11th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Littleton Groom) took the chair at3 p.m. and read prayers.
Mr. M. CAMERON, as Chairman, presented the report of the Standing Committee onPublic Works together with minutes of evidence relating to the proposed erection of botanical laboratories at Canberra.
Ordered to be. printed.
Mr.FENTON.- I bring to the notice of the Minister for Trade and Customs a package of “Eight Dainty Whiffs “ on the back of which is printed these words -
Dainty Whiffs are a high-classsmoke made from the tobaccoplant, of the choicest small leaf. These small cigars are manufactured in tie Netherlands, for people of good taste.
On examination I find that within the outer layer of these cigars is a layer of brown paper. Has the Minister for Trade and Customs power under the Customs Act or the Excise Act to prevent these imported adulterated cigars from being sold to the people of Australia, especially when over 200 cigar-makers in the Commonwealth are out of work?
– I shall make inquiries regarding this matter and furnish a reply to the honorable member.
– Since the announcement by the Minister of the intention of the Government to renounce the rebate of 2d. per gallon on petrol used for agricultural machinery and by nonusers of the roads, representations have been made that the use of tractors is becoming general. Will. the Minister for Trade and Customs endeavour to make an arrangement between the importers of petrol and the agricultural community by which this rebate may be restored? For the last two years these users of petrol have felt that they are entitled by law to the rebate.
– A decision was reached on this matter only after the closest investigation, but I shall be pleased to re-examine the case in the light of the honorable member’s representations.
– Will the Minister take into account also the petrol consumed by launch owners? They have written to the department claiming a rebate, but have received no satisfaction.
– I shall be pleased to examine that matter also.
– According to a newspaper report, the Premier of Victoria, Sir William McPherson, has communicated with the Prime Minister, suggesting that the operation of the Maritime Industries Bill should be delayed. Has the right honorable gentleman received any communication from Sir William McPherson ?
- Sir William McPherson communicated with me, asking that the period during which the awards of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court shall continue in operation be < extended from the 30th June next, as ‘ proposed in the bill, to the 31st December, 1930. In my reply, I pointed out that if the bill becomes law there will be nothing to prevent a State Parliament from continuing the existing awards by a bill of two lines to the 31st December, or any later date. I think that Sir William McPherson’s letter was written under a misapprehension.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are -
Housing - Dismissals of Bus Conductors
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are -
The houses are also inspected at intervals by the Commission’s Health Inspector, and are also under constant supervision in this regard by the department of the Commission which controls the letting. The Commission has made a special point of giving the most careful attention to the houses at Molonglo from the public health point of view.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are -
Two conductors have recently been dismissed and the services of two others will later be dispensed with.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will give favorable consideration to the question of again allowing public servants to have their contributions to the Superannuation Fund cease at60 years of age?
– The Government has now under consideration certain proposals for the amendment of the superannuation law, and will consider this question before introducing an amending bill.
Merges with Cable Companies.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are -
Remittances to Southern Europe
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What amount of money was remitted during the last three financial years, to each country of Southern Europe, by natives of such countries who were resident in Australia?
– The total amounts remitted from Australia to Italy and Malta by money order during the last three years were £285,000 and £57,000, respectively, but no differentiating records have been kept to distinguish the sums which were sent by natives of those countries. Particulars of the remittances to other Southern European countries are not readily available, but the amounts are believed to be comparatively small.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The honorable member’s questions are being brought under the notice of the Commonwealth Bank.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and a reply to the honorable member will be furnished as soon as possible.
Appointment of Mr. Broughton Edge
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are -
High Salaried Officers
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the particulars supplied on 22nd March last, in regard to officersof the Commonwealth Public Service (Hansard, page 1737), what are the names of officers in receipt of salary of £1,000 and over?
– The particulars desired by the honorable member are as set out in the following statement, which does not include the particulars supplied on 22nd March last, but is supplementary thereto : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In connexion with the expenditure of £7,078 in travelling expenses of Ministers during the financial year 1928-29, although the vote provided by Parliament was. £2,000, -will he state what amount was received by each Minister?
– The amount quoted covers cost of transport - as 1 -well as pavement of travelling expenses. The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained.
Representations to British Government
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What was the nature of the representations which he made to the British Government in regard to the threatened withdrawal of British preference to Dominion products, and has he received any reply thereto?
– The strongest representations were made by the Commonwealth Government to the British Government as to the effect of the withdawal of British preferences on Australian products, and communications have passed between the two Governments on the subject. It. is not, however, desirable in the public interest that the correspondence” should be published.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The replies to the honorable member’s questions are -
As intimated in my reply, £G,506 18s.’ 6<L has been spent from Commonwealth funds in connexion with the building and £13,275 14s. Id from Commission funds upon engineering, services in association with tlie erection of., the memorial. .
In addition to this amount, the sum of £13,275 14s. Id. has been expended from the Commission’s funds upon engineering services in association with the memorial site.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– It is not the intention of the department to proceed with the installation of automatic telephone equipment at Rockhampton at the present time, consequently an estimate of the cost has not been prepared. The existing equipment will meet requirements for some years to come.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– An early resumption of operations on the coal-fields, upon terms and conditions equitable to both employers and employees, is a matter of paramount concern to the whole of the community. The attainment of this objective would not be advanced by traversing, at the present juncture, the ground covered by the honorable member’s questions, which would be answered only by a full statement on the whole matter.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
The following paper was presented : -
Declaration of Urgency.
– I declare that the Maritime Industries Bill is an urgent measure.
Question - That the bill be considered an urgent bill - put. The House divided.
Majority - . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Limitation of Time.
– I move-
That the time allotted in connexion with the bill be as follows -
for the committee stage of the bill, to the end of clause6, until 11 p.m. on Tuesday, 10th September;
b ) for the committee stage of the bill, to the end of clause 27, until 11 p.m. on Wednesday, 11th September;
for the committee stage of the bill, to the end of clause 36, until 4 p.m. on Thursday, 12th September;
for the remainder of the committee stage of the bill until 10.30 p.m. on Thursday, 12th September;
for the remaining stages of the bill until 11 p.m. on Thursday, 12th September.
As the Government proposes to ask the House to meeton Thursday next, at 11 a.m., that will add two hours to the time allotted for the consideration of the bill on that day. All honorable members must recognize the necessity for the allocation of time in regard to major measures. The second-reading debate of this bill occupied just upon 60 hours. If allowance is made for the fact that there is a private members’ day once in three weeks, the equivalent of 60 hours is approximately five weeks of parliamentary time. If five weeks is to be taken for a second-reading debate, and a similiar period is required for the committee stage of a bill, it will be impossible to get business through this Parliament. The Government asks the House to agree to the proposed allocation of time on this important measure, because we think it the fairest way to give honorable members an opportunity of debating it. When the revision of the Standing Orders is considered by this House, I think honorable members will come to the conclusion that it is desirable that there should be a curtailment of the time for which each individual member is allowed to address the House on the second reading of a bill, or the committee during the consideration of its clauses. I suggest that it is essential that a period be allotted for the consideration of this measure. In the opinion of the Government the times which have been allotted are fair and reasonable, and I ask the House to agree to them.
– I thank honorable members for the reception which they have given me on my return to this chamber, and I hope that they will be just as cordial to me after the next four weeks, as they have been after the last four weeks.
I object to the motion that the Prime Minister has moved, first on the ground that it is, as the right honorable gentlema’n himself has described it, a major measure, and for that reason there should be no limitation of time imposed; secondly, on the ground that the time allotted for the bill, even if it were not an important measure, is not adequate. In the first place, the Prime Minister did not give the facts. He did not give an accurate statement of the position. He said that 60 hours had been occupied on the second reading of the hill, but he did not explain that 40 hours of that time were spent- in a process of exhaustion. This bill has not been discussed in the country to the slightest degree. It has not been even hinted at as far as the people of Australia are concerned, and now there is not to be a proper open discussion of it in this Parliament.What is the reason for the attempt of the Government, to bludgeon this class of legislation through the House ? There is no urgency about this measure. Only a few moments ago the Prime Minister said that he had informed the Premier of Victoria that he was quite at liberty to extend federal awards until the end of next year.
– Only if this legislation is passed.
– Where is the urgency for this bill ? Where is the urgency to get rid of the federal awards if the States can adopt them under their legislation ? The Prime Minister has stated that the 60 hours spent on the second reading of the” bill is equivalent to five weeks’ sittings of this Parliament. It is nothing of the kind. It is equal to ten days’ sittings of this Parliament. This Parliament can sit four days a week without much inconvenience, and it can sitmore weeks in the year than if does. It isfor the Government to call Parliament together to undertake the work of this country. The Prime Minister now intends to bludgeon this measure through, which he, himself, has admitted is a major measure. I was not a victim of the process of exhaustion which took place during the . second-reading debate, but the methods then adopted by the Government were barbarous. No honorable member is prepared to deny that. One has only to read the comments that have appeared in the press of this country to perceive that the methods adopted by the Government are bringing this Parliament into contempt. No one believes that the business of this Parliament can be carried on under conditions that force even Government supporters to lie on their benches covered with blankets and rugs.
– Fourteen Government supporters were asleep.
– Whatever honorablemembers on the Opposition side did or did not do during those 46 hours is not their responsibility. The Government was responsible for the conditions that prevailed, and it is the Government supporters who are responsible for whatthe Government does. When the secondreading debate of a drastic measure such as this, which is to undo what has been accomplished during 25 years, is put through in 60 hours, and 46 of those hours form part of a continuous sitting, honorable members of this Parliament have no proper opportunity to discuss it. Yet now we have the declaration that this is an urgent measure, and we are asked to finish to the end of clause 6 by 11 o’clock to-night. Those six clauses are the important clauses of this bill, two of them outstanding in their importance and equal in importance to the second-reading debate of most measures. Upon one of them the very life of this Government hangs. Clause 2 deals with the time when the act shall come into operation and is, therefore, a vital clause. Clause 3 sets out the acts that it is proposed shall be repealed. In addition to those two clauses, four others will have to be disposed of by 11 o’clock to-night. This proposal is an abuse of the power which the Government possesses. Whatever arguments may be advanced in favour of the limitation of speeches - and I agree with the Prime Minister that there is some room for reform in that direction- this is not the way in which that limitation should be imposed; and the methods that were adopted to conclude the second-reading stage of the bill were not such as should be employed in the transaction of the business of this country.
.- I congratulate the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) upon his return to health and his re-appearance in this House. We are all pleased to see him back. It would appear, however, that, having just come from Victoria, he is under the impression that that is the only State whose views ought to be considered, and that the Government should accede to the request of the Premier of Victoria to so amend the bill that federal awards will continue to operate until the 31st December, 1931, instead of the 30th June of that year, as is proposed. But there are other States which realize that this measure is in the interests of Australia, and desire to set up immediately the necessary machinery to take over the regulation of industry within their borders when the field has been vacated by the Commonwealth. Why should they be held up because Victoria, for some reason of its own, wishes to remain for a little longer under the Commonwealth law ?
– Is not the honorable member supporting the Victorian Ministry ?
– Not necessarily; why should I? I prefer to do what is in the interests of the whole of Australia, rather than of any particular section of it. Honorable members of the Opposition cannot see that the community consists of any than trade Unionists. A little while ago, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) said that they were concerned with only one class, and that was the class to which trade unionists belong. They are somewhat one-eyed in that respect. What do the Opposition want? Their leader has just complained that they were compelled to undergo the ordeal of a sitting extending over two nights last week. Do they want another all-night sitting this week? I believe that they are particularly anxious to re-hash the speeches they delivered last week. Probably, too, they have since called to mind things they might have said, but overlooked saying. It is not the intention of the Government to give them an opportunity to re-hash their secondreading speeches. I am very glad that the Prime Minister proposes to curtail the debate. It cannot be wondered at that Government members went to sleep during the long sitting which we had at the end of last week. When they had listened to three speeches from the Opposition side of the House, they had heard all the arguments that those honorable members could advance, and realized that the remainder were merely addressed to the constituents. I appeal to those honorable members who voted with the Opposition in the last division to support this motion, so that we shall not have a repetition of the experience of last week.
.- I do not wish to encroach upon the time that it is proposed to allot to the committee stages of this measure; but I wish to direct the attention of the Prime Minister to the unfair allocation of that time. Obviously, the greater part of to-day will be devoted to the consideration of the amendment that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has indicated he intends to move. Therefore, honorable members will not have an adequate opportunity to deal with the definitions clause, or with that which proposes to repeal certain legislation that is now on the statute-book. Under the proposed definitions of “ maritime industry “ and “ organization “ there will be a revolutionary departure from existing procedure in relation to martime industries in the Federal Arbitration Court. It will not be fair to the various maritime organizations that are interested in this matter if no time is given to the consideration of the provisions that apply directly to them. I protest against the application of the guillotine to the bill, but particularly against the manner in which the Prime Minister proposes to distribute the time allotted for its discussion.
.- I am a little surprised that honorable members of the Opposition should evince so great an anxiety to assist the Government to carry out its functions. They have not been asked to do that. Every honorable member has had ample opportunity to decide upon what action he should take. Members should have noted by now whatever objections they may have to any particular clause; and if they have done so, tcn minutes should be ample for the expression of those objections. Nothing can be urged against putting the measure through in the time fixed.
– The opposition of members of the Labour party to the application of the ” SaS “ surprises me, because for many years I was a victim of its application by a Labour administration. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Theodore) was Premier of Queensland in 1922, he applied the “gag” on no fewer than 41 occasions before any discussion had taken place. On twelve occasions he applied it after one member of the Opposition had spoken; on eight occasions after two members had spoken; on four occasions after three had spoken ; once after four had spoken; four times after five had spoken; and five times after seven had spoken. In that year the Labour Government, of which he was the Leader, passed 38 bills, the total time allowed for the discussion of all stages of which was 184 hours, an average of four and three-quarter hours for each measure. Honorable members will thus see how ruthlessly and unfairly Labour administrations prevent discussion when they are in charge of the conduct of business. I cannot, therefore, understand the present unwillingness of honorable members opposite to take the gruel which I shall be pleased to assist in giving them.
.- The Prime Minister ought to consider the point that has been raised by the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman). He would appear to have decided upon an unjust allocation of the time. Three days are to be allotted to the committee stages of the bill. That, in all conscience, is short enough for the consideration of so important’ a measure. But the portion which must be concluded by 11 o’clock to-night contains the principal clauses. One of those clauses relates to the repeal of existing arbitration laws, and another contains the definitions. Then, in Part II. which contains the clauses dealing with the proposed maritime indus tries committees, very important principles are involved. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has given notice of an amendment, the discussion of which must occupy a considerable portion of the present sitting. Thus very little time will be left for the remaining clauses. A considerable amount of reasonable argument can be adduced in opposition to the proposal to repeal certain laws, and honorable members should have a proper opportunity to discuss it. This is a deliberative assembly, not one in which measures should be passed without discussion.
– The honorable member is not referring to the House from which he came?
– The honorable member alludes to the Assembly of which I had the honor to be a member in Queensland. If the Standing Orders were drastically operated by me when Premier of that State, I was merely exercising powers that were provided by a preceding Nationalist government. In reply to the point raised by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), I may say that for six years I had sat in opposition to the late Mr: Kidston, and then in opposition to Mr. Denham, who followed him, during which time we were subjected to the ruthless application of the guillotine on , the pretence that the Government had to get business through. When I became Premier, it was because of the unconscionable and unreasonable opposition of members of the type of the honorable member for Wide Bay, that the course to which he objects was adopted.
– The existence of certain standing orders is no excuse for the course adopted by the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) when Premier of Queensland, because it was then within his competence to have the Standing Orders amended - if he had so desired.
In reply to the objection that the allocation provided for in the motion is unfair, I point out that clause 3 of the bill, which provides for the repeal of certain statutes, and the future control of the maritime industry, has been fairly debated on the motion for the second reading. I also suggest that as the amendment to be moved by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has also been very fully traversed during the second-reading debate, there is no reason why its discussion should occupy much of the allotted time for the consideration of clauses 1 to 6. If the debate on the right honorable gentleman’s amendment is curtailed, a longer period will be available for the discussion of the clauses. Taking the bill as a whole, the allocation is fair and reasonable.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put.The House divided.
Majority . . . . 6
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 -
This act shall commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation.
– I move -
That after the word “ proclamation “ the following words be added: - “which shall not be earlier than its submission to the people, either at a referendum or at a general election “.
If the amendment is agreed to, the clause will read -
This act shall commence on a date to be fixed by proclamation, which shall not be earlier than its submission to the people, either at a ‘referendum or at a general election.
It is common ground with all parties inthe House that this measure effects a profound change in the Commonwealth industrial sphere. It is without parallel in our history; it is contrary to the intentions of the framers of the Constitution; it deprives the National Parliament of all power to deal with the greatest problem of the age; it destroys a system which has been in operation during the last twentyfive years; it throws into confusion those industrial organizations built up under federal law; it is grossly unfair to the members of those organizations, who, in the majority of cases, have loyally observed the letter and spirit of federal awards. This measure is of major importance and without precedent ; is, so the Prime Minister tells us, of extreme urgency.’ And for this unprecedented, vitally important, and urgent measure, the Government claims that it has the authority of the electors. This is not true. The Prime Minister asks us to believe that he has a mandate from the electors to strip the Commonwealth of its industrial powers and to halt that ordered and continuous forward march of the National Parliament during the last twenty-five years. Let us look at the position. The people created federation in order that their interests might be more effectively promoted. They distributed the powers of government between the Commonwealth and the States. They did this deliberately; they gave authority over certain matters to the Commonwealth, and to the States, authority over other matters. Each was given its allotted sphere of influence and authority. It is not competent for either authority to divest itself of the power conferred on it by the people without the express authority of the people except as provided in the Constitution. Yet the right honorable gentleman claims that he has the authority of the people for this measure. To put it mildly this is a complete perversion of the facts. Let us review them. The issues at the last election were substantially the same as in 1925 - “ the enforcement of the law and maintenance of industrial peace through the instrumentality of the powers conferred on the Commonwealth and exercised by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.” The interpretation of words must have relation to the circumstances in which they are uttered and to the position of the man who utters them. When the Prime Minister promised the people last November that if they supported him, he would show them the way to an economical paradise, they naturally interpreted his remarks to mean that he would do so by means of the machinery of the national legislature. They did not think for a moment that the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth meant that he would lead them to economic salvation through the machinery of the State legislatures. They knew that he had no authority to speak for the States. If the people of Australia had desired something that only the States could give, they would have approached the State Premiers or petitioned the State Parliaments. When the Prime Minister promised industrial peace, he addressed the people as the head of the Commonwealth Government, and they naturally assumed that the policy submitted was one within the ambit of the Commonwealth. In 1928,- as in 1925, the issue before the electors was the enforcement of industrial peace ‘ through the enforcement of the federal law. His previous promises and his legislative and administrative record precluded any other assumption. In 1926 and 1927 the federal law was strengthened in accordance with the promise contained in the Prime Minister’s policy speech delivered in 1925 -
It is also proposed to strengthen the powers of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration.
When, in 1928, the right honorable gentleman introduced a measure to amend the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, he said -
In introducing this bill, the Government is merely carrying out a solemn pledge given to the electors last election.
The electors could do no other than interpret those remarks to mean that industrial peace would result from action taken in the federal sphere. Now the right honorable gentleman says that he has a mandate from the people to surrender to the States the powers conferred on this Parliament by the framers of the Constitution. But he must know that this is in violent conflict with the facts. Speaking of the maintenance of industrial peace, the Prime Minister said in 1925-
This is a matter which can only be dealt with on a national basis, not only because of its’ fundamental importance, but also because varying hours in different States must destroy the equality of competition in interstate trade.
Reviewing the record of the right honorable gentleman during the past six years, we see that he has gone steadily along those lines. He has recognized not only the responsibility of this Parliament, but, also the impossibility of attaining industrial peace other than through federal instrumentalities. He has said that the States could not deal effectively with industrial unrest. When during the last election campaign he said that, .if the people returned him to power, he would give them industrial peace, he clearly meant that he would act through the machinery created by this Parliament. He stood before the people as the embodiment of the power and the majesty of the law. That, indeed, was the keynote of his policy then, as it has been ever since he assumed office. Yet he now says that he has the authority of the people to scrap the law and to hand the control of these matters over to the States.
In my second-reading speech, I said that if the transfer to the States of the control of industrial matters had been made an issue at the last election, it would ‘ have over-shadowed all other issues; everything else would have been swept aside. The opponents of arbitration - and there are many of them in the community - would have rejoiced and urged the people to support the right honorable gentleman in his courageous attack on this mad policy of arbitration and in his resolve to return to economic sanity - the rule of the law of supply and demand. Every State government - particularly that of New South “Wales - would have taken the field in support of the right honorable gentleman’s proposal. The Government’s policy would have been broadcast from Dan to Beersheba; every newspaper would have given prominence to it; and, on the other hand, every trade union would have been up in arms against it, then, as they have been ever since he announced his present policy. But the issue was never raised ; not a breath of it reached the electors. The GovernorGeneral’s Speech contained no hint of it. The reference to the Transport Workers Act, included in His Excellency’s speech, was a clear indication of the way in which the Government intended to interpret its pledges to the people. It intended to enforce the federal law. When Parliament assembled, industrial questions were in the forefront, for there was trouble in the coal-mining industry and among the timber workers. But not one word did the right honorable gentleman say to Parliament, to the Nationalist party, or, so far as we know, to any human being of his intention to hand over to the States those powers which, in 1925, and almost every day since then, until he went to the Premiers Conference in Sydney, he said could be exercised only by the national legislature. . Parliament adjourned without the members of his party learning the right honorable gentleman’s purpose. Later, a conference of the Nationalist party was held in Sydney, and was addressed at great length by the Prime Minister. In his speech, he ran the whole gamut of earthly things ; he covered every phase of human activity ; but he said not one word about this issue. If it had been the issue at the election ; if he then had it in his mind, he would have mentioned it, for if he had, all other issues would have sunk into insignificance. Is it credible that he would not have appealed to the conference to suggest this policy if he had then evolved it? He would have asked for a resolution in support. He has introduced these proposals in the absence of a’ resolution from that conference ‘ that it would support him. Such a resolution, surely, would have strengthened his determination to fight in so noble a cause ! In support of his contention that he has the authority of the people for the introduction of this measure, the Prime Minister points to one or two statements, in which either he or the Attorney-General in a vague and general way, said that, in certain circumstances, it might be necessary to review the Constitution, or that federal arbitration could be continued only if the awards of the court were observed. That might be very true. But for six years the right honorable gentleman has consistently advocated the enforcing of the awards of the Federal Arbitration Court. He went so far as to introduce legislation providing heavy penalties for breaches of those awards. In 1925, in definite and unambiguous terms, he. said that industrial peace could be obtained only through the agency of the federal legislature. He said that the States could not ensure industrial peace. From that time until he went to the Premiers Conference in Sydney, or until the circumstances which caused him to change his opinion, arose, he stood for the Federal law and its enforcement as a means of obtaining industrial peace. Now he says that this issue was before the people at the last election, and that when he was returned to power he received a mandate to scrap federal control of industry. And the urgency of this measure is so great that he compelled Parliament to sit continuously for 46 hours last week, to deal with its second reading; and now he proposes to “ guillotine “ it through its further stages. When asked to submit the whole question to the people by way of a referendum, he says that he cannot do so because of the delay and the expense involved. He has given no satisfactory explanation of his refusal to wait for the report of the royal commission which he himself appointed some time ago in order to strengthen Parliament in dealing with constitutional matters. In his policy speech, delivered at Dandenong, prior to the last election, the Prime Minister said -
There is a general consensus of opinion that the Federal Constitution, -which was deemed inadequate in 1900, is now due for revision.
Did lie then mean that he proposed, to leave this Parliament powerless to deal with any industrial upheaval, no matter how widespread it might be? No; he meant the opposite, for in the same speech the right honorable gentleman also said -
An endeavour was made by the Government to obtain the assent of the people to an amendment which was designed to alter the power of the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate upon the subject of industrial relations. This endeavour, though supported by the Opposition, failed, and it became apparent that any general revision of the Constitution must be prefaced by the fullest inquiry, and ‘ that ample time should be allowed to the people to consider the important questions which would be involved. These conditions have been satisfied- in the case of the proposed amendment relating to the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States. As to other matters, the Government hopes, soon to receive the report of the royal commission which has been inquiring into the working of the Constitution.
After considering the report of the commission, the Government will submit to Parliament such proposals for amending the Constitution as it thinks proper.
Although the Prime Minister definitely pledged himself to submit the recommendations of the royal commission to this Parliament, and said that his main purpose in creating the commission was to obtain wider powers for the Commonwealth in industrial matters, he now proposes to strip the Commonwealth of every vestige of industrial power. He ignores the commission which he, himself, appointed. Last week he told us that he expected the report of the commission to be tabled on Saturday. No mention is made of it to-day. If the matter before us is so urgent, and we cannot be saved unless we tread this narrow way to which we are strangers; if industrial peace can be attained only by rejecting all that we have learned during the last 25 years, why have we not been given the opportunity of seeing the. commission’s recommendations? This commission will recommend a referendum on some matter, and that referendum will probably include a proposal for widening the powers of the Commonwealth in regard to industrial matters. In any case such a proposal will be included by this Parliament. When that happens this measure will come before the people, and be considered by them; whether it be re- mitted to them directly or not. It is impossible to ask the people to amend the Constitution without also asking them to grant the Commonwealth wider industrial powers, and that cannot be done without giving them an opportunity to consider the operation of this bill. The measure is a retrograde and reactionary step, and quite contrary to the clear intentions of the framers of the Constitution, and to any amendment which may be submitted to the people by way of referendum. The Prime Minister is committed to the taking of a referendum. Why does he not follow the obvious and proper course, and submit to the people . this matter, upon which there is such a wide difference of opinion?
The right honorable gentleman says that delay would be fatal. The matter is so urgent that he must perforce turn a deaf ear to every appeal that is made for adequate time in which to discuss the bill. This measure overshadows every other that has been submitted to this Parliament since its inception. Never before has there been a proposal to abandon the powers vested in this Parliament by the people, yet the Prime Minister declines to give honorable members an opportunity to discuss it. Nor will he refer the matter to the people. Perhaps the right honorable gentleman will claim that it is the business of Parliament to make laws, and that there is no power in the Constitution providing that a bill shall be referred to the people. That may be so. But we can submit to them proposals for the amendment of the Constitution, and in submitting to them the wider issue we must necessarily include that which we are now considering.
The Prime Minister has dilated upon the danger of delay. What really is his attitude towards the measure? He says that he has the authority of the people; that he is convinced that he is right in this action. How many times has the right honorable gentleman told us that? For the last six years he has been saying “If you but do this, unemployment will cease; trade will improve, and our economic and financial conditions will be better.” For years the right honorable gentleman told us, almost in those very words, that he would lead us to an economic paradise, provided we did the very opposite of what he now urges us to do. For six years we have been sailing the Commonwealth political seas with the right honorable gentleman on the bridge. For six years he has steered due north; we have gone through stormy seas, and at times our hearts have failed us, despite his assurances that if we but persisted om the course he laid down we should, ere long, reach a safe haven.. But we have never come to those calm and sunny waters into which he has promised to bring us. But we hoped against hope that after rounding Cape Desolation, we might come at last into the Bay of Plenty. Yet, after six years of strenuous navigation, during which the right honorable gentleman has kept the ship’s head due north so far as contrary winds and currents would allow, he now suddenly, without warning, without consultation puts the helm hard over, and makes due south, telling us that “ Unless you stand behind me in this, you shall all walk the plank “.
The Prime Minister says that he is not* in favour of delay; that delay is fatal. For six years the right honorable gentleman has been sailing one course, and now he suddenly proposes to sail in an opposite direction. He scouts the idea of a referendum, and has issued an ultimatum that this matter shall not be discussed. Parliament has been reduced to a machine for registering the decisions of the right honorable gentleman. Where is that party which proudly boasted that its actions contrasted favorably with another party, because its members were free men, able to express their opinions on the floor of the House? Every honorable member who votes for this measure violates the solemn pledges that he gave to the electors. Yet he has held over him the threat, “ Unless you follow me and tear up your solemn election pledges, I will excommunicate you.”
The Prime Minister tells us that he has the authority of the people. If this measure had been the issue at the last election, every candidate of the Nationalist party would have been asked definitely, “Where do you stand; for or against federal arbitration?” I know nothing of the gentlemen of the Country party, but I do know that as solemnly as words can bind them, every member of the Nationalist party is bound to support the Federal Arbitration Court. They are bound by their obligations to vote against this measure. The Prime Minister told us on Saturday that platforms were not for him. But what about his unfortunate followers? Where are they? The right honorable gentleman says, “Unless you support me, I shall dissolve this Parlia-ment and send you before the people.” I move for a change of venue from this Parliament, which is no longer free to express its opinions. Let the people be the judges between us. The Prime Minister says that the issue was submitted to the people. Let us put this plain question to them. The right honorable gentleman points to the expense and to the delay. He threatens his followers that unless they violate their pledges and vote for the measure, he will precipitate an election, when the bill and the Nationalist party, will be wrecked. If the right honorable gentleman goes to the country this will be the only issue. And is there anybody who does not realize what the verdict of the people will be? It will be the end for the Government and honorable members who support it. If the people of this country get a chance their verdict will make it impossible for any political thimblerigger further to cloud the issue. When the people speak, their voice will find its way to everybody’s understanding. If this Parliament passes this measure it is because it has ceased to be a free Parliament. If the Prime Minister dared to leave honorable members free to vote as their consciences dictated, I say deliberately that, outside of the Ministers, he would not gain six votes.
Let me support my remarks by some written evidence. In the Northern Daily Leader of the 5th of this month, there is a leading article which reads -
Clearly, if ever there was a cause for caution by a government, it is on this occasion. This issue of the abandoment of federal arbitration was not before the people at the last election. On the other hand the issue of the Government’s policy of improving the machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes was before the people. It was also before them at the previous election in 1025. It is true that efforts at the enforcement of various awards have failed; but when it came to the enforcement of the provisions relating to a lockout of the coal-miners, the Government found itself unable to institute any proceedings for penalties. There is thus definite evidence that when it comes to determined opposition to certain conditions by either’ side to a dispute, enforcement by legal process is impossible.
Those are strong words, written by a man who feels strongly. The writer is the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson). The honorable member also wrote in the same issue, although this time not in the leading columns but under his own name -
It is considered that the amendment will be welcomed by more than one Government supporter, who, anxious not to vote for the bill, yet was not prepared to vote against the Government, although in the final analysis thu result will be the same.
That clearly sets out the position of many honorable members on the Government side. Parliament has been treated to a pitiful and humiliating spectacle. I have been closely associated with many honorable members on this side for years. They are my friends and colleagues. In what position are they placed to-day? They speak not as they would but as they must. They would give the world to be able to speak and vote as they desire, but the Prime Minister has held over them the sword of Damocles, and has said, “If you dare to vote as your conscience dictates I will excommunicate you.” I move for a change of venue. Let us remit this issue to the people, whose verdict will be free and impartial; who can speak and act as they think proper. Let us go from this place, which is no longer a deliberative assembly. Let us go before the people and fight this battle once and for all. Let them determine who is to rule this country, the people through their representatives, who are bound to them by pledges, or a parliamentary machine which has abandoned every pretence of liberty, and simply registers the decisions of the right honorable the Prime Minister. I hope that the amendment will be carried - that even at this late hour the right honorable gentleman will see the wisdom of remitting the issue to the people. The Government’s proposal can never take root in this country. The Prime Minister talks about what it will do; but it will do nothing, it can do nothing, because long before it gets into its step there will be an appeal to the people. If, even for a season, we have to endure this bitter trial, the cup will pass from us. The time will come - and far too quickly for many honorable members - when the people will be called upon to give their decision, and then the issue will be “ For federal arbitration or against it.” The issue is not in doubt; those who stand against that principle will disappear. What this Government proposes to do today, if it does anything at all, will be undone by the Government that follows. After a season of adversity and trial we shall come back to where we were before.
– It is desirable that I should deal with this amendment at once, because the Government cannot possibly accept it. The carrying of it would have exactly the same result as would have followed the defeat of the second reading of the bill. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), in submitting his amendment, dealt with three points, and, I suggest, three only. First, he said that the Government was stripping the Commonwealth of powers entrusted to it by the people; secondly, that it has no mandate for its action; and, in the third place, he cast reflections on honorable members by suggesting that they no longer acted as representatives of their constituents, and that this House had ceased to be a deliberative assembly. I propose to take the last matter first. It is absolutely and totally untrue to suggest that honorable members who voted for this bill in principle on the second reading did not do so because they believed the passing of it to be a necessary step in regard to industrial matters in this country. It is equally untrue to suggest that they voted under any threat or duress from me. The right honorable gentleman said that I had invited members of my party to “ walk the plank,” and that I had threatened them with the most dire consequences if they did not obey my will. That is absolutely untrue. I have never done anything of the sort.
– I do not think that the right honorable gentleman should say that something I said is absolutely untrue..
– I certainly withdraw the expression if it is in any way offensive to the right honorable gentleman; I am sorry he is so sensitive about the” matter. “We can very easily overcome the difficulty by my saying that there is no possible foundation for the statements he has made; that will serve my purpose equally well. But, since the charge has been made, I ask honorable members to cast their minds over the last six- and a half years during which I have been Prime Minister. Time and again, honorable gentlemen who have been my supporters have voted against me, and on vital measures. What happened with regard to the Financial Agreement Bill? A number of honorable members on this side of the House voted against the Government’s policy on the vital issue raised by that measure. I do not remember that because of their votes on that bill, on the. Transport Workers Bill, or on any other, honorable members on this side were invited by me’ to “walk the plank.” It is perfectly true that recently I asked two honorable members, who had been nominally supporters of the Government, not to continue to attend party meetings; but I did that because they had both voted for a motion submitted by the Opposition which impugned, not the wisdom of the Government, but its honesty and its decency. If the motion had been carried, it would have signified that, iii the opinion of the House, the Government was composed of men of such dishonour that it should not remain in office. That is the reason why I was forced to do what the right ‘ honorable gentleman describes as making those members “walk the plank.” But it is necessary for me to’ refute the suggestion that when the second reading of the bill was carried on Saturday last by a majority of honorable members, the gentlemen who voted for it were not exercising their discretion in a conscientious manner, and carrying out the pledges that they had given to their electors.
The next point with which the right honorable gentleman dealt was the stripping of this Parliament of its industrial powers, and the question whether or not the Government has a mandate for its action. I suggest that, when he says that the measure is totally opposed to the whole spirit of the Constitution, he misstates the position. The spirit and ideal of our great federation certainly was not that the Federal Parliament should control industrial matters; it was anything but that. It was contemplated that the control of those matters generally would rest in the hands of the States, and that in regard to very few industries Commonwealth jurisdiction would be exercised. Gradually and progressively the Commonwealth has obtained jurisdiction over an increasing number of industries, not because of the interstate character of those industries, in many cases, but because of the possibility, under a decision of the High Court, of transferring practically any industry to federal jurisdiction. Therefore, I suggest that whatever other arguments there may be against the Government’s action, the contention that it has acted against the spirit of the Constitution is unsound, because it was never contemplated under the Constitution that the Commonwealth would have a general jurisdiction over industrial matters.
I now come to the question whether or not ‘ the Government has a mandate for this bill. I have dealt with this point twice already, once in my introductory speech on the second reading, and again in” my reply to the debate on Saturday. Owing to the remarks that have been made, I further remind honorable members of the circumstances under which this legislation has been brought down. Let me go back to the 1925 election, which has been ‘ referred to by the right honorable member. He admits frankly that on that occasion we went to the people on the basis of industrial matters - the preservation of industrial peace, and the maintenance of law and order. At that election I did not say to the people, “If you return me to power I shall try to obtain full industrial powers for the Commonwealth “. I did not say by what means the Government hoped to bring about better relations in industry, nor did I mention any action it proposed to take for the promotion of the industrial welfare of the people generally. Any mandate that I got from the people was one based on the understanding that we were returned to power to deal with what was the most vital subject in the Commonwealth, namely, the industrial relations between employers and employees. The people trusted their elected representatives to take whatever steps they might consider necessary to deal with this matter. “We should always bear in mind the fact that a large section of the community is certainly not desirous of seeing increased industrial powers granted to the Commonwealth, and that the constituencies could never express their opinion on that question, even by way of a referendum, unless the necessary bills were passed by this Parliament.
Let us now take a case, the converse of that given by the right honorable member. Suppose I had gone to the people in 1925 and said, “ What I am going to do, if you return me to power, is to take every step I can to bring about the granting of full powers over _ industry to the Commonwealth.” That would have been parallel with saying to the people, when I last appealed to them, “If you return me, I propose to relegate to the States the control of those industries over which we have not full powers.” After the 1925 election, having said nothing about my intentions to ask for greater powers for the Commonwealth, I proposed a bill for a referendum to grant increased industrial powers to the Commonwealth. Was any exception taken to that ? Did the right honorable gentleman object to my having brought that measure down ? No. He accepted that position, and said that I should- be supported in that action. No exception to it was taken by anybody. Now, when the Government is going in a direction some honorable members do not like, they say, “We challenge the mandate.” They claim that the mandate was not even a general one ; that there should have been a specific mandate, covering everything that the Government proposed to do. I challenge that statement. I say that the people sent this party here to do whatever was necessary to do, what they desired to see done more than anything else, the improvement of industrial relations.
The right honorable gentleman also suggested that I have completely turned round - that I was sailing the ship of state in one direction and that I have now steered in the opposite direction. I have no quarrel with him for saying that; but I am pursuing the wise course, and I remind him of the history of industrial relations and regulation in this country. He has implied that in six years I should have brought about perfect industrial relations; that I should have brought Australia into .a’ condition of absolute peace in industry. I venture to say that I and the Government were asked to do rather much, if that was expected of us; because this problem has faced Australia ever since it has been industrially organized, but more particularly has it confronted the federal authorities for over twenty years without a solution being found. When the Government came into office the dual system of arbitration was in operation; it had been accepted by the people, and we had to try to make it work. We have done our best to make it work, but we have come to the conclusion, which, I think is generally shared, that in this field there must be only one authority. We appealed to the people to give full industrial power to the Commonwealth; they refused. Again we tried to make the dual system effective, and to operate the great principle that lies behind federal arbitration ; experience has shown that that cannot be done. There remains only one course open to this Parliament, namely, to retain control in that sphere in which the Commonwealth has complete powers, and to evacuate the rest of the field to the States, whose powers are complete. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) said that the circumstances to-day are the same as they were at the time of the general election, and when Parliament met at the beginning of this year, and when I met the Premiers in conference. On Saturday I pointed out, in replying to what had been said by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that the industrial position had changed completely during the last few months. Shortly before we appealed to the electors this Parliament passed amending legislation, designed to make the Arbitration Act effective. On the eve of the election the waterside workers’ strike commenced, and, exercising the full powers possessed by the Commonwealth to handle this dispute, the Government took action, which proved effective, but there followed riots, disorder, intimidation, bomb outrages, and other lawlessness, which were beyond the Commonwealth’s power to control. Later, the timber strike was attended by similar disorder and lawlessness, and the Commonwealth, without a police force of its own, and without the machinery to enforce its laws, saw them set at nought; ballot-papers burned, and complete dislocation of the machinery that we had designed to give the workers control of their own organizations. The culminating change in the economic situation is the serious decline in the prices of our two main products, wOol and wheat. All these factors combined made it necessary that action be taken immediately. The point with which we have to deal now is whether action should be taken by the Parliament which the people have elected to safeguard their interests, and taken rapidly - because time is of the essence of the thing - or whether we are to go back to the people and say that we do not know how they meant us to interpret the authority they gave us to do what we considered necessary to bring about industrial peace. Any Parliament which adopted that course would earn the contempt of the people.
I say without hesitation that the Government will not accept the amendment and if this House is not prepared to follow up its endorsement of the principle of this bill by the carrying of the second reading, the one. course open to us will be to go back to the people, our masters, and ask them to decide who is to govern the country. The amendment proposed by the right honorable member for North Sydney provides that the bill shall not be proclaimed earlier than its submission to the people, either by referendum or at a general election. The carrying of the amendment will be a declaration by the committee that the bill must be dealt with by the people. It will be a request by honorable members to be sent to the people, and I am glad that the opponents of the bill have at least the courage to take that course and have not deluded themselves into the belief that, having delayed the bill, they will be able to shuffle along for a time, hoping that something to their advantage may turn up. In the terms of the amendment, the issue to be referred to the people is the bill. We have no machinery for taking a referendum of the people, except in regard to a proposed alteration of the Constitution.
– We can fix that up.
– We can. We can pass a special measure for a referendum to the people on this bill; perhaps with the cordial co-operation of honorable members opposite, who, no doubt, would be glad of that means of avoiding a general election. Presumably, the intention of the mover of the amendment is to refer to the people the whole bill; I think that would be rather unfair to them.
– Go to the country.
– Exactly. Either have the courage to face the issue boldly, or leave it alone. Let us not waste time in talking about submission of the bill to the people by way of referendum. If we did refer the bill to the people, how far would we get? If by some extraordinary chance the decision of the electors were against the bill, the Government would not carry on, and necessarily another appeal to the people at a general election would follow immediately. In such an event the amendment would involve a wholly unnecessary duplication - an extraordinary form of referendum never contemplated by the Constitution, with a possibility of a general election immediately afterwards. Let honorable members not deceive themselves; if the committee agrees to the amendment, honorable members will have declared that they desire to be sent before the people. If that should be the decision of the committee, the Government will be perfectly prepared to go to the country, feeling confident that the result will be similar to that in 1925, when in a moment of reckless optimism the then Leader of the Opposition challenged me to go before the electors, and tried his utmost to prevent the Government from getting supply for the period to be occupied by the election. If the amendment is carried and we appeal to the country, we should at least get a definite decision. I am quite certain what, the answer of the people will be. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has said that if the Government appeals to the country not one of its supporters will be returned. I do. not agree with him. The people have had enough of the industrial confusion that has obtained in recent years, and will not tolerate a continuance of the present hotch-potch system of dual arbitration. The amendment is before us, and it is for the committee to decide its fate, but I ask honorable members not to deceive themselves into believing that there is a novel and wondrous form of referendum, by which this bill can be submitted to the arbitrament of the people. If, by the carrying of the amendment, the committee declares that this Parliament shall go to the country, the Government will offer not the slightest opposition to that course.
.- The amendment places before honorable members a clear-cut issue ; we have to decide whether or not the electors are to control this Parliament. At nine successive elections the principle of federal arbitration has been affirmed by the people, and this bill is an endeavour to flout their expressed will. From the inception of the system differences of opinion have occurred as to details, but the general principle has been affirmed with wonderful unanimity by all parties. In attempting to show that the framers of the Constitution never contemplated that the Federal Parliament should legislate in industrial matters the Prime Minister presented the weakest argument to which I have ever listened. If this legislation was never contemplated by the framers of the Constitution, why did they give this Parliament power to legislate on industrial matters? Why did the first Federal Parliament unanimously resolve in favour of the exercise, of the industrial power of the Commonwealth, amongst the supporters of the proposal being many of those who had helped to frame the Constitution? Yet, at this late hour the Prime Minister, who has not given sufficient study to our constitutional history or to industrial matters, presumes to lecture the committee as to what was contemplated by the framers of the Constitution.
The right honorable gentleman has declared that the bill is of paramount importance. If it is, surely it is fair to consult, the people before we pass it. Do we believe in democracy or in oligarchy? That is the issue before us. The Prime Minister, when claiming that he has a mandate from the people, said that he had told the electors that the Government proposed to take any steps necessary to establish industrial peace. This bill, he says, is the fulfilment of that undertaking; this is one of the steps he was authorized by the people to take. It is not a step at all; it is a somersault. His reasoning in regard to the mandate was extraordinary. He said that when he went before the electors in 1925 he did not tell them that he intended to ask for increased power in “regard to industrial matters, and that in 1928 he merely asked for a general power to bring about industrial peace. But in 1925 and 1928 he indicated clearly to the electors that he proposed to bring about industrial peace by strengthening the Commonwealth industrial laws, and not by running away from the principle of federal arbitration, as this bill proposes.- He argued that the people had given to the Government a general power to do anything it “thought necessary to achieve industrial peace. The right honorable gentleman utters many vague statements and cryptic phrases, but this is the first occasion on which I have heard that when a party addresses the electors in general terms and asks for general powers, it gets from them a mandate to go backwards or forwards, to continue arbitration or abolish it. How can the mandate that the Government got from the people be a mandate for federal arbitration, or no federal arbitration, as the Government may think fit ? A mandate that can be stretched at will, that can be made black to-day and white to-morrow, is no mandate at all. Then we were told by the Prime Minister, as evidence that there was a mandate from the people, that this question had been placed before the electors. He said that the Attorney-General in 1927 made a statement, in which he indicated that unless both sides to industry were prepared to obey the law, the Government would have to reconsider whether it would maintain the system of federal arbitration. What did that mean? That was a warning to the organizations on both sides that something might happen to arbitration if the awards were not obeyed. It certainly was a threat of punishment to those who disobeyed the awards. If the step now proposed is for the punishment of those who have disobeyed the law, it surely is manifestly unfair to apply it to those who have not disobeyed the law.
– My remarks referred to the continuance of the system.
– And the discontinuance of the system would mean the abolition of arbitration ?
– Then I am not misinterpreting the Attorney-General. The Prime Minister has stated that the AttorneyGeneral’s statement was an indication to the electors that this bill might be brought down. The Attorney-General quoted four awards which had been broken; I contend that any punishment should apply to the four, organizations concerned, and not to the other 340 organizations of workers under the Commonwealth legislation. The Government could have obtained the deregistration of those unions who disobeyed the law. The Attorney-General said that he had considered the deregistering of the timber workers, but that that would have meant that they would automatically work 44 hours a week under the New South Wales legislation. He did not want the men to win ; he wanted the bosses to win. Yet he is supposed to be the impartial administrator of the law department of this country !
– I wanted the court to win.
– The AttorneyGeneral” wanted the bosses to win. Let us accept, for the time being, the statement of the Prime Minister, that there was a warning in the Attorney-General’s statement that if awards were broken, there would be a discontinuance of arbitration. Now we are told that that statement was the mandate for this bill. What does that mean? It means that this legislation is the enforcement of the threat to abandon arbitration. Does the Attorney-General admit that his statement in 1927 was a warning to the workers that if they disobeyed the awards, arbitration would be abolished, and that this bill has been introduced as a result ?
– That is one element.
– I am glad of that admission, because it knocks the foundation from beneath the claim of the Government that this bill does not mean the abandonment and abolition of arbitration. If one thing has been stressed more than another by honorable members behind the Government, it is that we are not abandoning arbitration; that we are not abolishing arbitration; that we are not making the position of the workers one iota worse than it was before ; that we are merely transferring arbitration from Federal to State control to avoid duality of control. The Attorney-General wants to have it both ways. I asked him if this legislation is being introduced as a punishment to those who have broken awards. Running . through all the speeches of honorable members behind the Government was the fact that the workers had disobeyed the awards and, therefore, punishment should be meted out to them. Where in the name of common sense does the punishment come in, if. the workers’ position is to be as good under State control as it was under federal control? The position is most illogical, and will not stand examination.
I come now to the justification of the abolition of arbitration, because of awards being broken. Is the position of Public Service Arbitrator being abolished because his award was flouted by one party to it, that party being the Commonwealth Government? The Government, talks about a mandate from the country. I have before me a little book, edited by Sir Neville Howse, campaign director of the Nationalist party at the last election. In it there is the declaration that the policy of the Nationalist party was to continue arbitration. According to it, the Government in 1925 had a mandate, given to it by a large majority, to introduce amended legislation to enforce the law. The amending act is stated as being the response to that. This book contains the policy on which the Government went to the country, and it says nothing about the abolition of arbitration. The policy speech of the Prime Minister certainly contains no reference to the abolition of arbitration, but the right honorable gentleman, made pointed reference to the Labour party. He says that compulsory arbitration was enthusiastically supported by the Labour party of pre-war days and, he asks, where does the Labour party of to-day stand? In other words, the issue that the Government put before the electors was, “You cannot trust the Labour party for the continuance of arbitration ; you have to trust our party to maintain it.” That was the issue that every honorable member behind the Government supported. Now, in the twinkling of an eye, the Prime Minister has changed his attitude; and the bulk of his supporters have also changed theirs. I am reminded of a part of a day that I spent in a military drill-yard, where I saw a sergeant drilling raw recruits. The sergeant said to the squad, “ Quick march ! “ The squad marched 50 yards, and were then ordered, “ Halt, right about face, quick march ! “ They retraced their steps. They were marched backwards and forwards, left wheel, right wheel, and right about turn, at the order of the sergeant. That is the treatment accorded to the honorable members who are supporting the Government. The sergeant, who is the Prime Minister, says, “ Quick march ! “ They march. The Prime Minister says, “ Halt, right about face, quick march 1 “ They march back. Honorable members behind the Government are the political awkward squad.
This measure is not being decided upon its merits. I agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that if honorable members on that side were free to carry out the pledges that they gave to their electors, there would not be even six of them supporting the Prime Minister. There should be some honour between this Parliament and the people who established it. There should be some honesty among honorable members. They should openly and frankly carry out as near as possible the promises that they made to their electors; who, undoubtedly, were convinced at the last elections, that this Government and this Opposition were both pledged to maintain arbitration. There were differences of opinion in regard to detail, but there was none on the question i/r. Seullin. of maintaining the system. Let me react, the opinion expressed by Ministers. The Prime Minister said, “ We have a general power, but it is a question of how the people interpret that power.” What do the people think that meant ? They think it meant exactly what the Prime Ministersaid. The Attorney-General said -
To abolish the arbitration system is politically impossible. No government would last for a week in the House or in the country if it proposed such a thing . . . We must have a federal arbitration system, because there are an increasing number of genuine interstate industries, which, if they are to be regulated at all, must be regulated federally.
I ask the Attorney-General whether that would lead the electors to believe that the Government was asking for a mandate to abolish arbitration. Sir George Pearce said -
The Commonwealth Parliament has a definite responsibility in regard to federal industrial disputes; the responsibility is there in the Constitution and we must accept it.
Did that statement lead the electors to believe that the1 arbitration system was to be abolished? Yet the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General try to tell us by twisting their words, that they have a mandate from the ‘people to wipe out arbitration. The amendment which has been submitted by the right honorable member for North Sydney is to withhold the proclamation of the act. The Prime Minister went to some pains to tell honorable members that he was not cracking a whip, that they were not being threatened with having to walk the plank, but he carefully hinted that in the event of the amendment being carried, there would be a dissolution. He did not mean anything else. There is no urgency for this measure. The people have not asked for it, and they have not been consulted about it. This legislation should be withheld until such time as we go before the electors, and if the Government is in a desperate hurry to go to the country, then, let the Prime Minister ask the Governor-General for a dissolution.
Let me give a few practical reasons why there should be delay in giving effect to this measure. First, we should ascertain the views of the States before ‘we abandon arbitration, particularly if we are to accept the Government’s assurance that it does not want to abandon arbitration.
– The Premiers Conference had something to say on that subject.
– The Premiers Conference did one thing only, and the Attorney-General’s statement in that respect rests on a rotten foundation. The only thing that the Premiers did was to refuse unanimously to transfer State powers to the Commonwealth. They did not give any guarantee that they would take up the powers that are to be abandoned by this Government.
– Each Premier said that he would make full provision for that.
– That is not in the report of the Premiers Conference.
– Yes it is.
– A mere general statement that industrial matters will be dealt with in the State sphere is not sufficient guarantee of the continuance of arbitration for the 400,000 workers that this Government has abandoned. Did the Commonwealth permanently assume responsibility for the State debts before every State had enacted legislation binding itself to observe their responsibilities? What a difference there is when the workers of this country are involved ! Then, no. guarantees are asked for or given, and no agreements are entered into. Even if some of the States should pass the necessary legislation, what will this Government do in regard to the others? A little more than a year after this measure comes into operation there will be a federal election, and assuredly there will subsequently be a change of Government. As the responsible leader of this party, I say that if we are entrusted with the government of the country - and I believe that we shall be - we shall restore the system of federal arbitration. What guarantee have we that the States will go to the trouble of providing the necessary machinery to regulate industry when they know that within eighteen months or two years, the system of federal arbitration will have been restored? This will be an issue at the next election, whether the Government likes it or not.
– Hear, hear! Of course it will.
– When the system of federal arbitration has been restored, the machinery of the States will be scrapped.
The Prime Minister has asked, “ Can we not trust the States; do they not represent exactly the same electors?” I say emphatically that the Parliaments of the States do not represent the same electors; the Lower Houses do, but the Legislative Councils do not. In Victoria, only onethird of those who vote to return members to this Parliament have a vote at an election for members of the Legislative Council. The position in South Australia and Tasmania is identical with that in Victoria; and neither I nor anybody else knows who are represented by the members of the Legislative Council of New South Wales. Yet the Prime Minister would have us believe that the same set of electors is involved !
On Saturday last, the right honorable gentleman made the statement - “ I am not controlled by the platform of any party.” I submit that when a party which has affirmed its adherence to a platform, goes before the people, that platform becomes a pledge, which is given to the electors by every member of that party.
– The honorable gentleman is thinking of his own party.
– I refer to any party. I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs, what does a platform mean if it does not mean the pledges one makes to the electors ? Does he say he is not bound by the platform and policy upon which he pledged himself to the electors of Henty? It was a most outrageous statement for the Prime Minister to make. The planks of the platform of either a party or an independent candidate become pledges immediately they are submitted to the people for their approval. Honorable members are bound by all the rules that guide them in the maintenance of their political integrity and their personal honor, to stand by those pledges. Is this a democracy, or is it not? We claim that it is, and that the people rule. The whole of the people cannot come into this Parliament, therefore, every three years, in each electorate, they hand over to a representative man, their right to govern themselves. They say to him - “ You shall represent me ; you shall vote with my vote.” No body of men could have reposed in them a greater trust than the right to govern the country for three years. That trust was betrayed when this measure was introduced; and unless the people are consulted they will continue to be betrayed, and the pledges which were given to the electors will be broken. There is only one honorable course for the members of this Parliament to adopt. The Government failed to consult the electors ; they did not even hint that this action was to be taken. Only two men who sit behind the Government, have ever said a word against federal arbitration in this Parliament since I re-entered it. The remainder pledged themselves to the. people to do what they could to maintain industrial peace and industrial arbitration. When they referred to arbitration, they spoke not in general terms, but of federal arbitration. It was not their duty to discuss State laws and policies in a federal election.
– The only way they could have absolved themselves was to have said “ By that plank I will not be bound.”
– By this measure the Government is not only destroying federal arbitration, but also undermining the very foundation of this Parliament, and the democratic principle upon which it has been built; because it should be, and is, broad-based upon the will of the people of Australia.
.- We have heard a great deal from the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) regarding party pledges. But have we not the higher duty of upholding the law? There seems to be a good deal of hyprocrisy in honorable members urging the retention of a law which they have done their best to destroy. When the Federal Constitution was framed, was it intended that this Parliament should take such wide powers as those that it operates to-day? It is well known that it was intended to deal only with disputes that were interstate in character, and to legislate with respect to only such services as shipping, arid, perhaps, shearing. It was never in; tended that we should deal with practically every phase of industrial activity in Australia. The States were supposed to have full control over their industrial affairs, and we have intruded into legislation where morally we had no right. I trust that no honorable member who sits on this side will support the amendment of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes;, and thus keep the country in a state of turmoil for the next two or three years.
Surely, we have experienced sufficient industrial turmoil during the- last four or five years. The right honorable member for North Sydney, the other night, spoke of Aaron’s rod. When Aaron struck the rock, he brought forth fresh water. But when the right honorable member for
North Sydney struck the rock of industrial legislation, I fear that the water which he brought forth was very freely charged with sulphurous fumes of a most irritant nature, that have embittered the relations between employer and employee, and brought about the disruption of industry that we find in Australia to-day.
It is contended that the Government have no mandate to pass this legislation. Honorable members must not overlook the referendums that have been held in connexion with this matter, more particularly that which recently was defeated by such an overwhelming majority throughout Australia. Since that was taken the Government have done all that human ingenuity could devise, in an endeavour to bring about industrial peace in Australia. I do not believe that the right honorable member for North Sydney supported the proposal to increase the penalties provided for breaches of the law. Certainly, honorable members opposite strongly opposed any such increase. The Government made every effort to frame a law that would ensure industrial peace. But have we had it ? Is there an honorable member opposite who has sought to maintain respect for the law or who, during the recent developments, denounced those who broke it? Even in the court itself we find that Mr. Crofts, and others, have openly stated that, “unless their demands were granted, they would not recommend their organizations to conform to an award. Yet it is urged that this law should remain on the statute-book! I intend to vote against the amendment, and similar action should be taken by any honorable member who wishes to avoid industrial turmoil in the future.
Let us study the history of events in connexion with the Arbitration Court within recent years. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) should be the last person to support the principle of federal arbitration. In 1920 he introduced the Industrial Peace Act, for the special benefit of the coal miners, so that there would be industrial peace on the coal-fields. Has that object been achieved ?
– If what we have had is the kind of industrial peace that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) wants, the sooner we remove this legislation from the statute-book and leave these matters to the States, the better. For the past ten years there has hardly been a day in which there has not been a strike in one of our mines. We have had strikes in the ranks of the seamen, the wharf labourers, the marine cooks, the timber workers, and the coal miners. Yet honorable members opposite talk about unemployment ! What else can we expect with industry in its present condition ?
Let us compare the conditions here with those that exist in other countries. In the United States of America within recent years, the cost of living has dropped, while wages have increased to the extent of 35 per cent. In Canada, the cost - of living figure in 1920 was 16.92, while in December, 1927, it was 11.17, the decrease being equivalent to approximately £1 a week. In many industries a wage as high as $7 and $8 a day is being paid in that country. I cannot understand how the workers in Australia can support legislation such as the Arbitration Act. A perusal of the figures relating to the cost of living and increases in wages during the last few years will prove how slight has been the benefit they have received from it. Canada has no such legislation ; yet in 1927 only 22,683 workers were involved in strikes and lockouts there, compared with 200,000 in Australia, and the working days lost totalled 165,000, compared with 1,709,559 here. Yet honorable members ‘ opposite wish to keep on the statute-book a measure which provides for compulsory arbitration in industrial disputes and prohibits strikes and lockouts! I contend that our Commonwealth legislation has been of no value to the worker. One cannot get out of a pint pot a quantity greater than one puts into it. It is my aim to improve the conditions of the people of this country. There is more unemployment at the present time than there has been before in Australia. Unquestionably, that is due to the baneful effect of arbitration laws and the appointment to the Arbitration Court bench of persons who are not conversant with the conditions under which industry is carried on, but who, nevertheless, are given absolute control of the industrial affairs of this country. The conditions under which the railways in Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia shall operate are being decided by a legal gentleman who has not any first-hand knowledge of the nature of the work performed by the men in the various branches of those services. Surely, this is too absurd for words. The effect of the Transport Workers Act was immediately apparent, and the conditions in that industry are now more satisfactory than they have been for a long time. The baneful effects of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act have been closely watched and commented upon by many people. When it first became operative both the employers and the employees were willing to give arbitration a fair trial, but it was not long before it was apparent to many that the decision of the court was given by a judge who did not know anything of the industry concerned and usually adjudicated in favour of the section that made the most noise. In that way two opposing factions commenced operations in earnest. The employers and the industrial unions established organizations with secretaries, industrial officers, and staffs, and it was not long before the most bitter animosity prevailed between employers and employees. That is the position which exists to-day, and I cannot understand how sensible men can support the retention on our statute-book of the legislation which this measure is to repeal. Notwithstanding the numerous disputes which have occurred during recent years honorable members opposite have never tried to get those whom they represent, to obey the law.
– Is a State law more likely to be obeyed than a federal statute?
– If a State law were not observed in its entirety, industry all over Australia would not be disorganized. A dispute in New SouthWales would not affect the workers in a similar industry in Western Australia.
– Yes, in a federated industry.
– I do not favour federated industries.
– We have them at present.
– That is a contributing factor to our present unsatisfactory economic and financial position. I direct honorable members’ attention to the position at present confronted by those controlling Holden’s Motor Body Works in South Australia, which is a magnificent industry employing approximately 5,000 people and which cannot carry on profitably if the industrial conditions throughout Australia are on a uniform basis. If Holden’s Motor Body Works and similar industries in South Australia and other States similarly situated, could obtain their timber, iron and steel at the same rates as kindred industries in the eastern States, they might be able to successfully compete, but at present, they are at a great disadvantage. I do not intend to do anything which will jeopardize the interests of large manufacturing concerns in States such as South Australia, which are not deriving the benefits enjoyed by other industries obtaining their supplies at more reasonable rates.
A short time ago the Australian Railways Union passed a resolution to the effect that the perpetuation of compulsory arbitration waa to the detriment of the organized workers of the Commonwealth. From TheRailroad of August10th 1929, I quote the following : -
That this Australian Council regrets that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in its pamphlet No. 1 of 3rd July, 1929, places so much importance on the Federal Arbitration Court, and so little upon the necessity of the organization of the working class on an industrial basis, and that we consider its activities in this direction, in view of its previous request to the union to withdraw from the Federal Arbitration Court, is making the Australasian Council of Trade Unions look ridiculous in the eyes of the workers, and declares that the only effective solution of working class problems is by the education, organization and action of the workers along the lines of seizing and controlling industry.
Now this organization is urging for political purposes the retention of the act. Mr. E. H. Barker, secretary of the Western Australian executive of the Australian Labour party, said -
The Federal Arbitration Act has never given the court sufficient powers to enable it to function as freely as do the State courts, and the court has been blamed for many faults that were inherent in the act. Many unionists would be glad of the change, as they preferred to use the State court rather than thu federal.
– With its restricted powers.
– The powers of the State courts are not restricted.
- Mr. T. H. Beard, the secretary of the Western Australian branch of the Australasian Society of Engineers, is reported in the Western Australian of the 30th May, 1929, as having said -
So far as we are concerned the Federal Arbitration Court will die unwept, unhonoured and unsung.
Mr. S. Faull, the secretary of the West Australian Amalgamated Society of Engineers, said that the repeal of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act would be a blessing to all the unions in the State. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition in a heated outburst against the Prime Minister at the annual dinner in connexion with the Eight Hours Day celebrations, held in the Trades Hall in Sydney, said -
The waterfront dispute threatens to become an election issue. The whole trouble is the outcome of anti-labour conspiracy. The Beeby award was a most unjust award-
– I still think so; not all judgments are just. calculated to stir up fierce resentment in the minds of the men who had to work under it. If the waterside workers had received sympathetic consideration from the Federal Government and the ship-owners, the strike would have been ended by now. The dispute is the creation of the Federal Government.
Apparently the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and those with whom he is associated believes in political interference to prevent observance of the law. That was the policy of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who, when Prime Minister, introduced the Industrial Peace Act to give those engaged in the coal-mining industry a separate act under which the industry would be controlled.
I maintain that the Government has a mandate from the people in that it was returned on the distinct understanding that it would use all the power at its command to see that the laws of the country were obeyed. Every effort has been made in that direction, first by an appeal to the people for an amendment of the Constitution to grant it additional powers, and secondly, by amending our arbitration legislation in an endeavour to make it more effective. This amended legislation has been ignored by those whom it was framed to protect, and it cannot be denied that the present system has brought about a condition of economic chaos, endless industrial strife, and enormous financial loss. In these circumstances the Government is justified in repealing our compulsory arbitration legislation, as in actual practice it has not been the means of bringing about industrial peace, which is essential to the well-being of the nation.
– The Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) has already made it very clear that the framers of the Constitution intended that a referendum should be taken only when it was desired to ascertain the wishes of the people in connexion with a proposed amendment of the Constitution. It was never anticipated by them that a referendum should be held to obtain the opinion of the electors on a specific piece of legislation which the Commonwealth Parliament has full power to enact. The people look for leadership from the members of this House ; they do not expect us to listen with our ears to the ground for every vibration of ill-informed criticism which may reach us. I submit that a referendum is a very imperfectinstrument by which to determine the merits or demerits of many questions. On any question submitted by a referendum there is a solid band in its favour, as well as a number of staunch opponents. In addition to these two forces there is usually an enormous army consisting of those who feel that they know little or nothing concerning the subject at issue, and who, because they are in doubt, vote “ No “. There are rare exceptions, such as at the referendum held in connexion with the Financial Agreement Bill, which had the support of the State Governments and sections of all political parties. Referendums are determined not by those who thoroughly understand the question submitted, but by those who do not, and who, therefore, vote in the negative. In Switzerland, the home of the referendum, it has been found a particularly unsatisfactory method of determining questions at issue. For the information of honorable members, I quote from The Evolution of Democracy, by Deploige -
There is only one opinion in Switzerland on the referendum, and that is, that it is an obstacle to the rational- development of political and civil institutions, it frustrates* the most urgent improvements and negatives those justifiable reforms in the system of organic laws on which the intellectual and moral condition of the nation depends. [Quorum formed.]
So dissatisfied are they in that country with the results of the taking of many referendums, that when in despair they took a referendum with the object of abolishing referendums, they could not carry it.
– The Minister is discussing the general principle of referendums.
– If the referendum asked for were taken it would be evidence of our incapacity to make decisions - a gesture of feebleness in a place where strength is expected. If we agreed to the amendment the electors would be justified in saying that they put us into the House of Representatives to decide big questions, and that they look to us to do so. Practically the whole of the arguments advanced by honorable members are in favour of going straight ahead. I have been unable to discover in this House one wholehearted supporter of the federal arbitration system as it exists to-day, although certain honorable gentlemen have made a valiant attempt to rekindle the blackened embers of their own dead faith in a system so shackled by constitutional limitations that only the hope of alterations to the Constitution enabled it to survive so long. The result of the referendum taken in 1926 killed even that hope. In the book of Genesis there is the story of a promise made to Abraham by the Creator that if twelve righteous men could be found in a certain city it would be spared from its impending doom. I believe that if the retention of the Arbitration Court had been dependent on the existence in this chamber of twelve unqualified supporters of it it would long ago have disappeared. Before a political atmosphere was thrown about this question many trade unions carried resolutions criticizing federal arbitration in the strongest possible terms, while articles published by labour leaders condemned the system lock, stock and barrel. We find also that the right honorable gentleman who this afternoon moved the amendment now before the Committee when speaking in Castlemaine, in 1922, said -
I say most emphatically that in my opinion the present system of Arbitration Courts in this country is most unsatisfactory. There is a Federal Arbitration Court, the jurisdiction of which no one has ever denned. To-day it is here and to-morrow there. Sometimes the boundaries advance and sometimes they recede. No employer knows exactly where he is nor does any workman.
He went further, for he indicated the kind of machinery which he would set up in place of the Federal Arbitration Court. That machinery is almost identical with that which the Government proposes to set up in this bill. On the occasion to which I have referred the right honorable gentleman also said -
In my opinion the much more preferable method of settling industrial disputes would be the substitution of tribunals for courts of arbitration. On these tribunals there should be an equal number of employers and employees, with an impartial chairman who should not be a lawyer. This system is in force in Victoria, but its operations are naturally very limited, and they are circumscribed by the operations of the Federal Arbitration Court, so that those effects are partial. . . .
There is a consensus of opinion which is not confined to employers that there should be a change.
– Under the federal system.
– I submit that what the right honorable gentleman suggested as a good substitute for the system then in existence is not very dif ferent from what the Government proposes now.
– The Government proposes to have six different systems, over none of which it will have any control.
– The great labour unions are to-day collecting levies from their members, part of which is to be used for propaganda-
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the Minister is entirely out of order, inasmuch as the question before the Chair is the date on which this act shall come into operation - whether on a date to be fixed by proclamation, as provided in the clause, or whether it shall not be earlier than its submission to the people, either at a referendum or a general election, as set out in the amendment before us. I submit that the amendment does not entitle the Minister to make a second-reading speech; that he is limited to arguments as to the time when this measure, if it becomes an act, shall come into operation.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) was given considerable latitude.
– I am not concerned at the moment with what any other gentleman has done; I am merely exercising my undoubted right to protest against a second-reading speech being made at this stage. I submit that the Minister is out of order, inasmuch as he is elaborating an argument on the general principles underlying the bill. That would be proper in a second-reading speech; but I maintain that it is entirely out of order in a debate in committee, which, at this stage, is limited to the question of the time when the bill, if agreed to, shall become operative. May I add that, although the amendment provides that the act shall come into operation at a date to be decided, either by a referendum or a general election, it does not permit the honorable gentleman to discuss the general merits of a referendum, or the possible results of an election. The limitation remains - the desirability or otherwise of postponing the operation of this measure.
– The clause under discussion deals with the date of the commencement of the act. To that clause the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) has moved a certain amendment. The Chair recognizes that the decision of the Committee in respect of the clause and the amendment moved thereto will probably determine the fate of the bill, and for that reason a certain latitude, which would not have been allowed under other conditions, has been permitted. The Minister may proceed.
– I was endeavouring to give reasons why this measure should be proceeded with at once and to show that there was no justification for the delay which would be inseparable from the taking of a referendum. I was about to say that outside this House we find the big trade unions collecting levies, not merely for the purpose of saving the Arbitration Court, but, in some cases, of encouraging mutiny against the decisions of that court. It is difficult to understand the reason for the change of attitude on the part of honorable gentlemen opposite. We contrast their remarks today, in which they eulogize the Arbitration Act, with what they said a short time ago, when they criticized and even condemned it. There are two possible explanations for their change of front. It may be they have harkened to the old Latin motto, “ Of the dead speak nothing but good.” Men frequently speak uncharitably of their fellows while they are on earth ; but after they have left it they endeavour to remember only their good qualities, and to say only kind things about them. Fearing that the Federal Arbitration Court is about to be dissolved,honorable members opposite appear to be influenced by the old motto, and are now endeavouring to find something good to say concerning the court. The only other explanation of their action is found in the dictum that it is the duty of an Opposition to oppose. I sympathize with, them in the embarrassment which they naturally feel when confronted with resolutions which they themselves have agreed to,” and others which have been carried by organizations outside; as well as by articles on arbitration which have appeared from the pens of their leaders, seeing that they must now turn about and rally round a self-discredited standard, and oppose this measure merely because it is the duty of the Opposition to oppose.
This amendment raises the whole question of a mandate. In 1926 the Federal Government submitted a referendum to the people seeking to obtain from them powers which would assist the Arbitration Court to operate in a more satisfactory manner. At that time there was extraordinary unanimity in the matter: The Nationalist party, the Labour party and Country party alike desired that the. referendum should be submitted to the people. There were only two honorable members on this side of the chamber who opposed the proposals. Despite that unanimity of opinion the people refused to grant the powers that were sought. On that occasion the electors were told that just as it is impossible to run a standard gauge railway train on a 2 foot tramway track without first widening the permanent way, so it is impossible for our arbitration machinery to work smoothly, cramped by constitutional limitations which make its working nothing short of ludicrous. I personally told the electors, from many platforms, both in New South Wales and Victoria, that we must mend or end the system; that we could not leave it where it was. It was plainly pointed out that the common rule could not apply in regard to interstate, disputes. Attention was directed to the disabilities, placed upon employers and employees alike in having to approach one another in an atmosphere of litigation. Yet the answer that we received from four of the six States was that full powers to regulate industry should remain with the States. I wonder how many honorable members opposite assisted the people of Australia to come to that decision? I regard that refusal to give us a mandate to amend the Arbitration Act as a mandate to end it. The wonder is that it has continued to survive solong in such a constitutional strait jacket.
Now I come to the second part of the amendment. the alternative of an appeal to the people. When is it proposed that the election should be held now,’ or in two and a half years’ time? If the idea in the mind of the right honorable gentleman is that the election should be held at its normal time, it is absolutely unthinkable to defer taking action until then. To mark time in face of the continuous and contemptuous flouting of what has proved to be an unenforceable law, would simply condone the offence and bring the laws into disrepute. We have had the spectacle of the ignominious thwarting of the secret ballot, on which so many hopes were centred. We have seen insults heaped upon the judges of the court, and one of their number burned in effigy in Sydney. It is unthinkable that, by inaction, we should tolerate such a condition of affairs for another two and a half years. If we are to preserve respect for the law generally, we must wipe out laws which cannot be enforced.
The decision which I believe will be arrived at by this Parliament, partially to vacate the field of wage regulation in favour of those who have at their command the means of commanding some respect for the laws of the State, has been forced upon the Government by those who have no respect for the laws of the Commonwealth. If this amendment were carried and we went to the country the people would not be in nearly so good a position to give a decision on the questions submitted to them as they would if the States were first given an opportunity to do what they have undertaken to do. Honorable members on this side have no qualms about going to the country immediately. I personally would welcome an appeal to the country on an issue such as this. The mandate question would very quickly be settled.
– Does the Minister think it quite fair to take up so much time in discussing the subject?
– I am not guilty of having occupied very much of the time of honorable members. I have not spoken previously on the bill. For the hesitation displayed by certain honorable members in connexion with the taking of immediate action, one would think that the disappearance of the Federal Court meant the disappearance of all wage regulations. Already a good deal has been said on the matter, and I shall not repeat it. I merely point out that in the State of New South Wales, less than 20 per cent. of the awards now in existence are federal awards, while in Queensland less than 10 per cent. are federal awards; also, there are only twelve awards which are applicable in all the States.
– That has already been said many times.
– This is the first time that I have said it, and I believe the first time that it has been said in that form. There can be nothing of a cataclysmic to Australian industry in the partial withdrawal by the Federal Government from the field of wage regulation. As a matter of fact, most of that work is already being done by State courts. I hope that honorable members will oppose this amendment. I trust that they will consider the first section of it unworthy of a Parliament from which something better is expected than weak-kneed indecision and vaccilation. We should be able to make up our own minds. Those who sent us here expect us to do so; they expect us to be in a position to come to a decision. I trust the House will despatch the amendment with no uncertain voice.
Sitting suspended from 6.11 to 8 p.m.
.- I refrained from speaking on the second reading of the hill, owing to the physical and mental effects of the arduous and record-breaking sitting, which honorable members were called upon to endure ; but I intended to vote for the second reading, because, irrespective of the amendment submittedby the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), I had stated at a large meeting of my electors some weeks ago that I would do so, and I had made a similar statement in Sydney at another large meeting. I informed the right honorable the Prime Minister that I proposed to take that action. The amendment submitted by the right honorable member for North Sydney had no effect on my vote on the second reading. I cast my vote in favour of the bill for many reasons. About 25 years ago, the right honorable member for North Sydney and I fought in a case which, I believe, was the first decided in the Federal Arbitration Court. It was heard before the late Mr. Justice O’Connor. The right honorable member for North Sydney and I appeared for the officers and men employed by the interstate shipping companies. It was a long and protracted fight, and I then had brought home to me the farce of compulsory arbitration under those circumstances, because hundreds of pounds had to be spent in the various States, for the purpose of creating a dispute of a federal character, before the matter could be taken to the court. Those conditions have continued, more or less, ever since that time. The bill now before us, to a great extent, meets with my approval, because it will shake off many of the shackles that are now hampering industry. I have paid a number of visits to the United States of America. That country is watching Australia’s great experiment in compulsory arbitration; but it is not copying it. It remains to be seen whether the results that we all desire will be achieved. Of course, honorable gentlemen opposite must accept a good deal of blame for the unsuccessful operation of the Arbitration Act, in view of the recent strikes against the law as it stands. If that law be bad, it can be altered; but I think that it is the duty of all to obey it until it is repealed.
Regarding the amendment before the committee, I propose to bring under honorable members’ notice five or six points, which I think warrant me in voting for it. It is clear to me, in the words of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) that the Nationalist party received no mandate from the people at the last election to repeal fifteen acts of Parliament as it is proposing by this bill to do. The Prime Minister does not claim that he had a specific mandate to do that, but he claimed to have received a mandate to do whatever was necessary to bring about improved industrial relations. Well, I cannot agree that the people gave him a mandate to wipe out with one stroke some fifteen statutes; and, since the Government has not received such an instruction from the electors, I hold the opinion that it should accept the amendment. There has been no clear overbalancing expression of opinion by any political section that the federal arbitration laws should be retained or. abolished; but there is a cry amongst the great working classes of this country - from the unionists - that it would be an evil thing to do away with the whole of these acts. Other sections have made similar representations within the last few weeks. The timber millers have expressed to me their grave doubts about the wisdom of the action of the Government, because they say that the great fight they put up for themaintenance of law and order along, the waterfront will have been waged in vain, if the federal arbitration machinery is scrapped. Similar representationshave been made to me by the New South Wales Graziers Association, of which my old friend, Mr. Fred. Tout, is president. I think that my most important reason for supporting the amendment is that the report of the Constitution Royal Commission has not been tabled in this House. Why should we hurry to pass the bill when we have not yet had an opportunity to read that report? Another argument is that the State Premiers have expressed very grave doubts whether they will be ready on the 30th June next to take over the responsibilities of arbitration. I have given six reasons which, in my opinion, would justify the Government in accepting the amendment.
I do not intend to speak at any length on this amendment, but I desire to make my position clear to my electors, for I realize that I am taking a very grave step. However, I am doing it with my eyes wide open and after considerable thought. This is the first time in my ten years of public life that I have ever voted against the Government,, which I have supported either in committee, or in the House. To-night I shall have to take that stand for the first time if the amendment is forced to a division. It is a grave responsibility ; but when the right honorable the Prime Minister takesmajor matters into his own hands, it istime for me to take a firm stand. He said, when speaking in this House on Saturday last that he could do these things, although they are not part of the Nationalist party’s policy. He said that a certain amount of latitude must, be allowed to the leader of the nation. I do not say’ that a man in his position should not have a good deal of latitude, but when he brings down major matters to this House his party should be consulted. It should at least have been conferred with concerning the withdrawal of the prosecution against John Brown, of which I have spoken freely. The party, however, was not consulted. Nor was the party taken into consultation regarding the present bill.
Then again, the party was not asked for its opinion regarding the proposed increase in the amusement tax. It is, perhaps, correct to say that a Cabinet never confers with the members of its party on a budget matter; but there are exceptions to every rule. For two years I held the position of chairman of the royal commission that inquired into the moving picture industry in Australia. The commission worked for some fifteen months, and viewed the industry from every angle. If any man knew the position of the industry I did, and I should have been very pleased to give the Government the benefit of all the information I had gained concerning it that was riot embodied in the report itself; but I was not consulted concerning the proposed increase in the tax on amusements. On these three major matters the party was not consulted. When I heard of the withdrawal of the John Brown prosecution, I was stunned. A similar remark applies to the action of the Government regarding arbitration, and the amusement tax. I wish to call a halt in this attitude of the Prime Minister towards his party. I told him the other day that he would have to go one road, and I would go another. Perhaps I may not return by that road. I realize that a member who makes a speech such as I am making tonight must expect a pretty hard fight; but it means nothing to me so long as I act according to the principles that guide me and in the interests of the people. No man in Australia has praised the Prime Minister more sincerely than I have ; but the time has now come for me to take this stand. I have informed the Prime Minister that I cannot follow the Government in its proposal to increase the amusement tax. I informed him months ago what my attitude was regarding arbitration. I can do no other than vote for the amendment submitted by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because, after all, we are sent here by the people ; and, in this matter, we should ascertain the voice of the people. The Prime Minister told us that if the Government was defeated on this amendment, it would go to the people. I am prepared for that, whatever the result may be.
– The honorable member is not game to form an opinion for himself.
– That is just what he is doing.
– I invite the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) to come out to Wentworth next week and test the position there. The voice of the people must prevail. I have mentioned three major matters on which I say the Prime Minister did not confer with his party before taking action. If the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) had not submitted this amendment, it was my intention to adopt a somewhat similar course. The present position cannot continue. Let the people give their verdict. My right to say these things in this House may be questioned; but there is one plank in the platform of the Nationalist party in which I have always believed, and which the Prime Minister has repeated more than once; that is,” liberty of thought, speech, and action. In other words, the Nationalist party is one which welcomes all men; and its members are supposed to be permitted to cast their votes in this House according to their individual opinions.
I think that the amendment should be carried, and I intend to vote for it. I did not agree with the right honorable member for North Sydney iri certain remarks he made about pressure, but I have had a most extraordinary experience. No pressure whatever has been brought to bear upon me by the Prime Minister or any other member of the Cabinet. But it is strange that although not a soul was aware of my intention to take up the ‘ attitude I am now adopting, I have received” a number of telegrams from branches of the Nationalist party in Wentworth, containing messages to a certain effect. It is, indeed, strange that the time of the despatch of each message is about the same. For instance,” the time marks on some of them are 12.51, 12.21, 1.8, 12.46, 12.50, 1.15, 1.20, 12.0, 12.23; 12.50, and’ so on. Who sent me all these telegrams, and who inspired them? This is only Tuesday. No meeting was held on Sunday or Monday. So I wonder whether any such meeting has taken place. These messages certainly look like pressure from my electorate, and while I do not for a moment think that the Prime Minister or any member of the Cabinet has inspired them, there may be others in the House who know something about them. However, it looks like a very interesting fight in Wentworth at the next election. I have already been told of two Nationalists who are likely to oppose me there; but that is nothing to me. Nothing will prevent me from taking such steps as I consider proper in the interests of the people, whatever the result may be. I regret to have to do it, but my conscience compels me to vote for the amendment.
.- Towards the end of his speech this afternoon the Prime Minister referred to the political consequences that may follow the carrying of the amendment. He reiterated that such a vote must be .taken as a declaration by the Committee in favour of a dissolution of the Parliament.
MINISTERIAL Members. - Hear, hear.
– That opinion is applauded by honorable members sitting behind the Government. So far as I can see the registering of any opinion by this Committee cannot be taken as an instruction to the Governor-General to dissolve the Parliament. The Prime Minister did not refer to the Governor-General, but it is clear that he was implying that the vote in favour of the amendment would influence His Excellency’s mind. Do honorable members consider that the right honorable gentleman has correctly indicated the constitutional or political situation that will arise from the carrying of the amendment? The instructions issued by the Colonial Office to GovernorGenerals and Governors set out clearly the circumstances in’ which they shall exercise their discretion. When a Government loses the confidence of a representative chamber, the representative of the King may freely exercise his discretion. It is one of the few circumstances in which he- may do so freely and unfettered. In the event of a Government meeting with an adverse vote in the representative chamber, the GovernorGeneral may accept or reject the advice tendered to him by his Ministers. If he rejects the advice, the obligation rests upon him to dismiss his Ministers and invite others to become his adviser.s. He is not directed or expected to look to the Parliament for guidance or instruction in this matter.
– This amendment is a request for a decision by the people.
– No. The Committee is about to register an opinion on an issue which the Government has chosen to make vital, but it cannot represent to the Governor-General that such a vote is an instruction to him from this Parliament. He will remain unfettered in the exercise of his discretion as he would in the event of an ordinary political crisis, and the Prime Minister or any Minister basing advice to the GovernorGeneral on the carrying of the amendment will be misleading His Excellency. He will look for a direction not to Parliament, but to his Ministerial advisers, and if he cannot accept the guidance of his present advisers he will seek others. .
– As a humble member of the Ministerial rank and file, I shall not regard the carrying of the amendment as a decision in favour of an immediate election. I have no fear of the consequences of an election to myself, but I do not think that honorable members who have loyally supported the Government’s policy in regard to this and other issues will be placed in a fair position, if because some Ministerial supporters think fit to desert the Government in its hour of trial, the Prime Minister advises His Excellency that this House has instructed an immediate appeal to the country. That is a matter to be decided between the GovernorGeneral and the Prime Minister, but without any disrespect or disloyalty to the Prime Minister, I hope His Excellency will not accept that advice. I have risen at this critical stage of the debate to make my position clear. Like other honorable members I shall probably have to give to my electors shortly an account of my stewardship. I would like to impress upon honorable members that arbitration will not be the only issue before the people.
Mr.Watkins. - I think it will.
– If honorable members think that the election will be fought on this issue only, they are making a grave mistake. Other issues are bound to obtrude, particularly the proposed increase in the amusement tax. No two issues could be more dissimilar than arbitration and the amusement tax; one is very likely to strangle the other, and any mandate which the Government may think it is getting from the people on the subject of arbitration will be affected by a lot of other extraneous issues that have no bearing on the industrial question. What are the gigantic American picture companies doing to-day? For the first time in the history of Australia a concerted effort is being made by them to stampede the public against the Government and individual members. All over the continent petitions are being signed in picture theatres by people who have no knowledge of the subject on which they are expressing an opinion, but who have an incurable habit of signing any petition that is submitted to them. In fighting the arbitration issue, which is vital to the industrial wellbeing of Australia, we shall have to wrestle with the prejudices of tens of thousands of people whose minds have been poisoned by the pernicious American propaganda. Because of the artificial atmosphere that is being created, there could be no less fitting time for the decision of the arbitration issue by the people.
The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) quoted a newspaper article which he suspected me of writing. I did write it, and I abide by every word of it as I abide by anything that I write for the journal with which I am connected. I have always supported federal arbitration, even to the extent of urging a complete transference of industrial jurisdiction from the States to the Commonwealth. At this grim moment it is proper that I should state the grounds on which I intend to fight the election. I support federalarbitration as I did in 1926, and I go the length of advocating that every vestige of control over trade and commerce should be transferred from the State Parliaments to the Commonwealth Parliament. . For reasons I gave at the time, I voted with the Government on the motion for the second reading of this bill. One of my main reasons was that I did not consider that the Opposition had vindicated its attitude by merely re-affirming its adherence to federal arbitration with more vehemence than we have heard from the Labour party for many years. Honorable members opposite did not submit any effective counter proposal to that of the Government to surrender practically 90 per cent. of the Commonwealth jurisdiction in industrial matters. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) stated in public a few weeks ago that he favoured an improved form of federal arbitration by which we would have round-table conferences free from entangling legalisms. It is significant that during his absence from the Parliament on account of illness that policy was not endorsed in this chamber by any of his supporters. This led me to decide that the Labour party’s arbitration policy is no further advanced than it was 27 years ago, and that if it came into office, it would merely carry on the present system with its defects, and perhaps add a few more. If the Labour party is anxious to go to the country on this issue, it might be well advised first to allow the Government’s proposals to be tested in practice. Honorable members opposite profess to think that Ministerialists will be swept aside by a gust of popular indignation because of our attitude towards this bill, but one of the first things our opponents will be asked by the electors is what they intend to do to overcome strikes and the other delays that are menacing industry to-day. What will be their answer ? If they can put forward a clear-cut alternative to the proposal adumbrated by the Government, they might have a good chance of success at the polls, but so far as I can see all that they propose to say to the people is “ Federal arbitration or nothing.” They will not propose any improvements.
– Yes, we will.
– Federal control.
– That is a very wide term. The Government has challenged the existing system of industrial control. I think it has gone too far in introducing this bill without submitting a proposal for continuance of the awards that apply to essentially federal industries. Speaking on the second reading, I mentioned the Journalists Association. I am pleased to say that despite the threatened abolition of federal arbitration the metropolitan journalists and the employers have agreed to continue the existing award for five years.
– What will become of that agreement if the bill is carried?
– It will have to be registered in each of the six States.
– It cannot be registered in States in which there is no Arbitration Court.
– There is also a conference being held in Melbourne between the employers and provincial journalists, and the desire there also is to have the federal agreement continued for at least five years. When we have instances of industries being prepared to use methods of conciliation, I think that the Government should have made some friendly gesture, or that some federal supervision should have been retained in an endeavour to continue their awards without reference even to State authorities.
– Will the honorable member say how that agreement, if entered into in Victoria, can be backed up by any legal enactment?
– Not unless it is registered in a State court.
– But there is no authority in Victoria under which it could be registered.
– It is suggested that Victoria has no authority over federal agreements, and that also is a difficulty which has to be overcome. I think that it would be a good thing if the onus were thrown on the States to prove their bona” fides. The States met in conference in this chamber and offered to accept federal arbitration when the Prime Minister said that the Federal Government proposed to withdraw from that field.
Victoria was the only State that was not prepared to do that, but that is not to say that that State would not make an attempt to accept federal arbitration if it had the opportunity. After listening to the debate, I am satisfied that it would be a good thing for the future of arbitration if the States had an opportunity to settle this argument once and for all. They have been crying out for a long time entreating the Commonwealth Government to give them an opportunity to deal with arbitration, and they will never rest until they are given that opportunity. We should settle the issue of Pederal versus State powers over arbitration. Then there is the question of a referendum. I am strongly in favour of a referendum, not only on this issue, but also on the issue of constitutional alterations. I have always supported referendums, and I was one of the most ardent supporters of the referendum taken in 1926. I was prepared to take part in that campaign side by side with the members of the Labour party, but, unfortunately, I found it difficult to locate any members of that party who were prepared to assist me and other members of this side. I am satisfied that if the Government did take a referendum upon this issue to-day it would be defeated just as the referendum was defeated in 1926, for the reason that the Labour party in this House has no control over the outside Labour movement. In 1926 every member of that party voted in this chamber for the taking of the referendum, and we all thought that the granting of additional powers to the Commonwealth was the biggest certainty in the world. Yet no sooner did we go before the country than we found the Labour members, with the exception of the Leader of the Opposition and a few of his supporters, who heroically stood to their guns, opposing the referendum. Can the Opposition in this House speak for Mr. Lang?
– Can the Government speak for the big business and oil interests ?
– The Government cannot do that. But if this Government decided to take a referendum on arbitration, and even if we had the support of every member on that side, the position would be similar to that in 1926.
– It would depend upon the issue.
- Mr. Lang was one of those who were instrumental in defeating the extension of federal powers previously. He has a big influence with the Australian Labour party in New South Wales, and he has said no word on the subject of federal arbitration. That does not encourage us to take a referendum with the certainty of being doublecrossed as we were in 1926, when the Labour party split up into little pieces.
– The Labour party has never yet spoken unitedly.
– I do not think that the carrying of the amendment moved by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), would help the position at all. It is very unfortunate that he has seen fit to move it, because the issue was definitely decided upon the second reading of the bill. What will be the position if we have an election immediately, and the Labour party is returned to power? It will have a hostile majority in the Senate for the next three years.
– We will soon settle that.
– It means that by the time the election is over, which will be at least four or five months from now, another twelve months will elapse before the constitutional processes can be put in operation to obtain a double dissolution. It will be another eighteen months to two years, before this issue can be finally determined by a double dissolution and ah appeal to the people. The carrying of this amendment will not settle this question at all. Even if the Opposition wins in this chamber it will not win in the Senate. Until it has a majority in both Housesof Parliament it cannot carry out its legislative will.
– Why did the honorable member support the referendum?
– I am talking not of the referendum, but of an election. As a believer in sole control of arbitration and trade and industry by the Commonwealth, I am at all times ready, as I was in 1926, to fight strenuously for it and to abide by the issue. In 1926 I carried the referendum in my electorate by a majority of nearly 6,000 votes. I am prepared to take up the same attitude again at any time; but I have no confidence whatever in the outcome of a referendum to obtain increased industrial powers unless all the parties in this House are united. If we cannot secure the co-operation of the Labour party, with a guarantee of the support of its movement outside, a referendum on this issue would be foolish. Although I would support such a referendum if it were taken, even if the Labour party were again split in pieces on the question, I have no doubt whatever that we should be wasting our time and a considerable amount of the people’s money.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be so added (Mr. Hughes’ amendment) - put. The committee divided.
Majority . . . . 1
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
– During the coarse of the Prime Minister’s speech, in closing the secondreading debate on Saturday last, the right honorable gentleman referred to the burning of Judge Lukin in effigy. In the report of the right honorable gentleman’s speech, which was published by the Sydney Morning Herald, the following appears -
We have had the spectacle, proceeded Mr. Bruce, of the effigy of JudgeLukin being burned in public.
Mr. Hughes: Hear, hear!
Mr.R. Green (New South Wales): That interjection shows that the right honorable member for North Sydney agrees with the burning of the judge’s effigy.
– Hear, hear!
– I desire to say that I did not hear that, interjection of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr, R. Green). Had I done so, I should have risen at that moment to call your attention to it, Mr. Speaker. There’ is no truth whatever in the statement of the honorable member. My record speaks for itself. All my life I have been an upholder of the law, and of those who administer the law.
Positionof the Government.
– Inconsequence of the vote that has just been taken in committee, the Government desires an opportunity to consider its position. I, therefore, move -
That the House do now adjourn.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 8.48 p.m.’
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 September 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1929/19290910_reps_11_121/>.