11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I lay on the table papers relating to the coal-mining industry, and give notice that to-morrow I shall move -
That the papers be printed.
– Does the Prime Minister propose to make any announcement to the House regarding the proposal that this Parliament shall adjourn on the 8th March to suit the convenience of a conference that is to meet in Canberra, or are honorable members to be dependent upon the newspapers for announcements of Government policy?
– The Government does not propose to ask the House to adjourn on the 8th March. In September last . I was informed by the leaders of Rotary that it was proposed to hold an interstate conference of Rotary clubs this year, and as it was necessary to make arrangements a long time in advance, they desired some information as to the possibility of making Canberra, instead of one of the State capital cities, the venue. I expressed my opinion that it was most desirable that such a representative conference should be held in Canberra in order to help the people of Australia to realize that the National Capital is the most suitable place for all great gatherings of an Australian character. “When I was asked whether Parliament would be sitting in March, I said that it was impossible to say what would happen after the appeal to the people ; but that if, after the election, I was in a position to facilitate the holding of the conference, I would he glad to do so. Honorable members will agree that, in normal circumstances, they would not be inconvenienced if the House adjourned for a week to make accommodation available for the holding of a conference of this character. Owing to the amount of business to be dealt with before Easter, I have acquainted the Rotary leaders that it will not be possible for Parliament to adjourn and so make available the extra hotel accommodation that is required. Arrangements are being made, however, for from 100 to 150 of their delegates to be accommodated in Queanbeyan.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral been advised by telegram from Messrs. Ingram, of Sydney, that loyal and volunteer timber workers are being intimidated and assaulted? If so, what action does the Government propose to take?
– I have received several such telegrams, and have replied that if the senders will forward to the Crown Solicitor the testimony of available witnesses as to breaches of the law, full consideration will be given to the matter.
– In view of the statement by Mr. James McDougall, at the opening of the Industrial Peace Conference in Sydney, that the Commonwealth is overloaded with a class of industrial legislation which is largely futile and incapable of providing a remedy for industrial unrest, will the Prime Minister take steps to remove from the statutebook the Transport Workers Act, which is one of the measures referred to by Mr. McDougall?
– I do not know what justification the honorable member has for saying that the Transport Workers Act is one of the measures referred to by Mr. McDougall. However, I accept no responsibility for the opinions of private individuals. Although the honorable member appears to be prepared to endorse the views of Mr. McDougall regarding the industrial legislation of the Commonwealth, no serious member of the House would subscribe to such a criticism in relation to the Transport Workers Act.
– I ask the Treasurer whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce legislation to provide for the granting of reasonable pensions to necessitous widows having dependent children ?
– It is not usual to announce items of Government policy by way of answers to questions.
– Does the Minister for Repatriation intend to submit to the House before the Easter adjournment, a measure to provide for the appointment of an Appeal Board in connexion with repatriation ?
– It is the intention of the Government to bring down a bill before Easter.
– What steps is the Prime Minister taking to enable the member chosen by the electors of the Northern Territory to take his seat in this chamber ?
– The Attorney-General has given notice of the introduction of a bill to amend the Electoral Act, and if Parliament agrees to it, the chosen representative of the Northern Territory will be able to take his seat almost at once.
– I have been informed by Captain Crawford, of the Aorangi, of a wonderful wireless apparatus or position finder which is fitted to his and other ships and which enables vessels to ascertain exactly their position in bad and foggy weather by communicating with shore stations equipped with radio. None of the Australian shore stations is fitted with this device, but had the Kanowna been able to take advantage of this system, she would not have met with disaster. Will the Prime Minister consider the urgency of installing at Moreton Bay, Sydney Heads, Wilson’s Promontory and Queenscliff the necessary radio apparatus so that vessels may be able to ascertain their position when unfavorable weather makes impossible the usual observations?
– I shall give consideration to the honorable member’s suggestion.
– It is reported from Dubbo that the Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. Abbott) issued a warning at a meeting that he addressed there that the people should be prepared for a possible federal election. He added that the election would probably result in a stalemate, and that two elections might be held next year. Will the Minister take the House into his confidence and let honorable members know when he expects the first of these two elections to take place?
– The question does not concern the administration of my department.
– A statement appears in the press this morning to the effect that an Australian Commercial Representative in Canada had been appointed. I ask the Prime Minister whether he does not think that announcements regarding appointments ‘ to important public position should be made in this House, when Parliament is sitting, before they are made in the press? Will the right honorable gentleman inform honorable members of the duties connected with this office; the period of the appointment, and the salary and allowance that has been fixed?
– Announcements of important public appointments, or of other important public matters, should, as far as possible, be made first in Parliament when Parliament is sitting. But it will be realized that a considerable amount of negotiation is at times necessary before an appointment can be made, and in some cases it is imperative that immediately the appointment is made it should be announced. This is much more desirable than for indirect statements to appear in the press. The period of the appointment to which the honorable member has referred, is five years and the salary £3,000 per annum. The duty of the appointee is generally to represent the commercial interests of. Australia in Canada.
– Has the Prime Minister yet received definite information from the Australian representative in the United States of America respecting the proposed alterations of the American customs duties on Australian primary products? Has he observed that certain Canadian provinces are taking definite action along these lines; if so, does he know how this action will effect Australia ?
– Communications on this subject have been received from the Australian representative in the United States of America, but I am unable to give the honorable member any exact information. I ask him to put his question on the notice-paper.
– Has the attention of the Minister for Markets been drawn to the poor quality of the fruit being offered for sale on the Albury railway platform ? Seeing that thousands of overseas and interstate visitors pass through this station weekly the display of soft fruit of poor quality there is a bad advertisement for Australia. Will the Minister undertake to get in touch with the railway authorities with the object of remedying the complaint? If any difficulty is experienced in securing firstclass fruit, I can assure him that South Australia can overcome it.
– This matter is entirely under the supervision of the New South Wales Government.
– I have received the following letter from Mr. J ames Bede
As soon as I get the means, I am coming back to Sydney. The shipowners’ treatment of me was despicable. I am debarred from following my occupation. In fact, they will not have me in any industrial union of employees. I am prepared to back up my affidavit in court and also give a lot more useful facts concerning Longmore and Walsh; also about disbursement of moneys. No doubt they put it across mo, but I am able with very little assistance to blow the prosecution. It was a frame up from beginning to end. Neither Rigby nor Powell heard Johnson utter the alleged words at the meetings, and the affair at Montana House was very dubious. Walsh, Longmore and myself were in the habit of taking tea together. As far back as last July, whilst taking morning tea, Longmore said to Walsh, “ Andresen and I will get him out to Long Bay and then you will have a clear run with your new union.”
Longmore, Walsh and I used to draw up our plans in a tea room situated in Macquarie Place. Longmore also sent me to get information concerning Tudehope and Kavanagh. I intend to blow this prosecution. Probably I will be convicted for conspiracy, but I am consoled with the thought that others will go along with me.
In view of the stated intention of Mr. Andresen voluntarily to return to Australia, will the Attorney-General undertake to institute a full inquiry into all the circumstances surrounding the prosecution and conviction of Jacob Johnson ?
– I point out that, although the letter which the” honorable member has read states that neither Rigby nor Powell heard Johnson utter the words he is alleged to have used at the meetings of the union, Johnson in his own evidence swears that these men were present. If Andresen returns to Australia I shall certainly go into the matter further.
– On two different occasions I have asked the right honorable the Prime Minister to ascertain if the report of the commission appointed to inquire into the disabilities of South Australia under federation is ready and when it will be laid on the table of the House. A press report published recently stated that the chairman of the commission (Sir Joseph Cook) bad intimated that the report had been forwarded to the Government. I now ask the Prime Minister will the report be printed and made available to honorable members before the Financial Agreement Validation Bill is discussed in this House?
– I have not seen a statement by Sir Joseph Cook that the report has been forwarded to the Government, but I think there must be some misunderstanding because a question is being asked in another place to-day and I know that inquiries having been made, the information we have is that the report is being revised by the commission, which hopes that it will be completed very shortly, when it will be sent to the printer. With regard to the second part of the honorable member’s question, I am afraid it will not be possible to have the report ready and available for honorable members prior to the debate on the bill to validate the financial agreement between the Commonwealth and the States.
Housing - Leases - Water Supply
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
– On the 14th February the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I am now in a position to supply the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Does the Federal Capital Commission propose to enforce the forfeiture penalty where buildings have not been erected on leases within the period required by the lease covenant?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow; -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Having regard to the great benefit derived by sufferers from pernicious anaemia through the use of liver extract, will he consider the advisability of arranging for the production of this extract in the Commonwealth laboratories ?
– The advisability of preparing liver extract has been very carefully considered. It is evident that it is better for the present to engage the staff of the laboratories upon other products which are more urgently required and which are not so readily available. A careful estimate shows that the cost of locally produced extract would not be lower than that of imported extract. In response to a question of 7th
February I stated that “ no duty is charged on the importation of liver extract.” This is not quite correct. The tariff is “free from Great Britain and 10 per cent, from other countries.”
asked the Minister for
Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained as far as possible.
Overtime - Annual Report
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
Whether he will have a return prepared showing -
The total amount paid per annum to the clerical staff of the Federal Capital Commission for overtime during the past two years?
The amount paid in overtime to individual members of the staff during that period, and the names of the officials concerned?
How often have these amounts been checked by the Auditor-General?
How many new appointments have been made to the staff during the past twelve months?
How many outside workers have been dismissed during the past twelve months ?
What has been the total cost of the administrative staff of the Commission each year since the Commission was constituted?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The total amount for the past two years was £6,377 10s., or an average of £3,1.88 15s. per annum.
January, 1929, the number of new positions filled on the Commission’s staff, excluding the hospital staff, was 33. This number includes certain officers previously employed on a daily basis, who were transferred to the staff, and additional staff required for the operation of the Liquor Ordinance 1928.
These figures include the cost of the staff engaged in design and supervision of architectural and engineering works, and in the control and operation of maintenance services. The salaries of these officers are distributed over the works upon which the officers arc engaged.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I have not seen the report referred to, but am taking steps to obtain a copy, and will look into the suggestions of the honorable member.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Whether ho would lay on the table of the House all the papers relating to the leasing of Commonwealth lands at La Perouse, Sydney, to the New South Wales Golf Club?
– The papers referred to by the honorable member will be laid on the Library table.
– On the 14th February, the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked me whether I would lay on the table of the House the papers relating to Mr. Julian Simpson’s resignation from a public department, and his reappointment to his. former position. I desire to inform the honorable member that I have laid on the table of the Library the papers relating to this matter.
– On the 14th February, the Leader of the Opposition asked whether I would promise that any motion to disallow determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator under the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920-28, numbers 33 to 36, inclusive, of 1928, would be submitted to this House for debate and decision. I now wish to inform the honorable member that the Government does not propose to move a motion in the House of Representatives to disallow these determinations, but that a motion will be moved for that purpose in another place.
– On the 7th February the honorable the Leader of the Opposition asked me whether I would lay on the table of the House the whole of the papers in connexion with the negotiations which had taken place between myself and the overseas shipping companies regarding the proposed increase of shipping freights. I informed him that I would look into the matter, and see if there were any papers that could be made available; but I pointed out that the negotiations had been conducted personally between representatives of the overseas shipping companies in Australia and myself. The position is as I then explained. The negotiations were confined to the conversations to which I referred. There are no papers on the subject.
Dismissals from Postal Department.
– On the 14th February, 1929, the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) addressed to me the following questions: -
I am now in a position to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
The attention of the honorable member is also invited to the following statement which shows the number of returned soldiers temporarily engaged during October, November, December and January : -
– On the15th February the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Price) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now able to furnish the honorable member with the following information : -
– With reference to questions asked on Friday last concerning the epidemic of influenza in Europe, I have to inform honorable members that the department is in close and constant communication with the Health Organization of the League of Nations at Geneva,with the Office Internationald’Hygiene Publique at Paris, with the International Health Bureaux at Singapore, Alexandria and Washington. In addition the Commonwealth Medical Officer who is attached to the office of the High Commissioner in London, is in persona.] touch with the European centres and with the British Ministry of Health. Apart from periods of occasional violent activity at long intervals, influenza normally appears in most countries in a seasonal prevalence between the autumn and the spring. These annual waves follow a definite course. A few scattered cases of the disease appear in a locality, infection then spreads through a greater or less proportion of the community, and after this so-called “ peak period’, the epidemic declines. The whole spread of the epidemic is usually about four or five weeks. Since this epidemic prevalence follows a definite seasonal course, each country has a more or less definite annual recurrence of infection, some years showing a greater number of cases and deaths than others. In Australia there was a widespread wave of influenza between the months of September and December last. Simultaneously, there was a number of outbreaks of influenza amongst the Pacific Island groups. For the most part these outbreaks were mile! in character. At Rotuma, however, which missed the influenza of 1918-19, there was a higher mortality with 31 deaths in a population of 2,400. In New Zealand there was no appreciable increase in the notified cases of either influenza or pneumonia during the year. In the middle of October there was a sudden rise in influenza prevalence in California. This declined during November and had ended by Christmas. The middle west and the Eastern States suffered at a later date. The infection was of the usual influenzal type without any undue mortality. On the Continent influenzawas prevalent, especially in Germany and France. Cabled advice received from the Commonwealth Medical Officer in London reported the type of infection as “ benign “. In England and Wales there was only a very slight increase in the deaths from influenza by the new year. The last winter of 1927-28 wasa light season for influenza. By the new year the deaths from influenza and the notifications of pneumonia had not reached the figures attained during the corresponding week of last year. The figures quoted in press reports are ambiguous, but however interpreted do not show a prevalence comparable to that which obtained, for instance, during the winter of 1926-27. It may be added that experience shows that prevalence of influenza in Australia has no time relation with prevalence in England.
The following papers were presented : -
Railways Act - Report, with Appendices, on Commonwealth Railway Operations for 1927-28.
Ordered to be printed -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 18.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 19.
Nationality Act - Return for 1928.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1929, No. 13.
Public Service Act - Postmaster-General’s Department - Appointments of R. M. Osborne, H. R. Adam. R. G. Dodds, W. H. Walker and L. B. Nicholls.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Abbott) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr.Paterson) agreed to-
That he have leave to bring in a bill for an act relating to the export of wine and for other purposes.
Debate resumed from 15th February (vide page 347), on motion by Mr. Bruce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- I oppose the bill, but before stating my reasons for doing so, I deem it my duty, as a new member of this House, to pay a compliment to the gentleman whom I have succeeded. I found, when travelling through the electorate of Hunter, that Mr. Mathew Charlton had won the confidence of his constituents. No man was ever held in higher esteem. He is recognized, not only by the electors of Hunter, but also by the whole of the workers of Australia, as one of the ablest men that has ever entered this Parliament. The work that he has performed will stand to his credit for all time. He was always reliable and his word was his bond.
I am opposed to this bill because it has been introduced solely in the interests of the privileged classes of society, and it is aimed at the degradation of the working classes, being the forerunner of an onslaught on their standard of living. The Government is preparing for a general attack upon the transport workers’ organizations, and especially the coal miners’ organization, which for years I had the pleasure of representing. The workers of that organization will be directly concerned because they provide the fuel whereby transportation is made possible. The Prime Minister will find it extremely difficult to justify his statement of last Friday, that the object of the Government in introducing the bill is to bring about peace in industry.
How can it be expected to achieve that object when it compels men to take “‘it licences and work alongside persons who, although called loyalists, are really strike breakers? Some honorable members opposite strongly object to these men being termed scabs; but they are worse than scabs. A scab covers a certain amount of corruption whilst they cover all corruption. Those honorable members opposite who take exception to the use of the word scab, and encourage scabs in their scabbery are worse than scabs. In the event of a general upheaval in the coal industry, I suppose persons such as those to whom I am referring will be placed in the mines ; but surely the people of Australia do not want a repetition of what happened in the mines in 1917, when a sum of £25,000 was paid to one coal-owner alone - Mr. John Brown- - for the destruction caused by the employment of inexperienced men. There is also incitement to trade unionists when driven desperation by seeing other men taking the bread and butter from the mouths of their wives and children to take the scabs by the neck as they did in 1917. The miners will become desperate; and opportunities to men who are desperate do happen underground. I shall say no more on that point; but I leave honorable members to judge what may happen if men of the type to which I have referred are again placed in the coal mines. The unionists employed on the coal-fields are fighting only for the observance of a federal award, but apparently nobody cares to intervene on their behalf. The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) on the one hand says it is a matter which comes within the jurisdiction of the State, and the Premier of New South Wales (Mr Bavin) on the other, says it is a Federal matter. Where do we stand ? The facts of the case are known to both. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) is acquainted with the award under which the unionists employed in the coal mines are working to-day. A deliberate attempt is being made to disregard an arbitration award, and I definitely and emphatically assert that the Prime Minister is behind the coal’ owners in the attitude they are adopting. For a number of years the coal-miners have accepted the principle of arbitration; but some of the awards under which they are working are of such a nature as to shake their faith in the principle. In connexion, with the Stockton Borehole dispute the proprietors agreed to allow the Minister for Labour and Industry in New South Wales to preside and hear evidence; but after the evidence had been taken, they objected to Mr. Farrar making an award. The miners had to accept the situation. Yet we are told that they are never satisfied. They had to return to work on the terms of the coal owners, who, for a number of months, had been filching from them conditions which had been fought for, and paid dearly for in the past. Concessions which were granted as far back as 1893 have been deliberately withdrawn by the proprietors’ organizations, which will not now obey arbitration awards. Such conditions cannot continue indefinitely, and although the miners may be defeated to-day, they will not be broken in spirit. They will regain their former strength and will see the futility of the present system of organizing. You are forcing them into one big union, whose members will recognize that their interests are identical. Although they may be defeated for a time they will ultimately achieve victory by bringing about a change in the present system of production, which is for profit instead of for use. Those who do not uphold the present system of exploitation, whereby a few become rich at the expense of the many, are termed bolsheviks. I suppose honorable members read what the Bishop of Bathurst said the other day. His words were somewhat to this effect: “If wealth, education and social refinement Continue to produce nothing but selfishness those at the bottom of the social ladder will upend and pull down those people who have so long denied them the sunlight and the spaciousness to which they are equally entitled to as the people who are enjoying them to-day.” Under the measure we are now discussing, the workers in the timber industry will be compelled to take out licences for the right to work and to earn from £4 10s. to £6 a week; whilst at the same time the Government has introduced a bill to amend the Tariff Board Act which provides that members of the board are to receive six guineas a sitting. It is ridiculous to expect a working man to maintain a wife and family on from £4 10s. a week and at the same time to provide fees of six guineas a sitting for men who are engaged in other callings and who are able to accept bribes from big importers.
The workers have to toil long hours, but among the more fortunate members of the community, the higher their pay, the fewer the hours they work. I came straight from the coal mines to this chamber, having worked right up to the day I was elected. I have been working since I was thirteen years of age, and some of my comrades have not beds as soft as the carpeted floors on which we walk in this chamber; yet they are called bolshevists if they insist upon their rights. The workers are entitled to a greater share of what they produce, because everything that is of value to the community is produced by labour. In my electorate some families are forced to live in hovels without furniture, and with very little food, and still it is proposed to pay members ofthe Tariff Board £6 6s. a sitting. Oppression of the kind contemplated in thisbill- merely has the effect of unifying the workers whom it is designed to crush. So long as I am a member of this Parliament my voice will be raised in the interests of the class to which I belong. There are some who say that it is not right for a man to be class conscious; but in this I am merely taking my cue from the Prime Minister, who is undoubtedly the most class conscious man who ever occupied that position in Australia. I trust that honorable members will amend the objectionable clauses of this bill, particularly those relating to the licensing officers. It is proposed to confer on the licensing officers power to victimize any trade union leader who dares to advise his members as to what they should do to carry out the decisions of the union. It is proposed to give the licensing officers the power to withhold licences from such leaders, thus denying men the right to work. I hope that we shall be able to convince honorable members opposite that such clauses at least should be withdrawn.
.- During the recent election campaign . I told my constituents that I would support the proposal of the Government to amend the Transport Workers Act. I believe that the Government is sincere in its endeavour to prevent the disorganization of industry and to reduce unemployment among the workers. I am sorry that there are so many persons who have a different opinion, and seem suspicious of the Government’s motives. The last speaker said that this measure was designed to overthrow trade unionism. I have a great belief in trade unionism, and so, I think, has the Prime Minister. What is unreasonable about these amendments, in any case? Those who object to the measure are very ready to describe as scabs, persons who accept the work which unionists refuse to take. I think there must be two kinds of scabs. In my opinion, the man who refuses to work under the laws of his country, laws that he himself helped to put on the statutebook, is scabbing on his country. The person who takes up that work in place of one who refused to do it is not a scab but a patriot. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) spoke about taking the bread out of the mouths of the women and children ; but what do they do who hold up the shipping on our coasts, thus interrupting industry and throwing others out of work? Are they not taking the bread out ‘of the mouths of women and children? Are they not preventing the children of Western Australia and other places, from obtaining the sugar which they need? When I read the speech which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition delivered recently in Sydney, I thought how different it was from one given by Mr. Ramsay MacDonald in Canada while I was there. I have before me an extract from the Montreal Gazette in which Mr. MacDonald is reported as follows: - “ I have no fear for our race, for our Empire, for our kith and kin, provided we maintain the qualities of the fathers who begat us. The British race was never’ carried to the skies on flowery beds of ease.’ We must encourage that capacity for labour.’ I have no sympathy for the man or woman who has the spoonfed notion of life. I admire those men and women who are willing to explore, passing from valley to valley. “ Old England lias her troubles,” Mr. MacDonald said, “but make no mistake about it. Old England is coming out of them with flying colours. “ We have shouldered a great debt. Let me tell you this: That debt will be paid to tlie last farthing. It matters not if we consider it fair or unfair. Our country’s name has been placed to that document, and it becomes a pledge. The Old Country is reviving its youth, and the next generation will be placed in possession of a splendid heritage.”
If tlie honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) had spoken in Sydney in such terms, I believe that it would have done much to bring about peace in industry. We are hearing every clay of attacks being made on honest citizens who desire to accept work under tlie laws of the country, and those who make such attacks are being encouraged by the utterances of the accredited leaders of the Labour party. The workers in this country should realize that they cannot take out of industry more than they put into it.
The relations between employers and employees are very different in the United States of America from what they are here, as I observed when I was in that country recently. Labouring men in America are not so much politicians as ours are. They recognize that in order to get big returns for themselves they must work for a large output. Iu Canada the same spirit prevails, though perhaps to a lesser extent. The workmen there are receiving wages at least as high as those paid in Australia, and yet the manufacturers are prospering, and are able to compete successfully against their Australian rivals. By bolstering up industries with tariff duties we are only increasing the cost of living, and having less to put into our business, there is less to be taken out. If men apply to the Arbitration Court for awards and then refuse to accept them, they cannot set themselves above the law and the rest of the community. They may refuse to sell their own labour at the price awarded by the Court, but they cannot deny the right to anybody else to work within the law. The unionists already in employment have a preference, if they will obey the laws which they themselves brought into being. It is idle to talk about the starvation of women and children, and to describe men who accept work under the awards as scabs. Certain services of the community must be continued at any cost, and no section can claim to be greater than the whole. That is why I can conscientiously support the original Transport Workers Act and the amendments proposed by this bill. I believe that if the House would agree unanimously to these proposals, and counsel obedience to them when they become law, greater happiness and prosperity would be enjoyed by every section of the community.
.- The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that a man who breaks a law that he helped to make is more a scab than the man who helps to break a strike against that law. Honorable members on this side of the House have . contended for years past that the workers have not helped to make the existing Commonwealth arbitration law, and they will have nothing to do with the industrial legislation which the present Government has placed on the statute-book. The Arbitration Act is a travesty on arbitration; it is merely a criminal code designed to make felons of men who have done more to develop this country than the honorable member for Forrest is ever likely to do. Because arbitration has been degraded into something that decent people cannot touch, we on this side of the House are opposed to it. Because of the injustice that has been done in the name of arbitration, there is actual and threatened industrial turmoil throughout Australia. The honorable member said that certain services must be maintained at any cost, and last week we heard one of his colleagues gloating over the fact that coal can be imported from the United Kingdom more cheaply than it can be produced locally. I suppose that, so long as essential services are maintained, the starvation pf women and children in the coal-mining areas of the Old Country, the industrial hells of Europe, female labour in mines, children operating dangerous machinery, and flogged by brutal bosses if tired nature asserts itself, and they fall asleep at their jobs, are, in the opinion of those honorable members, a reasonable price to pay for them. Perhaps the honorable member for Forrest would welcome a revival of the conditions that existed in Australia in 1888, when two men were jailed in Victoria for conspiring to raise wages! That is the sort of price that the honorable member thinks should be paid for the maintenance of services, and that is the tendency of the legislation placed on the statute-book by the present Government. The Labour party opposed the present Arbitration Act, and will oppose the measure now before the House to the last ditch. We have been asked why, if we do’ not like this bill, we do not attempt to improve it. Our reply is that the bill is essentially bad. It is founded on inequity, and is designed for a malicious purpose; therefore, it is entitled to nothing but continuous and unqualified hostility. We shall have nothing to do with it. The Prime Minister pretended to explain the genesis of this legislation ; but its history goes back much further than the strike of the waterside workers. It originated with the hatching of that political infamy, the Composite Government, whose legislation has been designed to create industrial upheavals, so that with catch-cries of “ bolshevism,” “ revolution,” “ the Reds,” and “ law and order,” the pact parties might retain their hold on the reins of government. The industrial turmoil is the product of the political necessities of honorable members opposite, and their destitution of statesmanship great enough to lift the country out of the economic slough of despond into which it has been sinking as a direct consequence of the war. They Have progressed from industrial turmoil to industrial turmoil in order to deceive the people.
Three days after the announcement of the Prime Minister that the elections would be held on the 17th November, the Beeby award was made. To some honorable members and sections of the general public, that may appear only a coincidence; but to my mind it suited too well the political ambitions of the ministerialists to be so regarded. Mr. Justice Beeby had been considering his award for months, and I cannot regard the announcement of it on a date so opportune for the Government as an accident. The awarding of two pick-up places was not the mistake of an arbitrator, but the deliberate decision of a judge. Irritated by the new conditions that were imposed upon them, the men refused to work. The Prime Minister shed crocodile tears of sympathy for the poor men who, he said, were misguided by their militant boss leaders. He knows quite well that, on this occasion, the men acted in defiance of the advice of their leaders. Both political and industrial leaders counselled the men to return to work and swallow the Beeby award. They were actually at work again on the Sydney waterfront, and it seemed certain that the trouble would be at an end within a week, when the Prime Minister introduced the Transport Workers Bill, which was obviously designed for the one purpose of keeping the men out on strike in order to create a political atmosphere favorable to the Government. A strong supporter of the Nationalist party who resides near my home admitted to me one evening that he believed the Prime Minister wanted the strike to occur, ana that a lot of Nationalists were of the sams, opinion, and were getting tired of such tactics. Perhaps that is one reason why the Government majority shrank so much at the last election. Honorable members opposite cannot continue to engineer these strikes always; people are getting tired of the incessant- talk of industrial warfare, lt is a remarkable fact that, during the six years the present Government has been in office, there has been incessant industrial warfare or rumours of warfare. This is a proof of the failure and ineptitude of the Government to bring peace to industry. Even the employers who are -meeting the workers in conference say that they did not want this legislation, which is calculated only to irritate the men. The Prime Minister expressed a lot of sympathy for the poor misguided men who were misled by the industrial leaders. He had not a word of sympathy for the unfortunates who were cajoled by the employers to accept work on the. vessels, where they were murdered as deliberately as if they had been shot with guns or knifed. Being inexperienced, they could not do this work work without sacrificing their lives, and many of them were added to the large number of people who have been murdered by the industrial machine. The Prime Minister posed as a strong man, who would protect women and children from the terrorism of the bombers. I believe that American methods of industrial warfare are being introduced into this country very rapidly, and that investigation -would prove that the bombs were thrown by criminals hired by the shipping companies who support the Government, in order to create a helpful political psychology. Such tactics are common in America, and the workers have to face them in every strike. Organizations exist for no other purpose than to hire members of the underworld to hop in when there is big industrial turmoil, and, by violence and murder, provide an appearance of justification for the use of the military forces to shoot down the workers and break their spirit. The history of American industrialism shows that this policy has been adopted on innumerable occasions. What purpose could the throwing of bombs serve? Our industrialists are not madmen. They would not deliberately hire bomb-throwers to go out on their behalf, for they would know that to do so would stir up public opinion and a press campaign against themselves. They know too well that that kind of thing only assists their political opponents. If, then, this bomb business was not instigated by the industrialists - and no intelligent person could think it was - it must ha.ve been instigated by our opponents, who desire to see the industrialists crushed and overwhelmed.
The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) quoted with approval certain statements made in a. manifesto issued by the Australian Workers Union, which has just concluded its conference at Coolangatta, Queensland. This manifesto declared that the problem of unemployment was vexed and complex, and could not be easily solved. We have never suggested that a fairy wand could be waved, and all the difficulties banished. It was also stated in the manifesto that unemployment was universal. The veriest tyro in economics realizes that, so long as the present capitalistic system prevails, unemployment must continue to be universal. It is as necessary to the capitalistic system as breath is to the human body. The honorable member also drew attention to the reference in the Australian Workers
Union manifesto to the necessity for the social control of industry. He seemed to think that he had made a great discovery. The fact is that, from the earliest days of the Labour movement, long before the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) Avas associated with it, the social control of industry has been advocated. The old formula might have been a little different from the present one, but the substitution for production for profit, of production for use, has always been the objective of Labour. Unemployment can be completely abolished only when industry is socially controlled. But, under the present system, wise legislation and efficient organization could reduce unemployment to a minimum. Whenever Labour governments have administered the affairs of. the country, in the Federal or State sphere, unemployment has been reduced. It is a matter of common knowledge that, immediately the Lang Government went out- of office and the Bavin Government took charge, of the affairs of New South Wales, unemployment increased. While it is undeniable that a government may,” by care and foresight, reduce * unemployment, it is also true that it may by indifference or design intensify it. I contend that the object of this bill is to increase unemployment. The Government is endeavouring, at the request of vested interests in this country, to bring our economic standard down to the level of other countries.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) observed, in the course of his speech, that, in his experience, the only persons in the community who objected to the Crimes Act were those who contemplated crime. That is a direct and unwarranted reflection upon the trade unions of Australia, which have consistently opposed legislation of the class which we are now considering. By inference the honorable member for Fawkner has accused our trade unionists of being criminals. Of course, the honorable member ought to know a good deal about criminals, for he frequently makes strenuous efforts to prevent them from being punished for committing breaches of fie law. I have no doubt that, if any persons who may commit breaches of the industrial law, have sufficient money to engage the honorable member to defend them, he will do hia utmost to keep them out of gaol.
We have been asked to make suggestions for stabilizing industry in Australia. I realize that it is often easy enough to indulge in destructive criticism, but hard indeed to propose a constructive policy. However, I have a few suggestions to offer the Government. If it desires peace in industry I suggest that it should scrap the whole of the present legislation and introduce a comprehensive measure which would provide for the fixing of profits as well as wags; by arbitration. An exhaustive inquiry should also be made into our economic position. This work should be done not by conservative and class-conscious judges, but by impartial persons who would see that the fair thing was1 done by all interests. Steps should be taken to reduce the overhead charges in industry, by cutting away many industrial hangerson. It often happens that the son or the father, or some other relative, of the proprietor of an industry, who contributes nothing whatever to the prosperity of the concern, draws substantial dividends from it. Frequently several guineas are drawn by figurehead directors for attending so-called board meetings. All this adds unnecessarily and unfairly to the cost of industry. It would he wise also to institute an inquiry into the efficiency or otherwise of the plant at present in use in many industrial concerns. Methods of marketing should also be investigated. I firmly believe that if a means were evolved of preventing wages from chasing prices, with wages always a good distance behind, the situation would be wonderfully improved. If the Government would take steps to give effect to these suggestions it would receive substantial support from honorable members on this side of the chamber. It cannot be denied that from its very beginning, industrial arbitration has been designed to press heavily on one class of the community. Twelve thousand coal miners are to be thrown out of work in a few days. Will the Government call upon Mr. McDonald, the chairman of the Employers’ Federation, to show cause why he should not be penalized for inciting the mine owners to lock out their employees? This man has been breaking our industrial law for the last month, but not a word has been said about it by honorable members opposite.
– He is one of the worst agitators in Australia.
– That is so. Why is it that it is impossible under our industrial law to prove that a lockout has been caused? We have challenged the Attorney General (Mr. Latham) to show how this could be done under the existing law, but the challenge has not been accepted. The whole trouble with our arbitration system is that it is applicable, in its penal provisions particularly, only to employees. I suggest that if it is reasonable to fix a basic wage, it is reasonable to fix a basic profit. This basic profit should apply to every necessity of life and industry. Just as we allow a margin for skill in industry so we could allow a margin for luxury; but the ratio between wages and profits should always be maintained. If such a system were brought into operation we should have peace in industry. It should not be possible for employers to request the Arbitration Court to declare that an industry cannot be carried on without an increase in hours of work and a decrease in wages. This measure was conceived because the political .bankruptcy oT the Government was imminent. It was the gambler’s last throw of the dice for another three years of power. It is one of those devices to stampede the mob which this Government has used ever since it has been in office, and by which alone it has lived. It is a deliberate declaration of war against trade unionism, and all representatives of industrial organizations must and will oppose it to the last ditch.
.- A considerable amount of heat has been imparted into the debate by honorable members opposite. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat (Mr. Lazzarini) made special reference to certain regulations promulgated under the Transport Workers Act, to . which, in this measure, the Government seeks to give the effect of statute law. The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) when introducing the Transport Workers Bill towards the end of the last
Parliament, indicated that time did not permit of the Government giving full legislative effect to its proposals to deal with the then existing dispute on the waterfront, where a serious crisis had been precipitated. The bill now before honorable members honours the promise which the right honorable gentleman then gave to the House. I was particularly struck with certain remarks of the honorable member for Werriwa. He suggested that since the Transport Workers Act had been passed by this Government, it was hardly reasonable to expect a certain section of the community to obey it. This, I submit, is a serious statement, coming as it does from a representative of the people. Under our democratic form of Government no legislative proposal can be passed unless it has the approval of the majority of the members, and no Government can command a majority unless its supporters constitute the majority of the electors of Australia. It is a dangerous doctrine to preach that in certain circumstances one section .of the community whose representatives in Parliament are in the minority, need not obey laws which were the legislative proposals of the. Government in power. There would be just as much justification for honorable members on this side of the . House to argue along the same lines in respect of measures that might be passed by a future Government representing, possibly, honorable members opposite. The honorable member for Werriwa contended, also, that the amendments made to the Arbitration Act were largely responsible for much of the present industrial unrest in Australia. Surely he forgets the serious industrial trouble that was responsible for that amending legislation, which was evolved as the most effective instrument to bring about industrial peace. But the first essential in every dislocation of industrial relations, is that the laws passed by this Parliament shall be obeyed by all the people. Only in this way can we expect to ensure peace in industry, and a fair deal to all sections of the community.
I was interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. James) and I congratulate him upon his evident sincerity. It is but fitting that he should be sincere, because he has taken the seat so long held by Mr. Charlton, one of the most sincere gentlemen we have ever had in the public life of Australia. I noted that the honorable member, referring to the bill, described it as anti-working class legislation. I was under the impression that it was anti-strike legislation. The honorable member would almost have us believe that there is only one class of workers. I remind him that there arc other sections and that one in particular - I refer to the primary producer workers - was very seriously affected by the action of the transport workers towards the end of last year. This measure is the outcome of that industrial upheaval. In introducing it the Prime Minister is honouring a promise made with, I am sure, the full support of all honorable members on this side of the House, that the primary producers would be fully protected in future. No one can gainsay that, with the exception, perhaps, of the favoured few who may be working the larger holdings and who, with them, carry big financial and other responsibilities, our primary producers, and particularly our dairymen and fruitgrowers, are workers in every sense of the word. The suicidal policy of the transport workers last year wrought a great deal of harm, not only to all the workers in Australia, but also to their wives and children. It is as well, therefore, that honorable members opposite, when they are discussing legislative measures affecting one section of industrial unionism, should remember that in the community there are other workers who are worthy of consideration, and that these industrial disturbances affect them disastrously.
I approve of the bill. It is absurd for honorable members opposite to argue that this Government is responsible for the industrial unrest in Australia. We all know that those who really are responsible are certain executives of trade union organizations whose interests, by reason of their positions in the movement, are not identical with the welfare of the people of Australia. These glib-tongued persons carry altogether too much weight in the affairs of industrial organizations. As the result the rank and file do not get a fair hearing, though, as experience has shown, industrial disturbances bring disaster upon them. I challenge honorable members opposite to cite one instance in which the workers have gained any substantial benefits from a strike. They must know that in nearly every instance devastation and ruin are the lot of the workers when they become involved in a strike; but they will not take a definite stand against this movement in the ranks of trade unionism. Possibly the explanation is to be found in the fact that a certain type of individual, of the agitator class, has altogether too much power in the affairs of the different organizations, and altogether too much power in preselecttion ballots for parliamentary candidates.
– That has always been said since the establishment of trade unionism.
– Nevertheless, it is (rue to-day, and I feel sure that if honorable members opposite would take a definite stand against the agitating element in trade unionism, the whole of the workers in Australia, constituting 90 per cent, of our population, would benefit materially. To illustrate the utter powerlessness of even strong organizations in the face of these industrial agitators, I need only mention that at one stage in the trouble on the waterfront last year, (he Waterside Workers Federation did make an attempt to persuade its members to obey the law. As a matter of fact, prior to the making of the Beeby award, it gave an undertaking, in the following terms, that the award of the court would be obeyed : -
That the committee of management of the Waterside Workers Federation hereby undertakes to advise its members to carry out the existing .awards and agreements covering the work of our members. It also undertakes to exercise all the powers conferred upon it; the federal council of the union to enforce strict compliance on the part of members with any future award made by the court and/or agreements arrived at from time to time.
Unfortunately, the federation was powerless to enforce its decision on individual members. In the circumstances, how can it be suggested that the Prime Minister was negligent of his public duty because lie did not persist in calling a conference to consider terms for the settlement of that dispute? What a ridiculous figure the right honorable gentleman would have cut if he had attempted to do anything like that. That industrial disturbance was the outcome of engineering by the agitator section of the industrial organizations concerned, and even the Waterside Workers Federation was powerless to take effective action. Fortunately better counsels prevailed in the Sydney branch of that organization. Let me remind the honorable member for Werriwa that the law applies only to those who attempt to flout it. Those who obey it have nothing to fear.
I am glad that the Prime Minister emphasized that full protection would continue to be given to the volunteer workers. The leader of the Opposition, and other honorable members opposite, made reference to our present unsatisfactory trade situation. Surely they are aware that it is only by the uninterrupted export of our principal primary products, notably our wool, that we can hope to maintain the balance of trade, and on this point I remind honorable members opposite, of the statement of the Prime Minister, that as the result of the- dispute on the waterfront last year, there was a loss in the wool export trade of about £2,000,000. Et is significant that in this discussion they had nothing to say about that phase of our industrial trouble. During my election campaign I made it clear to my constituents that I thoroughly endorsed the undertaking given by the Prime Minister to fully protect the volunteer workers. If it were possible, I should like this protection to be extended to the wives and families of all the volunteer workers. That this is desirable is evident from the statement published in the Melbourne newspapers a week or two ago, crediting Mr. Bodsworth, who, I understand, is president of the Timber Workers Union, with threatening not only volunteer workers in the timber industry, but also their wives and families. A threat of that nature should not be tolerated in a free country like Australia. It is a pity that the gentleman mentioned is not a member of the Waterside Workers Federation; because he might then be dealt with under some of the provisions of this measure. I am sure that honorable members opposite do not endorse the statement to which I refer. It is useless for partisans in industrial disturbances to emphasize the rapacity of capitalism in view of the fact that in the ranks of trade unionism itself threats are issued against even the wives and families of volunteer workers who merely do their duty to this country in a time of industrial strife. It is time for the people of Australia to take stock of the position. This is a national parliament, and it has no right to legislate in the interests of one section of the community only, whether it be the transport workers’ organization or any other body of men. The people of this country returned this Government to power, believing that in times of financial and industrial unrest it will endeavour faithfully to represent all sections of the community. In assisting the Government to pass this legislation I feel that I am. acting in the interests of the community as a whole.
– I fully expected the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) to support the bill, because he always obeys the Government. He has never been known to give an independent vote in this House. Never once has he voted against the Government.
– I remind the honorable member that at one time he supported an amendment which I moved in this House, contrary to the wishes of the Government.
– The honorable member is always with the Government. He now says that he stands for arbitration. The Prime Minister last week tried to trace the history of arbitration in this country and its application to the waterside workers. I intend also to trace the history of arbitration so that honorable members may know what changes have taken place and how those changes have militated against the workers. Arbitration was first instituted to prevent sweating and to improve the conditions of labour. The workers of this country, when obtaining increased wages and improved conditions, have always had to stand by their organizations. The idea of arbitration was conceived about 30 years ago by some statesmen of New South Wales. An act was passed, and the workers were induced to register under it. The Government appointed a judge of the Arbitration Court, and the employers and employees were allowed to appoint a representative each, to sit with him. The judge was there to represent the public and to give legal force to any awards that were made by the court. I had the honour to be the employees’ representative on that court for three years, and when cases were before it I had the same right as the judge to cross-examine witnesses and to call for an examination of the books of employers. In one case, which concerned the shop assistants and drapers of Sydney, the employers swore before the court that they could not afford to pay increased wages. When the case had been heard the judge said in camera that it was evident that the employers could not afford to pay increased wages. I smiled, and he said to me, “ Do you doubt the evidence of these men ? “ I said, “Yes, and I should like the court to examine their books.” That was done, and notwithstanding the sworn testimony of those men the judge’s award provided for increased wages, amounting to £70,000. Despite that large increase in wages, none of the employers concerned have yet become insolvent.
– The general public, including the workers, paid for that increase.
– The workers pay for everything. The Government of New South Wales subsequently amended the act to prevent an examination being made of employers’ books. Later the act was again amended to allow the court to be constituted of one judge only. The system of arbitration has completely changed; it is not arbitration, but argument among lawyers, whose main object is to lengthen the cases before the court. It is an expensive method of arbitration, and the unionists have become utterly tired of it. Disputes have arisen in Australia. I have a relative who is an employer in the timber trade. He has informed me that the statement that the employers are making only 2 per cent, profit is absolute nonsense.
– The employers keep two sets of books.
– They can do anything because we have no power to examine their books. In the timber case, the judge before making his award public, asked both sides to the dispute to place suggestions before him. The employers gave certain information to the judge, but the representative of the employees had no power to cross-examine them. I emphatically say that the statements of the employers wereuntrue. The timber trade to-day is in the hands of a combine.
– Does the honorable member intend to connect his remarks with the subjectmatter of the bill?
– I am speaking of arbitration, and this bill relates to awards of the Arbitration Court. If the timber workers refuse to accept the award of the court, the Governmentmay place them in the position in which the waterside workers find themselves to-day. If arbitration is to be successful, the law must be amended. If industry is to be stabilized and peace in industry established, we must return to the original system of arbitration. The bill prescribes additional penalties and makes criminals of men for refusing to work. I have lost faith in our arbitration law. There is no power under it to prevent men from flouting its provisions. Last Monday night a large meeting was held at Sydney, and in defiance of the act the workers were advised to strike, and a subscription was taken up for the benefit of strikers.
– In that case, the law was deliberately broken.
– There were 4,000 people present at that meeting. What action could the Government take? It could do nothing; therefore the act as it stands is useless. This Government is always saying that the law must be obeyed, yet last week it endeavoured to upset an award made by the Public Service Arbitrator. The Prime Minister said that the award was a mistake and, therefore, should not operate. The timber workers say that Judge Lukin has made a mistake and, therefore, they do not intend to obey his award.
– In one case the right to refuse the award is given by law, but in the other case that is not so.
– If the Prime Minister has the right to say that the Public Service Arbitrator has made a mistake, surely the timber workers have the right to say that Judge Lukin has made a mistake. The timber industry has been working for six years under the 44 hours’ award. Both parties agreed to and worked under it. The court then decided that the employees must work 48 hours a week. Those employed in the building trades throughout Australia work 44 hours a week, and do not work on Saturdays. If the timber workers were employed on Saturdays they could not cart material to the builders, because there would be no one to receive it. The alteration of the award is absolutely unwarranted. Honorable members behind the Government say that we must have a working week of 48 hours. What does that mean? Does it mean that men must work eight hours a day from Monday to Saturday inclusive ?
– Farm labourers work eight hours on Saturdays.
– Statistics show that with the advent of machinery in rural occupations, the number of labourers employed on farms is rapidly decreasing. To-day there are in this country 40,000 fewer persons employed on the land than there were ten years ago. That is mainly due to the greater use of machinery. We, on this side, take our stand behind the men who are opposing the award. If I were a timber worker, I would fight the award to the death. Its provisions show that it has not been carefully considered.
– Does the honorable member suggest that laws passed by this Parliament should not be obeyed?
– I did not assist in the passage of such a law. Does the honorable member say that an award made by one man must be accepted , by those whom it affects without question?
Mr.Parkhill. - And does the honorable member think that certain sections of the community should be permitted to break laws when they see fit?
– If laws are bad why should they not be broken ? Honorable members opposite repeatedly refer to the necessity for the maintenance of law and order, but they disregard the fact that the award in the waterside workers’ case was made by a judge appointed by a partisan government for past services. Are theworkers to observe an award made to suit the Government and its supporters? The conditions under which the waterside workers were operating differed in various parts of the
Commonwealth. In New South Wales the men have to’ present themselves for employment at 7.30 a.m., and again in the afternoon, although the shipowners who are acquainted with the movements of incoming vessels are able to tell the men in the morning when their services will be required. . Owing to tidal and other factors it is impracticable to make one award to govern all ports; but in this case one judge determined the hours during which all men were to be engaged. I am surprised that Judge Beeby, who has had considerable experience in industrial matters, should give an award in which provision is made for two pick-ups, as it is unusual for an arbitration judge to make an award which interferes with conditions which have been acceptable to both parties. The award in. the waterside workers’ case has not brought about industrial harmony on the waterfront, but has engendered such feelings of bitterness and hostility between the shipowners and the men that the men will retaliate at the first opportunity. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner), in saying that he was pleased that the Government had decided to stand behind the. loyalists, is supporting those who are assisting to reduce the standard of living and increase the number of working hours. Honorable members on this side are supporting the men who are endeavouring to improve working conditions and make them sufficiently attractive to induce others to come here. As many of the men who have taken the places of the waterside workers’ cannot even speak the English language, the Government is making a rod for its own back. They are encouraging those who do not believe in law and order, but prefer to resort to violence. The foreigners who are fighting Australian industrialists will eventually turn against those who are now protecting them.
– Foreigners were not responsible for the bomb outrages which occurred in Melbourne.
– I do not know who was responsible. The Government is desirous of passing a measure under which men who do not agree to work under certain conditions will be treated as criminals. It is bringing about a state of slavery, and such a policy as the Go vernment is pursuing was not supported by the people at the last elections. The industrial situation was side-tracked by repeated references to the Empire, the flag, and the maintenance of law and order. The members of the Labour party believe in arbitration, and contend that the present act can be amended in such a way that it will be acceptable to both parties. To-day it favours the employers, many of whom say they cannot pay decent wages, whilst at the same time they are amassing tremendous profits. The Australian worker of to-day is an educated man. He’ knows the value of the raw material, and is able to determine the discrepancy between the manufactured cost and the selling price of an article. We frequently hear that men engaged in rural pursuits are unable to pay their employees a living wage; but when their estates are sworn for probate purposes it is disclosed in some cases that their worth is as great as £50,000 or £100,000. It will not be long before the workers will be instrumental in the introduction of an arbitration system under which they will have representation in the Arbitration Court, and possess the power to examine the books and ascertain the profits being made in an industry before an award is made. If such an investigation had been conducted in the timber workers’ case a strike would have been averted. I am personally interested in the timber business, and I was informed by a man engaged in the industry that it was scandalous to say that the timber merchants were making a profit of only 2 per cent. They are all members of a big combine, and are not carrying on operations with such a small margin of profit. Mr. Justice Lukin did not personally examine the books of the timber merchants, but appointed some other person, concerning whose qualifications we know nothing, to do the work.
– And possibly the books were faked.
– I will not say that; but we have a right to know on what grounds Mr. Justice Lukin reduced the wages and increased the hours of the men engaged in the timber industry. I am wholeheartedly supporting the men in opposition to awards such as those recently made, which benefit only the employers.
– I wish to take this opportunity of saying a few words for the large number of wharf labourers whom I represent. What is the position of the workers on the waterfront in Hobart and Tasmania generally during about eight months of the year? They work very short hours for about eight mouths in the year, and in the busy f our months make up an average living wage. During five of the past six years they have, owing to strikes, been robbed of even that chance. Industrial disturbances have been caused by stewards, cooks, seamen, engineers and coal-miners. During the strikes caused by these men the ships trading to Tasmania have been held up and the waterside workers have been unable to earn a shilling. During the last two strikes a special concession was made by allowing the steamers trading to Tasmania to carry mails; but the waterside workers were not allowed to place a single ton of cargo on the vessels. Is it not time that something was said on behalf of these men ? Year after year the waterside workers in Tasmania, and particularly in Hobart, have been crucified by strikes for which they were not responsible. In most cases they knew nothing of a cessation of operations by certain sections of industrialists until the announcement appeared in the newspapers that the ships were tied up. The waterside workers of Melbourne were butchered by their leaders. I was in Melbourne when the trouble on the waterfront occurred last year and when the men were informed by their leaders that in no circumstances were they to accept the award. They had to come out on strike. They were then told to return to work, but not to take out licences. When nearly 4,000 licences had been issued to other workers, they were instructed to take out licences. When landing in Melbourne the other morning, I witnessed a most pitiable sight. Hundreds of men were being marched to work with mounted troopers in front and behind them and foot police lining the route they were taking. After these men had commenced work several hundreds of men, many of whom had been employed on the waterfront for years, came forward to take what employment was left over.
These unionists were butchered by the vacillation and incompetency of their leaders. The waterside workers in Tasmania are not licensed because they declined to come out on strike; but the licensing system should ultimately be an advantage to waterside workers generally, because licences should not be issued to more men than are able to make a fair living on the waterfront. Further, licences should not be issued to aliens whilst there is a Britisher - unionist or non-unionist - seeking work. Looking over the ship’s side the other morning, I saw Britishers idle whilst Southern Europeans were at work, and I felt that an alteration of the present system was essential. As honorable members are aware, I have been fighting the shipping combine for years. Unfortunately, the whole of our coastal shipping is now in the hands of the Inchcape combine and for that the Federal Parliament is responsible. We should permit more competition on the Australian coast. If honorable members will refer to the debates in this chamber, when the Navigation Act was under consideration, they will see that I prophesied exactly what is happening. In Australia we are building up a shipping combine such as was in operation in the United States of America at the outbreak of war, when 75 per cent, of the American troops had to be transported to Europe in British ships. If the waterside workers are to have a fair deal we must devote more attention to the shipping combine. I hope to be able to give it with the help of our friends opposite. I look upon the Arbitration Act as being on its trial. That act was born in travail. Three Governments went down trying to get it through the committee stage in this Parliament, and no other measure was ever surrounded by so much political wreckage. For the first few years, the Arbitration law did a great work, but now, so far as I can see, it creates more strikes than it prevents.
– The court is used to giving effect to the Government’s policy.
– The policy of the Government should have nothing to do with the Arbitration Act, or with the working of the court, which is supposed to carry on according to rules laid down by act of Parliament. If the ship-owners or workers will not obey an award that is given, the Arbitration Act ceases to have any value. In this connexion, I am reminded of the admonition, of the old Irish cricketer to his son, who was about to play in his first match: “My boy,” he said, “ if the umpire says you’re out, then you’re out, whether you’re out or not.” When an award of the court is given, it should be obeyed, whether it is right or not. While admitting that, however, let me say that, in my opinion, the insertion of the second pick-up provision in the last award was a mistake. It has a demoralizing effect on a man, to make him hang around the wharf all day on the chance of being picked up. In the interests of every one concerned, and especially of the morale of the men, I hope that the second pick-up, which is quite unnecessary, will be abolished. It is just one of those pin-pricks which do so much to make men rebels. I should like to see it done in the proper way, if it is possible to get the ship-owners to consider anything- fairly and reasonably, seeing that they are controlled by the Inchcape combine on the other side of the world. As a peace offering on the part of the ship-owners, they might well make a voluntary offer to ‘ the court to have the second pick-up provision withdrawn. In that way they would do a great deal to bring about goodwill and peace on the water front. 1 do not think that this bill is nearly so dangerous as some members of the Opposition think. The chief .objection to it appears to be the provision for licensing workers; but that, I think, will turn out to be of distinct advantage to the waterside workers themselves.
– We can only go on our experience. We know how it has worked up to date.
– i do not wish to discuss what has already taken place in connexion with the recent strikes. I was in Melbourne during the recent disturbances, and it is my opinion that the men were unwisely led. . In Sydney and Tasmania, where the workers obeyed the award, the licensing provision was not introduced. I believe it would be to the advantage of the workers if just sufficient numbers were licensed to do the work, and further applications were refused. E say, with all the emphasis at my command, that not a single licence should be issued to an alien, while one of our own. race was looking for a job.
Mr. tully (Barton) [5.22].- It is usual, I understand, for a new member to refer to his newness, and to ask for leniency from the Chair should he happen to wander from the subject. I have no intention this afternoon, however, of speaking of terraces of houses that I do not own, nor of income derived from coal mines which I do not possess, but I do wish to say a few words about the Transport Workers Bill. You will realize that, being a teacher, I have been properly trained in the art of correlation. If T, as a teacher, were speaking to children about the cultivation of cabbages, and. introduced some remarks about the rule of three, you would understand immediately that; there was some correlation “between the two subjects.’ These remarks I make by way of introduction, so that we may understand each other as I go along.
I was very much struck by the speech of the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams), and I am in thorough agreement with what he said about the operations of the shipping combine. I remember that in 1925 this same combine of ship-owners was responsible for the strike to which the honorable member refers ; the strike which had such a detrimental effect upon the workers in Tasmania. That trouble was referred to as a strike, but, as a matter of fact, it was a lockout. At that time the banks refused to finance the marketing of Australia’s wool and wheat. In other words, they went on strike, but we did not hear of any bankers being rail-roaded to gaol, or of any act being passed to deal with them. They asked the Note Board of the Commonwealth Bank for a special issue of £60,000,000 worth of notes to finance the wool and wheat crops. The chairman of the board refused, but said that the board would grant £15,000,000 worth of notes to do the work. After consultation the banks decided to accept the £15,000,000, and the remarkable thing was that they did not draw a single note of that” £15,000,000, but were able to create £60,000,000 worth of credit on the strength of the arrangement. It was then that the shipping combine, associated’ with the bank, brought about the strike to which I have referred, and blamed the men for it. The ship-owners said that the waterside workers were not in their places when the call for labour was made. As a matter of fact, the men were in their places every day, but when they stood on the left side of the street, the pick-up men were sent to the other side. “When the men waited on the right hand side the pick-up men went to the left. That is one instance in which Tasmania has suffered injury from the shipping combine. I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that the present waterside trouble has been caused by the two pick-up provisions. The two pick-up system has always been in operation in Sydney, but when it was sought to introduce it at other ports, there was trouble. “Who are the workers who have been thrown out of their jobs by the newcomers to Australia? Ninety per cent of them are returned soldiers. Rightly or wrongly these men went on strike, and later found their places taken by men from overseas. There is no doubt that the trouble was engineered by the shipping combine. I do not know how it was worked, but by some means or another the two pick-up provision was got into the award for the purpose of stirring up trouble. The ship-owners who are at the bottom of this trouble are the same persons who had their ships commandeered by the Government after the war had been in progress for eighteen months, because they were trading in contraband goods to the Continent. They had made £300,000,000 by carrying such things to Denmark as cement, from which the German pillboxes were made, nickel for bullets, and cotton for explosives. These interests now deal as they like with the Australian workers, and they are backed up by the Australian National Government. I admit, at once, that the principle of the strike 13 barbaric, but the obvious answer to that is, that the capitalistic system of industry is also barbaric. Many pages of history might be quoted in proof of that. Even this very act which we are now amending exudes barbarism from almost every sentence. The Peace in In dustry Conference now meeting in Sydney is a monument to the futility of this very legislation.
The dice are loaded against the workers of this country, and I regard it as my duty to explain to them how financial and commercial interests combine against them. I remember that when the Arbitration and Conciliation Bill was introduced into this House by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), he said that it was to give the rank and file of the unions control over their executive. That was accepted. According to the statements that appeared every day in the press, the rank and file did not have control over their executives, and the Arbitration and Conciliation Amendment Act would give it to them. A little later, when Mr. Bruce was introducing the Transport Workers Bill, he said that the object of the measure was to give the executive of a union control over the rank and file. This contradictory attitude reminds me of a criticism that appeared in the Melbourne Age -
Facing Both Ways.
At one time Mr. Bruce speaks as a wholehearted Australian, with a knowledge of the efforts that have been made for many years past to entangle us mischievously in the affairs of Europe. At another he expresses the longrepudiated sentiments of the old Imperial Federationists, who favoured a supreme Imperial Parliament, directing the national progress of all the far-flung Dominions, and enforcing a policy of Freetrade within the Empire.
One day the Prime Minister wishes to give the rank and file control of the executive, and the next day he wishes to give the executive control of the rank and file. The Government has made it a crime for the workers to strike, but the capitalist can strike whenever he chooses, and be immune from punishment. When a capitalist refuses to sell his goods below the price he asks for them, he goes on strike, but he is not rail-roaded to gaol; no special law is passed to make a criminal of him. In the fixing of a minimum wage the worker is asked to account for every penny of his expenditure; he is even asked to economize in the food and clothing provided for his wife and children. But never in my acquaintance with arbitration has the owner been questioned Concerning the number of motor curs lie owns, or the amount he spends on cigars and champagne. It is well known that in the universe there is sufficient of the necessaries of life to maintain everybody in comfort, but if one man lives in luxury, another must go short. There is sufficient for all only if all receive their just share. It would be futile for me to speak at great length, because even if I had the rhetorical powers of Demosthenes and the political sagacity of Higginbotham, I could not prevent the passage of the bill.’ In conclusion, I draw attention to the vicious principle, which is becoming far too general in industrial legislation, of throwing upon the accused person the onus of proving his innocence. That is a subversion of one of the principles of British jurisprudence. It has made “its appearance in the laws of some of the States as well as of the Commonwealth, but the time has arrived when honorable members should take a stand against it. It is not just to charge a man with a crime and require him to prove his innocence. Yet that is what the Crimes Act and the Arbitration Act do, and what this bill proposes, but I trust that, even if the bill is passed, this vicious provision will be eliminated.
– The honorable member for Warringah sought to draw an analogy between the licensing of waterside workers and the licensing of electricians in New South Wales, and he made the broad, general statement that no person could get employment as an electrician in that State unless he held a certificate signed by me. The statement is not correct. Firstly, the present Government of New South Wales, some time after assuming office, took care to remove me from the position of chairman of the Electrical Licensing Board. Secondly, there is no analogy between a licence certifying the fitness of a person to engage in a technical occupation and a mere permit to work on the waterfront issued to any person who pays a shilling. To demonstrate their hostility to the law introduced by the Lang Government, the employers in the electrical trade of New South Wales withdrew their representative from the board over which I had the honour to preside. That body was created for the protection of life and property by ensuring that only qualified persons should engage in electrical work. A similar law had been in operation in other States for many years, and it requires no justification from me. Almost every month we hear of men and women being electrocuted because of faulty installations. The licensing system was introduced for the protection of the general public and of electrical workers themselves by requiring that those who engaged in this dangerous and skilled occupation should know their job. It was necessary for them to have passed an examination at the technical college prescribed by the board, or to produce their indentures showing that their apprenticeship had been sufficiently long to give them efficient training. In the licensing of transport workers, the competency of the worker is not taken’ into consideration ; he is not even required to be able to speak the English language.
– Should not competency be taken into consideration?
– I agree with the honorable member for Franklin that only competent men should be allowed to engage in waterside avocations, because of their dangerous character. Owing to the inefficiency of a large number of men who accepted employment during the strike, many persons were maimed or killed. The honorable member for Franklin must know that the Government does not propose to restrict in any way employment on the waterfront. The policy of employers in all sections of industry is to keep available a surplus of labour, and consequently the ship-owners are not anxious to restrict the number of licences to be issued to waterside workers. For similar .reasons the electrical employers in New South Wales were opposed to the licensing of electricians. They realized that their choice of men would be restricted to those who held licences and they would not have as big a labour market in which to operate as they previously had. They were not concerned about the protection of life and property; their only desire was to get as much profit as possible out of their industry. The Licensing Board was designed to be representative of all sections of the industry - the fire under- writers, public bodies supplying electricity, employers, the electrical trade union and licensed electricians who may not be members of the union. This body, composed of representatives of all sections of the industry, had the right to determine upon what conditions and to whom licences should be issued. That is not the position with the licensing of waterside workers; the licensing authority does not include any representative of organized labour. Honorable members who compare impartially the facts I have related with the conditions that the Government has applied to the waterside workers, will recognize that there is no analogy between the two. On several occasions the electrical employers in New South Wales waited on the responsible Minister in opposition to the licensing law, but he refused to accede to their requests. Finally, however, an intimation was conveyed to the Bavin Government that the financial support of the electrical employers would be withdrawn unless their demands were acceded to, and under this pressure the Minister yielded and the licensing system was sacrificed. Now all that is required is that the man in charge of an electrical installation must be licensed. Much electrical work is concealed, and for that reason the man in charge of a big job cannot possibly supervise every detail of it. However, the employers in New South Wales are now able to engage any class of labour that, suits them, thanks to their ability, by financial pressure, to force the present State Government to destroy the system of licensing electricians. Honorable members, will, I am sure, agree that the facts I have mentioned are a complete answer to the arguments of the honorable member for Warringah.
Many disputes occur which, if wisely handled in their initial stages, would never reach serious dimensions. In illustration of this, I mention a dispute to which the State Government was a party, affecting the electrical worker’s at Port Kembla on the south coast. Members of my organization when returning to the power house from their work one evening on a lorry, the property of the Public Works Department, were seen by the District Engineer, who happened to be passing, indulging in what he regarded as horse play. Immediately he reached his office he’ directed that all the men on the lorry should be dismissed. No inquiry was made into the facts of the case. An apprentice who happened to be on the lorry was not dismissed, for his dismissal would have involved an inquiry by the Board of Trade, according to the terms of his indentures. My organization took the matter up and earnestly requested an inquiry. The Minister for Public Works appreciated our point of view, but said that he could not grant the inquiry, for to do so would mean taking the side of the workers against his officer. We pointed out that his duty was to hold the scales of justice evenly between the parties; but he said that he had to stand by his officers. He observed that some time previously he had reinstated a man who had been dismissed, and it would not do for him to reinstate these men, because it would appear that he was always taking the side of the men. The union unsuccessfully used every means in its power to obtain an inquiry. It was then forced to use the strike weapon. It solicited, and secured the sympathy of every trade union which had members employed in work on the south coast, and then issued an ultimatum that unless an inquiry were granted all the members of the unions concerned would cease work. It was only after that action was taken that an inquiry was granted. After the inquiry all the men were reinstated. This indicated clearly that it is necessary, in the interests of the workers and of peace in industry, to have upon the Treasury bench members who will not be unduly influenced by persons who are out of sympathy with the working man. There is no doubt whatever that the present Government and its supporters are antagonistic to the trade union movement. The introduction of this bill shows that very clearly.
During this debate our whole system of compulsory industrial arbitration has been brought under review. Reference has been made to the timber workers’ strike. In this connexion I draw attention to an inquiry made in 1920 by the late Mr. Justice Higgins into- an application for a general 44-hour week in Australia. For the purposes of this case evidence was gathered in every country in the world where industries of any magnitude were operating, and it was demonstrated beyond all question that the world-wide tendency is to reduce the hours of labour. In these circumstances one would expect that a Government which claimed to be sympathetic with the aims and objects of the workers would not oppose a reduction of hours of work. I had the privilege of representing Australian Labour at the International Labour Conference in 1926, and was able at the conference to test the sincerity of the employing class as a whole in its expressed desire to elevate the conditions of the workers. The preamble of the convention under which the International Labour Office was established sets out that in order to establish peace in industry it is necessary to consider international economic relations. It also sets out that it is useless for the League of Nations to attempt to abolish war unless it makes an effort to place the economic conditions of the various countries on a fair and equitable footing. One might have expected that when the conference was giving consideration to the differences between the economic standards of the various countries the representatives of the Commonwealth Government and of the Commonwealth employers would have attempted to bring the conditions of the backward countries into line with Australian conditions; but instead of endeavouring to level up things they consistently voted in favour of a levelling down process. Sir Joseph Cook, who represented the Government at the conference, invariably voted in. favour of a policy which tended to reduce the standards of Australia to those of the backward countries of Southern Europe. In the face of this, honorable members opposite cannot expect us to believe them when they say that they believe that the people should have the highest possible standards of living. It will be remembered that at the conference held in Washington in 1919 a convention was agreed to in favour of a universal 48-hour working week, but it was reported at the 1926 conference that only four nations had ratified the convention. . It is rank hypocrisy for the nations who agreed to this convention at the 1919 conference, but failed afterwards to ratify it, to talk about desiring peace in industry.
In my opinion the Arbitration Court as at present constituted is deliberately endeavouring to give expression to the policy of this Government, and consequently its work is meeting with the strong disapproval of the workers. Ever since 1921 Labour has felt that the Arbitration Court has been only partially fulfilling its true functions. At the Labour Conference held in that year it was resolved that it would be desirable to replace the court by industrial councils on which both the employers and employees would be adequately represented. We were not unmindful, however, that the Arbitration Court guaranteed to certain large bodies of workers an economic standard which might be lost if the court were abolished. Some employers in Australia would not hesitate to sweat their employees and reduce them to the lowest level. Consequently we felt that before the court was abolished some other and better method of dealing with industrial troubles should be set up. We feel that it is not fair to permit the Arbitration Court to make a searching inquiry into the quality and quantity of the clothes we wear and the food we eat, or into the class of house we live in, or the general circumstances of our lives, seeing that it makes no effective inquiry into the general conditions of an industry. The whole thing is too one-sided. If the Government is sincere in its desire to improve industrial relations, let it give more attention to the demands of the working class and much less to capital, to prevent a large section of the employers from forcing my class down to the lowest level. The Government has shown that it is out of step with modern industrial developments. It is not keeping abreast of the times or it would take into consideration the altered conditions of life. Instead of endeavouring to make criminals of working men who are trying to improve their standard of living it should be seeking to replace our present antiquated system of dealing with industry with one more in accordance with modern ideals. Pacts brought to light during the timber workers’ dispute have shown conclusively that the demand for an inquiry into the timber trade is thoroughly warranted.
Honorable members have doubtless read the letters which have appeared in the Sydney press over- the signature of E. B. Warren, timber merchant of Newtown. His firm has publicly refused to be associated with the efforts that are being made to decrease wages and increase hours in industry. It has been proved beyond all question that the figures published with the object of showing the smallness of the profits made in the timber industry will not bear investigation. In view of all the facts I intend to support the amendment, for I feel that the Transport Workers Act should be repealed.
.- The object of this bill is to incorporate in the Transport Workers Act certain regulations which have been proclaimed by the Government. The main argument advanced by the Prime Minister and his supporters in favour of the bill has been that the workers and their industrial organizations are not prepared to abide by the decisions of the Arbitration Court and other industrial tribunals. The Prime Minister has deplored what he has described as a tendency on the part of the workers not only to repudiate industrial awards but to refuse to obey the law. We, on this side of the House, and the trade union movement outside are willing to admit full responsibility for any breaches of the law that may be committed. There have been many such breaches already. Let me cite as an illustration the mass meeting of workers in the Sydney Town Hall on Monday night last. Under laws passed by this Government every man and woman who attended that meeting was an offender against the law, as indeed was every speaker on the platform. Every man who is acting as a picket in connexion with the present dispute in the timber industry is breaking the law, and every article that is published in the Labour newspapers is a breach of the law. Such laws as those passed by the Bruce-Page Government dealing with industrial matters are unworthy of observance. I now tell this or any other Tory Government that may attempt to compel the people to observe iniquitous laws, that the thing is impossible. There is not sufficient accommodation in all our gaols to hold the people who are committing breaches of the industrial laws passed by this Government. The Prime Minister, as well as all those members who are supporting the Government, have a very grave responsibility in regard to this provocative legislation, with its savagely penal provisions that enact punishment for breaches which the industrial movement does not and will not regard as offences against the law of this country.
– Those provisions are bringing the law into contempt.
– And this Government also. In its attempt to destroy the trade union movement in Australia, the Government has seriously over-stepped the mark. Ministers, to use a colloquialism, have “bitten off more than they can chew.” Whilst we on this side of the House are being importuned by various speakers supporting the Government to obey the law, Ministers in their turn are breaking it themselves. They may be doing this in a strictly legal manner, but their action, nevertheless, is immoral. The Government embodies penal provisions in legislation under which men may be gaoled for industrial offences, but when it suits Ministers, they take action in another chamber to disallow an award that does not meet with their approval. The judges of our Arbitration Court have been criticized on many occasions. I have done that myself in this House, but always I have been ruled out of order by the presiding officer, although my only offence has been to intimate that in my opinion a judge had made a mistake in a particular award. If we may judge from what has happened recently, the Prime Minister of Australia, the chief citizen of the Commonwealth, a man occupying a high and responsible position may, with impunity, come down to this chamber and declare that Parliament must disallow an award of the Public Service Arbitrator. How different was it when an organization of Sydney wharf labourers, for example, dared to criticize Judge Beeby’s award with regard to pick-up places. Actually men have been gaoled for doing what the Prime Minister and his Government are now doing under the cloak of parliamentary procedure. Their action to disallow an award for the payment of certain allowances to postal officials transferred to
Canberra may be perfectly legal, but certainly it is not moral. Let me take the matter a step further. From time to time there appear articles in the newspapers indicating a sense of disquiet amongst the capitalistic class of this and other countries. The Prime Minister is fond of warning Australia .about the danger of the Red menace. Many Government candidates in the last election campaign relied mainly upon the raising of these bogys to frighten the people of this country. They endeavoured to show that there was in Australia a number of political agitators who had no respect at all for the constitution ; men who were lawbreakers themselves and who were being subsidized by the Bolshevists to break down our present social system. They waxed eloquent in their denunciation of this grave danger which, they assured the people, was to be apprehended from the Red menace. If the Ministry expects the people to obey its law it must see to it that those laws are neither iniquitous in their conception nor unfair in their incidence. Legislation that aims at the breaking down of established customs and institutions, such as a trade union movement, must go the way of earlier iniquitous laws - it must go by the board. The legislative field of Australia, both Federal and State, is strewn with the bones of legislation, of the character of the Crimes Act, the amendments to the Arbitration Act, and the Transport “Workers Act. All such legislative measures have been abandoned because the people resolutely declined to obey them. This bill, with its penal provisions that are at once provocative and vindictive, cannot and will not be accepted by the workers. This Government, which is so desirous of acting as the tool of mean employers–
– Order! I must ask the honorable member to withdraw that statement.
– I do so, Mr. Speaker. I say that this Government, acting at the behest of the employers of this country, has passed legislation with penal and provocative provisions ; and by its appointment of class-biased judges it has made the Federal Arbitration Court an institution that is now scorned by the workers.
– Order ! I ask the honorable member not to reflect on the judiciary. It has been ruled repeatedly that a member may criticize any judgment of a court, and may point out what ho considers to be faults or mistakes in such a judgment; but it is the rule of Parliament that there must be no reflection upon the personal character of the members of the judiciary.
– I accept your ruling, Mr. Speaker. I say that by the appointment to the Arbitration Court of men who, it knew, desired a reduction in wages and an increase in the working hours the Government has done great harm to the industrial movement in Australia. I do not propose, iu this debate, to trace the history of the present judges of the Arbitration Court. I am hoping that a better opportunity will be available to me later; but I say that the Arbitration Court judges in their judgments have done things that were never contemplated under our industrial laws. To illustrate my point may I cite my personal experiences ? About 20 years ago in Sydney it was customary for members of the Waterside Workers Union to present themselves at all times at any of the wharfs from 6 o’clock in the morning until G o’clock in the evening. To be available for the first pickup I and many others in the union had to rise at 4 o’clock in the morning so as to be at the wharfs by 6 o’clock. Thousands of other unfortunate workers were in the same position. At that time the shipowners were very firm, and acting together they were in a position to insist upon the men hawking their labour from wharf to wharf. If men failed to be picked up at the first call they had to wait until the 9 o’clock call after breakfast, and if not picked up then, would have to wait until later in the day. They were obliged to walk backwards and forwards on the wharfs and pay frequent visits to the post office to ascertain what boats were expected, and at what timo they were scheduled to arrive. I am not a little proud of the humble part which I played in bringing to a successful conclusion the movement to abolish the 6 o’clock start. As a result of continued agitation the union decided that the 6 o’clock pick-up must be abolished, and tl nt work for the day must start at S o’clock. As usual every Tory newspaper in Sydney and a number of antiLabour members of Parliament attacked this insidious propaganda, as it was termed, which was going on in the wharf labourers ranks. But the movement was too strong to bc checked. By their login and force of numbers the men attained their objective. They won their case in the Arbitration Court before that tribunal came under the evil influence of the tories in this country. They succeeded not only in their demand for the S o’clock start, but also in reducing the number of picking-up places. Instead of being obliged to tramp over all the nine miles of wharfs in Sydney the men assembled at one picking-up place.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Under the system Of having only one pick-up, which had been in operation in most of the ports of Australia for periods up to five years, the wharf labourers would attend at 8 a.m., and by 10 or 11 a.m., according to the number of vessels to be worked, would be, if not chosen, free to go to their homes, to attend to their gardens, to go fishing, or to earn a few shillings elsewhere. The waterside workers of Melbourne and many other ports enjoyed that privilege. It was left to Judge Beeby, whose appointment I question most strongly, to deal with the case of the waterside workers. He had had some experience, from the legal side at all events, of the conditions of the wharf labourers, and, probably because of that, he made provision in his preliminary award for one pick-up. In Sydney and other ports, where there were two pick-ups a day, tlie men were naturally jubilant. The ship-owners were then invited by the judge to speak to the minutes. They did so, and, strange to relate, after the ship-owners had spoken to the minutes - after the judge had deliberately arrived at his decision - the ship-owners had sufficient influence to make him turn a complete somersault.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the ship-owners did that?
– The ship-owners and the Bruce-Page Government were re sponsible for the judge turning a complete somersault.
– At’ the instigation of the ship-owners?
– Yes, and of the Government. I say that deliberately, and with a due sense of the responsibility of the position that I occupy. The justice of the industrial tribunals of the Commonwealth Government is tainted.
– On a point of order, is the honorable member for Darling in order in stating that the ship-owners and the Commonwealth Government influenced a member of the judiciary to give a decision in their favour?
– I gathered that the statement of the honorable member for Darling was that, the minutes having been spoken to, the judge, on reconsideration, yielded to the argument of the ship-owners. I call upon the honorable member for Darling to withdraw the statement that the judiciary is tainted.
– In deference to your wish, Mr. Speaker, I do so.
– Hear, hear!
– Will that dazzling pyjama man keep quiet.
– The honorable member must withdraw his statement unconditionally.
– In deference to your wish, sir, I do so.
– An honorable member must withdraw a statement, not in deference to the wish of the Chair, but in accordance with tlie practice of the House.
– In accordance with the practice of the House I withdraw the statement.
– I ask other honorable members not to make personal remarks across the chamber.
– I was connected with the industrial movement for many years, and during that time had an excellent opportunity of studying the industrial laws of this country. I have worked under them, and have experienced little trouble with them. At that time the Arbitration Court was properly and honestly constituted. Since then it has fallen into the hands of the Philistines. The constitution of the court has altered, and the trade unionists of this country must now regard it with distrust. Recently the A.O.T.U., a body which is truly representative of the trade unions of Australia,’ decided to sever all connexion with the Bruce-Page Government’s Arbitration Court. Were it not for the questionable appointments of Judge Lukin, Judge Dethridge, and the other judges, whose recent mistakes have completely demoralized the court, the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, representing as it does some 600,000 unionists, would not have taken the extreme step of leaving that judiciary. Responsibility for the extreme action taken by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions rests solely with the Government and its supporters.
– The honorable member says that, but he knows better.
– I say it honestly and sincerely, believing that that judiciary is being used to smash trade unionism.
– The honorable member’s remark is highly improper, and I ask him to withdraw it. The honorable member must not suggest that the judiciary is being used for any purpose other than that for which it has been appointed.
– I withdraw it. Prior to 19J7 the Arbitration Court was in the hands of capable and honest men, but because Mr. Justice Higgins was not doing as the Government desired, because he was coquetting with a working week of 44 hours, he was swamped. The Government decided that Mr. Justice Higgins was a menace to the capitalists and the employers of this country; and not long afterwards he had to resign from the Presidency of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– He gave obvious reasons for his resignation.
– The reason that he gave was political interference by the Government. The Government then appointed to the highest industrial tribunal of this country the president of the Employers’ Federation. Talk about tainted justice.
– Order. I ask the honorable member not to proceed on those lines, and to withdraw those words.
– I withdraw in due deference to you, Sir. but I submit that when a man, who has been the president of the Employers’ Federation -
– On a point of order, I ask that the honorable member for Darling be called upon to withdraw his observations about tainted justice.
– The honorable member for Darling has already withdrawn his remark. He knows what the ruling of the Chair is, and I ask hiin to respect it.
– To achieve the high and honorable position of president of the Employers’ Federation the occupant must certainly have the respect and confidence of the employers of this country, and, taking into consideration his utterances as president and as a member of the Senate, one can only say that his appointment does not, in the opinion of the Labour movement, tend to a free and pure judiciary.
– What about the appointment of Mr. Gillies in Queensland?
– No doubt the honorable member would take umbrage, as did quite a number of other people, at the appointments of Mr. Macnaughton, Mr. Brennan and Mr. Dunstan. Those appointments have been criticized by our political opponents, but let me say that the decisions of those gentlemen have been based upon honesty and equity. At no time have they departed from the established hours and wages which have always prevailed in the State of Queensland. But this Government uses its power and influence to select men whose political views appeal to it, to control the destiny of the Arbitration Court. The Bavin Government of New South Wales did likewise. Mr. Piddington was appointed Industrial Commissioner by a Labour Government, but because he did not suit the Tories and employers of New South Wales and the members of the Nationalist organisation, including the honorable member for Warringah, he had to be swamped, and therefore two other gentlemen were appointed, and I have not the slightest doubt that their views and ideas were well known to the Bavin Government before their appointments were made.
– -There is no foundation for that suggestion.
– The AttorneyGeneral knew the political leanings and industrial idea3 of Judge Lukin and his colleagues on the Arbitration Court before they were appointed. Mr. Bavin knew the ideas of the gentlemen who were appointed in New South Wales. They have done their work well, that work for which they have been paid.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
Laughter from the gallery.
– If there is any further laughter or disturbance in any part of this building, action will be taken to suppress it.
– I rise to order. I maintain, Sir, that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) has been out of order for the past quarter of an hour ; that not only has he on several occasions transgressed your ruling in so many words, but his whole speech has consisted of an attack upon the judges of the Federal Arbitration Court.
– Whenever the honorable member has reflected upon the judiciary, he has been required by me to withdraw his statement and he has done so, but I call upon him now to refrain from continuing to reflect upon the judiciary.
– I am quite clear as to your ruling, sir, that an honorable member may not reflect upon a judge; but I should like your direction as to what redress we have when a Minister reflects upon the Chair.
– There was no reflection upon the Chair. The Minister for Trade and Customs was quite in order in raising the point that, although the honorable member for Darling had withdrawn certain remarks, a certain portion of his speech was directed against the judiciary, and the honorable member has been told not to continue in that strain.
– When Judge Beeby, in the language of the Prime Minister, made a mistake, and turned a complete somersault, of the inner history of which I should like some information -
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Darling has sug gested that the judge, for some improper reason, reversed his decision. That statement, I maintain, is out of order.
– The honorable member for Darling is still referring to the fact that after the parties had spoken to the minutes, the judge changed his opinion, which he describes as turning a somersault. To say that a judge changed his opinion is not to suggest anything against his integrity. If the honorable member for Darling intended anything sinister, his remark was distinctly out of order.
– I ask you, sir, if the honorable member for Darling did not suggest a motive when he said he would like some information, concerning the inner history of the change of opinion.
– I do not think so.
– Notwithstanding the humiliation and indignity heaped upon the wharf labourers of Australia by the judge’s extraordinary mistake, at a conference of the whole of the branches of Australia, held in Melbourne, the men were recommended to accept the award. The waterside workers in some of the Australian ports .did so; but in others, particularly Melbourne, where they had enjoyed the privilege of one pick-up instead of two, they naturally resented the decision of the judge. The men who refused to recognize the award did not have a parliament to which they could go, and, as it were, stifle the judge, and could not sack him for making mistakes. The action of the judge responsible for breaking down the conditions which had been so long established and which had been so hard to win, calls to my mind thoughts which you, sir, would not allow- me to express. The members of about 50 per cent, of the branches were at work whilst the remainder were on strike against this iniquitous award. We asked the Prime Minister, as the first citizen of Australia, to convene a conference to see if it were not possible to overcome the difficulty, as we desired probably more than the Government and its supporters did, that there should be peace in industry. During the past six years we have moved no fewer than seven censure motions in order to get the Government to keep the wheels of industry moving, and provide work for the unemployed. When we asked the Government, through the Prime Minister, to convene a compulsory conference, instead of offering the olive branch, the right honorable gentleman produced the big stick in the shape of legislation providing for the issuing of licences to wharf workers. These licences provide that men can work-only at certain wharfs in Australia.
– That legislation has been endorsed by the people of Australia.
– One more endorsement of that kind and the honorable member for Kennedy and the Government he is supporting would be in oblivion. The Nationalist party had a Pyrrhic victory at the last election; but we have a fine array of new talent on this side of the chamber. Such elections) with such results, and with such so-called victories to the Government would be welcomed by us. If we can gain eight members with every Government victory, we shall be satisfied. The Prime Minister, his Government, and honorable members supporting it, are responsible for the position which has arisen on the waterfront. The strike would have been settled had not an election been pending. That is why the strike was kept going, and in my opinion that was the real reason why the judge somersaulted.
– I ask the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it.
– I call upon- the honorable member not to disobey again the ruling of the Chair, otherwise it will be necessary for me to take action. He has received the clear direction that he must not reflect upon the judiciary, and he now knows that in doing so he is violating the rules of the House.
– The other day the Prime Minister expressed the pious hope that the Peace in Industry Conference would be successful; yet he immediately proceeded to place upon our statute-book this freakish and stupid legislation in an endeavour to bring about peace in industry. It is impossible to have peace in industry while the present Government occupies the Treasury bench, as the real intention of such legislation is to ensure anything but industrial peace. A penal clause provides that if an unlicensed person engages in work on the waterfront he is liable to a penalty of £10.
The bill provides that workers who refuse to produce a ticket will, under the penalties imposed by the Government through the Attorney-General, be fined £10. Unauthorized persons in possession of a ticket, persons trafficking in licences, those guilty of payment to employers, of obstructing a licensing officer, or of making false statements, may also be fined £10. As a sop to the workers the measure provides that any employer who engages an unlicensed person may be fined £100. Such penalties are provided in this measure which the Government seeks to place upon the statute-book; but which, in a few months, will be relegated, to the same place as similar stupid freakish legislation passed from time to time by Tory Governments has been relegated. It is absurd to think that this legislation can be of any lasting benefit to the country, or that it can even endure for any length of time. Much has been said in justification of the licensing system, and both on the public platform, and in this House since we have come back, honorable members opposite have stated that after all there is nothing wrong with the licensing system, that doctors, lawyers, auctioneers, fish purveyors, and many other estimable, citizens have to be licensed, so why not wharf labourers? The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) laid particular emphasis on this point. The Attorney-General stated that much benefit had already been derived from the licensing system, claiming that it has been responsible for increased efficiency, and for a higher standard of honesty on the wharfs. I forget now whether he said that the standard of honesty had improved by 100 or SOO per cent. Of course it is so much foolishness on his part to try to make us believe that. He might be believed if he told it to the Employers’ Federation, or to the Women’s National League, or some other body, the members of which know nothing about these men. If the AttorneyGeneral had ever worked on the wharfs, or had had any experience of the work, he would know that a good deal of the dishonesty of the employer is blamed on the employee. Unscrupulous manufacturers, contractors, importers, and agents all have their cut at the consignments, and then raise their eyes to heaven and piously claim “What dishonesty there is amongst the wharf labourers. But, thank God, since the Bruce-Page dog collar has been placed on their necks they have become much more honest.”
– That is a fact.
– The AttorneyGeneral does not know fact from fiction. Some one has been telling him bed-time stories. As to the alleged increased efficiency of scab wharf labour, or loyalists, or volunteer workers, or whatever polite term may be applied to them, it is only necessary to point out that they are drawn from a class the members of which never stay in a job for any length of time. They are the flotsam and jetsam of society. They are either drawn from the gutters, or from that class of curious, well-to-do young men who take on this work for the amusement of it, and because they want to “put these jolly wharf labourers in their places.” Neither the adventurous young men nor those from the gutter have any efficiency. The so-called loyalist, the man who attempts to break strikes, is the most despicable type there is, and so, too, is the wealthy strike breaker. The real proof of their inefficiency is found in the fact that the employers always get rid of them as soon as the opportunity occurs. Eventually the employers themselves will seek the abolition of this measure, because they will have had enough of the inefficiency of the loyalists.
– I was under the impression that the honorable member said that the employers had inspired this measure.
– During times of industrial strife a very grave responsibility is cast upon the workers who participate in a strike, and the Government, whether State or Federal, which is charged with maintaining law and order. The workers had bitter experience of the result of industrial disturbances just prior to the Federal election of 1925. It seems to be more than an accident that the Bruce-Page Government never goes to the country unless the election is accompanied by a first-class strike. Because of what happened at the previous election, the workers on this occasion were particularly careful not to do anything that would cause riots or disturbances, and right throughout Australia the waterside workers maintained peace.
– What !
– The waterside workers maintained peace.
– Did they maintain peace at Port Adelaide, and at Melbourne ?
– Just a few bombs were thrown.
– The honorable member knows quite well that the men who threw the bombs had nothing whatever to do with the waterside workers.
– Of course they had.
– The honorable member is irresponsible, or he would not say that the waterside workers were to blame for the trouble that occurred.
– I do say it, and they were responsible.
– Most of the honorable member’s friends, I have no doubt, are of the same opinion, but they have more discretion than he has. The fact remains that the bomb outrages in Melbourne, and the rioting in Melbourne and Adelaide, were not caused by wharf labourers. In this connexion it should be noted that at Fremantle three years previously, men who were unknown to the waterside workers there caused most of the trouble, and were most active in the stone-throwing. One wonders where these persons come from; how they spring up just prior to an election.
– It is the introduction of American methods.
– It seems like it. I am of the opinion that the bombing, the rioting that took place on the wharfs of Fremantle, and particularly the disturbances in the Queensland ports three and a half years ago, were deliberately instigated, and that there were paid men on the job to do these things. I wonder where the bombers came from.
– From the unions.
– The bombers did not belong to the unions, and were not known to the unionists. They were not known in the industrial movement.
Always these riots and big strikes occur when anti-labour governments are facing an election. They will have to find a new method to win elections now, because the system did not do all that was expected of it at the’ last one. During the recent disturbances at Port Adelaide we were treated to a very poor imitation of Mussolini’s method of keeping law and order. In Italy to-day there are so many Fascists, and they have become so troublesome, that Mussolini has given them a job. On the streets of Rome, and right throughout the towns and villages of Italy, are to be seen black-skirted men charged with the task of preserving law and order. The most noticeable thing about them is their extreme youth ; they are the hotheaded members of the community; persons who have not acquired wisdom and experience. The same thing was observable in those who were chosen as the special representatives of law and order at Port Adelaide. Older men were available, but the authorities purposely selected young men of eighteen, nineteen, and twenty years of age. These boys were given service rifles and bayonets, and had it not been for the way in which the trade unionists at Port Adelaide handled the situation, -a tragedy would have occurred. If it had, the responsibility would have lain with the Government, and not with the unionists. The Government had no right to put lethal weapons into the hands of mere boys. The Prime Minister said that he wants peace in industry. Every honorable member on that side of the House apparently wants it, too.
– Does not the honorable member want peace in industry ?
– I have told the honorable member that we do. A few days ago I accompanied a deputation representing the coal-miners when they waited on ‘ the Prime Minister. They placed the position before him and adduced strong evidence in support of the statement that certain of the companies were working on watered capital. They furnished evidence to the effect that in some instances the same company was working as a coalmining company, and under the name of a shipping company, acting as its own agent, thus selling the coal to itself. Information was also given a? to the methods employed in importing coal into Australia. So strong was the case they made out that the Prime Minister did not attempt to reply to it. All he said was that unless the coal-miners accepted the agreement embodying a reduction of their wages, and the Government of New South Wales brought about a reduction of the cost of transport, he would not consider the suggestion that the Commonwealth Government should pay a bonus of ls. a ton on coal exported, or even that an inquiry should be held into the coal situation.
– On a point of order, I submit that the honorable member’s speech is entirely irrelevant to everything in the bill.
– I remind the AttorneyGeneral that this discussion, at the beginning, assumed very wide dimensions, dealing as it did with the whole subject of arbitration and whether it was satisfactory or whether some other method should be substituted for it. In view of the latitude given to previous speakers, it would be unfair now to restrict the honorable member for Darling.
– I feel that I am not transgressing, because I am leading up to the last point I wish to make. The Prime Minister was quite definite about his refusal to have an inquiry. Possibly he had some knowledge of the step that was about to be taken by the coal barons of Newcastle and district, because, since the deputation waited on the right honorable gentleman, ten or twelve thousand men in the Newcastle district have received notice that their services will no longer be required after a certain date. I think I can safely say that between 50,000 and 60,000 human beings are about to be plunged into privation and want, which the Prime Minister of Australia could have staved off if he had granted an inquiry and used his influence to keep the mines working. . But neither the Prime Minister, who says that he desires peace in industry, nor his Government, nor its supporters who are equally responsible for the tragedy which is about to occur on the coal-fields of Newcastle, care a rap whether there are 50,000 or 100,000 persons plunged into want. These are a few of the reasons which are actuating me in voting against the iniquitous provisions of the bill now before the House.
.- The bill before us contains the substance of certain regulations which were framed to give effect to the Transport Workers Act which was passed last session. Unfortunately, the debate so far has been characterized by the violent and extravagant criticizms of honorable members opposite. For instance, the Leader of the Opposition has described the act as one passed in a spirit of revenge and vicious in its operation ; and by their voices honorable members opposite have endorsed his remarks. Possibly, they will also endorse the extraordinary language used by the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) in his very violent attack upon the Arbitration Court. It will, no doubt, make excellent reading for the miners; but it was entirely out of place in a deliberative assembly like this. I could well understand honorable members opposite criticizing the procedure adopted by the Government, and attacking it for having initiated certain legislation ; but surely it is out of place to attack men occupying honoured positions in the life of Australia, particularly members of the judiciary, as has been done during this debate. Honorable members opposite even go so far as to make the extraordinary statement that there is no such thing as honour on this side of the chamber. Reference has been made to certain appointments. One might, with equal justice, attack certain appointments made by the Labour Government in Queensland. I contend that the Commonwealth Government has always endeavoured to do the right and honest thing in all the appointments it has made to the Arbitration Courts of the Commonwealth. In any case, our judiciary should be beyond criticism in this deliberative assembly. The Leader of the Opposition and others on his side of the chamber try to make out that the Government has been unwilling to do anything to bring about industrial peace. Surely their memories are short if they fail to remember the attempt made ‘ by the Prime Minister a few months ago to promote an industrial peace confer’ence. Did he not issue invitations to the employers’ and workers’ organizations to send delegates to such a conference! Was it not suggested that the expenses of these delegates should be paid and that they should receive a daily allowance? Was not every inducement offered to bring these people together at a roundtable conference, with the object of obtaining better co-operation in the development of Australia? It was an important step towards industrial peace, but unfortunately the unions refused to send delegates to the conference.
– They had no faith in the Prime Minister’s bona fides.
– I am afraid that honorable members opposite have misrepresented the desire of the Prime Minister to do the right thing to all classes in the community. It will be remembered in connexion with that conference, that it was suggested that if the Government would abandon its proposed amendments to the Arbitration Act the conference might be held. The Prime Minister deliberately placed the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill at the bottom of the business paper in order to meet the desires of certain people at that time, but evidently that was not considered sufficient, because the further suggestion was made that the bill should be taken off the business paper altogether, which of course would have placed the Government in a humiliating position. It might reasonably have been expected that the Government would keep its word in connexion with the matter.
As further evidence of the desire of the Bruce-Page Government to bring about better relations between employers and employees, an industrial delegation representing all sections of the community was sent to America, at great expense to the taxpayers of Australia. After spending £10,000 or £12,000, the delegation returned and submitted a very interesting report, but so far there have been no practical results from it; the delegation might just as well have remained in Australia.
In the belief that certain militant leaders of the unions had no desire for industrial peace, the Government introduced amendments to the Arbitration Act in an attempt to restore the control of the unions to the members of the organizations, the principal means by which this was sought to be done being the institution of what is known as the secret ballot.
It is true that some of the unions are now represented on a peace conference, which is being held in Sydney at the present time, but it is very significant that threats have been made that the delegates of certain unions may be induced to withdraw from the conference unless as a preliminary to the proceedingsthe volunteer labour is taken off the wharfs, the amendments of the Arbitration Act are repealed, the Crimes Act is repealed and the ban is removed from the importation of certain Labour literature. It seems to me that these demands are put forward by militant labour leaders, who have not at heart the interests of Australia. It should be the desire and ambition of every honorable member of this House to endeavour to do all that is possible to make the Sydney conference a success; because only by co-operation in industry can we hope to make progress in the development of Australia. But I am strongly of opinion that the leaders of industrial Labour in this country have no intention of co-operating for the purpose of securing peace in industry. They make no secret of the fact that the objective of the Labour Party is the nationalization of industry, and every attempt is made to hold up industry in order to bring about the day of socialism. Every attempt is made to cause the employment of labour to be unprofitable; hence the unemployment which now exists.We are all familiar with the fact that quite a number of people, small capitalists they might be called, prefer to put their money into Commonwealth loans and accept a small rate of interest, rather than invest it in industry and run the risk of the militant unions bringing about industrial trouble. Every strike is regarded as a step nearer to the goal of socialism. Has not every age had its experience of socialism? Yet socialism is as far off to-day as ever it was, because the average working man cannot be induced to sink his individuality and sacrifice his principles to bring about a state of affairs such as exists in Russia to-day. Can the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lazzarini) who makes extraordinary statements about the benefits to be achieved by socialism, quote any instance in which it has been a success? Every State of the Commonwealth has had its experience in this direction. In Queensland, which has been governed by Labour for the last thirteen years, experiments in State enterprises have been made involving the expenditure of millions of pounds without a single success.
– Yet the people have put Labour back into power in Queensland time after time.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well why the Labour party in Queensland has been returned to power time after time. Loan money has been deliberately held back pending an election for the purpose of swamping electorates likely to be dangerous to the Government, and the boundaries of other electorates have been so fixed that it is almost impossible for Labour candidates to be defeated. Although Queensland has been governed by Labour for thirteen years, unemployment has steadily increased until last year £400,000 was spent in payments to unemployed persons. If that can come about in Labour-governed Queensland with all its wealth, surely it is a lesson to the people of Australia that it is quite impracticable to make a success of nationalization.
Unable to induce the leaders of the militant unions to meet the employers and discuss their troubles with them and thus assist in the peaceful development of industry, the Government found that other action was necessary. But first of all it stands definitely for peace in industry. The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) scoffed at the past efforts of the Prime Minister, but no fair-minded person would be convinced that the right honorable gentleman has not been strictly honorable in every attempt he has made to bring about industrial peace in Australia. As a matter of fact the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) paid him the compliment of saying that at one period he believed he was honest - an admission, though slight, that there is some merit in the work done by the Government. Credit must be paid to the Prime Minister for the work he has endeavoured to do for Australia. The Bruce-Page Government stands for the highest wages and the best conditions that industry in Australia can provide. A man must be wilfully blind who pretends that things are all right in this country. It is impossible to consider the unemployment that exists without seeking the cause. Honorable members opposite may try to dazzle their supporters outside by oratorial fireworks in this chamber, but the people who are unable to yet work will eventually want to know the reason why; they will find it in the excessive interference with industry, which disheartens people who could invest money and provide work. It is time that honorable members realized this fact and took the proper course. The Prime Minister had no desire to introduce the Crimes Act, the amending Arbitration Act or the Transport Workers Act if he could have avoided doing so; he stated definitely on the floor of the House and during the elections that he was prepared to consider any alternative that might be suggested. What suggestion emanated from honorable members opposite? Nothing but abuse of the Government, particularly the Prime Minister, and the judges of the Arbitration Court. Talk of revenge and the enunciation of vicious principles will not help us. During the election campaign and in the course of this debate the Prime Minister was accused of attempting to smash the trade unions. That is a ridiculous and unfounded misrepresentation of an honorable man. Many times the right honorable gentleman has attempted to bring about a. better understanding between labour and capital, and when this false charge was levelled against him at a meeting in Queensland, he said -
I am not trying to destroy the trade unions of this country. What I om trying to do is to protect them. I am convinced that unions are part of our social system, and are essential to the welfare of this Commonwealth. Unionism must stay, but it has to be a trades unionism controlled by the workers themselves, and not by a few extremists. The secret ballot, in my opinion, is the charter of liberty for every decent working man, for it protects him from the extremist minority which is seeking to ruin both him and this country.
– Where is the secret ballot now?
– It has been operated in Queensland on at least one occasion, and I believe that when the arbitration legislation introduced by this Government is studied intelligently by the workers they will discard those bogus representatives who pretend that the Government has not been sincere and honest in its attempts to improve the industrial situation. What I have said about trade unionism is the opinion of every honorable member on this side of the House. We are willing to help the unions within reason, but we have also a responsibility to the general community. No longer can we tolerate union leaders who, pretending to speak on behalf of the workers, call men out on strike on little or no pretence, hold up industrial development and transport by land and sea, defy the laws of the land, and act to the detriment of the public interest. The actions of the waterside workers particularly have made this proposed legislation absolutely necessary. There have been so many strikes for which there was no justification that no self-respecting government could sit idly by and allow lawlessness and chaos to continue. If the legislation now before us has the effect of securing a period of uninterrupted peace on the waterfront its introduction will have been fully justified. At any rate, it cannot be said that the Government has not exercised the greatest possible patience and sincerely endeavoured to do what Ministers believe to be in the best interests of the people of Australia.
.- Taking a leaf from the book of the new honorable member for Barton (Mr. Tully) I propose to address myself fairly closely to the bill. I do not intend as a result of listening to the breezy and useful address of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) to make any reflection upon the judges; in a mixed community one never knows when and from whom he may not have to ask a favour. This bill arises out of a measure which was passed in this chamber on the motion of the Prime Minister in the closing hours of the last Parliament, and was subjected rightly to severe and searching criticism and condemnation by honorable members on this side of the chamber. Amongst our objections to the bill on that occasion was one that it sought to. invest the Government with power to legislate outsi.de Parliament D3’ means of regulations, and for that reason. as well as for others, was to be condemned. That criticism remains sound and unanswered. The conduct of the Government in arrogating to itself power -to legislate when Parliament was not sitting was a disastrous throwback to the monarchical tyranny which was common enough centuries ago, but has happily fallen into desuetude. It was no excuse for the Government that it was gambling on the possibility of its irregular legislation being ratified by the people and possibly by a new Parliament. The Prime Minister laid great stress upon the fact that he had promised the people that he would ratify by a bill the regulations made by the executive under the Transport Workers Act. In other words, the right honorable gentleman claimed to have received ti mandate from the electors to introduce this legislation. We of the Opposition question that claim, and the position of the ministerialists was stated succinctly by the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Hurry), who does not often offend by interjection or otherwise, in the phrase, “ But we are here ! “ Presumably, he meant by that remark that the Government has a. majority and is able by force of numbers to pass this legislation. Some of its supporters in the last Parliament are still here and some of them are not. The honorable member for Darling referred to the Government’s Pyrrhic victory. Perhaps I may remind honorable members in greater detail of the victory won by King Pyrrhus nearly 300 years before the Christian era, in order to give them a correct orientation towards the rising tide of labour. The” ambitious and highly successful King of Epirus casting covetous glances towards Rome, at last led an army across the frontier and engaged the Romans on their own soil. After an heroic conflict Pyrrhus was victorious, but looking about him at the mass of his fallen men and noting the dejection of his reduced and dispirited generals he said, when congratulations reached him, “ Such another victory and I must return alone to Epirus.”
– Do we laugh now?
– The interjection of the honorable member, besides being disorderly, reminds me of the fact that he boasted last week of having been reelected unopposed. If he accepts that good fortune as a confirmation of the principles of the Transport Workers Act, I do not read it in that way; rather do I interpret it as meaning that very serious subjects were being discussed in the country before the last election and not surprisingly the honorable member for Warringah was momentarily overlooked. The Prime Minister claims to have received a mandate, but when he looks upon the vacant spaces on the Ministerial benches, from which not many months ago came the radiating smiles of Ms chivalrous supporters who are politically no more; when he reflects that up to November last he controlled a party which in turn controlled this House, whereas to-day he lives politically by the reluctant votes of those who suffer him sadly, well might he say in words similar to those of Pyrrhus, “ Such another victory and I must return alone to Flinders-lane.”
There were two significant features about the last election : One was the striking and growing confidence manifested in Labour and its aspirations, and the second was the lack of confidence manifested in this Government and the Nationalist party. The two things do not necessarily go together because even when the right honorable gentleman has noted the vacant spaces about him and the increase of members on this side the whole story is still not told. Other places have been filled on that side of the House, but not by nominees of the Government. What are the Prime Minister’s thoughts when he turns his eyes towards Franklin, which not so long ago was represented by a most enthusiastic supporter of all the anti-Labour industrial proposals of the Government, but is now represented by a gentleman who recently crossed the floor to vote with those who sit on this side, obeying the dictates of his conscience rather than those of his party? What must the right honorable gentleman think when he turns his eyes to Wakefield, whose late vicar was deposed to make room for a new member, who, I understand, represents one of the different sections of the Country party and a section of one of the various sections of the pact.
– I do not represent any section of the pact.
– I stand corrected. Can we not recall the touching words used by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), who, in a letter of condolence to the ex-member for Wakefield, wrote feelingly: “To think you should have been defeated by a member of that party with which we are supposed to be in alliance; that is gall and wormwood ! “ I suggest that hereafter the Nationalist party and the Country party might appropriately be termed a combination of gall and wormwood. Seeking comfort and consolation, the Government turned to Balaclava, and sent out an S.O.S. to the representative of that distinctly Nationalist constituency to come to its aid. We learn that that honorable member arrived only yesterday, and that he carried a knobby stick under his waistcoat. Doubtless the Government can derive some comfort from North Sydney ; so there, for the moment, I shall leave it.
Mr.Parkhill. - Why not say a word on the bill? .
– I am speaking upon matters which come within the comprehension of the party manager who represents Warringah. I had hoped that that honorable gentleman would be able to understand simple preliminary matters. 1 shall now pass on to something that is entirely beyond his comprehension.
My honorable friend the member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) pointed out that this legislation had been wholeheartedly condemned in all of those electorates whose constituent parts might be thought to be specially well equipped to form an opinion upon the subject, because they are particularly interested in the question of work upon the waterfront; and he instanced his own electorate. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) took pride in the fact that he increased his majority considerably. Other honorable gentlemen who represent Conservative electorates, in which one could fire a machine gun down the main street without hitting anybody who knows the slightest thing about work upon the waterfront, declare that their endorsement by the people is tantamount to a condemnation of the waterside workers and a justification for this measure. I should have liked to ask the honorable member for Fawkner, had he been present - it would be useless to ask the honorable member for Warringah, because an intelligent reply could not be expected from him - who, in his opinion, is most entitled to pass, and most capable of passing, an intelligent judgment with respect to the nation’s work upon the waterfront? Does he think that such a person could be found in the ranks of the financiers, lawyers, capitalists and members of the leisured classes, including the estimable ladies who belong to the wealthy section of the honorable members’ supporters, or in the ranks of those who are doing and who have to . do this work? That is a question which the honorable member should face fairly and endeavour to answer. The Prime Minister labours under the curious obsession that by means of this legislation and his insistence upon the issue of licences he has done something to keep the wheels of industry moving upon the waterfront, and has broken down the strike. He speaks sadly, as though it were painful to him to be obliged to take this drastic - according to him - but effective action. There is a very simple answer to such an audacious contention, and it is to be found in the indisputable facts of the case. For many weeks before the election, and before the end of the unfortunate waterside trouble, men would have been found offering for work, the wheels of industry would have been turning, and the essential services would have been performed, but for these detestable licences. Will any honorable gentleman opposite seriously deny that? It may be argued -I think not conclusively - that there was justification for these obnoxious licences. That, however, is another question, with which I am not now dealing. The point I am making at this stage is quite unanswerable; it is a matter of history, not of argument. The men were ready to go back to work but for these obnoxious licences.
– Why did they not go hack?
– There were many reasons, some sentimental and others much more substantial. A fine example of the sentimental reason was afforded by a weatherbeaten old man who came to me and said, “For forty years I have worked upon the wharfs. It has been hard, unskilled labour, but I have made my bread out of it by the sweat of my brow. As a member of an industrial organization I made my bargain with my employer. The one thing upon which I can congratulate myself is that, as an independent worker and a son of Australia. I have given honest toil for the remuneration that I have received. To me it is a humiliation which I cannot endure, that at this time of my life I should bo asked to line up before a mau who is not my employer, who is a government official and an understrapper, side by side with cut-throats of either bad reputation or no reputation, in order to obtain for myself a licence to do the work I have done all my life.” Such an objection is worthy of respect. The act which was passed last year immensely aggravated the “trouble and led to its continuance.
The Prime Minister spoke about the war being carried into the homes of the wives and children of the volunteers. He appeared to a have a superabundance of sympathy for them. I am not without sympathy, though I do not address myself to the question in the manner chosen by the Prime Minister. But they were not the only persons into whose homes the war was carried. At the time’ that the election was being fought and the Prime Minister was touring Victoria, hundreds, probably thousands, of women and children were reduced to the verge of starvation. They were perfectly innocent participants in this war; they were involved in it, and suffered by it, because of the passage of that act and the licences which were required to be issued under it. While this claim that the Prime Minister settled the strike and turned the wheels of industry again might be justified on the ground of the dire political necessity which immediately preceded the election, it can hardly be justified now. It might have been justified at those hectic meetings at which the Prime Minister held his audience enthralled save for an occasional pointed interruption by the wives of dispossessed wharf labourers. It might have been in place at those meetings which the Prime Minister addressed during the course of his semi-royal tour through the country - meetings that were sometimes attended by five school children, the local policeman, six pressmen, and a dog, at which he received unanimous endorsement from everybody except the dog. But at this time, after the election is over and the good ship of Nationalism has been brought back into port, with leaky ribs and a mutinous crew it is true, but still, brought back into port, I suggest that as an antecedent to embarking upon a new voyage, he might procure some new kind of putty other than the story of how he started the wheels of industry revolving. However, with that lack of humour for which I suppose he should be excused the right honorable gentleman has brought forward again and insisted upon this grotesque contention that on the one hand he received a mandate to introduce this legislation and on the other that the legislation has been justified by its results in the past. There has been so much said by members opposite in excuse of the issuing of the disc or licence that one feels, to give a free translation of the French saying, that those who excuse themselves too much rather accuse themselves.
It has been said by honorable gentlemen opposite, and answered effectively over and over again that medical men must have have a diploma; that lawyers must have their authority to practice ; and that artisans, plumbers and others, must have their badges.
– Hear, hear!
– My honorable friend rightly has pride in the craft in which he is skilled and knows that the plumber must have his badge. These badges are a guarantee of efficiency and qualification to do a particular service. Lawyers and plumbers and others who have the privilege accorded them by society to do certain work, should be able to give a guarantee and an outward proof of their efficiency to do their particular task.
The badge of his calling is a thing of which any man may be proud. The Labour party as a whole has always set its face against the charlatan, the quack and the humbug in every department of life. It has always insisted that the man who undertakes to do service shall be qualified to do it. We favour the granting of a badge of efficiency and skill. But these discs or licences are not badges of efficiency. They are a sinister political device to distinguish between different classes of non-skilled labouring men for ulterior purposes.
I have said that there are certain sentimental objections to this bill, and they are entitled to respect. I have also said that the bill will perpetuate regulations which are useless and provocative. That is historically unanswerable. It is equally unanswerable that there is no evidence whatever that this Government has any mandate to revive this unpleasant and disturbing business. I come now to the bill itself and ask : “ What are some of the main practical objections upon which it deserves to be unhesitatingly reprobated?” I listened this evening to the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay), an amiable gentleman who usually does not speak long and generally speaks pleasantly and supercially upon industrial questions which he only slightly understands. I listened this afternoon with great attention to a speech delivered by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner). I also listened to a speech by the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse). These gentlemen gave expression to a good many pious platitudes of which I acquired a knowledge in my early and innocent youth, from catechisms and other reliable sources for instilling a knowledge of the primary virtues, and which were matured and developed in later days by my copybook headings. Of these I can recall only one at the moment. It began with the letter “Z” and was “ Zimmerman studied much alone.!’
– I can recall another to the honorable member’s mind, namely, “ Emulate the good and great. “
– I was speaking about the right honorable member before he entered the chamber. I do not want to rouse him, because I know that he has a knobby stick under his waistcoat for the Government. We shall allow him to rest. But I desire to take seriously the speeches of these gentlemen upon this bill. There was no evidence in any one of them that they had read a single line of the measure. They said that it was desirable and, indeed necessary, that men should obey the law. I agree with that. They said that the laws that were passed by the Parliament of which we are members should be respected. Up to a point I agree with that, but I do not go so far as to say that it means that we should be prevented from roundly condemning and criticizing those laws in the discharge of our public duties. These honorable gentlemen told us that it was particularly our duty, as the representatives of the people, to respect an award made by the Arbitration Court. The Labour party accepts arbitration as part of its policy. Its criticism of the awards of the court runs along the line of condemnation of the Government’s policy and not of the system or principle of arbitration. Let me say to these honorable gentlemen, who invite us to show respect for the awards of the Arbitration Court, that we championed the cause of arbitration, not with their assistance, but in spite of them and in spite of those who preceded them. We stood for arbitration in other days as the direct political successors of the men who saw that mere organization was not sufficient - that mere tradeunionism was not enough unless it could be translated into effect through political action and machinery created by political bodies. It is only natural that we should have respect for the principles upon which we have founded our policy in the past, and upon which we outline it at the present moment. We do not need teaching on these elementary matters of respect for law and principle.
This bill is objectionable upon the grounds that I have stated; but let me analyse one clause of it, not with the intention of dealing with it clause by clause, but merely to call the attention of the House to only one of its many fatal defects. It is provided that a licensing officer, whose position will be created by the bill, may for one of a number of reasons cancel a licence which he himself has issued. Let us remind ourselves, first of all, that the cancellation of a licence to work cuts away from a man for six months the right to live. It may be said that he would still be free to engage himself elsewhere than on the waterfront. Every man, of course, is free to the extent that he may choose, within limits, where he will work, and what work he will do. But every sane and reasonable man knows that a worker who is flung out of employment in his usual avocation finds it hard, if not impossible to place himself in employment elsewhere. Indeed it is hard enough, heaven knows, for a man to find work these days in his ordinary avocation under tlie conditions induced by this Government. A man may have his licence cancelled if he refuses or fails to comply with any lawful order or direction given him in relation to his employment by bis employers. I point out that a lawful order is one which does not violate either the civil or criminal law. Any lawful order must be obeyed, it matters not how Onerous, cruel, unreasonable or humiliating it may be. If a man refuses to carry Out a lawful order he is liable to be cut off for at least six months from the right to work on the waterfront. It may be said that if a bitter and cruel order is given, the worker has the right to appeal against it. If that is not grim irony in’ this bill, I do not know what is. After he has been struck off the list of workers he has the right to engage counsel to appeal against the decision of the licensing officer! The Prime Minister says he will get a decision within 24 hours, but, in the words of Dr. Johnson, “ That is ignorance, pure ignorance.” He must apply within 24 hours, but whether he will obtain a decision is another matter. Even if he succeeds in getting his appeal heard, it is not too much to think that at least, on general lines, the court will administer the law from the bench along the lines intended by the legislature, seeing that that is a sound principle upon which courts move.
Then, again, supposing if a worker on the wharf “having offered for work or engaged to work at the port in respect of which he was licensed, has refused to work in accordance with the terms of a current award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration,” he may be struck off again, and for six months it will not be possible for him to be re-engaged. Nobody would dare engage him. Not only would the worker himself be subject to a heavy penalty for daring to work;, but anybody engaging him would be liable to a fine of £100 or imprisonment for six months. Already, under the Arbitration Act, too severe and drastic penalties have been provided to deal with breaches of awards, and, with the making of strikes and lock-outs. The Arbitration Court already deals with these matters, and imposes punishments so severe that they have vitiated the Arbitration Court. One would imagine that the Government would be satisfied with this, without imposing further and even more drastic penalties upon the man on the wharf for the same offence. Why duplicate the penalties and punishments? Is it not enough to punish him drastically under one act without piling up penalties under another act for the same class of offence? I urge these pleasantspoken gentlemen opposite to read this bill before it goes into committee, and to ask themselves not whether they believe in strikes or lock-outs, not whether they believe in essential services being carried on, or awards respected, for these matters are not in dispute, but whether they believe in piling up against a certain class of. working man cruel penalties applying to no other class in the community.
Again, take the case of a worker ‘ who has been convicted of “ an offence against any other Commonwealth law or against any State law committed upon a wharf, pier, jetty, hulk, barge or ship.” If he has committed an offence against any State law, so long as it occurred about the waterfront, he, too, is subject to these additional penalties, but why should he be subject to penalties greater than those applicable to any other member of the community . offending in the same way? Supposing two men on the wharf, in a manly but unlawful way, settle their differences by means of a fight or some kind of assault, the law pf the State is available to deal with such a case. If it is thought worth while, such a man may be haled before a police court and fined for either offensive behaviour or assault. There are already ample ways of dealing with breaches of the law of this kind, but they are not enough for the Government. The petty despot, whoso business it will be to issue licences, may recall the licence, and, in addition to all the other penalties, the worker may be deprived of the right to live. Do the honorable and amiable gentlemen opposite believe in that kind of treatment? To me it seems hardly credible “that they could have understood the bill when they promised to give it their support. I suggest that it is not yet too late for them to read the measure. In committee they will have opportunities to read and perhaps at least amend it. I am not inclined to move amendments, because I think that the bill is vicious ab initio, or, to employ an appropriate metaphor, it is vicious from stem to stern.
The honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) said that at all costs the essential services of the community should be carried on. I challenge that statement. There are some costs that would, be too great. There are more important considerations even than shipping the produce of the farmer and moving passengers from State to State. There arc more important things than commerce - important as that is - and they Iia ve taken longer to build up than commerce has. I refer to the principles of the administration of elementary justice. In the Law Courts are inscribed the words - I think I have Seen them in almost every law court, although at times they may seem ironical enough - “ Let justice be done, though the heavens should fall.” Let justice be done though the heavens may fall, and essential services, so called, may remain Undone till wrong is redressed. I ask honorable members opposite to examine their conscience and this bill, and consider whether they feel justified in supporting all its clauses, to some of which X have called attention. At a time when we are invited to take concerted action in order to bring about peace in industry - the honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) made reference to this invitation - the Government is is endeavouring to put on the statute-book this iniquitous measure, which penalizes so unfairly the workers in one branch, of industry. It debases labour, it incites to retaliation and violence, it humiliates and degrades honest men by equalizing them with men of low or no character, and it places on them a stigma of servitude. The bill is certainly industrial conscription and martial law in industry. I do not recommend violent opposition to the law, but, short of that, I cordially invite the workers of this country to exert every means, by loyally organizing one with another, to defeat the base purposes of this bill, which is one of the most tyrannical and ill-considered measures that it has ever been my lot to speak upon since I have been a member of this Parliament.
. - The regulations under the Transport, Workers Act, which was passed during the closing hours of the last Parliament, conferred on the Executive Council the necessary powers to meet the existing conditions during the time between the expiration of the last Parliament and the election of the new one. This bill is in no way designed to interfere with the proper functions of trade unionism, but, is merely intended as a safeguard to the general public. T do not propose to discuss the merits or demerits of compulsory arbitration; but so long as there is such an institution as tlie Arbitration Court in which the trade unions have the right to have their claims considered, in which evidence is taken and judgments given and awards varied from time to time, then both parties must be prepared to abide by the decision of the court. If any union or group of unions, having appealed to the court, dissent from the decisions of the court, and- decide to hold up the essential services of the country, then it behoves the Government, which represents every section of the community, to take the necessary action to ensure the maintenance of those services. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) told us that this measure is not acceptable to the people of Australia. I do not claim to know very much about the conditions under which the last election was fought in States other than New South Wales, but as the honorable member particularly referred to that State, I should like to remind him of a few facts of which I know lie is aware. The honorable member, as the Labour campaign director for that State, adopted the tactics of dragging the political fight out of the Federal arena and making such matters as the basic wage a very big issue. A great appeal was made to the electors in my constituency by the statement that a vote for me would mean a reduction of wages. The honorable member for Dalley also realizes that tlie present Government in New South “Wales has. a heavy task in cleaning up the affairs of that State after three years of Labour misrule, waste and extravagance, and, in order to square the ledger, it has had to impose extra taxation, which nobody likes. The honorable member did not hesitate to make that extra taxation an election cry. Many other vote-catching schemes were launched by him and his party, and impossible promises were made with, I will admit, some success. I maintain, therefore, that the loss of Government support in New South “Wales had nothing whatever to do with the passing of the Transport Workers Act, but was entirely due to the misleading statements of the party opposite. The honorable member for Dalley referred to the reduced Ministerial majority in Parramatta and Martin. I would remind him that, in spite of the fact that many thousands of .electors have been transferred there from his own electorate, the vote polled by me in Martin was within 500 of that obtained in 1925 by the late Honorable H. E. Pratten, and 2,000 more than I received at the by-election in June last. Let us suppose that the honorable member is right, and that the Government did lose support owing to the passing of this act. I would remind him, with all deference to the honorable member for Batman, who spent ten minutes just now trying to explain that supporters of the Government are not here, that we are here. Our presence on this side of the chamber should be incontrovertible evidence that the people of Australia endorsed the legislation passed by this Government in the dying hours of the last Parliament. I entirely agree with the statement of the Attorney-General that the attitude of the honorable member for Dalley when he came back to this House was that of a Prime Minister returning to Parliament after having won an election, instead of a member of the party which had lost an election. It is incomprehensible that honorable members opposite should continue their obstructive tactics towards this bill, in view of the fact that the Government has just been returned with its policy endorsed by the people. The Leader of the Opposition declared that the act antagonized the workers - that it incited them to revolt and hold the law in contempt. Honorable members oppoosite know very well that it was not the Transport Workers Act that antagonized the workers or incited them to revolt or hold the law of this country “in contempt, but as the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. G. Francis) ably remarked the other day, their “ misleaders.” We all agree that the workers of this country are a fine type of men, and are not responsible for the tactics of their so-called leaders, who drag them so often into strikes and industrial disputes. It is not right that a small section of the community should be allowed to dislocate industry and hold the people of Australia to ransom simply because they do not approve of the findings of the Arbitration Court. What would be our position if we allowed this state of affairs to continue? Exactly what the Opposition would have done to meet the situation under the circumstances would be interesting to know. The right honorable the Prime Minister stated only on Thursday last that the Government would be pleased to consider any suggestions for an improvement on its proposals to ensure peace in industry, but Ave have not yet had any constructive criticism whatsoever from the Opposition. Honorable members opposite, instead of considering the We.fare of the people as a whole, appear disposed to support the action of a small section of the community in evading the law. There has been a great deal pf discussion on this issue. I regret very much that the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) should be so bankrupt in argument as to consider it necessary to cast slurs upon our judges. Nearly all honorable members Will agree that, if there is one thing upon which Ave in Australia pride ourselves, it is that the members of our judiciary, at least, are beyond reproach. The Government having been called upon to deal with an industrial situation last year, deemed it necessary to bring in emergency legislation. It now proposes to embody in the bill the regulations made under the Transport Workers Act, which has been endorsed by the people.
.- Speaking as a representative of the primary producers, I am impressed by the extent to which industrial problems engaged the attention of the last Parliament and affected legislation passed by it. We have had an animated debate to-day upon this measure between representatives of organized labour and honorable members representing the employing interests. The industrial issue has been in the forefront for some considerable time. During the last two election campaigns it was the most prominent question before the people. Consequently, many important national problems which, in other circumstances, would receive consideration in Parliament, have been more or less obscured. Industrial problems having been made a battle cry at ‘the last election, the issue is being fought again upon the floor of this House. The last Parliament passed a number of industrial measures, including the Crimes Act, and the Transport Workers Act, under which regulations were made to deal with organized labour and organized capital. In the last Parliament these issues overshadowed many other questions. The manner in which such legislation affected the primary producers’ interests has not yet been effectively stated. Although some primary industries are not directly involved, all of them are more or less affected by industrial legislation. Indeed, it is not a mis-statement to say that, generally, the primary producers have to “ pay the piper “. In some instances, awards of the Arbitration Court directly affect their industry, and very often they are the innocent victims of industrial disturbances - strikes, lockouts and other developments arising out of a dislocation of industry.
– They are also the victims of increased taxation.
– As the honorable member for Riverina has said, legisla tion of the kind referred to concerns them in that way too. Let me cite one or two instances to indicate how directly Arbitration Court legislation may concern our primary producers. I refer honorable members to the position of the dried fruits industry. I am well aware, Mr. Speaker, that, in thisdebate, you will not permit me to discuss the ramifications of that industry. I do not propose to do so. The dried fruits industry is working directly under Arbitration Court awards. Not only the harvesting and the packing of the crop, but all the operations on the block, such as ploughing and pruning, and the labour of those engaged in the secondary industries in the packing sheds are governed by industrial legislation. The unfortunate grower has to meet fixed costs in every direction, whereas his returns are based on what he can receive for his produce in the markets of the world. The result is that the industry is in an almost desperate position. The growers have petitioned the Government for assistance in the form of bounties. The Government has replied by appointing a Development and Migration Commission to inquire into conditions in the industry, and introducing certain legislation dealing with the marketing of the crop. Those actions indicate the Government’s recognition of the necessity to help the ‘dried fruits growers in the difficult position in which they are placed by reason of other legislation. The canned fruits industry is in much the same position ; the conditions of employment both on the blocks and in the canneries are governed by arbitration court awards. In the Melbourne Age of recent date, an account is given of a visit by the Premier of Victoria, Sir William McPherson, to the canned fruit areas last week. Mr. W. Jukes, the president of the local branch of the Returned Soldiers’ Association, read a letter addressed to the Premier in which the position of the settlers in the Kyabram district was set out. As the report is somewhat lengthy, I shall quote only a portion of it -
If the Government cannot settle the matter satisfactorily, we ask that soldier settlers be compensated to get out of the industry, which is undoubtedly suffering acutely from overproduction. We are only claiming what we have earned - our right to live. Failing the immediate alleviation of our hardships in some permanent form, we ask that the provisions of the Moratorium Act be extended to this district. The present insecurity of the position of soldier-settler fruit-growers is mentally affecting a large number of the men and their wives and families. No genuine attempt at a solution has been made to overcome the several problems which have arisen in connexion with soldier settlement.
– Does the honorable member intend to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I shall do so. The working farmers of Australia regard not unsympathetically the attempts of the organized workers to improve their conditions.
Mr.FENTON. - Their interests are identical.
– Their environment tends, however, to make them see only one side of industrial disputes. Let me give an illustration. Last year I forwarded to a firm of wool brokers a quantity of wool with instructions to dispose of it without delay and to remit the proceeds to me. The firm replied that owing to the shipping hold-up the wool sales had been suspended and that it could not say when the wool would be sold. To me that reply mattered little, for the quantity of wool I forwarded for sale was small; but imagine the position of a farmer in financial difficulties who received a. similar letter and in, Say, the Argus or the Sydney Morning Herald read a leading article blaming the “ Red “ element in the community for the shipping hold-up. Is it any wonder that such a man unconsciously takes a jaundiced view of disputes between organized labour and organized capital? I am endeavouring to put the position as I see it, and as I believe many farmers throughout the country sec it.
– Has the honorable member ever noticed in the newspapers he has mentioned any favorable reference to the workers’ side in a dispute?
– In my opinion the position has not been fairly put from one side. I think that even honorable members supporting the Government will not combat that statement. I do not attach blame to the newspapers or to anybody else, but merely refer to the position as it is. What is the attitude of the average farmer towards what the Prime Minister declares is the right of the Government to keep the wheels of industry going, to prevent stoppages of transport, and to curb the activities of anybody who infringes upon the rights of the average citizen of the community? My interpretation of his attitude is that he concedes the right of any government to curb the actions of any section of the community which unduly infringes upon the rights of the community generally. Rut whilst most of us agree that the law should curb the wharf labourer, if necessary, we also desire that it should curb the ship-owner and the coal-owner in similar circumstances. There should not be one law for the ship-owner and another for the wharf labourer or one for the coal-owner and another for the coal mineowner.
– Is there?
– In answer to the honorable member for Swan, I mention that I recently read in the daily press that 10,000 coal-miners had received from the mine-owners notice to quit. I believe that if 10,000 sailors or other organized workers had given notice to their employers that they intended to stop work we should have had the Bight Honorable the Prime Minister expressing regret at that action, and hoping that the men would re-consider their contemplated holding up of industry, at the same time dropping avery astute hint that if they failed to do so it would be the duty of the Government to keep the wheels of industry going. I reiterate, however, that I agree that it is the right of this or any other Government to protect the interests of the body politic.
This bill has been regarded with suspicion by honorable members of the Opposition, and I believe that it will be so regarded by the great bulk of the workers of Australia. I admit frankly that that is not so much because of what the bill appears to contain, but because it is inintroduced by a Government that introduced the Crimes Act and other unfortunate measures and which, at two successive elections, obtruded and made the only battle cry upon which it was returned to office the very contentious subject of industrial strife. The measure is a very simple one; its main object is to licence workers on the waterfront.Without such a licence wharf labourers will not be able to obtain employment. The Government claims that that is the best way to ensure peace on the waterfront. It goes farther, and asks honorable members of the Opposition to suggest a better method, if they can. I admit, in fairness to the Government, that honorable members of the Opposition have not accepted that invitation.
– It would be futile to make any suggestions.
– I believe that it would very much strengthen the case of the Opposition to do so. I listened attentively to the speech of the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), in which he compared the granting of these licences to the issuing of a diploma to a doctor or a certificate to a plumber. I am sure that no honorable member accepted that comparison seriously. Obviously, there is a vast difference between the granting of a diploma to a doctor of medicine and the granting of a licence to a wharf labourer. There is an examination in competency before the diploma is awarded - the honorable gentleman who is a shining light in the medical profession, passed such an examination, but no examination is to be held before the proposed licences are granted to wharf labourers. It is immaterial, apparently, whether a person knows what a sling is. The question is merely “Do you want work?” Nothing is asked as to character, past experience, or as to how long an individual intends to make the work his means of livelihood.
– Do the unions ask such questions before accepting members?
– I am dealing, for the moment, with the comparison made by the Treasurer, which, in my opinion, is a ridiculous one. Apparently the examination comes after and not before the licence is granted. The bill prescribes certain offences and penalties. It is prescribed that a licence may be suspended for six months. Why six months?
– That is the maximum period.
– It is the minimum period. Why should it not . be three months? To an impartially-minded person that penalty savours very much of undue severity, and makes one wonder what is the motive behind it. As I recognize the necessity to use restraining action against any section of the community that unfairly ‘ infringes the rights of others, I shall vote for the measure, but I hope that the Government will exhibit the same readiness to curb the activities of those who organize lock-outs as it does to curb unrest amongst wharf and other labourers.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Atkinson) adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER laid on the table his warrant nominating Mr. George Hugh Mackay to act as Temporary Chairman of Committees when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees.
House adjourned at 10.30 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 February 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290220_reps_11_120/>.