12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 2.30 pan., and offered prayers.
– Is the Treasurer in a position to make his promised statement regarding Australia’s share of the German Reparations Loan that is being issued in London ?
– The Young Plan contemplated that portion of theunconditional annuities payable by Germany would be capitalized by a loan issued to the public. A reparation loan has accordingly just been issued in various countries by the Bank of International Settlements. The London issue amounts to £12,000,000, and the share payable to Australia will be £442,680. This will be paid to the sinking fund, and applied to the redemption of the dent. The service of the loan, that is, the interest and repayment, will be charged against the unconditional annuities payable by Germany, and Australia’s future share of those annuities will be proportionately reduced.
– Does the Prime Minister propose to make available to honorable members the report of Sir Harrison Moore upon the work and conclusions of the committee which conferred in London recently regarding the legislation of the dominions ?
– I hope to be able next week to lay the report on the table, and will move that it be printed, in order that honorable members may have an opportunity to discuss it.
Hams and Bacons-boxtimbers.
– Will the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs state whether the Government has received and considered the report of the Tariff Board on hams and bacons?
– The Tariff Board is completing several reports, and that referred to by the honorable member is amongst them; I hope to have it within a few days, and thereafter, it will receive early consideration.
– Has the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs received the report of the Tariff Board on box timbers, with special reference to the dried fruits industry?
– The report has been received. The recommendations of the board, together with the representations’ made toy the honorable member in regard to the dried fruits industry, will receive the fullest consideration of the Government.
POSTPONEMENT OF ELECTION.
– Will the Minister for Home Affairs inform the House when the proposed amendment of the Darwin Town Council ordinance will be published? Under what authority did the Government postpone the elections for that body?
– The Darwin Town Council consists of five councillors, of whom two were retiring and seeking reelection next month. In accordance with the policy of the Government, an ordinance to introduce adult franchise in connexion with the elections for this body is being prepared, and will be available shortly; but as it could not be completed in time to apply to the approaching election, I caused a special ordinance to be issued postponing the poll.
– The Prime Minister definitely promised that the various tariff sohedules introduced by the Government would be discussed immediately after the Easter adjournment. As the House has been in session for six weeks since Easter, when does the right honorable gentleman intend to honour his promise?
– That question was answered in the absence of the honorable member. The Government promised that as early as practicable after the Easter adjournment the tariff schedule would be discussed. If the honorable member will assistthe Government in expediting the passage of the urgent measures now before the House, the tariff schedules will be reached more quickly.
– Having regard to the published statement that the Prime Minister was invited to arbitrate between the Australian Workers Union and the Australian Labour party in New South Wales, and the later rumour that the negotiations for arbitration have broken down, and that the right honorable gentleman has declined to act as a mediator in the dispute, will he make a statement to the House on the subject?
– This subject has no more relation to the business of the House than have the whereabouts of the bolting bride.
– Will the Prime Minister state what developments have occurred since this Parliament amended the Australian Industries Preservation Act to permit of contracts being made in regard to freights from Australia?
– The purpose of the amending legislation is to permit contracts to be made between overseas shipping companies and shippers. There was presented to the Government a draft agreement, the terms of which were to be incorporated in the binding agreement between the two parties. Our legislation did not ratify any agreement; it merely made legal provision for the making of agreements. We were under the impression that the agreement would be signed immediately the legislation had passed both Houses, and we expedited its passage in every way we could. Officially, I know nothing of what has transpired since then; but I have seen some disquieting reports in the press regarding the likelihood of the agreement not being entered into, and the possibility of increased freights being charged. I understand that discussions are still being continued.
Outbreak of Influenza
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The Carpentaria left Sydney on 7th November, 1918, and arrived at Auckland on 12th November, 1918, no shore leave being permitted. As the troops were recalled to Australia, they were transhipped on 16th November, 1918, to the Riverina, which arrived in Sydney on 20th November, 1918, went into quarantine the following day and remained there until 28th November, 1918, when the troops disembarked. The Department of Health advises that there was no influenza on the Carpentaria on this voyage. Pour cases of influenza were said to have occurred on the Riverina, but no particulars are available as to the actual date and place. The source of infection was New Zealand. The Riverina was medically inspected on arrival at Sydney, and no influenza was found on board, but in consequence of the history of the previous occurrence of four cases the vessel was held for seven days for observation, medical inspection being carried out daily. No deaths occurred on board the vessel either during the voyage or during quarantine. No cases of influenza occurred after quarantine of the vessel at Sydney.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The desired information is being obtained.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Will he inform the House how many compositions, assignments without sequestration, and deeds of arrangement under Parts XI. and XII. of the Bankruptcy Act respectively have been filed for each month, from July, 1929, to date, and what were the occupations and total amounts involved?
– This information for the twelve months ending on the 31st July, 1930, will appear in the annual report of the Attorney-General when tabled in accordance with section 17 (2.) of the Bankruptcy Act.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
With reference to the clause in the Treaty of Versailles in which the constituent nations, of which Australia was one, agreed to continuous reductions in armament -
Are the proposed defence reductions sufficient to meet this treaty obligation ; and
Will he endeavour to carry out this treaty by gradual and progressive complete disarmament in this country ?
-By article 8 of the Covenant of the League of Nations (Part 1 of the Treaty of Versailles) the Commonwealth, with all other members of the League, recognizes that the maintenance of peace requires the reduction of armaments to the lowest point consistent with national safety and the enforcement by common action of international obligations. The defence policy of the Commonwealth Government is framed in accord with that understanding.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
If not, why is one branch of the defence’ forces singled out for this economy?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting: Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Mr.FORDE. - The information will be obtained as far as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
asked the Acting Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
Will he state whether there has been any recent development in connexion with the important question of miner’s phthisis?
– The department has recently made investigations at the request of the Arbitration Court into the conditions of miners in Victoria and Tasmania, and at the suggestion of the Royal Commission on the Coal Industry into the possibility of miner’s phthisis existing among coal-miners in New South Wales, the Director of the Division of Industrial Hygiene is proceeding this month to a conference of world experts convened by the International Labour Office to be held at Johannesburg to discuss miner’s phthisis.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
Whether he has yet inquired into the allegation made by the honorable member for Oxley, on the 6th instant, to the effect that the Labor Daily newspaper had contravened the provisions of an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, inasmuch as it has paid its employees only90 per cent. of their salaries or wages in cash, and required them to take the balance in shares of the company?
– It has not been the practice of the Commonwealth to police the awards of the court. No complaints of any such breach of an award have been received.
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
What has been the number of cases of cancer treated by Commonwealth radium since its distribution, and what has been the degree of success ?
– It is estimated that 3,500 cases of cancer have been treated by the Commonwealth radium up to the present time. The success achieved from the use of the radium has been very satisfactory. The permanence of results can only be ascertained by the lapse of time, but several hundreds of patients are free of symptoms and signs of cancer at this date. The first conference of cancer organizations, which met recently at Canberra, expressed itself in the following terms: -
The success already attained in the treatment of cancer (although not yet accepted as final) opens a new prospect for doctor and patient of hope in the place of despair.
– On the 23rd May, the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. D. Cameron) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following replies: -
– On the 13th June, the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Tully) asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable member as follows: -
– On the 4th June the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Crouch) asked me the following questions, upon notice -
A reply was furnished by me in regard to part 1 of the question; I am now in a position to furnish the following reply in regard to 2: -
-I have received from Miss Cook, daughter of the late Mr. Robert Cook, a letter thanking the House for its resolution of sympathy.
– I move-
That this House approves of the declaration under Article 36 of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice, signed at Geneva on 20th September, 1929, in respect of the Commonwealth of Australia.
This motion asks the House to approve of the signature, by the Commonwealth Government, of the declaration of acceptance of the optional clause of Article 36 of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice. The declaration reads as follows : -
On behalf of His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia and subject to ratification, I accept as compulsory ipso facto and without special convention on condition of reciprocity the jurisdiction of the court in conformity with Article 30, paragraph 2, of the Statute of the court, for a period of ten years and thereafter until such time as notice may be given to terminate the acceptance, over all disputes arising after the ratification of the present declaration with regard to situations or facts subsequent to the said ratification.
Other than -
Disputes in regard to which the parties to the dispute have agreed or shall agree to have recourse to some other method of peaceful settlement; and
Disputes with the Government of any other member of the league which is a member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, all of which disputes shall be settled in such manner as the parties have agreed or shall agree; and
Disputes with regard to questions which by international law fall exclusively within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth of Australia; and
Subject to the condition that His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia reserve the right to require that proceedings in the court shall be suspended in respect of any dispute which has been submitted to and is under consideration by the Council of the League of Nations, provided that notice to suspend is given after the dispute has been submitted to the council and is given within ten days of the notification of the initiation of the proceedings in the court, and provided also that such suspension shall be limited to a period of twelve months or such longer period as may be agreed by the parties to the dispute or determined by a decision of all the members of the council other than the parties of the dispute.
That declaration was signed by the representative of the Commonwealth at Geneva on 20th September last, and the Government now proposes to ratify the signature and so give it binding effect.
I shall briefly refer to the circumstances leading up to the signing of the declaration. Article 36 of the Statute of the Permanent Court provides first, that the court shall deal with cases which the parties refer to it, and matters specially provided for in treaties or conventions. It then provides by the optional clause that States which are parties to the Statute of the court, may agree that all legal disputes belonging to four specified classes shall also be referred to the court. These classes are the same as those which, by Article 13 of the Covenant, the members of the league have agreed to be generally suitable for arbitration or judicial settlement.
The wording of the optional clause is as follows: -
The members of the League of Nations and the States mentioned in the annex to the covenant may, either when signing or ratifying the protocol to which the present statute is adjoined, or at a later moment, declare that they recognize as compulsory ipso facto and without special agreement, in relation to any other member or State accepting the same obligation, the jurisdiction of the court in all or any of the classes of legal disputes concerning -
The interpretation of a treaty;
Any question of international law;
The existence of any fact which, if established, would constitute a breach of an. international obligation ;
The nature or extent of the reparation to be made for the breach of an international obligation.
The declaration referred to above may be made unconditionally or on condition of reciprocity on the part of several or certain members or States, or for a certain time.
In the event of a dispute as to whether the court has jurisdiction, the matter shall be settled by the decision of the court.
The Imperial Conference of 1926 discussed whether the members of the British Commonwealth of Nations should accept the optional clause; but no decision was arrived at, except that none of the British Governments should accept it until there had been further consultation between them. In 1928, the Commonwealth Government decided that the matter should be further considered, and the Canadian
Government also proposed to the other Governments of the British Commonwealth that further consideration should be given to the question, and some consultation took place. In August last the British Government advised that it considered that it could accept the optional clause subject to certain reservations, and expressed the hope that all the British Governments might also see their way to accept it during the 10th Assembly of the League, in a form of declaration of which all approved. After long consultation all the Governments of the British Commonwealth, except the Government of the Irish Free State, decided to accept the clause in similar terms. The Irish Free State Government decided to accept the clause without any reservations.
The result of our acceptance of the optional clause is that the Commonwealth has undertaken to submit to the court for decision any legal dispute belonging to one of the four classes mentioned which is not excluded by the reservations. This means that should the Commonwealth become involved in such a dispute with another State which has also accepted the clause that State may cite the Commonwealth before the Permanent Court; and the Commonwealth may, of course, cite another signatory State in the same way.
The reservations agreed upon after long consultation between the various Governments of the British Commonwealth of Nations exclude the following four classes of disputes from the compulsory jurisdiction of the court: -
In the last-mentioned case the court’s jurisdiction would be only suspended, for it could deal with the dispute when a certain period - normally twelve months - had elapsed after the submission to the Council.
This reservation enables disputes, partly political and partly legal, to be submitted, in the first instance, to what would probably be a more satisfactory mode of settlement than a purely judicial procedure.
Finally, only disputes which arise after the declaration of acceptance has been ratified can be submitted to the court. A State cannot, therefore, cite the Commonwealth for a dispute concerning past facts or events.
Certain reasons could be urged against our acceptance of the optional clause. It might be said that it will oblige the Commonwealth to submit certain cases in which the decision might have most important results to a court which could give a majority decision from which there was no appeal. Moreover, international law is not a code of well-established, generally accepted rules like national law. The court, in the absence of international conventions, might, by Article 38 of its statute, be guided by international custom, principles of law, judicial decisions, and teachings of highly qualified publicists. Whilst a State may make laws for its courts to enforce, there is not yet any machinery for enacting or amending international rules. But in the opinion of the Commonwealth Government and all the other Governments of the British Commonwealth of Nations the reasons for accepting the clause outweigh these disadvantages.
On becoming members of the League of Nations we agreed to submit all disputes to some form of peaceful settlement.
– Not all disputes.
– Yes ; all disputes. By the Treaty for the Renunciation of War we have undertaken to seek the solution of international disputes by peaceful means only. The necessity for providing ample means for the peaceful settlement of disputes is obvious ; and for disputes in which there is a conflict as to legal rights the decision of a judicial body, such as the Permanent Court, should be most satisfactory. We have accepted the optional clause for ten years, and our experience during that period will, I trust, prove that the Permanent Court is fully able to discharge the powers we have decided to entrust to it. Forty-one States have now signed the declaration of acceptance of the .optional clause, and twentysix have ratified their signature to it. Every part pf the British Empire has accepted the optional clause, and the United Kingdom, South Africa, and New Zealand have ratified it. It now remains for us to do so. The nations are only beginning to realize the importance of international law, under which their relations with each other can be determined and decided by reason instead of by force. It should be the desire of every State connected with the League of Nations to remove every obstacle from the operation of the Permanent Court. For that reason, I urge this Parliament to ratify without delay the declaration accepting the optional clause.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Latham) adjourned.
– I rise to a question of procedure. On the notice-paper, items number 10 and 11 deal with the Permanent Court of International Justice. I should like to know if it is proposed to follow the same procedure in regard to them and the motion just moved as we adopted recently in regard to bills for the amendment of the Constitution, allowing them all to be discussed in one debate.
– hy leave- -It is the intention of the Government to place the motion that I have just moved on the notice-paper before items number 10 and 11, as the debate on it will really cover the matter with which the other motions deal. I do not think that it would be practicable to bracket the three motions; but, of course, that will be a matter for your ruling, Mr. Speaker.
– I should like to ask the Prime Minister a question on this subject.
– I am afraid that the procedure is becoming somewhat irregular.
– It is not a debatable matter.
– Is the right honorable member about to ask a question of procedure ?
– In that case the question should be addressed to the Chair.
– I wish to know whether the House is to understand that the effect of adjourning this debate will be to suspend the operation of the ratification until the debate is concluded?
– That is hardly a question of procedure, and I suggest to the right honorable member that he should place his question upon the notice-paper so that it may be answered in the ordinary course by the Prime Minister.
– This is a matter of urgency.
-The only way in which the right honorable member can approach this subject is to discuss it on the ordinary motion for the adjournment of the House.
– On a point of order, I wish to state that my question was directed to you, Mr. Speaker, at your suggestion ;’ but the information I desire can be supplied only by the Prime Minister. I wish to know whether the ratification is to be subject to the decision of the House, and must therefore be postponed until the debate has concluded. I think that he might answer that question.
-The right honorable member has not raised a point .of order. This is not an opportune time to ask the question. I suggest that he take advantage of the other means at his disposal to obtain information from the Prime Minister.
Debate resumed from 30th May (vide page 2367) on motion by Mr. Brenna -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- When the framers of the Commonwealth Constitution included in it a provision empowering the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate in respect of conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of interstate disputes, they and the people of Australia had no conception whatever of the consequences of that action. While the Federal Arbitration Court has, as I think we all agree, settled many industrial disputes, the conciliation and arbitration power of this Commonwealth has been responsible for more political controversy than any other provision of the Constitution. It has been, in itself, a fertile source of industrial disputes and has probably caused more litigation than have all the other provisions of the Constitution. This Parliament is now asked to legislate upon this subject for the thirteenth time in twenty-six years. The fact that it has been deemed necessary by successive governments to introduce bills dealing -with this subject upon an average every two years, is an indication of the dissension, at least in the political arena, for which this constitutional provision has been responsible. It does not appear to me that any proposal in this bill which has been originated by this Government will contribute to the solution of any industrial problem. The proposal to abolish certain penalties may produce a good effect, but is not an original proposal of this Government, because it was made in legislation introduced by the late Government.
The position of industry in Australia to-day cannot be regarded as satisfactory, whether from the point of view of industry itself, or of the community as a whole. Many of our primary industries are highly efficient. The quality of Australian wool is the best in the world. Our wheat is of the best milling quality and, until very recently, has been produced at a cost lower than that obtaining elsewhere in the world. The quality and the grading of our other primary products are increasing year by year. But despite these facts all our primary industries are, speaking generally, either unprofitable or show only a small margin of profit. Our primary industries depend, as we all know, largely upon the export trade, and therefore upon the prices prevailing in the markets of the world. At the present time the prices received in the markets of the world for our surplus primary products which we export, are not sufficiently high to cover, in many cases, the cost of production. To support my statement I need refer only to the position of the wheat, wool, butter, wine, canned and dried fruits industries. In Queensland and New South Wales, State rural awards have been abolished with a large measure of general approval. In Queensland there is at present less unemployment than in any other State.
Our secondary industries are also, in many cases, efficient, and our secondary products compare favorably in most cases with those of any other country. At the same time our secondary industries areunable to export, and higher and ever higher protection is demanded. Oneof our leading manufacturers, Mr. McKay, is even now establishing a factory in Canada for the manufacture of agricultural machinery for export, because he is unable, he states, to manufacture in Australia under Australian conditions and to export machinery at a profit, as he could do some years ago. The volume of unemployment in Australia at the present time is unprecedented in our history; it stands at the staggering figure of approximately 15 per cent.
The rights and duties of employers and employees towards each other in Australia are determined by a highly intricate system of industrial regulation. That system consists, in part of statutes passed by the Parliaments of the States; in part of awards or industrial determinationsmade by State tribunals; and in part of awards made by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The result is a complex and confusing system for the control of industrial relations, which is probably without parallel elsewhere in the world, with the exception possibly of Russia, in which country there is an equally minute, control of industrial relations. The provisions of State statutes and awards and of Federal awards frequently overlap, thus increasing the difficulty that confronts those who endeavour to find a way through the maze of regulations that the different laws, Federal and State, require to be observed. An enormous sum is spent every year by both employers and employees in ascertaining what are their rights and duties. The result is a great deal of friction in industry and a heavy charge upon industry, which could be avoided if there were not a dual system of control.
Many efforts have been made to avoid those difficulties. In 1911, and in subsequent years, proposals were made to amend the Constitution to confer upon this Parliament full and unlimited powers with respect to industrial legislation.
Those proposals failed in their object. In 1922 the leader of the Nationalist party, the present right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who had the support of the whole of that party, and of every candidate who contested in its interests the election that was held in that year, proposed to restrict federal jurisdiction to the maritime workers and coal-miners, leaving the States to deal with all other industries. That proposal, in substance, was revived last year.
– That is not true.
– On that occasion, however, the right honorable member and certain other honorable members changed their views.
– That is not true.
– Order! I call upon the right honorable member for North Sydney to withdraw the statement he has just made; it is unparliamentary.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) took no notice of it. He knows that what he has said is not true.
– -Order! I ask the right honorable member to withdraw the statement.
– I withdraw it.
– I am afraid that the right honorable member has a bad memory. I was alluding to the policy speech that he delivered at Chatswood in 1922, during the course of which he made the precise proposal to which I have referred, and that proposal was supported by the Nationalist candidates who stood for election in that year.
In the year 1923 a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers was held to consider the distribution of industrial powers between the Commonwealth and the States. Proposals were then made for a division of industries, some to be ‘brought within the federal and others within the State sphere; but it was found impossible to arrive at any agreement with respect to the manner in which industries should be divided. The proposal of the right honorable member for North Sydney had been founded upon similar proposals that were the outcome of an earlier Premiers Conference.
In 1926 a referendum was held, the object of which was to extend the powers of federal industrial authorities, but not to confer upon this Parliament general powers in relation to industrial legislation. Those proposals were supported substantially and almost unanimously by all parties in this House; but they, too, failed.
In 1928, an amending arbitration act was passed; and in 1929 other proposals were embodied in the Maritime Industries Bill. I shall make a brief reference to those in a moment.
These events, as I have narrated them, indicate the tangled history of federal industrial legislation within recent years. Unfortunately, there is not nearly as much co-operation as there might be between the two sides of industry in Australia. Employers as a whole, but especially in the larger industries, are frequently far removed from their employees; and in many cases there appears to be little sense of unity between them. The reasons for this are to be found on both sides, not only on one side. In the past, trade unions have largely concentrated their efforts upon an endeavour to secure improvements in the wages, hours and conditions of .employment of the workers. That, of course, is a natural and a proper sphere of action for trade unions. But within recent years they have very seldom, if at any time, endeavoured to make a contribution to the efficiency or the success either of industry as a whole or of the particular industry with which they have been concerned; and the employers have given them very little opportunity to do so. In my view there have been faults in this direction on both sides. It is probable that all parties agree that there is a deplorable division of effort in Australian industry, and that many of our people are pulling against each other. It would be of tremendous advantage to industry, and to the country as a whole, if they could find means that would enable them to pull together.
The description of Australian industry that I have given is, I contend, substantially accurate and cannot be challenged. It presents very many problems of acute importance to the community as a whole. I ask the House, what contribution does this bill make to the solution of any of the problems that present themselves for our consideration? Except in one particular, namely, the abolition of certain penalties, it appears to me to make no contribution whatever.
The present position in Australia is partly due to the manner in which the Constitution limits the exercise of federal powers. Honorable members are familiar with those limitations. Before any federal industrial authority can deal with an industrial matter under the conciliation and arbitration power there must be a definite dispute, and it must extend to at least two States. Then, in the absence of agreement between the parties, it can be settled only by the litigious method of arbitration. Those limitations apply to all federal industrial authorities, whether they are called judges or commissioners, and they will apply equally in the case of the Conciliation Commissioners, the powers of whom are proposed to be extended under this amending legislation. The regular method of approach to the Federal Arbitration Court is to create a dispute between employers and employees. Owing largely to the form in which the industrial power has been conferred upon this Parliament, employers and employees in Australia have become more and more divided into two hostile camps. Great organizations exist on both sides; and, unfortunately, their main occupation is that of fighting each other.
Industrial arbitration in Australia has operated, on the wholes on a rising market. That was the general position up to 1927-28, with an exception in 1921-22. Up to about 1927 the system . had operated reasonably well. I have made that statement frequently, both in this House and elsewhere. There were certain difficulties and troubles, and there always will be in connexion with industrial affairs. There is, to a very real extent, a natural and necessary division of interests between employer and employee. We all realize that, fundamentally, they have one single interest in the success and prosperity of industry, but, nevertheless, there will always be some difficulties and troubles. Still, on the whole, I believe, and have always said, that federal arbitration had much more to its credit than to its debit up to the year 1927.
About this time the economic position changed to some extent, and the attitude of the unions towards arbitration commenced to alter very definitely indeed. The Government then in power said that it was not prepared to end the system, but that its continuance, and the willingness of the Government to be a party to its continuance, depended on the general principle that those who appealed to the arbitrator should obey his award. I take the liberty of quoting what I said on the 15th November, 1927, when, as AttorneyGeneral in the late Government, I was speaking in this House on the motion for the second reading of the amending Arbitration Bill. At that time I remarked that there was one condition to which the continuance of the arbitration system was subject, and it was that those appealing to the arbitrator “must not take arbitration when it suits them and resort to direct action when it seems more likely to give them what they want.” I went on to say that if the organizations and industry did not agree to recognize this obligation “the Government will have to consider whether it is desirable to retain the system.”
– Was that a- new discovery?
– I refer to those passages only on account of the other passages from the same speech, I believe, to which the Attorney-General referred when moving the second reading of this bill. It is obvious that it is impossible for arbitration, or any other system of industrial regulation, to provide what I may call mass advances in wages and conditions for any definite period. Whatever may be said to the contrary, we all know that wages, hours and conditions depend upon the economic position of the country, and, therefore, there are some limits to the benefits that arbitration or any other system of industrial regulation can confer. In fact, advantages gained by the worker by arbitration, in the way of increases of wages, in particular, have often been greatly exaggerated. If the increase in the cost of living is taken into account, and the unemployment figures are also considered, it becomes apparent that no very substantial advance in real wages, as distinct from nominal rates of wages, has been achieved. Any real advance that there may have been, as compared with 1907, when the Harvester wage was fixed, cannot be more than about 3 or 4 per cent., if unemployment is taken into account and wages are measured against the cost of living. From 1926 to 1929 there was a series of industrial disturbances, and for months at a time the Commonwealth was never free from a strike against a federal award. I remind honorable members of the engineers’ strike, the marine cooks’ strike, the waterside workers’ strike, and the timber-workers’ strike. Those were all strikes against federal awards, and not one of them was due to any legislative enactment. In the case of the engineers, the strike was due to an award dealing with hours and piece-work; in the case of the cooks, to the number of cooks to be carried on vessels; in the case of the watersiders, to the number of pick-ups to be prescribed ; and in the case of the timber-workers, to an award dealing with hours and some specific provisions as to wages. In no case was any provision of the act of 1928, or any other act, responsible for the dispute.
From 1927 until 1929, the official trade union movement began to challenge the whole principle of arbitration. It was contended that members of trade unions were bound to obey only awards that were regarded by them as satisfactory, and in accordance with what were referred to as vital principles of trade unionism. In my speech on the Maritime Industries BUI last year, I gave many examples of that attitude, and quoted the resolutions of trade union congresses and conferences and of leading unions themselves. In 1928 many improvements were made in the law, and I am interested to see that about 40 sections of the act passed in 1928 are left untouched by this bill. Some of these are relatively significant, and some are important. That act was probably the subject of more misrepresentation than any other statute that has ever been passed by this Parliament.
– Until this amending measure was submitted.
– It was pretended for political purposes that the penalty of £1,000 for lockouts and strikes had been instituted by the 1928 act, when, in fact, it had been in operation since 1904.
That act, in so far as it referred to penalties at all, dealt with them only to reduce them, and to remove them in certain cases. In 1927, as AttorneyGeneral, I approached employers and employees, and invited them to consider whether those penalties should not be removed, but neither side would agree to their removal. I have already, on other occasions, placed before this House the correspondence that I had with the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, in which I asked for their views on the retention of the penalties for lockouts and strikes, and I was unable to secure any expression of opinion on the subject.
– Both sides asked the honorable member to remove them.
– That is not so. The reply that I received was that the matter would have to be submitted to each trade union for its opinion. That is the reply that I received from Mr. Charles Crofts in September, 1927, and honorable members will find it recorded in Hansard. Neither side would agree that the penalties should be removed. The employers did not want to give up the strike penalty, and the unions did not want the lockout penalty repealed. At the Labour conference, held at; I think, the beginning of last year, a report recommending the removal of the penalties was presented and adopted.
The one part of the present bill which I approve is that repealing the sections imposing fines in the case of strikes and lockouts. These penalties are, as a general rule, ineffective, as experience has shown. I have always been doubtful of the principle which they embody. If there had been any encouragement at all from either side of industry in 1927, I think that there would have been little difficulty in bringing about their repeal then. I believe that in regard to certain essential services, such as water and gas supply, sewerage and the like, there should, in > the interests of the life and health of the community, be penalties upon stoppage of work. In other cases penalties do not appear to be wise or desirable, and experience since 1904 has confirmed that view. The best method of enforcing industrial law is not by imposing penalties on strikes and lockouts, but by giving effective protection to those who are prepared to carry on industry in accordance with the terms of the awards made by the Arbitration Court or other tribunals. The remedy is not to be found in the prosecution of a striker or a union, but rather in protecting against violence or other interference those who are prepared to work in accordance with awards and the law of the land. The Commonwealth is unable to afford such protection, because it does not control the police forces, and that is one reason why I doubt whether, when an important issue arises causing serious dislocation of industry and intense feeling, the Commonwealth Government can administer industrial law. The States can do so because they can afford the necessary protection to their citizens. It was the States which protected the men who were prepared to work in accordance with the award in the timber industry and the law of the land. The Commonwealth was unable to support its own law.
– Is not that true of all Commonwealth laws?
– The difficulty is greater when dealing with large masses of men. Honorable members are aware of the difficulties which the federal administration in the United States of America has experienced in enforcing the prohibition law against large masses of men. Generally it is impossible to enforce a federal law against mass action. The States can enforce either their own laws or a federal law, but the Commonwealth is almost powerless to do so.
It is unnecessary for me to recite recent political history. Honorable members are aware that the last Government after careful consideration reached the conclusion that a continuance of the dual system of arbitration was indefensible, and that the principle of federal arbitration had been largely repudiated by those who had derived most benefit from it, and that the people having refused to extend the industrial powers of the Commonwealth, it was . in the interests of the country that a fresh start should be made, the Commonwealth retaining control of only the maritime industries with which it could deal under its trade and commerce powers, and leav ing all others to the jurisdiction of the States. If those proposals had been accepted it would have been possible for the States to introduce more modern methods of dealing with industrial problems than are possible under the Commonwealth power. Industry could have been afforded an opportunity to solve its own problems. However, the BrucePage Government’s proposals were rejected and the party now in power is committed to the continuance and maintenance of the dual system. Therefore, it is necessary to deal with the bill upon that basis. I recognize, as was stated in the Governor-General’s speech, that “ the last elections constituted a mandate from the people to maintain the federal principle in industrial arbitration “. That is a fair interpretation of the result of the appeal to the people, and when speaking upon the Address-in-Reply I said that the Opposition would assist the Government in any endeavour to improve the present system.
I come now to the provisions of the bill. I have already expressed approval of the repeal of all sections which impose fines in respect of strikes and lockouts. That proposal was actually embodied in legislation introduced by the last Government. It provided further that no award should prohibit strikes and lockouts, and I ask the Attorney-General to consider the desirability of including such a provision in the present bill; otherwise, inasmuch as the Government is retaining the penalties for breaches of awards, it will be possible in an award to prohibit a strike or lockout, and so re-introduce the system which the Government desires to abolish. I examined the bill in the light of the declaration by the Prime Minister that the Government would introduce “ a sound business-like arbitration free from entangling legalisms “. There appears to me to be nothing of that character in the measure except in so far as the abolition of penalties can be so described. The bill preserves all existing legalisms in the procedure for dealing with disputes, and, indeed, affords opportunities for the creation of new legal conundrums. The Opposition will not seek here or elsewhere to hamper the present system of federal arbitration, but we are entitled to consider fully and carefully whether the proposals contained in the bill represent an improvement of the existing legislation. The suggestion has been made in some quarters that the bill is so extreme that the Opposition should allow it to pass uncriticized. thus placing on the Government sole responsibility for the ultimate consequences. The Opposition is not prepared to adopt that course. We shall submit our criticism for the consideration of Parliament and the people, still leaving the final responsibility with the Government.
I fear that it is impossible for this subject to be debated in this House without some members of the Labour party vociferously alleging that honorable members sitting in Opposition are in some insane manner opposed to trade unionism as such. This allegation is childish and untrue, and I doubt whether anybody believes in it ; but we shall not be prevented by any such charge from seeking to protect the community as a whole, and unionists in particular, from abuses of power by union officials. This is a partisan measure. It is heavily biased in favour of trade union officials, who are so well represented in this Parliament at the present time, and who so effectively control the great federal unions, members of which are able to meet, if at all, only at very infrequent intervals. A proposal so one-sided as this bill is doomed to failure.
The most important provision in the measure is that relating to so-called conciliation commissioners. In 1926 amending legislation was introduced for the appointment of conciliation commissioners with powers of conciliation only; they were given no powers of arbitration, their functions being limited to endeavouring to bring the parties together in order that they might reach agreement. If the partes failed to agree, the conciliation commissioners could do no more; they could not make an award. The system was experimental. The only conciliation commissioner appointed was the late Mr. A. M. Stewart, whose knowledge, judgment, and tact enabled him to do most valuable work in that capacity. The 1926 act provided that the commissioners should hold office during the pleasure of the Governor-General, and nos] that their remuneration should be such as might be determined by him. I submit now, as I did then, that there is no objection to such a tenure for a commissioner whose duties are restricted to conciliation. But a commissioner whose powers extend to the making of awards that are binding on the parties, irrespective of their agreement, is in a different category. There has been a vacancy in the office of conciliation commissioner since October last, and I am surprised that, notwithstanding all its professions regarding conciliation, the Government ha3 not been sufficiently concerned to make an appointment. At the present time the Court has no difficulty in handling its arbitration work. The Attorney-General stated only last week that the work of the court was in such a state that it was possible without interference with such work to release one judge to preside in the Bankruptcy Court. Therefore there is no need at the present time for further arbitrators, whatever may be the need for conciliators. It is astonishing, therefore, that one of the main provisions of the bill is for appointing an unlimited number of so-called conciliation commissioners with all the powers of arbitrators - with all the powers that are exercised by judges acting as arbitrators. The commissioners are to be appointed by the Government; the bill does not prescribe any qualifications for them; it gives to them no independence of tenure and makes no provision for their remuneration beyond declaring that the tenure and remuneration shall be such as the Government at its pleasure may determine. These commissioners, who will have all the powers of arbitration judges, will have no independence. That proposal is radically and fundamentally unsound. If the parties to a dispute agree to appoint a chairman or an arbitrator they are responsible for the qualifications of the person selected. But hitherto, this Parliament, having regard to the magnitude and importance of the matters dealt with by the Arbitration Court, has insisted upon real independence of tenure for the judges, except during a short period when deputy presidents were appointed, subject to renewal from time to time, an arrangement which was almost unanimously condemned after it had been in operation for a short period. These provisions in the bill remind one inevitably of the legislation introduced by Mr. Lang in New South Wales some years ago for the appointment of chairmen of conciliation committees. He appointed a number of gentlemen; some of them were experienced in trade union affairs, and one was an ex-pugilist, without any special qualifications for the work. There was, however, a right of appeal from the decisions of those conciliation commissioners. Under the terms of this bill no such appeal will be allowed. I cannot help wondering whether this is not a design intended to make it possible for the Government to deal with volunteers on the wharfs. It would be possible, under these proposals, to appoint somebody to award preference to the Waterside Workers Federation. The members of the Opposition wish it to be understood that they will do their best to carry out their promises, made when they were in office, to the only men who were prepared to come forward at certain ports to keep the transport and industry of the country moving in accordance with the awards of the Arbitration Court.
The powers of the commissioners under this amending bill will be very remarkable indeed. Section 18a of the present act enacts that -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, the court shall not have jurisdiction to make an award -
increasing the standard hours of work in any industry; or
reducing the standard hours of work in any industry to less than fortyeight hours per week, or, where the standard hours of work in any industry are less than forty-eight hours per week, reducing the standard hours of work in that industry, unless the question is heard by the Chief Judge and not less than two other judges . . .
The effect of this is that any increase of standard hours, or a reduction of standard hours below 48, or below the existing standard hours per week, can only be made by three judges. The amendment, which it is proposed to make, is as follows: -
Notwithstanding anything in this act the Court shall not have jurisdiction -
either to make an award -
increasing the standard hours of work in any industry; or
reducing the basic wage or altering the principles on which it is computed;
or to vary, or give an interpretation of, an award, where the variation or interpretation would result in any such increase, reduction, or alteration, unless the question is heard by the Chief Judge and not less than two other judges . . .
Therefore, under the new provision, three judges will be necessary to increase the standard hours or reduce the basic wage, but a single judge may decrease hours or increase the basic wage, and a conciliation commissioner may do the same thing. Therefore, under this bill, we have this possibility, and no doubt it is exactly what is intended by the Government: Suppose an application for an increase of hours of work or the reduction of the basic wage is made. This application would have to be heard by three judges, who might make an award increasing the standard hours of work, or they might reduce the basic wage. The next week a conciliation commissioner could vary or set aside their award. He could decrease the hours or increase the wages, so that the decision of the three judges would go for nothing. There is no provision in the bill which requires that any conciliation commissioner shall be bound by the decision of three judges.
– The commissioners would really be as free as is the High Court, which changes its decisions from time to time.
– That is not a very suitable interjection from the AttorneyGeneral.
– It is just about as absurd as the contention of the Leader of the Opposition.
– It is extraordinary to find that it is proposed in this bill that one conciliation commissioner shall have power to over-ride the industrial tribunal of New South Wales, the three members of which have the standing of judges of the Supreme Court. A conciliation commissioner could issue an injunction restraining the Industrial Commission of New South Wales from dealing with a matter brought before it.
Section 21aa is an old friend of all who have been engaged in industrial matters on the legal side. This section provides that the question whether a dispute exists or extends beyond the limit of any one State, or any question of law, may be brought before a justice of the High Court for decision. It is proposed to alter that provision with the object of excluding the High Court from this area, and to substitute a judge of the Arbitration Court, who is to have the sole and final power to determine these matters. It is provided in sub-clause 5 of the amending clause that these provisions shall be read as an exception prescribed by the Parliament to the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court under section 73 of the Constitution. I do not propose to debate the matter at the present stage, but section 75 of the Constitution provides that in all matters in which a writ of prohibition or an injunction is sought against an officer of the Commonwealth, the High Court shall have original jurisdiction. In a leading case, known as the Tramways case, reported in 18 Commonwealth Law Reports, the High Court decided that the granting of a writ, of prohibition was a matter falling within original jurisdiction ‘and not appellate jurisdiction. There had been a controversy on this point, but the matter was examined by the present Chief Justice of the High Court, Sir Isaac Isaacs, who said -
Since the argument was closed, I hare carefully examined the question anew, and apart from the authorities cited, and I have been irresistibly led to the conclusion that mandamus for refusal to entertain a matter within jurisdiction, and prohibition against entertaining a matter without or in excess of jurisdiction, do not fall within the appellate jurisdiction of this court.
That decision still stands. The Constitution has not been altered, and consequently the provisions contained in clause 11 of this bill will not exclude the High Court from utilizing the original powers conferred upon it in matters of prohibition and mandamus. That jurisdiction has been exercised in industrial matters, and this provision will not exclude it.
Clauses 13 and 17 of the bill deal with similar matters. Under section 24 of the existing act it is provided that a judge may refuse to certify an agreement if he is of opinion that the certifying of such agreement would be contrary to the public interest. It is proposed to strike out all reference to the public interest. Section 25d provides that the court shall, before making any award or certifying to any agreement, and in proceedings for the variation or cancellation of an award or agreement, take into consideration the probable economic effect of the agreement or award in relation to the community in general, and the probable economic effect thereof upon the industry, or industries concerned; provided that the section shall not affect the practice of the court in fixing the basic wage. It appears to me that the principles represented by this section should guide any sane and responsible industrial tribunal.
– They are not principles; they are political gestures.
– It is a great disservice to Australia, particularly at the present time, to repeal these sections. If ever it was necessary for our own citizens, and for the world as a whole, to understand that we are prepared to pay due regard to economic facts, that time is now. If the repeal of this section means anything at all, it means that no regard is to be paid to economic facts in framing Arbitration Court awards. The other day the Australian Workers Union representatives walked out of the Arbitration Court because the judge told them that he proposed to take economic facts into consideration, and the statement which was made-
– I rise to a point of order. The Leader of the Opposition is referring to a case which is sub judice.
– I withdraw any reference to it, and will not proceed with what I was about to say. On this point, the Attorney General has said that the matters which the court is required to consider, particularly under section 25d, involve grave matters of public policy of the first importance, in respect of which the Government alone can have an intimate knowledge, and in regard to which, as trustee of the people, it must take full responsibility. A moment ago the Attorney-General said that it was a political gesture when this section was put into the act, and, presumably, the proposal to remove it is also political gesture. The Attorney-General, in his second-reading speech, said that the Government alone possessed the necessary knowledge of the economic needs of industry. I congratulate the Government on its modesty, and its knowledge. The Attorney-General said that the Government must take full responsibility. I ask him what is the Government going to do if an award, which it regards as impossible, because uneconomic, is made? There is no provision in this bill or anywhere else for the Government to do anything.
– Nor was there in the bill introduced by the last Government.
– The AttorneyGeneral said that, in regard to these matters, the Government, as trustee of the people, must take full responsibility. I say that those are mere empty words. The Government can do nothing. When an award is made it must stand.
I come now to a group of sections designed to remove all responsibility from trade unions and officers of trade unions for observing awards. Section 38d, under which security may be awarded for the observance of awards, is to be repealed. This section is as follows : - (1.) If it appears to the court on the application of any organization or person interested or of the Registrar -
that an organization entitled to the benefit of an order or award - (i)has done anything in the nature of a lockout or strike ; or
I have said that I agree with the proposal for the repeal of the pecuniary penalties in respect of strikes and lockouts, but this is an entirely different thing. An organization cannot at one and the same time demand the benefits of the arbitration system and strike against the awards which the court makes. I ask the Government to consider whether the retention of this section is not necessary if there is to be any reality in our arbitration system.
– It is covered by earlier sections.
– There may be a general power of this kind in earlier sections, but this section declares that it is the definite intention of Parliament that awards may be suspended or cancelled in such cases. It would be advisable to retain the plain words of the act and not leave the intention of Parliament to be inferred from some other general provisions which the Attorney-General may have in his mind.
It is proposed to alter section 60, by omitting paragraphs i, j,k andl. These provide that -
If it appears to the court, on the application of any organization or person interested, or of the Registrar -
that the proper authority of an organization or branch of an organization has neglected to exercise its powers over its members or branches doing anything in the nature of a lock-out or strike, or committing any non-observance or breach of any order or award; or
that an organization or branch of an organization has made or given any domestic rule or order or direction contrary to the terms of an order or award, or requiring or instructing advising the members, or any of them, to refuse to offer or accept employment in accordance with an order or award, or that its members or a substantial number of them observe any informal understanding contrary to any law or award ; or
that the members or a substantial number of the members of an organization or branch have repeatedly or systematically committed offences against this act, or failed to comply with an order or award ; or
that the organization or branch has not altered its rules as required by sub-section (4.) of section fiftyfive of this act, the Court may, if, in its discretion, it thinks fit, order the registration of the organization to be cancelled, and thereupon it shall be cancelled accordingly.
Those also appear to me to be reasonable provisions. An organization cannot expect to retain its registration if the court is of the opinion that it is deliberately and systematically breaking the awards that have been made to cover its members. Here again the Attorney-General may consider that there are general provisions in the act to meet these cases, but it would be advisable in this case also to retain these specific provisions.
– I suggest that the mattor should be left to the discretion of the judge or registrar.
– It is left to their discretion under the existing provisions.
Clause 31 of the bill provides for an important alteration in the provisions of the act in regard to preference to unionists. The act provides that: -
The Court, by its award, or by order made on the application .of any organization or person bound by the award, may -
direct that, as between members of organizations of employers or employees and other persons (not being sons or daughters of employers) offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall, in such manner as is specified in the award or order, bc given to such members, other things being equal.
– Another political gesture.
– It is proposed to omit the words “other things being equal”; and the interjection of the Attorney-. General suggests that he thinks that they are insignificant and meaningless.
– I suggest that the matter should be left to the judge.
– The words proposed to be omitted are of the utmost importance. If they are omitted, an order may be made for absolute preference to unionists, which would make it impossible legally to employ a non-unionist. In such an event if a competent non-unionist and an incompetent unionist applied for the same job, it would have to be given to the incompetent unionist. I object to the omission of the words, because of the tremendous power that would thereby bo placed in the hands of union secretaries. In quite a number of industries in Australia to-day in which preference to unionists obtains, the strength of the unions is so great that employment may be obtained only through the union secretary or some other union official. Some unions have even gone so far as to try to make it an offence for a man to reply to an advertisement offering employment. Unfortunately some union secretaries will not act in the interests of an applicant for work unless they happen to be on good terms with him. In other cases union secretaries take money for recommending men for employment. Some mcn in these particular industries have never been able to get a job since they had the misfortune to disagree with the union secretary.
– These arc cowardly statements and I object to them.
– It is not in order for the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) to make such an interjection, and I must ask him to withdraw the word “ cowardly.”
– In deference to you, Mr. Speaker, I withdraw the word; but I suggest that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) should not make such statements.
– If the honorable member for Flinders desires to controverany of the statements, or reply to any of the charges made by the Leader of the Opposition, he will have an opportunity to do so later.
– I have met some of the men who have been victimized in the ways that I have suggested, and I have received letters from others of them, but I do not intend to publish their names here or anywhere cbe, for that would only subject them to still further victimization. We know what has been done sometimes when the books of unions have been closed, and wc also know how they can be reopened. We heard in this House only a few weeks ago that certain public service organizations were charging men an entrance fee of as much as £1S. The Postal Workers Union has gone so far as to oblige men to pay alleged dues back to the time when they were eligible to join the union before it will admit them to membership. That kind of thing is rank tyranny. Many trade unions are political. It is because of the vocal and frequently voluble support which officers of these unions give to the party represented by the present Government that these provisions have been included in the bill.
– Hear, hear!
– I am interested to hear the ex-secretary of the Australian Railways Union say “Hear, hear!” and gladthat he does not seek to disguise the fact that these provisions have been introduced into the bill with the political object of aiding the fortunes of the Labour party, although the bill is supposed to be designed to promote industrial goodwill. No man should be compelled to join a political organization or an organization with political affiliations. If section 40 of the act is amended as proposed it will mean that men will be compelled to become members of political unions.
One of the sets of provisions of the principal act which is perhaps more disliked than others by union officials, is that which makes provision for the holding of secret ballots. Union officials have determined to leave no stone unturned to have these provisions repealed. The Attorney-General said in his secondreading speech that it was proposed to repeal them because the offering of an opportunity to a man to vote as a member of a union was an interference with the self-government of organizations.
– I did not say that.
– If I have done the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) an injustice, I apologize. [Extension of time granted.] The Attorney-General’s actual words were -
These provisions are rightly regarded as an inexcusable interference with the selfgovernment of organizations.
– That is much better.
– I merely omitted the word “inexcusable”.
– Oh no; the Leader of the Opposition said that the giving of the right to vote was an interference with the self-government of organizations.
– The point at issue is that the right to vote is derived from an order of the court. However, I present to the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the Attorney-General any advantage that they can make out of the statement. The fact is that by adopting a certain procedure members of unions may obtain the right to vote by secret ballot.
It is also proposed to repeal the provision under which, by order of the court, a special audit of a union’s accounts may be obtained.
– The provision for an audit still remains.
– It is proposed to repeal sub-sections 2, 3, 4, and 5 of section 72a, and also to substitute for the word “qualified “ in section 72a (1), the word “ competent “. We are given no indication of who will be considered a competent person. The only opinion that we can form on the subject is that he will be different from a qualified person. It is evidently intended to remove the provision that auditors shall be qualified according to some standard of qualification, and to substitute the meaningless term of “competent “, which will leave it to the organization to appoint, as its auditor, any person it likes. Why is it proposed to abandon these provisions which are entirely in the interests of the members of trade unions? At present there is a shortage of about £900 in the funds of the New South Wales branch of the Postal Workers Union, and an application has been granted under section 72a of the act for a special audit, but it will not be possible to continue the audit if the sub-sections of section 72a, to which I have referred, are repealed. Some members of that union also desire to secure a secret ballot in regard to the conduct of its officers. If the provisions in the act relating to the holding of secret ballots are. repealed their desires cannot be realized. I suggest that these provisions should be retained in the interests of the rank and file of trade unionists. It has been suggested in the Australian Postal Workers Union that it shall be an offence against the union to apply to the court for an order for a special audit or a secret ballot. I sincerely ask the Government to reconsider its proposal to repeal these provisions, which, in my opinion, are entirely reasonable and should be retained.
I also ask the Government to consider the desirability of retaining the section it is proposed to repeal which gives members of unions the right to appeal to the court against expulsion from the union.
It is a serious matter indeed for a man to be expelled from his union, and there is in the act at present a provision which enables him to obtain an easy, ready, and inexpensive remedy in the Arbitration Court.
– Is there no remedy at common law?
– Certainly there is, but that means a supreme court action which is a very expensive procedure and quite beyond the means of the ordinary trade unionist. There can be no reason for removing from the act this protection of a trade unionist against arbitrary proceedings.
The Attorney-General has said that the matters arising out of section 86a and other sections are adequately dealt with under the Crimes Act and the Police Offences Act. As there is no Commonwealth police offences act, I presume that the Attorney-General is referring to an act of the States. With those provisions I shall deal in committee in order to save the time of the House at this stage. I conclude by saying that I had hoped for something better than this bill from the present Government. The GovernorGeneral in his policy speech, and speaking for the Government, said -
Impressed with the desirability of seeking the opinion of those who have had practical experience in the working of industrial legislation, my advisers have extended an invitation to the representatives of employers and employees in industry to meet in conference for the purpose of exchanging views and of suggesting improvements whereby more cordial relations among the parties to industry may be facilitated.
I agree with the object set forth in that paragraph, but regret that because a few of the so called militant unions in Sydney refused to come to a conference, the Prime Minister did not further persevere in this effort to hold a conference of those actually engaged in industry. One of the difficulties from which we suffer in relation to industrial matters is that our systems of industrial regulation are imposed from above upon industry. They are imposed by Federal and State Parliaments; they are not developed by the industries themselves in accordance with the views of those actually engaged in them. There would be a much better chance of securing loyalty to any system of industrial regu lation if it were framed by the parties themselves, and accordingly I had hoped that a conference between employers and employees would be pressed for and actually take place. I had hoped that the fact of a conference being convened by a Labour Government would have re-‘ moved some of the suspicion which attended a similar invitation given by the late Prime Minister. I still urge the Government to consider the desirability of proceeding with such a conference, even though some of the militants may refuse to attend it, so that the sober and common-sense Australian working man’ and his employer may have an opportunity of dealing with these problems. For too long have these matters been handled upon a political stage, and it seems to me that there is still a chance of improving the industrial relations within Australia if a true method of conciliation is adopted. I fear, however,’ that if one-sided legislation of this, character is to be forced upon industry, there will be an increase of our troubles and difficulties, and the consequent defeat of what is declared to be the object of this legislation - the promotion of good-‘ will in industry.
– I have listened with interest to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), and I welcome his admission that federal arbitration has been responsible for some good in industry. That is an attitude quite different from that which was taken up by his party at the last election, when it went to the people with the object of abandoning Commonwealth arbitration altogether. I regret that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr,. Latham), at the conclusion of his address, saw fit to descend to cheap attacks upon trade union secretaries and trade unions generally, although his attitude was quite in accordance with that of his party on former occasions. Most of his speech was of a moderate character, and I appreciated the fair way in which he put his case, although there was no occasion for him to cast reflections upon trade union secretaries.
– What about the speech of the Attorney-General ?
– I am responsible only for my own speech. The AttorneyGeneral is quite capable of defending himself. It will he admitted by, at least most honorable members that arbitration has been effective in producing industrial peace generally. Some honorable members will agree with me that federal arbitration has produced good results. Others may say that arbitration would have been more effective if exercised only in the State sphere. Then again it may be contended that arbitration should be exercised in various other ways in adjusting the differences between employer and employee. Most of us will agree that there has been some measure of failure to achieve the objects that the sponsors of arbitration hoped it would achieve, and it is for the purpose of remedying some of the defects and failures in arbitration that this amending bill has been introduced. The legislation introduced by the BrucePage Government for a similar purpose did not meet with the success anticipated, and that Government then proposed to abandon federal arbitration altogether and to cast upon the States the responsibility of its administration. There are some elements of industrial discontent which will not be cured under this legislation. The economic development of modern times has produced in the industrial world a certain discontent that cannot be remedied by amending the act. The workers living in the capital cities of this country see huge buildings, which to them are citadels of wealth, being constructed while thousands of their fellow workmen are practically homeless and starving. Huge factories are being erected and equipped with modern, machinery which is having the effect of gradually displacing manual labour and throwing thousands of men and women out of employment. Because of that an intense feeling of discontent is growing in the minds of the people. They are told from time to time of the wonderful inventive genius of mankind, but it must not be forgotten that that genius has been responsible for throwing hundreds of thousands of men on the labour market. In addition, many employers are now advocating longer hours of- work, and, in many instances, men are being displaced by women. Discontent is therefore rife in the community, but it cannot be rectified by legislation, although there, are certain defects in our present arbitration system which have contributed to its failure in many directions. In saying that, I do not wish to magnify the industrial disputes that have arisen under federal arbitration, because, actually, the statistics show that they comprise a small percentage indeed of the total industries involved. The Leader of the Opposition has been quoted by the Attorney-General as saying that the number of disputes of any magnitude that have arisen under * federal arbitration can be counted on the fingers of one hand. That is certainly true, despite the fact that at that time over 769,000 workers were registered under federal arbitration, and that over 407,000 workers, 150 trade unions, and 1,600 employers of labour were working under federal awards. That is indeed a tribute to the efficacy of the federal arbitration system.
It has been admitted by the Leader of the Opposition that punitive measures for the rectification of industrial discontent are absolutely futile. Those measures were tried way back in the history of unionism in this country. From 1906 to 1913 desperate but unsuccessful attempts were made in New Zealand by the governments of the day to produce industrial peace by means of punitive measures. In 1888, military units were sent to the Newcastle coalfields with the object of quelling industrial discontent. That expedient proved to be absolutely futile because the community as a whole refused to believe that the man who fights to better his industrial condition is a criminal. His efforts may be regarded as misdirected; but the community will always refuse to regard him as a criminal merely because he seeks to better the conditions of the workers. All that punitive measure has done is to produce ‘martyrs and politicians. A striking example of that was furnished by the last election. The Bruce-Page Government endeavoured to convince the public that “ Ted “ Holloway should be fined or sent to jail because of his efforts to improve the. conditions of the workers. The people replied by displacing their former trusted leader, and returning Mr. Holloway to. this Parliament in his stead, to represent what cannot by any stretch of the imagination be regarded as an industrial constituency.
The State of New South Wales has endeavoured, from time to time, to ensure industrial peace by the adoption of punitive measures, but in every case those attempts have resulted in rank failure. The existing arbitration measure in that State has produced more industrial peace than any of the arbitral efforts that preceded it. When the present honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) became Attorney-General in the Lang Government, he found that the system of arbitration in New South Wales merited derision; and immediately he took steps to have it altered. Arbitral powers were withdrawn from judges and reposed in conciliation commissioners; and not a single industrial dispute of any magnitude has occurred in that State since the new system was inaugurated, notwithstanding the cheap sneers of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), regarding expugilists occupying important and responsible positions. I hold no brief for pugilists; but it cannot be denied that sonic persons who have followed the calling of pugilism have attained to high positions in the national life of the British Empire.
It has been my aim to bring to the consideration of this question, not a spirit of vindictiveness and bitterness, but constructive criticism that may help to solve the difficult problems that confront this and every other country to-day. A cardinal defect in the administration of federal arbitration has been the introduction of the law, with all its panoply, precedents, and orthodoxy, into a field of which it had no practical or intimate knowledge. The industrial problem has many intense psychological aspects; and in my opinion it was a grave mistake to apply to it the ironclad methods of the law. I admit that constitutional limitations have rendered necessary, to a certain extent, the intrusion of the federal law in the jurisdiction of federal arbitration; but it is not wise that it should operate in a sphere in which its interference is not beneficial. I impute no motives to, and cast no reflections upon, the judges who have administered the arbitration law in either the Federal or the State sphere; their integrity and their legal attainments do not come into the question; but history has shown that many of the judges who have sat in arbitration jurisdiction were temperamentally unsuited to the work. That was a pronounced feature of the New South Wales judiciary when the honorable member for Parkes became Attorney-General of that State. The two arbitration judges doubtless were estimable gentlemen; but by their methods they antagonized the whole of the industrial section of the community. One judge went so far as to criticize strongly an industrialist who, on a hot day, took his place in the witness box not wearing a waistcoat. Despite the fact that the New South Wales law made provision for assessors, some of the judges refused to recognize them when they took their place on the bench, and would not consult with them, because they did not believe that assessors should sit with them. Action of that kind has aroused a very strong feeling in the industrial community, and has led to the belief that it was a grave mistake to bring the law into such close contact with the administration of arbitration. I profess to be able to express what is in the minds of persons in the industrial world; and I can confidently assert that they have a firm belief that many of the sentiments which are uttered by members of the judiciary are merely an echo of the opinions held by the employers. I do not suggest that there is any connexion between the two. Arbitration can never succeed under such conditions. It must be removed from the atmosphere of publicity, to the quiet places where reason and moral suasion can operate in the direction of bringing agreement between the parties. The men who are engaged in this work must have a thorough understanding of all the conditions that surround industry; they should be specialists, and be adapted to that particular class of work. They should not carry out their functions in the public eye and in the spotlight of the press, but under conditions that are conducive to a reconciliation of differences of opinion.
This bill does not go so far as I desire, although honorable members who sit on this side believe that it meets the needs of the moment so far as that is possible. I agree that the constitutional limitations which have been placed upon this Parliament render it very difficult for the Government to deal adequately with the industrial problems that confront us ; but I feel strongly that arbitral functions should be taken away from the judiciary and given to arbitrators who are not directly connected with the law. No one has a greater respect than I have for those whose profession is the law. From time, to time I have had a great deal of experience of the ability and capacity of members of the legal profession to do the work that comes within their special province ; but in regard to federal arbitration the law has never had its feet on the earth, nor has it come to close grips with the employee and the employer. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) will bear me out in saying that many conferences of employers and employees have been held while the judge sat in his chamber and made no effort to indicate possible avenues of agreement. The representatives of both sides have engaged in argument day after day, and been unable to reach an agreement.
At one time we had not the great aggregations of capital that exist to-day. The men who then represented the employers were themselves employers. To-day we have men representing the employers who are specialists in industrial affairs but have very little, if any, power to come to an agreement on important principles. They may bo able to give a little here and a little there ; but they are not empowered to agree to any revolutionary change in main principles. Frequently these representatives attend conferences merely to give a negative answer to the representations of the employees; they have no authority to make any other reply. Take the case of the railway commissioners of the different States. They have not an intimate knowledge of all the industrial conditions that obtain in that industry; consequently they appoint some person who is more versed in the intricate workings of the industry to decide the smaller points. Unfortunately, those men have no authority to bind the commissioner in regard to any change in main principles.
– Does not that apply also to the other side?
– No. Perhaps that is a point that I should emphasize. From my experience of arbitration I. can say that nearly all of the men who represent industrial organizations have had a lifelong association with them. Such men are able to give and take, with the knowledge that whatever decision they may come to, it will be respected by their organizations. I do not deny that union secretaries are able to exercise a tremendous influence in their organizations. Administering, as they do, the industrial affairs of 14,000 or 15,000 men, they have opportunities for learning what will advance their welfare. The conduct of the affairs of my union has often been vested in three or four officials in whom the men had implicit confidence. In regard to federal industry, it is difficult for a man to have a thorough knowledge of all the conditions that operate in the different States. Consequently the number of men who can decide is very limited. In many cases where they are empowered to compromise in order to arrive at agreements, I have no doubt that the unions endorse their action.
I do not hold a brief for the appointment of conciliation commissioners chosen from any particular class or section. If the Government appoints them, I hope that it will make it its business to secure the services of’ the best men possible, no matter from which section of the community they may be drawn.
– Some persons assume that we shall appoint the worst men available.
– I repudiate any suggestion that the present Government would be a party to appointing to such responsible positions men with an entirely partisan outlook. The late Government certainly did not set a very good example to the Labour party and to this country in some of the appointments that it made.
– The other side has abused every judge who has given a decision adverse to the unions.
– It is true that in some cases unionists have disobeyed the law, and have even criticized judges. But although the rules of this House may lay down the principle that the judiciary is sacrosanct, the man in the street naturally expresses his feelings in plain words, even in regard to the decisions of judges.
Thousands of awards have been obtained from the Federal Arbitration Court; but I do not believe that they have been criticized by unions in half a dozen cases. I have long been associated with federal arbitration, and I speak on this matter with knowledge. When a unionist is deprived of a benefit that he has enjoyed, or fails to obtain an award that he wants, he naturally feels aggrieved, and he cannot be blamed for giving expression to his feelings. But the cases in which awards have been disobeyed, or judges criticized, are pointed to as indicative of the evil mind of trade unionists generally. No mention is made of the hundreds and thousands of awards that have been accepted, and in regard to which there has been no criticism of the judiciary. Honorable members opposite make mountains out of mole-hills.
– The judges are abused in practically every case where the decision goes against the union.
– I do not know exactly what the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) implies by the term “ abused “. If a judge gave an adverse decision, it might be said by the union affected that he did not understand the effect of his award. But would such criticism amount to abuse of the court? I do not think so. Such comments would fall within the category of criticism, and not abuse.
– What has been said of Judge Piddington?
- Mr. Manning, whom I succeeded as the representative of Macquarie in this Parliament, said at the declaration of the poll when I had defeated him, in giving reasons for his loss of the seat, that Mr. Justice Piddington had prostituted his high office and dragged it into the political gutter. No trade unionist could use stronger language than that in criticism of a judge. Mr. Manning was formerly whip of the Nationalist party. I do not reflect on him personally. He is an estimable man, and there is no personal bitterness between us, but even men in such high positions as that occupied by Mr. Manning take it upon themselves to cast reflections on judges.
– How they abused Mr. Justice Higgins!
– Quite so. Probably no judge in Australia has been subject to more political abuse than Mr. Justice Piddington. Respectable journals like the Sydney Bulletin have tried to hold him up to public, ridicule by calling him “ Good old Piddo “; but when some trade union secretary, or member of a union is deprived by an award of the court of some privilege that he has enjoyed for twenty years or more, and dares to criticize a judge, no language is too vile to employ in describing him.
I take the opportunity, in passing, of remarking that union secretaries generally have done more for arbitration than any other force in this country. Their life is one continuous attempt to settle the little differences that occur between employers and employees. To the great majority of them a strike is an absolute nightmare. I know something of the history of strikes, because I have participated in them, and have been thrown on the industrial scrap-heap because of them. I have no bitterness in my heart on that account, but I resent the grossly unfair attacks made on union secretaries, who, from day to day, adjust small difficulties which, if allowed to continue, would result in serious industrial disturbances. It is true that some of them are truculent, as are some of the representatives of the employers. If some of the things that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) has said in this House were repeated in industrial circles, the advocates of revolution would soon be out of a job, because there would be a revolution within a month or two. A small number of union secretaries may be truculent at times, particularly if new to their work. I do not claim for a moment that every one of them is perfect. Christ himself was able to choose only twelve good men out of thirteen.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) says that he is not opposed to trade unionism, but I wish to tell him frankly that many of the members of his party cast reflections on trade unions in their election speeches. He cannot escape the blame that attaches to some of his followers for their derogatory remarks concerning trade unionism, which, they say, is responsible for industrial discontent. It is not the cause of industrial unrest; it is the product of it. Unfair industrial conditions were responsible for the formation of unions, and if the employers and the great aggregations of capital had been prepared to concede to the employees even moderately reasonable conditions, the unions would have been of no greater importance in the life of the community than the local debating societies. Trade unionism has been produced in every country by industrial grievances. It is sometimes said that unions create strikes. Let us review the position. On the northern coal-fields, as far back as 1S61, the miners’ organization practically went out of existence, but that did not prevent the occurrence of strikes in the coal industry. I am referring to practically the only period when the miners were unorganized - from 1861 to 1874 - and some of the biggest industrial disturbances on the coal-fields occurred at that time. In Kentucky and Maryland, where trade unions have been practically suppressed, and driven out of the coal-mining industry, there have been more industrial disturbances than in highly organized centres like Ohio, Pennsylvania and Illinois. Therefore, the argument that industrial discontent is caused by trade unionism cannot ‘be sustained.
Much has been said about the overlapping of State and Federal arbitration awards. I endeavoured to make it clear to the House on a former occasion that if there were such overlapping, the court itself had produced it, because, in the Clyde Engineering Company’s case in 1926, it was definitely laid down by the High Court that a Federal award was superior to all State awards. The Leader of the Opposition said that a decision of the Federal Arbitration Court would override that of three judges of the New South Wales Arbitration Court. I point out that an award of a Federal judge, since the decision of 1926, is superior to that of a State tribunal, and State law is overruled by Federal law. The 44-hour week act passed by the New South Wales Labour Government, in which the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan) was Attorney-General, was overruled by the 48-hours decision of the Federal Arbitration Court. If there is overlapping of Federal and State awards, it is because the court itself has not been sufficiently farseeing. In 1912, in the marine engineers’ case, decided by Mr. Justice Higgins; in the locomotive engineers’ case, heard in 1925 before Mr. Justice Powers, and in innumerable other cases, the Federal Court did not make a comprehensive award to cover the whole industry. It dealt with certain main features, and provided that existing practices and customs should continue, and in matters that were noi covered by Federal awards, the provisions of State awards operated in conjunction with those of the Federal Court. Sir John Quick and Judge DrakeBrockman strongly condemned that practice, and said that they would not perpetuate it, because it only resulted in the utmost confusion. That, however, was not overlapping ; it was merely a division of jurisdiction due to the failure of the Federal Court to make a comprehensive award for an industry.
A great deal has been said of the disobeying of awards by “the workers. Id all strikes with which I have been connected, I have been absolutely opposed to violence. I stated that frankly to a mass meeting of miners at Lithgow during the recent coal-mining dispute, and in 1917, when I addressed the strikers at various centres. At the same time I recognize that when large bodies of men are deprived of things to which they consider themselves entitled, bitter discontent is caused which explains, if it does not altogether justify, the disobeying of an award. I have always held that when a union approaches a court for an award, it should abide by the result, until it can get the decision of the court cancelled or amended. I have given that advice to my own union, which is. now before the Federal Court, and shall continue to do so. But I can understand how in certain circumstances men are led to disobey awards of the court. For instance the Lukin award in the timber industry increased the working hours from 44, which had been the standard for eight years, to 48, and decreased wages by as much as 24s. a week ; work which had been done by men at £5 10s. a week was allotted to- boys at £3 a week. Is any honorable member so stupid as to believe that such revolutionary changes in industry will not produce almost uncontrollable discontent ?
– Should not the union have adopted the course recommended by the honorable member - approach the court for another award?
– I have already stated clearly that I view with strong disfavour disobedience of the court’s awards, but I am pointing out that sometimes there are extenuating circumstances. We have heard a great deal about the manner in which the timberworkers flouted the award of the court. But I invite honorable members of the Opposition to note what a royal commission, appointed by the Nationalist Government of New South Wales, had to say of the coal-owners -
The action of the proprietors in closing the mines as they did was in direct conflict with the statutory principles of compulsory arbitration, and in complete disregard of the interests of the community.
It cannot be contended truthfully in the light of the accounts which are now before this commission that all the proprietors in question were not financially capable of complying with the award.
We were told that the mines were closed down, because they could not be profitably conducted under the conditions awarded by the court. But the commission declared that the lockout was in defiance of the statutory principles of arbitration, and disregarded the interests of the community, and that some of the mines at any rate could have been operated successfully. Both unions and employers have at different times broken the law, but occurrences of this character cannot be entirely prevented by a system of arbitration. If we are to cure such evils we must probe deeper into the economic life of the country in order to destroy the root causes.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) spoke at length on the proposal to repeal section 25d, which directs the court to consider the possible economic effect of its awards. Trade unionists object to that provision, because they believe it to be one-sided. The award in the timber-workers’ case provided an illustration of that. Although there are thousands of owners in the industry, the court behind closed doors, and in- a manner highly objectionable to the trade union movement, examined the books and accounts of ten owners and determined that the industry was not making enough profit. The court should not be allowed on a merely superficial examination of an industry to declare that its position is not economically sound, and call upon the workers to make all the sacrifices necessary to enable it to continue. All relevant factors must be taken into consideration. That vigilant watchdog of Nationalism, the honorable member for Warringah (Mr, Archdale Parkhill), is repeatedly emphasizing his contention that the cost of production must be reduced. What does he mean by that? Does he refer only to wages ?
– Obviously there are many other factors to be considered.
– I am glad to hear from the Leader of the Opposition an admission which supports the contention of the workers. Is it fair that the employee should suffer a reduction of his wages in order that profits may be paid on watered capital ? Surely before his wages are affected other factors must be taken into account: Is the capital in the industry wisely invested, or is a large proportion of it dead? Are management expenses excessive? Are transportation costs unduly high. These are pertinent questions, but the worker complains that the court is not asked to give judgment on them. It is told, after a merely superficial survey of the industry, to say whether it can or cannot afford to pay an adaquate wage. The government railways of Australia are a huge industry. In New South Wales the working expenses are only 76.36 per cent, of the total earnings, and the position in Victoria is similar. This is the lowest ratio of working expenses to earnings that can be shown by any railway system in the world. Are the men who are responsible for the efficient, but cheap, working of the industry to receive no consideration? The Railways Commissioners admit that 70 per cent, of the goods carried on the railways of New South Wales are carried at a loss or without profit; but that is in accordance with the policy of helping primary production. The railway system is not and cannot be conducted on a commercial basis; it is an instrument of development, and is used in all States to assist to build up the rural industries. Despite that fact the commissioners asked the court, when fixing wages, to consider what would be their economic effect. Further, freight concessions are now being made in New South Wales to help the mining industry and it is conceivable that the time may come when all goods will be carried free on the railways, and in order to reduce the losses every employee will be reduced to the basic wage. Mr. Justice Powers, when hearing the locomotive engine-drivers’ case in 1925, said that before he could give consideration to the economic effect of an award he would want to know all the factors that had brought railway finances to their then state. Nevertheless, nearly all arbitration judges do pay some regard to the effect which an award will have upon industry; they have been doing that in New South Wales for many years. The objection pf the workers is. that section 25d operates to their disadvantage, because the court cannot investigate every aspect of : an industry. Although the worker is publicly examined regarding the cost of his food and clothing, and is required to disclose even the most intimate, details of his wife’s wardrobe when the basic wage is being considered, the employers are not subjected to an equally keen examination and made to disclose publicly what profits they are making and how they are disposing of them. Oan the workers be expected to accept complacently a law which operates so inequitably ?
The prevention or limitation of industrial discontent is the most important problem in the economic life of Australia. It is all-important that we should find at least a partial solution of it, and I am not too proud to accept suggestions even from those who are politically opposed to me, if I am convinced that they will take us some distance towards, not complete contentment, because that is not to be expected of human nature, but at least a greater degree of contentment, and will convince the workers that they are being fairly and reasonably dealt with by Parliament and by courts. At any rate I hope that this bill will substantially contribute to that industrial peace which all of us are most anxious to establish.
.- When the Bruce-Page Government about two years ago proposed certain amendments of the Arbitration Act, the present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) explained that the idea was to have more conciliation for the prevention of disputes rather than arbitration for the settlement of them. Practically ever since the arbitration system was introduced into this country endeavours have been made to stress the conciliation part of the court’s work, rather than the arbitration side. Now we are again told that this is one of the objects of the present bill. It is stated that the purpose of the bill is to promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration, but conciliation is placed first. We heard some time ago that conferences were being held between representatives of the trade unions and members of the Cabinet with a view to framing an arbitration amending bill which would meet the wishes of the Labour movement. The Prime Minister himself, when in Opposition, stated that the Labour party was represented in the House only for the purpose of serving unionism. It is clear, therefore, that an attempt is being made by means of this bill to subordinate the whole of the people of Australia to the trade union movement. One of the greatest problems confronting Australia at the present time is unemployment, and it is significant that no mention was made of it in the Governor-General’s speech at the last opening of Parliament. The Government now says that it is proposed to do something towards relieving unemployment by means of this bill. The Arbitration Court has never yet created a job for anybody.
– And I hope that no representative of any Labour organization will ever be stupid enough to say that it has.
– It has never made a job for any one, but it has deprived an enormous number of Australians of jobs they might otherwise have had. It has thrown thousands of workers on what has been called the industrial scrap heap. When I was a member of the Royal Commission on National Insurance, I asked a great many witnesses, including representatives of trade unions, whether they considered that the Federal Arbitration Court was a factor in creating unemployment. After consideration, every one of them stated that they believed that one of the main factors of unemployment in Australia was the Federal Arbitration Court. I have always been an uncompromising opponent of this court, the abolition of which would, I think, do more than anything else to remove Australia’s industrial ills. During the last election campaign, I advocated the abolition of the court, as I have done consistently ever since I have been in public life. I agree with the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) that the bill does not go far enough. It does not go far enough for me, because it stops short of repealing the whole Arbitration Act, together with its thirteen amendments. The Federal Arbitration Court has always functioned in a futile way, and if this amending bill is passed ‘it will make the court even more futile than it is now. I am aware that unemployment is not confined to Australia, but in no other country is unionism compulsory, as the Government proposes to make it here nor is the power of organized unionism so strong elsewhere as it is in Australia. The Federal Arbitration Court, by its mere existence, has tended materially to the aggrandizement of the union movement. The fact that other countries are also suffering from unemployment merely shows that we are feeling the effect of universal industrial changes brought about by improvements in machinery and methods of manufacture, resulting in the displacement of workers. Something over 100 years ago Europe passed through an industrial revolution, following upon the advent of the steam engine, the introduction of power looms, and other inventions. These innovations were resented by the workers at the time, but the march of progress could not be stayed. Those who oppose themselves to progress hold, apparently, the same belief as Ghandi was preaching in India when I, was there a few years ago. He advocated the destruction of all modern machinery, the scrapping of the railways, and the dismantling of factories. All spinning and weaving, he said, should be done by hand, and it is a fact that Ghandi is generally pictured by his followers with a spinning wheel, the symbol of his creed, which favours a return to .the primitive conditions prevailing thousands of years ago. If we, in Australia, deny ourselves the benefits to be derived from the introduction of up-to-date machinery, we may be certain that our trade competitors will not follow our example, and we shall fall further than ever behind in the industrial race.
– The Labour party is not opposed to the introduction of modern machinery; it only asks that the workers should have a greater share of the ensuing benefits.
– Artificial restrictions such as arbitration legislation will not tend to bring about the condition which the honorable member desires. It has been proved that the court - very often deliberately - has stood in the way of progress.
– That is merely one of the honorable member’s statements. By whom has it been proved 1
– I refer the honorable member to the evidence taken before the Royal Commission on National Insurance.
– Is there no discontent where there are no arbitration courts?
– Of course there is; but the Arbitration Court was supposed to be the panacea for all industrial ills. We were told that it would do away with discontent, and create harmony and concord; but it has not done so. If we are to have permanent peace between employers and employees the wheels of industry must be lubricated with the oil of goodwill; but the Arbitration Court has been busily occupied throwing sand into the bearings of them.
It has been said that the retention of the court is necessary for the maintenance of our Australian standard of living. What is this standard of which we hear so much?
– The honorable member could not live on it.
– I have lived on considerably less than the Australian basie wage. The honorable member’s remark was so ill-considered that I regret I took any notice of it. Are we to consider that our standard of living is the standard maintained by people continuously in employment, or is it something else ? The fact of the matter is that the Arbitration Court is not maintaining our standard of living, but reducing it. The awards of the court have resulted in many persons being dismissed from their employment, and the standard of living is reduced by every such dismissal.
– The standard of living of the persons still in employment, as well as that of those who are dismissed, is reduced.
– That is so. If 90 persons out of every 100 are out of employment and the remaining ten are in constant work, wo surely cannot reasonably argue that our standard is the standard of the ten in work, and leave out of our reckoning the 90 who are living below the bread line. The more we can do to reduce unemployment, and the more work we can find for those who are willing to work - and I emphasize those three words - the better it will be for Australia. But the Arbitration Court is not assisting us to provide additional employment; it is reducing the amount of employment available, and to that extent it is lowering the standard of living. We were told during the last election campaign that the standard of living would be reduced if the Arbitration Court were abolished,, because the wage standard would go down. We were also told that it was necessary to reduce the cost of production. Many people seem to think that a reduction of the cost of production necessarily involves a reduction of wages ; but that is not the case. Many factors have to be taken into account before a reduction of the cost of production can be secured. In my opinion it is in the best interests of the community that people should be paid the highest wage that they can earn ; but I stress the point that the wages must be earned. A man in receipt of £4 10s. a week must earn it. If he does not do so he is a. burden upon the community in general, and particularly upon the workmate alongside of him. I should have no objection to men receiving £10, £15 or even £20 a week if they earned it. It should be remembered always that wages must be paid out of production. The employer is not a philanthropist, and he can only afford to pay to his employees the wages that they earn. It is better for the baker, the butcher, and the tradesmen generally, and also for the professional men in the community, that high wages should be paid, for that increases the spending power of the community and so assists everybody; but the wages must be earned. The mere reduction of wages will not get Australia out of her economic difficulties. It would be far less costly in the long run for us to pay wages to men engaged on reproductive works than to pay out doles of even less than the basic wage.
– We all agree with thai.
– It is so obvious that’ I should think that every one would agree with it. But I repeat that men must earn the wages that are paid to them. We have been told that the Australian workmen are the finest in the world. I am an Australian of the fourth generation, and I should be glad if my countrymen lived up to their reputation. But are they doing so? I direct the attention of honorable members to a few facts which throw considerable doubt upon the ability of the Australian workman. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) made reference to the fact that H. V. McKay Proprietary Limited had established works in Canada. I propose to show why it was practically forced to take that action. I quote the following paragraph from a recently-published periodical : -
In the course of a public statement recently issued, H. V. McKay Proprietary Limited, quoting from the official Year-Book of Canada, states than in 1025, the latest year for which figures arc available, there were 6,200 employees in Canada’s implement factories, and that their average annual wage was £230. Here in Australia the average wage in 1927-28 in similar factories was £225 4s. Id. But whereas the output of each Australian employee was only £576 4s. 6d. per annum, the output of each employee in Canada was £878 per annum.
Although the difference in wages was only £10 a year, the difference in the value of the output of each employee was more than £300 a year. The same report states that -
In 1911 the output in the Australian implement industry for £1 of wages was £3 6s. Id.
In 1927-28 it was £211s. H. V. McKay Proprietary Limited informs us that there were “ no violent fluctuations in the scale, but a steady tapering downward each year.” No conclusion is possible save that the “ go-slow “ policy has been steadily and sedulously practised here over a long span of years.
These are facts which merit the most careful attention. I quote the following paragraphs from another publication, and invite honorable members to give them careful thought: -
The evidence given by Mr. G. M. Hindmarsh, colliery manager of the Elrington Colliery, before the Coal Commission, is of an interesting nature. It was stated that the colliery should have had a daily output of from 300 to 500 tons, but its production had never exceeded 40 tons a day. The reason for this, he said, was the constant recurrence of labour disputes. Since the shaft was opened in January, 1925, industrial disputes had lost 400 working days, or 1,380 working shifts. Continuing his evidence, Mr. Hindmarsh stated: - The management was often compelled to give certain men and boys a certain job, said witness, because of their seniority over others more competent to do the work. It was practically impossible to dismiss men because of union objections. The mine had lost 65 days over this point. Mr. Hindmarsh gave what he said was a typical example of a stoppage at his colliery. A man earning 10s. 2d. per day was employed in wheeling coal about 20 yards from the miners and hooking on the shaft rope. He handled about twelve skips a day. The lodge secretary told him not to wheel, as his job was to hook up only. A strike lasting 46 days followed. The man said he was willing to do the job, but had to obey the lodge officials. “We have had cases of lodge officials telling the men they were doing too much work,” said Mr. Hindmarsh. “ The effect on men and boys of knowing they cannot be dismissed for failure to do a good day’s work is incalculable. It tends to make even good, honest men slip-shod and lax when they seeothers getting the same wage for doing less work.” In December last year two men were working on the morning shift, said witness. One injured his knee and went home. The other man, being inexperienced, would have gone home if the under-manager had not agreed to work with him. During the remainder of the shift the two filled seventeen skips. No more than eight skips had ever been filled at that particular spot, and afterwards the’ lodge issued instructions that no man was to work with the under-manager.
In that case there was a reduction from seventeen to eight skips. Let me give some examples that I have personally investigated. In one case a man, who was previously employed at a private foundry in Victoria, until it for some reason or other had closed down, obtained a job at a certain Government foundry in that State. Knowing that he would have to adopt the Government stroke, he turned out eighteen pieces a day, although without unduly exercising himself he could have turned out 21 or 22 pieces. After he had been working for some time he was told he was doing too much work and would have to cut it down. He did so. He is still employed on the job, and is now turning out four pieces, which is the average output per man per day in that particular factory. In another case a bricklayer, who has been constantly employed for 30 years by one of the large contracting firms of Sydney, was recently working on a certain job. The boss went to him and said, “ Two years ago you were laying 750 bricks a day; why are you now laying only 460 bricks?” The bricklayer answered, “ The man next to me is receiving the same wage as I am and he is laying only 460 bricks a day; why should I lay any more?” I investigated that case and know the facts to be true. If, as is claimed by honorable members opposite, the Australian workman is the best in the world, why does he not do his job properly?
– Will the honorable member’s statement bear investigation?
– Yes. In one instance the evidencewas given on oath. The other instance was given in an official publication which is available to honorable members.
– How did the honorable member check up his statement about the bricklayer?
– By interviewing him.
– We all know that the bricklayers have been loafing on the job.
– I draw your attention to the interjection, Mr. Speaker. As one who has been associated with bricklayers, I ask that it be withdrawn.
-That is not a point of order. The honorable member, if he speaks in the debate, will then have an opportunity to reply to the statement to which he objects.
– The statement of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) this afternoon, that the Labour party is in office solely to benefit trade unionists is borne out by the interjections of its members. They know of these facts. Why do not they make some attempt to keep intact the good name of the Australian workman, instead of allowing him to slip back in the way that he has been doing for years past?
I should like to see the bill withdrawn. I have said repeatedly in this House that the Federal Arbitration Court should be abolished. The setting up of conciliation commissioners is one of the worst features of the bill. These men will have no definite term of office, and will therefore be dependent upon the favour of the Government. Yet they are to have the powers of the judges of the Federal Arbitration Court, who are appointed for life, and are, therefore, independent. If these conciliation commissioners do not obey the dictates of the Government, they will lose their positions. A similar experiment was tried in New South Wales when Mr. Lang appointed certain conciliation commissioners, most of them being members of the Trades Hall. It was a partisan action.
Mr. Gabb. - Was not the appointment of Judge Drake-Brockman a partisan action ?
– The previous Government appointed to the Federal Arbitration Court gentlemen of repute and standing. They were given a position for life, which meant that they had independence of action. These conciliation commissioners will be in a different category.
– Is that a condition of this bill?
– It will be a condition of the appointment of these commissioners, and I fail to see in what way their appointment is likely to improve the arbitration system.
The bill contains a provision relating to preference to unionists. Recently we had the spectacle of the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) stating in this House on a Friday morning that preference to returned soldiers was to be abolished and under no circumstances would the Government alter its decision; yet on the following Wednesday there was a complete reversal of attitude. The Government backed down because public opinion was too strong for it. It was discovered that the returned soldiers could still fight although the war had ceased twelve years ago. The Government was afraid of the political consequences of its action; so for the time being it stayed its hand. Now under the shelter of this amending legislation it is trying to stab the returned soldier in the back. This is a cowardly and treacherous action.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has said that the Government in introducing this legislation is attempting to stab the returned soldier in the back, which, he states, is a cowardly and treacherous action. I ask you, Mr. Speaker, if that is parliamentary language?
– The honorable member for Richmond has referred to a certain action of this Government as cowardly and treacherous. Those words are offensive, and I ask the honorable member to withdraw them.
– I withdraw the words “ treacherous “ and “ cowardly “. I am aware that in exposing the true purpose of this legislation, I am hurting the feelings of honorable members opposite. Why was this policy of preference to unionists introduced? The Australian Workers Union keenly resented the policy of preference to returned soldiers, and the general president of that body, who is an Assistant Minister of the present Cabinet, was responsible for putting forward the proposal to abolish preference to returned soldiers. That proposal was defeated, and now the Government is trying to give it effect under the cover of this legislation. It is endeavouring to stab the returned soldiers in the back. The general community will not forget, and will not be given an opportunity to forget this action. It has been pointed out that on occasions it costs a considerable sum to join a union. In one case it cost a man £21 to join the Marine Cooks’ union.
– It is worth it.
– The trade union has become a close preserve. If the nominal fee for joining a union were 5s. or 10s. and its levies were reasonable, there would be no objection to the policy of preference to unionists. I belong to two unions, the Returned Soldiers League and the Limbless Soldiers Association, because
I believe in giving the returned soldiers, moral, as well as practical support.
– Does not the honorable gentleman belong to the British Empire League ?
– We are affiliated with the British Empire Service League. The annual subscription that I am called upon to make is very small. No difficulty is experienced in New Zealand in connexion with preference to unionists. The provision in the New Zealand award reads as follows -
If any employer shall hereafter engage any worker coming within the scope of this award who shall not be a member of the union, and who shall not become a member thereof within seven days after his engagement and remain such member, the employer shall dismiss such worker from his service if requested to do so by the union, provided there is then a member of the union equally qualified to perform the particular work required to be done, and ready and willing to undertake the same.
The provision of the foregoing clause shall operate only if and so long as the rules of the union shall permit any worker coming within the scope of this award of good character and sober habits to become a member of the union upon payment of an entrance fee not exceeding 5s., upon a written application, without ballot or other election, and to continue a member upon payment of subsequent contributions not exceeding 6d. per week.
I should have no objection to compulsory preference to unionists if it operated along those lines; but I am unable to countenance it in the slightest degree when unionism is made a close preserve, when those who desire to range themselves alongside their fellow workers in a fight for better conditions are obliged to pay £18 or £21 before they are permitted to join a union, and when wide powers are conferred upon the officials of unions to exact retaliation upon any members of whom they may disapprove. On one memorable occasion the Australian Labour party fought a proposal to introduce conscription in Australia. This is the worst form of conscription that one could imagine.
Another aspect of this matter is that the majority of trade unions impose upon their members levies for political purposes, for the benefit of honorable members who sit opposite. The present Government will not remain much longer in office. When we who now sit on this side again occupy the treasury bench we shall be in a position to take action along lines similar to this. For example, we can say that any member of the Public Service who belongs to a political organization, unless it be the Country party, shall forfeit his position. Camouflage it as honorable members will, that is what the party that sits opposite is doing at the present time. If such a threat were uttered, a big majority of public servants would give all political organizations a wide berth, so that they would be safe, no matter what party was in power.
I wish to refer to the economic effect of the awards that will be made by these non-independent gentlemen who’ are to be appointed conciliation commissioners for the purpose of giving trade unions all that they seek.
– Don’t talk rot.
– I ask that that expression be withdrawn.
– The expression used by the honorable member for Angas is unparliamentary, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it; but I should like to use a stronger term.
– So long as these non-independent gentlemen accede to the demands of the unions that appear before them, they will be retained in their office; but if they do not, they will be dismissed. They will be able to make the wages and conditions in any industry so onerous that it will not be able to compete against overseas manufacturers. Immediately an appeal will be made, to either the Tariff Board or this Government, for an increased duty. There have been quite a number of increases of duties lately. The Government does not seem to be able to make up its mind when to stop. A new tariff schedule is laid on the table of Parliament to-day, and altered to-morrow. In this way the price of some imported article can be forced up to such an absurd extent that the public will be compelled to buy the Australian-made article, no matter what price may be charged for it. Such a system has no injurious effects upon the manufacturer. He is now, and has been for some time, passing on the added cost. But what about those consumers who cannot pass on additional costs, such as the primary producers? By means of the tariff the Government can increase the prices of secondary products; but that cannot be done in the case of wheat, wool, and butter, which have to be sold in overseas markets. If these non-independent gentlemen, by their decisions, increase costs, those increases can be passed on; and the primary producer will “ get it in the neck “, as he always does. Yet Labour members appeal for the votes of primary producers! I cannot conceive how they obtain them.
This bill will make certain the dominance of union officials. Their position will be materially improved as a result of compulsory preference to unionists. Then, the abolition of secret ballots will make them even more powerful. Recently, in New South Wales, the railway servants took a ballot to decide whether work should be rationed. The secretary of the Australian Railway Union, Mr. Chapman, said that they would not agree to rationing on any account. The Commissioner kept separate figures so as to ascertain how members of the Australian Railway Union and other branches of the service viewed the proposal. The latest returns show that the members of the Australian Rail-‘ way Union have turned down their own secretary. The abolition of secret ballots will make the union officials more secure in their positions.
The prohibition against members of industrial organizations entering into agreements also will be of material benefit to union secretaries. In the shearing sheds agreements have worked satisfactorily for some years.
– Is the honorable member aware that every trade union has in its constitution the stipulation that the election of officers shall be by secret ballot?
– If there is nothing wrong with secret ballots, why is that provision to be taken out of the act? Encouragement is to be given to “ basher “ gangs. We had an enlightening experience of basher gangs during the strike of timber workers and waterside workers.
– The organizer of those basher gangs, Mr. Miller, is a municipal Labour candidate to-day.
– As a result of the encouragement that is to be given to basher gangs, those who do not agree with the action of union officials will not be able to hit back at them.
A further provision is that any member who is expelled will have no right of appeal to the court against his expulsion. Under compulsory preference to unionists a man who has been expelled from a union will be unable to obtain employment. Thus the union secretary is to be given the power to take away his right to work. Yet honorable members refer to this as a democratic measure. Resignation from a union is not to be allowed while there is a plaint before the court. As the bigger unions always have a plaint before the court, none of their members will ever have an opportunity to resign.
The bill should be entitled “ A bill for an act to aggrandize and improve the status of union officials “. It is a partisan measure.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
– New South Wales returns 28 members to this House, and has the largest number of any State; unfortunately, many of them are members of the Labour party. Of course, that has not been the case in the past, nor will that party command the majority of federal seats in that State in the future. The State executive of the party in New South Wales is undoubtedly controlled by the communists, and in support of that statement I quote the following paragraphs from the report of the last Federal Labour Conference held at Canberra : -
The conference endorsed a ruling of the chairman (Mr. J. J. Kenneally, M.L.A.) that members of the Labour party should be prohibited from advocating the policy of the Communist party.
Members of the delegation from New South Wales, who are avowed supporters of Mr. J. S. Garden, vigorously opposed the motion for the adoption of the ruling . . . That no member of the Australian Labour party should be stifled in his advocacy of communism was the argument advanced by Mr. J. Kilburn (New South Wales) in opposing the motion. He said that the present system would eventually be replaced by a new order, which would bo communistic. He did not think that members of the party should bc precluded from advocating its principles. The Labour party in New South Wales took exception to the ruling of the chairman, because they felt it would interfere with the domestic policy of the party in that State. Great changes could be expected in the development of the party in New South Wales. He did not think that the powers of the New South Wales Labour party should be restricted in regard to an important matter of this kind.
That quotation bears out my statement that the State Labour party in New South Wales is communistic. Until quite recently the Australasian Council of Trade Unions was associated with the Pan-Pacific Secretariat, and this association was only severed on a motion that was carried by a couple of votes. The following statement is by Mr. W. Green, president of the American Federation of Labour : -
The most authentic material to be obtained regarding the formation of the Pan-Pacific Secretariat is almost exclusively of Communist origin. The Red International of Trade Unions, with head-quarters at Moscow, is responsible for the creation of the secretariat, and controls its activities. The secretariat has not adhered to the Red International, because it has been thought to be better tactics to have it remain outside, so that it might attract to itself other trade unions not themselves affiliated to the Red International.
The establishment of this new organization is evidence of the continued purpose of the Bolshevik leaders to interfere in, and to attempt to direct, the course of affairs in the colonial dependencies of Great Britain. The first proposal to summon a gathering of the Labour leaders of the Pacific Ocean countries was made by the Australian trade unions. The proposal was reported to the second congress of the Red International, and it adopted a thesis, which stated that the task of the Communist party, among other things, was to conduct an extensive propaganda to teach the peoples of the colonial countries to regard Soviet Russia as the bulwark of all the oppressed and exploited masses.
– I rise to a point of order. I call attention to the fact that what is happening in Russia, and the subject of the Labour party’s affiliation with the Pan-Pacific Secretariat, has nothing to do with the bill under discussion.
– The honorable member for Richmond must connect his remarks with the bill.
– I intend to do so immediately I have completed the quotation that I am making. It continues -
As a result of the fourth congress of the Communist International and of the second congress of the Red International, the latter organization convened the Pan-Pacific conference of transport workers’ in Canton in June, 1924. The report of that conference shows that its work was directed by representatives of the Communist International and of the Red International. The conference was important, because it was the first attempt to unite the separated movements of the foremost sections of the working class in the countries of the Pacific Ocean. “ A conference was held in Sydney in August, 1926,” continued Mr. Green, “ at which it was decided to call the Pan-Pacific Congress in Canton in 1927. This conference actually met in Hankow. Of the speakers, the most important have been connected with the international revolutionary movement directed from Moscow.”
– I have allowed the honorable gentleman to go sufficiently far to enable me to insist that he must now connect his remarks with the measure before the House.
– It has been admitted that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions is behind this bill; that its representatives have had several interviews with the Attorney-General and other members of the Cabinet, and that they have been largely instrumental in drafting the measure.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I wish to make a personal explanation with reference to a matter which was mentioned this afternoon in the course of my speech on the bill. The right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) charged me with saying something that wasuntrue with respect to the policy speech that he delivered in 1922. In order to avoid doing an injustice to the right honorable member, and in justice to myself, I shall read, from the official edition of the policy speech, the exact words of the right honorable member, which I had not with me this afternoon. In the course of the policy speech delivered by him at Chatswood, North Sydney, on the 26th October, 1922, he said-
The Government, fully recognizing the defects of the present system, is desirous of removing them. It accepts the proposals unanimously agreed to by the Premiers of all the States and the representatives of the Commonwealth last November, and is prepared to do its part to give effect to them or any fractional modification of them which does not impair the principles laid down. It believes that State instrumentalities should be outside the federal jurisdiction, which should be confined to disputes in industries federal in their nature, e.g., affecting seamen, waterside workers, coal-miners, and the like - leaving all others to be dealt with by the arbitration laws of the States.
I conceive that it is proper that I should state the exact words of the right honorable member, as I have not the slightest desire that there should be any misunderstanding on the subject.
– I also desire to make a personal explanation. The statement of the honorable member, although true in part, conveys a wholly wrong impression, and is, thus, in fact, false. The impression that the honorable gentleman wished to create was that my proposals in 1922 were similar to, if not identical with, those of the late Government. The honorable member read an extract from what was a very long speech, and I shall content myself by reading the agreement, to which reference is made in the extract that he quoted, and leaving the House and the country to draw their own conclusions. The honorable gentleman stated that in 1922 I was in favour of stripping the Commonwealth of its industrial powers, except in regard to waterside workers, coal-miners, seamen and the like. I said that the Government accepted the proposals which had been agreed to unanimously by the Premiers of the States, including the present Commonwealth Treasurer (Mr. Theodore), who was then Premier of Queensland, and the representatives of the Commonwealth in the previous November, and that I would give effect to them. The agreement then reached was as follows : -
The several State Parliaments to pass laws under section 51, paragraph 37, of the Constitution, referring to the Federal Parliament power to make laws with respect to -
The establishment of a court constituted by Commonwealth and State judges, with jurisdiction to determine the basic wage, and the standard hours of labour as regards any or all industries.
Industrial matters as regards federal industries.
The establishment of an Industrial Court of Appeal with jurisdiction to hear and determine appeals from awards, orders, or determinations of Commonwealth or State industrial tribunals or authorities, where the court holds that the exercise of jurisdiction is necessary or expedient for the purpose of harmonizing conflicting or competing awards, orders or determinations in different States.
The “federal industries,” referred to in paragraph b, are deemed to mean “such industries as the court provided for in paragraph a of this proposal may from time to time hold to be federal industries.” I submit that when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), invited this House to believe that I stood for a proposal resembling in any way the policy of the late Government, he said what was absolutely untrue, and he knew it to be so.
– Order ! I drew the attention of the right honorable member this afternoon to his use of that expression, and called upon him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the words, but the position is as I have stated it, and I leave honorable members to draw their own conclusions regarding it. The proposal to which I agreed, and to which the Treasurer was a party, was to give this Parliament the right to create a court with power to fix a basic wage and standard hours of employment for the whole of Australia. Secondly, this Parliament was to be clothed with full industrial powers in regard to federal industries, and the court as established was to be given full power to determine what were federal industries.
.- I rise to support the bill, and I shall try to emulate the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) by discussing it in the light of my own experience of industrial arbitration. I propose to answer some of the arguments advanced against the bill by honorable members opposite, and in order to get the subject into proper perspective I ask honorable members to carry their minds back to the conditions that obtained in industry prior to the passing of the first Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Act. In the two or three years preceding the introduction of that measure industrial conditions in Victoria, in New South Wales particularly, and indeed in all States, had! fallen to a very low level; sweating and all its attendant evils were rife, and the conditions generally were as bad as in the worst industrial centres of the old world. I do not make that allegation carelessly; it can be confirmed by reference to the reports of commissions which sat in Victoria and New South Wales, and which placed on record the poverty, sweating, prostitution and crime, which existed in the capital cities. Branches of the Anti-sweating League were established in two States, and religious denominations and various public bodies were meeting in conference and urging that action be taken to prevent the further development of the sweating evil.Women and children filled the factories and men were unable to get employment. Women who worked in the factories during the day supplemented their income at night on the streets. That is definitely stated in the reports of royal commissions. I assure honorable members of the Opposition who are protesting that I would have no pleasure in making untruthful statements to the disparagement of my native land. These conditions were largely the result of interstate competition in the absence of uniform industrial legislation.Repeatedly Judge Heydon of the New South Wales Arbitration Court said, in effect, “ I would, if I could, award higher wages and better working conditions, knowing that the wages I am awarding are not sufficient to make decent home life possible. But if I increase wages to the extent requested, as I would like to do, I would ruin industries in this State, because they would be unable to compete with similar industries in other States”. The chairmen of wages boards spoke to the same effect, and as a result of these comments and years of agitation such a volume of public opinion in favour of federal legislation was created that the Commonwealth Parliament was forced to act. Those honorable members who have stated that this legislation was introduced merely to deal with a few industries, interstate in character, are in error. That aspect of arbitration legislation was never considered when the introduction of Commonwealth legislation was advocated. The industries principally aimed at were clothing factories, engineering establishments, hat and boot factories - in fact all the orthodox manufacturing industries which could not pay higher wages and compete with the products of other States unless industrial conditions were uniform throughout Australia.
I differ from those speakers on both sides of the chamber who have stated that the Arbitration Act did not in its earlier years of operation substantially improve industrial conditions. Chambers of Manufacturers have, at conferences, declared to the contrary.
– The best that can be said of the act is that it has outlived its usefulness.
– Every circus must have its clown.
– I rise to a point of order. If the honorable member referred to me as a clown the statement is offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– Did the honorable member forFlinders refer to the honorable member for Richmond as a clown?
– No ; I have no desire to be personal. It is undeniable that in the early years of the operation of the Arbitration Act the conditions in all manufacturing industries particularly were substantially improved. The number of women and children employed in factories decreased and vacancies were thereby created for men. Children were allowed to remain longer at school. Systems of regulated apprenticeship were introduced into factories; the hours of labour were reduced; the sanitation of factories was improved, and dead-end occupations were gradually eliminated. As the working conditions generally improved sodid the industries develop and the value of their output increase. Many manufacturers throughout Australia, who opposed the act when it was first introduced, have admitted on scores of occasions that they would not dream of reverting to the conditions of the misnamed “ good old days.” One honorable member has said that the act crippled industry. That statement is refuted by reference to the figures of the Commonwealth Statistician. The output has increased year by year, and the curve of prosperity has been continuously upward. The number of factories and workshops has increased, and the number of adult operatives and the value of equipment have increased by leaps and bounds. During the first decade of the operation of the act, industrial unrest in Australia was inconsiderable; in fact, no other country was so free of industrial disturbance. I do not think that half a dozen federal disputes, leading to a stoppage of work, occurred during the first ten years after the passing of the act.
– We were working on a rising market.
– The honorable member is admitting my contention. During that period the conciliation provisions of the act, which were intended to be fully exploited before the judge should be asked to function in the Arbitration Court, were used to a much greater extent than in later years. On many occasions the Registrar and the Chief Judge ordered the parties out of court into conference with satisfactory results. The policy of the late Mr. Justice Higgins was to induce the parties to confer on the points in dispute, and to refer to him only those upon which they could not agree. Even during recent years the amount of conciliation work done by the late Registrar in his capacity as a conciliation commissioner, was much greater than honorable members can imagine. Scores of potential disputes were settled in his room before a stoppage of work took place. But he complained that his usefulness was restricted by the insufficiency Of his power. He believed that if he had greater powers as a conciliator he could have done much better work.
During the first twenty years of the operation of the act industrial unrest and discontent were greatly minimized, and millions of pounds were saved to the country by the prevention or settlement of disputes before they developed into stoppages of work. As a result of the success of the act the operations of the court greatly increased; the number of unions registered under it multiplied year after year until fully 800,000 of the 900,000 unionists were registered in the court and their rules approved by the court. Because of the congestion that occurred some unions had to wait as long as two years to have their plaints heard. In March, 1928, the present Leader . of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), who was then Attorney-General, stated in reply to a question that 160 cases were at that time listed for hearing by the court. Some of them had been on the list for two years, and the average length of time which the applicants had been waiting was eight months. That congestion was brought about partly by the remarkable increase in the number of persons seeking access to the court and partly by the employment of professional legal advocates. The time occupied in disposing of a case was lengthened by the methods adopted by the legal representatives of both sides. That has been stated on many occasions by the Leader of the Opposition. I have had experience of conducting cases in the court, and at times the legal gentleman opposed to me was being paid from -30 guineas to 40 guineas a day. Some of the cases lasted from three to four months. Can any honorable member imagine a professional advocate who was receiving such a daily fee rushing a case to finality ?
– He would not be human if he did.
– As the honorable member says, he would not be human. I do not suggest that these gentlemen did not carry out their work in a proper way, but I do say that the increasing employment of legal practitioners in the court helped to make it distasteful to the unions. If it were possible to draw up an account showing the legal fees paid by employers’ and employees’ organizations during the last ten or fifteen years, we should be staggered by the immensity of the sum, and it would be evident that this was one considerable factor in the increasing cost of production. The slow, cumbersome, and costly method which had to be employed to get cases through the court destroyed its popularity, and tended to foment industrial unrest, the growth of which is shown by the figures relating to wages lost through strikes. During the five years from 1910 to 1915 under the Fisher Labour Government the average annual loss in wages was £350,000. During the period from 1922 to 1927 under the Bruce-Page Government the average loss had increased to £1,250,000. This increase was, to a considerable extent, due to the discontent arising from the difficulty, and in some cases, the impossibility, of having cases heard before the Federal Arbitration Court.
The gradually increasing unpopularity of the court has been contributed to by other factors also. I have tried for many years past to learn just what were the views of the Leader of the Opposition in regard to arbitration. On many occasions I thought we were in hearty co-operation. It seemed to me once that he was heartily in accord with proposals to increase the conciliation powers of the court so as to bring about as much mutual agreement as possible, and that he desired to make the processes of the court cheaper and faster. Yet, after months of collaboration between him and industrial representatives, the amendments of the act made by the last Government were of a nature totally opposed to anything we had been led to expect. I believed at one time - and I cannot help thinking that it is still the private opinion of the Leader of the Opposition - that he was opposed to penal clauses being in the Arbitration Act; yet practically every amendment introduced by the Government of which he was a member was of an oppressive, intimidating, penal and coercive character. How can it be expected that the court will win the confidence of 800,000 Australian trade unionists when the act pre-supposes that those unionists are potential criminals, for surely that is what the amending legislation meant? Every one of the amending clauses introduced by the last Government contained provisions to fine or imprison unionists. It was assumed all through this legislation that trade unionists, of whom 80.0,000 are registered with the court, would break the law. The experience of the past, however, does not bear this out. The number of disputes has been ridiculously exaggerated. The statement has been published in the press that over a thousand disputes have taken place during the last twelve months or two years, and that statement has always been madeas part of an argument against the continuance of the federal arbitration system. Persons who speak in that strain show that they do not understand the subject with which they are dealing. Yet many such statements have been made at meetings of the Women’s National League, and elsewhere, and those statements have been published in the press, despite the fact that not more than three or four federal disputes involving organizations registered in the Federal Arbitration Court have taken place during the last decade. Surely that statement can be proved or disproved.
Confidence in the Federal Arbitration Court was further weakened by the manner in which some of its judges were appointed. I know all the judges of the court, and I can say frankly that, personally and socially, they are perfect gentlemen. I have nothing against them, but it is nevertheless true that some of them were appointed without their having that expert knowledge which the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) says should be at the service of Parliament in officers of this kind ; while the appointment of one of them, at least, savoured strongly of political interference. That is not my own statement; it was said at the time by practically all the newspapers of Australia. It was a glaring case of political preference. I say now, in fairness to that gentleman, that in most of the cases in which he has acted he has given greater satisfaction than have some of. his brother judges, but the fact remains that the manner of his appointment weakened public confidence in the Arbitration Court. Further harm has been done by the action of some of the judges by stating, before ever the parties appeared before them, that certain things were likely to happen in connexion with certain cases. It is not too much to expect that the judges should withhold their comments until after they have heard the evidence.
– Will the industrial commissioners to be appointed under this bill be free from that taint?
– I hope so. Surely it would be wrong for us to impute all sorts of evil motives to them before they have been tried out. A good deal has been said by honorable members opposite about the rules of trade unions. They appear to forget that before any trade union can be registered under the Arbitration Court its rules must be submitted to, and approved by, the Registrar of the court.
– If the rules are not satisfactory the organization may actually be de-registered.
– That is so. Another factor tending to destroy confidence in the court was the amendment inserted in the act by the last Government, to the effect that the court could, after taking into consideration the economic position of an industry in respect of which an application had been made to it, do practically whatever it liked. Rightly or wrongly, the people of Australia mistrusted this provision. When I say the people of Australia, I do not desire it to be thought that I am exaggerating. One honorable member said this afternoon that the purpose of this bill was to permit the trade unionists to dominate the whole of the people of Australia, inferring that the people of Australia as a whole were immensely more numerous than the trade unionists. We should ask ourselves, who are the people of Australia. As a matter of fact, if we subtract the organized trade unionist and the organized employers from the population of Australia, there remains only a very small percentage of Australia’s inhabitants. I do not suggest that, however small that remaining section may be, its rights should not be safeguarded ; but I wish to dispose of the contention that the trade unionists of this country represent a clamorous minority receiving more attention than they deserve. Ever since the Federal Arbitration Court first fixed a minimum wage representing what was considered to be a minimum standard of comfort, the people of Australia have regarded the minimum wage as something almost sacred which must be preserved. The judges of the court recognized this sentiment and respected it- a practice which was not departed from until after the appointment of Judge Lukin. With that appointment, and with the introduction of the amending section authorizing the court to take into consideration the economic effect of an award upon any industry this principle was definitely challenged. It was previously believed that the minimum wage represented a standard of comfort which should be allowed to remain intact, and the lowest minimum was sufficient to meet the mental outlook of our people.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the minimum wage, having once been fixed, should be retained irrespective of the changes in the economic conditions of the country?
– I do not suggest that; but I shall return to that point presently. I suggest that the minimum wage should be safe from attack, and that the alteration of the basis upon which it was fixed- did more than anything else to upset the harmonious working of the court. Immediately the 1928 amendments of the act were passed one of the judges set out to do what he desired to do, or what he thought the Government desired him to do. Previously those associated with the hearing of cases in the court had never bothered, in preparing their briefs, to give any consideration to the minimum wage. All they did was to examine the quarterly statistical returns, ascertain the fluctuations in the cost of living figures, and calculate, as they well knew how to do, what the basic wage should be. That was the attitude of the people generally to the court prior to the passing of the 1928 amendments. I have been associated with the court more or less constantly since the first case was submitted to it. I have not been a regular advocate, but I have appeared on special occasions during the life of the courts. I was associated with the first Commonwealth department, established by Mr. King O’Malley, which began to collect statistics with the object of recording the fluctuations in the prices of commodities, and I have watched the growth of that department, and of our statistical department, ever since. Those who appeared to advocate the claims of the parties in the Arbitration Court caseswere always able to ascertain exactly what the ‘minimum wage would be in their particular industry; their problem was to work out the margins for semiskill, skill, and so on. If individual judges are to be allowed to use any formula they like to determine the minimum wage in the various cases that come before them, it cannot be expected that the workers will readily approach the court; nor should it be expected that people who had already approached the court under the mistaken idea that the formula for fixing the basic wage had been determined, would abide by the decision which the court reached by the adoption of some other formula than that which was recognized as the accepted, principle, so that they may get the figure they desire. That is exactly what happened in the timber-workers’ case, and it is what caused all the trouble.
The timber-workers went to the court, just as their fellows had done in the previous 27 years, on the understanding that the minimum wage would be fixed in accordance with the statistician’s figures, as had been done previously. These figures gave the weighted average of the cost of living in the number of towns it had been customary to consider, and the basic wage for town and country should have been fixed in accordance with them; but the judge who heard the case decided that he would use his own formula. Instead of taking the number of provincial towns it had been the custom to take in order to get at the weighted average of the cost of living, he said, “I will take a smaller number of towns which will give me the lower figure that I desire.” He consequently considered only five towns instead of about twenty, and these were towns in which the cost of living was low. In that way he justified a decrease of 5s. a week in the basic wage. I feel sure that no honorable member with any sense of justice, or any consideration for logic, will agree that a system which allows every judge to fix his own formula for determining the basic wage is fair, because it would enable judges to give expression to their own particular fancies. The adoption of that system by one judge has altogether disturbed the harmonious working of the court, and has robbed it of its attractiveness to the workers.
It was because of the adoption of this practice that I made certain public statements. In the last twenty years I have never had to retract any public statement that I have made, and I hope that I never shall have to do so. After considering the whole position I said in the press that because the judge in the timber-workers’ case had violated three or four fundamental principles of the court, the men had refused to obey his award, and were justified in so doing. I did not say a word to the effect that the men were justified in striking against an award of the court; I said that they were justified in refusing to obey an award of the court, because the judge, in making it, had violated certain fundamental principles of the court. The present Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), who was then the Attorney-General, was the instrument by which I was charged with certain offences. I have no bitter feelings against that honorable gentleman. We have been good friends for years, and I trust that we shall remain friends. I did not make my statement on the spur of the moment ; it is not my habit to do that. I had the statement typed. I then examined it carefully and made certain alterations to it. It was then handed to the press and it was published. When I was charged with having made that statement I frankly admitted that I had made it. I believe that public men who make statements of that character should be prepared to stand by them. Men who make statements out of mere bravado and later withdraw them are cowardly. Because I made that statement I was charged with inciting the men to strike and inciting men to continue on strike, and also with violating an award of the court. As I was not a member of a union registered in the court, and was not working under an award of it, I certainly could not be said to have violated one of its awards; and as the men had been on strike for fourteen days before I made my statement it could not truthfully be said that I had incited them to strike.
– Is not the honorable member slightly inaccurate? Was his statement not that the judge, in making his award, had violated, not the fundamental principles of the court, but the fundamental principles of unionism?
– No; I said that he had violated three or four fundamental principles of the court by adopting a procedure of his own. The action of Judge Lukin was very largely responsible for the trouble that occurred in the timber industry.
Another cause of trouble was the introduction of the practice of permitting the court to accept financial statements from the employers with the object of showing the economic conditions of their industry. I do not suggest that that was wrong in itself; but it was certainly wrong of the court to refuse to allow duly accredited representatives of the employees to peruse those statements. - I protested against this in the case in which I appeared, and the Chief Judge, in agreeing that my protest was justified, said that he would not receive similar documents without giving properly appointed and qualified representatives of the other side an opportunity to examine them. But in the timberworkers’ case the judge treated the overtures of the employees in this regard with contempt. He would not even allow the statements to be examined by qualified but impartial auditors nominated by the workers. In these circumstances, how could he expect that the workers would accept his award without question ? This is another thing that has had a good deal to do with destroying the influence of the court.
Still another unsatisfactory feature of the system which has brought it into some disrepute is the high cost of the proceedings. Some cases have cost nearly £10,000.
In the first fifteen or sixteen years of its history the court unquestionably did a great deal to improve the industrial position’ of Australia, and to make possible the manufacture in Australia of goods of superior quality. In the early days our goods were undoubtedly shoddy in many respects; but since the court has been in operation our workmanship has improved immensely and our products have been able to enter into successful competition with those of other countries. Moreover the environment of the working people - men, women and children - has been improved immeasurably. I believe that we should be able to alleviate the industrial unrest of Australia, and reduce it to very small proportions, if our conciliation commissioners were given more power, and if the court itself had greater power. I consider that the machinery of the court has become somewhat out of date with the passage of time. For 30 years there has been very little real alteration of methods, and some of our practices are now obsolete.
– This is the thirteenth comprehensive amendment of the act.
– I am aware that many attempts have been made to improve it, and it is not the fault of this Parliament that it is not what it might be. The inability of the court to grant a common rule has greatly handicapped it. If that could have been done it would have been most advantageous to all parties, for it would have permitted employers to meet on a fairer footing. For 30 years we have been trying to improve the arbitration system; but we cannot make any effective improvement without an alteration of the Constitution. The officers of the Arbitration Court should have power, to do some of the things which honorable members opposite advocated yesterday when dealing with the Development and Migration Commission. Why should not the Arbitration Court and the Commonwealth Statistician’s Department co-operate so as to give some guide to those engaged in industry? Surely we have men in the Public Service capable of doing that! Figures should be tabulated and issued from time to time warning people in industries of the direction in which we are drifting. In the United States of America such a statement is issued from time to time by Mr. Stewart and Mr. Davis, representing the Government Labour Department. It contains warnings to the industrialists of that country as to the development of their particular industry, pointing out the number of people engaged in excess of requirements in certain in’dustries, and suggesting their repatriation or transfer to other industries. In some cases those connected with industries are given notice months and months and even years ahead as to what is likely to transpire in industry. In that way a system of reserve employment has been brought, about in the United States of America. I have met in Europe people who are acquainted with Mr. Wickens, the Commonwealth Statistician, and they have told me that he is one of the outstanding statisticians of the, world. My experience with him and his department warrants my belief that that is correct. Why should not Mr. Wickens and his staff help the Arbitration Court in the direction of guiding industry? The charter of the court, and’ also of the Statistician’s department, should be extended to enable that useful work to be carried out. It has been suggested that the Arbitration Court should, when making its awards, take into consideration the economic aspects of industry. I should .say that the court could not scientifically or logically frame its awards unless it did that. That consideration should cut both ways. I have had considerable experience at roundtable conferences in connexion with the big industries of this country. I have met practically every group of employers in Australia, and on few occasions only have I known any employer to allow his employees a share in any excess profits accruing as a result of the fluctuations of market prices. Usually an agreement is entered into between the employer and employee based on the price of a certain commodity at a certain period. That commodity may be lead, and if, subsequently, the price of lead increases, with a corresponding increase in the profits of the employer, the minimum wage of the man working in the mine is seldom altered.
– The trade unions are opposed to profit sharing.
– There are various ways of doing these things. On one or two occasions I have known excess profits to be shared among employees without violating any union principles. For instance, an agreement was entered into by the Broken Hill people, and some years afterwards the democratic section of the directors agreed that what determined the profit or loss of that industry was the price of lead. When the rate of wages was fixed the price of lead was say £23 a ton. On that occasion I suggested to the directors that any excess profit should be shared by the miners; that it would give them some encouragement if they were paid, say, 3d. in the £1 on excess profits. The directors saw the value and justice of that suggestion, and accordingly acted upon it. But only on rare occasions are the employers willing to share profits with their employees, although I cannot understand their reluctance to do that. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green), this afternoon gave an instance of two bricklayers working side by side, but he forgot that one bricklayer may have had more skill than the other. It is an evil mind that is always suggesting ulterior motives. I have worked with people, and I have watched people at work in all kinds of industries, and I know that one workman may do double the work of his mates, although both are doing their best. The “ honorable mem ber for Richmond said that one bricklayer laid 750 bricks while the other laid 460 bricks per day. Nobody interfered with him, so that the man’s own judgment prevailed. He suddenly decided to lay as few bricks as his mate was laying, and when questioned about his action, he gave a logical answer. He said that he had discovered that his mate, although not laying nearly so many bricks, was receiving the same pay. Surely any scientific and modern captain of industry would have recognized the value of that man’s work by giving him more money than his mate was receiving?
– The union would have prevented that man’s work from being speeded up.
– Not at all. When dealing with the economic aspect of industry we must face facts, and ask ourselves whether the problem to-day is the same as it was when the arbitration system was first introduced. We should discuss this subject free of party spirit. We have to recognize that the present economic situation has nothing to do with the Arbitration Court. It is the result of the new industrial revolution which has taken place, not only in Australia, but also in other parts of the world. There has been a complete change in our methods of work during the last ten or fifteen years, and it is gathering momentum every day. The figures show that the output and value of industry are increasing by leaps and bounds, while the number of persons engaged in the industry is on the decline. We must cease from approaching the industrial problem from the point of view of the orthodox causes of unemployment, such as the failure of the wheat crop or wool clip, certain slack periods of the year, or trade cycles. In all countries, whether freetrade or protection, no matter what type of government is in power, the problem of unemployment is rapidly becoming more difficult of solution.
– Will this legislation remedy that?
– It would not be fair for me to say “yes” or “no” to that question. I have no great hopes that it will, unless we have some collaboration between the Arbitration Court and the Statistician’s Department, and a definite understanding between employers and employees. It will be difficult to effect any improvement unless both parties to industry fully understand the economic position.
– The arbitration system, like Paddy’s gun, wants a new lock, stock and barrel.
– Then let us provide that. We cannot improve upon this bill without an alteration of the Constitution. We shall be glad of the honorable member’s assistance when the bill is in committee. Industrial unrest is the greatest factor in determining the prosperity of Australia. More money is lost through social unrest and discontent than through any other cause. That is the experience all over the world. If we could bring about something like permanent continuity of employment, nothing would stand in the way of the progress of this country. I have already stated that the cause of the present unemployment situation is the new social revolution. Some university professors of the United States of America, who met in conference to deal with the problem of unemployment as the technological problem, or one caused by the wonderful growth of our technological knowledge, and arrived at a conclusion that the mechanization of the coal-mining industry, and the new types of power in use, have rendered workless at least half of the coal-miners of the English-speaking world. The Development and Migration Commission suggested a few years ago that to relieve the unemployment problem in Great Britain we should bring to Australia a few thousand Welsh coal-miners. Later, when that commission had time to examine the coal-mining problem, it suggested that 4,000 or 5,000 Australian coal-miners should be repatriated, or absorbed in other industries in Australia. When contradictory, statements like that are made by experts, it shows the hopelessness of attempting to study this problem from the old orthodox point of view. Mr. Stewart and Mr. Davis, who are both government experts in the United States of America, have suggested that there are at least 300,000 coal-miners in excess of requirements in the United States of America, and they have urged that some attempt should be made by the Government to repatriate those men, or to transfer them to other industries. The same position applies in Great Britain and in Australia. It is not the fault of honorable members on this or that side. It is nobody’s fault. It is the result of the extraordinary development of economic conditions. We must begin to recognize that fact. In the shoe-making industry, one shoemaking machine that was introduced recently in the United States of America has displaced 100,000 operatives. One girl in a clothing factory, operating a cutting machine, now does as much work as 100 girls did six or seven years ago. One girl operating looms in a textile factory now does as much as 50 did two years ago. In the iron and steel industry, with the assistance of such equipment as electric magnets, automatic weighing machines, skip hoists, &c, nine-tenths of the labour employed has been displaced during the last five years. In one year, 11,000 telegraph operators were dispensed with as a result of the introduction of new automatic transmitting devices.
Let us take a simple illustration to show how universal has been the change, and how necessary it is to adopt different methods to meet the changed circumstances. One year ago an ocean liner on the cross Atlantic trips carried an engine-room crew of 120. men. The introduction of oil fuel enabled that number to be reduced to twelve, because the only operation now necessary is to check valves and adjust gauges. Two years ago, in Europe, girls worked glove-making machines that made 2,500 revolutions a minute. Those machines were displaced eighteen or nineteen months ago and new machines were installed that made 3,500 revolutions a minute. A machine called the “Iron Chink” takes fish straight from the water at one end and turns it out ready for consumption at the other. Pineapple machines peel, slice and can pineapples.’ The pick and shovel men, in common with the musicians, have been “ swallowed up “ in this new and wonderful progress. Huge machines have replaced the old ditch diggers and road-makers in the construction of roads and the laying of pipes; just as the movietone and the talkies have taken the place of musicians and actors.
Not many years ago it was thought that farming pursuits at least would escape the effects of this mechanization of industry. That that has not been the case is proved by a report issued last year by “the New York City Bank. It is customary for these reports to include a lecture by a University professor. On this occasion it was the agricultural professor who contributed the lecture. He quoted certain statistics, and then went on to say that the number of workers employed in farming pursuits in 1927 was 4,000,000 below the figure for 1922, solely on account of the introduction of motor-driven machinery. I think it is fair to say that the agricultural machinery manufactured in Australia is the best in the world. I have heard at representative conferences in Australia recently the statement that we can put in and take off a crop at a cheaper rate than any other country in the world. That has been admitted by McKay Bros. The statement made by one honorable member to-day, that the growth of the agricultural implement-making industry has been hindered by the Arbitration Court, has not the slightest foundation in fact. Year after year that industry has developed under, the Arbitration Court. There has not been a strike of agricultural implement makers for twenty years. [Extension of time granted.]
The Arbitration Court should be made more useful; and it can be, by cooperation with the other departments. It has done a lot of useful work in the past ; but its usefulness was partly stultified by the amendments that were made to the act by the last Government.
– Which particular amendment ?
– Those that inserted the penal sections, and those that gave the judge of the court the power to attack the basic wage - which he did. Some of the enactments of the last Government involved the trade union movement in an expenditure running into thousands of pounds, to prove that they were bad law; yet that Government was not big enough to give us any compensation.
– Cite one instance.
-The trade union movement naturally was very much concerned about the introduction of the deportation legislation. It believed that already there was ample legislation for the punishment of those who broke the law. It was concerned, not with the fate of Messrs. Walsh and Johnson, but at the fact that this principle was being tacked on to our legislation. A deportation board was appointed. The trade union movement threatened that if Walsh and Johnson were deported its members would cease work. The transport workers were specially prominent in that respect. Some of the leaders of the movement urged that there should not be a cessation of work ; and they promised that, if industry were carried on, they would take the case through all the courts to prove that the deportation legislation was bad law. The litigation cost us £3,000 odd, but we proved that the law was bad. The board was disbanded, and the deportation proceedings were dropped. I interviewed the Attorney-General, and asked that he and his Government should consider the justice of recouping us at least some of our expenditure, seeing that we had had to incur it to prove that their law was bad; but not a penny of that £3,000 odd was returned to the trade union movement.
We should at least give this measure a fair chance to prove itself on its merits. I believe that, on the conciliation side, it can be extended. If it is given a proper trial, and the Registrar has greater power, many potential disputes will be settled before a stoppage of work takes place. If the commissioner is allowed to exercise the authority that the bill proposes to confer upon him, he will save the judges a great deal of unnecessary work. I have approached the Registrar I suppose one hundred times during the last few years; and, in nine cases out of ten, disputes that were on the verge of causing a cessation of work were settled before a stoppage took place. The public is not acquainted with such happenings. Many big disputes that supposedly have been brought to a termination by the Prime Minister or the court have been settled privately by employers and employees.
I again express the hope that honorable members will co-operate to give this bill a fair trial. Because of my twenty years’ experience of the court and of round table conferences I believe that it will at least stabilize the industrial situation in Australia, gradually eliminate the industrial unrest that now exists, and by making for more harmony bring greater prosperity and progress to our industries.
– I have been very much interested in the remarks of the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), who, as we all know, has been associated with industry for many years, during which time he has come into close contact, principally with the workers, but also at conferences with the employers. I followed closely his argument in regard to the displacement of workers as a result of the introduction of machinery. A similar argument was used at least a hundred years ago. That length of time must have elapsed since workers in England were advised to break up the looms because they would dispense with hand weaving. Some of them were foolish enough to act upon that advice. Yet it was greatly at that period that Great Britain made her entry into the commerce of the world.
The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) has also frequently argued that the introduction of machinery has the effect of displacing labour. In a great measure that is true; but the effect should be less in Australia than in any other country. If there were only a certain number of jobs to be distributed, and the introduction of a new machine threw many men out of employment, there would be no chance of placing them in other occupations. But we know that Australia has boundless resources. We have the assurance of the Commonwealth Statistician that our resources per head of the population are greater than those of any other country. Therefore that argumentdoes not carry much weight. In any case, it is not apropos in a discussion of this measure.
I have perused the bill to see if I could find any justification for the fine sentiments and pious hopes that were expressed by the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) when he introduced it. Having read his speech in Hansard one might designate it as brilliant, and come to the. conclusion that he had brought forward a proposal to save humanity from exploitation by unscrupulous employers. But the bill itself is in striking contrast to the speech. Its first important provision is to delete the’ words “prevent lockouts and strikes in relation to industrial disputes “ and to insert in their place the words “promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration”. If that object could be achieved, it would not be necessary to look for anything better. What more does an employer want than for his business to be unchecked by strikes? What more does the worker want than continuity of employment? But when we delve a little further into the bill we find that that object is to be attained by the appointment of conciliation commissioners, men who are prominent in the Labour movement and who will run arbitration under union rules and with union umpires. This makes us wonder what grounds the Attorney-General had for the hopes that he expressed. If the energy that is now dissipated in strikes and the regimenting of men into unions were put into production, Australia would not need an Arbitration Court. If we could get the best out of industry by co-operation between employers and employees, there would be no need to discuss this bill. [Quorum formed.’] Sir Ernest Benn, in What is Your Labor Policy? says -
Many a factory is managed by men who believe in capitalism and worked by men who believe it to be all wrong, and it follows that no such factory can possibly be a real success. If production is achieved, if wages are found, if profits are made under such conditions, docs it not follow that far better results could be obtained for all parties if the whole concern were of one mind on the underlying principles governing it all?
It is obvious that, unless there is harmony in industry, the best results cannot be obtained.
I have before me a copy of the constitution and by-laws of one of the greatest American trade unions - the Grand International Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers - and I propose to make some comparisons between unions in America and in Australia. In the preamble to the constitution of this union, one of the outstanding paragraphs reads -
The interests of the employer and employee being co-ordinate, the aim of the organization will bc co-operation and the cultivation of amicable relations with the employer, and to guarantee the fulfilment of every contract made in its name by the use of every power vested in it.
Is there a single union in Australia whose constitution stresses the desirability of amicable relations between employers and employees? If there is, I should be glad to hear of it. Although trade unions in Australia have done much good among their members, and have at all times striven to secure a high standard of living and the highest wage, they have ceased to be industrial and have become political in their actions. The loader of a union to-day has political aspirations, and, perhaps, like several members opposite, is ultimately elected to Parliament. If, by force of circumstances, he finds that he cannot carry out the extravagant promises that he has made outside, he has to make way for some less exalted person whose desire is to be more exalted. The American trade union, under its constitution, arranges for the insurance of its members, and provides them with pay during unemployment. The members of the union even have their own banks and shipping company. I submit that it is infinitely more desirable that the workers should be made contented, and that, as the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) said, they should have some direct interest in the success of their industry than that they should be called upon to pay strike levies for the purpose of embarrassing it. They would then be happier in their employment, and the unions would be more financial than they are at the present time. In the United States of America there is no political labour party in Parliament, and yet the unions are as strong there -as in any other country. The workers of America are certainly more contented than those of Australia, and that country has reached a commercial eminence that enables it practically to dominate the trade of the world.
– Is not the Arbitration Act a political matter?
– It was introduced in 1904 by men whom we revere, and who believed that it would solve many of the great problems of industry; but the original act has been amended so often and has been so mutilated that it is now almost unrecognizable. It was found that a union could make application to the court if it could prove that there was an interstate dispute, and such a dispute could be created by the simple process of a union establishing head-quarters in two States and submitting a log to the employers. In fact, dispute-making became one of the most lively industries in Australia. Some unions have been engaged continuously in litigation. No sooner has one plaint been dealt with in the court than another has been submitted. In addition to these anomalies, each State has its own system of arbitration. In Victoria, wages boards were established before arbitration courts were talked of, and they have operated fairly successfully. But industry has suffered because of the tax imposed upon it under the dual system. The cost of litigation, the salaries of those employed, in presenting cases to the court, and the wages of employers and those workers called to give evidence have to be taken out of industry. There was no complaint from Labour on that score while wages were being increased and hours of employment were being reduced and industry was more or less able to stand it. But Australia’s prosperity began to decline, and nobody saw it sooner than the late Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, who last year introduced the Maritime Industries Bill, with a view to preventing some of the overlapping of arbitration awards. He desired to revert to the system as it was originally intended to operate ; the Federal Court to deal with big issues of an interstate nature, and not interfere with the smaller issues and awards of State courts
I do not propose to mention all the reasons for the defeat of Mr. Bruce and his followers at the last election. Suffice it is to say that a great deal of misrepresentation was indulged in and that the people were told that he was attempting to force down wages when his object was merely to revert to the original system. The Labour party declares that it has a mandate to bring in a new arbitration bill. Before the last election, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) declared that he would introduce a bill that would make arbitration free from “ entangling legalisms.” The measure before us is that precious document, and I shall endeavour to show how it is now proposed to divest the arbitration system of “entangling legalisms.” That the Government has a mandate I do not deny ; but it is a mandate to maintain federal control of arbitration, and not to hand a mutilated arbitration system over to the Trades Hall for further violation. If the system is altered as proposed under this bill, it will be brought into greater disrepute, because it will be put under the complete domination of the trade unions. Then the industrial situation will be made infinitely worse than it now is, and Unemployment will be increased.
It is frequently said, and it has been asserted by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway), that Labour stands for piece-work in a great number of industries. In the coal industry, in particular, piece-work is permitted; but the principle is not applied to a sufficient extent to industry generally. It has been stated many a time in the arbitration courts that Labour does not believe in piece-work. Yet one of the leading secretaries in the Labour movement in England, Mr. Arthur Pugh, who is general secretary of the Iron and Steel Trades Confederation of Great Britain, states -
Our people will have nothing else but piecework. They want the employers to give them good machines. Then they expect to be allowed to get money out of them, and they do. . . .
In a progressive industry, it seems to me that men must participate in the great mechanical producing advantages or for ever stand still.
If Australian workshops, sheltered by a tariff wall from the products of other countries working on up-to-date and scientific lines, support a policy that neglects modern and more economic methods, the day will come when they will be faced with an impossible situation.
We have often heard honorable members opposite oppose piece-work, and representatives of unions have fought it tooth and nail in the Arbitration Court, because they considered it to be a relic of days gone by, when they talked about chains and slavery and sweated labour. Under the piece-work system a worker has a chance of getting off the bread-line ; but there are many men in the Labour movement - union secretaries and the like - who think that once a worker finds his feet they are in danger of losing him, so they strive to keep him down to the bread level.
I submit that the Labour party, by its action in submitting the present bill, and by its policy of the socialization of industry and all the means of production and exchange, has forfeited its right to retain its present name. It would be more correct to describe it as the trade union party, because it has proved that it stands only for those who are members of trade unions. This was demonstrated recently when it endeavoured to put trade -unionism before preference to returned soldiers. That is the only preference that we on this side admit - a sentimental preference to the men who carried out a national obligation. The present Government stands for preference to unionists in the Public Service, and those who do not join trade unions will not receive the benefits of certain awards of the Public Service Arbitrator. Recently an ordinance was promulgated under which employees in the Trade and Customs Department are to be denied the benefit of certain overtime payment unless they belong to a union.
One of the outstanding anomalies’ in the bill is that the conciliation commissioners proposed to be appointed are not to take into consideration the probable economic effects of an award upon the industry concerned.
– The honorable member will not find that in the bill.
– It is provided in the act at the present time that the probable economic effects of an award shall be taken into consideration ; but the economic effects will not be considered if the bill is passed in its present form. Labour has always been accused of ignoring economic effects, and now the AttorneyGeneral would have the arbitrators giving blindfold decisions in accordance with applications by unions. Yet, Judge Beeby, who should be more au fait with industrial matters than the AttorneyGeneral, in dealing with the metal trade workers’ award, said -
Some union advocates contended that the depression is one of the recurring cycles to which industry and commerce are accustomed. But is it? Can the court, in face of existing facts act on such an assumption? Is it not more correct- to surmise that the Commonwealth must face allround re-organization, and must rely much more on its own resources and on its capacity for greater and cheaper production? Statements that this re-organization is impossible without profound economic changes are for the legislature. The court operates within the established economic system and is bound by the act under which it works to give proper consideration to the present economic situation. In the honest discharge of this direction, I am forced to repeat and act on my opinion that in the metal trades group of industries recovery to the level of 1924-25 and further expansion are only possible by reduction of costs of production, to which all factors must contribute. It was evident that the unions involved attached very little importance to the analysis of the economic position set out in the stated reasons of the court for its proposed award.
That is a clear statement of the position.’ Judge Beeby further said -
There is no excessive profit-making at the expense of wage-earners . . .
I hope that those honorable members opposite who are’ continually referring to the employers of this country as the profiteers, the “money-bags,” and persons who would keep the workers of this country in chains, will carefully consider the views expressed by Judge Beeby on this point. The statement continues -
The real concern of industrialists for some time to come will be to maintain existing wage rates . . . Careful consideration of the figures set out - in the appendices should convince the unions that the position is critical, and that if they do not co-operate in reducing costs, still further contractions of opportunities for employment and wage-cuts are inevitable. In his final judgment he said: “ The combined direct result of these economic difficulties is that the number of unemployed is greater than ever before in the Commonwealth’s history, while the average earning of those left on pay-rolls is reduced by partial employment.”
Those statements condemn this measure more than anything that can be said by honorable members on this side of the chamber, and are in striking contrast to the utterances of academic authorities such as the Attorney-General, or those more directly interested in industry such as some honorable members opposite.
Under this measure preference to unionists is to be made absolute. In other words a man who’ is not a unionist is to be denied the right to work.
– That is not in the bill.
– The words “other things being equal” in the existing act are to be deleted, which makes the preference absolute. Although unionism was never stronger in Australia than it is to-day, unemployment is more prevalent than it has ever been in any other period of our history. In 1926 the percentage of unemployment was 5.7 ; but in 1930, although we have a Labour Government in power, it is 14.6 per cent. This measure contains some revolutionary provisions which will embarrass and harass industry to such an extent that unemployment will be more prevalent than it is to-day. I admit that unionism has had beneficial effects in other countries; but it has become an obsession of the Labour party in Australia, and under the control of political organizations is exercising undue authority oyer the workers. It has become tyrannical. Men are treated worse than they have ever been in the past, and are compelled to submit to conditions which the most unreasonable employers would not impose upon them. In this connexion we have only to recall what occurred during recent months on the northern coal-fields of New South Wales, when, in consequence of a lockout or a strike - call it what you may - the miners ceased work for fifteen months. Although work was available which would have returned to the men from 30s. to £2 a day, they refused to accept it because of a dispute, the merits of which I do not intend to discuss at this juncture. The men engaged in that industry were advised by their leaders who stand behind this Government, and who are pushing this bill, to refuse a reasonable offer, but after fifteen months of idleness, during which time they drew hundreds of thousands of pounds in levies from other workers - up to 12£ per cent, in some industries - they returned to work at a rate which they could have accepted over a year ago. We shall not quickly forget the incidents which occurred during the progress of that struggle, and it will be years before Australia will be able to wipe off the debt in lost production 1 incurred in consequence of that turmoil.
The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Holloway) is surprised because certain vessels on which 30 or 40 men were employed are now carrying only twelve to twenty men; but he should realize that the ship-owners have installed’ oil-driven machinery because of the endless trouble which they experienced on vessels using coal as a fuel as a result of frequent strikes on the coalfields. Under Labour’s policy of declaring anything and everything that affects their union scruples black, Australia has become the industrial laughing stock of other countries. Quite recently a clergyman in one of the towns on the northern coal-fields dared to hold a church service at the Rothbury mine contrary to the wishes of certain union officials, with the result that the clergyman, the church, .and those who attended his services were declared “ black “
If .the policy of Mr. Lang, of New South “Wales, is adopted, the conciliation commissioners to be appointed under this measure will be union organizers. They are to have all the powers of an arbitration court judge, and will be able to determine whether hours shall be reduced or wages increased; but if an increase in hours or a reduction of wages is involved, the responsibility of making a decision will rest upon three judges. Should the judges so act the conciliation commissioner could next day overrule the judge and increase pay and reduce hours. Can a more partisan attitude be imagined? Possibly Mr. Garden and Mr. Crofts may be appointed conciliation commissioners. Further, men may strike against a decision of the conciliation commissioners without incurring a penalty, and after holding up industry, perhaps for an indefinite period, can return to work and the award will still stand. In no circumstances can the award be lifted. [^Quorum formed.]
There are many further anomalies in this measure, but when it leaves this chamber I hope that the Senate will do its duty, although I do not know if the Government will go to the country on such an issue. Possibly it will withdraw it and save itself as it did by its timely somersault on soldier preference. Provision for a secret ballot, which was introduced by the late Government, is to be denied to unionists. We know what happened in connexion with a secret ballot of the timber-workers, when unionists were instructed how to vote and a judge of the Arbitration Court was burned in effigy with a number of ballot-papers. Apparently that incident influenced the Government in deleting from the act the provision relating to secret ballots. In the future there is to be no secrecy, because when the unions wish to obtain the opinion of the men, they will do so by a show of hands, and in the vernacular of honorable members opposite, the “scabs” will be placed on one side and the true unionists on the other. He would be a brave man who would advocate a continuance of work against the wishes of union leaders.
The bill also provides that it shall not be necessary for a qualified auditor to examine the accounts of unions. Why should not the accounts of industrial organizations be audited, particularly as some union secretaries or treasurers handle hundreds of thousands of pounds? The company law provides that every proprietary or limited company, however small, shall have a proper audit of its accounts; but under this new measure unions which are in effect powerful corporations and handle large finances and have a big salary list will not be compelled to employ a qualified auditor.
– The honorable member knows that they have auditors.
– It is not to be compulsory and the bill deletes “ qualified “ and substitutes “ competent “ Moreover, it will not be obligatory upon the organization to keep a record of the names and addresses of members of the organization. How are awards to be policed unless there is a means of ascertaining the names and addresses of the members of an organization? Many alleged irregularities will arise, and one wonders whether the Government is really in accord with the provisions of this measure, or whether it has been prompted by those who recently assembled in Canberra, who, in giving certain instructions to the Government, said that £20,000,000 must be made available to the States to provide for the unemployed.
– The measure was drafted before that conference was held, and has not been altered in the slightest degree since that time.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance, but the Australasian Council of Trade Unions - the power behind the Government - works night and day, and has laid down a certain programme.
– That is a totally different matter. If I satisfy the honorable member on one point he should not shift his ground and then contend that my statement is wrong.
– I accept the Minister’s assurance.
– I cannot keep correcting every mistake the honorable member makes.
– No doubt the AttorneyGeneral has spent many months in drafting this measure under instructions from Mr. Garden or some such person. I have always regarded the Attorney-General as a moderate Labour man, who at election time would not dare to mention such planks on the Labour party’s platform as the socialization of all means of production, distribution and exchange. The more frank extremist mounts a Yarra bank soap box and says, “Let us have Bed socialism; let us seize all capital and divide it equally amongst all.” The Attorney-General is not of that class. He tells us that six months ago, in the solitude of his own room, he drew up this bill. I accept his assurance. Nevertheless the Australasian Council of Trade Unions is a very live body, and the manner in which the Government comes to heel when it beckons is remarkable We have read in the press recently that that organization, or some other Labour body, demanded that the Victorian members of this Parliament should attend at the Trades Hall and explain why they supported the Government when it somersaulted on the subject of preference to returned soldiers. Representatives of the press were carefully excluded from the meeting. But one honorable member was alleged to have said that the Govern ment should have stuck to its guns. Next day he hastened to write to the press declaring that he had said nothing of the sort, and that the Government, having come to a decision, he would support it. It is a fact that the Australasian Council of Trade Unions calls the tune to which the Government dances. I question whether Ministers are heart and soul behind this bill. When the Constitution alteration bills were unceremoniously rejected in another place the Government did not re-introduce them, allegedly because of some doubts as to their legal consequences. Evidently this measure has been put forward in its stead as a winner by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. In the Pan-Pacific Worker of the 15th May, 1928 - a journal that is published by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions - these enlightening sentences appeared -
We must . . . remove all illusions regarding the possibilities of constitutionalism in the workers’ struggle against the employers. Compulsory arbitration is an indirect method of class collaboration, and has a dampening effect upon the fighting spirit of the workers..
– The man who wrote that* is not in the movement.
– I do not know the name of the writer, but those sentiments were published.
– The Labour movement wants arbitration.
– The writer may have been an extremist in the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, and a future conciliation commissioner. Another delectable excerpt from this subsidized journal is : -
For any trade unions, or labour leader, to talk of industrial peace at the present moment is nothing short of criminal.
Yet in clause 2 the first object of the Hil is said to be “ to promote goodwill i-i industry by conciliation and .arbitration I suggest that the AttorneyGeneral should have another conference with the Australasian Council of Trade Unions. The extract continues -
We must fight against all forms of “class peace “ or “ industrial peace “. It is a dangerous sham which will be costly and which inevitably leads to tragic consequences for our working class.
Again on the 1st December 1928, the Pan-Pacific Worker wrote -
As long as capitalism exists there cannot, and will not, be any lasting class peace or industrial peace, for the class interests of the exploited are irreconcilable with the class interests of the exploiters.
And again on the15th January, 1929 -
As long as capitalism exists there cannot, and will not, be class peace, or peace in industry.
Those, I submit, are the true sentiments of the Labour party. Its leaders have never denied, in this House, or on the platform, except evasively, that the main objective of the party is the socialization of the means of production, distribution and exchange. To what extent the Wheat Marketing Bill is an advance towards the socialistic objective I cannot say, but certainly the Labour party in this House believes in government marketing. Last week the House passed the Central Reserve Bank Bill, which will require private banks to pay £22,000,000 into the coffers of that institution, and suggestions from honorable members on this side that an amendment should be inserted to provide that advances to any government or government authority should not exceed one-fifth of the borrower’s income from taxation, provoked a spirited protest from ministerial supporters.
– Order! The bill contains no reference to a central reserve bank.
– I am merely pointing out that this bill, the Wheat Marketing Bill, and the Central Reserve Bank Bill, are in line with the Labour party’s socialistic objective - the socialization of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.
– That could not be worse than the present system.
– The honorable member at any rate is frank; so were those honorable members whose radical ideas on note inflation embarrassed the Treasurer last week. This bill must be condemned by all who believe in the freedom of the individual. It is a burlesque of arbitration, and violates the rights of free citizens. Members of the unions are to be denied the privacy of a secret ballot on the subject of a proposed strike, and will be under the domination of union officials in the Arbitration Court. All workers, within or without the unions, are to be conscripted and regimented, and will have no opportunity to express their own views except through the political ballot box. I predict that if the Government persists in this legislation the workers will at the next election reverse their decision made in October last.
.- This bill is an attempt to establish peace and goodwill in industry, and for that reason I am in accord with it. I believe that the penal sections of the act should be eliminated, because they have achieved no good. They have not promoted peace and goodwill as the previous Government predicted they would.
– They represent an honest attempt to do so.
– An honest attempt to penalize one class only. This bill on the other hand is an equally honest attempt to remove the defects of the existing arbitration system. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has said that the Government is aiming at arbitration that will be free of entangling legalisms. I wish that the bill went further and restricted the jurisdiction of judges to questions of law. The Leader of the
Opposition (Mr. Latham) declared his belief that no amendment of the arbitration law would result in peace in industry. To be honest he should admit that there can be no industrial peace until the wild beast, in the shape of vested interest with its greed for money, is fought and destroyed by the full force of the organized industrial workers of every country. I am not so optimistic as to believe that this bill, which is an honest attempt to insure peace in industry, will achieve its full purpose. That end will not be attained until the workers are organized on national and international lines to meet the onslaughts that are being made from day to day upon their rights and privileges by organized capital.
In any discussion on industrial problems, we must not lose sight of the fact that the introduction of improved machinery in industry has displaced large numbers of workers in all countries and has so reduced their wage standard that it is impossible for them to exist with any semblance of decency, while, on the other hand, those who control the wheels of industry grow richer and richer. This is the principal reason for the industrial unrest that exists to-day. Discontent in industry will continue as long as the capitalistic classes continue to filch from the workers their -well-earned rights, and strive to lower the standard of living which they at present enjoy. The Leader of the Opposition, in his criticism of the bill, went so far as to refer in sarcastic and contemptuous terms to the appointment by the Lang Government in New South Wales of a former pugilist as a conciliation commissioner. My reply is that probably the pugilist referred to has as clean a moral record as can be claimed for any honorable member, including the Leader of the Opposition himself. I have no hesitation in mentioning his name. Mr. Morgan is well known to the community in which I live. He was known in fighting circles as “Paddy King,” and at one time was welter weight champion of Australia. I challenge any man to point to any incident in his public or home life that is to his discredit. He comes from the industrial centre to which I belong, and he has given ample evidence of his ability to administer the office to which he was appointed. He followed his father as an industrial worker. There is no reason whatever why the Leader of the Opposition should refer to him in tones of scorn.
– The honorable member is scarcely fair to the Leader of the Opposition.
– Am I not ? The honorable gentleman referred sarcastically to the appointment by saying of the Lang Government, “ Why, they even appointed a pugilist”.
– By that he meant that the previous training of the man referred to was not such as to fit him for the position to which he was appointed.
– Mr. Morgan followed the boxing game for a number of years. So far as I am able to judge, that would no more unfit him for his present position than would this game of politics which I am following now, which I regard as a false life.
– Order! The honorable gentleman is not in order in referring to parliamentary life in those terms.
– Very well, Mr, Speaker, I withdraw the statement. The bill is a step in the right direction. The elimination of the penal provisions of the act inserted at the instigation of the Bruce-Page Administration will be help. ful, while the appointment of industrial commissioners, and the inauguration of boards of reference, will enable the workers to have easy access to tribunals which will hear their grievances and make determinations in respect of them. In the Industrial Peace Act, introduced by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) when Prime Minister, provision was made for the appointment of subsidiary boards under the Coal Tribunal to inquire into the grievances of the miners. That was never done. It was not the fault of the miners ; they continually made representations to the Bruce-Page Government for the inauguration of these subsidiary tribunals, but their requests were refused. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) referred to the industrial disturbances on the coal-fields, but the miners are not entirely to blame. There are always two sides to a dispute. As an officer of a lodge, I have always endeavoured to overcome these difficulties, but I have frequently been refused permission to bring a deputation before the mine manager. I do not wish to use miners^ parlance, but I have, in effect, been told to go to Hades. How can one expect anything but discontent from men who are not even allowed an opportunity of discussing their grievances immediately they arise with the management? The tribunal has frequently been so congested that the miners have been unable to have their claims heard for a very long time, and sometimes not at all. This has helped to create discontent, but no attempt was ever made by the last Government to relieve the congestion. It is proposed, under this bill, to create conciliation committees. No doubt the miners could come under these committees, but they desire to retain, if possible, the system prevailing under the Industrial Peace Act, with the addition of the subsidiary boards which have been asked for.
During my industrial career I was for five years in Western Australia, where they have a form of conciliation and arbitration which I admire. From 1911 to 1916 I saw only one stoppage, which was for five days, in the whole of the mining industry, and that took place at the conclusion of an award. I never saw there a sectional stoppage such as takes place so frequently in the district from which I come, and in other parts of New South Wales. Some say that Western Australia is backward, but in regard to industrial conditions she leads the Commonwealth. Conditions in the mining industry in Western Australia are far better than they are in my State. In Western Australia, for machined coal - that is, cutting, boring and laying rails to the face - the miner gets from 3s. 5£d. to 3s. ll£d. a ton. The rate of wages for shift men is 21s. a day, for a seven-hour day. I impress upon honorable members that this wage is for a day of seven hours. Yardage rate for driving a narrow place or heading are 3s. 9d. a yard. The selling price of coal in Western Australia is 19s. a ton, as against 2os. per ton in New South Wales. Now let me quote the rates and prices prevailing in the district from which I come - the district which is supposed to be at the mercy of the so-called bolshevist miners of the north. The honorable member for Richmond accused them of pursuing go-slow tactics, but if the miners go slow they reduce their earnings, because they are all paid on tonnage rates. I propose to give the rates which prevailed, before the recent 12$ per cent, reduction, in the mines owned by the man who died recently, leaving to the last Chief Justice of the High Court, and to one other person, all the wealth he had filched from the workers. For machined coal, cut and bored, they received the handsome sum of 2s. . 5 ll-16d. per ton, as compared with the lowest rate in Western Australia of 3s. 5d. per ton. The highest rate paid for machined coal in the northern district was 2s. 8½d. per ton, cut and bored. No rails were laid. Such a concession was never considered in the northern district. Ten per cent, of the shiftmen received 22s. Id. for a day of eight hours, while the other 90 per cent, received 18s. Id. a day. I ask honorable members to note that this is for an eight hours day. After an attempt was made by the coal barons to reduce their rate by 33^ per cent, and lengthy evidence heard before the Coal Tribunal, resulting in its refusal to concur in the reduction, those men took the bull by the horns and overrode the arbitration laws of the country by locking out the miners and starving them into submission. In contrast to the punishment meted out to the workers when they committed a breach of the arbitration laws these men were allowed to go unpunished. I have commented on that subject in the past, and do not intend to enlarge upon it now. I condemn the previous Government for its act, and I have also condemned this Government in the matter. What I have said demonstrates that while true arbitration prevails, and the worker is granted prompt access to a tribunal before which he can place his grievance, there is no trouble. In further proof of that I again refer to Western Australia, where, during my stay of five years, stoppages amounted to only five days.
I hope that the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), will speak on this bill. That gentleman provided for the establishment of subsidiary tribunals under the Industrial Peace Act, which stands to his credit. Under that provision the miners obtained more benefits than they had done previously. Had the right honorable gentleman’s successors in office listened to the deputations that approached them, those tribunals would’ have been perpetuated.
– Does not the honorable member consider that they undermined the Arbitration Act?
– Not at all. They allowed the men to submit their grievances to an industrial commissioner, and to have them heard promptly. The training of that official enabled him to arbitrate along peaceable lines, to the general satisfaction of all parties.
I am sorry that this bill does not totally eliminate the arbitration judges. The Leader of the Opposition .(Mr. Latham), has intimated that he does not hold with the judges of an Arbitration Court deciding matters of law, such as what constitutes an interstate dispute. I am pleased that the judges of the Arbitration Court are permitted to decide that issue. The coal-miners of northern Kew South Wales have recently undergone a very bitter experience in the matter, when the High Court over-rode a decision previously given to the effect that any dispute involving the Commonwealth or threatening to involve the Commonwealth constituted an interstate dispute. The recent finding of the High Court upset that, and it cost the miners a huge sum of money to approach the court to obtain that improper and unsatisfactory decision. The miners intimated that a dispute existed in other districts and States, and stated - ‘and their contention has been proved by the facts - that, before the northern coal-miners received Id. of their reduced rates of pay, miners in the western and southern districts were given notice that their -wages were to be reduced by 7i per cent, for labourers and 15 per cent, for contract workers. Yet it was contended by the High Court that no dispute existed in the other districts.
I have had brought under my notice a report of the financial position of the Wallsend Coal Company. Incidentally, the management of this company locked the miners out of the colliery for fifteen months. and now they have been flooded out of it, and no one can say when they will be able to resume work. The report to which I have referred states that -
In spite of the fact that the colliery had been closed since March 2, Newcastle Wallsend Coal Co. for the year ended December SI last paid a dividend of 9 per cent ‘ It was 10 per cent for the previous year.
The expense of maintaining the colliery in a state of efficiency involved the company in a loss of £11,295 for the year.
To extinguish the loss and pay the dividend of £2,600, £33,795 was withdrawn from reserves.
After payment of that amount there are reserves and undivided profits of £189,214.
In spite of the fact that the colliery was closed for the whole of the twelve months under review, this company could still draw more than £33,000 out of its reserve fund to pay a dividend of 9 per cent. !
The’ Coal- Commission found that the colliery-owners adopted a wrong attitude in the recent dispute. A paragraph from its report states - - The action of the proprietors in closing tha mines as they did was in direct conflict with the statutory principles of compulsory arbitration and in complete disregard of the interests of the community … It cannot be contended truthfully in the light of the accounts which are now before this Commission, that all the proprietors in question were not financially capable of compliance with the awards.
The accounts submitted to the commission included charges which the miners regarded as entirely unreasonable. Yet the workers were brought to the point of starvation by the coercive action of the New South Wales Government before they could be forced to accept a wage below the award under which they had been working.
I understand that this bill goes as far as the limitations of the Constitution will permit the Government to go in an endeavour to improve our conciliation and arbitration machinery; but I trust that before long the Constitution will be amended sufficiently to enable the court to be clothed with the power it Undoubtedly should have.
The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) said that the coal-miner£ were not doing as much work as they should do, and that they were producing less than the workers in other industries, and less than the workers -in the same industry in other countries. But some figures quoted in The Economies of Australian Coal, by F. R. E. Mauldon, B.A., M.Ec, Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Melbourne, completely refute that statement. The writer shows that in 1925 the Australian coal-miners produced per annum per man and boy engaged in. the industry more coal than the coal-miners of any other country except the United States of America and Canada. In that year the output in New South Wales was 474 tons per annum. The average output per worker in the industry for the years 1920-27 inclusive was 481 tons in Australia, 722 tons in the United States of America, 861 tons in South Africa, 138 tons in France, 188 tons in Belgium, and 207 tons in the United Kingdom. That gives the lie direct to the statement that they go slow on the job. The figures I have given have been taken from the Statistician’s report and cannot be refuted. Probably some of the miners take exception to my attitude in . regard to arbitration ; but, - generally, they are prepared to depend on their industrial might and the efficiency of their organization to get, better conditions than the Workers in other industries who, because of poor organization, have to rely on the humanitarian instincts of an Arbitration Court judge. In that respect they are not selfish. They would not, for instance, attempt to bind me tb oppose arbitration. They themselves are not opposed to arbitration in principle so long as facilities axe provided for the hearing of their, grievances. The act under which they are registered should provide those facilities. ‘ I hope that in committee consideration will be given to the payment to be made to the judges. I am opposed to any judge having the power to reduce the ascertained basic wage unless his own salary is reduced accordingly.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that- it had agreed to the amendment made by the Blouse of Representatives in this bill. -
House adjourned at 10.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 18 June 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300618_reps_12_124/>.