not.
– Therefore, when it comes to the taking of the ballot, the trade unionists will simply laugh at the court and its order.
– I have listened attentively to the criticism of this clause by the Leader and Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but nothing has been said to cause me’ to alter the opinion I previously held. Although the bill contains many provisions that will assist in the successful operation of our conciliation and arbitration laws, if the measure had contained this particular clause only, the time that has been occupied in discussing it would have been well spent. To my mind, it is the most important provision in the bill. I remember the last election campaign as well as if it had occurred only yesterday. On every occasion that I addressed my electors - and occasionally I spoke as many as five or six times a day - I informed them that the Government intended, if returned, to introduce legislation along the lines of this bill. The passing of this measure, and of the present clause in particular, is awaited with interest and anxiety by tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of unionists throughout Australia. Owing to the actions of certain individuals who have taken control of many of the unions throughout Australia, some steps are necessary to re-establish the prestige of compulsory arbitration in the Commonwealth. There have been many instances of illadvised strikes directly engineered by the officials in control of the unions. As was pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) this morning, these officials are themselves generally elected by secret ballot. The control of some unions has passed into the hands of irresponsible men who are not anxious to preserve industrial peace, as it might endanger their own remunerative positions. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) said that it would be impossible to hold a secret ballot among members of the Australian Workers Union within a reasonable time, but he knows very well that the Australian Workers Union is the last union in the country that is likely to break the awards of the court. Since the first award was obtained by the Australian Workers Union in 1907, it has obtained many other awards, and, with one exception, they have all provided for increased wages. In 1922 Mr. Justice Powers made a mistake in his calculation when framing an award. Immediately hia error was pointed out to him, he corrected it, and amended the award. Nothing could go further than that to show how impartial are the judges of the Arbitration Court. This was the only occasion on which a new award was given that members of the Australian Workers Union did not receive an increase in wages. The agreement under which they were working prior to the making of that award had been arrived at by a conference, and both sides agreed that the wage fixed under that agreement was to be without prejudice to the case when it came before the court. The judge found that even in his amended award the wages were still below those previously paid. Subsequently it was shown that certain figures relating to an increase in the cost of living had not been available at the time the judge made his second award. When they did become available he immediately amended his award so as to make the wages correspond with the increase in the cost of living. But prior to this and immediately after the making of the corrected award, the executive called a strike. The leaders of the Australian Workers Union were entirely out of step with the rank and file of the union when they called a strike on that occasion. Had the matter been left to the rank and file, the strike, which is the only blot on the relations between the Australian Workers Union and the graziers, would never have taken place. The leaders mistook the feeling of their members. They rushed in hastily, thinking that it was an opportunity for them to use their power. But they had not the support of the rank and file, and the strike failed ignominiously. They had to back down, and it was admitted by one of the strike leaders that they had misjudged the feeling of the unionists. In order that there may be no misconception on this point I propose to read an extract from the address of Mr. H. E. Boote, delivered at the Australian Workers Union convention in June of 1923. Mr. Boote is reported as follows, in The Australian Worker -
He congratulated the convention on their policy for 1923. At the same time he realized it was not only a difficult, hut a bitter, and therefore a courageous, thing to do. In that connexion a conviction- had been growing up in his mind for a considerable time, and had been brought to a finality, with recent events. That was that they had to revise their attitude towards the great masses of men and women who comprised the- labour movement. They had always spoken of the rank and file as if they were very militant, as if it was necessary to keep- a leash upon them, that the officials of the organization were holding them back, and that, if they only gave them their heads, something would be doing. He had come to the conclusion, not hurriedly, perhaps regretfully, that they would have to revise that opinion. They wore not as militant as they always supposed them to be, and the Australian worker, with all his magnificent qualities, was not an economic fighter. The leaders of thought in the movement would have to recognize the character of the material with which they dealt, and act accordingly. That was why he congratulated them on their 1923 policy. They saw it was no longer possible to put up a fight which would lead to victory, and, therefore, as bitter as it might be, they admitted for the time being that they had been stopped, not because of what anybody in authority had done, but because of what the rank and file had failed to do. It was obvious, if their movement was to make progress in the future, their militancy must be manifested on the political field.
That was an instance in which a union was drawn into an unfortunate position by its leaders, who afterwards realized that they had acted without the support of the members. If this clause becomes law it will prevent the majority of the members of a union from being stampeded into < an illegal strike.
– This is a good, democratic sentiment.
– I am pleased that the honorable member for Batman agrees with me. A minority often does stampede the majority into a strike which they would not of themselves have embarked upon.
– I wish we could stampede the majority on the Government side of the chamber into showing some commonsense
– Unfortunate for the honorable member’s party, the majority of the electors at the last election were stampeded into commonsense, and the result is apparent in the membership of this Parliament at the present time. The Leader of the Opposition, in his second-reading speech, claimed that the honorable members on his side represented the employees, while those on this side represented the employers. The answer to that is to be found in the relative numerical strength of the parties. Unless honorable members opposite say that the employers are capable of returning twice the number of representatives as the employees the facts show how completely they are out of step with the rank and file of the workers of Australia. Members of the Opposition claim that they alone represent labour. We claim, and with justice, that we represent, to the best of our ability, all sections of the community, and the result of the last election shows that this is recognized by the majority of the electors. To me, the air of arrogant superiority adopted in this respect by honorable members opposite is intolerably offensive, and we have every reason to take exception to it. The Attorney-General, when introducing this bill, made it clear that he was willing to accept any reasonable amendments of a constructive character. No such amendments have been put forward by honorable members opposite. In control of a number of trade unions are men who are merely a parasitic growth on the old trade union system. We have been told that we on this side are out to break down trade unionism. Honorable members opposite have failed to realize that what was fought for and achieved by trade unionism 30 years ago had the support and approval of the great majority of the people of this country. At the present time, owing to the unfortunate position into which the unions had been led by strikemongers, that sympathy has, to a very great extent, been forfeited. The public ‘are now looking to us to do something to bring the unions back to sanity, so that they may conduct their own affairs in the interests of the workers as they did before. The question has been raised whether, in the event of a secret ballot being in favour of a strike, that strike would be legal. It is not the intention of the Attorney-General to provide means in this bill for making any illegal act legal, but it certainly is the intention of the Government to see that a minority is not able to stampede a majority into taking illegal action.
.- The honorable member for Macquarie said that this particular clause justified the bill. I am prepared to admit that there are very many objectionable clauses in the bill - clauses which will do no good to arbitration, but the most objectionable of all is that now under discussion.
– It is the most off en- sive
– It is not only’ the most offensive, but it- is also impracticable. It will be quite impossible to put it into operation. The honorable member for Macquarie claimed that members of his party were successful at the last election because of the attitude which they adopted in support of law and order, and because they had pledged themselves, if returned to power, to introduce the secret ballot in the unions, and in that way prevent industrial disturbances. I can understand the Government putting this clause in the bill. . During the election campaign Ministers made so much of this subject that in order to keep faith with the public, they were compelled to introduce a provision for the holding of a secret ballot. To my mind, however, it is not worth the paper it is written on, because owing to the way it which it has been drafted, it will never operate to prevent industrial disputes. Proposed new section 56a reads -
Any ten members of an organization may, when any vote is taken or about to be taken in any election of the committee or officers of the organization or of a branch thereof or in respect of any resolution proposed for adoption by the organization or the branch, as the case may be, demand, either verbally or in writing, that the vote be taken by secret ballot and the vote shall thereupon be so taken accordingly.
– The latter portion of that section is to be deleted.
– Yes, all the words after “ secret ballot “ are to be deleted, but it astounds me to think that with all our experience of industrial unionism we should now be endeavoring to legislate in the direction of enabling ten members of an organization to demand that a ballot be taken in connexion with an election of officers of a branch. The proposal is ridiculous, and will not stand investigation. A branch of an organization may consist of 50 members. The organization with which I am connected has 50 branches. . Is it to be made possible for any ten men in a branch to have the right to demand a secret ballot in connexion with the election of branch officers, who hold quite minor positions in an organization? The officers in control of the organization are on the central executive. The secretary of a branch simply takes the minutes of branch meetings, and when necessary refers matters to the central executive.
– Surely the secretary of a branch is an influential man ; otherwise he would not be elected.
– The duties of a secretary of a branch are confined to that particular branch, Does the honorable member contend that ten men in a branch of an organization which has possibly 40 or 50 branches, should be entitled to put the whole organization to the expense of taking a ballot because they happen to be dissatisfied with the way in which some minor positions are being filled? In u branch it may be possible to find ten members opposed to a good fellow who is well fitted to be chosen as secretary, but may be too tolerant to suit their views. If it is proposed to give ten such men the right to make an application to the court to have a ballot in connexion with the appointment, the whole organization will be put to the expense of having to send representatives to the court to give reasons why the request of the ten should not be granted.
– The central executive will not be put to that expense unless the judge is of opinion that the holding of a secret ballot is warranted.
– First of all an objection has to be lodged, and that cannot be done unless some one attends the court to represent the organization. I think we have gone politically mad in connexion with this matter. Honorable members opposite are not sufficiently acquainted with the workings of industrial organizations, and consequently are supporting legislation which, while hampering the big unions, may have no relation whatsoever to strikes or lockouts. It is the invariable practice of the unions to take ballots. According to the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) there are only seven registered organizations whose rules provide for the holding of ballots; but to my knowledge the majority of the organizations take ballots in connexion with the election of those who occupy responsible positions, and really direct the concerns, the men who would be dealt with if occasion arose to take action against an organization. Within the last two months three ballots have been held in the Newcastle district. The first was for the election of officers to the executive; another ballot was taken in connexion with the election of 21 delegates to a conference; another was taken in connexion with still another election prior to that. The holding of three ballots in such a short period by one organization indicates beyond doubt that the unions hold ballots in connexion with particular appointments. This clause will compel the unions to hold them in connexion with the filling of minor positions.
– In practice do they’ hold secret ballots in connexion with industrial upheavals?
– Before I sit down I shall have a word to say about that. I am now showing how impracticable it is to put into operation this provision which allows ten discontented men in a branch to demand the taking of a secret ballot in connexion with the election of the officers of that branch. Because, perhaps, they find someone in office who is not prepared to permit them to send to the central executive certain resolutions expressing their own particular extreme opinions, they are to be permitted to make an application to a judge to have a secret ballot taken in connexion with the election of this officer. They may know that they will have no chance of succeeding in their request ; but it will enable them to hold up the business of the branch, with the result that bad feeling will be engendered among its members. Surely we should not legislate to permit of that being done !
– I do not think that a judge would make an order in such circumstances.
– I am not questioning what the judge would do. That is another matter. I am pointing out what takes place before the judge has a say. The clause permits ten members of an organization to make a demand for a secret ballot, and it is then necessary for the executive of an organization to appear before the judge and give reasons why the request of these ten should not be granted. Even if their request is not granted it may serve to hold up the work of the branch of the organization for a month or two, and it will certainly put the general organization to the expense of having to appear in the court and give reasons why the request should not be granted. A proposal like this indicates very clearly that we have not the “ hang of the business.” It will play into the hands of a minority. It will enable a few malcontents . to hamper an organization. It is useless for the AttorneyGeneral to say that the court will certainly refuse the application, if the circumstances disclosed do not warrant the holding of a secret ballot ; but why should we permit the court to be moved in such a trivial matter as the election of branch officers ?
– How would it do to make the ten pay costs in the event of the failure of their application?
– If that were done there would be no applications, and the effect of the proposed section would be nullified. I would be prepared to accept a provision to that effect; but would the Attorney-General do so?
– I am considering a proposal to provide by regulation that some small fee should be payable upon application to the court. That would prove bona fides.
– Evidently a change has come over the honorable member. I advise him to make the fee fairly substantial. The bill provides for the imposition of substantial penalties on those who commit breaches of the law, and although I am opposed to this provision for the holding of a secret ballot, I trust that, if passed, it will be in an amended form providing for the payment of a fairly substantial fee on the application being made. In this connexion I draw attention to the proposed section 56c, which reads -
How can the bona fides of ten men be proved? Their names are known only to the registrar and to the judge to whom the registrar submits them.
– I think there is a difficulty in that respect.
– Unless the judge is satisfied that they are bona fide he cannot make an order.
– How can the judge be satisfied without their disclosing their identity?
– Regulations would probably require the applicants to submit evidence of their effective membership at the time of the application. They would probably be required to send in their union tickets or pence cards. It would be an easy matter to provide for that.
– It is quite evident that the Attorney-General sees the force of the arguments submitted from this side of the chamber ; but I venture to say that he will find some people - men like those to whom I have referred - whom no regulation will stop. But even if there is a regulation, who will prove to the judge that those men are bona fide members of an organization? The registered list of members will be useless. Men are coming and going all the time. To-day a man may be a member of an organization ; tomorrow he may be working at another calling.
– A man may be financial with the union this week, and unfinancial next week.
– Although a list of the members of an organization may be filed with the Registrar, it does uot follow that ten men whose names may be found on that list are still members.
– The signatories would have to prove their identity with the men of the same name on the registered list of members.
– But they may be unfinancial.
– Therefore I suggest that, it might be wise to require them to produce their subscription receipts or pence cards or whatever other documents their unions use.
– Many unions do not issue a pence card. In my own organization there is no membership receipt; the miners merely pay at the stump. Some of them mayshift to other occupations and still be on the register. Owing to the depressed state of the coalmining industry many mines have closed and the miners have to look elsewhere for employment; in consequence they are no longer members of the miners’ union. But what would prevent ten such men from making application for a secret ballot for that organization. This scheme cannot be operated satisfactorily. The history of Australian industrial strife shows that most of the big troubles occurred suddenly; without premeditation or warning a strike has been determined upon. In such circumstances the secret ballot would be of no use; it. would operate only after the trouble had occurred. Invariably within a brief period of a stoppage of work negotiations take place between the contending parties, directly or through intermediaries. A settlement may be offered which is acceptable to a big section of the men. Another big section is uncompromising. The matter is therefore referred to a mass meeting of the union, and the majority decide in favour of accepting the arrangement that is offered. If this clause is in operation the men who were opposed to the settlement will apply for a secret ballot. The union will have to appear before the court to show cause why a secret ballot should not be ordered, then the ballot will have to be arranged and taken. In the meantime the trouble will continue and the whole community will suffer. These upheavals will take place from time to time in spite of legislation. The most at which we can aim is to provide facilities for settlement before an open breach occurs, or for the settlement of any big eruption as soon as possible. This proposal will uot help towards that. We know from past experience that once the stoppage of work has occurred the men will fight on to the bitter end ; and legislation such as this will only delay peace. The fact cannot be overlooked that the clause applies to the workers only; no one will seriously contend that there is any likelihood of the employers’ organizations being affected. A company is usually controlled by a directorate of five or six persons. The shareholders are not “ members “ according to the definition in the act; and they can do nothing to refer to the court any action of the directors of which they do not approve. The few men who compose a company directorate are too cute to do anything that can be proved to bo in the nature of a lockout; but it is very difficult for those who control the organizations of workers to prevent strikes. I am not opposed to the secret ballot; it is necessary in connexion with many matters, and, where practicable, is operated. But a secret ballot cannot prevent a stoppage that has already occurred suddenly. All that can be done is to try by conciliatory means to settle it in the public interest. The threat to take a compulsory ballot will have no effect. When a stoppage has occured one can bet ten to one that the men will vote in favour of a continuance of the strike ; the spirit that animated the Anzacs animates them. The strike is their fight, it is everything to them ; they have left work as a protest against certain conditions, and they will resolutely refuse to yield. In those circumstances conciliation is the only recourse. Bludgeoning with the provisions of this bill will only create resentment, and if 1 am a judge of the working man, many even of those who are now inclined to oppose their leaders, will not brook legal interference and compulsion. Their stubbornness will be stiffened by the mere operation of these provisions. It is obvious that the man who drafted this legislation found it a difficult task. My conviction is that the bill is being prepared merely to give effect to the promise made at the last election that the Government would provide for a secret ballot of unionists. Such a ballot might be all right if it were practicable; but after a good deal of experience of unionism I am convinced that if the Government attempts to put these provisions into operation it will get the surprise of its life. The bitterness of the dispute will be merely intensified, no benefit will have been gained, and what then will the Government do? The very application of these fines and penalties will result in a sympathetic spread of the strike.
– The honorable member seems to regard the position as hopeless.
– I regard these proposals as hopeless. The pioneers of compulsory arbitration realized that industrial trouble could not be prevented; it could only be minimized.
-Why not further minimize it?
– If the Government or the court attempts to dragoon the workers after a strike has occurred, it will merely inflame theminds of unionists throughout the country.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I desire to deal briefly with only one point. When an order for a secret ballot is made the members of an organization will have an opportunity to express their opinions upon the matters referred to them. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition and the honorable member for Hunter have said that in some instances the members will not vote even when the opportunity is afforded to them. The Government does not contemplate any action in the direction of compelling the men to vote. That, I agree-, would be absurd. If they do not desire to vote after thecourt has . afforded them an opportunity to do so, that is entirely their own concern. All that this legislation aims at is the provision of such an opportunity. It is considered that that is a proper and a most valuable provision to make at the present time.
.- I concur in the view that has been expressed by honorable members who sit on this side of the committee, that it will be very difficult to operate the provisions of this clause. I am a member of an organization whose rules provide for the taking of a secret ballot.
– Why should it be called a secret ballot? All ballots are secret.
– I agree that the word “ secret “ is redundant, and that too great an emphasis is being given to it. The Engineering Union, of which I am a member, lends itself to the application of the principle; but it would be impossible to apply it to many other organizations. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) has stated that months would be occupied in taking a ballot of the members of the Australian Workers’ Union. The same thing can be said of certain maritime organizations. Those members of the Seamen’s Union who are at sea when a ballot is ordered must be given an opportunity to record a vote. The proceedings will become farcical. No serious-minded person can either countenance or endorse the proposal of the Government. At the present time, before any branch or section of the Engineering Union can resort to the strike weapon, it must obtain from the Commonwealth Council, which is the chief executive body, authority to take a ballot on the question. If that is refused the branch or section can neither take a ballot nor strike. If any action taken is contrary to the ruling of the executive it is repudiated by the organization and the members responsible are not only deprived of sustenance and other benefits but also have a penalty imposed upon them. To my knowledge that chief executive body has been the means of averting trouble on . many occasions, by its refusal to permit a ballot to be taken when the feeling was so intense that it seemed likely that extreme action would be taken which would embroil the members of the organization in every part of Australia. A serious objection to the clause is that an organization will have to take its instructions from an outside body - the Arbitration Court - which can be moved by ten members, to order it to go to the trouble and expense of taking a ballot. Liberal though the* rules of some organizations are in the direction of enabling individual members to express their opinions, they fall far short of such provisions as this. I agree with the view put forward by honorable members on this side, and supported by way of interjection by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), that considerable difficulty will be experienced in proving the identity of those who seek the assistance of the court. The possession of a pence card does not necessarily prove membership of a union. The holder may have ceased to be financial, or the card may not be in order in other respects. The Attorney-General has said that it would be a farce to compel members of a union to vote if they did not desire to do so. The honorable gentleman will find that nothing is more calculated to incense trade unionists than to have the conduct of the business of their organizations taken out of their hands and placed in the hands of nonmembers. This bill is supposed to restore to members of trade unions the control of their affairs; yet an entirely opposite result will be achieved by this provision.
There is a further aspect of the matter to which I draw attention. Under this legislation a strike or a lockout will be illegal, and those who take part in either will render themselves liable to a substantial fine. Supposing a ballot is ordered by the court, and it reveals a determination on the part of the members of an organization to take the extreme action of engaging in a strike, what will be the legal position of the organization? It appears to me that an organization can be compelled to take action which may lead to the commission of an offence under the act. I do not think anything further need be said to show the absurdity of this provision-.
.–I approve the principle of the secret ballot and its application to the affairs of unions generally, which are recognized by the courts and whose rules and regulations have practically the force of law, just as I approve its application to electoral matters throughout Australia. I confess however, that I apprehend a great deal of difficulty in securing the enforcement of these provisions. I do not wish any law to be a dead letter. I want the power of enforcement to reside with the Parliament, and through it with those who are entrusted with the policing of the law. The Attorney-General has moved an amendment which reads -
If, after a demand made under section fifty-six a of this act for a vote to be taken by an organization or branch by secret ballot, the organization or branch fails to hold the secret ballot accordingly, the court may, if satisfied that the demand for a secret ballot is bona fide and relates to a matter of substantial importance, upon application made to the court, give directions for the conduct of a secret ballot under the control of an officer of the court with or without provision for absent voting.
Let us suppose that there are two conflicting sections in a union, and the court is asked by ten unnamed members to order a secret ballot, how will it inform itself of the bona fides or the substance of the matter if the propounders of the application do not appear Before it and the union itself is not represented? The union is entitled to be heard; but provision for that does not appear to have been made in this clause. The propounders also should be heard. If the judge has to arrive at a determination in their absence, surely it cannot be said to be a matter of substance.
– Provision” is made for both sides to be heard, not one side only, as the honorable member says.
– That is not what I said. Ten men, without disclosing their identity, may make an application to the court. First of all they would make the demand to the union.
– They disclose their identity to the court; but not to the union.
– Is not their first application to the union?
– The honorable member is confusing this with another proposed section.
– There are several cases provided for. Jil the case in which the honorable member for Wannon is primarily interested, the men would make a written application to the court, and if the judge were satisfied that it was bona fide he would grant it; but if the applicants could not satisfy him in that regard no order would be made.
– It appears to me that by the time the matter reached the court, the persons who had asked for a secret ballot would be obliged to rely upon a written document, while the union would be represented in person. No one knows better than the AttorneyGeneral that a judge usually informs himself of the substance of the matter before him by means of the persons who appear and not by means of written statements. The applicants for an order for a secret ballot are not likely to appear in person, nor to brief counsel. For that matter counsel would hardly be anxious to accept a brief, for it would mean that he would receive very little industrial business afterwards. In such circumstances, there would be little likelihood of a secret ballot being granted, for the union, through its personal representatives, would be able to influence’ the judge much more than the ten or more applicants through their written documents. I am prepared to give the scheme a trial, though I have very great doubt that it will be efficacious. It appears to me that this is in. the nature of an effort to obtain legal sanction to an illegal act. It is like trying to legalize Tattersall’s.
– The court would never make an order for the taking of a ballot upon the doing of an illegal act.
– If the provision is not intended to allow members of a union to take a poll upon the creation or continuance of a strike, but only upon domestic affairs, I have been under an entire misapprehension.
– A ballot may be taken upon any matter of importance, and that may include whether a strike shall or shall not bo declared.
– Like the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning), I believe that ballots should be held before strikes are authorized; but it ap pears to me that this provision might have the effect of causing the court to legalize something illegal. Trade unionists cannot have the benefit of their awards, and yet strike whenever they please. If this provision is not inserted with the object of making it illegal to hold a strike, then I have been quite mistaken as to its meaning. However, in the bewilderment of my mind I shall vote for the clause.
– May I suggest to the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that, if he is in such doubt as to the meaning of the clause, he would be much wiser to vote against it. The more this proposal is analysed the more ridiculous it appears. When the Attorney-General is cornered on one point in regard to it he makes another, and when he is cornered there, he adopts some other pretext; he has now reached a pass at which he has been forced to say that if the provision is not found to be effective regulations can be framed to make it so. If he imagines that our trade unions will be ready to accept government by regulation he is making a big mistake. Instead of promoting peace in industry, this provision is much more likely to cause war. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey), and several other honorable members on this side of the chamber have been connected with the trade unions for the last 35 or 40 years, and I have had a long experience of them: I concur in the view, that it would be absolutely impossible for a trade union to comply with these conditions. Everybody who knows anything about industrial affairs is aware that trouble may arise in a factory or workshop or elsewhere in a moment through a remark by a foreman to those working under him. In such circumstances a trade union official is on the spot in a few minutes, and it is likely that the difficulty may be overcome. But if this provision is agreed to a few recalcitrant individuals could say, “ We refuse to agree to the settlement of this dispute, and demand a secret ballot upon it.” It would then be necessary for the court to be moved. We all know that it is impossible to find an Arbitration Court judge round any street corner, so the matter might have to wait the convenience of the judge.
– It is provided that this shall take precedence of all other business.
– Even if that is so, there must be delay. The applicants for a secret ballot would have to submit their case, and so would the union, and the judge would have to consider the representations. In the meantime, the dispute would continue, if it did not extend. There would be great danger that, in such circumstances, the minds of the workers would become inflamed. In any case, I submit that it would be impossible for either party satisfactorily to submit its case in writing to the judge.
– There is nothing to prevent the parties making representations to the court in person if they desire to do so.
– If they did so a long legal argument would follow, and finality would be delayed. But let us suppose that a ballot has been ordered.
– Who is to pay for it ?
– If the court ordered it, I presume that the Government would pay the expenses, for the court is, to some extent, the instrument of the Government. The Attorney-General has not said anything on that point. Such ballots would be expensive. The “whole thing is ridiculous and unworkable. In any case, what could the Government do if a union declared a strike or the employers a lockout? I have been present at trade union meetings when we have had a fight to get the rank and file to accept a reduction in wages, for, prior to the cost of living reaching its present high point, unions did on occasions accept reduced wages. I know that a minority in a union may cause a great deal of obstruction, and I submit that if an attempt is ever made to put this proposal into effect, it will delay the settlement of disputes and cause great trouble. Who shall say that a properly-organized meeting of union members is not entitled to come to a legitimate conclusion in regard to subjects submitted to it, without the necessity of taking a vote ? . If unionists are not satisfied to take the advice of their officials, they may have recourse to a ballot, but that would not be done with a strike impending. Whenever trouble occurs, the officers of my organization get to work at once. Every member of the union is circularized, and given an opportunity to attend the meeting at which the matter in dispute will be discussed. It is all nonsense to talk about unionists being intimidated. The mere fact of men joining unions to protect themselves is a proof of their grit. The greatest trouble has been to prevent the rank and file from taking the bit in their teeth and carrying matters beyond the stage advised by their officials. If an endeavour is made to frighten or coerce a unionist, it only gets his back up. I believe that, if the Government insists that members of a union shall be circularized with ballot-papers in order that a secret ballot may bc taken, the unionists will make a bonfire of the ballot-papers, and pour ridicule upon the action of the Government. When the official of the court collects the voting papers he will find that only the ten men who called for the ballot have voted - and probably some of them may have refrained from doing so. To illustrate how employees act in unity, I mention that some two years ago my own union, after having failed to obtain certain reasonable concessions from the printers, their employers, decided that on a specified day every employee in a job printing office should tender his or her resignation. That was done, and it caused considerable consternation among the employers. If the father of a chapel told his fellow employees that he did not intend to vote, none of the other members would record their votes, and the whole procedure would be reduced to an absurdity. Every union will resent the intrusion of the Government in this matter. Why should it interfere with their legitimate activities? 1
No doubt the Attorney-General will claim that those unions which are innocent of any offence have nothing to fear. I can assure the honorable gentleman that the majority of unions conduct their affairs in a manner that is above suspicion. The management of my union is not allowed to vote more than £25 at any one time. If any greater sum is needed, no matter for what purpose, the proposal has to be submitted to a vote of the members. Every one of the officer? in my union is elected by ballot, and everything is settled on the decision of the majority. Frequently I and other honorable members who are unionists receive ballot-papers, so that we may vote on certain matters. We should complain if it were not so. lt is ridiculous to assert Chat the officials, of a union do just what they like.
– Is the honorable member aware that recently a ballot was taken in the Coal-miners’ Union, as to whether a newspaper levy should be imposed, and that- the officers of the union disregarded the verdict and insisted upon the collection of contributions?
– I leave the coalminers to deal with their own affairs, but 1 cannot conceive that they would allow other than the will of the majority to prevail. I have no objection to majority rule. It exists in this chamber. 1 can assure the Attorney-General that even a layman will be able to drive a coach-and-four through the loopholes that will exist in this measure when it becomes law. I consider that, the Government was very foolish to introduce the bill. Honorable members opposite really do not believe in tlie bill, yet they will vote in favour of it. Those who, knowing nothing about them, interfere with the affairs of unions, are sure to burn their fingers. The Government is ill-advised to attempt to make unions do something that is distasteful to them. The Attorney-Genera] would be wise if he withdrew the whole bill, because it will make the Government appear ridiculous, and it is calculated to cause industrial unrest in Australia. It will not only force unions to have nothing’ to do with ballots; it will drive them out of the industrial court, altogether. If that is the intention of the Government, why is it noi honest enough to admit it? I know of no instrument more calculated to smash the principle of arbitration in Australia than this bill. If the Government is intent, upon carrying out its destructive work it may go ahead, but this party will not collaborate in that work of destruction. Instead, it will try to minimize the damage that will be done. I make it quite clear that the responsibility must rest upon the shoulders of i his Government if, in the near future.
Australia is plunged into industrial turmoil through the operation of this measure.
.- Honorable members of the Opposition are not quite consistent in their attitude towards this clause, because they have expressed the opinion over and over again that the whole of this measure was framed with the one object of destroying trade unionism. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) said that if these amendments are carried, they will make the Government and the ““court ridiculous. That is just what the honorable member would like to see done, and the best thing that he can do to attain his desire is to vote for the amendment.
– How does the honorable member draw that conclusion from the remarks of the honorable member for Maribyrnong ?
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong said that the measure will be a dead letter, that the unions will pay no attention to it, and that it will be absolutely futile as an instrument for bringing about industrial peace. But as a result of listening attentively to the remarks of some honorable members opposite, I find considerable practical difficulties in the clause.
– The honorable member has been in a turmoil of indecision ever since the discussion on the bill began, but he has voted consistently with the Government.
– I believe that 1 voted once against the Government. I chink that the honorable member will agree that it is difficult for one who has not had practical experience of trade unionism to handle such a proposal as this. My object is to try, with the knowledge that I have, to make the bill as effective as possible. That is the reason why I have listened carefully to what’ honorable members opposite have said, as they have an intimate knowledge of the working of industrial organizations. I want to learn all that I can from them, so that my vote on the matter may be an intelligent and well-informed one.
Apparently honorable members on both sides of the committee agree that there are circumstances in which a secret vote is a desirable thing. There are occasions when it is necessary to ensure the independence of the vote to be recorded ; occasions when one has to safeguard the independence of the voter; and in those circumstances the secret vote has been advised. I agree with other honorable members that it is tautology to use the term “secret ballot.” A ballot is secret. 1 am trying to look at this clause in a fair way. I am in favour of providing for a secret vote when, in my opinion, it is necessary to ascertain the real mind of an- organization. Those on both sides of the chamber who are fairminded will agree that there are occasions during the proceedings of a trade union when it is not easy to ascertain the true mind of an organization on an important point. The first two proposed sections in clause 44 are so designed that on all important occasions - there is no particular occasion specified - when it is considered desirable by at least ten members of an organization to ascertain the true mind of the members regarding a question at issue, they may make application for a secret ballot to be taken. Ten members of the organization may be present at a meeting at which some important question is being discussed, and, for reasons that seem to them sufficient, demand a secret vote of the organization to ascertain the exact mind of its members. T hat seems to me very fair. I am dealing first of all with the first two proposed sections under which ten men or more may boldly say, “We demand a secret vote.” In such a case it will then be for the organization to hear what these men have to say. The organization may not consider the demand of these men to be bona fide, and in the interests of the organization may refuse a secret vote on the question at issue. Thereupon these ten men under this provision may say, “ We shall appeal from the organization to the court.” They may go to the court and put their case before the judge, and the judge may call upon the organization to show cause why the demand of the men should not be conceded. That seems to me to be eminently fair and reasonable, and, T think, desirable, particularly in view of the far-reaching consequences that the result cf a secret ballot may have, not only upon the organization, but also upon the community generally. The question at issue may concern the policy of the union, and ten members of the union may consider that that policy,’ if persisted in, will lead to a strike. They may say, “ We are totally opposed to the step that is being suggested by our leaders, and we desire that the matter be referred to the secret vote of the members of our organization and give them an opportunity, uninfluenced by any undue pressure or indirect means, of giving a free and unhampered expression of opinion.
Proposed sections 56a and 56b commend themselves to me as being reasonable, and 1 shall support them, but there is some difficulty in respect of proposed section 56c. I am much impressed with the argument of certain honorable members of the Opposition as to its impracticability. In theory and in principle it may be just as desirable as the other proposed sections, which enable ten men to come boldly forward and state their case, but in this instance those men may come forward, and their identity is not to be disclosed to any one except to the registrar and the judge. Let us examine . this provision fairly. I say, without fear of contradiction, or, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Penton) would say, without fear of successful contradiction, that there are occasions in the proceedings of trade unionism when timid members of an organization are over-awed, to say the least of it. Because of their lack of experience, it may be lack of moral courage, they cannot stand up and boldly state their case. They have not got it in them to do so, but all the same, they may hold the conscientious conviction that the direction in which the organization is obviously going is wrong.. In such circumstances what are they to do? The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has suggested that they should, without disclosing their identity, go to the court. I am in favour of giving effect to the desire of these ten men, if it be practicable, but my difficulty - in the light of the arguments of the Opposition - is that it is not practicable. When these men submit their case to the registrar who, in turn, submits it to the judge, the first difficulty is their identification as members of the organization concerned. The judge, before moving in the matter at all, must satisfy himself as to the identity of these men. I find it difficult to imagine how he is to do that, and I should like to hear the Attorney-General more fully oil that point. Some one has suggested that the judge will inform his mind by examining the list of members. How on earth is he, by that means, to come to a conclusion that the John Brown mentioned in the application is the John Brown mentioned in the list of members of the particular organization? That is the initial difficulty. The judge has, in addition, to satisfy himself as to the bona fides of the application. How is that to be done? Is the judge to have personal contact with these men, or with any of them, or is their identity, so far as the judge is concerned, to remain obscure? Is he to meet these men and to hear what they bave to say on the question at issue.
– That would be a matter for the judge to decide.
– There is more in what the Attorney-General says than some honorable members seem to think. We must remember that in all matters affecting industrial disputes that are inquired into and determined by the judge, he is not bound by the rules of evidence. We have given to the judge a free hand, in that he is at liberty to inform his mind in any way that he pleases, so long as we are convinced that he is acting in accordance with the principles of equity and good conscience, and on the substantial merits of the case before him. We must remember that in a matter of this kind the judge will conform to those principles. He will hear what the men have to say, or read their case if it is put before him in writing. He can approach the organization without disclosing the names of these men. I am assuming, of course, that he has in some way satisfied himself as to their identity. On the question of the bona fides of the application, the judge may summon members of the organization before him. He may call the secretary . and the president, and talk the matter over with them. He may say to them, “ A case has come before me in which an application has been made by ten of your members for a secret ballot. What have you to say?” He may be able to satisfy himself in that way as to the bona fides of the application.
– For some unknown reason the Attorney-General has not made provision for that in the bill,
– It is conceivable that the judge may come to the conclusion, by informing his mind in that way, that the application is bona fide. I should . think that that if it were a bogus application - and honorable members opposite have suggested that all such applications must be bogus - surely the judge would have little difficulty in coming to that conclusion. The application may be thoroughly bona fide, but absolutely futile. Ten well-meaning fools may have made the application, and the question involved may be so utterly trivial that the. judge will not consider it for a moment.
– It may even be ten Nationalists who make the application.
– If the application were made by ten Nationalists, that would be prima facie evidence of the substantial merits of the case. I feel that proposed section 56o is beset by many difficulties, and is impracticable. Unless I hear something further from the AttorneyGeneral to compel me to alter my opinion, I shall vote against it.
I should also like to draw the Attorney-General’s attention to proposed section 56r. Not much has been said about it, but it seems to me to be ‘ somewhat drastic. It makes it an offence for any one to counsel a member of an organization to refrain from voting. The provision, thus baldly couched, seems altogether too drastic. A matter, concerning which a secret vote is being taken must naturally be discussed by the various members of the organization concerned, and one member may, quite properly, counsel a fellowunionist, who, he considers, holds an erroneous view, to refrain from voting, in the interests of the organization. That seems an innocuous proceding, more especially as there is no provision in the clause making it an offence to counsel a person to vote in a way other than that in which it is his intention to vote. Under proposed new section 56f, if a unionist were convinced that an affirmative vote should be secured on a certain matter, and used his best efforts to induce a fellow unionist to vote “ yes,” it would not be an offence; but it would be an offence if the unionist were counselled not to vote at all: That seems to me to be inconsistent, and I should be inclined to delete the provision. Of course, it carries with it the idea of undue pressure. 1 suppose that it is aimed at preventing undue influence being exerted upon any voter. But, if that is so, the provision should be directed against the exertion of undue influence of any kind. I suggest, to my friends opposite that it is not fair for them to reiterate that we on this side are out to injure trade unionism.
– What else is the bill for?
– Surely we are discussing as grown men a very difficult subject, and we are much more likely to make headway if we give each other credit for honesty of purpose.
– The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has referred to proposed new section 56c, which relates to the application for a secret ballot, and proposed new section 56f, paragraph b, which deals with the offence of counselling any person entitled to vote to refrain from voting.
Dealing first with his observations on proposed new section 56c, it is, as he said, very difficult to provide for this matter by legislation. The first point to consider is whether it is desirable to endeavour to make any legal provision of the kind. I submit that some of- the speeches of honorable members on the other side demonstrate, if evidence were needed, that it is necessary in some cases to protect against victimization members of a union who desire to have a secret ballot. The honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) has interjected again and again that anybody who applied for a secret ballot under this provision ought to be thrown out of the union.
– I rise to a point of order. The Attorney-General has misrepresented me. I have never in my life said that a member of a union should be thrown out of an organization for any reason what ever. My policy has always been to retain all members and instruct them as to the best course for them to pursue. 1 object to the Minister’s statement.
– Then I withdraw it.
– I am prepared to give ?20 to any charitable institution that the Minister cares to name if he will withdraw the bill, also.
– The general tone of the debate shows that it is desirable to include provisions to protect applicantsfor a secret ballot against victimization. We all know that, in many eases, members of unions would be glad to. have secret ballots; but at union meetings they have not even an opportunity of putting forward a claim for such ballots with safety to not only themselves, but. also their wives and families.
– I admit the desirability of such a provision; but I am noi convinced of its practicability.
– If what I have said does not apply to some of the unions, then I have been seriously misinformed; but for reasons that I have indicated, I am not willing to divulge to the Opposition the names of any of my informants.
– The Minister got his information from the employers.
Honorable members interjecting,
– (Mr. Duncan Hughes). - L ask members of the committee to support the chair. It is quite impossible for me, as chairman, to hear what is being said.
– It is not* worth hearing.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I am the judge of that. I desire to hear what is said; but it is impossible for the Attorney-General to make a coherent speech with such interruption as that to which he is being subjected.
– I have said all that I desire to say about the necessity and desirability of including a provision of this character, if it is possible to frame a practicable clause. That is the point thai the honorable member for Fawkner has raised.
It is provided that the names of members desiring a ballot, and making a written application for it, shall be known to the registrar and the judge only. The judge, before making an order for the ballot, must be satisfied that these men are members of the organization, that the application is bona fide, and that it relates to a matter of substantial importance to the union. Then the judge, if he thinks proper, may make a provisional order for a secret ballot, notice of which is given to the organization itself through its secretary, who has an opportunity of submitting a formal statement expressing the views of the officers of the union on the matter, stating whether they think a secret, ballot desirable or necessary, and whether the organization is prepared to take a ballot without the order of the court. Under section 25, the court is required to act according to equity and good conscience, and may inform its mind in any manner that it may think fit. There is, therefore, abundant opportunity for the fullest representation being made by the officers of the union, if they take another view than that which has been placed before the court by the applicants for the secret ballot. There should be no difficulty in determining whether the matter in question is one of substantial importance. That should generally appear from the nature of the matter itself.
– How would the judge satisfy himself as to the names of the applicants ?
– I am coming to that. The judge must be satisfied that the ten persons so applying are members of the organization; and I may consider, together with that point, the requirement that he must be satisfied that the application is bona fide. Various methods would suggest themselves to my mind, if I were charged with the responsibility of administering this provision, whereby I would be able to make a reasonable endeavour towards satisfying myself that the persons applying were members of the organization, and that the application was bona fide. This provision, however, is in the bill only in order to prevent victimization, and T do not propose, I frankly say, to outline in detail to the committee, for the information of everybody in general, the particular methods which I think it might be wise to adopt. It is essential to this procedure, if the clause is approved by the committee, that a member of a union may be able to make this application with security to himself ; but I may point out, without going into details as to other matters, that if regulations are passed, as they may be, under the powers existing in the act, providing for the payment of a reasonable fee upon the application being made, that would, to a certain extent, be a guarantee of bona fides. I do not say that it would be an absolute guarantee of bona fides, but it would go some distance in thai direction. Then, I submit, it would be for the judge and the registrar to make inquiries into the matter, and the judge must be satisfied that the applicants are members of the organization. These persons will have to prove to the satisfaction of the judge that they are members of it.
– They will all have union tickets.
– If they cannot satisfy the judge that they are members, by the production of union tickets or otherwise, the application will not be granted, and should not be granted.
– Even if they are able to produce tickets they may be unfinancial.
– I believe most of the unions hold a sufficient degree of financial control over their treasurers, or some other officers, to require evidence of payment of ‘union dues. Some honorable members have informed me that payments are made without record or without a receipt of any kind being given to the member of the union to show that he has paid his dues. That may be the case in some unions; but I suggest that it is a very undesirable state of affairs in any organizations that handle other men’s money. As a general rule, the members insist on some form of receipt. Honorable members are familiar with pence cards, and other forms of union tickets, which could be produced to show that the holders were members of unions; but I agree that if they could not satisfy the judge definitely and affirmatively that they were members, the order ought not to be made. But this section will apply only in cases in which they are able to satisfy the judge. That is the answer to a number of the criticisms which have been levelled against this clause. Those who are unable to satisfy the judge that they are members will not be able to obtain a secret ballot.
– The applicants must discharge that onus.
– The other stipulation is that the application must be bona fide. It is difficult to lay down specific rules in advance to determine whether a certain step is bona fide or not. That must depend on the circumstances of the case, and the judge will be able to get the necessary information from the Union.
– The burden of proof will be on the applicants.
– As the honorable member for Kennedy says, the burden of proof will be on the applicants. Where the necessary conditions have been fulfilled, the section certainly ought to apply. It may be that there will be cases in which the conditions will not be fulfilled, and then the application will properly fail. I submit, however, that the conditions are not incapable of fulfilment. In many cases there will be little difficulty in satisfying the judges that a ballot should be held. The result of an order being made for the holding of a secret ballot will merely be that members of a union will have an opportunity of voting, but they need not do so unless they like.
– As to the onus of proof, the applicants put their case before the judge, and it would appear then that the judge takes action. If the onus rests absolutely on the applicants, they will have to undertake the proof of their case, whereas, according to the explanation of the Attorney-General, the judge must set about informing his mind on that point.
– The application would, in many cases, be accompanied by a statutory declaration, and when I am considering regulations under this act I may provide for this being done. As the honorable member is aware, anybody is at liberty to swear a declaration without showing it’s contents to the person before whom it is sworn. There is no need to do anything more than the formal act of signing the declaration before an accredited person, such as a justice of the peace.
I now come to the other matter raised by the honorable member for Fawkner. Sub-section 56f b states that - any person who counsels any person entitled to vote at a ballot under this act to refrain from voting, or prevents any such person from such voting . . . shall be guilty of an offence.
I am impressed by what the honorable member for Fawkner said in regard to that. If he is prepared to move an amendment substituting these words, “any person who uses any form of intimidation to prevent any person from voting,” I shall accept it.
.- I was rather amused that the honorable member for Fawkner should have attempted to address the committee as if we were a body of ladies who had no experience of the world, and no knowledge of the rascality to be found among the employers. The honorable member does not seem to understand this matter at all. If he knew anything of human nature, he would realize that in large bodies it would be quite easy for the employers to get ten men to sign an application for the holding of a secret ballot, even though the men themselves might be in favour of the strike. It would cost only £100 to give them a bribe of £10 each, and the Employers’ Federation would very soon find that sum. The holding of a ballot would delay the settling of a dispute, and delay merely aggravates the men, and makes them more bitter. Disputes between capital and labour should be settled as quickly as possible. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) spoke slightingly of union leaders, but I wish to inform him that among union leaders are to be found some of the most intelligent men in the community. Many of the great figures in Australian politics have been trade union officials. Mr. Andrew Fisher was one, and many of the men who occupied the Government benches in 1913 had at one time ‘or other held office in trade unions. A trade union is one of the best educational institutions there is, and the union officials, as a body, are thoughtful, wellread men. Union decisions are not arrived at hastily. When any serious dispute is being considered, meetings frequently start at 7.30 in the evening and go on till 11o’clock, when they adjourn till the following night. The matter is fully discussed from all points of view, and every one expresses his opinion. Once a decision has been arrived at by a union executive, or a meeting of members, the holding of a secret ballot will not make any difference. The members will not go back on what has been decided. Union decisions are always reached in accordance with the rules. The law of New South Wales lays it down that the address of every member of the union must be kept, but it is necessary, in order to find a man’s address, to get the information from the shop steward. If a secret ballot had been ordered, and ballotpapers were being sent out, it would probably be very difficult to find the address of all the men, as the shop stewards would be absent from work, and the men themselves would be scattered all over the city and suburbs. The AttorneyGeneral seems to have been very badly advised over this matter. I have no doubt that he did not rely entirely upon himself in framing the bill, but his advisors have shown very little knowledge of trade union practice. This bill, if it becomes law, will place the unions under the control of the judges. We are going to have judge-made laws, and we appear to be reverting to the iniquitous conditions which prevailed at the time of Judge Jeffreys. One would imagine, from the statements made by the honorable member for Fawkner, that union officials were a set of criminals, who made a practice of doing all kind of underhand things. As a matter of fact, no other body of men is so well watched, and they have very little opportunity of doing anything underhand. I admit that there have been embezzlements by union officials, but that has nothing to do with the matter we are now discussing. The Attorney-General would do better if, instead of bringing in a bill of this kind, he were to endeavour to promote a better spirit between employers and employees, so that they might conduct their affairs according to Christian principles. It is “ unnecessary to insert this provision in the bill, because at present unions can and do frame rules for the holding of ballots. But when we learn that a ballot of the Australian Workers Union takes about four months, it shows what a little knowledge those who have framed the bill have of the ramifications of trade unionism to-day. If the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) knew how earnestly members of unions desire to ensure their means of livelihood so that they can make adequate provision for themselves and their families, he would not have spoken as he did. One honorable member has made a statement about a union official, and it has provoked many inquiries. I have had letters asking me to find out the name of the official, and although I am sure there is no truth in the honorable member’s statement, I shall endeavour to get it from him. It is an underground idea to suggest that ten men, whose names are not to be disclosed, shall have the right to make application for the holding of a secret ballot. There are always men in a union whose abilities are not equal to those of others, and when there is a disturbance it is their great anxiety to bring the trouble to an end so that their positions may not be jeopardized. One can easily understand ten such men making application for the holding of a ballot. The Arbitration Court has not yet fulfilled all the functions it will eventually be required to undertake. For instance, a few months ago representatives of friendly societies suggested to me the submission of a case to the Arbitration Court so that the fees payable t« medical officers might be fixed. I trust that the Attorney-General will not succeed in introducing provisions which will result in wrecking our arbitration system. I cannot understand the use of the word “ secret “, as applied to ballots. It seems to suggest that there is something suspicious or crooked about these ballots, because in the ordinary acceptation of the word ballot counts secrecy. I feel that, in legislating in this way, we are doing something that was never intended, but the underlying idea seems to be that trade unionism is growing too strong, and must be smothered. Social conditions can be improved only by organization. Many men who have come into prominence in Australian public life have had their training in the ranks of trade unions. Where was there brighter genius than among Labour members who were in control of the affairs of the Commonwealth from 1910 to 1913? Yet the honorable member for Fawkner has tried to convince us that members of unions are led away from the right path by professional agitators. If the honorable member knew anything about trade unionism he would know that it is the hardest thing in the world to lead men astray in the Labour movement. Of course, there are always some who are far more advanced in their views on public questions than others, but that is a good thing for the community in general. The honorable member was not justified in reflecting as he did on those who are to-day in control of the unions. He may have been actuated in what he said by reason of the fact that the men he was condemning did not belong to the legal profession ; but I would remind him that the members of his profession, despite their education, are not immune from wrongdoing. Every few months we hear that a legal practitioner has been ‘struck off the rolls, for some cause or other. I hope that, on further consideration, the honorable member will see that, his reflections were unwarranted. He seemed to be somewhat puzzled as to what to do, and declared that he would wait until the Attorney-General had made a statement. I do not wait for anyone to make a statement to enable me to make up my mind. I can read and write, and I have a certain amount of intellect and experience which I bring to bear upon the subject. I therefore, do not ask any one whether I shall go upstairs or downstairs. The representatives of the people in this Parliament ought to h’ave enough ability to enable them to understand the measures that come before them, and to express the opinions of their electors. I am sure that the statement made by the honorable member for Fawkner this afternoon does not reflect the opinion of the majority of the people in his electorate. The people who send us here have some knowledge of everyday life, and our legislation should reflect that knowledge; but this proposal to hold secret ballots is stupid; it certainly does not reflect that knowledge. I suppose our only course is to wait until time brings a change. Time solves many problems. I am sure the day is not far distant when this legislation will be altered and made to accord better with the desires of the people, so that those who require assistance will get it, and those who organize for the general benefit of the community, and believe that conditions must be changed for the good of the greater number will not be treated as criminals.
.- Every honorable member is earnestly desirous of the well-being of trade unionism, and recognizes that collective bargaining is necessary. Ev.ery one recognizes, also, that in order to get collective bargaining we must have sound and healthy trade unionism, sincerely anxious to promote the interests of trade, commerce and peaceful understanding between employers and employees. But there are a few honorable members on the other side of the chamber who do not recognize that trade unionism to-day, unless some control is given to the actual members of unions, is in some danger, that it has so strong a political wing that political interests are being exploited wholly to the detriment of the genuine interests of the movement, and that there is a tendency to require a man to cast his vote in a particular way, or else the right to work in any trade or calling is denied to him. That is a form of political conscription which no free man will tolerate and which Australians must, and will, resist. In recent years certain organizers and officials, who are supposed to be the paid servants of the unions, have become their paid masters. That is an unwholesome and undesirable state of affairs; it robs the members of th’e union of that freedom in the control of their affairs which is absolutely essential to healthy trade unionism. There is abundant evidence in all the States that the Nationalist party believes in trade unionism. In Queensland the Trade Unions Act was passed as far back as 1886, and made elaborate provision for the registration of trade unions and the protection of their members, and secured to them the right to bargain collectively. The “Wages Board Act, passed in *1908, secured to the trade unions such control in industry as enabled them to protect their interests fairly. That was followed by the Industrial Peace Act of 1912.
Since that year further industrial legislation has been introduced by successive Queensland governments.
We have been told that the Australian Workers Union has an elaborate organization and system of management, which gives full rights to all its members. But how far do those rights go ? According to the North Queensland Register, on Monday, the 14th May, a conference of the Australian Workers Union was held in Townsville. Mr. J. A. Mulherin, of Mackay, complained that four resolutions of the Mackay branch bad been omitted from the agenda-paper, and he was informed by Mr. L. Macdonald, secretary of the Queensland Central Executive, that those resolutions had been omitted because they were in direct conflict with the party platform.
Mr.Forde- That was not a union conference, but a political labour conference.
– Whatever it was, the incident showed that the rank and file of the unions are not allowed to discuss the matters they wish to discuss, and four resolutions submitted by a branch were struck off the agenda-paper because they did not fit in with what Mr. Macdonald was pleased to term “ the platform.” That conference was supposed to be making a platform, and surely the Mackay members of the union were entitled to submit their suggestions and proposals. Other evidence is not lacking of the manner in which the rank and file are deprived of a voice in the control of their unions. A classic example of this was the rotary ballot at Cairns a couple of years ago. The question to be decided was whether the members of the union favoured the rotary system. In three open ballots they voted in favour of the rotary system; in three secret ballots a strong majority was recorded against it. Those ballots were taken alternatively, and the result showed that there is intimidation in the unions; indeed, we know that to be so.
– The honorable member does not know it.
– The results of these ballots are conclusive proof. On another occasion the railway men in Queensland were ordered to strike;, they were not consulted as to whether they would or would not leave their work. Surely the surrender of employment is a matter that vitally affects the worker and his family, and he is entitled to be heard on the subject. I do not say that we should legalize strikes, although I remember one which, whether it was legal or illegal, was amply justified. We are informed by the Canberra Times of this morning that on Friday night at a meeting of the Brisbane branch of the Cook’s Union a motion was carried, only two dissenting, that the branch should send a telegram to Mr. Tudehope saying that the Brisbane members were willing to man the ships, and asking him whether he had any objection to their doing so! That is a nice state of affairs! Those men in Brisbane are willing, indeed anxious, to work, but they must. first ask the permission, not of the other members of the union, not of the union itself, but of Mr. Tudehope, the paid secretary of the Marine Cooks’ Union. It is time that members of unions had some say in the conduct of their own affairs, and that those individuals whom they pay to carry out certain duties ceased to be their masters.
The proposed section 56a treats satisfactorily what is admittedly a very difficult problem. It provides that any ten members of an organization may, when any vote is taken or about to be taken in any election of the committee or officers of the organization or a branch thereof, or in respect of any resolution proposed for adoption by the organization or a branch, demand that the vote be taken by secret ballot, and the vote shall thereupon be so taken accordingly. Such a demand having been made, the organization may, without any interference from the court or anybody else, arrange for the taking of a secret ballot. The members of the union are entitled to this privilege. Every shareholder in a joint stock company’ has a right at common law to demand that the affairs of the company shall be regulated by secret ballot. That right can be taken away only by express legislative enactment, and companies make elaborate provision in their articles of association for the taking of ballots. If one member of a corporation can demand a secret ballot. it is not unreasonable to enact that ten members of a union should enjoy the same right.
– But only in accordance with rules made by themselves for their own government.
– This bill gives to them the right to ask for a secret ballot, and only when the organization fails to do that simple justice, do other considerations arise. In the case of joint stock companies, if a ballot is refused the applicant can go to the Supreme Court and get an injunction restraining the company from proceeding further in respect of the matter complained of, and an order that a secret ballot be taken. In the case of trade unions, ten members may make application to the Arbitration Court for a secret ballot, and the registrar may require them to produce proof of theiT membership of the union. A member of the Australian Workers Union has a union ticket.
– Other unions have no tickets.
– The men must receive some receipt for the contributions they pay.
– They get no receipt and they ask for none.
– They certianly should get a receipt. No one should receive trust moneys without some record or acknowledgment. ‘At any rate, the onus will be on the applicants to prove that they are bona fide members of the union. Upon the court being satisfied of that it may give direction for the taking of a secret ballot. Before that is done, however, the organization will have an opportunity to represent to the court that the circumstances are suG’h as not to warrant the holding of a secret ballot. If the court decides that such a ballot shall be taken, it will be conducted by the officers of the union under the control of an officer of the court. Thus the matter will remain in the hands of the organization. The ballot will be taken by the union, subject to the supervision of the court, when the application is proved to be bona fide and relating to a matter of substantial importance. The . union will thus be completely protected.
The Attorney-General has given notice of a further provision that -
Any order or directions made or given by the court or a judge under section fifty-six b, fifty-six o, fifty-six d, or fifty-six e of this act for the taking of a secret ballot of an organization or of a branch of an organization shall, in the first instance, be provisional, and notice thereof shall be given by the Registrar by registered letter to the secretary of the organization or branch concerned.
Then the organization or branch will have the opportunity to show, either that the matter is one in respect of which a ballot should not be taken, or that the organization itself will take a secret ballot in regard thereto. The court will have before it, on the one hand, the application of ten persons for a secret ballot, and, on the other hand, the reasons of the organization or branch against the taking of a ballot. Even at that late hour the organization may undertake to conduct the ballot without interference by the court. Upon the expiration of fourteen days from the date of the provisional order the judge may make the order final, or set aside the order, or adjourn the matter for such period as he thinks proper. Nothing could be more reasonable, more elastic, and more calculated to do justiee to both parties than these provisions. The need for some control of these ballots is known to everybody. I heard of one union ballot taken in this fashion : Certain young hotheads - and young men have generous enthusiasms, and are sometimes more rash, fiery, and ill-balanced than older men with family responsibilities, and wives and children to clothe and feed - desired a matter to be dealt with in a particular fashion. Some of the older members, my persona] friends, spoke in opposition to that proposal, and the young man who had been voted to the chair, put the question to the meeting in these words : - “ All true-blue unionists who will stand by their mates put up their right hands. Now all scabs and other excrescences put up your hands.” That young chairman cunningly gave to the members of the union an opportunity to vote themselves true-blue unionists or scabs and other excrescences. Because of practices of this kind, middleaged, responsible, thinking men in the trade unions stay away from meetings of their organizations. It is time that they were . given that measure of control to which their responsibilities to the nation in respect of themselves and their families entitle them. Members of trade unions and other organizations will only regain that control of their own affairs when they have the opportunity to demand that matters of substantial importance shall be dealt with by secret ballot.
I therefore support the measure because it is a step in the direction of placing the trade union movement on a more definite, wholesome, and satisfactory basis. I believe that the clause under discussion contains provisions that will operate in the interests of the workers of Australia, and make for industrial peace. The proposed new section will curb the views of irresponsible, hot-headed young people, who do not consider well what they propose to do, or take into account the probable consequence of their actions upon other members of their own organization or their fellow-workers in other industries. It is a good thing that we should have such safeguards as are provided in the bill against hasty and illconsidered action by industrial extremists. The measure provides other means for the redress of grievances. It enacts that matters in issue may be submitted to the vote of the whole of the members of an organization in a secret ballot. Thus members of an organization may determine questions without intimidation, victimization or subsequent personal injury to themselves. This is the only way to place the trade union movement on a sound foundation. Even during this debate we have had evidence of the need for this legislation. To-day, in this chamber, one member said that if ten members of his union desired to vote by secret ballot, he would like to kick them out. That is a nice spirit ! When one honorable member was discussing this provision under which ten members of an organization may make application to the court for a secret ballot, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) interjected, “ They might be ten Nationalists.” Coming from a responsible member of the Labour party in this chamber, I think it is as well that we should take notice of the interjection and ask ourselves what was implied by it. Clearly, what the honorable member meant was that if ten members of an industrial organization did ‘ not hold the same political view as, say, its leaders, they should be denied the right to express their opinion in regard to a particular matter.
– What I think he meant was that ten members of an industrial organization might be what are known as “ free “ labour men.
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition did not use those words. What he said was, “ They might be ten Nationalists,” and we are entitled to infer from his remarks that, as such, they should not be allowed to have any voice in the determination of an industrial matter affecting their union. Honorable members are entitled to place their own construction on the words. Very many good trade unionists are Nationalists. I have stated what I believe was meant by the interjection of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, and I have no doubt that many other honorable members hold the same view. When we get such an expression of opinion from a responsible member of the Labour party, we must realize that under existing arrangements trade union matters are controlled not by member’s of organizations, but by their officials.
.- I think that the impression which the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) has tried to create as to the meaning of the interjection of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) should be removed at once. The honorable member for Kennedy adopted a wellknown practice in police court proceedings. He endeavoured to so twist words used by the honorable member for Darling as to lead honorable members to believe that he implied something altogether different from what, I have no doubt, was in his mind. What he meant was that ten Nationalists, acting as members of a trade union, could make an application to the court.
– How could they do that unless they were bona fide members of a union?
– There is nothing to prevent them from becoming members of a union. I believe that was in .the mind of the honorable member for Darling when he made the interjection. As to the clause itself, it can only operate in one way. I have the same objection to it that I have to the bill. It is a most obnoxious provision and will not, as the Attorney-General suggests, ensure peace in industry. If it provided . for the taking of a poll before an industrial trouble had commenced, and ended there, one might see some reasonableness in it; but, as it stands, a request by ten members of an organization to hold a secret ballot when both sides are embittered will be futile. It is nonsense to suggest that the proposed new sections will operate with equal force upon employers; they can only apply to one side. If an industrial organization takes a ballot it will do so with its hands tied, because if the decision of members is in favour of drastic action, the organization will be subject to the penal provisions of the act. This is the plain reading of the bill, and that is the whole point of our objection to it. Any ten men of an industrial organization may make application to the court for the holding of a secret ballot, but, as I have shown, a secret ballot taken in the circumstances mentioned could not be regarded as a fair expression of opinion. I am not arguing in favour of encouragi i ig strikes. I believe that the whole of our arbitration machinery should be amended in the direction of providing for the immediate hearing of industrial disputes, so as to prevent them from developing. I have nothing whatever to say against members of the legal profession, but I suggest that our arbitration legislation should be so drafted as to be readily understood by trade unionists and employers alike. As I have urged on former occasions, the stronger trade organizations which can afford to fight their battles independently of the trade union movement generally, will not register under the act if these amending provisions are inserted, so the act will apply only to the smaller trade unions’ throughout the Commonwealth. There is every probability that our arbitration system will break down. If this is the object, the Ministry, in introducing this bill, has found an effective means to achieve its purpose. We hear nothing of proposals to inquire into the funds of employers’ federations or the watering of shares in public companies. All inquiries under the Arbitration Act are directed to the conduct of trade-union affairs, even to the disposition of trade-union funds, wages received, and such matters. The clause will do more harm than any other provision in the bill. It will prolong disputes and cause trouble, perhaps at a time when negotiations are likely to lead to the settlement of an industrial dispute. The Minister will be well advised to withdraw the clause and allow differences between employers and employees to be adjusted by some other means.
.- The clause is one of the most important provisions in the bill. One thing that impressed me while listening to the debate was that many honorable members supporting the Government appear to have become converts to the principle of arbitration. Many honorable members on this side can speak from longer parliamentary experience than I have had ; but since I have been a member of this House I have heard strong condemnation of our arbitration system and trade unionism generally from honorable members who now proclaim themselves in favour of arbitration. For this reason I doubt the sincerity of the Government, and I, therefore, do not regard it with the same amount of anxiety that perhaps is displayed by other honorable members of the party to which I belong. Though honorable members supporting the Ministry are not so well versed as we are in trade-union matters, it is reasonable to assume that the Attorney-General is skilled in industrial law; so it is the more incomprehensible that he should now be sponsoring provisions so impracticable and intolerable as those included in this measure. I am convinced that the bill is so much camouflage and humbug, and that the Government is indulging in political kiteflying and electioneering propaganda. Prior to the last election, it was the belief of honorable members who sit on this side that when the Government faced the electors it would be judged for its sins of omission and commission. Honorable members opposite, on the contrary, wished that their legislative shortcomings would be overshadowed by an industrial upheaval. Their wish was gratified, and they went to the country on the issue of the maintenance of law and order. If there is one section of the community which has gained by industrial upheavals, it is the Ministerial party. I have always advocated the system of arbitration, and have endeavoured to make other people believe that it is in their best interests. Without wishing to be disrespectful to honorable members opposite, I claim that some of them owe their election to this Parliament to the industrial dispute which occurred prior to the last election. I believe that quite a number of them are now hoping that there will be a further upheaval before the next election takes place. The attitude of the Government towards the present dispute does not do it credit. Honorable members who sit on this side, the Australian Council of Trade Unions, the Disputes Committee, and the maritime unions, have been doing their utmost to bring about a settlement. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was asked by members on this side to intervene at the psychological moment and bring the parties together in an endeavour to prevent the spread of the dispute, restore industrial peace to the community, and obviate the privations and inconvenience that will be caused to our people if it continues. He refused to take that action. At the very time when the other industrial organizations, spurred on by the political labour movement, had the cooks in a position in which they had to take notice of their wishes, the Prime Minister issued a proclamation declaring that a state of industrial unrest existed. If the position is not very carefully handled by the trade union movement, that action will fan the flame and cause a big extension of the trouble. I believe that some honorable members opposite would like to see that result brought, about.
The clause with which we are now dealing is most objectionable. Under it many organizations can be compelled to engage in the taking of ballots throughout the year. It would be only reasonable to make provision for the cost of those ballots to be borne by the Government. Some honorable members may not know what these ballots cost, but I do; and I can assure them that the amount is considerable. If long delays are to be avoided, the ballot-papers in many cases will have to be taken into the far outback areas by special messenger. When I entered this Parliament there was one portion of my electorate where there would often be members of the Australian Workers’ Union, who, if they relied upon the mail services, were able to get into communication with the capital cities only once in every six months.
– Where was that?
– Beyond Oodnadatta. Although those conditions have since been altered, there are still many places to which there is only a monthly delivery of mails. The cost of sending a special messenger would be very great. Leaving out of account the exceptional cases, a ballot would still cost an industrial organization a large sum. The Attorney General quoted several organization?, whose rules provide for the taking of a secret ballot on certain subjects. Industrial organizations in general would not object to hold a ballot, where necessary, if it could be done without dictation by the Government and under their own control. I have frequently advocated such ballots. During the course of this debate emphasis has been laid upon what is regarded as the loaded character of the secret ballot provided for by this clause. As there can be only one result, what is the use of having a ballot at all ? If an organization declared for a strike, action to give effect to the opinion expressed by the ballot could not be taken, because it. would be illegal. 1 feel certain that the members of industrial organizations -will not participate in these ballots; but if they do, they will not be intimidated into voting against a strike. I am not in favour of strikes. I want to see wages and conditions fixed by the Arbitration Court. There are to-day many fine bodies of men who are doing yeoman service not only for the trade union movement, but also for the people of Australia. In every capital city there is a disputes committee connected with the Trades Hall. Immediately a strike takes place it assumes control, and on practically every occasion in the past it has been successful in obtaining industrial peace. Will those committees be encouraged to continue that work when they know that ten members of an organization can demand a secret ballot and destroy the whole of the work they have done? They now work without any pay or reward, many of them night and day. They are not likely to continue their efforts to bring about industrial peace if a disgruntled section, which may be extremely militant, can override their recommendation and, by demanding a secret ballot, cause delay, and thus have an opportunity to strengthen the forces of opposition to a peaceful settlement.
– Will not the disputes committee function before a strike actually takes place?
– At the present time they function before a strike takes place. After they have conferred with the employers they go back to the body which has been responsible for the strike and make their recommendation. The honor.able member will admit, I think, that they have succeeded in settling quite a number of disputes which, but for their intervention, would have extended to considerable proportions. But if a few disgruntled individuals in an organization wish to prevent them from bringing about industrial peace all they will have to do will be to demand a secret ballot. If a majority of the members stand behind the disputes committee, the malcontents can apply to the court, and hold up the peace negotiations while it is being taken.
– They can throw the machinery out of gear.
– They will be able to do that for the time being. There are periods in industrial disputes when there is a psychology which must be taken advantage of. I do not suppose that there is any honorable member on this side who has not at some period of his career appealed to a body of workers to call off a strike because it is not in their best interests. Honorable members opposite argue that trade union officials foment and make their livelihood out of industrial strife. The very opposite is the case. If there is one brand that to-day is placed upon the trade union officials by the militant section of the workers, it is that of strike breakers, not strike makers. I say that as the result of many years’ experience as a paid official. During the whole of that time I found that the union officials got to work as quickly as possible, and brought the parties together with a view to effecting an honorable settlement of any trouble. That is the aim of every trade union official. 1 throw in the teeth of honorable members opposite the statement that trade union officials are responsible for industrial unrest. They do all in their power, as I have already shown, to maintain industrial peace, and it ill becomes honorable members opposite to say anything to the contrary. Why is it provided in the clause that the identity of ten persons who apply for a secret ballot shall not be disclosed? If it is suggested that if their names were disclosed they would be- dealt with by the organization, it could also be said that those who take part in the ballot would be disciplined by the organization. If the Government had seriously considered the position, it would not have introduced such a ridiculous provision. From time to time reference is made by honorable members opposite to militant members of trade unions ; but if there is one thing more than another that will tend to make unionists become militant, it is the provisions of this measure, which are wholly distasteful to all trade unionists. The decisions reached at trade union gatherings are usually published in the press. No great secrecy is observed in connexion with trade unionism in Australia; but if this measure, which contains so many objectionable provisions, becomes law, secret meetings of trade unionists will be held.
– Largely because of the heavy penalties provided in this measure. Moreover, if this bill becomes operative, the resolutions of trade union gatherings will not be recorded, although they will be put into effect, and one person will become the mouthpiece of an organization. The measure will give a fillip to the militant members of trade unionism in Australia, who are anxious, as are some honorable members opposite, to abolish the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Under the provisions of this measure, strikes could continue almost indefinitely, without the possibility of union officials intervening. That would be playing right into the hands of some honorable members opposite, and also assisting those persons whom they profess to denounce. I should like to place on record an experience I had some time ago. The representatives of the union had been in conference for some time in an endeavour to obtain higher wages to meet the higher cost of living, and a tentative and retrospective agreement with the employers . was about to be adopted. This agreement provided for a minimum wage of 17s. 5d. a day, and was to be retrospective for about two years. At the time negotiations were proceeding, a person who, as a result of his persistency, became associated with the committee of management of the organization, asked me what I thought of the agreement. I said that it was a good one; but he did not think that it was. On the following morning I found that he had influenced certain members of the organization to oppose it, which they did, and eventually carried a resolution to the effect that it be rejected. A few weeks after, while the men were on strike and ships were being held up so that supplies of material were not available, the same person insisted upon a demand being made for the right to hold stop-work meetings. The demand was rejected, and eventually the men were compelled to return to work at 14s. a day, and were deprived of retrospective pay, which they had every prospect of receiving under the agreement 1 have mentioned. A few weeks afterwards this person left thedistrict, and it was then proved beyond doubt that for the whole of the time that he was actively associated with the organization he was in the pay of the company with which the men had been negotiating, and from which he received a substantial sum for his services. If such persons can organize a coup against an organization by getting its members to oppose a legitimate agreement, and lose, as they did in this case, 3s. 5d. a day and retrospective pay, it is easy to imagine how certain individuals could be influenced to demand a secret ballot. There are always stool pigeons, as we all know. I have the highest respect for men who are openly carrying out their legitimate duties, but there are undesirable members of industrial organizations just as there are unscrupulous employers who would be will ing to destroy the interests of their fellow men to benefit themselves. There are some employers who wish to treat their employees justly, and to conduct their business in a creditable and profitable way. But there are many employers who are not closely in touch with the industrial side of their business, and employ industrial officers to do the whole of their industrial work. The acts of some of these men, who are always anxious to bring off coups of the kind I have mentioned, would not be tolerated by some employers. There are so many objectionable and unworkable features in this measure that one is forced to the conclusion that it has been introduced solely for political propaganda purposes. As it will not be the means of securing industrial peace, and is more likely to cause widespread industrial unrest, I ask the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) even at this stage to withdraw the bill.
.- The Attorney-General has stated on many occasions that the penalties provided in this measure, and to which we strongly object, are to be imposed in an endeavour to secure industrial peace. This clause provides a penalty which I am sure can never be imposed. Its only effect- will be to irritate trade unionists and cause a general industrial upheaval. Even when the industrial situation is satisfactory, we are always being told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), and other Ministers, as well as by some of their irresponsible followers, that effective measures should be provided to restore harmony in industry. An effort is now being made to provide for the taking of secret ballots; but the whole proposal is most illogical, as in one portion of the bill it is provided that a secret ballot shall be taken before a strike is declared, and in another that a strike is illegal.
The Attorney-General indicated by an obscure interjection this afternoon that the object of this clause might be to give individual members of trade unions the power to prevent tyrannical officers from misusing the funds of the organization. That is a new suggestion. Does the honorable gentleman intend us to believe that that is the purpose of the provision? He made some hazy observation about the manner in which the Labour Daily had been supported by funds from the Miners’ Union. If he intends us to understand that the provision is intended mainly to protect union funds, he should say so definitely. But I point out to him that unions may be trusted to deal effectively with officers who misappropriate their funds. An instance occurred recently in the division of the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey). Trade unions may always be relied upon to take proper steps to safeguard the interests of their members. In cases where prosecutions for defalcations are merited they are instituted, and where leniency is deserved it is extended.
We heard a good deal from the Attorney-General, in the course of his second-reading speech, about trade unions being corporations. If he wishes to apply secret ballot provisions to corporations of this description, why does he not seek to apply them to all corporations? Frequently the managing directors and other executive officers of ordinary companies act entirely against the wishes of the shareholders. If members of a trade’ union are to be entitled to ask for a secret ballot when they allege that improper actions have been taken by trade union officers, the shareholders of a company should be empowered to demand a secret ballot when they think that objectionable deeds have been done by the executive officers of their companies. It often happens that “ honorable understandings “ are arrived at by certain companies which desire to crush their competitors. Sometimes the market is cornered with the same object. Such acts injure not only individuals, but also the community, and at times even the nation. If this provision is necessary in our arbitration legislation, it should be incorporated in other legislation which deals with corporations.
I have no objection in principle to the secret ballot. As a matter of fact, it is already used by trade unions when it is deemed necessary to ascertain in that way the will of the members; but the unions themselves should have the right to decide when a secret ballot should not be taken. It would be utterly impossible to apply the secret ballot provisions of this measure to the Miners’ Federation. Those who are acquainted with this organization know very well that its business is conducted by lodges. Each lodge has domestic autonomy, and deals with disputes that occur at its own pit. It is only when vital principles, affecting the whole industry, are involved that disputes come before the general federation. The method by which the federation conducts its business is to refer to the lodges in the form of a minute all matters upon which their opinion is desired. That minute is debated on the floor of the lodge room. I assure the AttorneyGeneral that the lodges are not mutual admiration societies, as he seems to think.
– I have never suggested that they were.
– The tone of some remarks the Attorney-General made this afternoon led rae to believe that that was his view, but I assure him that the members of the” lodges are not afraid to speak their convictions. They are not weak-kneed individuals who fear to open their mouths.
It must not be overlooked that the expense of taking a secret ballot would bi very heavy in a large organization. When a ballot of the Miners’ Federation is required, two or three men are delegated at each pit to obtain the votes of the miners as they go to work, and the wages of those men have to be paid. Men have also to be paid for counting the votes, and the other ordinary expenses connected with the taking of ballots have to be met. If the Attorney-General persists in this proposal, he should include a provision that the co3t of the ballots shall be defrayed by the Government. A few years ago we heard a great deal about the secret ballot from a Minister of the New South Wales Government of the clay. I refer to His Honour, Judge Beeby. That gentleman sponsored a bill in the New South Wales Parliament which provided for the taking of a ballot in respect of strikes. A strike was in progress at the time the bill was passed. Mr. Beeby said, “ If a secret ballot of the whole body of workers engaged in this industry is taken, it will be found that this strike is favored only by a few leather-lunged agitators.” As a matter of fact, the ballot revealed that 90 per cent, of the men favored it. Consequently the secret ballot method of curing industrial ills was forgotten until the Attorney-General remembered it and introduced it into this bill. How could a secret ballot be taken expeditiously by an organization like the Australian Workers Union, vhich has small bodies of men engaged all over the Commonwealth? A company of shearers may be shearing in a shod one day and be 50 miles away the next. It would be impossible for the organization to keep in sufficiently close touch with them to consult them by means of a secret ballot at any time it desired to do so. It is difficult enough to conduct the annual ballot for the election of officers.
Silting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Such a clause as this will not only dislocate the machinery of organizations and compel them to reconstruct their methods, but if pressed to the extreme will mean financial ruin to many trade unions.
The Attorney-General interjected during the speech of the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that the members of the Miners’ Federation requested that a ballot should be taken in connexion with the proposal to make a levy for the support of the Labour Daily, and that the officers of the union refused it. That is absolutely incorrect. The ballot was requested by a section of the northern branch of the Miners’ Federation, and the members of the branch supported by an overwhelming majority the action of their officers, which was in. favour of the levy. The proposed levy was submitted to the members of the federation per medium of minutes issued to the individual lodges some considerable time before the vote was taken.
I do not know where the AttorneyGeneral obtained his information. Apparently he relied upon the daily press, and read the newspaper comments in a very casual manner. I know that the Sydney Daily Guardian, and its associate publication, Smith’s Weekly, have for some little time attacked and misrepresented the Miners’ Federation. If the honorable gentleman has merely recapitulated his reading of those journals he has done something that will not enhance his reputation for veracity. The only place in which he could secure a more distorted account of the doings of the Miners’ Federation would be Hades itself. When the new rules of that federation were taken to the Arbitration Court for registration one of its northern lodges, representing comparatively few members, protested against the proposal, but was compelled to abide by the decision of the majority.
The Attorney-General emphasized the alleged necessity for , a secret ballot in order to protect “ timid “ unionists, and claimed that he obtained his information in this regard from unionists. When challenged to disclose his source of information he declined to supply any names, as he stated that that would result in the men who gave the information being victimized by their organizations. I believe that, the honorable gentleman must have obtained his information from those individuals described by the honorable member for Maribyrnong as “ stool pigeons.” If that is so, one can appreciate its worth. My experience of industrialism has proved to me that there is very little, if any, of this alleged brow-beating and victimization of members. If the AttorneyGeneral cleared his mind of such hallucinations and endeavoured to introduce clauses which would protect unionists from the victimization of employers he would receive the thanks of not only unionists, but the community generally. Many men are victimized by their employers merely because they are prominent industrialists. The honorable member has chosen misleading arguments to bolster up a clause which he knows cannot be justified. It has been truthfully claimed that clause 44 is futile and that its only purpose is to irritate unions and involve them in unnecessary expense.
I reiterate that, the present, attitude of honorable members on this side and of trade unionists towards the secret ballot will be maintained. From time to time the necessity will arise for the employment of the principle in union matters, and it will be adopted as in the past. But it is absurd to declare that the principle shall be put into operation at the beck and call of an interfering government, on the most trivial pretext, merely to harass unions. Such a procedure will make for irritation and procrastination, and cannot do other than act detrimentally upon the proper conduct of the trade-union movement. For that reason I oppose the clause, and hope that even the amendments proposed by the Attorney-General will be defeated.
.-It has been stated on many occasions during this debate that the majority of the clauses in this bill have been embodied in it to discredit and hamper trade unions. I should like to know what is behind the minds of those who originated this clause. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), prior to the last general election, declared that he intended to give trade unionists control of their unions. No doubt the right honorable gentleman claims that he has a mandate for the introduction of this clause. I should like him to enlighten the committee as to how industrialists will obtain a greater control of their unions through its operation.
Recently the bill was attacked by the manufacturing grocers, and the AttorneyGeneral asked Mr. Riley, who was prominent in the attack, how it would harm trade unionism, and requested him to state specifically the clauses that were considered detrimental to unionism. One of the clauses mentioned by Mr. Riley was this clause 44, which deals with the secretballot. The Government apparently used the word “ secret “ to give the proceedings a sinister significance. Prom whom are the proceedings to be kept secret ? It is a misnomer. A ballot is not properly a ballot unless it is secret. Undoubtedly the secrecy of the ballot is violated occasionally, but that is due to the frailties of human nature. Mr. Riley claimed that this clause was intended to interfere with the internal management of trade unionism. He contended that it would give the management of a union into the hands of ten individuals, who might quite easily be those objectionable specimens, “scabs.” They are the individuals who will approach the court and ask for a secret ballot to be taken of all the members of the organization, and, as has been suggested by several speakers, they will be well backed by certain interests, who desire to interfere with the affairs of trade unionism. This provision, if given effect, will have a wide application, and I should like to know its real objective. Is it intended to scotch one or two of the “ reds “ or the recalcitrant members of the unions who, the Government alleges, are exercising powers to which they are not entitled? One of the proposed new sections reads - 56b. - (1.) If, after a demand made under section fifty-six a of this act for a vote to be taken by an organization by secret ballot, the organization fails to hold the secret ballot accordingly, the court may, upon complaint made to the court, give directions for the conduct of a secret ballot under the control of an officer of the court with or without provision for absent voting.
The Government’s object is evidently to take the control of a trade union out of the hands of persons who, in the opinion of ten disgruntled members, are not administering its affairs properly. I should like to know how that is to be done. It may seem well to include that provision in the bill; but let me point out what would be the position in respect of the Australian “Workers Union should ten of its-members demand a secret ballot. It is quite possible that, under this provision, a secret ballot may be taken throughout Australia. Surely the Government does not imagine that the trade union concerned will meet the expense of a ballo’t forced upon it by the action of ten disgruntled members. The Government, in trying to enforce its will in that respect, may have to gaol the secretary and the members of the committee of management of the organization. I presume it will be prepared to pay for the cost of taking the secret ballot.
– That is not its intention.
– No secret ballot could be forced upon the South Australian branch of the Australian Workers Union unless the Government were prepared to pay for it. A dispute concerning the election of officers may lead to a secret ballot simply because a few disappointed aspirants have been able to lead the court to believe that the wishes of the majority of the members of the organization had not been carried out. We must assume that this provision, if passed, will be given effect. Therefore, if ten disgruntled men approach the court and it orders a secret ballot to be held, we can take it that the union officers will be asked to serve the ballot-papers upon the members of the organization concerned. What will happen if the union officers refuse to do that? They cannot be penalized. This provision is ridiculous, particularly from the point of view of an organization like the Australian Workers Union, whose members are scattered throughout Australia. Some unions may be able to supply a proper list of the names and addresses of its members, but that could not be guaranteed in the case of the Australian Workers Union. If the departmental officers approached Mr. Frank Lundie, of the South Australian branch of that organization, and informed him that an action of the union executive had been objected to by ten of the members of the organization and that consequently a secret ballot must be taken of the whole of the members, I can quite imagine him saying, “ There are my books, get on with the job.” His books would show the name of every member of the union, and his address at the time of joining, but the shearers are nomadic workers, and it would be impossible to keep a record of their many and varied addresses. In view of that, I presume that the court would order the organizers of the union to distribute the ballot-papers, and for that work the Government would have to pay. Every six months the organizers of the union visit the different shearing sheds and distribute the ballot-papers.
– It takes four months to serve citation papers on the squatters.
– Their location is certain, but that of the shearers is not. -A secret ballot could be taken only under great difficulty, and at great expense. I agree with the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) that our industrial laws should not contain useless and unworkable provisions. This provision for a secret ballot is ridiculous and impracticable, and its sponsors should tell us how it is to be administered. The Australian Workers Union would have no objection to a secret ballot being taken, provided that the Government met the cost of sending organizers to different parts of Australia to serve the ballotpapers upon its members. Is it the in tention of the Government to send departmental officers with the organizers to see that they do not influence the men in their vote? I suggest that if a secret ballot were taken concerning any matter of policy that had been agreed upon at a meeting of the organization, only the ten disgruntled men who had approached the court would vote against giving effect to that policy. I cannot conceive of this provision applying to anything except to a projected or already established strike. In what way could it apply to a resolution carried by the organization, or to the election of union officials? The Attorney-General should give us further information respecting this provision. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has said, the proposal is an indictment of the trade unions. It is a piece of audacity on the part of the Government. I want the Attorney-General to be more candid about it than he has been. .Why this panic legislation? The honorable member for Grey (Mr. Lacey) suggested that it was propaganda for the next election, and no doubt it is intended for that purpose. It certainly cannot be effective. It will not alter the spirit of the trade unionists or their methods of carrying on their own business. If an attempt were made to apply the secret ballot provisions in the metropolitan area, the court would be dependent on the shop stewards at least for the distribution of the ballotpapers. The members of a union would naturally want to know the reason for taking a secret ballot, and, no doubt, the shop stewards would give them a lead as to the feeling of the organization on the matters to be voted upon. I have no doubt that the result of the ballot would merely reflect the opinion of the union to whose decision exception had been taken. The Government may rest assured that the trade unions generally will accept the proposal as an affront and a challenge. It is bunkum for the Prime Minister to suggest that the Governmentdesires to benefit the unions by giving the members control of their organizations. They have always had such control, and the Government is anxious to use the power of the Parliament and the courts to weaken them. Ministers will make fools of themselves if they attempt to put this clause into operation. Can ju.y honorable member tell me a case in which the secret ballot provisions could be applied? Could they have been put into operation in connexion with the marine cooks’ dispute? Much as the mistakes made by unions from time to time are to be deplored, they have profited by their experience. If ten cooks had “gone to the court and asked for a secret ballot, could any practical result have been obtained without the assistance of a sympathetic organization? Could these provisions have been applied in relation to the seamen’s strike prior to the last election? Apart from the fact that I feel it my duty to oppose attacks of this nature on trade unionism, I should be prepared to let. the clause pas3, and say to the Government, “ Start your tin hare and see how far it goes.” It is certainly a harebrained idea, conceived by somebody who fails to understand the psychology of the workers, and has not learned the first lesson about trade unionism. There are half a dozen or more proposed new sections relating to secret ballots, but sausage-machine legislation of this description cannot be put into effect. I like the idea of secrecy for the purpose of trying to discover a way of dealing with the persons who are supposed to be dangerous to trade unionism. It would be the joke of a lifetime to see the officials of the court walk into Mr. Lundie’s office in Adelaide for the purpose of taking a secret ballot. I wish the Attorney-General had to deal with this juggernaut ! He would certainly lose some of his skin if he did not behave himself in the presence of some of the trade union officials. The trouble is that the Government is trying to attack an organized body that numerically represents half the adult population. With its sympathisers, it represents more than half the community. The majority of people know how beneficient trade unions have been in regulating industry and preventing the awful effects of direct action that were experienced prior to the introduction of our arbitration system. Trade unionism has thousands of supporters who are not members of the organizations. This measure has been introduced for the purpose of smashing unionism and intimidating it3 members, and it demands the strongest protest. I am sorry that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) is not in the chamber, because he claims to have sprung from working-class people, and to have some knowledge of industrialism. Will any. honorable member opposite who understands the unions, and know3 how their business is conducted, tell me how the proposed ballot could be taken. The clause under consideration has been camouflaged to make the unions imagine that it is intended for their own good, and that they are to be protected from the “ Reds “ - those blood-suckers who take their money and foment strife to keep themselves in their jobs. I have never yet known the secretary of a Labouunion who welcomed a strike. I was the secretary of a union that had a strike in 1911; but I was in no way responsible for it. It was caused through boys employed on moulding machines being overworked; but we had a round-table conference in the employer’s office, and the matter was afterwards settled.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. Bayley).The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- This clause may be relied upon to work harmoniously with a number of others in driving organized labour out of tho Arbitration Court. Judging by the numerous amendments circulated by the Attorney-General upon this clause, as well as other amendments proposed by Ministerial supporters, it appears that, as introduced, the bill represented the matured thought of the “Government on industrial legislation, but that a great deal of public criticism having been aroused, the Government saw the wisdom of tempering the bill and this clause in a number of important particulars.
Under this provision as first submitted to the committee, any ten members might .demand, either iu writing or verbally, a secret ballot at- a meeting of their organization. The clause then went on to say that thereupon the ballot should be taken accordingly; it was mandatory. When the request was made, verbally or in writing, at a meeting, the union had the statutory duty imposed upon it of taking the ballot. Certainly no means were provided, apparently, for the enforcement of the provision. The Attorney-General, who stands for the enforcement of the Commonwealth laws, had not noticed that it would he a curious anomaly to pass a law enjoining a duty without any sanction or means of enforcing it. As the clause originally stood, the court might, upon receiving a complaint, order a secret ballot without hearing anybody, without taking any evidence, and without even receiving any written representations from the secretary as now provided. I mention these facts because this bill was not introduced hurriedly into the House of Representatives. On its first appearance it represented the very mature consideration of the Nationalist Government.It was assumed to be the last word in industrial legislation, and to me it seems scarcely credible that the provisions which I have quoted, and which it is now proposed to amend, should be the result merely of defective draftsmanship. I cannot help thinking that they were drawn in the first place as the Government’s masters wished them to be, but it dared not stand by them in their original form.
I have described some of the clauses in this bill as establishing vicious principles, and others as having sinister meaning; this one I designate as offensive and impracticable. It smacks too much of the star chamber. Speaking from this place some few days ago, I took honorable members back in imagination to a period 700 years before the Christian era. It may be thought that I was calling to my aid history of too ancient a character, so on this occasion I shall go back no farther than round about the fourteenth century. At that time there was a system on the Continent, and particularly in France, which operated under the name of Lettres de Cachet. Literally, it meant concealed letters as distinct from lettres patents, which, as honorable members know, are open letters. Both emanated from the Crown, but, while lettres de cachet were assumed to be signed by the Sovereign, they afterwards came to be used in a very free and easy fashion, and were signed in a casual way by the Secretary for State. These warrants of imprisonment bore the name of some person who, perhaps, in the dead of night, had the hand of the law placed upon him in due course, and who found himself conducted to a dun geon without being called upon for any defence, and without being in a position himself to call for any cause or proof against him. In France it. was quite a common thing for this system to be used, not so much against the proletariat, but against undesirable people in high places, whom it was convenient to be rid of. The person named in such a letter was apprehended by an officer of police, and thrown into prison, where he languished for years without knowing even the name of his accuser, or the subject-matter of the accusation. That is historical, and I propose to link it up with the subject before the Chair. I said before that the demand for a ballot might originate at a public meeting, where ten members might, verbally or in writing, make application for one. But it will not, in practice, originate in that way at all. There is a better way of doing it. The meeting will be held, the comrades will sit around the room, motions will be put and carried, and it will be declared, in many instances, that the “ ayes “ have it. But, the “ ayes “ will not have it, perhaps. The open vote in the meeting will not be the last word. The matter has not been settled by these comrades sitting facing one another, discussing like men men’s affairs, and deciding them in accordance with the traditional methods by which men transact their business in the light of day. The ultimate decision may rest with the action of. the person who, after the meeting, in the manner of those who obtained the letters de cachet, writes the words “ secret ballot.” He places in the envelope his request for a ballot, and under cover of the shadow of the wall, makes his way to the registrar, and places the letter securely in his hands.
– Had we better not turn the lights down?
– No; the honorablemember stands for turning the lights down ;I stand for letting the light in. That is the difference between us. This person hands his letter to the registrar himself, and if it is opened by any one other than the registrar, the penalty, I think, is, if not death, at any rate, a fine of £100. The letter is deposited with the registrar alone in the hope that it will some day find a blood brother. Note the delicate refinement with which the Attorney-General has arranged this thing; how he assumes that none of these ten will have the pluck to trust any other of the ten. Accordingly arrangements have been made for each one to walk up a different by-street under different shadows, in order to deposit his lettre de cachet with the registrar of the court. In the fulness of time, with one tripping in and then another, and still another, there are finally ten applications lodged within a period of 21 days in respect of an organization numbering perhaps 15,000 men. Ten men have preferred their requests, singly and secretly - ten men brave and true, ten men who afraid of meeting one another in the street have moved furtively in the dark.
– The honorable member would call them “ scabs.”
– Well, I have described them; I have pictured them to the honorable member. What does he call them? After the ten applications have been received the judge makes a provisional order for a secret ballot. What is it provisional upon? One would think it might mean provisional upon the hearing of evidence - the examination and cross-examination of the persons who were to justify themselves for acting secretly and treacherously against their fellow workers. Not at all. Whatever else is to be done these people are to be screened; their names are to be unknown, the secret of their identity is to be preserved, and their anomymity undisclosed. It is to be provisional upon the right of the secretary of the organization to make representations in writing as to the facts, and as to whether he himself is prepared to take a secret ballot. It is a beautiful picture. It is a complete proof of this Government’s trust in organized labour - an earnest of its sincerity when it publicly declares that ii is satisfied that the great majority of Australian unionists are men of courage, honesty and integrity! This is the way the business of trade unionism is to be secretly carried on by this Government in the interests of itself and its supporters. I say deliberately this is being done in the interests not of the unions, but of the
Nationalist friends of the Government. Proposed new section 56a covered by this clause, reads - 56a. Any ten members of an organization may, when any vote is taken or about to be taken in any election of the committee or officers of the organization or of a branch thereof or in respect of any resolution proposed for adoption by the organization of the branch, as the case may be, demand, either verbally or in writing, that the vote be taken by secret ballot and the vote shall thereupon be so taken accordingly.
What is meant by the words “ resolution proposed for adoption by the organization.” A resolution cannot be proposed by an organization, nor a branch of an organization. It must be proposed by a member of an organization, or of a branch. The AttorneyGeneral seems to have mentioned almost every kind of resolution except the kind which he really had in mind, that is, a resolution relating to the continuance or discontinuance of a strike. The bill is silent on that point, although the Attorney-General knows very well that that is what is meant. He -knows that the Government really wants to get a vote of the members of an organization on the question of striking or not striking, but being faced with the absurdity that if the men vote for a strike their organization is liable to a fine of £1,000 for doing an unlawful act, it cannot openly contemplate such action, and, therefore, deals nominally with various other classes of resolutions. Touching on this matter, the AttorneyGeneral said that if the majority cannot carry out their own will they are a poor lot of men. I agree, but ‘it is remarkable that he has not been able to convert his own supporters to his own view. And so we hear from all sides this wearisome cant about protecting the organizations of labour from themselves, and especially from those irresponsible men who are said to control them. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Manning) afforded us a striking example. “ These parasites, these irresponsible men,” he said, “ operate upon the body of organized labour.” He went further. He said that he resented our “ arrogant attitude,” which he regarded as intolerably offensive, in pretending that we stood for and voiced the opinions of organized labour. Believe rue, Mr. Bayley, when the honorable member talks about his taking part in legislation to prevent a majority of trade unionists being stampeded by a minority ; when he tries to impress upon me that he has a special mission to come into this chamber, and by legislation assist in protecting organized labour from its minorities, the attitude he is adopting is as arrogant and as intolerably offensive as anything he could possibly visualize on this side of the chamber.
Is this bill frankly intended to remove this parasitic growth of which the honorable member spoke, or is it intended, as so often stated by the Attorney-General, to assist and promote the interests of the sober and sane trade unionists of the country? The whole thing proceeds on the assumption that the management of the trade-union movement of Australia is bad to the point of corruption. Consider, then, as we may, the public declarations coming from honorable members opposite, crystallized in .this bill, and rendered significant by this clause, are an affront to the organized workers of Australia. The men who are doing the work of this country, the men who enable honorable members on that side to assemble in this Parliament directly or indirectly, not by their votes, but by their labour none the less, enabling them to be here, the men who are keeping the machine, not of politics, but of industry going, making the clothes, providing the food, sailing the ships, running the trains, digging the canals, doing all those things in their various unions, are under the stigma which this clause offers to organized unions.
If there is any secret service to spare let its activities be directed elsewhere. Let them be turned on to the employers’ federations, the chambers of commerce, and so on; let inquiries be made into the Constitutional Union, and into the disposal of the various big political funds which are used for the return of honorable members opposite. Let us have a full and complete investigation and secret ballots also in connexion with those matters. If we are to have a secret service in connexion with organizations, let it not be one-sided in its activities.
The honorable member for Macquarie said that on the plaform wherever he went he told the electors that he was looking for a mandate, and that if his party was returned to power one of the things it would place in its platform would unquestionably be the secret ballot for organizations. That may be so ; it may account for the policy of the Government ; it may be that the bill does “not represent the mature judgment of an astute gentleman like the Prime Minister, or that of a leading lawyer like the AttorneyGeneral. It may be that this measure was forced upon the Ministry by the public gasconading of men like the honorable member for Macquarie. It may be that his unctious affectation of mental and moral superiority has had some effect in directing the policy of the Government in this regard. The honorable member’s frenzied foolishness about parasites may have had something to do with the origination of this bill by the Government, and its presentation to the chamber. As I have previously said, let the Government apply its machinery elsewhere.
– Is the honorable member not aware that the honorable member for Macquarie in his reference to parasites was quoting?
– I heard the honorable, member for Macquarie from the beginning of his speech to the end. I do not know whether that particular word was quoted with approval by the honorable member, but if quoted it was adopted and approved by him. I heard his speech, and the tone in which he. delivered it, and I repeat that he assumed, if I may use the phrase again, an unctuous affectation of mental and moral superiority. Do we apply this secret ballot in connexion with other public organizations, or with friendly societies? The latter control immense sums of money and carry out important and most onerous trusts, and they operate according to their own rules, and they have not had forced upon them by any government, so far as I know - I challenged the Attorney-General to let me know if they had - any system of secret ballots other than that which, in their own untrammelled discretion, they may apply.
– No one suggests it. There is no necessity for it.
– Nor is it suggested that it is necessary in the case of industrial organizations, except by political partisans and opponents of Labour.
This morning, the Attorney-General, being hard put to it by the Leader of the Opposition, who quoted the analogy of a public company, referred to Table A, a stereotyped set of rules in connexion with registered public companies, which make provision for voting by ballot. But all that this table does is to make provision for an approved set of rules which may be adopted in whole or in part at the discretion of a company. The honorable member’s argument supported rather than destroyed the contention of the Leader of the Opposition. It goes to show that the basis of all these public undertakings and social aggregations, such as companies, friendly societies, and organizations of various kinds, is the right to frame their own rules and make their own contracts one with the other. Of course there are certain legal requirements to be observed, much as every individual operates under in order to preserve the civil rights of his fellow man. But this is, as I said in connexion with another clause, a new vicious principle, a new invasion of rights, especially designed by political opponents. That probably makes it more offensive than anything else.
– The honorable member’s time has expired:
Amendment agreed to.
-What is the meaning of “ resolution proposed for adoption by the organization “?
– It means a resolution which is proposed for the organization or branch to adopt, and not a resolution proposed by the organization or branch.
.- I should like to know what happens when a branch carries a resolution against the organization generally.
– It becomes the resolution of the branch and controls only the activities of the branch.
-What happens if an organization declares that an agreement with employers should be accepted and a branch carries a resolution that it should not be accepted ?
– That depends on the rules of the organization. Speaking generally, certain matters are referred by the rules to the several branches, and the branches act within the sphere of their own powers.
– That is very good.
– The organization controls certain matters, and the branch controls certain others.
– Of course they do, as in the case of the waterside, workers. But seeing that the decision of a branch binds that branch, if an organization enters into an agreement with the employers, and it has to come before meetings of branches for acceptance, what will happen if a branch, say, at Townsville, decides not to accept it?
– A resolution is binding on the branch if it is within the branch’s powers and rules.
– I am not objecting. It will mean confusion worse confounded ; but I wish to show that the whole proposal is stupid.
.- The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) questioned, the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) concerning the words “ or in respect of any resolution proposed for adoption by the organization or branch.” He pointed out that it would be impossible for the organization or branch to make a proposal.
– The Attorney-General has already satisfactorily explained that.
– It might be a resolution proposed at a meeting or one of which notice had been given in advance.
– A resolution could not be proposed by an organization; but it could certainly be proposed at a meeting.
– Then it would become an act of the organization.
– No doubt if the court intervened and submitted a matter to a ballot of the members, the voice of the organization could be ascertained in that way, provided the members would vote. This proposed section is most confusing, and, obviously, does not convey what the Attorney-General intends. I, therefore, suggest that it be withdrawn and redrafted. “With regard to the identification of the members who apply for a secret ballot, the Attorney-General has satisfied the honorable member for Fawkner - not a difficult task!
– I am satisfied because the onus is on the men who ask for a ballot. If they cannot overcome the difficulty of proving their identification that will be the end of their application.
– Recently in the Labour Daily, of Sydney, there appeared a report from the vigilance officer of the “Waterside “Workers’ Federation, Sydney branch, in which it was stated that he had on one day rescued twenty membership medals from the pawnshops. The only proof of membership of the federation is the possession of one of its medals, which have a realizable value, because periodically the vigilance officer calls for a show of medals in order to make sure that none but unionists are working on the wharves. A man may go to the pawnshop and buy a medal for a nominal sum. I undertake that I could produce to the Attorney-General a number of medals obtained in this way.
– Does each, medal bear a number?
– Yes, and it coincides with the register which is available to members of the organization. The Attorney-General will readily understand how this provision could be abused by obtaining membership medals in this fashion. The honorable gentleman has not proved that the interests of the organization are adequately protected. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has pointed out that no receipts are issued to the miners for the union contributions they make at the pithead.
– Does the honorable member say that union members get no receipts for the dues they pay?
– Never have they done so in the whole history of the organization. A meeting of the union is held on the Monday before pay day, and a levy is struck, and as a man receives his wages at the pithead, he pays the levy to the union representative.
– I ask the’ AttorneyGeneral to explain how a union can be protected against the machinations of the paid agents of the employers or others who are trying to break it.
. - Honorable members opposite have questioned whether a resolution can be a resolution of an organization or branch. The ordinary practice will prevail; a resolution of a meeting of Parliament is a resolution of Parliament, and a resolution of any association is a resolution passed at a meeting of that association. Similarly, a resolution proposed to be adopted by an organization or branch is a resolution proposed for adoption at a meeting of ihe organization or branch. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley) carried his second point too far. If the facts he has related regarding union medals are indicative of an extensive practice, it would be impossible for a satisfactory secret ballot of any organization to be conducted under the control of either the court or the organization itself. We’ know that in organized industries a man is required to produce his union ticket or badge, or medal, before he gets a job, and most union secretaries and vigilance officers take precautions to ensure that the man in possession of such a token is entitled to have it. That is one of the most important duties performed by the vigilance officers of the union. They have their own methods of identification, and, generally speaking, they take care that only persons rightly in possession of union tickets, and who are financial, are employed. That being so, the point raised by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is without substance. If there are in some unions members who are prepared to make available to nonmembers means of. identification, which are intended to be used only in good faith, by members, that fact will be brought before the judge when the officer of the union is given an opportunity to submit a statement as to the bona fides of the application, and will no doubt be given due weight by the court. A secret ballot would be sought, not upon matters suddenly arising, “ but upon subjects of real controversy between members of the union. There have been many occasions in the past when a minority would have been very glad to take advantage of this procedure openly and publicly to obtain a secret ballot.
– 1 take strong exception to this proposed section, not because I am opposed to the principle of the secret ballot, but because it will be regarded by the unions as an indication that the Government is taking possession of them and depriving them of the control of their own affairs. Every union has rules for the conduct of its business, and all provide for government by majority. But under this proposal the disgruntled minority may apply to the court for a secret ballot and thus cause serious discord, which may mean disruption of the organization. In any big union, ten men can be found who are opposed to the policy of the officers, or even of the majority of members, and by operating these proposed sections they can put. the organization to great expense. Of course, the unions will be able easily to sidestep this legislation by resolving secretly, and without placing a record on the minutes, that any men found partici- pating in the ballot will be expelled, remind the committee that the marine cooks’ strike arose out of the employment of one man, and it gradually developed over weeks. If it is right to demand ballots of members of industrial organizations on matters of this .kind, it could, with equal force, be argued that a ballot should be held of shareholders of shipping companies before ship-owners declare a lockout. We have been assured by the Prime Minister and honorable members opposite that trade unionists, in the main, are in their opinion a fine body of men and that, in. the present dispute, they have conducted themselves properly. That being so, there is no need for this legislation. If we take from any body of men the right to say at what rate they shall offer their labour, we reduce them to a condition of slavery. Australia will not stand for that. The rules of all trade union organizations are registered, and although they conduct their business in a satisfactory manner, the Government comes down with a proposal to alter the rules by providing that any ten men in an organization may demand a ballot. If a ballot favours a strike, how will the men be penalized? It is impossible to throw thousands* of men into gaol. As it is an offence against the law to advocate or take part in a strike, officers who assist in the taking of a ballot that favours striking or continuing a strike, may be held to have rendered themselves liable to the penalty provided in the act. Men strike to secure a remedy for grievances. The Government will be very foolish if it makes any attempt to put this section of the act into operation. If a ballot is demanded in an organization with a large membership, and if the organization in question is short of funds, the responsibility will be on the Government to conduct the ballot and it will be extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the opinions of members to be recorded by means of a secret ballot without the co-operation of the union.
– If a union is short of funds, its members are not likely to strike.
– I question if the Marine Cooks’ Union had any funds when its members decided to strike. I can assure the honorable member that industrial organizations do not always consider whether funds are available before they enter upon, a strike. Men cease work because they feel that they are suffering an injustice which should be righted. In some instances wives of strikers are more determined even than the men, because they know that often their husbands have to work hard for a mere pittance. I am as anxious as any other honorable member to see legislation passed for the settlement of industrial disputes. Although the AttorneyGeneral may hold the view that this measure will do something. to that end, I can assure him that clause 44 will bc unworkable. Any attempt to give effect to it will be a ghastly failure, without the confidence of the unions.
– I think that we shall have the confidence of the unions, and that they will be glad of this provision.
– If the AttorneyGeneral were as closely in touch with trade unions as I am, he would have a different opinion as to their attitude. They are convinced that these proposed new sections have been designed to interfere with the working of industrial organizations, and that the Government is attempting to regulate their affairs. It will ‘.be possible for an unscrupulous employer to secure men to demand ballots in respect of most trifling matters. I do not say that the court would in every instance grant requests for ballots, but we may be sure that there will be frequent attempts to get the court to order a secret ballot in respect of many industrial matters. Honorable members on this side have made the position clear. I repeat that this attempt to regulate the affairs of the unions will prove a ghastly failure.
.- It is my intention to vote for the clause as amended. At this late hour I do not propose to prolong the debate. I rose merely to suggest, in connexion with the point taken by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, the possibility of adding to proposed new section 56f a provision making it an offence under the act for any person falsely to represent himself as a member ot a trade union in ai? endeavour to induce the court to order the taking of a secret ballot.
– I think there is a good deal to be said for the suggestion of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) that this matter can be specifically dealt with in the act. It has been urged by honorable members opposite that persons who are not members of a trade union will falsely represent themselves to be members of certain organizations for the purpose of ‘obtaining an order from the court for a secret ballot. That certainly ought not to be permitted. It would not under the law, as it stands, be an offence with a definite criminal penalty attached to it, but possibly there is some obscure principle of common law which might be applied. I am not prepared to say off-hand if there is. If the matter can be put in proper form, and I think the necessary provision can be inserted in proposed new section 56f, I am prepared to accept an amendment imposing a penalty on any person falsely representing himself to be a member of an organization in an application to the court for a secret ballot.
– The employers will find money to get men to do that.
– If the suggestion of the honorable member for Henty is adopted, it would be an offence under the existing law for an employer to urge, incite, or advise any person to do such a thing.
Amendments (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-
That the words “ a branch thereof proposed new section 56a, be omitted and the words “ the branch “ inserted in lieu thereof.
That the words “ and the vote shall thereupon .bc. so taken accordingly “ proposed new section 56a be omitted.
That sub-section (1), of proposed new section 56b, be omitted, and the following subsections inserted in lieu thereof: - “ ( 1 ) If, after a demand made under section fifty-six a of this act for a vote to bc taken by an organization or branch by secret ballot, the organization or branch fails to hold the secret ballot accordingly, the court may, if satisfied that the demand for a secret ballot is bona fide and relates to a matter of substantial importance, upon application, made to the court, give directions for the conduct of a secret ballot under the control of an officer of the court with or without provision for absent voting. (1a) Applications under this section for directions for the conduct of a secret ballot shall take precedence over all other business in the court.” That after sub-section (1), of proposed new section 56c, the following sub-sections be inserted: - “ (1a) Applications made by any number of members less than ten shall be received by the Registrar and if, during any one period of twenty-one days, the number of members making applications relating to the same question amounts to not less than tcn, the applications shall be treated as together constituting a single application for the purposes of sub-section (3) of this section. (1b) Applications may be made by letter enclosed in an envelope marked “ Secret Ballot “ which envelope is enclosed in another envelope addressed to the Registrar. (lc) If any person other than the Registrar opens or causes to be opened an envelope marked as aforesaid, he shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds.”
That the word “shall”, proposed new section 56e, be omitted and tlie word “ may “ inserted in lieu thereof.
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That after proposed new section 56e the following new section be inserted: - “56ea. - (1) Any order or directions made or given by the court or a judge under section fifty-six b, fifty-six c, fifty-six d, or fifty-six s of this act for the taking of a secret ballot of an organization or of a branch of an organization shall, in the first instance, be provisional, and notice thereof shall be given by the Registrar by registered letter to the secretary of the organization or branch concerned.
The secretary of the organization or branch may thereupon forward a statement in writing upon the matter to the Registrar for submission to the judge dealing with the matter, and, in particular, may state whether the organization or branch will itself take, within any and what period, a secret ballot upon the question, or will take any other actionin relation thereto.
Upon the expiration of fourteen days from the date of the provisional order the judge shall make the order final or set aside the order:
Provided, however, that the judge may adjourn the matter for such period as he thinks proper,”
– Sub-section 2 of the proposed new section provides that the secretary of an organization or branch of an organization may forward a statement in writing to the Registrar, for submission to the judge. Will that preclude an officer of the union from appearing personally upon the matter?
– This will not preclude other methods from being adopted for placing facts before the court. Section 25 of the principal act, as amended, makes the following provision: -
In the hearing and determination of every industrial dispute, and in exercising any duties or powers under or by virtue of this act, the court shall act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case, without regard to technicalities or legal forms, and shall not be bound by any rules of evidence, but may inform its mind on any matter in such manner as it thinks just.
The honorable member will observe that the section is not confined to the hearing of industrial disputes, but extends, also, to the exercising of any duties or powers under or by virtue of this act. The Chief Judge, or the judge concerned, will be able to hear any representative of the union who desires to make representations to him.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Maxwell) agreed to-
That paragraph (b), proposed new section 56f, be omitted and the following paragraph inserted in lieu thereof: -
uses any form of intimidation to prevent from voting any person entitled ‘to vote at a ballot under this act; or
Amendment (by Mr. Gullett) agreed to-
That after paragraph (c), proposed new section 56e the following be inserted: -
. . or [d) falsely represents in any application made under this act that he is a member of an organization.
Question - That clause 44, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 45 and 46 agreed to.
Clause 47 -
After section 58b of the principal act the following sections are inserted: - “ 58c. - (1.) No alteration of the rules of an organization shall be made unless the alteration is approved by a vote of the members of the organization. (2.) Before any proposal to alter the rules of an organization is submitted to a vote of the members, the organization shall lodge with the Registrar a notice in writing specifying the alteration proposed to be made. (3.) The alteration so specified shall not be made for fourteen days after the lodging of the notice and a judge may within that period order that any alteration proposed to be made in the rules of an organization shall be first submitted to a vote of the members of the organization taken by secret ballot (with or without provision for absent voting) in accordance with directions given by the judge. (4.) Any alteration of the rules of an organization which has not been notified to the Registrar, or, which has not, as required by or under this section, been submitted in accordance with any order made under this section to a vote of the members of the organization and has been agreed to by a majority of the members of the organization voting, shall be void.
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-
That proposed new section 58c be omitted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 48 -
Section GO of the principal act is amended -
by adding at the end thereof the following sub-sections: - (6.) Upon cancellation of the registration of any organization, the court may make an order for the dissolution of the organization, and may, from time to time, give such directions as it thinks fit, for the winding-up of its affairs and the distribution among its members of any surplus property after paying its debts, or for the vesting of the property of the organization, subject to such terms as the court thinks proper in relation to the satisfaction of the liabilities of the organization in a voluntary association consisting of members of the organization.”
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That proposed new sub-section 6 be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following sub-section : - “ (6. ) Upon, cancellation of the registration of an organization, the organization shall cease to be an organization and a corporation under this act, but shall not by reason of the cancellation cease to be an association. The property of the organization shall, subject to any order which the court may make with respect to the satisfaction of the debts and. obligations of the organization out of that property, be the property of the association and shall be held and applied for the purposes of the association in accordance with the constitution and rules of the organization in so far as they can be carried out or observed notwithstanding the deregistration of the organization.”
.- This action of the Attorney-General is no doubt due to certain representations that have been made to him, and pos sibly also to the public criticism of honorable members who sit on this side of the chamber. During the consideration of the preceding clauses, I evinced a certain amount of curiosity, which has not yet been satisfied. I should like the AttorneyGeneral to explain the reason which has impelled him to take this course, and also to state who was responsible for the drafting of the proposed new sub-section which he now wishes to leave out.
– The reason for my proposal to leave out the proposed new sub-section 6 is that it has been misunderstood on account of the use in it of the word “ dissolution.” The word “ dissolution “ as a technical legal term applied to a corporation means that the corporation ceases to exist as a corporation, and is resolved into its original elements, namely, the human beings who compose it. The use of the term “ dissolution “ in this provision, however, led those who are not lawyers to believe that it was intended to ‘ dissolve and destroy trade unions; whereas it applied only to their corporate aspect, as the balance of the clause shows.
– It was proposed, in certain circumstances, to wind up the affairs of a trade union and distribute its assets.
– The assets would be distributed among its members. But before any action could be taken an application would have to be made to a judge, who would arrive at his determination in accordance with the desires of the members of the union. They might wish to continue as an unincorporated association, like an ordinary trade union; or on the other hand they might desire to have it wound up completely. As the intention of the Government has been entirely misunderstood,I am placing the matter absolutely beyond doubt. I wish to showthat the only object is and has always been to provide that if an organization is deregistered, it shall -no longer be a corporation, although it might continue to exist as a trade union, and to provide affirmatively that the property of the organization shall be held in trust for the union. The position, therefore, is beyond the possibility of misunderstanding or misrepresentation.
– Would a union have the power to withdraw altogether from the Arbitration Court under this measure?
– It has never been the law that a union can of its own volition withdraw from the court, and thus free itself from the application of an award, neither has it been legal for an employer to withdraw from the court in order to free himself from the application of an award. It is a matter to be determined by the court upon application to the court. From time to time applications are made to the court by employers or employees organizations for exemption from, or a variation in the terms of, an award. The court has to determine whether any union which applies for de-registration shall be allowed to deregister. I discussed this matter very fully with the representatives of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, who placed before me the proposition that a union ought to be allowed to withdraw from the court at any time if it so desired. I pointed out to the representatives of the council that such a concession would also have to be extended to employers, and with that they agreed. I then indicated the almost insuperable difficulty, as it appeared to me, of allowing either a union or an employer to withdraw at will from the court whenever for some reason or another an award did not meet with the approval of one of the parties. The difficulty was admitted ; but the representatives of the council who interviewed me undertook to endeavour to draft a clause providing for the voluntary withdrawal of a union from the court if it so desired, and to make some provision to enable employers also to withdraw if they did not approve of an award. No such draft has been received by me, and I am of the opinion that an effective clause cannot be. drafted.
– If a union is deregistered will it still be liable to the penalties that could be imposed upon it as a registered organization?
– No; there would be no liability at all upon a de-registered union. Provision is made in paragraph / of proposed sub-section 5, to the effect that in the event of the cancellation of a registered organization the award shall cease to apply to that organization. None of the provisions of the act in relation to organizations would apply.
– What about a strike or lockout.
– The sections which apply to ordinary citizens will apply and no others. New sections 6 and 6a, which relate to strikes and lockouts will apply to ordinary citizens, whether members of an organization or not, would, of course, be applicable.
.- If the whole of the members of an organization decide that it is not worth while remaining registered under this measure when it becomes operative, and secure de-registration, will they still be liable to the penalties that can be imposed under it.
– I thought I had made that plain in replying to the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) that a de-registered organization is no longer an organization within the meaning of the act. The provisions applying to organizations would not be applicable to one that had been de-regis’tered, but individual members would be liable, in common with all other citizens under the provisions of the law which apply to the general public.
– If both parties to the award were agreeable to withdrawal from the court there would be no difficulty.
– It is not for me to say how a judge would determine the matter. It may be that a judge might consider that, in the interests of the community as a whole, the industry should remain under the control of the court. That would be determined by the court.
.- This clause differs from the form in which it appeared in the bill as first drafted. It was more obnoxious then than it is now, although it is still objectionable. The sting has been somewhat removed by the amendment proposed by the Attorney-General. If an organization is de-registered by the court it becomes an association, which places it in the position it was before it was registered. Heavy penalties may be imposed for certain breaches, and if such penalties amounted to £2,000 or £3,000 the association might not have sufficient funds to meet its liabilities. I do not know whether the court would be empowered to go further after taking all the assets belonging to the organization.
– This provision deals only with the property of an organization, and does not give power to the court as against its members.
– Supposing a union had funds amounting to £2,000 when it de-registered, and its liabilities amounted to £3,000. If it continued, but not as an organization, would the court have power to make an order against the union for the deficiency?
.- That would not be determined by the Arbitration Court at all, but by recourse to the ordinary legal procedure. When once a union is deregistered, it is outside the scope of the act in that respect, and the creditors of the organization, would have to act under the ordinary law applicable in such cases.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 49 (No resignation, &c, of member while dispute pending).
.- I cannot understand why section 61 is to be repealed. We have not had a word of explanation from the Attorney-General, not even during his second-reading speech.
– I then explained it most lucidly.
– I read the Minister’s speech very carefully, and could not see in it any explanation why section 61 of the principal act, which has been in operation since 1904, is to be repealed. That section was inserted to protect a union which has served a log upon an employer, from attempts to induce members to resign during the hearing of its claim. While the case was pending or was before the court, an employer might attempt to influence his employees to terminate their membership of the organization concerned. An employer could tell his men that a log had been served upon him providing for the payment of certain wages which, if he were compelled to pay them, would ruin his business, and cause him to close down ; but that if they were not members of the union the award would not be applicable to him. A provision of this nature prevents intimidation, but after 25 years it is proposed to repeal it.
– I can only repeat in substance what I stated in my secondreading speech, when I said, in effect, that clause ‘49 repeals section 61 of the act, which provides that during the pendency of any dispute or matter before the court no resignation of or discharge from the membership of any such organization shall have effect. Probably that section was inserted with the intention of preventing members of a union terminating their membership if they saw that a case was going against them.
– It has been suggested that an employer might force employees out of the union so that an award would not apply to him.
– Yes, and so that the employer would not be bound to pay. the award rate of wages. They are the two reasons. I submit that there is no substance in the first ; and as to the second, I may say that since the decision in the Burwood Cinema case there is no longer any apprehension, because the court has held that although only unionists are entitled to the benefits of an award under our system, yet the court is able to make an order upon employer respondents requiring them to observe an award both as regards conditions and rates of pay with respect, to non-unionists. Since that decision, which was given within the last three years, it is no longer possible for an employer, when an award has been properly drawn up, to avoid paying award rates to non-unionists. The reasons suggested for the retention of section 61, therefore, no longer exist. There is this to be said against it : that many big unions nearly always have” a dispute or an application of some kind before the court. The result is that once a man has joined a union of that nature he finds it very difficult to resign from it. He may therefore be liable to pay perpetual fees to two different unions, for if he leaves one occupation and joins the union covering his new calling he is required to pay fees to it. I know of such cases.
– Surely that matter could be adjusted by a slight amendment.
– I assure the Leader of the Opposition that it would be a difficult matter to draft such an amendment. It appears to the Government that there is no reason for compelling a man to stay in a union for life if he desires to resign from it. Some of the special reasons which led to the inclusion of this provision in the original act have disappeared.
– Would it not be possible to provide that he need only remain a member of a particular union so long as he followed the industry that it covered, and that when he followed another calling he might resign to join another union?
– Unless some sound reason can be advanced to the contrary it should be a matter entirely for the man himself to say whether he will or will not join a union.
– I have been informed by some of the leading authorities on industrial arbitration in Australia that this provision has worked amicably and is one of its sovereign features. I have also been told that it has on many occasions saved the court from awkward situations. Why cannot the proposal of the honorable member for Yarra be acted upon ? Many workers desire to retain their connexion with certain unions, although they are no longer engaged in the calling which it covers, for the reason that by remaining members they are able to preserve certain mortality rights and other benefits. Mr. Cleary, of the Storemen and Packers Union, a gentleman who has done a great deal in the cause of industrial arbitration in Australia, has assured me that if this section is repealed it will be serious.
.- I appreciate the explanation of the AttorneyGeneral in respect of this clause. It is true that since the passage of the original actindustrial arbitration has become more complex, and registered unions, and matters pending before the court more numerous. But a sharp line could be drawn between a matter pending or in dispute and any subsequent application made upon different grounds so that it would be practicable for a man to resign if he desired to do so. I understand that the real effect of what is known as the Cinema case was to remove the shelter which certain employers enjoyed by reason of the fact that they had no members of registered organizations in their employ. I submit that the repeal of this section will tend to the disintegration of organizations and will remove a foundational principle which is in the act for the protection of persons against victimization. The section is intended to encourage cohesion and order, and to prevent the defection of weak spirits of the union acting, in this case, not under the coercion of their comrades, but under that of the employers. I am confident that the drafting skill of the AttorneyGeneral would not be exhausted in drawing an amendment sufficient to meet the point that he himself has raised. I protest against the proposed repeal of the section.
– Since this provision was included in the original act, section 9, under which penalties may be imposed upon employers who dismiss men because they are members of a union, has been very much strengthened; and since the Government has, at the request of the trade unions, removed sub-section 3 of the section which provided that no proceedings for an offence under it could be instituted without the leave of the Chief Judge or Registrar, there is no particular reason for retaining section 61.
– Do I understand that it will not now be necessary to obtain the consent of the Chief Judge to take proceedings ?
– That is so under section 9. The Government is of the opinion that just as the joining of a union should be voluntary, so also resigning from it should be voluntary.
– Why is it not voluntary at present?
– Because of the provisions of section 61.
– Is the Attorney-General able to name the persons who have to pay perpetual fees to more than one trade union ?
– I could do so, but for obvious reasons I shall not. I have letters from several persons to the effect that they suffer from this disability. It is not a matter of the secretary of a union allowing a man to resign; he cannot legally do so while his union has any matter before the court. An organization may be quite willing to allow a man to resign, for the secretaries of organizations naturally desire members of the union to be engaged in the industry in which its union is formed, but he cannot do so, under the circumstances stated, with this section in the act.
.- The story of the Attorney-General about men having to pay perpetual fees to more than one. trade union is the strangest wild west yarn I have ever heard. I do not think that the honorable gentleman could prove his statements if he were called upon to do so. He says that men are unable to resign from unions because they have perpetual disputes before the court.
– Not always disputes; if a union has a matter of any kind before the court a man cannot resign from it.
– I say that statement is a deliberate untruth.
– Order! The honorable member’s language is distinctly unparliamentary.
– I have not expressed my personal opinion, I have simply said what the law requires.
– My point is that what happens in practice is not what the AttorneyGeneral says. A man who has followed a certain calling for years, and has been a member of the union covering it, simply ceases to pay his fees to that union when he takes up another calling and joins the union covering his new occupation.
– That does not make the act legal.
– No law can compel a man to pay contributions to a union after he has left the calling which it covers.
– I say that the law obliges him to do so.
– We have to look at the actual facts. If a man ceased to follow a certain calling and paid no more fees into the union covering it, how could he be compelled to do sol If a man became six months in arrears with his subscription to his old union after he had joined another, how could he be compelled to pay the amount? If he were taken into court it would be found that no court in Australia would compel him to pay dues. into an organization that he had left. The most that any court would order would be that he should pay dues up to the time that he left the organization. He sends in his resignation and indicates to the union that he then ceases to pay dues. My union has sued hundreds of men for arrears of dues, but the court has always ruled that men should pay dues only to the time when they resigned.
.- All that the Government wishes to do is to make the law as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr.. Anstey) says that it should be. Section 6S of the principal act provides that all fines, fees, levies, or dues payable to an organization by any member under its rules may be recovered in a court. Owing to the effect of section 61 of the principal act, notwithstanding what may have been the practice in the union of the honorable member for Bourke, his organization had a legal right to insist upon the continued payment of fees, &c, even after the man had left the industry. The honorable member for Bourke admits that that is not a fair thing, therefore I invite his support to this amendment, which proposes to give legal effect to what he says is a proper practice.
.- All that I wish to point out is that the courts of this country have always adhered to the principles of equity and good conscience, and have never administered the law in the manner in which the AttorneyGeneral stated it could be administered. The statement that a man has to pay dues to an organization after he has left has no foundation in actual practice.
.- The Attorney-General cannot throw the responsibility for the refusal to vote for the deletion of section 61 of the principal act on to any organization or party on the ground that they are voting against a clause to free unions of irksome conditions which at present exist. I suggest that the honorable gentleman should draft a new section on the lines suggested by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). If the difficulty pointed out by the honorable gentleman exists, I shall be glad to have an illustration. It is unbelievable that the law would make a man pay union dues to his union after he had eft it and gone into another industry. There is a very big reason why the section should remain. It prevents intimidation on the part of those who wish to drive men out of an organization when a dispute is pending or is before the court. The Attorney-General has very truly said that the recent decision of the High Court in the Cinema case has made some difference, but with all due respect to the legal opinion enunciated, I consider that the matter has not yet been made clear. I do not wish to pit my legal opinion against that of the Attorney-General as to the interpretation of the decision of the court, but undoubtedly a decision was given which to a great extent was a surprise in legal circles.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– It was to some extent regarded as a revolutionary decision in arbitration matters. Our experience has been that what one court does is undone by the decision of another court. I should like to see the decision in the Cinema case clearly interpreted before accepting the statement that it meets our objection to the withdrawal of section 61. Because of that, because section 61 of the principal act has been in operation since 1904, and no cases of hardship have arisen from it, and because also it is a protection to unionists from injury by employers who wish to evade the decisions of the court, I hope that this committee will vote against the proposal, and retain the section.
.- I do not think that the Attorney-General’s explanation covering the proposed withdrawal of section 61 is sufficient to warrant that action. I do not think that what he says has happened could possibly happen under the existing provisions of the act.
– Will the honorable member examine section 68 of the principal act?
– First I shall deal with section 61, which reads : -
During the pendency of any dispute or matter before the court no resignation of or discharge from the membership of any such organization shall have effect.
There can be compulsory membership only when there is continuously a dispute -pending or a matter before the court, and I do not know of such an instance. I do not think that the existing provision has entailed any hardship. The Attorney-General, during this debate, has been good enough to quote the rules of many organizations when it suited him to do so, but he has not quoted the rules of an organization in regard to this matter. Without having any such rules before me I may say that there are organizations whose rules provide that a person shall not be a member after he ceases to be employed at a trade or calling embraced by that organization. Almost all organizations have a rule which, provides that members shall be. given clearances on leaving. I believe that the reason why the Attorney-General is taking this action is that which is feared by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin). As was stated by the honorable member for Maribyrnong this section 61 is regarded as one of the safeguards of industry. If honorable members opposite are really concerned about preserving industrial peace and equity they should allow the section to remain in the act. The strenuous inquiries of the AttorneyGeneral disclosed only two cases which were of any service to him, and it is on those that he proposes to withdraw this provision. I am confident that the honorable gentleman is actuated by some ulterior motive, and I urge him to allow common fairness to influence him to leave the section as it is.
.- If a union applied to the court for an increased award or different conditions, and half of its members resigned from it, would the remainder have to pay the whole cost that was entailed by any action of the union? Also, if a union was liable to be fined, could the whole of its members resign and leave the abandoned union to meet the costs ?
– If the section was repealed it would be possible for members of a union to resign whenever they liked, even if proceedings were pending before the court. There is that risk involved. But I put it to honorable members that there is no practical reason why the existing provision should remain. The position now is that a man is legally liable to continue to pay dues to a union even if he has left the industry and no longer has anything to do with it, unless he manages to resign when there is no dispute pending, or matter before the court. Some large unions are always concerned with matters before the court, either an award, an application for interpretation, or proceedings before a board of reference.
– Does the section relate to proceedings before a board of reference?
– No. I am wrong as to that; but some large unions have had disputes before the court continuously for a number of years. I have a letter here which indicates that one union in Australia has a membership of 19,300 on its books, but that actually only between 8,000 and 9,000 are financial. That is an instance where that natural practice mentioned by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has been applied; men have left the industry, but they cannot be removed from the union register because neither a discharge nor a resignation is effectual. There is no reason why that state of affairs should continue. The membership of a union ought to be a voluntary membership. The only result of the withdrawal of the section will be that, in future, union members will be only those who actually wish to remain members of a union.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 50 (Suspension or expulsion of member of organization) -
– Proposed section 70a covered by this clause provides for the suspension or expulsion of a member of an organization, and, after that suspension’ or expulsion has taken place, the court may, under the proviso, upon the application of the member at any time, make an order removing the incapacity and thereupon the member shall become capable of holding office in the organization. “What is the necessity for the proviso ? I should like to know whether any opportunity is to be given to the union to resist the application of the expelled member. From my experience of trade unionism I know that members are not expelled unless for serious offences. Every union has rules and regulations, and surely that body, and not the court, should decide whether an expelled member should be eligible for appointment as an officer. In my opinion, the proviso seeks to some extent to take membership of the union out of the control of the officials, and to place it in the hands of the court. This is undoubtedly an attempt to break down the rules and regulations of the union.
– I understand that the honorable member’s remarks are directed to the proviso attached to proposed section 70a, sub-section 2 of which provides that any member of an organization who is an officer thereof and who is suspended or expelled under this provision from membership of the organization shall thereupon cease to hold and shall become incapable of holding office in that organization. The proviso means what it says, that the court may, upon the application of the member at any time, make an order removing the incapacity and thereupon the member shall again become capable of holding office iu the organization. That does not make him an officer of the organization, but merely enables the members, if they think fit, to elect him as an officer.. The only effect of the proviso is that an order may be made by the court removing the incapacity of that member, should the members think fit, to hold office.
– Why should the court decide that?
– Proposed section 70b immediately following provides for an appeal against suspension or expulsion from membership. I admit that there is something to be said for the suggestion of the honorable member that notice of appeal should be given to the organization.
– It appears to me that under the proviso an expelled member may be reinstated without the union having any knowledge of the reinstatement.
– He will be elegibleunder the proviso, to be elected to office. Perhaps it would meet the honorable member’s wishes if proposed section 70b were amended to provide for so many days’ notice to be given to the organization of an appeal from expulsion or suspension. I should be quite prepared to accept an amendment to that effect.
.- I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that the proviso is quite unnecessary. An organization would not expel or suspend a member without having good cause for taking that -action. While proposed section 70a gives the organization power to suspend or expel a member, the proviso gives that member the right to appeal to the court to enable him to be eligible to hold office in the organization. I agree that this proviso does not seek to reinstate that member as a member of the union ; but his action in asking the court to remove the embargo placed upon him is tantamount to saying that the union has done him an injustice. It is a backhand slap at the organization. The union, and not the court, should have the power to remove the incapacity, if it thinks necessary.
– What kind of incapa-. city has the Attorney-General in mind ?
– The incapacity of holding office.
– Who is to be the judge?
– The organization itself ought ‘to be. Supposing that I am an officer of the organization, and I do something that causes me to be expelled.
– In that case the honorable member would be rendered incapable of holding office.
– If I am expelled, why should I have the right to go to the court and ask for the removal of the incapacity? The court cannot restore me as a member of the organization, and this proviso does not provide for that.
– Proposed section 70b provides for an appeal against suspension or expulsion from membership, and I suggest that the union should be given notice of such an appeal.
– That does not concern the proviso. The proviso should be eliminated because it does not serve any good purpose. Even if the court does decide that an expelled member is eligible to hold office, that does not make him a member of the organization. He should have to apply to the organization to readmit him. The court cannot do it, and, consequently, this proviso gets us nowhere.
– I do not think that the honorable member clearly stated the principle which ought to govern this matter when he said that all questions of suspensions and expulsion, and capacity to hold office, ought to be left to the organization. This section 70a gives an organization a limited power of suspension or expulsion. The power is limited to cases of breaches of an act, or an order, or an award, by a member who does something which exposes an organization to a penalty or forfeiture. This proposed section enables the committee of an organization to exercise true control over its officers. With this clause in the bill it will in future be impossible for an organization to say that it is unable to control its officers. The same thing will apply to members who have been guilty of a breach of the act. To expel or suspend a man is a very serious thing for the person concerned, and this proposed section, was framed in the belief that it should not be left entirely in the hands of an organization as to how a man should be dealt with, but that there should be an appeal to the court. It is provided that an officer who is suspended or expelled may appeal to the court against his suspension or expulsion, and the court may upon a subsequent application remove from the member the incapacity for holding office. When an officer is suspended or expelled he becomes incapable of holding office unless the court removes that incapacity upon an application made by him, but the suspension or expulsion is not eternal, and the organization may re-admit him to membership. It is provided in the section, however, that even if he is re-admitted and becomes a member, he is not, after this serious action has been taken, capable of becoming an officer unless the court makes an order removing his incapacity. The question is whether the incapacity for holding office should follow upon suspension or whether, on the other hand, there should be no incapacity for holding office once a . person has been readmitted to membership, no matter what offence he may have committed. This proposed section is intended to give the court this slight measure of control over the officers of an organization. I submit that it is a reasonable provision.
.- I suggest that the object and tendency of this proposed section is to reduce the control of an organization over its own affairs, and to hand that control over to an outside body - in this case, the Arbitration Court. When I asked the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham) what was the nature of the incapacity which it was proposed should be removed under this proviso, he said that it was re ferred to in the previous sub-section, which says: -
Any member of an organization who is an officer thereof, and who is suspended or expelled under this section from membership of the organization shall thereupon cease to hold, and shall become incapable of holding, office in that organization.
If we go a little further back we find the origin of this in the fact that a committee of management of an organization or a branch of an organization may, after due notice and proper safeguards for a fair trial, expel a member. The rational and logical way of dealing with this matter is to say that those who expel the member may, at any time upon his application, remove the incapacity, and make him eligible for office.
– As they have done all through the history of unionism.
– As the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) says, this is a practice which has been always followed up to the present time. This is a deviation from that process, and is consistent with the attitude which the Government has adopted right throughout the framing of this bill. Possibly the matter is not in itself one of vital concern, except that it shows the tendency of the Government to take the affairs of organizations out of their own hands. On that ground it should be opposed, and will be opposed by all who have taken a consistent stand on this measure.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 10
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Suction, 72 of the principal act is repealed and the following sections inserted in its stead - 72a. (4.) The Registrar may at any time require a special audit of the accounts of any organization or branch, and may appoint two qualified persons as special auditors, who shall have such powers and duties, and shall receive such remuneration as are prescribed.
Section “proposed to be amended -
Penalty : Two pounds per week for each week in default.
.- Section 72 of the present act states that every organization shall forward to the registrar such returns, accounts, and alterations of rules as are prescribed, and that provision has worked satisfactorily. It is the duty of every organization to send to the registrar a list of members, a balance-sheet, and a copy of its constitution. That -very simple section is to be repealed, and quite an elaborate one substituted for it. This is another of those “ stickybeak “ clauses interfering with the domestic concerns of unions, and placing in the hands of the court matters which in the past have been done quite well by the unions themselves. The clause provides, in the first place, that every organization, and every branch of an organization, shall keep certain specified records. Then it goes on to say that such other records as are prescribed must also be kept.
I wonder whether this is merely a kind of drag-net clause included because those who framed the bill feared that they might have left something out. I should like to know from the AttorneyGeneral what other records are necessary. Proposed new -section 22a provides that every organization and every branch of an organization shall appoint annually a qualified person as its auditor, and shall make provision for that auditor to have full and complete access to all its books and documents. The penalty is £50. As a private member, and as an officer of an organization I have always been particularly interested in the way in which its accounts have been looked after and protected. For many years the Australian Workers Union has had monthly audits. The auditor of a branch, a man who, in the opinion of the branch management committee, is a qualified person, goes to the bank at least once a month, on no set day, ascertains the bank balance, and, proceeding to the branch office, there compares it with the cash-book. The practice of the organization is that the auditor shall attend once a month. He does not need to give notice of his visit. It is the secretary’s duty to have his cash-book written up daily, and other journals and other records written up to date as closely as possible.
– There is practically a continuous audit.
– Yes. As a result of this system a balance can be struck off at any time after allowing for outstanding ticket butts, and so forth, and thus during the whole twelve months the books of the Australian Workers Union are in excellent order. But the point is that the Australian Workers Union, and other organizations in a similar position, can afford to pay a fair remuneration to their auditors. In the Trades Hall, Sydney, and, I suppose, the Trades Hall in Melbourne also, certificated auditors can be seen almost daily. Generally speaking, members of organizations are particularly jealous of their funds, and the percentage of losses through absconding officials and defalcations is very small. There are some small unions, however, that are obliged to appoint members of their organizations to act as auditors for nominal fees.
– - There are very few of them now.
– I am speaking of the small organizations. I have not the slightest doubt that the registrar when called upon to declare as to the bona fides of such auditors as are appointed by the smaller organizations will, for his own protection, be obliged to certify that they are not properly qualified auditors.
– The auditors are not required to be absolutely professional men. The word used is “ qualified,” and not “ certified,” which I avoided using.
– The registrar must satisfy himself that they are qualified. Just as every certified auditor has a responsibility placed on him, this proposed section places on the registrar of the court the responsibility to see that every organization which is registered under the court has a properly qualified auditor. He is not concerned about the demands on the finances of a union, and, therefore, in order to protect himself he will no doubt insist that all persons who are auditing the books of registered organizations must be certified auditors. That requirement will impose hardship on the smaller -unions, and particularly on the branches of those unions, because this provision will apply not only to the accounts of an organization, but also- to those of its branches. It is useless for an auditor to audit the books at the head office unless he knows where the money comes from, and how it is expended.
– Apart from a certificate, how would the registrar assure himself as to the qualifications of auditors?
– I cannot see how he can accept other than a certificated auditor.
– Unless there happens to be a man available who has been doing -the work for a very long time.
– Even then the -registrar would be taking a risk, because, after all, he has a responsibility cast on him that he should not be asked to accept, just as right through this bill responsibilities are imposed on the court which it should not be expected to accept. The requirement that every organization and branch of an organization must appoint a qualified person as its auditor means -. that any federal organization must have six qualified auditors for its State branches and one for its head office.
– Or one auditor for all the branches.
– It would be impossible for a small organization to pay an auditor to control its branches throughout the whole of Australia.
– That may seem to be so, but it is done to-day. All organizations have auditors of one kind or another.
– I have already pointed out that some organizations appoint their own members as auditors. Others appoint as auditors members of outside organizations. The unions are a great deal better educated than they were twenty years ago, and there has grown up among them a practice of going outside the ranks of a particular organization to secure auditors from another organization. Auditors are sometimes secured among the members of the Clerks’ Union, by the smaller unions, but the usual practice is to obtain the services of certified auditors. The responsibility of appointing an auditor will not impose any hardship in 95 cases out of 100, but in the other five cases hardship will be imposed. If properly qualified auditors are not appointed there is a liability to a fine of £50. Proposed new section 72a (2) provides - “ (2) If an organization or branch does not duly appoint a qualified person as its auditor, the court may appoint a qualified person as the auditor of that organization or branch and the court may make such order as it thinks fit for the payment of the auditor out of the funds of the organization.
One can conceive of the registrar appointing a leading auditor who will not do the auditing for £5 5s. Proposed new section 72a (3) provides - “ (3) The auditor shall audit the accounts of the organization or branch of which he has been appointed auditor, shall present a report thereon to that organization or branch, and shall file his report with the registrar.
Penalty: Fifty pounds.”
The unions are required to forward annual balance-sheets to the registrar, but under proposed new section 24a (4) the Registrar may at any time require a special audit of the accounts of an organization or branch of an organization. Whereas only one auditor is required under the preceding sub-section, the Registrar may appoint two auditors for a special audit. Who is going to pay for the two auditors?
– The special audit will be provided by the Government. It is not an obligation on the union.
– Where is the de sire for a special auditor to originate? Is it to originate with the Registrar, or with some one in the organization ? The sub-section is silent on that point. Will the infamous ten be able to initiate the investigation? I am not opposed to a proper and efficient system of auditing ; on the contrary I have done a great deal during my time to improve the books of my organization, and to make the auditing of them more efficient; but the handing over of powers to the Registrar, as proposed in this bill, will do more harm than good. In my fairly long experience of four industrial organizations, the losses from defalcations have been very small. The Attorney-General should, therefore, explain the need for these provisions.
, - I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that the books of the Australian Workers Union are well kept. Its accounts are clear and detailed, and its returns are lodged as the rules require. In. that respect it is a model organization; but, unfortunately many others do not follow its excellent example. If all of them were as correct in their methods as the Australian Workers Union, it is unlikely that these clauses would have been proposed. Under a section of the act, regulations have been made giving the Registrar power to call for almost any return from a union.
– Only in relation to certain specified matters.
– A union may be required to furnish returns of its members, and accounts, and alterations of its rales. That is a fairly comprehensive list. Under that section regulations are in force which are substantially the same as the provisions of these clauses. Unfortunately, many organizations are not aware of these rules, and, according to the last report of the Industrial Registrar, on the 31st August last 43 unions and six employers’ organizations were in default. Circulars have been sent to these bodies reminding them of their obligations. It would have been possible to proceed against the defaulters for a penalty of £2 for each week of default. But it appeared to me that, as the obligation was not generally understood, it would be better to bring it prominently before the organizations by expressly stating it in the statute itself, instead of in more or less obscure rules and regulations. That is substantially the reason for this amendment. I hope the 43 defaulting unions will now inform themselvesof the contents of the bill.
– Can the court enforce these provisions?
– Unless they can be enforced, it is useless to pass them. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has asked why the words “ such other records as are prescribed “ have been put into the proposed section. The purpose of that is to enable the Registrar to call for any return not specified which he may think it desirable to have.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral in mind the minute books of the unions ?
– No; but it may be desirable at some time to require an organization or branch to keep certain records which cannot be specified in advance. The proposed new section is more specific than the existing rules, in so far as it requires, among other things, ‘ the keeping of a list of the union’s officers “ and of every person holding, whether as trustee or otherwise, property of the organization or of any branch of the organization, or property in which the organization or branch has any beneficial interest.” The penalty also has been altered. The present law imposes upon the organization a penalty of £2 for each week in default. The bill provides in the case of an organization or branch for a maximum penalty of £100, and in the case of a secretary or other prescribed officer, a penalty of £2 for each week in default. The obligation placed upon the organization is to keep and file such records as are required. The obligation placed on the secretary or other certified officer is to certify such records by statutory declaration. I have little doubt that if the penalties which have already accumulated against the defaulting organizations were enforced they would amount to much more than £100 each.
Wo read far too frequently of defalcations in connexion with the funds of both friendly societies and trade unions. Unfortunately, it is not within the power of this Parliament to legislate in respect of friendly societies, but it is time that the State laws were strengthened in order to prevent these losses.
– The law in New South Wales is fairly tight.
– Large defalcations have occurred in Victoria, and special attention has been called to them by the registrar of friendly societies, who is of opinion that dishonesty is assisted by the employment of unskilled auditors. Persons who are quite honest, but who do not understand accounts, are appointed auditors by lodges anc5 branches of friendly societies, and their auditing is so inefficient that it is easy for a clever officer to get away with the money of his organization. Only recent.1/ we had unfortunate examples of defalcations in connexion with trade unions. The bill provides that every organization and branch shall appoint annually a qualified person as its auditor, and any doubt as to whether the appointee is qualified will be settled by the registrar.
– In what way does this affect the settlement or prevention of industrial disputes?
– The honorable member is referring to the degree of control that can. be exercised over organizations. This Parliament is entitled to define the conditions upon which organizations shall be allowed to obtain registration under the act. It may well say that it will not accord to any organization of employees the right to obtain an award of the court unless it is conducted financially and otherwise in accordance with the standards prescribed. That is the foundation of all legislation respecting organizations.
– The Attorney-General referred to organizations of employees. Does not this law apply to all organizations?
– Certainly; it applies to all organizations of employers and employees. But the employers’ organizations are able to protect their funds more easily than organizations of employees. The protection of funds is always more difficult for organizations which receive their funds in small amounts, weekly or monthly, than for organizations which receive annual contributions. A special audit would not be ordered so long as the accounts of the organization were properly kept; but it is desirable to provide that when the Registrar is of the opinion that for any reason whatsoever an audit should be conducted he should have power to order it. I assure honorable members that the Government has introduced this provision solely to protect the financial interests of members of organizations. If it is considered that one auditor would be sufficient I am willing to amend the clause to that effect.
– Who is to pay for the audit ?
– If a special audit is ordered by the Registrar I am quite prepared to provide that the Government shall pay for it.
– I am glad to hear the Attorney-General agree in this connexion with an argument that I used in relation to secret ballots, namely, that when the Government imposed an expense upon an organization it should pay it.
– I move-
That the words “ two qualified persons as special auditors “, sub-section 4, be omitted with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words “ a qualified person as a special auditor.”
Amendment agreed to.
.- In reply to the suggestion of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that auditors appointed to conduct the special audits may demand heavy fees, I wish to point out that in Queensland, where friendly societies and local government boards are required by statute to employ qualified auditors, the fees payable are fixed on a sliding scale and depend entirely upon the extent of the audit. Auditors may not charge any fees they please. The chief auditor of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland is a member of the institute to which I belong, and I do not think he is a labour man. Auditors apply for registration as auditors for local government bodies or for friendly societies, and a list of those registered is available for inspection in the office. An organization may apply for a particular auditor if it desires to do so, and objections to the appointment of any person as an auditor may be objected to.
Amendment (by Mr.Latham) agreed to-
That after the word “ receive sub-section 4, the words “from the Commonwealth” be inserted.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided -
Ayes .. .. ..29
Noes . . . . . . 17
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause as amended agreed to.
Clauses 52 to 54 agreed to.
Sitting suspended from 12 (midnight) to 12.30 a.m. (Tuesday).
Tuesday, 12 June 1928
Clause 55 -
Sections 85 and 86 of the principal act are repealed and the following sections inserted in their stead: -
86d. Any person who prints or publishes any report or other matter containing any order, encouragement, advice or incitement to commit any breach or non-observance of this act or of any order or award or to refuse to offer or to accept employment upon the terms of an award or any report or other matter containing language which is insulting to or abusive of the court, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds.”
– The first part of this lengthy clause deals with trade secrets, &c, tendered as evidence. The Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) has again increased penalties. For some reason or other, about which we can obtain no information, the term of imprisonment has been increased to six months. I do not know what actuates the AttorneyGeneral when he provides for these excessive penalties. Some of the old penalties have been increased, and a number of new penalties have been introduced.
– This is an increase, and there is one other increase. I think that is all.
– It appears to me that the honorable gentleman is influenced by a desire to increase penalties and to provide excessive maximums.
Proposed section 86a deals with the boycott of persons, goods, or premises, and appears to be a determined effort to penalize trade unionists. The AttorneyGeneral has quite an active mind when devising catches, and he, representing the anti-Labour party and the employers of this country, has apparently decided to put the coping stone upon the legislation of previous anti-Labour premiers and Governments. The honorable gentleman will rank with the Wades, Irvines, Barwells and others who have become historic for their attempts to provide legislation to restrict the liberty of the people. Proposed section 86a provides -
No person shall -
– The important part of the clause is in the following words.
– I have not the slightest doubt that the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Latham), as he has done with other extraordinary clauses, will state that there is a possibility of these things occurring, therefore it is necessary to make an anticipatory provision. A penalty of £20 is applicable to the individual and £100 to registered organizations guilty of any of the offences to which I have just referred. I have participated instrikes on many occasions, from the 189:; strike in Broken Hill, when I was an interested young spectator, right through the shearing strikes tothe1917 strike in Sydney, and T know that, with the possible exception of the acts of irresponsible3, or those instigated by some one outside the trade union movement, the occurrences for which this proposed section makes provision rarely occur. I can see no necessity for the new section. I do not countenance abusive and insulting language. I have made many speeches in different parts of Australia, and occasionally it has been said that I have been abusive and insulting. Possibly some honorable members think that I have been so during the passage of this bill.
– In my opinion the honorable member has been very mild;
– I certainly am not conscious that I was offensive. It is verydifficult in politics to draw the line of demarcation in connexion with abusive or insulting language, particularly when the matter concerns interested parties. Should a judge make an award or declaration, and it is criticized, the court is to determine whether that criticism constitutes insulting or abusive language. I consider that the provision should not remain. It has not been needed in the 24 years during which the act has existed. The administration of the act has been particularly free from any great industrial outbreaks or rioting. It is abhorrent and obnoxious to me that the Government should try to introduce the old Central European idea of oppression into such a country as Australia, and I cannot see any excuse for the introduction of proposed, section 86a.
Proposed sections 86c and 86d are extraordinary provisions. The first provides that -
Any person who at any meeting of an organization or of a branch of an organization or of the committee of management of any organization or of a branch of such committee or at any public meeting, moves, seconds, or puts to the meeting any resolution the terms of which are abusive of, or insulting to, the court or any judge or officer thereof or which is in contempt of the court, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: Twenty pounds.
A judge might make an award or declaration which is criticized, or the Registrar of the court might send an auditor to the office of the union to take over its books. That officer might be criticized by union officials because of the invasion of their liberty. Or one of the inspectors provided f or in the measure might go to a factory and interview the representative of the men, from whom he might receive a hostile reception, accompanied by an exchange of hard words. Should any of those officials lodge a complaint with the court it might result in the imposition of a heavy penalty upon the union and its officials for using “insulting or abusive language.” I regard this merely as a provision to victimize trade unionists.
I have already referred to the action of a judge in penalizing the Australian Workers Union, when I was an official of that organization. Perhaps a similar action may be brought before a branch of ah organization for discussion. A member may move a resolution, which is seconded and carried by the meeting. The court would probably consider that to be abusive or insulting language, or contempt of the court. The seconder and the chairman of the meeting would he liable to a fine of £20, and a heavy penalty would be placed upon the union. In order to get at labour newspapers, proposed section 86d provides that -
Any person who prints or publishes any report or other matter containing any order, encouragement, advice or incitement to commit any breach or non-observance of this act or of any order or award or to refuse to offer or to accept employment upon the terms of an award or any report or other matter containing language which is insulting to or abusive of the court, shall be guilty of an offence.
Penalty: One hundred pounds.
As has been interposed by the Leader of the Opposition, at the time that the incident to which I have referred took place, I personally criticized publicly and openly the conduct of a. judge of the Arbitration Court. I have not the slightest doubt that other judges, being human, will be placed in a similar position. Under this provision, any person who dares to say that a judge is wrong, when he is palpably wrong, that his education so far as mathematics is concerned was very much neglected, that he is imposing hardships and robbing workers of what they are justly entitled to, will be held to be guilty of insulting or abusing the court, and liable to a fine of £20. The newspaper printing such matter will be liable to a fine of £100. This provision is a fitting climax to this infamous piece of legislation, which is crammed with penalties, exudes class bias, and attacks the workers of this country. This proposed section is not aimed at the employers of Australia, because,, according to the Attorney-General, they are incapable of using abusive or insulting language. The members of the Employers Federation and the Graziers Association are, according to the Government supporters, too gentlemanly to use insulting or abusive language respecting the court or any of its officers. In any case, if this bill is given effect, there will be no need for them to use such language, because all their demands upon the Government have been properly carried out by the Attorney-General and those who are supporting him.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has objected to all the provisions in this clause, from proposed section 85 to proposed section 86d inclusive. He has also asked a question about proposed section 85. That section has been introduced and the penalty increased because of the ineffectiveness of the- existing section, and because of an incident which recently occurred in Melbourne, when a witness gave evidence as to his financial position, setting out his income and his mode of living. The court requested that the evidence be not published, but despite that request it was specially featured in the press, thereby imposing upon that witness a considerable hardship, for which there is no remedy under the act as it stands to-day.
For that reason section 85 has been redrafted. It also extends the power of the court by allowing it to permit, if it thinks proper, one party to see evidence relating to the financial position or trade profit of another party. Up to the present that has been impossible. The penalties have been increased, because it is considered that any person who gives as evidence, or publishes, any information in contravention of this provision, or of any direction or order given or made thereunder, should be guilty of an offence, and the penalty is £500, or imprisonment for six months. That is by no means a heavy penalty for a person who deliberately flouts an order of the court, because such an action may have the most serious results to an individual, who ought not to be exposed to that risk. For that reason the penalty has been increased from three months’ imprisonment to six months’ imprisonment.
– Was the penalty of three months’ imprisonment under the existing section ever imposed?
– That section was practically useless, and if the honorable member will read it he will see why. Then the honorable member dealt with proposed section 86a, and he read the first portion of it only. He quoted the offences for which a person may be liable - violence, threats, pecuniary penalties for injury, intimidation, abusive or insulting language, declaring or joining with other persons in declaring goods, places, or persons black, or any other form of boycott or threat of boycott.
– Everybody knows what follows.
– They do not. I have kept myself informed of the Labour party’s propaganda against this bill, and I say that everybody does not know what this proposed section provides. It is being represented in many quarters as providing punishments for violence and threats, &c, . without showing the people that the real provision is that no persons shall by the means referred to prevent, or endeavour to prevent, any person from offering or accepting employment or working in accordance with the terms of an award or order of the court. The whole section is directed to the prevention, by unlawful means, of persons from working in accordance with an award or order of a court. The Arbitration Court and the High Court have recognized, and rightly, too, that no person should be compelled to work in accordance with the terms of an award, and I have introduced in this legislation an amendment which has struck out of the act, section 7, which can be said to have imposed upon an individual an obligation to work in accordance with certain terms. The law is clear that it is for any of us, as citizens, to make up our minds whether we are prepared to work upon the terms that available employers are prepared to offer us. That is different altogether from combined action in the way of a strike, which is made, an offence in certain cases under the Arbitration Act. While any person is at liberty to abstain from working in accordance with an award if he thinks” he would rather not work, or would rather work in some other industry, and while any person is at liberty to persuade another man not to work in accordance with the terms of an award of the court, for any reasons which may commend themselves to him, while that liberty must be allowed, to any citizens in a free State, yet it is a different proposition altogether from preventing or trying to prevent persons from working in accordance with awards of the court by means of violence, threat, intimidation, or the declaring of anything black. If the arbitration system is to be real, if it is to be supported by this Parliament, and made effective throughout Australia, it should be clearly laid down that the utilization of the methods referred to for the purpose of preventing people from working in accordance with the awards of the court is wrong and should be penalized. That is a sound principle which cannot be seriously contested. Surely no honorable member will say that it is right to prevent a man, by violence or intimidation, from working in accordance with the awards of the court. On the other hand, honorable members must be forced to admit that such action is wrong, and that it should be penalized. We have accepted the principle of arbitration, and the awards of the court should be honoured. The means that I have indicated should not be used for the purpose of preventing people from working in accordance with the awards of the court.
– If I think an award is wrong, why should I not have the right to express that opinion to other persons?
– The right to advise people not to work in accordance with the awards of the court is not affected by this provision, but no one has the right to force persons by threat or intimidation, or by any other wrongful means, to abstain from working in accordance with the awards of the court. Proposed section 86b deals with a case of which I have had actual experience. If an award makes a certain provision, and if the rules of the organization impose a penalty on its members for working in accordance with that provision, surely that should not be tolerated, but should be remedied. The foundation of the system of arbitration, when once it is in operation, i3 that matters affecting industrial conditions must be submitted to the court for decision, and that organizations registered under the court must obey its awards and not have rules imposing penalties upon persons who work in accordance with those awards. The existence of any such rules, and the carrying into effect of a policy of that kind, is absolutely inconsistent with the very significance of the word “ arbitration.” In the same way, proposed section 86c deals with resolutions the terms of which are abusive or insulting to a judge or officer of the court. This legislation is quite justified, and the necessity for it has been shown. There is a great deal of difference between comment and the sort of criticism to which some judges have been subjected. Criticism is a good thing for all judges, as well as for honorable members of this Parliament, although we may not like it. Comment and criticism is to be encouraged, but every one knows the distinction between comment and criticism and abuse and insult. It is the duty of this Parliament to protect the men whom it places in. responsible positions. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition has suggested that it might be construed as an insult to say that a judge was weak in mathematics. If it were, I am afraid that to tell the truth about a good many of this committee would also be abuse and insult. If on the other hand any one were to say in words which showed the allegation to be deliberate that a judge had “ robbed the workers,” that would be abuse and insult against which he should be protected. There is only one way of dealing with judges in this country, and that is by moving an address in both Houses of Parliament.
– The honorable gentleman was a member of this .Parliament when I brought up in the House of Representatives the case to which T have previously referred in the course of this debate, that in which a judge made a mistake, and robbed the workers of what they were entitled to.
– That remark furnishes an example of what I have been referring to. If it is merely said that a judge made a mistake, and thereby gave the workers less than they were entitled to, no one could take exception to it, but if the meaning of the words used is that the judge deliberately and intentionally deprived the workers of something which he knew was their right, that would amount to insult and abuse, and responsible members of this commitee ought not to suggest that such expressions are permissible. Surely honorable members ought to recognize that in protecting the judges we are merely protecting society and ourselves. Under our judicial system we place the judges in an. independent position, and while they are subject to fair comment and criticism, they are entitled to be protected against insult and abuse. A judge has not the ordinary means of retaliation which some of us might exercise if abuse and insult were directed against us. The judges J have a very difficult task to perform, and they are entitled to this measure of protection.
– What are the AttorneyGeneral’s reasons for proposing this clause ?
– The honorable member asks me what are my reasons after I have already stated them very clearly. The judges of the Arbitration Court have a particularly difficult task to perform. Centuries ago, when the administration of the law on a regular basis began, I have no doubt that judges were abused whenever they decided against powerful interests, but in the realm of ordinary law that has now almost ceased to happen. No matter how powerful any interests or what their political connexions, the judgments of the ordinary court are accepted by them, perhaps with criticism but always without abuse. Yet in this century we are only beginning to enter into the realm of industrial law, and the same difficulty is occurring with regard to industrial courts as I have no doubt occurred at the institution of the regular system of ordinary law. Take, for example, the days when the land owner thought he owned the land, and the men, and the animals, and everything else on it. Conceive his indignation at the enforcement of laws by judges against what he considered his absolute rights and interests. The growth of law, as we know it, was resented by those whose interests were effected, but after centuries the system of law has become established in such matters, and decisions given under the ordinary law are accepted, the judges being subject neither to abuse nor insult, even though feeling may be acute. In industrial law we are at the beginning, relatively, of our development, and it is important to see that both sides accept the verdict of the umpire. That is all it amounts to, and surely that is the minimum we should require. I appeal to honorable members to realize the very difficult position in which the judges administering this act are placed. It is easy to throw words about concerning them; it would be much more difficult to discharge the delicate functions with which they are entrusted. Particularly in the case of the Arbitration Court judges is it the duty of all members of this committee, in making the laws which it is the duty of the judges to administer, to abstain from any comments in the nature either of abuse or insult. That still leaves open the full field of discussion as to the wisdom of a course of action. These clauses would not limit the full range of comment and criticism expressed in ordinary decent langauge; but they would very properly penalize the use of abuse or insult towards men holding the position of judges or of officers of the Arbitration Court.
.I wish to remove any belief that our opposition to this clause is prompted by any leaning towards abuse or violence. The judges of all courts are protected at the present time. If the judges of the Arbitration Court have no protection to-day, neither have the judges of the Supreme Court nor of the High Court. It is all nonsense .to say that the Arbitration Court judges have to be protected by special legislation. “We are not opposing this clause because it provides for the protection of the judges, but because it is full, from beginning to end, of penal provision s. The Attorney-General has suggested that if we vote against this clause we are voting for violence. That is. absurd. There is the common law of the country to deal with crimes of violence, and Commonwealth and State statutes, and the State police forces to enforce them. It is not necessary to pile up penalties in a measure ‘of this kind. The great objection to this provision being put into the Arbitration Act is that it is holding the mailed fist over the workers. The provision is offensive in its very terms, suggesting as it does, that because we are dealing with industrialists we must provide all sorts of pains and penalties against the men who are fighting for their rights. Take, for example, the subsection which provides that a newspaper which reports a resolution or a statement advising men to refrain from offering for employment under certain conditions is liable to a fine of £100. Why, it is a common thing for newspapers to advise men to keep away from a disturbed area so that they will not come from hundreds of miles around to a place where there is no prospect of their obtaining employment.. Under this provision practically all the newspapers - Labour or otherwise - might be prosecuted for statements published concerning the present maritime dispute. This clause is an unnecessary loading up of the bill with penalties, and that is why we object to it.
.- - I join with my Leader and Deputy Leader in opposing this clause. I do not know why the judges should not be criticised. They are’ servants of the Crown just as the Ministers of this Government are. Under this clause any one who points out an error made by an Arbitration Court judge is liable to a fine of £100, or to six months’ imprisonment. I cannot under stand why the Attorney-General should make himself special pleader for the judges. The provisions of the common law are quite adequate to secure the protection of the judges. Have not members of a union who consider themselves to have been unjustly treated by an Arbitration Court judge the right to say so? These penalties will apply only to the industrial section of the community; the other side will not be affected. In New South Wales, and probably in the other States as well, a sentence passed by a judge can be appealed against either by the Crown or the prisoner, and the Full Court has power either to increase or reduce the sentence. No provision, however, is made for appeal against the decisions of the Arbitration Court judges. Some of them have said very nasty thing3 about the members of trade unions, things which might very well excite unionists to violence. Fortunately, trade unionists are not persons who readily create disturbances. Judge DrakeBrockman, who was appointed to the Arbitration Court Bench some time ago, was, as everybody knows, formerly president of an employers’ organization. Everybody also knows that he was pestering the Government for two years to give him a job. He was running after the Prime Minister like a lap-dog, and finally, in order to get rid of him, the Prime Minister had him appointed to the bench of the Arbitration Court. Listening to the Attorney-General’s special pleading for the judges, one would think that they were not human, and, therefore, not liable to error. Judges, like ministers of the Crown, become intoxicated with their own importance. The only way to keep them in their place and make them understand their duties is to subject them to intelligent criticism. How, otherwise, can they learn whether their judgments are sound, or unsound? If outside this Parliament I defame a judge, I can be proceeded against by the law. I do not object to that; but the provisions in this bill for punishing those who dare to criticise the actions of arbitration court judges are an inroad upon the privileges of a free and educated community. Australians are amongst the best educated people in the world, and are pre-eminent in almost every department of science and industry. Only good can come from intelligent criticism of the Bench by an educated people. Judges cannot be infallible in regard to the many industries upon which they have to adjudicate. The Attorney-General would have us believe that judges are sacrosanct, but if all the legal men were shipped out of the country Australia would not be a shilling the worse off. That cannot be said of the industrialists, the men who create the wealth of the community. The Government is not game to admit that this bill is designed to retard progress and smother the aspirations and independent thoughts of an awakened democracy. It is noticeable that, when a Labour government is in power, the judges exercise their minds very carefully before they give a decision, but, when a tory government is in office, they are tyrannical and try to kill the independent spirit of our people. It is evident that this Government is trying to put back the clock of progress. Unfortunately, the Ministry is dominated by one man. The Prime Minister is a very strong man, and he puts forward proposals that also are “ strong.” He bids his subordinates to do this or that, and I am disappointed that the AttorneyGeneral did not resist the instruction to frame this legislation, and did not show a higher regard for the workers. The people of Australia expected better of him. I am ashamed that this bill is the production of a young Australian. No Attorney-General in the Old Land would have introduced such a measure. I have heard in the Old Land some of the giants of the past, and I am proud of them; they had high ideals and a keen sense of their responsibility, and would never have stooped to littleness of this kind. Although they were conservatives they were proud of the race to which they belonged; but the present Commonwealth Ministry gives no indication that it is proud of the people for whom it is legislating. I am surprised that the Attorney-General has not sought to include a provision that any honorable member who dares to criticize this bill shall be liable to forfeit his seat and to imprisonment for six months. He is afraid to do so because, thank God, we have adult suffrage. For my own part,
I care not whom I offend, judges or anybody else, in voicing my convictions; the people are my charge. The press is a power in the land, and I am not so foolish as to refuse to recognize that; but it is more concerned with publishing matter favorable, to its advertisers than with printing what the general public desires to read. I wish to impress it upon the Government that the contentment of the industrial section of the community should be one of its first considerations. Unless our industrialists are contented with their lot, the progress of the country must be hindered. I appeal to the Prime Minister to discontinue his policy of mutilating the beneficent measures passed by the Labour Government in the years 1910 to 1913. This Government has brutally murdered some of those enactments, but I hope that it has at last finished its work in that respect. The Prime Minister has a wonderful opportunity in the present maritime struggle of acting as an angel of mercy,” but it appears as though he intends to continue the role of public persecutor. There is little in this bill to encourage conciliation, and a great deal to discourage it. The Government appears to be determined to make the Australian workers the slaves of huge combines such as the £85,000,000 shipping trust. I urge the Prime Minister to summon the parties to the present dispute to a conference, and appeal to them to settle their differences.
– The provisions of proposed section 86n are not intended to prevent ordinary comment and criticism, as honorable members opposite have suggested, although conceivably certain words in it may be thought to warrant the making of such a statement. But so that there shall not be even the shadow of a justification for that opinion I move -
That the words “ or to refuse to offer or to accept employment upon the terms of an award proposed new section 80b, be omitted.
.I regret that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) has made his appeal in vain; but he has at least had the satisfaction of having made it. The majority of Commonwealth and State judges have been men of ability, and noted for their fairness. They have never been subjected to insult or abuse, and I know of none of them who has asked for the additional power it is now proposed to give them. This provision is a direct incentive to the judges of the Arbitration Court to do things without the fear of public criticism, which they would not dare to do if they were acting in any other jurisdiction and subject to fair criticism. I do not think any one can honestly justify this provision which, in my opinion, is one of the most discreditable in the bill.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the clause as amended be agreed to - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 56 -
After section eighty-nine of the principal act the following sections are inserted: - 89B. Any person who has committed an offence against section forty-two, fifty-sixF, fifty-eight f, seventy-two, eighty-three, eightythree a, eighty-four, eighty-five or eighty-sixD, of this act may be charged accordingly before the court and the court may impose the penalty provided by this act in respect of that offence.”
Amendment (by Mr. Latham) agreed to-
That after the words “ seventy-two,” proposed new section 89b, the words “ seventytwo a “ be inserted.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clauses 57 and 58 agreed to.
Proposed new clause 3a.
Section proposed to be amended -
.I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 3a. Section four of the principal act is amended by adding to paragraph (iii) of the definition of “ Industrial dispute,” the words “ but shall, not include any industrial dispute in relation to State railways.
My amendment provides that while the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act may deal with State industries generally, it shall not deal with State railways. I am aware that there is very little hope of its being adopted unless the Government sees its way clear to support the amendment. Throughout the history of federation the Nationalist party has been actuated by a desire to build up a federal feeling, and not one of antagonism to the States. There is not the slightest doubt that we regard the railways as part and parcel of the ordinary system of government, one of the instrumentalities of a State. In 1904 a provision was inserted in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act giving the control of those working on the State railways to the Federal court. Later, under a decision of the High Court, it was held that the Commonwealth had no right to interfere with an instrumentality of the State of that nature. In 1910 the employees of the State railways were deliberately taken away from the scope of the Federal act on the assumption that the Constitution did not provide the Federal Parliament with power to control State railways. That was again altered in 1920 by a later decision of the High Court. This committee must consider whether we should give to the States the control of great instrumentalities of that nature, or attempt to adopt a centralizing attitude, The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), when AttorneyGeneral in the Fisher Labour Administration said, in 1910 -
A good deal has been said in regard to the case of South Carolina v. The United States. If there is anything clearly shown by that case, it is that a State has certain rights, but that these cannot be indefinitely multiplied in number or increased in scope.’ lt is entitled to the full and unimpaired exercise of its sovereign rights, legislative, judicial, and executive, and outside that, not at all. When it descends from its sovereign power, and invades the sphere of industry, when it becomes, say, a manufacturer, or a publican, it is subject to the same legal limitations and regulations as an ordinary employer. Some reference has been made to the justice of these proposals, but it would be monstrous if a private employer were to be subject to our law, compelled to pay the rates which an award provides, while the State was allowed to pay a lower rate. Is that the sort of justice of which the friends of the employers arc speaking? Let me give an illustration of what might occur under such circumstances. In Victoria the State Government employ coal miners ; and if there arose a dispute which came within Federal jurisdiction, a rate might be fixed, let us say, for hewing, which would, according to some honorable members apply to every private employer, but not to the State. Under such circumstances the State coal miners could be asked, and practically forced, to work at a lower rate than was the private employee. Such an interpretation of our powers would vitiate completely the object of the law, which is to promote and preserve industrial peace. We cannot promote industrial peace when large bodies of men are able to evade the act. In tlie course of the judgment of the case of South Carolina v. The United States, quoted by the honorable member for Angas, Mr. Justice Brewer said -
It would seem to follow as a reasonable, if not a necessary, consequence that the means and instrumentalities employed for carrying on the operation of their governments for preserving their existence and fulfilling the high and responsible duty assigned to them in tlie Constitution should be left free and unimpaired - should not be liable to be crippled, rauch less defeated by the taxing power of another Government, which power acknowledges no limits but the will of the legislative body imposing the tax. And, more especially, those means and instrumentalities which are the creation of their sovereign and reserved rights, one of which is the establishment of the judicial department, and the appointment of officers to administer their laws. Without this power a.nd the exercise of it, we risk nothing in saying that no one of the States, under the form of government guaranteed by the Constitution could long preserve its existence. But when applying that dictum to the case before him the judge, speaking of the power of town corporations to engage in municipal trading, or a State to step out of its public and proper sphere, went on to say -
The corporation would therein depart from its municipal character, and assume the position of a private trustee. It would occupy a place which an individual could occupy with equal propriety. It would not, in that action, be an auxiliary or servant of a State, but of the individual creating the trust. There is nothing of a government character in such a position.
The right honorable gentleman made it clear that his Government looked upon the State railway system as an instrumentality of the State, and not one of its ordinary trading activities. The Labour party then withdrew from the- Arbitration Act the provision which brought railway employees within the jurisdiction of the Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Honorable members must realize that, in moving this amendment, I am not actuated by a desire to do injury to either State or Commonwealth railway employees. I consider that we are doing wrong in endeavouring to centralize all authority in the Commonwealth. We are doing something very un-federal in character when we determine that a Federal Court shall havecontrol of a great organization that means so much to the finances of a. State, and which, if disorganized by a Commonwealth award, would greatly distress the finances of the States. There is grave danger of injuring the development of the country by such interference. There are authorities other than the Federal Arbitration Court fixing the conditions of railway employees in each of the States of the Commonwealth. I do not know whether honorable members consider, it advisable to place in the hands of one judge only the full power to fix the wages aud conditions of employment in connexion with the railways systems of Australia. Had we an arbitration tribunal, such as a wages board, under which both sides would confer together, there might be some justification for placing such power in its hands; but under this provision the court sitting in Melbourne or Sydney will decide the conditions under which the railway systems of Australia are to operate. Honorable members opposite have complained a great deal of the delay in having cases heard by the Arbitration Court, yet they are now supporting a provision which proposes to add to the duties of the court, and this must necessarily increase the delays in hearing cases. We know what has taken place in South Australia. Large numbers of men have been dismissed from employment because of the Government finding it impossible to conform to the awards of the Arbitration Court. Even this Government, which is now so anxious to bring railway employees under the control of the Arbitration Court, so soon as it experienced a little difficulty in connexion with the running of the lighthouse ships, promptly transferred the crews to the Public Service, and placed them beyond the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court. We should try to promote a federal feeling, and not a desire for unification and to grab every power that we can from the States. On this subject President Coolidge at one time said -
While we ought to glory in the union and remember that it is the source from which the States derive their chief title to fame, we must also recognize that the national adminisration is not and cannot be adjusted to the needs of local government. It is too far away to be informed of local needs, too inaccessible to bc responsive to local conditions. The States should not be induced by coercion or by favour to surrender the management of their own affairs. The Federal Government ought to resist the tendency to be loaded up with duties which the States should perform. It does not follow that because something ought to be done the national governmentought to do it.
The Commonwealth Parliament should control all matters of a national character, and the States should control instrumentalities such as railways, more especially in view of the fact that when the Constitution was framed it was never contemplated that ‘we should take any further right of self-government from the States. There cannot be a division of power between two separate authorities under a federation without it being necessarily implied, though not necessarily expressed, that no legislation of one authority can be good if it interferes with the administration of the other. While we are retaining our present powers, we are, under this provision, taking power that has not been given to us, either expressly or by implication, in the Constitution. I wish to impress upon honorable members the necessity for fostering a federal feeling. We should realize that as the States progress so will Australia as a nation progress. If we injure the States we injure the Commonwealth. It should be our bounden duty to create a Federal instinct and to make the States believe that we are honestly desirous of giving them such rights as may be conserved to them under the Constitution until such time as the people directly decide otherwise. We may have difficult times before us, hut we all recognize that it is only by having contented and prosperous States, and a good and kindly feeling between Federal and State authorities, that Australia can progress.
– The question which the’ honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) has raised is important, and there are several aspects from which it may be considered. He has emphasized the need for the control by the States of their own affairs, the State sovereignty, and the importance of the State railways in the developmental work of Australia. He has stated that it is undesirable for any Federal authority to interfere with those activities of the States. He has also urged that it is absurd for legal gentlemen to determine the matters submitted to the Arbitration Court. Quite a number of honorable members have from time to time spoken in the same strain, and I can be forgiven for calling the attention of the committee to section 35 of the act which confers upon the parties to a dispute the right to have assessors sitting with the judge. Up to the present, the parties have not chosen to exercise that right to any extent.’ The honorable member for Swan has based his case upon the facts which I have mentioned, but there is another side to the question. From. the point of view of an industrialist employed one day on a railway, the next day on a road, and the next day on a building, doing similar work in each instance, there is no reason why he should not be subject to one control. In the same way, it is said that there is no reason why competitors with the railways, such as other’ transport agencies, should be bound to obey awards of the Arbitration Court, and the railways to be entirely free. A conference of State Premiers is to be held this week or next week, and this is one of the subjects to be discussed by them. If all the States were to unite in making representations to the Federal Government to place the railway systems outside the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court, then the Government would consider it a live question, and would take the responsibility of either leaving things as they are or taking action to alter them in accordance with the wishes of the States. At present that is far from the case. The States have free parliaments, and there is nothing to prevent them from taking the view that the honorable member for Swan has put forward on their behalf, but until they make some representations to this Government, we do not propose to interfere with the existing position.
– Has the Commonwealth power to legislate to take away from the railway employees the right of access to the Arbitration Court?
– Certainly. There is no doubt as to the constitutional validity of the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Swan. We can confine the Arbitration Court to any class of interstate disputes that this Parliament specifies. Some people believe that the Arbitration Court should deal only with shipping and shearing, and effect could be given to that opinion if this Parliament so decided.
.This question is too important not to have at least some reference made to it from this side of the chamber. I do not propose to say very much because I am satisfied that if the Government does not intend to accept the amendment there is no danger of it being carried. If there were any danger of it being carried, we should fight it until we had exhausted all the forms of debate. I am not going to pursue the argument beyond saying this, that if it is considered that the Federal Parliament controls the State railways because the Federal Arbitration Court can determine the conditions of employment upon them, then by the same reasoning the Federal Parliament controls every industry that comes under Federal Arbitration Court awards. It is not true to say that this Parliament controls the private industries of the country. It has simply set up an arbitration court, which fixes the conditions in an industry, and if that principle is good enough to apply to private enterprise, it is good enough to apply to government-owned enterprises, including those of the Federal Government. I agree with the honorable member for Swan when he says that if we fix the wages and conditions for State employees and those of private firms, we should be prepared to take our own medicine, and apply the principle to the Federal service as well. The AttorneyGeneral says that the Government would consider the amendment if the State Premiers asked for it. The Government ought to stand by its own principles, and pass its own legislation, notwithstanding what the State Premiers agree to or ask for. This is simply giving the whole arbitration position away. If the State Premiers asked us to withdraw from the arbitration field altogether, would the Government be prepared to do it? The attitude adopted by the Attorney-General is not a logical one.
– Nor is it . an Australian one.
– As the honorable member for Batman says, it is not in the interests of Australia. I do not believe that the State Premiers would do such a thing, but if they were small enough to ask for the abolition of the Commonwealth power to legislate for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, what answer would the AttorneyGeneral give them? The men working on the railways have a right to the protection of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– I endorse every word uttered by the honorable member for Swan. The States feel very keenly on this matter. We have never before had a Government which so grasped after power as this one is doing. It was never intended by the men who framed our Constitution that the Commonwealth Government should take such large powers to itself. There was at that time a distinct understanding all over Australia concerning the respective spheres of legislation of the Commonwealth and the States. We have got right away from that position, particularly in the financial agreement and in our arbitration acts. The producers of Australia have been sold, and they are sulky and sullen. They are sick of appealing to the Government for relief. That is the position of this country, and it is as well to face it. The Commonwealth Government is seeking to increase its authority and its power while failing to use the power which it already has. What about the uniform marriage and divorce laws for which the country is crying out? This Government is working hand in hand with members of the Opposition in seeking to extend Federal powers, and it is time the people of Australia knew it. The Government talked for a long time about bringing in a uniform insolvency law, but the measure has only just come into force. The Government I have supported loyally in season and out of season has given away, as a result of this coalition, the cherished principles” of every State of the Commonwealth. There is not a single exception, save perhaps, portions of a few of the bounty-fed States. The Government need not have wasted its time suggesting another alteration of the Constitution, because the people will turn down its proposed amendments as contemptuously as they turned down the last one.
– I shall be brief; but I hope I shall be as clear in the expression of my views as was the honorable member for Wakefield. I congratulate the honorable member for Swan upon the consistent and plucky attitude he has taken on this matter. I have always espoused the cause which he has supported to-night. It has always appealed to me as most unreasonable that a State should have to obey awards made by an authority over which it has no power. I suggest to the committee that they should consider the converse case. Suppose that the Federal Government had to pay wages fixed by State arbitration courts ; the proposition is unreasonable. I do not think that it was ever intended that the court should have these powers, and for a long time the High Court held that a similar provision was unconstitutional. I would not disparage the court judges, but we may fairly claim that there is some difference of opinion on the point as to whether, under the Constitution, the Federal Arbitration Court really possesses the power which it now exercises. My State has not of late benefited very much from federation, and it is hard enough in South Australia to make both ends meet without being held liable to pay whatever wages may be prescribed by a body over the constitution of which the State has no control whatever.
– Does not the honorable member think that the men have a right of approach to an impartial tribunal ?
– I think that the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Swan is one of the planks of my State party platform, but in any case I shall heartily endorse what has been said by the honorable members for Wakefield and Swan.
– I rise to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Swan. On two occasions the Railway Department of Tasmania has been brought before the Arbitration Court in Melbourne. On both those occasions increases in wages were granted to the men. At that particular time the railways were losing at the rate of £200,000 a year, yet the court gave increases to the men. At the present time the railways are losing nearly £300,000 a year. That means that the department has either to raise freights and fares, or to increase taxation on the people. I agree with the honorable member for Swan that it is not a fair thing for any State to have to come to the Federal Arbitration Court, and have the wages of its employees increased. Take the position of the Victorian railways. They have been losing nearly £1,000,000 a year because of the awards made in the Arbitration Courts. The Labour Government there will not allow the Commissioners of Railways to discharge any of the men, nor will i it allow them to raise the freights or fares, so that the people have to be further taxed because the men have had their wages raised by the Arbitration Court. The Railway Departments all over Australia are facing very fierce competition from motor traffic, and it is not fair that they should have their expenses still further increased by awards of the Federal Arbitration Court. I hope that the Government will accept this amendment, as we should allow the States to manage their own affairs as far as possible. I should have liked the honorable member for Swan to include municipal councils in his resolution. In their case, as in the case of the State Governments, every increase in wages must be met out of increased taxation.
– This is a clause of such vital importance that I cannot allow it to go by in silence. I am very sorry that the Government cannot see its way to accept the amendment of the honorable member for Swan. I hope that at the conference of State Premiers which is about to be held the Attorney-General will be able to obtain some satisfactory solution of the present difficulty. This has been a vital issue in Australia ever since the High Court upset the decision which it had previously given. It is a very serious position when the Federal Arbitration Court is empowered to fix the wages that have to be paid by the States. If the States have to pay the piper, run the railways, and keep their instrumentalities in operation, no outside body, which is not responsible for raising the money necessary, should have the right to fix the wages to be paid. Above all things, we want harmony in industry, and it is our duty to see that the best is done for the States. After all, the members of a State Parliament, and of this Parliament represent the same people. There is no call for the Arbitration Court to interfere in these matters. I feel that something more than putting such a clause as this into the Arbitration Act will be necessary to overcome the difficulties that confront us as a result of the decision in the engineer’s case, though I accept the AttorneyGeneral’s assurance that this Parliament could make the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) and that it would not be contrary to the decision of the High Court in the engineers’ case. I hope that the Government will see its way clear to take action along these lines. It is unfortunate that this matter did not come up earlier, so that it could have been debated fully, but I have taken this opportunity .to express very briefly my opinion upon it.
.- The matter raised by the amendment is very important. It would be very absurd to single out the State railways from other State instrumentalities for exclusion from the scope of the Federal Arbitration Court. If we are to consider this matter from a Federal aspect, as the honorable member for Swan has urged, we must take into account State instrumentalities generally. Are we to say that the Arbitration Court may make no award relating to wages and conditions of employment on the railways, but leave it with full power to make awards in regard to other State instrumentalities such as the hydro-electric works in Tasmania, and State saw-mills, trams, &c, in other States? More is at stake than the mere question of Commonwealth or State rights. We have to consider what , is best in, the interests of the people. Whilst we might well consider whether the State industrial authority could not better control the wages and conditions of employment in State instrumentalities, I am not prepared at this stage to support an amendment which deals only with the railways. I hope that at the conference which has been mentioned by the honorable the AttorneyGeneral some agreement between the Commonwealth and the States in regard to this matter will .be reached. If an arrangement that is satisfactory to the State Governments and Parliaments can be made by agreement with the Commonwealth, we need not worry ourselves about getting a very fine definition of Commonwealth and State powers.
Proposed new clause negatived. (i
Proposed new clause 3a.
Section proposed to be amended -
. I move -
That the following new clause be inserted : - “ 3a. Section four of the principal act is amended by inserting in the definition of ‘ Industrial matters ‘ after the word includes’ (second occurring) the words piece work, payment by results and similar systems of payment,’.”
It is of the utmost importance to the industries of Australia and the progress and prosperity of our people that we should definitely lay down in law that the system of payment by results should be applied wherever practicable. In some of our principal industries, notably shearing and coal-mining, that system is in operation, and I do not think that the workers in them wish to go back to day labour, and lose the benefit of payments by results. If they did so, they would be touch worse off than they are. I went through a coal mine a couple of months ago, and I was told by the manager that the miners, working from 7 a.m. till noon on piecework, earned £2 5s. a day each, and the rule of their union prevents them from working in the afternoon.
– That manager was pulling the honorable member’s leg. It is untrue that the miners do not work in the afternoon.
– I refer to the KandosCooma coal mine, many of the men workin which, I believe the majority, own motor cars. Will any honorable member opposite contend that those workers would be half as well off if they worked on day labour?
– The honorable member is speaking of a few miners. The majority of the miners are worse off, because they are not getting sufficient to live on. I invite the honorable member to visit Cessnock, where mining is conducted on a big scale, and not to be misled by what he saw in and was told of a comparatively small mine.
– In the shearing industry also the workers earn more by piecework than they could by day labour. Upon the subject of payment by result, I again quote from the report of the Australian Industrial Delegation to America. The portion I am now about to read was subscribed to by the whole of the delegates, including the four representatives of the workers -
In a large majority of cases the pay is commensurate with the output - either by means of piece-work or task system, or time allowance - and even in cases or straighttime payment a careful account of output is kept and wages are graded according to ability or output. . . . We found that earnings under these systems averaged about 20 per cent, over day work rates….. Of course many industries do not lend themselves to piece or bonus systems of payment, even when production is on a large scale, but we found that the American worker in many of the industries does not object to some form of payment by production results, and some unions co-operate in fixing the prices by periodical conferences. . . . The vast majority of the employers arc in favour of maintaining the rates once set, and realize the advantage to both the employer and employee if a high earning rate can be achieved by the employee. The aim has been to keep the employee satisfied, and if the rate set is not considered fair by the employer, the operation is then demonstrated and he is assisted and trained. . . The unions were in favour of piece-work where it could be operated successfully, and on the principle of collective bargaining, but not on repair work.
On page 27 of the report the delegation said -
The Federation of Labour recognized the position and has modernized its views to the newer ideas that employer and employee are inter-dependent, and that co-operation between both for. the benefit of industry is essential - efficiency and strict application to work for the maximum output on both sides is the only way that industry will be made to provide further remuneration for both.
At page 29 -
The employer realized his obligations for progressive and efficient management which, while insuring profits for himself, would also provide a fair opportunity for his employees to earn sufficient money and be reasonably comfortable. The employee recognized that industry cannot pay what it does not earn, and that on his own efforts as much as- on those of the management, ‘depended his earnings.
On page 30 the report continues -
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.
I quote now from a newspaper report of remarks made by Chief Judge Dethridge in the Commonwealth Arbitration Court on the 8th March -
I think that the employers should be in a position to pay for merit, and I think that it is desirable to encourage merit, and to avoid as far as possible a drab uniformity, which means a gradual sinking of the level of humanity. I am sorry to say that this does not seem to be recognized by many who espouse the cause of labour, but, in my opinion, it is a fundamental fact. Compulsory levelling of men always means levelling down. Consequently, I think it undesirable to fix anything but a minimum to be paid to men.
In the light of the report of the industrial delegation, and of our experience in Australia, I cannot understand why honorable members opposite are opposed to the principle of payment by results.
– They will have to come to it ultimately.
– I know of one industrial concern which conducts its business upon the piece-work principle, and the trade unionists engaged in it are afraid that their union will discover that they are doing piece-work and that they will be victimized. They are quite satisfied with their conditions and are making good money. I feel sure that many similar instances could be quoted. It will be generally admitted that if Australia is to prosper she must increase her production. Our economic position at present is anything but good, for our imports largely exceed our exports in value, and we have therefore a serious adverse trade balance. “We must reverse this position, and keep up the interest payments on our national debt, or we shall meet disaster. There are two ways in which ‘we may correct our position. One is by reducing our expenditure, and the other by increasing our production. A reduction of expenditure would, I am afraid, inevitably lead to a reduction in wages. It has been said that honorable members on this side of the committee favour reductions in wages ; but we believe in keeping wages as high as possible so long as they are earned. The higher the wages are, provided that industry can afford to pay them, the better it is for everybody; but high wages cannot be maintained except by increasing production.
-Will the honorable member tell me how many men are cutting coal at Kandos ?
– I cannot say.
– I dare say the whole of the coal that is cut there could be wheeled out in barrows.
– I have mentioned that mine as an illustration. The honorable member for Adelaide (Mr. Yates) gave us to understand a few days ago that when he was engaged on piece-work years ago the employers took advantage of his ability and cut the rates, which resulted in a reduction of Avages. I admit that that kind of thing is liable to happen; but in America the employers and employees have been able to make satisfactory arrangements to safeguard the system, and we should be able to do so here. I believe that piecework and payment by results would be distinctly advantageous to the workers and would certainly help us to overtake our adverse trade balance. It would also be a further step towards co-operation and harmony in industry. I trust, therefore, that the Government will accept my amendment.
.- The object of the honorable member is to have piece-work and payment by results mentioned specifically in the definition of “ industrial matters “, but that is unnecessary, for they are already included in that definition. The definition reads - “ Industrial matters “ includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, reward, hours, privileges, rights, or duties of employers or employees, or the mode, terms, and conditions of employment or non-employment; and in particular, but
Piece-work and payment by results have been in operation in Australia for many years, notably in the pastoral and coal mining industries. ‘The court has power to provide piece-Avork rates when it considers it to be desirable to do so. I suggest that rather than give a specific indication to the judge that they shouid provide piece-work rates, the matter should be left open, so that every case could be considered on its merits. In the circumstances, the Government feels that ‘there is no necessity for accepting the amendment.
– As one who is interested in industrial peace, I favour the adoption of piecework by industrialists. I cannot understand why the Attorney-General has rejected the amendment, for it appears to me to be quite consistent with the object of the Government, which is to give the judges greater power in the* framing of awards. The proposal is pertinent to the bill, and if it is adopted will have an excellent economic effect. Payment for time has brought this country into a very unsatisfactory position, and payment by results would restore prosperity to it. A number of powerful Australian trade unions favour piece-work and payment by result. The principle is adopted in the pastoral industry and also in the mining industry.
– The miners have worked themselves out of a job.
– I do not think so. I heard the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) deliver a very intelligent speech in this chamber a few nights ago, in the course of which he said that the substitution of oil fuel for coal had seriously affected the coalmining industry. He said that, while the miners were willing to work and the mine owners willing to employ them, there was no market for coal. It was not piece-work that put the miners out of employment. We shall have to adopt piece-work in our secondary industries in order to place them upon a competitive basis. So long as our primary industries are given fair play, they will be able to face world competition, but under present conditions our secondary industries are languishing. If piecework methods were adopted they would soon become prosperous. I commend the honorable member for Riverina for introducing the amendment.
– I support the amendment. The introduction of piece-work into industry would beneficially affect the nation. The adoption of the principle of the basicwage has brought the good tradesman down to the level of the indifferent worker, and only, payment by results will restore him to the position he deserves. I should like to quote some remarks by Mr. Justice Powers on this subject. They refer to the workers in the hat industry, and read as follows : -
In 1914 the felt hatters obtained an award on piece-work rates, and none of their employers would now dare to try to enforce wage rates on them. At piece-work rates they increased their rates by 50 per cent, in many cases, and by at least 25 per cent, in others. To get the higher incomes - in special cases f 12 a week - they did not work anything like 48 hours. The -hours were reduced to 38 a week generally, and the men found it unnecessary to work on Saturdays at all. No one would induce the shearers - members of a big Australian union - to work at a weekly wage after having been for years at piece-work rates. The position summed up was: - The employers were quite willing to pay members according to the quantity of work produced and the value of the work done, but the union refused to agree to do the work in the only fair way that it could be done on that basis, namely, at piece-work rates.
That shows what a man can earn when he is on piece-work. He does a good day’s work, knowing that he will be paid accordingly. When two men are on similar work, one unskilled and the other a skilled worker, both receiving the same wage, the skilled man is naturally brought to the level of the unskilled worker. Industry is not now receiving a proper equivalent for the money paid in wages, and it is absolutely impossible for it to carry on under those conditions. I have previously stated that bricklayers used to lay 1,000 bricks a day of eight hours, but now they are forbidden by their unions to lay more than 400 bricks a day, which is scandalous. Sworn evidence taken before the Public Works Committee discloses that bricklayers in the Federal Territory lay only from 250 to 300 bricks a day.
– Nonsense! That is not correct.
– The honorable member should read the evidence. The system of day labour is absolutely absurd. Plasterers should be able to plaster 100 yards a day, yet in this Territory they are doing only 30 yards a day, according to sworn evidence* tendered to the Public Works Committee. It is but fair that men should be paid for what they do. Industry cannot pay for more than it receives. I have much pleasure in supporting the amendment, and I hope that the Attorney-General will include the provision in the bill.
Question - That the proposed new caluse (Mr. Killer’s amendment) be inserted - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed new clause negatived.
– Honorable members may remember that a point was raised by the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) about the difficulties which, it was suggested, had arisen in a particular case by reason of a single judge giving an interpretation of an award as to hours, when the award itself could be made only by three judges.
Without agreeing with the honorable member that that had been done in the case in question, I do agree with him that the policy of the act being that variations of standard hours should be made only on a decision of three judges, it is desirable to provide against a variation in the standard hours of work in an industry being made, in effect; though not in form, by an interpretation order. Upon consideration of the matter it occurred to me that the same problem might well arise in connexion with the variation of an award. Take an award which can be made only by three, judges, because it orders 44 hours instead of 48, or because it orders 48 hours instead of 44 a week. It may be that such an award has been made, and that an application is lodged for a variation of the award. As the act stands, that application for a variation of the existing award can be heard by a single judge. That again does not appear to be right, and accordingly I move; -
That the following new clause be added: - “ 13a. After section eighteen a of the principal act the following section is inserted: - 18a a. Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, where -
) an interpretation is given of any term of an award which interpretation declares that the standard hours of work fixed by the award in an industry or in a section of an industry are more or less than those theretofore in fact observed in that industry or section as being the standard hours of work fixed by that award; or
) a variation of an award is made affecting the standard hours of work fixed by that award in an industry or in a section of an industry, the interpretation or variation shall have no force or effect unless it is considered by the court constituted by the Chief Judge and not less than two other judges and is approved by a majority of the members of the court.’.”
Honorable members will understand that this does not affect any existing rights; that it applies to the future and says, in effect, that variations and interpretations, the result of which is to alter the standard hours, shall be subject to the same general rule as awards themselves - they must- be considered by the Chief Judge and at least two other judges.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
– I move -
That after clause 39 the following new clause be inserted: - “ 39a. After section forty-nine of the principal act the following section is inserted: - 49a. An employee entitled to the benefit of an award may at any time within six months from any payment by way of wages in accordance with the award becoming due to him, but not later, sue for the same in any court of competent jurisdiction.’.”
This new clause is designed to confer on employees a direct statutory right to sue within sx months for wages due to them under an award. In the awards of the court time limits arc fixed, hut they vary greatly. For example, the time limit fixed in the blacksmiths’ award is three months, in the engineers’ award six months; in the fruitgrowers’ award three months, and in the timber workers’ award, nine months. It is quite easy to standardize these matters and that is the object of this provision, which is similar to section 49 of the New South Wales Industrial Arbitration Act which provides a limitation of six months. This period seems to be sufficiently long in the case of what are almost universally weekly wages. The employer will thus be able to know his position without any risk of being sued for arrears beyond a period of six months, and the employee will also know what the period is in respect of each award.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Schedule consequentially amended, and agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill . reported with amendments.
Standing orders suspended; report adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Latham) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
I wish to say one or two words on the third reading of this bill. We have fought its obnoxious clauses - and there are many - inch by inch, and line by line. We have succeeded in bringing about a few slight modifications of those clauses. I regret that this Parliament has, by passing this legislation, struck a severe blow at the principle of arbitration, and this party will take the earliest opportunity of repealing its obnoxious provisions. It has been said by some that we have fought this bill because we desire to make it an election issue. My answer is this: Let the Government at this late hour drop this measure and co-operate with us in remedying the imperfections of the existing act. If that is done, it cannot be said that we have fought this bill for election purposes. We are in earnest on the subject of arbitration, and we regret that a blow has been struck at it. We desire, even at this stage, to cooperate with the Government in . wiping out the penal clauses of this bill, and drafting other provisions that will make for a better law and restore the confidence of the people in the principle of arbitration.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 13
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 11 June 1928, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1928/19280611_reps_10_119/>.