12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Norman Makin) took the chair at 11 a.m. and offered prayers.
– Has the Minister for Defence arrived at a decision in regard to the suggested amalgamation of the Naval, Military and Air Boards.?
– Not yet. The suggestion has been frequently considered by the board, but it is regarded by them as impracticable. I shall, however, ask them to review the matter.
– Can the Minister for Markets and Transport say when the South Brisbane to Grafton railway will be opened for traffic? A promise was made that the line would be opened by the 1st August, but I understand that recent heavy rains have caused some delay.
– Arrangements had been made for the opening of the line on the 1st August, but on account of heavy floods the opening will not take place until approximately the 16th September.
– Will the opening ceremony take place at South Brisbane or Grafton ? Is the Minister aware that the engineer in charge of construction, Mr. Davidson, stated recently that the line cannot possibly be opened before October ?
– The official opening will probably take place at South Brisbane, and according to the latest information I have, about the middle of September.
– Has the AttorneyGeneral read the comments published in Smith’s Weekly on the association of the late Federal Treasurer, Mr. Theodore, with the Mungana leases? Will he ascertain whether that is the journal that paid for its dogmatism some four years ago in connexion with the Rofe case, and whether it is connected with the Daily Guardian which made allegations against tho honorable member for Eden-Monaro?
– I have not read the article to which the honorable member referred and am not in a position to comment upon it.
Investigation by Mr. Coleman.
– At what rate are expenses being paid to the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) during hig investigation of Australia House?
– At the same rate as he was paid as a delegate to the International Labour Conference. I shall let the honorable member know the exact figure.
– I ask the Minister for Trade and Customs when the report of the Tariff Board on the timber industry will be laid on the table of the House? The Acting Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) promised a fortnight ago to make the report available to honorable members.
– I understand that the report is now in the hands of the Government Printer, and as soon as it is available it will be presented to the House.
– As the Prime Minister promised that before the Tariff Schedule was debated all relevant reports by the Tariff Board would be made available to honorable members, will he see that that undertaking is honoured?
– I gave that undertaking and am endeavouring to honor it. I asked the Assistant Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Forde) to instruct his department to expedite the printing of the reports. I understand that about a soore of them are almost completed, and I hope that they will be available, as I think they should be, before the general debate on the tariff commences.
– Will the Treasurer say when the proposed sales tax will be brought into operation ?
– As soon as the necessary legislation is passed and proclaimed.
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that it appears to have been the custom for nearly all heads of departments to specify imported timbers in connexion with the requirements of their respective departments, will he direct that in future only Australian timbers shall be used on all Government works?
– I am advised by the Department of Works that it is already the practice to specify Australian timbers wherever practicable for Commonwealth works, but that, in certain cases which are, however, not numerous, where suitable Australian timber is not available, imported softwoods are used.
asked the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The information will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Jamaican Preferential Tariff
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime
Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished to the honorable member as soon as possible.
Grants to South Australia
asked the the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Is the Government in a. position to make available to the South Australian State Bank money for the purpose of the Commonwealth housing scheme; if so, what amount can be made available?
– I regret that, in view of the reduced loan moneys available this year, it is at present impracticable for the Commonwealth Treasury to provide funds for the purposes of the Commonwealth housing scheme in South Australia or in any other State.
asked the Minister for Markets and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Postmaster-General’s Department is not prepared to apply a policy of preference to returned soldiers in the matter of dismissals?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That the House at its rising adjourn until 10 a.m. to-morrow.
WAYS AND MEANS (Formal).
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - proposed.
– I draw the attention of the House to a circular issued by the Government, offering to the Duntroon Military College cadets employment in the Public Service upon certain terms. Whilst in these days of retrenchment it is gratifying that surplus cadets are to be absorbed in the Public Service, the Government is not justified in imposing upon these young men humiliating conditions and offering insignificant rates of pay. The circular reads -
Informationhas been received from Army Headquarters (Military Board S.523 of, 20th June, 1!)30) that certain vacancies exist in the Commonwealth Public Service for Staff Cadets of the Royal Military College.
Minimum pay, on appointment, to the Commonwealth Public Service is as follows: -
At 18 years of age £126.
At 10 years of age £150.
At 20 years of age £174
At 21years of age £234.
The highest salary offered to these youths, who have had the benefit of a good education and training for some years at the Government’s expense in one of the finest military establishments in the world, is £4 10s. a week. I do not know of one award of the Federal Arbitration Court which prescribes such a miserable rate of pay. Moreover, is it fair that the Government should undermine the morale of the cadets by such a circular? They entered the college with the definite object of being appointed to the Permanent Military Forces upon graduation ; now they are to be side-tracked into Government departments and paid a miserable salary. One of the worst features of the circular is this paragraph -
Lower rates than those specified will be paid to appointees who do not join the relative Public Service Association within two months of date of appointment.
Could the Government propose anything worse than that these cadets should be forced to join unions and threaten them with less than award rates if they refuse? Of course this is in line with the Government’s policy of compelling public servants to join the unions on pain of blacklisting and victimization. The circular represents the same policy expressed in another way. These persons may also be denied appointment to the Civil Service unless they join a union within two months of their appointment.
– What is wrong with that?
– There is nothing wrong with it from the point of view of the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham). When these lads have become members of trade union organizations, the contributions from their slender pay will be devoted towards putting into Parliament such persons as the honorable member for Gwydir. It is not reasonable that those who take up a professional career in the army should be dragooned into a union in this way. I should like to hear what the Government has to say about it. Weha ve frequently heard from the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) how costly Duntroon is, and how much it takes to train each officer. I ask him, however, whether he hasever given any thought to the credit side of the work of the college, to the value of the men whom Duntroon has produced. There is not a military academy in the world with higher traditions than those of the college here in our own Federal Capital Territory. We know that the academies of Sandhurst and Woolwich have older traditions, but their graduates have no better record for service and devotion to their country than have those who have been trained at Duntroon. It is now proposed to undermine the whole spirit of the college by requiring these lads to bow the knee to trade union officials. They must submit their names for inclusion in the list of. members, and trade union officials will determine whether or not they are worthy to be admitted to a union. They must bring along their subscriptions and, as often happens in such cases, submit to being told what an excellent party the Labour party is. I protest against the issue of this circular, and the humiliating conditions it imposes on the trainees at our military college.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Soullin) adjourned.
In committee: Consideration resumed from 9th July (vide page 3932).
Section 40 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from paragraph (a) of subsection (1) the words, “other things being equal “.
Section proposed tobe amended -
.- I expected that the Attorney-General would give some reason for introducing this very important amendment, the effect of which is to make it possible for a court or a conciliation commissioner to order absolute preference to unionists in an industry. The bill, as originally introduced, did not propose to confer this power on a conciliation commissioner, though it might be exercised by a judge. There are now two amendments before the committee, the first of which proposes to confer this power upon conciliation commissioners, while the second proposes to strike out from the section the words “ other things being equal.” The only reason I can assign for the Government’s action is that it proposes in practice to remove from the discretion of the judge, the power to grant preference to unionists. In future the exercise of this power is not to be reserved to judges only; it may be exercised by one of the conciliation com- missioners to be appointed by the Government. I have no hesitation in saying that in this regard it should be competent for Parliament to indicate the lines on which discretion ought to be exercised, leaving the exercise of that discretion entirely to the person appointed for the purpose. I do not know whether honorable members realize what is being dono by the series of amendments which have been introduced. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act, as amended in 1928, contained provisions for the appointment of conciliation commissioners by, the Chief Judge, not by the Government. They were to have power of conciliation only, not of arbitration. They could recommend an award, but not make one. It is now proposed that conciliation committees shall be appointed by the government of the day, and their personnel determined by the government, not by the Chief Judge. These committees are to have powers of arbitration, not of conciliation only. Under new section 33, which was’ passed last night, once a conciliation committee has been appointed to deal with a dispute, the court and judges are warned off, and may not deal with any aspect of that dispute. The effect will be, under this bill, if passedinits present form, that the government of the day will be able to determine the personnel pf the tribunal, and no industrial dispute need go before the judges at all. That has a bearing on section 40, which deals with preference to unionists. If fhe bill goes through in its present form, it will, as I have said, be possible for the government, of the day to determine the personnel of a conciliation committee, and under section 40 as proposed to be amended, it will be possible for that committee, presided over by a conciliation commissioner, to grant absolute preference to unionists: Section 40 is as follows : -
– (1.) The Court, by its award, or by order made on the application of any organization or person bound by the award, may -
The section provides for giving preference to employers who are members of an organization, as well as to employees. But that, of course, has no meaning whatever so far as employers are concerned. At present the act confers upon the court power to direct that as between two persons offering for employment, preference shall be given to a member of an organization, other things being equal. It cannot be said that the words “other things being equal” are meaningless, otherwise it would not be proposed now to remove them from the act. Why is it proposed to remove them ? For one purpose only, to give power to a conciliation commissioner, in particular, to order absolute preference to trade unionists. I believe that the court ought to have power to prevent unjust discrimination against unionists, and partial provision to this effect is contained in section 9 of the act. Of course, all discrimination against unionists may not be unjust. For instance, the members of the Waterside Workers Union refused to work at some ports under the terms of the award. They were warned that if they did not do so, other men would be engaged in their places, and it was necessary to give such men some guarantee of employment. That is a different principle altogether from granting absolute preference to unionists. The effect of this amendment will be that if “ A “ who is a unionist, and “ B “ who is a nonunionist, apply for a job, it must be given to “A” even though “B” is a highly skilled tradesman, and “ A “ is entirely incompetent. I do not say that the amendment’ itself will directly produce that effect, but the clause proposes to confer power on a conciliation commissioner as. well as on a judge to make an order under which the result which I have stated can be brought about. That is the object of the amendment, and the only object it can have.
What is the effect on an industry when preference to unionists operates in an absolute form? Men have frequently told me of the difficulty they have had in getting jobs because, for some reason or other, the union secretary does’ not put them high enough up on the list. I shall mention a particular instance. In the hey-day of the Seamens Union its members bad absolute preference, not under any awards, but because of its own strength. What happened ? Union officials absolutely dictated which men should get certain jobs, while others could never obtain employment. If a ship wanted four men there would be the usual pick-up such as I have seen again and again in the yard of the Mercantile Marine offices in Melbourne. Scores of men would be in attendance and there would be a call for four men for a particular ship. But only four men out of the scores present would dare to offer their services. Those picked up were the persons whom the union secretaries or vigilance officers had selected for the work. That practice was in existence for years.
– Does the Leader of the Opposition suggest that scores of men were bossed by one official ?
– Yes, and that happened in every instance. It is a matter of public knowledge that during the heyday of the Seamens Union men were selected by union officers for particular vessels, and no others could obtain work on the ship. There are other industries in which the same thing is happening to-day.
– The Leader of the Opposition should name the other industries.
– I have named the Seamens Union as a very good example, and the facts which I have disclosed cannot be denied.
– There are members of the organization of which the Leader of the Opposition is a member, who cannot obtain a job.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Order! I would remind-
– Some members of the legal profession are prevented by others from obtaining professional work.
– I remind the honorable member for Gwydir (Mr. Cunningham) that interjections are at all times disorderly, but particularly so after the Chairman has called for order. Interjections must cease.
– The point I am making is that these amendments render it possible for an order to be made by a conciliation commissioner. It is useless saying that they mean anything else. These amendments make it possible for the court or a conciliation Commissioner to make an order for absolute preference to unionists. It places in the hands “ of union officers the power to control absolutely the workers of this country. If this power is exercised, men will have to join a union in order to earn a living.This, of course, means that union officials will have power to determine who are and who are not to be employed. The Government has introduced a system of preference to unionists in the Commonwealth Public Service which will be controlled, not by the Public Service Board, but by an organization which will have the authority to determine which applicants shall be weeded out. Unless a public servant is a member of an organization his opportunities will be very limited. Whilst unjust discrimination against unionism must not be countenanced, and must be frowned upon and prevented as far as the law can prevent it, there is no justification for these amendments of the law which, if the powers under them are exercised, will result in the workers of this country being dominated by union officials in the particular industry in which they are engaged. I strongly oppose the clause.
That after the word “ amended “ the following be inserted: - “ - (a), by omitting from sub-section (1.) the words ‘ ‘ by its ‘ and inserting in their stead the words ‘ or a conciliation commissioner by its or his ; (b)
These amendments bring the act into line, and give to the conciliation commissioners the full arbitral powers to which I have referred on more than one occasion. When this clause was called on, the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) expected me to give some reason for its acceptance. Honorable members who have, perhaps, been more interested in listening to what I have had to say than some honorable members opposite, will have observed that on three or four different occasions I addressed myself to this particular clause. In moving the second reading of the bill, and in replying to the debate on the motion for the second reading, as well as on other Occasions, I have explained its meaning. I am sorry that in discussing this clause the Leader of the Opposition should have indulged in what can best be described as soap-box declamation. His utterances have contained a strange and regrettable number of inaccuracies as to the effect of the proposed amendments now before the committee. The Leader of the Opposition said that this clause makes preference to unionists absolute. I have heard that repeatedly during the course of this debate, and, occasionally, it has been said that the clause makes preference to unionists mandatory.
– I did not say that.
– As I particularly noted the words of the Leader of the Opposition who said that this clause makes preference to unionists absolute, I cannot accept his recollection of what he said on that point.
– That is a gross misrepresentation of the position. I said that the effect of the clause would be to make preference to unionists absolute.
– As one who occupies an important position, and as a prominent member of the bar, the Leader of the Opposition should not misrepresent the effect of the provision as he did.
– At least he knows something about the bill.
– He knows more about it than the Attorney-General, as was shown last night.
– I do not claim to possess extraordinary knowledge or capacity in regard to these matters. I do not assume a dictatorial attitude, but I do know the effect and meaning of this clause. I shall not allow the garrulous member forWarringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) or the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) to misrepresent the Government in regard to what is plain English, I appreciate the fact that the honorable member for Warringah has not made himself familiar with the clause. I know that he has read the comments which have appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald and other newspapers. At certain social gatherings he brings tears to the eyes of his listeners when he repeatedly declares that the iniquitous Labour party proposes to make it, absolutely impossible for non-unionists to obtaina job.
– Is not this a lot of rubbish ?
– The Minister should again consult Mr. Knowles concerning the real effect of this provision.
– If I should confer with that gentleman I would be speaking with some one who knows a great deal more about the bill than I or honorable members. The section as amended omits the words “ other things being equal “. The Leader of the Opposition overlooks the fact that it is the judge who awards that preference may be given-
– And conciliation commissioners.
– That is what I said.
– I direct your attention, Mr. Chairman, to the fact that owing to the interjections of honorable members opposite it is impossible for me to hear what the Minister is saying.
– I ask honorable members on both sides of the chamber to cease interjecting.
– The Minister is provocative.
– It is most discourteous to interrupt the Chair. On more than one occasion the honorable member for Warringah has offended in this respect, and if he does so againI shall be compelled to take extreme action.
– The history of preference to unionists is long and interesting. I feel that, in speaking of it, I ought to pay tribute to great men who, although not members of the Labour party, subscribed unhesitatingly to the general principle of preference to unionists ; I refer to such men as Deakin, Barton, Higgins, Isaacs, Quick, and others. They temperately and logically pointed out that, if we were to implement a system of arbitration which fixed a minimum wage, it was obvious that a policy of preference to unionists should follow. If that were not so, the employer would naturally, in almost every instance, exercise discrimination against trade unionists,so as to escape from the onerous consequences of awards. The proposition is so obvious and logical that there is no possible escape from it, except the escape that is made for political purposes under a smoke- screen of misrepresentation and party politics.
– That is exactly the kind of remark that the Attorney-General objects to other persons making.
– I object to anybody saying that of mo if I can prove that it is unjustified, and I say it of nobody unless I am in a position to prove it up to the hilt. When the Leader of the Opposition follows the bad example of more irresponsible members who have already spoken, and says that this clause makes preference to unionists absolute or mandatory, it is time to denounce such a statement as very nearly approaching deliberate misrepresentation of the facts.
– I did not make that statement, and the Attorney-General knows it. He has prepared his speech beforehand, and bo insists on making it accordingly.
– No; if I had prepared it beforehand it would probably not have been such a good speech. My remarks have been inspired by the observations of the Leader of the Opposition. When the first Arbitration Bill was introduced in 3903, provision was made for preference to unionists. That bill was not passed into law. The Arbitration Act has had a somewhat tragic history, politically speaking. Parliament was dissolved in 1903, but the bill was introduced again in 1904, with further provisions for preference to unionists.
– What were the terms of the proposal in that year?
– Clause 48 of the 1 904 bill reads as follows : -
The Court, by its award, or by order made on the application of any party to the profeedings before it, at any time in the period during which the award is binding, may -
prescribe a minimum rate of wages or remuneration, with provision for enabling some tribunal specified in thea ward or order to fix, in such mannerand subject to such conditions as are specified in the award or order, a lower rate in the case of employees who arc unable to earn the minimum wage so prescribed :
direct that as between members of organizations of employers or employees and other persons offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall bc given to such members, other things being equal; and
appoint a tribunal to finally decide in what cases an employer or employee to whom any such direction applies may employ or be employed by a person who is not a member of any such organization.
– Is that the form in which the clause was passed?
– No. It was amended by the House of Representatives to read as follows : -
The Court, by its award, or by order made on the application of any party to the proceedings before it, at any time in the period during which the award is binding, may -
proscribe a minimum rate of wages or remuneration, and in that caso shall on the application of any party to the industrial dispute; or of any organization or person bound by the award make provision for enabling some tribunal specified in the award or order to fix, in such milliner and subject to such conditions as are specified in the award or order, a lower rate in the case of employees who are unable to earn the minimum wage so prescribed; and
direct that as between members of organizations of employers or employees and other persons offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall be given to such members, other things being equal; and
appoint a tribunal to finally decide in what cases an employer or employee to whom any such direction applies may employ or bo employed by a person who is not a member of any such organization.
Provided always that before any preference to members of organizations is directed as aforesaid the President shall by notification published in the Gazette and in such other publications, if any, as the Court directs, specifying the industry and the industrial matter in relation to which it is proposed to direct such preference, make known that all persons and organizations interested and desirous of being heard may on or before a day mimed, appear or he represented before the Court;and the Court shall in manner prescribed hear all such persons and organizations so appearing or represented.
And provided further that no such preference shall be directed to bo given unless the application for such preference is in the opinion of the Court approved by a majority of those affected by the award who have interests in common with the applicants.
In any case in which the Court directs that preference shall be given it may subsequently suspend or qualify the direction for such time or subject to such conditions as it thinks fit if, in the opinion of the Court, the rules of the organizations are burdensome or oppressive or do not provide reasonable conditions for admission to or continuance in membership or that the organization has acted unfairly or unjustly to any of its members in the matter of preference.
An amending bill was introduced in the House of Representatives in 1910, when a Labour Government was in office, and it contained a clause repealing section 40 and substituting another which I shall read. This matter should be interesting to my friend the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), because, so far as I know, to him belongs the credit of introducing the only bill making preference to unionists mandatory. The new section was as follows: -
The court, by its award, or by order made on the application of any organization or person bound by the award, may prescribe a minimum rate of wages or remuneration, and in that case shall, on the application of any party t.o the industrial dispute, or of any organization or person bound by the award -
make provision for fixing, in such manner and subject to such conditions as are specified in the award or order, a lower rate in the case of employees who are unable to earn the minimum wage so prescribed; and
direct that, as between members of organizations of employers or employees and other persons offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall be given to such members, other things being equal.
The section was subjected to a good deal of criticism in the House of Representatives on the ground that it was probably unconstitutional, and a new clause was introduced providing for preference to unionists in the terms in which the section has remained practically ever since. That is the history of the matter. So we have had preference to unionists for many years, and the principle has been defended by great men other than labour representatives. Only on one occasion was the principle submitted as a mandatory preference, and that was done by the right honorable member for North Sydney during the term of the Labour Government that held office in 1910.
I now come tp the proposal in this clause for the deletion of the simple words “ other things being equal.” My objection to those words is based on exactly the same ground as my objection to the terms “ economic effect “ and “ public interest.” It is not right to limit the discretion of a judge by words which, if they suggest anything, have a doubtful and ambiguous meaning, and, if they are noticed at all, may lead to all sorts of controversy in the High Court and elsewhere.
– Is it not a fact that a judge is required by section 25 to act according to equity, good conscience, and the substantial merits of the case without regard to technicalities? Does not that appear to require him to either give preference to, or discriminate against unionists ?
– Possibly, and I do not desire that the wide charter of his discretion should be taken away. The principle of preference to unionists, I think, goes back to the very beginning of arbitration. It is the fundamental consideration to be observed in the fixation of the minimum wage.
– And yet there is not a single award at the present day which gives preference to unionists.
– The Leader of the Opposition has observed rightly; that arises partly from the intensive union organization of our day. There is not one single award which gives preference to unionists after all these years. And that fact is my answer to the honorable gentleman who, apparently, sees the seed of revolution in this action by the Government.
– I want to see absolute preference to unionists in all awards.
– The other day I pointed out the principle upon which preference was most sparingly given by the court. In his work,The New Province for Law and Order, the writer lays it down that preference will only be given where there is discrimination against unionists. That practice remains. We know that in fact we have not had preference. On the contrary, there has been discrimination against unionists. I cited the case of the waterside workers. I do not wish it to be inferred that I quarrel with the decision of the judge in that case. The act gives a judge this discretionary power. He has the right to withhold preference if in his opinion it is advisable to do so. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) has just said that his object is to secure absolute preference to unionists. I can well understand bis point of view. I share it with him, and I may add that if the fight was on in this chamber for absolute preference to unionists, he would not find me silent. He would find me urging the obvious, namely, that men who organize and pay into a fund for the purpose of establishing a standard of living that is worth having, are entitled to absolute preference in awards, as against men who skulk behind their fellow workers, and are not prepared to make any sacrifice, or to do anything for the uplift of humanity. But the fight is not on in this House. We have not reached that stage yet for the reason that we doubt our constitutional power to reach it. “ Butlet me tell my honorable friends opposite that the Government is not skulking behind any makebelieve proposal in this matter, nor is it afraid of the principle of absolute preference with necessary safeguards. But that principle cannot be insisted upon until the Commonwealth is vested with wider industrial power. Therefore, it is idle for the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) to talk about this mandatory preference in our legislation. The honorable gentleman will not get away with the statement with which he opened his speech this morning. I conclude by saying that in connexion with this clause, as with every other clause, we shall not put the court in leadingstrings, and we shall not insert phrases in the act for the purpose of promoting litigation. We leave the question of preference to unionists at the. present stage of constitutional power, in the unrestrained discretion of a judge. My one regret is that for over 25 years of Commonwealth history, unionists have not been, up to the present, able to get much, if anything, out of the section which provides that in arbitration awards preference may be given to trade unionists.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) has said that this provision has been in the Arbitration Act for very many years. I remind him that the words “ other things being equal” which this Government desires to delete from the section, were inserted in the original act in 1904, and apparently they have always been regarded as reasonable. Previous Labour Governments did not challenge them. It has remained for this Government to seek to amend the law by deleting those words. During my second-reading speech I gav an illustration which, I think will be repetition, showing what an excellent safeguard is provided by the words proposed to be deleted. A pastoralist wants his shearing done and is taking on men to do it. Among them is a unionist who he knows to be slow and inefficient. There is also a non-unionist known to him to be a fast and efficient shearer. The words “ other things being equal “ at present in the act safeguard that employer to the extent that even if the judge had awarded preference to unionists, the employer could refuse to employ an inefficient unionist and take on instead an efficient nonunion worker. But, if these words are deleted, as proposed, it will be possible for a judge or conciliation “ commissioner, to award absolute preference regardless of efficiency. The AttorneyGeneral has endeavoured to persuade honorable members that the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) towards the end of his remarks, correctedthe statement which he had made at theoutset. What the Leader of the Opposition really did was to explain more fully his opening statement. That this was also the opinion of honorable members sitting behind the Minister was evident from the fact that they were charging the Leader of the Opposition with being guilty of tedious repetition.
– The honorable member need not rush to the rescue of the Leader of the Opposition.
– There is no need for any honorable member to do that. The Leader of the Opposition is quite capable of defending himself. I hope that the fact will not be overlooked that the words, “ other things being equal “ were inserted in the original act, and that this Government is seeking to delete them so that absolute preference to unionists may be granted.
– I fail to see why honorable’ members opposite should object to this clause. One would think that preference to unionists was not observed in all the professions. As a matter of fact the members of the legal and medical fraternities have absolute preference to unionists in their callings. And yet honorable members opposite, some of whom belong to the professions named, would deny to the working men the right to form trade unions and demand preference in employment.
– In this bill the Government is discriminating against the legal profession and is legislating for nonunionists. If the measure is passed in its present form, lawyers will not be allowed to appear in the court.
– The original act gives preference to members of the legal fraternity. I have always been opposed to lawyers being allowed to appear in the Arbitration Court, and I voted against a clause in the first bill on that account. The graziers, and the employers in a number of other industries voluntarily give preference to unionists. Who is to say when other things arc equal? Members of the legal fraternity have frequently appeared in cases which they have been quite unqualified to conduct.
– There is no such thing as preference to unionists in our profession.
– And every person chooses his own doctor.
– The British Medical Association is the most exclusive of all unions.
– It only insists upon its members observing union conditions.
– Then why should the right honorable gentleman object to members of trade unions seeking similar protection? I well recollect that years ago the Kingston Government in South Australia bad to bring three medical practitioners from England to take charge of the Adelaide Hospital because of the extreme action taken by the doctors then practising in Adelaide. Something like that also occurred in Hobart.
– Will the honorable member say why the words “ other things being equal “ should be omitted ?
– We desire the Arbitration Act to work fairly and there fore we think that these words should be deleted.
.- In reference to the controversy which has occurred between the Attorney-General and the Leader of the Opposition, I wish to say that, notwithstanding my infirmity, I heard the Leader of the Opposition, say that the section itself as proposed to be amended would not make preference to unionists compulsory, but that that would be the effect of it. Reference was made by the AttorneyGeneral to a bill introduced years ago by the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) which provided f or absolute preference to unionists; that may be so, but the words, “other things being equal,” were in it. I am not fond of those words; but a mistake would be made by omitting them unless some other words were included to make the meaning of the section clear. I suggest that the words “provided such members be qualified for such service or employment” be inserted in place of the words “ other things being equal.” An employer should not be compelled to engage a man who is incompetent to do the work required of him. This discussion reminds me that in 1918, when I returned to Australia on a month’s leave after having been at sea for four years, I was invited to assist in the recruiting campaign, and I was provided with statistics which showed that S8 per cent, of the Australian Imperial Force were trade unionists. Where would the Australian Imperial Force have been except for trade unionists? I have been in favour of unionism all my life. A man should join a union covering his calling. But an employer should not be forced to give work to an incompetent person. If words to the effect that I have suggested were included in the section, the interests of all parties would be sufficiently safeguarded.
– I hope that the words “ other things being equal “ will be deleted. An honorable member opposite has been asked for a definition of the words. If we were to set out to explain them we should probably be obliged to enter upon a debate like we had yesterday on the meaning of “ economic effects “. One of the main objects of the ‘Conciliation and Arbitration Act is to encourage the organization of employers and employees with the object of promoting goodwill in industry. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) addressed honorable members some time ago on the subject of the payment of award rates to members of Public Service associations bc admitted that on the ground of equity preference to unionists could be defended.
– Ob, no; I said that there was something to be said for it, which is quite a different thing.
– The object of this bill is to make the machinery of arbitration and conciliation work more smoothly in the interests of both parties in industry. At the conference held in Melbourne, which eventually effected the settlement of the timber-workers’ dispute, Sir Robert Gibson, the chairman, said -
I want both parties to recognize that the industries of this country cannot be satisfactorily carried on excepting by the cooperation of the two great parties in industry, organized labour on the one hand and organized employers on the other. The organization of both parties is essential to the efficient and satisfactory conduct of industry in this country.
There are substantial reasons why preferonce to unionists should be granted. The employees have built up their unions in order to take advantage of the legislation passed by this Parliament. The memDei’3 of the union provide the funds necessary to carry on the union work, formulate all claims made on behalf of the employees in particular industries and submit them to, and conduct the case in, the court. Many trade unionists sacrifice practically the whole of their leisure time to union activities, while non-unionists spend their leisure in recreation. In these circumstances, preference in employment should be granted to unionists. The unions also provide their own advocate in the court, and he is usually a man drawn from their own ranks. They pay him as an officer of their organization, and not as a special advocate. Very few organizations of employees in Australia employ outside advocates to appear for them in the court. Throughout its long history, the organization with which I am connected, has never engaged an outsider to advocate its claims in the court.
– Then who is Mr. Cheney?
– He was a carter and driver who afterwards was appointed general secretary of the organization. He “> is not a paid advocate in the usually accepted sense of the word, but an officer of the union. If the court confers upon a union the power to police an award, upon the union devolves the responsibility for initiating proceedings against employers for breaches of the award. If the union has not the power to police the award, it is responsible for bringing to the notice of the Registrar of the court any breaches that may have been committed by employers, and, in addition, is responsible for any subsequent proceedings. I have had considerable experience of policing of awards, and I know that in nearly every instance of a claim being lodged by a union or proceedings being taken in the court for recovery of arrears of wages due to an employee, who is entitled to the benefits of the award, some specious pretext is raised by the employer for dismissing the employee concerned. The unionists are weeded out. The employer, by the exercise of his economic power to dismiss employees, is able to inflict hardship upon them and to prevent them from becoming members of a union. The only way in which we can safeguard the interests of unionists is to secure preference of employment for them. This clause does not, much to my regret, give absolute preference to unionists. It provides that the court or the conciliation commissioner may, in the interests of the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes, or for the public welfare, direct that preference be given to members of an organization. I could give honorable members instance upon instance of employers discriminating against members of trade unions.
– Like the honorable member did when he issued permits during the timber strike.
– The trade union movement issued those permits.
– The honorable member signed some of them.
– I did, and I would do it again.
– The honorable member’s action was contrary to the award of the Arbitration Court.
– We are entitled to strike, if necessary, in defiance of the law. Whenever the law transgresses fundamental human rights, I shall fight it ; and I should make no excuse or apologies for doing that. I do not recognize the right of any parliament or of any country to violate a fundamental human right.
– The honorable member is not fit to be in this Parliament.
– I can give instance upon instance of employers deliberately victimizing trade unionists, merely because they were entitled to the benefits of the award. The difficulty is to collect the necessary evidence to substantiate a case of discrimination in a court of law. One of the most difficult things to prove to the entire satisfaction of the civil court is victimization or discrimination under the operation of any industrial law. I shall quote one or two typical examples. There is a contractors’ award in operation in connexion with the Australian Workers Union. When the Wages Board rate was lower than the federal award rate no question as to whether a man was a unionist or non-unionist arose among the various municipal councils of Victoria. The councils were quite prepared to employ non-unionists. But when, as a result of a fall in the cost of living, the nominal rate under the federal award was lower than that under the State Wages Board, the . councils, in order to obtain labour at the lower rate, decided to grant preference to unionists. In another instance an employer at Bendigo actually supplied the Bendigo council with a man, horse and dray, for a certain job, at a rate less than the minimum rate prescribed under the award. The attention of the Bendigo Council was drawn to this anomaly, and it replied that it could not interfere since the law prescribed that it had to accept the lowest tender. When the council was informed that it was employing sweated labour, it promised to rectify the anomaly at a later date. Subsequently, when the council tried to insist upon the payment of award rates, the employer concerned prevailed upon his employees, who were non-unionists, to form themselves into a co-operative society. They then collectively and severally tendered for scavenging work for the Bendigo Council, and, to-day, there is, on1 that job a man of ‘twenty years of age receiving £2 a -week, when under the award he should receive a wage of £4 8s. a week. If preference to unionists were given, such a condition could not exist.
– Would the elimination from the clause of the words in question make preference absolute?
– It would not make preference absolute, but would enable us to bring the matter under the notice of the court, which would then be able to prescribe preference to unionists even against an individual employer. In another case a contractor for the Kew Council had a claim made against him for arrears of wages. Under the award we were required to supply, the names of the members of pur organization in this man’s employ, and gradually one by one those men were weeded out, until eventually there was not a single unionist employed by that contractor. Another contracting firm was engaged in the removal of furniture throughout Victoria, and even to the neighbouring States. Under the wages board system the firm was not compelled to pay travelling allowance. As a matter of fact the wages board at one time prescribed a wage of £2 15s. a week as against the federal award rate ‘of £4 6s. for the same class of work, irrespective of travelling allowance.
– On a point of order I ask whether the honorable member’s remarks are relevant to the clause under discussion ?
– I ask the honorable member to connect his remarks with the clause.
– I am showing the imperative necessity for preventing discrimination against unionists. When we notified that firm that one of .its employees was a member of our union, the employee concerned was dismissed within a few weeks. That firm to-day employs only non-unionists. That is an instance of discrimination. It was not until 1925, when a Labour Government- was in offi.ce, that we. succeeded in getting a wages board called together which fixed a higher rate of wages * and travelling’ allowance for that class of work. The honorable member for Perth . (Mr. Nairn) just now interjected that the employers were compelled to pay award rates to nonunionists. He may be speaking with a knowledge ofthe Western Australian industrial legislation, but let me inform him that he is entirely at sea in respect of federal awards. He, as a member of the legal profession, should know that federal awards do not apply to nonunionists. The employer has always been able to play off one worker against the other in an endeavour to get the unionist to ignore the award. If the employer instructs the non-unionist to do certain work he can refuse only at the peril of dismissal. As he is not entitled to the benefits of the award, he must carry out the command of his employer. A unionist would, under the award, have to refuse to carry out similar work.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
– The contention of the honorable member for Perth, that employers do not derive any advantage from the employment of non-union labour, may be sound so far as the Western Australian act is concerned. But under our federal awards that is not the case, because those awards do not apply to non-unionists in the employ of any respondent who is bound by them. The High Court settled that by a decision in the case of the American Dry Cleaning Company, of Adelaide.
– Does the honorable member suggest that any employer is paying less than award rates ?
– I not only suggest it, I definitely assert it. I say quite frankly that, if our awards could be policed as effectively as they should be, it would be found that scores of thousands of poun.ds are withheld every week from employees in every industry in this country. In one year alone, I, as secretary of the Melbourne sub-branch of the Carters and Drivers Union, as a result of private negotiations with the employers concerned, collected and eventually handed to the employees affected, arrears of wages aggregating £1,000.
– Largely by playing off one award against another.
– The honorable member is entirely wrong. Before we can claim anything on behalf of a member of our organization we have to notify the employer that the person concerned is a member of the organization. The employer is not compelled, under the terms and conditions of our award, to pay award rates until seven days after he has received notice that the person concerned is a member of the union. Then we have to give notice of our intention to inspect the books of that employer to ascertain whether the employee is being paid the award rates.
– Will the honorable member give the reason for the action that he took in the case of H. V. McKay?
– -That was at a period when the law provided that, unless a State law was inconsistent with a Federal iaw, it was valid. On that occasion action was taken, not by our organization, but by the Shops and Factories Department. It will thus be seen that the honorable member is quite at sea in his knowledge of the facts. The provision that we are now discussing is as much in the interests of employers’ as of employees; because, if preference is granted to unionists, the more decent employer, who is employing members of a trade union and observing the conditions of an award, will be protected against unfair competition, from employers who are employing non-unionists, and who are trying to secure cheap labour and to evade the terms and conditions of industrial laws.
– Cheap labour is not an issue. The employer has to pay a non-unionist as much as a unionist.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the matter. As I pointed out earlier in my speech, the wage that at one time was payable to a one-horse carter under a determination of the Victorian wages board was £2 15s. a week; and the rate fixed by the federal award that then applied to the same class of work, was £4 6s. a week.
– Does the honorable member know that non-unionists are getting more than unionists in the engineering trade ?
– I answered that assertion the other day. I showed that, although nominally the weekly rate was higher that that provided by the federal award, under the system of pro rata payments that prevail in that industry the men who are employed under wages board rates receive in the aggregate, throughout the year, less than is provided by the federal award. If the non-unionist wishes to prove the bona fides of his case, let him put his precepts into practice. Why does he seek employment in those sheltered industries in which awards are operating, directly as a result of the efforts of trade unionists? Plenty of employment is offering in non-sheltered trades, where unionism does not prevail, for those who wish to sell their labour in an open market. ,
– Supposing a mau is a tradesman and cannot secure admittance to a union?
– Let him go where he can prove, by his skill and his qualifications, that he is able to command the rates that have been secured as a result of the efforts of the trade union movement. When he demonstrates that, he will have some justification for preaching the cherished principles of non-unionism that ho professes. These men are not prepared to put their beliefs to the test; they wait until the trade unionists, by the use of intelligence, effort, time and money, draw up a log of wages and conditions, submit it to an industrial tribunal, prosecute the case before that tribunal, and obtain an award. Then they want to come along and claim all the benefits, without having shouldered any of the burden or responsibility.
– They want to be passengers on the union.
– That is so. I have submitted irrefutable facts, gleaned from my experience, to prove that employers victimize and discriminate against trade unionists. That should be sufficient to convince any impartial, fair-minded man, that a provision of this nature ought to be included in the bill.
.- The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) claims to be the sole author of the provisions of this bill. He is either so proud, or so jealous of it, that so far he has refused to alter even one word in it. He has laid particular stress on the two words “may” and “shall”, that appear in this clause. The presence of the former word, he contends, justifies the assumption that the court or the conciliation commissioner may allow non-unionists to work with unionists. On the other hand, however, the use of the word “shall,” makes it appear that it will be mandatory to employ trade unionists. The whole argument revolves round the words “other things being equal” - whether they should be retained or deleted. If those words mean anything, they mean efficiency. Many honorable members have endeavoured to explain what they may mean ; but it seems to me that no judge or conciliation commissioner can possibly be in a position to tell an employer whether a man is efficient or not. So soon as an award has been made, providing that preference to unionists shall obtain, employers will have no option but to take into their employ men who hold a union ticket. I do not believe that employers as a class object to trade unionists as such. I can appreciate the benefits that follow from being able to deal with unions rather than with disorganized labour. There is a good deal to be said for the fact that the unions go to a lot of trouble and expense to procure awards; and naturally they expect to reap the resulting benefit. If I were a wage-earner I would join a union; but I should like honorable members opposite to explain why, on so many occasions, unions have refused to admit men to their ranks.
– Those cases are very rare.
– They may be. There is a case in point - the Public Service organization. Honorable members know that recently the Government issued an order that any public servant who was not a member of a union should not be entitled to the benefit of any award. Quite a number of public servants applied to be admitted to this organization, but were told that their application could not be granted unless they paid arreas of dues dating back in some cases as much as seven years. Another objection is, that it is taken for granted that if a man belongs to a union he is necessarily a supporter, and must contribute to the politi- cal funds of the Labour party. These objections have not been answered. I wish to stress the fact that membership of a union does not necessarily imply that a man is either physically or mentally fit. If we are to have any regard for the welfare of industry, we cannot deny to the employer the right to employ those who he thinks are competent to do the work that they will be called upon to perform in an efficient manner.
– When have unionists been proved to be incompetent?
– Any employer who wishes to make his business successful endeavours to avoid the employment of incompetent workmen. It ‘ is unfair to say that, because a man is a member of a trade union, an employer must engage him whether he is competent or not.
– Generally speaking, the best workmen are members of unions.
– There are many good Avorkmen who, for various reasons, decline to join trade unions but as there are some 911,000 trade unionists in Australia, one would expect that the bulk of the good men would be found in those organizations. Throughout the debate on this measure, the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) has attached great importance to the powers to be granted to the conciliation commissioners, insisting that they should be practically equal to those granted to judges of the Arbitration Court. In the circumstances, it is but reasonable to retain the words “other things being equal.” The Government must realize the serious difficulties at present confronting Australia, and I cannot imagine that it would willingly injure industry in this country. By deleting these words from the act the Government is removing a safeguard that has been of advantage to industry.
Mr.Lewis - If those words were retained they would very likely prove a very fruitful source of litigation, as they would prevent the court granting preference to unionists.
– I do not think that the honorable member is right in his assumption. Honorable members opposite are never tired of pointing out that the great majority of trade unionists abide loyally by the awards of the court.
That affords the best evidence that uo great harm has been done to them by the activities of the judges of the Arbitration Court in the past. Apparently the Government desires to supersede the judges of the Arbitration Court by placing most of the conciliatory as well as arbitrary powers in the hands of the commissioners. I think that there is a good deal in the amendment suggested by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks). If the Attorney-General is dissatisfied with the words “other . things being equal,” he could include a provision in the bill that would give decent employers some protection, and not compel them to engage a man simply because he belonged to a union. There is no desire on. the part of honorable members in Opposition to damage the trade union movement, but we realize the necessity to provide a means whereby employers may continue their activities when industrial hold-ups contrary to the awards of the court occur. Surely no one would suggest that, because of the industrial trouble that occurred in the timber and waterside industries, the work of the country should have been held up until the parties to the dispute arrived at an agreement.
If tens of thousands of men see no reason why they should become trade unionists, it is eminently unfair to compel them to join organizations against their convictions. In the interests of industry, employers should be permitted to decide for themselves whether a man is competent or not. Surely it is evident that mere membership of a union does not enhance the value of an operative.
Mr. west (East Sydney) [2.34].- In an endeavour to expedite the business of Parliament, I purposely refrained from speaking on the second reading of this bill. I have listened attentively to a number of honorable members who have had actual experience in Arbitration Courts giving us the benefit of their knowledge. My mother made me realize very early in my career the advantages of conciliation and arbitration as a means of effecting peace and goodwill toward men, and I have never ceased in my advocacy of that ideal. If we could only inculcate them in the minds of honorable members of this Parliament the people of Australia, would enjoy monumental benefits.
It is remarkable that men, even after being appointed to responsible and repre-sentative positions, should remain inordinately selfish. That unfortunate characteristic has been prominently displayed by a number of honorable members opposite during the debate on this bill: I remind them that many of their number are ‘members’ of organizations which are in every way comparable with watertight trade unions. As soon as, they enter the university,, professional men become members of a junior industrial, organization and, after graduation, they be. come fully fledged trade unionists, whether they belong to the medical, the legal, or any other profession. Is it not extraordinary, therefore, that they should become so abusive when referring to their fellow trade unionists in lesser walks of life? I point out that many of our industrialists occupy positions of trust in the community and, if they were members of this chamber, they would be regarded as intellectual giants. It is very interesting to trace the early activities of trade unionism. I have here a book, the only one of its kind in Australia, that was purchased in England, and sent to me by a friend who knew my interest in ‘the subject. It is entitled The Trade Unions, was published in 1876 and deals with the investigations of a commission that comprised the following representative gentlemen: -
Sir William Erie, the Earl of Lichfield, Lord Elcho, Sir Edmund Walker Head, Sir Daniel Gooch, Mr. Herman Merivale, Mr. Tames Booth, Mr. Roebuck, Mr. Thomas Hughes, Mr. Frederick Harrison, and Mr. William Mathews.
Each of those gentlemen was highly esteemed throughout the British Empire, and took an active part in its political and social life. Following is part of the commission’s examination of Mr. Charles “Williams, general secretary of a plasterers’ society: - .
The royal commission had not only great difficulty in ascertaining the precise objects of the trade unions in this inextricable blending of “trade” and “benefit” purposes, but when the “trade” element appeared clearly from the evidence to be the predominant object of trade unions, the difficulty of the com- mission became scarcely less to discover what this predominant trade object really implied. Mr. Charles Williams, general’ secretary of the’ plasterers’ society, centre in Liverpool, 128 branches, and 8,000 members, on’ being asked what the objects of his society were, replied:. - “Protection of trade,, burying our dead,, and relief in case of accident.’” As there was nothing in this case to show for burial or relief fund, Mr. Thomas Hughes, member of the commission, appears to have given up further query, and Mr. Roebuck assumed, the examination, which, in the concisest form, was as follows: - What dc you- mean by “protection of trade “ ? - Protecting it in the same way as I would protect property.
That explains nothing. What do you mean ? - Making the best of my property I can by ail legal means’.
That is, protection of property, but what is “ protection of trade “ ? - Simply seeing that there .are no undue encroachments upon it.
What do you mean by “ undue encroachments upon trade”? - A man taking away from me something he has no right to.
But what I. want to know, without illustration,, what your property here is? - I have learned a trade, that trade is my capital, and I have a right to protect it.
Is there any capital in labour? - Is there not? It is my capital.
A further perusal of the book discloses that the object of trade unionism even in those days, was to promote a high ideal in life, and to protect the interests of the worker. It is indicated that an ideal could not be attained if men remained individual units of a vast unorganized rabble. Perhaps I can speak on thissubject with greater authority than most honorable members. I learned my trade from A to Z, and was regarded as a good journeyman. Later, I was in businesson my own account as a master plumber for many years. Having had experience as master and servant, I can speak with more authority than can men who have been merely land jobbers or engaged in some other unskilled and obscure predatory occupation. At no period of Australia’s history was there greater need for preference to trade unionists. To-day,, owing to the formation of large corporations and combines, the employee has no personal knowledge of his employer; the boss is as much a foreigner as is a Russian duke. A corporation is entirely without humanitarian ideals or regard for those whom it employs. For instance,, journalists are intellectual men, but through the merging of the various newspaper proprietaries, the life of the working journalist will become intolerable, and. his conditions will revert to those that obtained in my young days. As unionists, however, they get some advantage, because when they change from one office to another they have the companionship and help of fellow members of their association.. Friendly relations between members of the staff is of advantage to the employer as well as to the employees, but friendship with a man who is not a member of the organization, who is, in fact, a blackleg, is impossible. In my young days moral persuasion was brought to bear on persons who would not join a union. During a strike in the building trade my fellow apprentices and I balanced bricks on a plank, and when a non-unionist who was likely to take the job of one. of the men on strike passed by, we released the bricks on his head. Such tactics will not be necessary if the proposal of the Attorney-General is agreed to. A man can join the plumbers’ union only if his proposer and seconder certify that he is a qualified tradesman. Similar qualifications are required of persons applying for membership of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, which is a world-wide organization. The legal profession enforces the principle of preference to unionists, and it is not easy to become a member of the lawyers’ union. I remember Mr. Wise telling me in the Athenaeum Club, in Sydney, on one occasion that when he went to Melbourne to appear in court on behalf of the banks, he had to pay’ a fee of fifty guineas for entrance to the local lawyers’ union. The medical profession also enforces preference to unionists. For many years’ I was: secretary of a friendly society, and I recollect that it was prevented by the British Medical Association from engaging exclusively a lodge doctor, although it was prepared to pay him about £1,200 a year. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) referred to the trouble in connexion with the Adelaide hospital many years ago. In that case an Adelaide medical man, on being asked to administer an anaesthetic for a surgeon who was not a member of the British Medical Association j said, “ I would not touch him with a 40 foot pole “. As in a profession, so too in a workship or factory, men cannot help1 or respect a fellowemployee who is not a member of the union. Whether a man be a member of a learned profession or an ordinary labourer) he is entitled to conserve- the interests of his occupation and protect certain ideals. If Australian conditions of labour are to continue to be a model for the rest of the world, they must be protected by organizations of workers. I remember that we used to refer to bank clerks as the collar and tie brigade. These men are as much in need of the protection of unionism as are any other ,men. Without organization they cannot resist the tyranny of the banking corporations. At one time the banks were so understaffed that clerks were engaged until late at night because they could not get through their work during the day, and the only allowance they received was ls. for tea. It* is in the interests of efficiency and harmony in industry that the employees should feel that they have a community of interest and common ideals. How can. any big business be run if the employees in it are strangers to each other and are without a common purpose? The founder of the Anthony Hordern business was possessed of commercial ability and humane feelings. Any employee who had been in his service for upwards of five years was assured of some pension. After the business was converted into a large company, with a capital of £7,000,000, a man who had been employed by the firm for 40 years, and was about to retire, said to the managing director, “ I suppose I shall receive treatment similar to that extended to other men who have retired before me’ “, and the reply was, “ No. This company has only been in existence for twelve months. You can go out on the scrapheap.” How can callousness of that character be resisted unless the employees are bound together for self -protection ? Some honorable members opposite referred to the possibility of employers being’ compelled to employ such persons as are nominated by trade unions. Let me inform honorable members that the best tradesmen are always members of their organization. In the building’ trade in Sydney, for instance, most employers have adopted a practice of applying to the union secretary for the labour they want, because they know that they can thus get reliable men. If by any chance,. an unsuitable man is sent in response to such an application, there is nothing to prevent the employer from paying him off at the end of the week. If the Arbitration Court and conciliation committees are to function successfully, this amendment is essential.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member’s time has expired, i
.- As I intimated during my second-reading speech on this bill, I intend to vote against every one of the Government’s amendments of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is the more necessary for me to define my attitude on this matter since my attention has been drawn to a p’assage from the speech which the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan), delivered in the early hours of last Friday morning, when I was absent from the House. There is in that speech a reference to myself, to which I desire to take exception. I was greatly astonished to learn that the Attorney-General expressed himself as he did. This is what he said -
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) questioned the mandate of the Government to introduce such legislation, but I was strongly impressed with the view that the honorable gentleman was considering, not so much .the mandate of the Government, as what should be his own fluctuating attitude in regard to this measure, supporting arbitration as he did with the, help and concurrence of Labour at the last election, and, opposing it in the House this evening.
That was a most unworthy statement to come from the Attorney-General, when he knew full well what my real position was regarding arbitration during the last election, and the terms upon which I received the support of the Labour party. I thought that I had made my position in that regard clear beyond any possibility of misapprehension. It was understood that the support of the Labour party was given to me solely because the Labour party agreed with my attitude on the specific industrial proposal brought down by the last Government. Nothing was said about the nature of the amendment to be made to the Arbitration Act, if any amendment were to be made at all. Therefore, I was at full liberty, when proposals for amending the. act came forward for consideration, to exercise my own judgment. The Attorney-General knew that, and knows it now. He had no right to suggest to the House that my attitude on this subject has been fluctuating, and that I was at a loss to know what to do, because of the support I received from the Labour party during the last election.
– I know that if the honorable member had opposed these amendments during the last election campaign, he would not have been here today.
– These amendments were never suggested before the last election. I discussed the subject of the support I was receiving from the Labour party with members of that party, and never was any mention made of proposed amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The support of the party was given to me on the ground that I opposed the proposals of the Bruce-Page Government to vacate the field of federal arbitration.
– What does the honorable member think the Prime Minister meant when he said that the Arbitration Act would be amended along the lines of the Industrial Peace Act?
– I had nothing to do with that. I made my position clear at the time from the public platform. The Labour party told me that they had opposed me in the past, and would oppose me in the future; that they were supporting me at that election upon one ground, and upon one ground only. I challenge the Attorney-General or any one else to point out to me in what way my attitude towards arbitration has fluctuated. In regard to the clause now under discussion, I wish to make it clear that I am not a believer in preference to unionists.
– Does the honorable member believe in preference to non-unionists ?
– No. I believe that if a job is offering the best man available should get it. At the moment, however, I am concerned, not so much with the principle of preference to unionists, as with the restriction to be imposed upon the power of a conciliation commissioner or a judge. One of the objections taken by the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks), and by honorable .members ou the Government side of the House, is that the words “ other things being equal “ are too vague ; that they impose an additional burden on the court; and that they will be difficult to construe. That objection has never been taken before, so far as I know. On the 1st May the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) whether, from the forms of contract for work done under the auspices of the Works and Railways Department, the clause providing that preference should be given to returned soldiers had been deleted. The answer given by the Prime Minister on that occasion is worth considering. He said that the Government had been giving consideration to the prevalence of unemployment, and was anxious that there should be as fair a distribution of the available work as possible. He said that the instructions issued to the department were that in carrying out work preference should be given- other things being equal - first to returned soldiers and sailors who were members of a trade union; and secondly, to members of trade unions. That constituted a recognition of the principle that preference’ should be given only if other things were equal.
– That was only done so as not to disturb the existing practice.
– Surely a responsible Government must realize its responsibilities when giving instructions regarding the distribution of work. Does the honorable member suggest that the Government used those words “ other things being equal “ in an irresponsible way, simply repeating them because they had been used before? I maintain that the use of those words by the Government on that occasion was a distinct recognition of the justice of such a restriction being imposed.
– If the Government did not desire to disturb the existing practice then, why does it propose to do so now?
– Exactly. Honorable members must realize the pertinence of the interjection of the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart). Why disturb the existing practice here, when the Government shrank from disturbing it there? It is futile to argue that the provision ought to be. deleted because it is hard to understand. The phrase “other things being equal “ is in common use, and the principle it embodies is one upon which honorable members themselves act practically every day of their lives. Suppose a man goes into a shop to buy a hat. One of his principles is that he should give preference to Australianmade goods. Two hats are submitted to him. He examines them carefully, and as to shape, size, fit, style, and finish he can find nothing to choose between them. But he looks inside the hats, and he finds that one was made in Australia, while the other was made in England. Immediately his principle of preference for Australian goods enables him to choose the Australianmade hat. But, if the imported hat were distinctly better in shape, style and finish, he would select that, because his preference for Australian goods is exercised only when other things are equal.
– The honorable member is referring to an inanimate object.
– But the principle is the same. In the interests of industry itself it is desirable that the best available men should be employed.
– What would the honorable member do with men who are not endowed with sufficient talents to obtain work under such conditions?
– Provision is made in the act for the court to grant a lower rate of wage in respect of men incapable of earning the ordinary wage. I am prepared to give the judges and conciliation commissioners limited power togrant preference to unionists; but not the unlimited power which the Government proposes to give them. Honorable members opposite desire the judges and conciliation commissioners to have unrestricted power to grant preference.
– Hear, hear!
– One danger in. granting this unrestricted power is that the conciliation commissioners are to be drawn, according to honorable members opposite, from the ranks of those who are well versed in the details of the particular industries with which they will be required to deal. As I pointed out in my second-reading speech, such men, whether they come from the ranks of theemployers or the employees, may be suspected of bias. I am not prepared i<s- clothe such persons with unrestricted power to grant such absolute preference to unionists as the Attorney-General desires to prevail.,
– The honorable member’s union is a close corporation.
– Honorable members opposite seem to be labouring under an extraordinary misapprehension in regard to the union of members of the profession to which I belong. There is no such thing as preference to unionists in my’ union. Honorable members who support the Government wish to provide that any work available must be given to persons who are unionists. That is not the case in our union. We are employed by the public, and there is no obligation on any person to engage a member of our union. The position is that, upon a man becoming qualified to practise as a lawyer, he may join the Bar Association or not, just as he pleases. Some lawyers join it, and some do not.
– But the lawyers who do not join it are ostracized by those who do.
– That is not so.
– Would the honorable member appear in a case with a barrister who was not a member of the Bar Association ?
Honorable members interjecting-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I ask honorable members to cease interjecting, and remind the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) that interjections are disorderly, and that he should address his remarks to the Chair.
– The attitudeadopted by members of the Bar Association is quite different from that adopted by the members of trade unions. A member of a trade union will not work in the same building as a non-unionist if he can help it, whereas a member of the Bar Association will appear in the same case as a non-member, of it, though not on the same side. Members and non-members work together in our association.
– The honorable . member means that they work against each other..
– In a sense that is true ; but both members, and non-members who appear in a particular- case work together to assist the court to reach a conclusion. If the members of a trade union refuse to accept work on a particular job they take all kinds of steps to prevent non-members from accepting it ; but if a member of the Bar Association will not accept work that is offered to him he does not object to non-members accepting it. Consequently we are not given a preference.
I was interested in the attitude adopted by the honorable member for Wentworth. He desires the Attorney-General to accept an amendment, the effect of which would be that preference would be granted only to qualified’ trade unionists; but the honorable member gave himself away by admitting that if two men applied for work and one was more qualified than the other he would invariably give the work to the better qualified man. That is all that this section provides for at present. It is framed with the object of allowing a judge to give preference to unionists “other things being equal.” I am therefore of the opinion that it should be retained in its present form and that the words objected to by honorable members opposite should not be excised from it.
.- The honorable member for Fawkner has objected to the Attorney-General’s statement that he has a fluctuating mandate; but the honorable member’s speech may lead one to substitute the words “ a roving mandate.” During the last election campaign he opposed the repeal of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, although it then contained a provision for the granting of preference to unionists. The honorable member did not at that time say that he was opposed to this principle.
– I do not necessarily believe in every principle of every act that I support.
– The honorable member, in opposing the repeal of the act, did not indicate that he excepted from his support the principle of preference to unionists..
– The question at that time was whether, the Commonwealth should,, or should not, evacuate the field of industrial arbitration.
– The repeal of the act was the issue. The issue before us at present is not whether the principle of preference to unionists should or not be retained, but whether a certain amendment should be made in the section of the act relating to it. In my opinion, the principle of preference to unionists in the logical corollary to the acceptance of the principle of unionism. I do not suppose that one honorable member in the committee would openly declare that he does not believe in trade unions, although I have heard statements from honorable members opposite whose names I cannot at the moment recollect which have led me to suspect that there is lurking in their minds a grave hostility to trade unions which they hesitate to declare courageously. I have not heard any honorable member say openly that the unions should be dissolved.
-Is the honorable member a mind-reader in that regard?
– A man’s mind is indicated to a certain extent by his overt acts which, although they may be ambiguous, nevertheless may lead one to think in certain directions, perhaps unjustifiably. It is recognized that if unionists and non-unionists are working together irritation and discontent ensue.
– It all depends on the place of employment. In some cases that system works admirably.
– That association of these two distinct industrial classes is recognized as a powerful cause of bitterness and discontent in industry-, and for that reason the principle of preference to unionists has been placed in this statute, which has for its object the promotion of good will and peace in industry. As the section stands at present, an award of the court would have to contain, as one of its terms, the words “ other things being equal,” because that is a statutory requirement. They are words, notwithstanding what the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has said, that are vague and indefinite, and the duty of interpreting them is not in the first place imposed upon the court or any tribunal. It is imposed upon the parties and individuals in industry. If an award contains the provision of preference to unionists “other things being equal” and a dispute occurs, how can there be any. hope of reconciliation between the employer and employee when the position is so vaguely expressed in the words “ other things being equal.” The mandate which the Government has in respect of arbitration, is to rid it of entangling legalism, and this amendment will free any awards granting preference from the entangling legalism of the words “other things being equal.”
– That is not a legalism. It is ordinary colloquial English.
– It is ordinary language, but it is of a vague and indefinite character about which there is room for the widest difference of opinion. It does not provide any finger-post indicating any common road which the employer and the employee may take in pursuit of the peaceful conduct of industry. The object of the amendment is to strike out the words “other things being equal.”
– With what object?
– With the object of making this legislation clear and definite, and more conducive to industrial peace and the prevention of wranglings and disputations between employers and employees. In objecting to the elimination of these words, honorable members opposite seem to be engaged in the remarkable feat of swallowing a camel and straining at a gnat. Many of the sections of this act vest the widest discretion in the court and the conciliation commissioner. They have power to-‘ make awards and to do many things of far more importance than the granting of preference to unionists. With respect to those more important matters, honorable gentlemen opposite have not seen fit to tie the court by any rigid direction, assuming, of course, that the words- “ other things being equal “ have some rigid and definite meaning. Honorablemembers opposite have not imposed control and regulation upon the discretion of the court with respect to many other matters. But when it comes to this comparatively minor matter, the power toaward preference to unionists, they seek to tie the court by a phrase which is indefinite and must lead to disputation. The clause as it stands does not provide a method of awarding preference to unionists without any regard to the circumstances. The clause says 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 offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall, in such manner as is specified in the award or order, be given to such members. The words “in such manner as is specified in the award “ authorize the court to mould its award of preference in accordance with its charter to act in accordance with equity, good conscience and the substantial merits of the case. The court is given great power over other matters, powers that are not controlled in any way. And yet honorable members opposite object vigorously to the excision of, these words in respect of the power to grant preference to unionists, which represents but a small addition to the jurisdiction of the court. I see no reason why the discretion of the court in this particular matter should be controlled and regulated ‘while it is given almost a roving jurisdiction in regard to other matters of far greater importance. The honorable member for Fawkner made reference to the instructions that were issued by the Prime Minister in regard to the granting of preference to returned soldiers) and he pointed out that the words “other things being equal” were included in those instructions. In issuing those instructions the Government was simply copying a certain formula already existing in this statute. It would be most absurd to omit those words from the instructions, thus leaving a public official absolutely uncontrolled, while at the same time the statute contained this control upon the exercise of the jurisdiction of the judge.
– Does the honorable member suggest that those words should be deleted from the clause relating to preference to returned soldiers?
– I am not arguing that. If those words were omitted from the instructions following their repeal by this bill others may have to be substituted so that fairness, equity, and good conscience should be observed by the officials in the administration of those instructions. I do not see anything very fatal in the objec tion raised by the honorable member for Fawkner. The honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill), I am sure, does not put into practice, in his political affairs, the protest which he now makes against preference to unionists. If it came to the selection of persons to do certain work in which honorable members opposite had some common interest I should be much surprised if the honorable member for Warringah favoured the appointment of any member of the Opposition, who would not belong to his political union, the Nationalist party: The honorable gentleman may have an associate in opposition, some honorable member of pre-eminent intellect and ability, but, “ other things being equal “ would be cast aside and that gentleman would be rejected if he did not happen to belong to the honorable member’s union. I wish to say a word or two about the lawyers’ unions which has been mentioned by honorable members. In New South Wales there is a Bar Council consisting of members of the New South Wales Bar. I believe that all members of that Bar are members of the Bar Council. The Bar elects an executive annually, and that executive, which is called the Council of the Bar, exercises the jurisdiction of defining questions of ethics and the proper conduct of the profession, yet the rulings of the Bar Council must be accepted by all members of the Bar. If a member of the Bar is not a member of the Bar Council he would not be heard if he pleaded that he was exempt from some rule of ethics that had been established or laid down by the Bar Council simply because he did not happen to belong to the association.
– I have listened patiently to the views of honorable members supporting the Government, and there are three matters only to which I need refer. Let me emphasize that the words “ other things being equal “, which, we contend, should remain in the act have been in it since the bill was introduced in 1904. There must, therefore, be some special significance in the desire of the Government to delete them. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) is anxious that preference of employment under the act should be reserved for unionists alone. On the other hand, we say that there is less objection to the principle of preference to unionists, so long as there is the qualification, “ other things being equal.” There is not an award in existence to-day in which provision has been made for absolute preference to unionists; although, in some cases, employers have agreed not to discriminate between unionists and non-unionists. Therefore, this is not merely a clearing away of legal entanglements; it is a matter of considerable importance, and should be given every consideration by the Government. I am in favour of trade unionism, and have never spoken against it. I believe that the. working man has as much right as the employer to combine for his own protection, and that he should have the opportunity to improve his conditions and endeavour to secure higher wages. I have always been of that opinion. But I go a little further, and say that he is not thereby entitled to special benefits of citizenship, nor should he be placed above other citizens.
Mr.Curtin. - It is not right that he should be penalized because he is a member of a trade union.
– He is not being penalized in any way. He is asking for benefits that are not given to other citizens in this free country; he wishes to occupy a position superior to theirs. It is not right that he should be placed in that position. A great deal of nonsense is talked about unions and the benefits for which they fight. In 99 cases out of 100, the benefits that trade unionists enjoy are not the result of their own efforts. When there is plenty of employment, trade unions are strong; but when it is scarce they fade away, and the utmost that their champions can do makes no difference. If trade unionists are to be placed in a favored position, why should they not pay all the taxation? Unionism has a legitimate place in the social and industrial life of this country; but it has no right to be tyrannous, and no government should give it the power to make itself tyrannous. This clause has a bearing on others, and once this pro vision has been taken out the effect will be widespread and serious.
The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) has taken up an unworthy attitude. During the course of his speech in a reference to the timber- workers’ strike, he mentioned a Mr. Cheney. That man said in the court that, if its decision were one which his union was not prepared to accept, and the union decided to take another course, he would carry out its instructions, even if they were against the law. To-day, that has been repeated by the honorable member for Corio. His attitude is curious, to say the least, seeing that, when he entered this Parliament, he took an oath to obey the laws of this country. Apparently, that’ fact does nob weigh with him. During the course of the timber-workers’ strike, the honorable member made the statement that he would break down the employers’ attitude in two or three days, and in the allocation of work would discriminate among unionists. He also issued permits, which these men were told to wear round their hats, indicating that they were privileged to drive their lorries while others were debarred from doing so. Such conduct is sufficient to condemn the Government and its supporters.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the question be now put.
Question put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the words proposed to he inserted (Mr. Brennan’s amendment) be so inserted - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative. Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Brennan) proposed -
That the following paragraphs be added to the clause: - . “(c) by inserting in paragraph (b) of sub-section (l.) after the word Court’, the words ‘or Commissioner ‘ ;
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - That the question be now put - put. The committee divided. (Chairman. - Mr. McGrath).
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the paragraphs proposed to be added be so added - put. The committee divided. ( Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Amendment agreed to.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - proposed.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) - That the question be now put - put. The committee divided. (Chairman– Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the clause, as amended, be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 16
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 32 (Board of Reference).
.- I desire to protest emphatically against the procedure being adopted by the Government in closing the debate on a bill which represents the Government’s at> tempt to give effect to the mandate it received from the people at the last election.
– I remind the right honorable member that the committee is dealing with clause 32.
– I intend to connect my remarks with the clause before the committee. Clause 32 authorizes conciliation commissioners to do certain work, and this, I maintain, is part of the Government’s attempt to carry out the proposals which it put before the people at the last election. This arbitration bill is essentially one which needs careful committee discussion. It has not been stonewalled by honorable members on this side of the House. If anything of the kind has been done, honorable members opposite and Ministers themselves are responsible. The clause under consideration proposes to introduce an entirely new principle into the Arbitration Act. A new personnel is to be appointed, and the cost of administration will be increased; yet honorable members are being denied the opportunity to address themselves to the clause. In 1927, when an amending arbitration bill was brought down by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), then a member of the Bruce-Page Government, the procedure was this : The bill was first introduced on the 15th December, 1927. It was- available for consideration by honorable members for six months, and then its discussion in this Parliament began. It was before Parliament from the 16th May to the 12th June, a period of four weeks. The measure was most exhaustively discussed, probably twice as many speeches being delivered on it as on this bill. That measure was not even one of the main issues at the previous election, while the bill now before us represents the principal plank of the Labour party’s platform at the elections last year. It contains four or five new principles not included in the present act, and it is proposed to delete from the act certain other provisions which have stood unquestioned for the last 26 years. I maintain that, at least when the committee is dealing with the clauses embodying those new principles and departures, the fullest opportunity for discussion should be afforded. At any rate, it is only proper that the leaders of parties in Parliament should have an opportunity of expressing their views on such vital clauses. I spoke to the Chairman to-day, and he said that he would call me at a certain time. I gave way to the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan), who said that he would occupy only a very brief time.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the right honorable member’s remarks are not relevant to the clause.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I have allowed honorable members a good deal of latitude in discussing this bill, but I must ask the right honorable member to confine his remarks to the clause. If he desires to make a personal explanation he may do so later.
– I have pointed out that several fundamental alterations in the principles of industrial arbitration have been made in this bill, which the Government had no mandate to make. The proposal in this clause that conciliation commissioners shall have the right to appoint boards of reference is one serious and unwarranted departure from existing principles. Another fundamental departure from existing principles was provided for in clause 7. The discussion upon that clause was so enlightening to the Attorney-General that he withdrew the bill for some days and framed certain amendments to it which greatly improved it. I feel that had we been given a proper opportunity to discuss the serious departure from existing principles provided for in clause 31, we might have been able to further enlighten the Attorney-General with a similar satisfactory result. But df we are not permitted to discuss these matters how can we inform his mind of the true facts of the case?
So far I have occupied only 70 minutes in all stages of the bill so I cannot be accused of wasting time. Ou principle, I speak as briefly as possible, and to the point when addressing honorable members, and I regret that I was denied the opportunity to discuss the issues raised by the last clause. It is surprising to me that the Government should even suggest that conciliation commissioners should have the power to appoint boards of reference as suggested under this clause; but the scope of the clause is wide enough to permit me to discuss the functions of the proposed board. The question may arise during the hearing of a matter by a board as to whether absolute preference to unionists should or should not be granted.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the right honorable member is not entitled to discuss preference to unionists under this clause.
– The remarks of the right honorable member are relevant to the clause.
– The section which it is proposed to amend provides that-
The Court, by its award, or by order made on the application of any organization or person bound by the award, may -
appoint, or give power to appoint for the purposes of the award, a Board of Reference consisting of one or more persons; and
assign to the Board of Reference the function of allowing, approving, fixing, determining, or dealing with, in the manner and subject to the conditions specified in the award or order, any matters or things which under the award or order may require from time to time to bc allowed, approved, fixed, determined, or dealt with by the Board or which may affect the amicable relations of the parties with reference to the award.
The amendment before the Chair seeks to give conciliation commissioners similar power. It seems to me that if one thing is more likely than another to interfere with the amicable relations of the parties it is the dragooning of workers into trade unions without definite safeguards. I wish to define my attitude towards trade unionism. I should have no objection to persons being obliged to join a trade union provided the interests of those individual parties were protected, and the general community fairly dealt with. I believe, however, that unionists should be qualified to do the work which they claim to be able to do. If qualified trade unionists are not available for a particular job,the work should be given to nonunionists. No job should be held up simply because qualified trade unionists are not available to do it. In this time of stress it is desirable that all possible work should be put in hand. The rules and regulations of trade unions should make it easy for persons to obtain admission to unions upon the payment of a nominal fee, and the levies imposed by unions should be reasonable, Members of a union should also be free to retire from it if they desire to do so, and in the event of their expulsion from it they should have the right of appeal. Trade unions should not be allowed to impose political levies upon their members, without their consent, for this might oblige people to subscribe to the funds of a political party for which they have neither liking nor respect. Union rules should provide for the holding of secret ballots in respect of the action of their executive officers and other matters. It should be encumbent on every trade unionist to maintain a fair standard of conduct. If this bill had made provision for these things I should not have offered the same objection to it.
.- I rise to express my astonishment, grief, and sorrow that the Labour party should allow section 40 to remain in this statute, for it is utterly inconsistent with what we have been told during the last twelve months was one of the fundamental principles of the party. If there was one thing more than another that
Labour members in the last Parliament objected to, it was the appointment of boards and commissions. They were unable, or would not attempt, to draw any distinction between one board or commission and another; all were entirely wrong and should be abolished. Yet it is now proposed that not merely a court, but a conciliation commissioner, shall be empowered to appoint a board of reference. No proposal could be more inconsistent with the view of Labour members of thelast Parliament - though the view was held with perfect unintelligence. There is to be a commissioner - wholly bad - who appoints a board - which is worse. In these circumstances this proposal is surely the limit of impropriety from the Labour point of view. But, after all, the retention of this provision shows that some members of the party, at any rate, realize that boards and commissions are not so radically vicious as they were once thought to be.
Mr.R, GREEN (Richmond) [4.42].- I have already protested against the appointment of conciliation commissioners, but feel that I must express my entire disapproval of the proposal that these commissioners shall have the power to appoint boards of reference, and particularly boards which will exercise such important functions as the “allowing, approving, fixing, determining, or dealing with “ any matter which may affect the amicable relations of the parties to an industrial award. These boards may approve of the application of certain nauseating principles to industry. I, for instance, regard the principle of preference to unionists as thoroughly objectionable. The Government, earlier in this session, turned a complete back somersault on the. question of preference to
Unionists. [Quorum formed.] How will it be possible to bring about amicable relations between employer and employee if the Government inserts in the act a provision granting preference to unionists? This is an attempt to give greater power to the union bosses.
– The honorable member does not believe in arbitration.
– I do not believe in the Federal Arbitration Court. I consider that it is the greatest curse that has ever been inflicted upon Australia. The Government turned a wonderful somersault on the preference to unionists clause. On a certain Friday it said that it was determined to stick to its guns, but on the followingWednesday it changed its mind and said that preference would be given to returned soldiers, not only in respect of new appointments, but also in respect of dismissals. ‘ This morning, in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister admitted that a certain letter had been sent to the Postmaster-General’s Department containing an instruction in total contravention of the promise previously given by the Prime Minister to honorable members.
– The honorable member does not Understand the position.
– We understand it only too well. It is for that reason that the Government and its supporters are not game to stand up to the criticism of the Opposition. That letter constitutes a gross betrayal of the promise given by the Prime Minister. It is a treacherous action on the part of the Government.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable member for Richmond has referred to the action of the G6vernmeht as being treacherous. I regard those remarks’ as distasteful, and I ask that they be withdrawn.
– If any honorable member felt that the remark of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) is, offensive to him personally, I would ask for a withdrawal; but I understand that the remark was of a general nature, not applying to any honorable member in particular.
– Does the honorable member intend to withdraw his remark?
– Certainly not.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member for Richmond to confine his remarks to the clause under discussion.
– Do I understand, Mr. Temporary Chairman, that you have called upon the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw the words which I consider are offensive to me? I would remind you that I have been called to order for using a less offensive term.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I have already said that, in my opinion, the statement of the honorable member for Richmond applied to the Government in general, not to any honorable member in particular.
– I do not consider, sir, that you have dealt with my point of order adequately. The honorable member for Richmond referred to a certain action of the Government as being dishonest and treacherous. That is an insulting remark, and I must insist upon its withdrawal.
– The Government is represented by a Minister at the table, and had he taken objection to the remark, I would certainly have asked the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I was otherwise engaged at the time, and did not hear what the honorable member for Richmond said. It therefore follows that I am not personally concerned in the matter. It is a matter between the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) and the Chair.
– I rise to a point of order. The remark of the honorable member for Richmond was offensive to me, because it inferred that I am behind a treacherous and dishonest Government. I ask that his remark be withdrawn.
– There is no necessity to pursue the point, and I shall regard any further reference to it as frivolous. I ask the honorable member for Richmond to continue his remarks.
– Do I understand that you, Mr. Temporary Chairman, have asked the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw his remark ?
– I have already pointed out definitely that if the Minister at the table had, on behalf of the Government, taken exception to the remark of the honorable member for Richmond I should have asked him to withdraw it.
– Then I desire to move dissent from your ruling.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.In that case the honorable member must follow the usual procedure. In the position which I am temporarily occupying
I have given a ruling which I consider reasonable and fair to every member of the House. Standing Order 228 reads -
If any objection is taken to a ruling or decision of the Chairman of Committees, such objection shall be stated at once in writing, and may forthwith be decided by the committee; and the proceedings shall then be resumed where they were interrupted.
– In compliance with the Standing Order, I propose to give notice of dissent in writing forthwith.
– Perhaps it would be as well for me to explain the position to honorable members. The honorable member for Richmond made reference to a “ dishonest and treacherous Government.” The honorable member for Cook took exception to that expression, and I ruled that, as there was a Minister at the table, it was that Minister’s place to take objection if he thought necessary; that the matter did not intimately concern a private member. The honorable member for Cook has dissented from my ruling, and has submitted the following motion -
That the Deputy Chairman’s ruling in deciding that the words “treacherous and dishonest,” as applied to the Government, are not disorderly if not objected to by the Minister, be dissented from.
– It is with much regret that I am obliged to move this motion of dissent. The honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) has applied to the Government the words “ dishonest and treacherous.” Whether the Minister at the table takes exception to a remark or not, it is within the rights of any honorable member to object to any statement which he considers offensive to him. The rights of honorable members should be jealously safeguarded and protected by each individual member. There is nothing in the Standing Orders to the effect that those rights are to be protected and safeguarded only by a Minister or the presiding officer. They are not the only custodians of the rights of honorable members. It is for each individual member to take exception, if he thinks fit, to offensive remarks. I recall that, several years ago, during a debate that took place in this chamber, I used the word “ treacherous,” but I was called upon by the then Chairman of Committees (Mr. Bayley) to withdraw that word because it was considered offensive.
It matters not that governments change; offensive words are just as . distasteful to one party as to the other. I regret that you, sir, did not satisfactorily decide this question. You endeavoured airily to dismiss it, and called upon the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) to proceed with his speech.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I. think that the honorable member is attempting to be sarcastic at the expense of the Chair. I ask him to withdraw the word “ airily.”
– I assure you that I would be the last person to indulge in such a practice. It was with the greatest regret that I moved this motion to disagree with your ruling.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.I ask the honorable member to withdraw the word “ airily.”
– I withdraw it unreservedly. A very important principle is at stake. The rights and privileges of honorable members should be maintained at all times, whether the use of certain words is or is not objected to by the Minister in charge of the proceedings at the time, or by the head of the Government, Ministers may be immersed in or overwhelmed by their duties. Members individually must not agree to a ruling that lays it down that, unless a Minister rakes exception to any remarks that reflect on the Government, they are not to be considered offensive. I feel that the words used by the honorable member for Richmond should be withdrawn. Honorable members who now sit on this side have always willingly and unreservedly withdrawn any remarks that an honorable member has considered offensive. The reluctance of the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw what I regard as distasteful and offensive words, does not reflect credit on him.
– I regard this as a very interesting subject for debate this afternoon. It assists greatly the progress of business, and the Whip of the Labour party is to be congratulated upon his effort to help his Government by raising the point. Of course, one must adhere strictly to the terms of the motion itself. That motion asks that the ruling of the Chair - that a private member is not at liberty to take objection to any remark that is offensive to other members - be dissented from. The question that emerges is, whether any honorable member is competent to take objection to a remark that is offensive, considered in relation to another honorable member. The point is, not whether it is in order to call a government dishonest or treacherous; but, who can take objection if it be assumed that those words are unparliamentary?
– The Chairman should have asked for their withdrawal without objection from any honorable member.
– The only question that arises is, assuming that the words are unparliamentary, is it open to any honorable member on either side to take objection to them; or, assuming that they are unparliamentary and offensive in their application to the Ministry, whether it is not solely the right of the Minister, to object to them. That is an interesting, and, so far as I am aware, a new point. The principle that is contended for by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) will involve this: Assuming that an observation is made that I regard as offensive to that honorable member, am I at liberty to object to it if he does not object? That is an important matter, and one that ought not to be decided lightly. It is fortunate that we have an opportunity to discuss it in a calm and deliberate atmosphere, when we have plenty of time to examine the question. It appears to me to be important to decide whether any honorable member is entitled to object to any expression used, on the ground that it affects some other honorable member. I ask the committee to hesitate before disagreeing with the ruling of the Chair.
– I venture to believe that there is no honorable member on either side who would impugn your impartiality, Mr. Mackay, or your desire to do the fair thing in the correct manner in the position that you at present occupy. If there are any such honorable members, I am not numbered among them. I have risen to address myself to this matter only because you pointed out that the reason for your not insisting upon the withdrawal of certain words that were used by the honorable member for Richmond, and that were considered by other honorable members to be offensive, was that there was at the table a Minister . who did not take exception to them. I can say quite truthfully that I was not listening to the honorable member for Richmond. I apprehend that it is the privilege, and that it is within the right of Ministers at the table, to assess the value and the importance that may be attached to any words that are uttered by an individual member; therefore, I make no apology for having entirely disregarded, and remained oblivious of, the observations that were being made by the honorable member for Richmond. It must not be assumed from my attitude that I would not regard as offensive, both to the Government and to every’honorable member who supports it, the observations of the honorable member for Richmond, of which I am now informed I am indebted to my honorable and learned friend, the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. McTiernan), for having called my attention to page 317 of the 10th Edition of May’s ParliamentaryPractice, where the following appears: -
The use of temperate and decorous language is never more desirable than when a member is canvassing the opinions and conduct of his opponents in debate. The imputation of badmotives, or motives different from those acknowledged; misrepresenting the language of another, or accusing him, in his turn, of misrepresentation; charging him with falsehood or deceit; or contemptuous or insulting language of any kind - all these are unparliamentary, and call for prompt interference.
– I remind the Attorney-General that the ruling of the Chair was, not that the words were not. disorderly, but that a private member hadnot the right to draw attention to them. I have already stated that if the Minister had suggested that the words were disorderly, I immediately would have asked the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw them.
– I was actually coming to that very point. I would not think of saying that you would not regard as offensive the words that have been complained of, or that you did not, in fact, regard them as offensive. My understanding of the matter is that you expressed no opinion as to whether they were offensive or not, but that you ruled that, a representative of the Government being at the table, and the words having been applied in particular to the Government, you thought it unnecessary to insist that the honorable member for Richmond should withdraw them. I hope that that fairly expresses the position up to that stage. But it was precisely at that stage that the rights and privileges of every honorable member who supports this Government became involved, and that, for the moment, the rights and privileges of those who actually comprise the Government, became comparatively unimportant. The fact is, that each individual member supporting this Government has been charged with being a party to treachery and dishonesty. Therefore, the naturally indignant request of honorable members on this side, led by the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley), that those words should be immediately withdrawn, appears tome to have been quite well founded. I made no claim on my own behalf, or on behalf of the Government, for the reasons that I have already given; but I am bound to say that, while I consider that you have acted entirely in good faith, I must support the motion to disagree with your ruling, because it would, in certain circumstances, have the effect of leaving honorable members individually unprotected against slanderous and defamatory remarks in this chamber.
– I have glanced through May’s Parliamentary Practice, and have found a passage that I consider exactly meets the situation, and that proves that, the action which you have taken, Mr. Mackay, is perfectly legitimate under the circumstances. It may not change the votes, but I believe that it will change the opinions, of honorable members opposite. It is at page 97, and reads -
If a member should say nothing disrespectful to the House or the Chair, or personally opprobrious to other members, or in violation of other rules of the House, he may state whatever he thinks fit in debate, however offensive it may be to the feelings, or injurious to the character, of individuals; and he is protected by his privilege from any action.
– That does not refer to his fellow members.
– It says, “ disrespectful to the House or the Chair, or personally opprobrious to other members.”
– Subject to the rules of the House.
– No. Clearly it is within the rights of honorable members to express their feelings and their views in the plainest possible way. Where else could they do so, if they were not permitted to do so here? There should be an end to this “thinskinnedness “ of honorable members opposite. It is only on occasions that they become sensitive. I submit that nothing that the honorable member for Richmond has said can be regarded as personally offensive to honorable members. I advance that argument a step further. No exception has been taken by honorable members on this side, to statements that have been freely hurled across this chamber from time to time. Latitude has been allowed to honorable members, and having regard to the statements by ministerial members during the last few weeks regarding honorable members on. this side, and their reflections on the judiciary, it ill becomes them to take exception to a remark that cannot be regarded as in any way personally offensive to them.
– I do not impugn your impartiality, Mr. Mackay, but I suggest that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) in attempting to sustain your ruling, was really canvassing it. The passage he quotes is against him. It states that, subject to the language of an honorable member not being approbrious to other honorable members, he has the privilege of saying what he wishes about persons outside. You have already ruled that the words of which complaint has been made are disorderly, not because exception was taken to them by an honorable member, but because they are offensive and unparliamentary, and therefore likely to create disorder. If a Minister were not in the chamber when offensive words were used surely that would not deprive honorable members of the right to protest, in the name of the committee, against an infringement of order. The Chair having ruled that the words of the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) are unparlia mentary, they are an offence to the committee and should be withdrawn. Although a declaration by a Minister that certain words are personally offensive to him would reinforce the demand of any honorable member that they be withdrawn, such a declaration is not a condition precedent to withdrawal.
– I endorse the statement of the Attorney-General that all parties have absolute confidence in your impartiality, Mr. Mackay, and I am reluctant to divide the committee on your ruling. I suggest that we’ might be able to proceed with our business if the honorable member for Richmond would, at my request, withdraw a remark that was undoubtedly offensive to every Minister and every member supporting the Government. If a remark is unparliamentary it matters not who takes exception to it. The statement of the honorable member for Richmond that the action, of the Government was dishonest and treacherous is offensive to every member who supports the Government, which can act only with the support of the members who sit behind it. I, therefore, ask the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw his remark.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Before I call on the honorable- member, for - Richmond to withdraw a remark which the Prime Minister has declared to be personally offensive to him, the committee must dispose of the motion to dissent from my ruling. Will the honorable member for Cook (Mr. C. Riley) withdraw his motion?
– Only if the honorable member for Richmond will indicate his intention to withdraw his remark.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The committee must first dispose of the motion to dissent. Then I shall require the honorable member for Richmond to withdraw his remark.
– The honorable member for Richmond has the right to speak to the motion, and, in doing so, he could accede to my request that he should withdraw a remark which is offensive to me. Then the motion for dissent could be withdrawn and the incident would be closed.
– I am prepared to accede to the Prime Minister’s request, but 1 remind the committee that I was not asked by the Chair to withdraw the words to which exception was taken. You, Mr. Mackay, ruled that the words were not disorderly.
– That is not correct. I ruled that as they applied to the Ministry, and Ministers were present when they were uttered, the onus was on a Minister to take exception to them.
– At the request of the Prime Minister I withdraw the words to which he takes exception.
Ministerial Members. - What about our request?
– I ask leave to withdraw my motion, but I shall take other steps to ensure that the rights of honorable members are protected, and that the withdrawal of words that are offensive to the committee is not dependent on objection being taken by a Minister.
– I object to the motion being withdrawn.
Leave not granted.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) agreed to -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would enable the honorable member for Cook to move a motion for the withdrawal of his motion of dissent.
That the motion of dissent be withdrawn.
– When this little trouble startedI was discussing the significance of the words “amicable relations “. If we are to have amicable relations one party must not enter . the conference with a loaded gun.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The . honorable member’s time has expired.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 33 and 34 agreed to.
Section 48 of the principal act is repealed.
.- This clause proposes to repeal that section of the act dealing with injunctions, and, as the bill is presumably drawn with the idea of promoting peace and goodwill, I suggest that the Government in this regard is acting unwisely.For the last eight years cordial industrial relations have existed between the Graziers Association and the Australian Workers Union. Probably no set of awards in Australia have been more faithfully observed than those relating to the pastoral industry. One reason is, perhaps, that those two organizations had a firstclass fight originally, and learned to respect each other. Ever since then both organizations have policed their awards, and seen that they were observed by both parties. If that practice were more generally followed there would, I think, be greater harmony in industry. At present certain employers allow more latitude than others with regard to awards and this leads to discrimination and ill feeling. I urge the Government not to repeal this section.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 36 agreed to.
Sections 56a to 56g (both inclusive) of the principal act are repealed.
.- It is proposed in this clause to repeal all those sections of the act dealing with the holding of a secret ballot. These provisions operated only to afford to members of organizations registered under the act an officially-controlled opportunity of. recording a vote upon matters of importance to the organization. The control of such a vote was independent of the officers of the organization, and members were thus assured of an opportunity of free and fair expression of opinion. I believe that these provisions commend themselves in principle to a great majority of our. citizens ; but for purely political purposes they were misrepresented, and by lawless methods were made ineffective on the only occasion upon which it was attempted to apply them. An order was made for a secret ballot in connexion with the timber-workers’ dispute; but that order was defeated by lawless methods. Some honorable members opposite, who to-day are very sensitive about appearing to influence the discretion of the judiciary, were then by no means forward in protecting the judiciary against the shameful attacks made upon it. The sections of the act providing for the holding of secret ballots are in line with modern developments. They represent a democratic idea - government by a majority as distinct from government, by mass meeting. They ought to beretained. The Government has behind it, however, a majority which will vote ^ for. the repeal of these sections irrespective of the merits of the case. I am aware that on this point it is quite useless to address any arguments to honorable members opposite, who have made up their minds, and are frightened to disobey the directions of the official Labour movement, which has declared that there is not to be left in the act anything which will help towards the control of officials of trade unions by their members. If these sections be repealed, and this democratic principle destroyed, trade unions will be unable to make that contribution towards the well-being of the community as a whole which they might otherwise have been able to make. This action is being taken at the direction of the official section of trade unionism; that is, the vocal section. The members of such organizations have little chance of being heard, and particularly is that so in regard to federal trade unions in which it is impossible, for geographical reasons, to convene a meeting of members. The secret ballot is the only way in which the opinion of members may be learned. The rules of some unions provide for the taking of a secret ballot, but the number is, I think, only seven, out of a total of 140. I gathered this information from the records of the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member must have failed to examine the rules of branch unions.
– It is possible that I may have made an error, but generally the branch rules are printed in the same book as the federal rules, and both may be seen in the Registrar’s office. The point I am making is that the rules of only a small minority of unions provide for the taking of a secret ballot, as a right. I know that, in many instances, unions, whose rules contain no such provision, do, in fact, employ that method, but I am concerned now with the right of members to obtain a secret ballot on the ground that a certain number of them regard some matter as of sufficient importance. It is unfortunate that the trade union movement decided, for political reasons, to oppose these provisions. They might have operated usefully if they had been received with a greater measure of goodwill. There are many provisions, legislative and administrative, which can work only if they are accepted with goodwill. Nearly every institution under which we live could be made ineffective if those concerned with it were determined throughout to act in an obstructive manner. There is nothing in the sections proposed to be amended which could promote ill will. The ill will was created by a complete misunderstanding of the provision, brought about by misrepresentation. Trade unionists were made to believe that the section represented an interference with the internal management of trade unions. As a matter of fact, they are in no way an interference with the self-government of unions. When put into operation they would only ensure that members of an organization would have an opportunity of voting on a particular issue. They need not vote if they do not want to.
– -The expenses of organizations would be increased.
– It would involve an organization in no extra expense. Evidently the honorable member is under a. misapprehension.
– Trade union officials have to go through the country explaining the issue to members.
– It would be impossible to conduct a secret ballot, even fo” the election of members of this Parliament, if the voters refused to co-operate. To that extent I admit that nobody can operate provisions of this kind against the will of those affected by them. The unfortunate thing is that, for political purposes, trade unionists were, by means of misrepresentation, led to believe that these sections of the act in some way constituted an attack on their rights and privileges. There was never any foundation whatever for such an allegation. The secret ballot provisions of the act have been strongly opposed by the Labour party for a number of reasons, all of which are unsound. Objection was taken to them, in the first place, because they were introduced by a Nationalist-Country party government. If that Government had declared in a formal manner that two and two made four, some honorable members in opposition at the time would undoubtedly have denied it. The Opposition of that day saw in these proposals a possible means of getting the country to believe that the then Government was opposed to trade unionism. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore),. and the honorable member for Reid (Mr. Coleman) joined in setting on foot the statement that the £1,000 penalties and the secret ballot provisions of the Arbitration Bill introduced by the previous Government were directed against trade unionism, and when their colleagues saw that the cock was fighting they became intensely interested. The statement was taken right through Australia, and it was supported by a campaign of misrepresentation which did a great deal to cause industrial ill will. The secret ballot provisions of the act have been looked at politically right from the beginning, and no opportunity has been lost to make political capital out of them. Another reason why they were regarded with so muck disfavour was that trade union officials, some of whom were nervous about their official positions, used every means in their power to condemn them. If the secret ballot method, instead of the mass meeting method, had been adopted with the object of settling the dispute on the northern coal-fields, that” dispute would have been settled long ago. It is very well known that, in the mass meetings of some unions, when any terms of settlement were proposed, the request made to the meeting was “Now then, scabs, hands up for settlement.” The coal dispute would have been settled long ago if secret ballots had been substituted for mass meetings. Government by mass meeting is one of the curses ‘ of Australian unionism. I hope that at no distant date trade unionists will recognize that the secret ballot is a truly democratic principle, which should be practised in union management.
– It is neither desirable nor necessary that I should make a long speech in reply to the querulous address of the Leader of the Opposition. (Mr. Latham). The honorable gentleman unfairly said that the Government and its supporters were afraid to vote other than for the repeal of these sections, for be knows very well that, when they were enacted two years ago, every Labour member of the House voted against them. Subsequently, they convinced the people that the grounds of their objection to them were sound. We are entitled to move for the repeal of these sections, first because we opposed their enactment, and secondly because the people endorsed our opposition to them. Those reasons alone are a sufficient justification for the inclusion of this clause in the bill. But the Leader of the Opposition himself supplied another sound reason for the repeal of the sections. He admitted that it was futile to retain them, because they were impracticable. Of what use is it for us to retain impracticable sections in the statute? These provisions are just as impracticable and impossible of application as were the provisions for the imposition of penalties in respect of strikes and lockouts; indeed more so. The Leader of the Opposition supported the repeal of those sections and for the same reasons he should support the repeal of these. We have argued with just cause that these provisions make possible an unjustifiable interference with the self-governing rights of organizations. It must be clear to everybody that it is not reasonable to allow a dissatisfied minority to work, by secret means, to undermine their organization or to take its management out of the hands of responsible authorities. The retention of these provisions violates democratic principles and cultivates ill will within organizations. They have proved futile and should be repealed. The Labour party is not opposed to the principle of the secret ballot, but has always demanded the right to exercise it under proper conditions. The ballot is a suitable method of ascertaining the will of the people. If honorable members opposite can propose for trade unionism any secret ballot method which would be an improvement on the methods at present in use, I have no doubt that it would be considered. As these provisions arc utterly impracticable they should be repealed.
.- I cannot understand why the Labour party has adopted such an extraordinary attitude in regard to the holding of secret ballots by trade unions. It has been said that provisionsfor the holding of secret ballots are included in tbe rules of practically all trade unions. Why then, should they not be retained in this act? The object of these sections is simply to enable the individual members of unions to express their minds on any particular subject. This is the most democratic provision in the act, yet honorable members opposite who maintain that they stand for democracy and self-government are opposed to it. I am certain that this opposition will recoil upon them in the future. The Attorney-General has said that these sections should be repealed because they are impracticable; but they are only impracticable because the officials of trade unions have made them so. A general election was not held in Mexico some years ago because General Carranza said it was impracticable to hold one, but he brought out machine guns to make certain that it would not be held. There is no difference, in essence, between the action of the trade union officials in regard to the taking of a secret ballot in connexion with the timber-workers’ strike and the action of General Carranza in regard to the holding of the general elections in Mexico. In both cases there was a. deliberate attempt to prevent a proper expression of opinion by those who were vitally concerned. What harm can a secret ballot do? The Government has deleted words from the act, because they were indefinite. Now it is proposed to delete words because they are too definite. Nearly 100 years ago the adoption of the principle of the secret ballot was advocated by the Chartists, men who worked strenuously for the political advancement of the working classes of Great Britain. Any one who has the interests of the trade unions at heart should stand for the universal application of the secret ballot. When federation took place 30 years ago, there was discord among the people because universal adult suffrage had not been adopted. Until that principle was so adopted, there was held to be a stigma upon this Commonwealth. Surely there will be a stigma upon the trade union movement if it rejects the principle of a universal secret ballot. Even the provision relating to the qualification of auditors is to be deleted from the act. The Attorney-General has said that a militant minority might, by means of a secret ballot, be able to overturn the policy of the union. There could not be a more stupid statement than that, because the policy of a trade union could not be altered by a secret ballot except by a majority of the votes cast by its members. A minority cannot overturn a policy, but a majority may, by means of the secret ballot overturn a policy which previously had been instituted by a minority which had captured control of the executive. Consequently, I regard the’ deletion of the secret ballot from the act as a retrograde step. I am disappointed at the action of the members supporting the Government, and I venture to say that it will bring discredit upon them and damage to the welfare of trade unions.
.- This provision was introduced by the late Government, and only on one occasion was an attempt made to put it into operation. Despite the fact that the Government had the assistance of the Timber Workers Union-
– The assistance?
– That Government had the assistance of the Federal and State officials of the Timber Workers Union, and, in addition, the whole of the machinery of the Arbitration Court was placed at its disposal. The result of that attempt to enforce the secret ballot showed that it was impossible for outside influences to interfere with the affairs of the unions. Laymen from the Arbitration Court were actually handed the records and cards of the union, yet, despite that, ballot-papers , were made out in the names of dead men, and men who had left the organization. That was the first and last attempt of the late Government to interfere with the control of trade unions by means of a secret ballot. All the big labour organizations have made provision for ballots. The Engineers Union, the Railwaymens Union, and all craft unions, with the exception of, perhaps, the Seamens Union, have, in the rules of their organizations, effective balloting machinery.
– And defective ballotboxes.
– The honorable member should know all about ballot-boxes, because he had a terrible fright at the last elections. I appeal to honorable members opposite not to distort anything that has transpired in this debate when they appear before the Womens National League. The Labour party resents any Government interference with the management of the trade union movement. The amendment of the act ‘ in 1928 was aimed at disciplining the employees. There was no restriction placed upon employers. The late Government’s attempt to interfere with the trade union movement was a complete fiasco, and clearly showed that if one wants meat one must go to a butcher.
– I fail to see why there should be the least objection on the part of the trade unions to the principle of a secret ballot. The bill provides that every man seeking employment must join a union. If membership of a union is to be compulsory, why should not a unionist have the protection of a secret ballot? Why should he be denied the right of a democratic principle to which all honorable members supporting the Government should subscribe? I regret that they have seen fit to ridicule a principle that should be sacred to them, and for which men before them, who were worthy of the name of men, fought and shed their blood. Honorable members on that side fail to value the principles of freedom and liberty of which the community in general is so proud, because to-day the unions have licence. Without it they would be prepared to accept the democratic principle of the secret ballot. Take for example an average union with 2,000 members. A meeting is called. Of course, the hall in which the meeting is held could not contain anything like 2,000 members, but possibly 500 or 600 members attend. If the matter is important 800 may attend. If feeling runs high, “Rafferty rules” prevail. If a man is opposed to the prevailing factions, he is hit on the jaw. That is the end of him. It is in that way that the union bosses conduct the meetings. I may be asked to give a typical instance. I need refer only to the Bread Carters Union of New South Wales. Time after time that union met, and on every occasion the newspapers reported that several men had been knocked out, and brawls had taken place. There was no order or decency observed at the meetings of the union. One section obtained the books of the union and held them. The other section considered that it was entitled to them. Both sections went to the court. They employed barristers to put their cases. What did the court do? It ordered that a ballot should be taken. A ballot was taken under the control of the court, and order was once more restored. The honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) said that the secret ballot had been given a fair trial iti the case of the Timber Workers Union. Let me indicate to honorable members what the trade union movement of this country regards as a fair trial. It wa3 not “Rafferty rules”, but lynch law. The honorable member said that all the records of the union were made available, including cards giving the names of a number of dead men. Apparently that is part of the machinery which is kept on the trade union premises for special occasions. These cards were handed over with the Other records. After the ballot-papers were taken out Jock Garden organized a procession. The ballot-papers were taken to Hyde Park together with an effigy of Judge Lukin.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the honorable member must not reflect upon a judge, and there are more ways than one of doing that. The honorable member has adopted a very objectionable method. He is repeating the disrespectful and offensive words applied to His Honour.
– This is a mere interruption !
– I ask that you, Mr. Chairman, insist upon the Leader of the Opposition withdrawing that remark.
– With great pleasure, I withdraw the word “ mere “.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).What is the point of order?
– The point of order is that the repetition in this chamber of observations offensive to the judiciary or, derogatory to the position of a judge are, under the Standing Orders, out of order.
– I heard no reflection on the judge.
– These ballot-papers were collected, but were taken, not to Hyde Park, as I bave just said, but to the Trades and Labour Council in Goulburn-street. From there they were taken by thousands of trade unionists to Hyde Park.
– The honorable member is again wrong.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– It was alleged, and it has never been contradicted, that the ballot-papers which were issued to the members of the Timber Workers Union were burnt after the ballot had been taken. I know, because I saw it, that there was a fire in Hyde Park; but the statement was subsequently made that it was a newspaper, and not the ballot-papers, that was burnt on that occasion. I saw an effigy of Judge Lukin burned, and heard ribald songs concerning him sung. Probably never in the history of trade unionism in any country was there a greater exhibition of lawlessness by the members of a trade union than was witnessed on that occasion. It is a black spot in our industrial history, of which the sane trade unionists are not proud. I recognize that, unless a union is prepared to operate a provision of this kind, it is useless to place it in a statute. In other words, unless the trade union movement is prepared to carry out the law in its entirety, whether it agrees with it or not, we may as well not enact it.
– We ought to assume that the trade unions will operate it.
– I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner. Irrespective of whether a union agrees with the provisions of an act or not, it should observe them ; just as I and other honorable members are bound by the laws of this country, no matter what our views concerning them may be. That is the only way in which a sound and satisfactory State can be built up. I seriously urge the Government to retain this provision. I repeat that it embodies a democratic principle with which the Labour movement should find no fault. Many of the big unions in Great Britain have it in their constitution. The Railway Union of Great Britain operates it before a strike takes place. It is said to be in the constitution of some Australian unions; but it is not in all. If it were placed in- the federal act which governs the trade union movement all over Australia in relation to industrial disputes, for the purpose of ascertaining the deliberate opinion of trade unionists on important matters, it would render a service to the unionists themselves, and in addition would make a valuable and substantial contribution to peace in industry. I see no reason why every person who works should not be a member of a union ; but if a man has a conscientious reason for declining to join a union he should not be compelled to do so. My friends opposite were opposed to the conscription of men for active service, but they have no objection to conscripting every man into a union, whether he wants to join or not. Those who do not join are deprived of the opportunity of earning a livelihood for themselves and their families. So many workers are members of trade unions that it is impossible to ascertain their opinion in a public meeting. Two thousand or three thousand men cannot bc crowded into a hall.
The Government would render a distinct service to Australia if it retained this provision and used its influence to have it operated so as to ascertain the deliberate opinion of the trade union movement on important questions.
.- The trade union movement is opposed, not to the secret ballot itself but to the methods by which it was proposed to be applied under the act. In all cases the rules of a trade union have to be submitted to the State Registrar, as well as to the Registrar of the Federal Court. The obnoxious part of the secret ballot provisions in the act is that which empowers ten members of a union to make representations secretly to a judge, through the Registrar, to compel a trade union to take a ballot of the whole of its members, the majority of whom have complete confidence in their executive. One has to take into account the psychological effect of any law that is enacted. A law that attempts to compel one hundred thousand men to do something which they think is opposed to the principles of trade unionism cannot be enforced.1 Honorable members opposite admit that this provision has failed, and that it has produced ill will in the trade union movement. What is the use of retaining a law that cannot achieve its object, and that produces merely ill will?
– Why not remove the objectionable features and leave the principle in the act?
– This is a matter for the decision of the union itself; it knows what is most suited to its needs. The statement has been made that trade unions have not been involved in any undue expenditure because of this provision. That is absolutely ridiculous. Although a ballot was ordered and conducted by the court, the leaders of the movement and the management committees against whose judgment it may be directed, would be forced to tour the country to place before their branches the reason for the taking of the ballot and the result if it were carried. Ten men out of a membership of 20,000 or 30,000 were able to hamper the operations of a union by going secretly to the court and having a ballot ordered on a question in relation to which 90 per cent, of the membership were satisfied with the conduct of their officials, thus completely disorganizing the internal management of the union, and involving it in an expenditure of thousands of pounds. A ballot causes delay running into weeks, and upsets the whole of the activities of the leaders of the organization. I am a member of the management committee of one of our big unions. We cannot come to an industrial agreement, or submit to the court an application for the variation of an award on general principles, unless we take a ballot of our members. We do not do that unless the circumstances are such that we feel that we ought to ascertain the opinion of our members. Under the law as it now stands, a small and insignificant minority can approach secretly the Registrar of the court.
– Make it a certain percentage of members.
– The view held by the trade union movement is that the existing provision provides the “tools” of the employers, those who “crawl” to the boss, with an opportunity to hamstring a union. I do not agree that that is altogether justified. I am endeavouring to show the psychological effect that this provision has had upon trade unions, and what is possible if ten men are able to approach the court secretly and force upon a union a ballot that the majority of its members do not want. Under section 56b, a ballot can be ordered while a case is before the court, although one may already have been taken in relation to the matters at issue. These facts have given rise to the feeling in the ranks of trade unionists that the object of the last Government was to hamstring the unions. Though I may agree entirely with that view, I cannot overlook the fact that whenever the name of a trade union secretary is mentioned in this chamber honorable members opposite -show a disposition to attack him.
– Nothing of the kind.
– That has been demonstrated many times. I always endeavour to view criticism tolerantly; but I have noticed that honorable members opposite avail themselves of every opportunity to attack the men who have been most responsible for the settlement of trivial as well as big industrial disputes. Because a few union secretaries have fallen down on their job, they attack the many others who from day to day are doing their utmost to prevent disputes from taking place. It has been said in this chamber that trade union secretaries have been responsible for both the initiation and the continuance of strikes. The allegation has been made that union officials thrive on strikes. On two separate occasions the whole force of the executive of the Miners Federation was directed, in the face of violent opposition, to convincing the miners that they should accept the compromise terms offered by the employers. There was no lack of courage, in the leaders of the men on that occasion; they were not lacking in a sense of responsibility or swayed by mob psychology. Despite the fact that 90 per cent, of the miners were opposed to them, the president of the federation, Mr. Dan Rees, .and the secretary of the union, Mr. Davies, resolutely fought for the acceptance of the compromise terms. That disproves the statement that the union officials are always swayed by the wishes of the majority of the members.
Had that been true of the officials of the Miners Federation they would not have gone onto the coalfields and jeopardized their health by working night and day to induce the miners to change their attitude. That one instance should lay for all time the canard that union secretaries live by fomenting strikes and unrest. As I have said on previous occasions, strikes are to them a nightmare. Legislation is to be judged not by the intentions or beliefs of those who are responsible for it, but by its results. The provisions in the act relating to a secret ballot have tended only to create suspicion and irritation, and I believe that they were inserted by the Bruce-Page Government for the purpose of hamstringing trade unionism.
– The provisions relating to the secret ballot should be retained. It may be true that the constitutions of some unions provide for secret ballots, but how often is _that provision exercised?
– In my organization every year.
– If that is so what is the objection to the provision in the act? If the Government is sincerely desirous of promoting peace in industry by conciliation and arbitration, why does it object to a secret ballot of members of a union in regard to a proposed strike? Doubtless the criticism from this side of the chamber hurts the feelings of some honorable members opposite who graduated as union secretaries. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) is one of the most moderate of the supporters of the Government, but those who listened this afternoon to the shoutings of the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) realize that there are union secretaries and union secretaries. The latter said that if fundamental human rights were transgressed a union would be justified in defying the law.
– I said that I would defy the law in those circumstances.
– How did the honorable member defy the law ? During the devastating timber strike, carriers in Melbourne had to apply to him, as secretary of the Carters Union, for white hatbands, without- which they were liable to assault by hooligans.
– On a point of order, I submit that the question of whether the honorable member for Corio issued white hat-bands to carters is entirely irrelevant to the clause.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).I have allowed a good deal of latitude to honorable members, but I ask the honorable member for Balaclava to keep as close as possible to the clause.
– I am replying to statements made by honorable members to whom that latitude was allowed, and my object is to suggest that, if a secret ballot of the timber-workers had been taken, happenings that shocked all who believe in liberty and justice would have been avoided, and hundreds of thousands of pounds- would have been saved to industry. According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald of to-day five stoppages of work have occurred on the northern coal-field in five weeks. The paragraph reads -
Since work was resumed at the mines on the northern coal-fields, after fifteen months’ idleness, stoppages .have taken place on an average of one a week. The resumption took place five weeks ago. Five strikes have occurred since.
The most . important stoppage occurred yesterday when about 200 miners employed at Aberdare Central went on strike because the management refused to concede certain demands made by the wheelers. The employee’s at Aberdare and Aberdare Extended collieries immediately ceased work in sympathy with the strikers. As a result about 1,550 employees were idle.
Other recent stoppages were: Strike at Hepburn No. 2 on 17th July; strike at Wallarah on . 24th June, lasting one day; strike at Shortland over dismissal of an employee; strike at Aberdare Central on 2nd July; strike at Wallarah on 3rd July.
This last is the mine in which the men once struck because a wheeler objected to a horse’s breath. Had a secret ballot of miners been taken such a trivial matter would certainly not have been allowed to cause a stoppage of work.
– Does the honorable member consider the report is fair when it does not mention the reasons for the stoppages ?
– In one instance the reason was the dismissal of an employee, and, in another, certain demands by the leaders. If the honorable member wants more details I remind him of the absurd Wallarah stoppage, and the three months’ strike at the Bedhead colliery because of a difference in regard to dirt money, resulting ultimately in the closing of the mine. Many strikes which originate on trivial reasons cause tremendous economic losses, press heavily on industry, and incidentally inflict misery on the workers and their wives and children. Honorable members should consider seriously the disastrous consequences of industrial turmoil, and not be misled by the economic insanity expressed by the honorable member for Corio this afternoon. To illustrate how business is depressed at the present time I quote the following paragraph from the Melbourne Herald of the 20th June: -
Ninety-nine companies have gone into liquidation this year, compared with 57 for the corresponding period last year. For 22 weeks ended 31st May there were 225 bankruptcies compared with 180 for the corresponding period last year. Deeds of assignment, totalled 126 on list May, the total for the corresponding term last’ year being 80. Seventeen estates have been sequestrated in the last seven days, thirteen assigned to trustees for the benefit of creditors, and seven companies have gone into liquidation.
– How does the honorable member propose to connect those particulars with the clause?
– My argument is that business is seriously depressed by industrial disturbances which would have been less frequent had the members of .the unions been consulted by secret ballot. If the unions were actuated by feelings of amity towards the employers, and encouraged the men to give of their best, and to take a share in the affairs of their organization, the secret ballot could be operated without fear on the part of the officials. The constitution of one of the large American industrial organizations includes in the preamble this paragraph : -
The interests of the employer and employee being co-ordinate, the aim of the organization will be co-operation and 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.
No such sentiment is expressed in the constitution of any trade union in Australia. The honorable members for Corio (Mr. Lewis), Bendigo (Mr. Keane), and
Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) speak with the knowledge they have gained as union secretaries, but they forget that their organizations have never been working for “ the cultivation of amicable relations with the employer.” They want everything for the men within their own ranks ; against all others the door of hope is closed. Under this act, by simply swearing an affidavit before a registrar, a union can claim to inspect the books of any employer. Union secretaries have that power, but it is proposed by this amendment to deny to the members of unions any supervision over their own officials. When honorable members on this side criticize union secretaries, they know that there are some moderate union officials, such as the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley). To-day, the honorable member for Bendigo (Mr. Keane) said that if one wanted to know anything about meat, one would consult a butcher, by which crude metaphor I suppose he meant to imply that trade union secretaries know all about industry.
– They know most about it.
– The honorable member himself makes that modest admission. I submit that it is the employers and the men who work in industry who ought to know most about it, certainly more than the union officials who are now seeking to conscript members. It is of questionable benefit to belong to a. union nowadays. We know that when unions sought to improve the standard of skill among their members, and to protect them against unscrupulous employers, they did good, and justified their existence. As I explained yesterday, wages can fluctuate only between two levels : They can become so low that they will not support a worker and his family, and there will then be an exodus of workers to some other place; or they may become so high that industry cannot afford to pay them, and goes to the wall. The honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) smiles, but the other night he postulated that if an industry could not pay the wages prescribed it should cease to operate. If that argument is pursued to its logical conclusion, and the present practice of wage fixation is continued, it will be only a matter of time until all our industries are forced to the wall. Employers will go out of business because they will’ become disgusted with the harassing tactics of trade unions. It is the labour organizations which are tyrannous now, not the employers. If the unions followed the American practice, and tried to interest their members in their organization, they would deserve encouragement. At the present time the unions seem rather to draw their inspiration from Russia. The denial of the secret ballot to members of trade unions is on a par with the disfranchisement of certain classes in Russia. Under a provision for the taking of a compulsory secret ballot, sane-minded trade unionists, who are good citizens, married men with families, with a little capital and a home perhaps, will be able to say “No” to a proposal to strike, instead of being intimidated at a mass meeting. “We know how a show of hands is taken at such a meeting, and how that foul communist word, “scab,” is applied to those who vote against the directions of the union officials. During the recent disturbance in the timber industry the court ordered that a secret ballot of unionists should be taken. If that order had been obeyed, it might have stopped the operations of the basher gangs in Sydney, and prevented the intimidation that was practised in Melbourne. The union defied the order, and held a mock ballot, afterwards burning the ballot-papers, together with an effigy of Judge Lukin.
Honorable members opposite have said that the rules of most trade unions already contain provisions for the taking of a secret ballot. If that be so, what objection can they have to the presence of these sections in the bill ? It is un-British to prevent men from exercising a vote on such a vital issue as to whether or not they shall go on strike. In Queensland the members of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers Empire Association have complained to the Premier that the Storemen and Packers Union would not even allow them to join that organization. There is no substance in the objection of honorable members opposite that, with the provision for the taking of a secret ballot in the act, men disposed to crawl to the boss, to use the words of the honorable member for “Wannon (Mr. McNeill), may join a union, and interfere with the conduct of its affairs by demanding a secret ballot.
I draw the attention of honorable members to an article published in the French paper L’lntransigeant. It is written by M. Pierre Daye, and contains the following passage -
Australia suffers from an illness which consists in the difficulty of making the inhabitants work, of obtaining from them a maximum output. There are more strikes there than in liny Other country in the world. Only the farmer toils on unremittingly. Australia, mad daughter of Old England,’ is close to the hour of reckoning.
That is exaggerated, but there is much truth in it. If Australia doe3 not face the industrial position, and take steps to remedy the evils from which it is at present suffering, there will be a crash greater than that of the 90’s. Small matters such as this provision for the taking of a secret ballot, unimportant as it may seem to men brought up in an atmosphere of” unionism, all have their effect upon the industrial situation. If the Government insists upon the repeal of these sections its motives will be suspect by a majority of citizens, who will be convinced that the object is merely to give trade union officials greater domination over the rank and file. If this policy of industrial insanity is pursued, the electors will lose all confidence in the Labour party, and at the secret ballot, that is the prerogative of every citizen, will show their disapproval of it. Once that party goes out of power, it will be a long time before it gets back again.
. It is all very well for honorable members opposite, who have never been members of a trade union, to tell the unions how to conduct their affairs. There might be some excuse for their interference if they extended the same advice to employers’ organizations, but this is not done. There have been lockouts by the employers in the past, but it has never been suggested that they should be compelled to hold a secret ballot. It is admitted that they have a right to conduct their affairs in any way they please. Why, then, should trade unions be denied the same right? The directors of a bank are allowed to make decisions involving serious alterations of policy without being compelled to hold a secret ballot.
– But the shareholders have the right, under law, to demand at any time the taking of a ballot. They have that right by virtue of the provisions of the Companies Act.
– Friendly societies may alter the conditions under which they operate, but there is no provision in their charter to the effect that they must hold a secret ballot if any ten of their members demand it. There have been trade unions in this country for a long time, but this pernicious provision has been in the Arbitration Act. only during the last few years. What has been the result? It has not had the effect of preventing a single strike. Surely we must give trade unionists credit for having as much sense as those who do not belong to trade unions. They have the right to run their unions how they like. They have paid for them.
– They are conscripted into the unions.
– [ remind the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. Green) and other honorable members that I do not propose to be continually calling them to order, and to be openly disobeyed. I ask honorable members to assist me in preserving order.
– Why should Parliament make it mandatory for the unions to conduct a secret ballot at the request of a few members ? This was one of the provisions to which we objected last year when we were before the country. I made a point of expressing my objection to the action of the Bruce-Page Government in inserting this provision in the act. I declared my objection on the hustings, and my majority was increased from 4,000 to 17,000. That was the people’s answer to the Bruce-Page Government. We shall put the bill through, and take the consequences when the elections come round.
.- One of the principal arguments used by honorable members opposite in support of the proposed repeal of these sections is that the rules of most trade unions already provide for the taking of a secret ballot, and that it is, therefore, unnecessary to have any such provision in the act. This afternoon the Leader of the Opposition gave exact information as to the number of federated unions which have provisions in their rules for the taking of secret ballots.
– The information was misleading.
– I invited any honorable member who had better information to let us have it.
– It was clear from what the Leader of the Opposition said that very many trade unions have no provision in their rules for the holding of secret ballots. Ifthe seven unions to which he referred have satisfactory secret ballot machinery in their rules, these sections will be a dead letter in relation to them ; they will not operate where adequate provision already exists, and consequently need not perturb such unions. They will operate only in relation to unions which have no such rules. We know very well that the members of unions who openly demand a secret ballot many be subjected to victimization. I have known of such instances.
– Sometimes members of unions are afraid openly to request the officers of their organizations to hold a secret ballot. A case occurred in a certain factory in Melbourne some time ago which illustrates my point. A friend of mine was invited by the factory manager to visit the factory to see whether he could do anything to settle a dispute that had occurred. When he and the manager entered a large room in the factory they found the assembled employees being addressed by the secretary of their union. The manager afterwards addressed the employees and, on a show of hands, it was decided to resume work immediately. But the union secretary again harangued the employees, whom he bullied into subjection, for on another show of hands being taken they reversed their previous decision and decided to continue the strike. Just afterwards one of the workers detached himself from his fellows and walked past the manager and my friend to the other end of the room. As he went by he said, “ Take a secret ballot “. He then went out of the room so that the other employees would not know that it was he who made the suggestion for the taking of such a ballot. The manager subsequently addressed the workers for a few minutes, and asked them to agree to take a secret ballot. This was done, with the result that an overwhelming majority of those present decided to resume work.
– That is an excellent fairy story.
– It is a true account of what took place. It shows clearly that there is much more likelihood of ascertaining the real mind of the workers by a secret ballot than by a show of hands at the request of a trade union official.
I have. a good deal of respect for the views of the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley), but I cannot agree with his statement that the Government has received a mandate to repeal these sections of the act. The honorable member may believe that the electors in his constituency are favorable to the repeal of the sections, but I am sure that trade unionists generally throughout Australia are not favorable to it. I will concede that the Government has received a mandate to continue federal arbitration, and possibly to repeal the penal sections of the, act in relation to strikes and lockouts. It is even possible that it may have received a vague sort of mandate to right all wrongs, real or imaginary, supposed to have been perpetrated by former Governments, but I do not believe that it has received a mandate to repeal the sections which provide for the taking of secret ballots. If this bill is passed I have no doubt that the Government, on its next appeal to the people, will boast that it did a great deal in the interests of trade unionists by providing for the appointment of conciliation commissioners, the granting of preference to unionists, and the doing away with the necessity for a judge to consider the economic effects in the making of an award; but I am certain, that it will say very little about having taken away from trade unionists the right to demand a secret ballot. If any mandate has been received to repeal these sections it has come from trade union officials.
– What wonderful men they must be!
– They certainly have a very highly developed natural instinct for self-preservation. They fear the taking of a secret vote in their unions. The repeal of’ these sections would be entirely against’ democratic principles. If the Government insists on the retention of this clause in the bill it will be guilty of the most abject submission to trade union bureaucracy in its most tyrannical form. It has been said that these sections should be repealed because they have proved to be unworkable. It is true that they did not work satisfactorily on the only occasion on which they were put. into operation, but one failure should, not condemn the principle, and they failed only because certain union leaders were determined to make them fail. Given a fair chance, they would not fail. I feel sure that if this clause is passed, every decent trade unionist will be ashamed of the Labour party, and ashamed of the Government for its servile submission to the demand of the trade union bureaucrats; and the time will come when they will urge the restoration of the right to demand a secret ballot.
.- There are many objectionable features in the sections of the act which it is now proposed to repeal. The Australian Workers Union, which has a membership of 150,000, could not take a secret ballot of its members in a shorter time than three months, and it strongly objects to being forced to take such a ballot, because ten “crawlers” among its members may be dissatisfied. It is unfair that the names of the members who apply to the court for such a ballot must be kept a secret. It would cost; between £3,000 and £4j000 to take a secret ballot of the Australian Workers Union, for the vote would have to be taken in every part of Australia except the Northern Territory.
– The union would not have to bear the expense; it would be borne by the Commonwealth.
– A judge would not order the taking of a ballot unless substantial reasons were given for doing so.
– I do not believe that it is possible to get a thoroughly representative vote by this means. The trade unions of Australia are opposed to the retention of these sections in the act, because they regard” them as an unjusti- fiable interference with the management of their organizations. They contend that they are entitled to manage their own affairs in their own way. Honorable members opposite have asserted that trade union secretaries have been largely responsible for the industrial troubles that have occurred in Australia; but, my long association with trade union secretaries - I was secretary of the Australian Workers Union for some years - justifies me in asserting that trade union secretaries have done more than all the parliaments of Australia put together to preserve industrial peace. These men know the dire effects of industrial trouble. They know that the workers do not strike for fun. They know also that every strike inflicts severe hardship on the workers, and particularly on those with wives and families. Repeatedly the workers have been forced to strike even against the laws of the country in order to improve their conditions. The trade union movement started in Great Britain nearly 100 years ago. At that time the conditions of the working class were so wretched that a few reformers banded themselves together with the object of devising ways and means of improving working conditions generally. Because those men had the courage to start that movement most of them were transported to this country. I believe that some of them spent a few years at Port Arthur. The trade union movement has flourished in this country in spite of great hardships.
– And now the honorable member wishes to ruin it.
– The elimination of the secret ballot is more likely to lead to industrial peace, and no one would welcome that more than I. The union organizations are forced to keep a staff of men to police awards and determinations. Nearly every week an employer is prosecuted for not having complied with the conditions of an award. Yet the blame for any industrial dispute is always laid at the door of the working man. The workmen of Australia are among the finest in the world, and are the most lawabiding. It is true that when they are forced to fight they fight to some purpose. A man would not be worthy of the name of man if he were not prepared to fight for his rights, and for the rights of his wife and children. Our working people have fought well to improve their conditions, and through their efforts the standard of living is what it is to-day. They have fought both industrially and politically. It was only natural that when the Bruce-Page Government inserted this objectionable section in the act, the workers strongly resented it. They are opposed to any government interference with the management of the affairs of their unions. It is the practice among big unions to submit any important questions to a ballot of the members throughout Australia, and the decision of the majority is accepted. The workers of this country have always striven to improve their conditions by peaceful means. They have sought to bring about industrial peace. What we have done in the past we are prepared to do in the future. We have met the employers, in almost every industry in Australia in the Arbitration Court, and at round table conferences, and none of them will say honestly that our demands have been unreasonable or impossible.
– Why did the Industrial Peace Conference break down?
– I do not know.
– The union leaders refused to attend it.
– We considered that no good could come of that conference. I trust that the clause will be agreed to, and the provision for the secret ballot deleted from the act.
.- While I am always prepared to recognize the sincerity of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) and, while I recognize his experience in union affairs,” I cannot say that on this occasion I have been impressed with his remarks. The honorable member stated that ten “ crawlers “ from the union could approach the Arbitration Court with a request for a secret ballot. He forgets that the secret ballot is recognized as one, of the basic principles of democracy. The honorable member also referred to the expense of taking a ballot; but is it not better to expend a large sum in that way than that tens of thousands pounds should be lost to this country because of the dislocation of trade as the result of strikes? It is unfortunate that many strikes have occurred because of the control of the unions being in the hands of extremists. We on this side are just as sound in our advocacy of the principles of trade unionism as are honorable members opposite. We have faith in the movement, and we desire it to retain, the respect of the community. After all, no movement that does not wield a good influence can have the respect of the community. The deletion of this provision from the act will strike a blow at trade unionism. It is strange that this blow at a democratic principle should come from the Labour party, which claims to be ultra -democratic. The principle of the secret ballot is applied to our ordinary elections and even to the internal affairs of the union, and, therefore, I fail to understand the argument of Government supporters that the retention of this provision in the act will strike a blow at unionism. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) said that it was not right that Parliament should interfere in the management of trade unions, and that in no other case had this been attempted. Let me inform him. that under the company law it is encumbent upon the directors of companies to give the shareholders a vote in the management of their affairs. In addition, the ballot has to be conducted under certain conditions. Honorable members behind the Government have protested that there is no such thing as a red element in unionism to-day, and that everything in the garden is lovely - I do not refer to Jock Garden - when actually it is well-known to the community generally that the extremists are taking an active and dominant part in the affairs of unionism. There is a good deal of division in the ranks of the- movement. There are two elements - the extreme element and the moderate element. The extreme element is composed of a loud voiced minority and one of them was heard to some effect in this chamber to-day. This minority is always in the forefront at union meetings. Unfortunately it has in many cases obtained control of the unions by howling down the moderate element. To-day the minority rules the unions. The secret ballot was inserted in the act so .as to preserve to the moderate element its full rights in unionism, and I wonder that honorable members behind the Government do not support this provision, even in the interests of self-preservation. At the 1925 elections it was. the sound administrative policy of the BrucePage Government in part that kept it in office, and forced the Labour party to remain in the cool shades of Opposition. There it would have remained still had it not been for the peculiar circumstances surrounding the last election, and the deflections from the Nationalist party. The result of the 1925 election was, however, vitally affected by the small and extreme element obtaining control of the Seamens Union, as represented by Walsh and Johnson. Had the secret ballot been used, on that occasion there is no doubt, that the more moderate section of the union would have prevailed. It is not necessary to delete this section altogether. It is possible to retain its basic principle in the act, and still to enjoy its advantages. Many Government supporters hold moderate views, and there is nothing to prevent them from suggesting a. better method of giving effect to the secret ballot. Let me give one illustration to prove my contention that Parliament is justified in interfering with the management df trade union affairs. At one time a secret ballot was conducted by the Waterside Workers Union. It was announced by the president that a secret ballot was to be held, and the necessary preparations were made. A ballot box was placed on the right of the hall and another on the left. The question to be decided was whether the men should continue to work or go out on strike. The edict issued was “ Those who wish to vote for a continuance of work will place their ballot-papers in the box on the right; those who do not, will place their ballot papers in the box on the left.” It was time that the Government took a hand. I am sorry that the principles of the party that sits opposite are not so democratic as it claims that they are. If they were, it would preserve the rights and increase the benefits, of the moderate, sane-thinking men in the community.
-16]– The speech of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat reminded me of what is said to be a legal quip - “When you have no case, abuse the other side.” Not a single argument that has been adduced by honorable members on this side has been answered by our opponents. Realizing their inability to furnish an answer, they have resorted to personal reflections and abuse. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Gardner) referred to what he termed “ a noisy, loud-mouthed element in the trade union movement.” There is an element that he forgot to mention - the empty-headed element, of which he is a part. The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) manifested great concern about the trade union officials of this country, those who are said to be controlling the trade union movement. Doubtless he has excellent personal and private grounds for drawing distinctions between union secretaries, because I am informed on the most reliable authority that when an inspection was made of the books of his firm it was found that he was underpaying members of a certain union by £1 a week.
– I rise to a point of order. The statement that a union secretary inspected the books of my firm, and found that certain of its men were being underpaid, is untrue and insulting. I regard it as offensive, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– It is permissible criticism, and is not out of order. Its accuracy can be refuted by a personal explanation.
– On a point of order, I ask whether the remarks of the honorable member for Corio have any bearing upon the question before the Chair.
– I was referring to criticism that was levelled against officials of the trade union movement by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), who endeavoured to draw a distinction between certain trade union representatives, and especially singled me out as one of the undesirable type. I reply that the reason the honorable gentleman drew that distinction was that he had good personal and private grounds for doing so, because he was found to be one of the employers who break awards by underpaying employees.
– I rise to a point of order. I object to that statement, and ask that it be withdrawn.
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) has now attributed motives that are offensive to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White), and I ask him to withdraw them.
– If the statement that I have made is against the Standing Orders, and is regarded as offensive, I am quite prepared to withdraw it. Quite a number of offensive remarks have been made concerning me by honorable members opposite, and I have not taken offence at them. Now that my friends are getting something in kind, they are beginning to squeal.
Mr.White. - I desire to know whether the honorable member has withdrawn the offensive statement to which I have taken exception ?
– He has not withdrawn the statement that I ruled was permissible and not out of order; but I understand that he has withdrawn the imputation of motives.
– We have been asked to give reasons for our opposition to the provision that permits ten alleged members of a union to demand that the organization shall take a secret ballot. Let us see how, and for what purpose, a secret ballot may be demanded. It may be demanded when any vote has been, or is about to be, taken, for the election of the committee or the officers of any organization, or any branch, or in respect of any motion listed for adoption by the organization. It is not confined to industrial disputes. It is possible for any ten disgruntled members, who have been defeated at an ordinary meeting of a union, to enter into an unholy alliance, and make an application in writing to the Registrar of the Arbitration Court for the taking of a secret ballot upon any subject that has been discussed at that meeting. The matter may relate to finance, the raising of members’ contributions, affiliation with another organization, or any other simple question upon which no one would bother to take a secret ballot. These ten unknown persons, whose names are given only to the Registrar and the judge, have the power1 to dislocate the whole business of the organization by demanding a secret ballot.
– It is within the discretion of the judge to either grant or refuse the application.
– But the judge does not acquaint the union with the reasons that have been submitted to bini. Any one who has a knowledge pf what is involved in the taking of a ballot in an organization of any size realizes how big is the task. In the organization of which I am a member, the annual election of officers is conducted by means of a postal ballot ,of its members. A statement of accounts is sent to every member, and every financial member is furnished with a list of nomination for the respective offices. Four weeks are required to complete the ballot. It is possible, under the act as it stands for an insignificant minority of the members of an organization to dislocate the whole of its business, render ineffective all its work, and make it impossible for it to function by demanding a ballot upon some trivial question about which the officials know nothing. Who will say that such members may not be urged by employers to do this work, in order that they may be able to carry out practices involving a breach of an award? This insignificant minority has the power to demand a dozen or more ballots in one year.
– How would the judge regard a second application, when the first was a fiasco?
– How could it be proved a fiasco? The result may not be different from that arrived at at a meeting of the union. But, even assuming that the decision of a general meeting was reversed, what would that prove? Would it prove that the decision of the meeting was wrong? Certainly, it would not.
– It would be an expression of the real mind of the union.
– It may be, from the stand-point of the honorable member. It is possible for a body of men to decide a question .without being acquainted with the merits of the case. There is nothing to .prevent any ‘member of an organiza tion from attending its ordinary meetings, and there is no reason why he should not have the courage to speak his mind there. I say, without fear of contradiction, that I know of no men who control the business of an organization more effectively, more honorably, or more fairly, than do the chairmen of trade union meetings. The conduct of the business of the Trades Hall Council is a model that this Parliament could well adopt. There is less disorder, and less interruption at meetings of that council than in this Parliament.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has said that only seven trade unions have in their rules provision for the taking of a secret ballot. Every organization which enjoys the benefits of the act, has had to submit its rules to the Registrar of the Arbitration Court. Those . rules: have been scrutinized by the Registrar, with the object of satisfying himself that the conditions laid down in the act have been complied with to the letter. If a union has complied with the requirements of the act in respect of its rules, why should its business be dislocated on the application of ten disgruntled members for the holding of a secret ballot? The Australian Workers Union has over 100,000 members distributed throughout Australia; yet any ten of them can apply to the court for a secret ballot without the disclosure of their names. During the timber strike the carpenters’ organization, in accordance with the union rules, took a secret ballot of the whole of its members throughout Australia regarding the payment of a levy of ls. per week per member for the assistance of those involved in the dispute. Three months was occupied in getting a decision. A similar delay would occur with every federal organization which has branches throughout the Commonwealth, and so much trouble and ‘time would be taken up that it would not be able to carry on its ordinary functions. Is it any wonder that unionists object to the dislocation of the business of their organizations by demands on the part of insignificant minorities for -ballots whenever it suits their whim? In -every large organization there is a disgruntled section; that would happen even if the angel Gabriel were on the executive. The provision in the act relating to secret ballots has been found to be impracticable, vexatious, and useless, and no sensible body of men would tolerate its continuance.
Motion (by Mr. Brennan)- That the question be now put - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
A judge and every person authorized in writing by a judge or registrar may at any time during working hours enter any building, mine, mine working, ship, vessel, place, or premises of any kind wherein or in respect of which any industry is carried on or any work is being or has been done or commenced, or any matter or thing is taking or has taken place in relation to which any industrial dispute is pending, or any award has been made, or any offence against this act is suspected, and may, to the extent and for the purpose named in the authority, inspect and view any work, material, machinery, appliances, articles, book or document therein.
Under that section the organizing secretary of the Engineers Union inspected the books of my company, and I. was under the impression at the time that he found nothing wrong. He also inspected certain sections of the works, and about six months later issued a summons on the ground that certain men had been underpaid. The law says that such things may be done, and I take no exception to them on that account, although the law is frequently used to harass certain employers who are suspected of engaging employees on piece-work, or who do not bow the knee to the unions. The case was brought before the Arbitration Court, and the union was represented by Mr. Maurice Blackburn, supported by a leading barrister, Mr. Stanley Lewis. The case was dismissed with full costs against the union.
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).Order! I was not in the Chair when the speech of the honorable member for Corio was delivered, but I ask the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to confine his remarks to the making of a personal explanation.
Section 58n of the principal act is repealed.
.- Section 58b, which this clause proposes to repeal, reads as follows: - 58b. The rules of an organization registered under this act and the officials of such organization shall not during the currency of an award in the industry concerned prevent or impede any members of such organization from entering into written agreements in accordance with such award.
That section has been in the bill for many years. I listened very carefully to the Attorney-General while he was delivering his second-reading speech, and while he was speaking subsequently, but I did not hear him at any stage give reasons for the repeal of this section, the value of which has been proved in the case of the shearing industry, in which, as honorable members know, it is necessary to make arrangements well ahead. The practice has been to arrange for a certain number of shearers to be engaged in accordance with a written agreement made under the terms of the award. The retention of this section can do no ‘ harm. In fact it does good. It simply provides that written agreements may be made in accordance with awards of the Arbitration Court. It is necessary that the rules of a trade union may not be altered in such a way as to prevent agreements of that kind being made in pursuance of an award. The section does not interfere with any vital union principle, and there is no reason for its repeal.
– Speaking generally, the Government has it in mind to repeal as many as possible of those sections of the act which tend to make it too punitive and inquisitorial. The repeal of this section will not in itself prevent agreements being made of the kind to which the right honorable gentleman has referred.
– But it will allow trade unions to make rules which will prevent the making of such agreements.
– This Parliament has no right to pre-judge any union rule which may be made, and which cannot now be a matter for the consideration of this .committee. This section, to my mind, interferes unduly with the liberty of organizations to manage their own affairs in their own way. If it could be shown that the repeal of this section would encourage or compel the making of illegal agreements, there might be some justification for its retention. There are in the act very comprehensive provisions for disciplining organizations. One marvels at the diligence displayed by the last Government in framing amendments providing for the imposition of penalties.
– This section was not inserted by the last Government; it has been in the act for years.
– My observations are true, even though I must accept the correction of the right honorable member, but only as to part of the section. The fact is that the act contains a great many restraining and disciplining provisions, and we think that the number of such provisions should be reduced. I ask honorable members to remember that this is not a statute for the administration of criminal law, it is directed to conciliation and arbitration. The actual words of the section proposed to be repealed are - 58b. The rules of an organization registered under this act and the officials of such organization shall not during the currency of an award in the industry concerned prevent or impede any members of such organization from entering into written agreements in accordance with such award.
My contention is that the rules of organizations might properly, in certain circumstances, prevent such agreements being made. An agreement may be undesirable though in accordance with an award. We cannot foresee what circumstances might arise, or what agreements might be made, and it is not right that we should presume to prejudge the rules which any organization might desire to make. Section 60 of the act, which is relevant to this discussion, enables a court to discipline unions and organizations in certain respects. The section states that a union may be deregistered -
If the rules of a registered organization or their administration do not provide reasonable facilities for the admission of new members or impose unreasonable conditions upon the continuance of their membership or are in any way tyrannical or oppressive.
Although we propose to remove many of the restricting sections from the act, this section, it will be noted, has been allowed to remain. This statute is not designed to truss up unions, for they have every right to conduct their own business within the law in accordance with their own interests.
– But the repeal of the section might prevent the making of an agreement in accordance with an award.
– Yes, if such prevention were the legitimate exercise of union authority. The Government has given consideration to every aspect of this subject, and feels that the repeal of the section will inflict no hardship on any one, but will give organizations greater freedom to manage their own affairs.
.- The arguments advanced by the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan) in support of the repeal of the section are interesting. First he said that this is a penal section, which is not true. Secondly, he said it was inserted in the act by the last Government, which is not true.
– I said that the last Government inserted many penal provisions in the act, but when an honorable member opposite said that this was not one of them I accepted his word.
– At any rate, the Attorney-General at first thought that this section was placed in the act by the last Government. As a matter of fact it was put there in 1920. The next argument of the Attorney-General in support of the repeal of the section was that it was impossible for Parliament to foresee the kind of agreements that might be made under the section, and, therefore, it was desirable to prohibit the making of any agreements. The only effect of the section is to provide that the rules and officials of organizations shall not prevent members from entering into agreements in accordance with an award.
– It is conceivable that it might be quite reasonable to prevent it from doing so.
– Surely the AttorneyGeneral does not seriously suggest that a member of a union should be prevented from making an agreement in accordance with an award of the court? That is really suggesting that union rules should override court awards. I do not think any honorable member will agree that union rules should dominate court awards.
I very much regret that a Government which professes to uphold industrial arbitration should propose the repeal of this section.
– If an agreement were made in breach of an award of the court, it would be reprehensible; but it is conceivable that not all agreements made in accordance with an award are necessarily acceptable to a union.
.- Had the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) been in the chamber, he would have been able to explain why this section was put into the act ten years ago. The generalities of the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan) are more like a smoke screen than anything else. The object of this section is to enable men engaged in one industry, at any rate to sign agreements while they are still some hundreds of miles from the shearing-shed in which they desire to work.
– The repeal of the section will not prevent the making of such agreements.
– But it will enable trade unions to make a rule to prevent the making of them. The Australian Workers Union had such a rule before a clause was added to the award preventing it. This section has not caused any trouble, but, on the other hand, has been beneficial to employers and employees alike. It has made it much easier for station-owners to make definite arrangements for shearing, and it has not caused any hardship to any one.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) seem to be afraid that the repeal of this section will affect the making of any agreements between the pastoralists and the shearers, the pastoralists and shed hands, and the pastoralists and certain other workers whom they employ ; but that is not so. It will make possible the adoption of a common form of agreement by members of the Australian Workers Union- and the Pastoralists Association, and prevent individuals from making agreements which are not acceptable to those organizations. Every one who has had much experience in industrial matters knows very well that certain unscrupulous employers and employees never lose an opportunity to evade awards in. certain minor respects. An agreement was made on one occasion by a district secretary of the Australian Workers Union in Queensland with certain mining employers, which had to be repudiated subsequently by the branch secretary of the Australian Workers Union. Something like that has also occurred in connexion with the clothing trade and other industries. Certain persons, who desire to gain some minor advantage for themselves, are willing to agree with their employers that some conditions provided for in awards need not necessarily be observed in their case. They take care not. to commit any breach of the award in relation to wages and hours, but. in other respects they are not so particular. The policing of awards is an extremely difficult business, and the repeal of this section will do something to make it a little easier than it has been in the past. There is no intention to make awards of the court subservient to union rules. I have known persons who have made agreements pf the kind to which I have referred who have later requested the union covering their calling to assist them to secure their dues in regard to unpaid overtime and the like.
– But surely such agreements would not be in accordance with the award.
– It would be difficult in some cases to say that they had committed any substantial breach of an award. The object of the Government in asking for the repeal of the section is to provide thai: agreements shall not be made between individuals which may take away advantages that have been gained by the unions. If this section is repealed, all agreements in regard to the pastoral industry, at any rate, will have to be made by the Australian Workers Union on the one part and the Pastoralists Association on the other part, though individual workers will still be able to contract to work a certain number of weeks and shear a certain number of sheep, or press a certain number of bales of wool at certain prices. The rates of wages of the men are also set out on sheets supplied by those who sign the agreements. The deletion of this provision will have no effect upon those agreements.
– What is the reason for striking it out?
– There are individual members of unions who enter into agreements with their employers, and while those agreements may strictly conform with the award, many little advantages that have been established by custom are withheld by unscrupulous employers. They enter into agreements with their employees so as to give them something less than the ordinary working conditions, at the same time conforming with the award.
– They are superseding the award.
– There is no such thing as that. Conditions which are given in excess of the award do not constitute a breach of it; but it is a breach not to comply with its full conditions. The award is really the minimum. that the employer may give. In respect of the clothing trade, I had the experience at Rockhampton of taking a case through the court. A system of piece-work was in vogue which could not be abolished. A few individuals were employing three or four girls in small registered shops, and agreements had been entered into between them. It was difficult to prove any actual case because the employees were afraid of getting the sack; but some of them did approach the organization. Inquiries were instituted, and it was found that the conditions of the award were not being complied with. That, of course, constituted a breach of the award. The court does not stand for that sort of thing. There are many breaches of the award that are difficult to discover. The difficulty is that the employer who abides by the award is at a disadvantage compared with the unfair employer who secretly breaks the award. It will serve no good purpose to leave this provision in the act. The Australian Workers Union did at one time suggest that an agreement should not be signed by its members. There was good reason for that, but it disappeared when an agreement was arrived at, acceptable to both parties and prescribed by the court as part of the Australian Workers Union award.
– I congratulate the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) on his moderate and temperate speech. He has given us more information on this clause than we have received from the Government side in respect of the bill as a whole.
– That shows the advantage of having in this Parliament members who have had a considerable experience of trade unionism.
– This provision was inserted in the act for the purpose of protecting both sides of industry, and it is of special value because it enables both the employer and the employee to make their arrangements weeks ahead. I see no good reason for deleting this section. Lt was inserted in the act when I first entered this Parliament in 1920, and at that time disaster was prophesied as the result of its operation. What has been the result? During the last ten years there has been less industrial strife between the Australian Workers Union and the pastoralists than between any other two parties to industry in Australia. The wool industry provides the great bulk of our exports and of the wealth of this country. Yet, during the last ten years, there has been little industrial strife, largely because of the desire on the part of the representatives of the Australian Workers Union on the one hand, and of the graziers on the other, to carry out the award in its entirety.
– They fought Mr. Justice Powers’s award, and in 1922 the Australian Workers. Union went out on strike.
– There has been less industrial strife in that industry than in any other large industry of Australia. This provision has been of considerable advantage to men who have to travel from 100 to 200 miles to their place of employment. It was not inserted in the act by the Bruce-Page Government; therefore much of the AttorneyGeneral’s animosity to it is ill-directed.
.- The right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has directed attention to the fact that this provision was not inserted in the act by the late Government; but if I were momentarily under the impression that that was so, the idea arose because that
Government did amend this section. It was introduced in 1920, and in1928 these words were struck out - “ at any time prior to the commencement of service.” That provision was, therefore, legislated upon by the late Government. I may say that the words - “ other things being equal” - were not introduced into the act by the late Government. As I have already pointed out, the present Government has not approached this act from the point of view of whether its provisions proceeded from the late Government or any of its predecessors. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) prides himself on the fact that, in his opinion at least, there are some 40 sections for which he was responsible still remaining in the act. That shows that we are not regarding the question of conciliation and arbitration from a party point of view. Our desire is to amend the act, having regard to the mandate that we received at the hands of the
.- I have listened with interest to the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan). He has forgotten one little thing in this bill. It should contain a provision to the effect that nothing in this act should empower the court or a conciliation commissioner to make any rule contrary to the rules of the industrial organizations. That is all that is necessary to conform with the ideals of trade unionism. The amendment before the House was inserted in the act in 1920, and there was a good deal of objection to it on the part of the Labour party. It has been in the act for a long time, and has certainly worked satisfactorily. It has been responsible for much peace in industry. We should aim at that rather than pass this bill and create friction in industry. In this time of great depression we are deliberately passing legislation which must intensify the animosity now. existing between employer and employee.
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) - That the question be now put - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The committee divided. (Chairman - Mr. McGrath.)
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 39 (Application for cancellation of registration).
.- This clause proposes to strike out of section 60 of the act provisions that entitle the court toderegister an organization in certain cases. Those cases are -
Where the proper authority of an organization has neglected to exercise its powers over its members to prevent a strike or a lockout;
Where an organization has made or given a domestic rule or order or direction contrary to the terms of an order or award or requiring or instructing or advising tie members to refuse to offer or accept employment in accordance with an order or award;
Where the members or a substantial number of them repeatedly or systematically commit offences against the act or an award; and
Where the organization has not put its rules in order.
It is true that there is a covering paragraph a, which entitles the court to deregister an organization if, for any reason, its registration ought to he cancelled. It may be suggested that the parliament should not indicate to the court in any measure the circumstances that would justify deregistration. Of course, if that argument were logically carried out, paragraph a, would be the only one allowed to remain in the section. But, in fact, other paragraphs, fromb to h, are being retained, and therefore that argument cannot be regarded as sufficient for the proposed amendment. I submit that, if an organization that is registered under the act, and that, so far as the purposes of the act are concerned, draws its existence from the act, regularly or repeatedly, breaks an award, or if its members refuse to accept work in accordance with an award, there can be no legitimate grounds for objecting to its deregistration. To me, this is one of the most valuable provisions in the act. It says in clear terms that organizations are not to have it both ways; that if they desire to preserve their registration they must comply with the act and the awards made under it. It is desirable that that should . be stated in clear language. I therefore oppose the proposal to repeal these paragraphs.
– I merely wish it to appear on record, following the observations of the Leader of the Opposition, that the Government agrees that organizations may reasonably be subjected to a fair measure of discipline. But it docs not agree that they should be harassed. I have repeated that proposition over and over again, and it has been kept in mind from beginning to end in the drafting of this bill. It is a fact that theact itself lays it down that the court may, for any reason, cancel the registration of an organization. One would suppose that that in itself was sufficiently farreaching and disciplinary. But the Government has not excluded other specific reasons for which, in its view, and if the court thinks fit, the registration of an organization may be cancelled. It has left untouched a long list of reasons, beginning with paragraph a, and ending with h, for which a union may be deregistered. The other paragraphs are considered to be indefinite in their nature, difficult to construe, harassing and punitive. The Government considers that those provisions are part of the policy that was pursued by the last Government, a policy that inflamed organized labour in Australia into a state of extreme bitterness against the law. We are toning down those penalties; that is the whole scheme of the bill. An abundance of disciplinary powers still remain. We do not want to pursue unions into the highways and byways. It is our desire to promote a spirit of goodwill; and we wish it to be understood that industrial organizations are bodies of responsible men, who know their own business and are anxious to conduct it without constant interference by the Government so long as the rights of others are not affected. For that reason, we have repealed a number of the causes for which a union’s registration may be cancelled.
– Neither this measure nor any of those that have preceded it have made provision for the amalgamation of registered organizations, and for the retention by those organizations of the rights and privileges conferred by awards while the registration of the amalgamation was being effected. Difficulty was experienced when the Bread Carters Union, the Motor Transport Union, and the Carters and Drivers Union, desired to amalgamate in an organization known as the Amalgamated Road Transport Organization.
– That matter cannot be debated under this clause; a new clause must be moved.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral make a note of the matter, and endeavour to have it embodied in the act; because it is absolutely essential.
– I will.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 40 -
After section sixtyof the principal act and before the heading “Proclaimed Organizations” the following section is inserted: - “61. During the pendency of any dispute or matter before the court, no resignation of or discharge from the membership of any organization shall have effect.”.
.- I move -
That after the word “effect” the following words be added: - “ unless the member accepts employment in an industry other than that to which the dispute or matter relates.”
The proposed section provides that no member should resign from a union while it had a matter before the court. Members of the Opposition have suggested that because of that section a man might be compelled to hold tickets in more than one union, because that to which he belonged originally was a party to a dispute which remained pending for a long time. There is some truth in that statement. The suggestion has been made that a time limit of twelve months should be imposed, but that also would impose a hardship on a casual worker. He might have been a member of’ the Australian Workers Union for a few months, during which the union filed a claim before the court. Then, owing to the vicissitudes of employment, he transferred to the Labourers Union, but while the dispute of the Australian Workers Union remained unsettled, he must continue his membership of that organization.
– What happens to a man who reaches the age of 65 years and becomes an old-age pensioner? He should be able to get out of the union, despite any pending matter.
– Not many aged men are affected. . The greatest hardship is on men who have to change from one industry to another, and while disputes are pending have to hold tickets in two, three, or more unions. My proposal would obviate that.
– How does an unemployed man fare?
– Until he engages in work in another industry he remains a member of the organization.
– Has he to continue paying fees?
– The rules of many unions provide that if a member has been unemployed for a protracted term his dues may be waived by resolution of the local branch. My amendment will enable a member, as soon as he engages in work in another industry, to resign from a union, notwithstanding the pendency of a dispute before the court.
– Would that apply to a man who went into business on his own account?
– I do not disguise the fact that there are circumstances in which a man must continue his membership of a union, otherwise members who had voted in favour of approaching the court might, while the claim was still pending, resign, and thus relieve themselves of all responsibility for the expense to which they had committed the organization. My amendment will remove the hardship of compelling a man to be a member of more than one union.
– There were good reasons for the insertion in the act of the proposed new section 61; but it is admitted that with the development of organizations throughout Australia, and because of the length of time for which disputes are pending before the court, hardship is sometimes caused. A working compromise has been suggested, and for that reason I circulated an amendment, but, believing that the suggestion of the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley), offers a more intelligent solution of the problem, I recommend it to the committee.
.- While I think the principle of the proposed section is wrong, many of my objections to it are removed by the amendment moved by the honorable member for Macquarie, which makes the section much more reasonable.
– I, too, welcome the amendment. It removes many df the objections to the proposal of the Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan), although it does not go quite far enough. I suggest that the honorable member might give further consideration to this matter with- a view to drafting a more satisfactory section to be submitted in another place.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 41 agreed to.
Clause 42 (Suspension or expulsion of member of organization).
– This clause repeals the provision which gives to a member of an organization who is suspended or expelled a cheap and ready means to appeal to the Arbitration Court. If this section is repealed it will be necessary for a member of an organization who has been expelled to bring an action before the Supreme Court of the State in which he resides, which, having regard to the means of the persons concerned, will be expensive. Section 70b confers a right on individual members of unions who consider that they have been unjustly suspended or expelled to appeal to the Arbitration Court, and I regret that the Government proposes to deprive members of unions of the right which the section to be repealed- provides.
– The section to be repealed affords another illustration of the tendency of the late Government to pay the part of the schoolmaster with the unionists of this country. It is regarded as an interference with the legitimate rights of the unions to make their own rules for the conduct of their own business including inter-union differences. We wish to exclude litigiousness as much as possible.
– And whose rules have to be registered.
– Yes; and are subjected to scrutiny. The matters covered by the section to be repealed are considered to be more fitting for the exercise of the discretion of the organization itself. As the elaborate machinery contained in the section is considered unnecessary, it is proposed to repeal it. This law is not a code intended to cover all rights and liabilities.
– The Attorney-General is in error. The section is not an interference with the legitimate rights of any person. It simply provides a simple procedure to be followed in the case of a unionist who has been unjustly suspended or expelled, and who, in order to obtain his rights, is permitted by a simple and expeditious procedure to go before the Arbitration Court. There is no control over the unionist under this section. There is no imposition of an obligation. The object and effect of the section is that if a member of an organization considers that he has been unjustly expelled, he can avoid unnecessary expense. If this section is repealed expense will be incurred, and the result will be that unionists will be unable to obtain cheap and expeditious justice in such cases.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham.) has said that he knows of cases where men have been unjustly treated by the organization of which they are members. I am not in a position to deny that assertion; but I know that the rules of all organizations registered in the Arbitration Court provide for the procedure to be followed where a member considers that he has been unfairly treated by his organization, or any section of it. The expulsion of a member of an organization is very carefully considered before action is taken, and it is incorrect to say that many expulsions occur.I know of no case in which a man has been expelled by his organization in which if he had approached the court he would have benefited.
– There have been quite u number.
– I do not know of any in the organization to which I belong, the machinery of which is very elaborate. There have been instances where men have. been expelled from their organizations by district committees which acted without authority, but such men on appealing to the executive had the expulsions upset. I know of three or four instances in which explusions have come before the convention and have ultimately gone to the Supreme Court. The appeals to the court were not upheld, but the costs have been met by the organization.
Mr.Archdale Parkhill. - What was the position in McLellan’s case?
– The court did not take long in considering McLellan’s case. lt will only create further difficulties if the method of appeal is made too easy. If men who are expelled from organizations had the right to appeal to the Arbitration Court they would always be there.
– What happens now?
– If a member of an organization is expelled he has a right to appeal to the governing body, which is the annual convention, and consists of delegates from all parts of the Commonwealth. He is allowed to state his case. There is no difficulty in connexion with the procedure. The expulsion of a member of an organization i3 n drastic step, and a power which is very rarely exercised. Very few members are expelled, and, when they are, it is only on exceptionally good grounds. Under a system of preference to unionists, the expulsion of a member of an organization deprives a man of his right to work in those industries where preference exists.
– Exactly. That is why the section should remain.
– A case came before the Queensland Supreme Court in which a man named Durkin claimed about £1,200 for wages and damages. The case was tried before Judge Woolcock, whoheld that the man had no grounds on. which to appeal. He was not expelled from the organization - he was a shearer and a member of the Australian Workers Union - and if he had been expelled he would have been unable to follow his calling unless he worked as a non-unionist, which would have been very difficult. It was therefore considered undesirable to expel him. It is unfair to attempt to interfere with the domestic affairs of trade unionism, and any attempt to do so will only cause friction. If unionists have the right to approach the Arbitration Court in cases of this kind additional judges will have to be appointed.
– The committee will agree that the Attorney-General’s statement that the late Government, in administering the section to be repealed, played the part of the schoolmaster is unjustified. The honorable member for Her bert (Mr. Martens) said that if preference is granted to unionists, a person who has been expelled from an organization practically loses his right to earn a living. What earthly reason, then, can there be for objecting to this section?A member of an organization should have the right to appeal to some impartial court against his living being taken away.
– It is not taken away.
– Of course it is. As it has been said that, appeals to the Arbitration Court in the matter of expulsions should not be easy, it is reasonable to assume that if this section is repealed it will be difficult to appeal. A man who has to earn his living and provide for his family should be protected. There is no reason why_ the right of appeal to the courts of the “land should be taken away from citizens, so that they may be compelled to go in search of justice to any coterie temporarily in charge of their organizations. It is not fair to ask a man who has been expelled from ‘his union to seek redress at the hands of the persons who have expelled him. That is an appeal from Caesar to Caesar. Most Australian Workers Union organizations are close corporations, and a man who offends against one section offends against them all. This section makes some provision for enabling the workers to obtain that justice which is now being denied to them by those who profess to represent Labour.
.- Trade union leaders often complain that unionists are victimized by employers, and this is represented as one of the greatest injustices that can be inflicted on them, because it deprives men of their livelihood. This clause now proposes to make it possible to victimize members of trade unions, and to deny them the right of effective appeal. If there is to be compulsory unionism, there should be some easy and cheap method of appeal for a man who has been expelled from his organization. Our object in meeting in this Parliament is, as much as anything else, to make justice easy of access to the people of the country. According to this bill, workers are to be compelled to join trade unions, and they are forbidden to leave their union while a dispute is pending or threatening; but they may be expelled if they happen to give offence to a trade union official, and no ready method is open to them to obtain redress. They will be compelled, in order to obtain justice, to go to the Supreme Court. This will inflict great hardship on a man who is working for wages, and will, in a great many cases, prevent unionists from appealing at all. This allows tyranny of the worst sort, and I am surprised that a proposal of the kind should come from persons who have been elected to this Parliament on an adult franchise.
– The remarks of the last two speakers have made very clear the intention of those who inserted this section in the act. All their complaints are based on the fact that preference can be given to unionists so that men may, in effect, be compelled to join industrial organizations. It is only
On that score that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) /ind the right honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) emphasized the danger and hardship which they alleged might ensue if this section were repealed.
– I dealt with that aspect of the matter in my second-reading speech
– It is quite clear now what was the intention of those who inserted this clause. If it is considered necessary as they say now owing to the possibility of preference becoming law under this. bill, then why the necessity for the clause under their act when they in no way. provided for any form of preference. Their own argument for the retention of the clause discloses very clearly their attitude towards unionism. They do not believe in preference, or in fact unionism at all, and this section was inserted to provide a means whereby disgruntled members of trade unions might sabotage the principles of unionism. It was intended to provide easy access to a tribunal which might disorganize trade unionism. I have been active, in my own union, and have been associated with many others for years, and I know that there exists ample opportunity to obtain redress for those who feel they have been wronged. They may go beyond their own branches and appeal to higher, central authorities. Personally, I would rather rely upon getting justice from the rank and file of my own union than from many other institutions.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 43 (Records to be kept by organization).
– I cannot understand why the AttorneyGeneral proposes to alter this section. He made no reference to it in his secondreading speech. The effect of the amendment is to relieve trade union officials of the obligation to furnish a return of the addresses of their members, though they are still required to furnish a return of the names. That is necessary now that the general penalties are being removed. At the present time, an employer can always be shot at if he commits a breach of an award, because in the great majority of cases everybody knows where he is to be found. If lie is a member of an organization his. name will appear in the list required under the section as it stands in the act. In the case of the employee, if the name only is given it will be difficult to establish the identity of the person in the case of a breach of an award. If the Government desires to alter the section in the manner proposed, in order to weight the scales evenly it should place on the person proceeded against the onus of proof that he is not a member of an organization.
.- This section incorporates in the act a provision that previously appeared in rules, and thereby the provision has become much better known than formerly. After it was passed in this particular form, the representatives of a number of unions saw me when I was AttorneyGeneral in the last Government, and explained that they did not know the postal addresses of a large number of their members. I accepted that statement, and it appeared to show a very unsatisfactory state of affairs in the management of those unions. The mere name William Smith or John Brown can mean nothing for the purpose of management or voting. We have heard to-night of the wonderful machinery which the unions have for taking secret ballots. How can there be any reality in that system if there is any substance in the objection that secretaries are unable to record postal addresses opposite the names of members ? It is proposed to repeal the penalty provision, and therefore the position will be that the organization need not keep any of the records required under the section. It is provided that every organization shall keep a list of its members, showing their names and postal addresses; a list of the names, postal addresses and occupations of the. members of its committee of management, of its officers and of every person holding, whether as trustee or otherwise, property of the organization, or of any branch of the organization, or property in which the organization or branch has any beneficial interest; an account, in proper form, of its receipts and payments and of all its funds and effects; and such other records as are prescribed. But the provision for a penalty is to be removed, and in future there will be no effective means of requiring any of these records to be kept by registered unions. There ought to be some penalty. Let the committee reduce the amount if it will, but surely it is necessary, having regard to the importance of these organizations, that there shall be an effective provision for the registration of members and officers and a record of receipts and payments and funds.
– It has been stated by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) that provision for a ballot is inherent in the constitutions of the various unions, but how can a secret ballot be taken when the addresses of members are not known?
– Because many unionists are constantly shifting from one job to another.
– But they are not on their jobs for ever. What happens when they are out of work? It is almost inconceivable that there should be no obligation upon a trade union to know the abode of its members. How could a secret ballot be carried out in such circumstances, particularly at a time when a large number of men were out of work? I regard this as a tax-dodging clause. Many unionists earn amounts which bring them under the operation of the Income Tax Act, but they do not pay a penny by way of taxation. How are such men to be traced if a union secretary cannot give the addresses of members of his organization?
– I do not consider that he ought to supply them.
Mr. ARCHDALE PARKHILL.That means that the laws of this country, in many respects, can be deliberately and flagrantly broken by the members of unions because the secretary cannot state their place of abode. TJnder this clause he may say that he does not know their addresses, because there is no obligation on him to keep his books in a proper manner..
– Thousands of workers in this country have no residential
– I quite recognize the reasonableness of any interjection from the honorable member for Wannon; but every man in this country has a postal address, or at least an address for the purposes of the electoral roll. Of course some persons may neglect to avail themselves of the right to vote or may desire to keep their address to themselves in order to dodge the Taxation Commissioner. I consider that the removal of this provision is undesirable from the point of view of the organizations themselves.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Archdale Parkhill) is honest in the view that he has put forward, but that does not make this section of the act any more practicable. Hundreds of thousands of nomadic workers in Australia could not give a reliable address for two consecutive months in the year. The honorable member has said that certain workers might desire to evade the payment of taxation, but he must be aware that the last Government, which he supported, allowed certain persons, whose addresses were well known, to escape the payment of taxation. This section is unworkable in its presentform, and is unfair to the secretaries of organizations. A man may take out a union ticket at Cairns in May, and be in the southern parts of New South Wales by August, or he may take out a ticket in the north-west of Queensland in May, and be in the Riverina in September. It is ridiculous to expect him to keep the secretary of the union informed of his whereabouts when he is not in any place for more than five or six weeks at a time, and even if he did forward his change of address every time he moved on, it would be ridiculous to expect the union secretary to forward the new. address on to the court.
.- I ask the Attorney-General to consider amending the section to provide that union secretaries need only send in supplementary lists showing the names of members who have altered their addresses during the year, and giving particulars of alterations in membership through death, resignation, or other causes. This would save a tremendous amount of work.
– That is a matter of administration which can be considered.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 44 (Appointment of auditors of organizations) .
.- This clause provides not only for the removal of the penalty to which organizations are at present liable for failure to have a proper audit made of their books, but also for the appointment of a “ competent “ instead of a “ qualified “ person as auditor. It is surely essential that organizations shall take pains to see that their books are properly audited, and that adequate provision is made, for special audits. In short, the clause robs the section of nearly all of its’ usefulness, and I regret that it has been included in the bill.
– I point out that while the penalty to which an organization is at present liable for neglecting to have its books properly audited is being removed, provision is made in another clause that the accounts of organizations shall be duly audited, and “that the audit shall disclose the true financial position of the organization. An organization which does not attend to these requirements will be subject to the discipline of the court, and may be de- registered.
.- I am dissatisfied with the explanation of the clause given by the Attorney-General. He has made some reference to the removal of penalties, but has not told us why the word “ competent “ has been preferred to the word “ qualified “. There is a distinction between a “ qualified “ person and a “ competent “ person, and I should like to know why the latter word is being substituted for the former, because a “ qualified “ person is not necessarily competent to conduct an audit of the books of an organization. The Attorney-General has again treated the committee cavalierly. He entirely ignored the main point of the criticism. Is it intended to place greater power in the hands of trade union secretaries?
– That is the idea.
– The honorable member for Eremantle has been very helpful in the discussion during the committee stages of this bill. I am glad to have his assurance that the intention is to give greater power to trade union secretaries and union bosses, with the object, no doubt, of still further “bamboozling” the rank and file of industrial organizations. I assume, however, that members of the Australian Workers Union would not allow a “competent”, instead of a “ qualified “ person to conduct the audit of the books of their organization, because that union handles very large sums of money. Again I ask the Attorney-General to explain why the alteration is being made in paragraph a of section 72a.
– I hope to be able to furnish the’ answer to the question asked by the honorable member for Richmond. The auditor, whether he be “ qualified “ or “ competent “, must satisfy the court that he has discharged his duties efficiently. If the court is not satisfied it may deregister the organization concerned. That, I think, is a sufficient answer to the point raised by the honorable member. But I rose particularly for the purpose of replying to certain statements made by the honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) when speaking to the second-reading debate. The discussion on this clause gives me that opportunity. The Leader of the Opposition said that certain Public Service organizations were charging an entrance fee of as much as £18. He then went on to say -
The Postal Workers Union has gone so far us 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 …
At present, there is a shortage of about £H00 in ,the funds of the New South Wales branch of thu Postal Workers Union, and an application has been granted under section 72a for a special audit.
The rules of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union, in common with those of other industrial organizations, provide for the payment of an entrance fee by all applicants for membership who cannot produce a. clearance from a bona-fide trade union. The entrance fee varies according to the circumstances of the case, and in many instances it is less than £1. The maximum entrance fee is £5, but this applies only to extreme cases. The assertion that Public Service organizations were charging men an entrance fee of £18 is a gross exaggeration. I understand that one small organization is charging a rather high entrance fee, but that case is exceptional. The statement that there is a shortage of about. £900 in the funds of the New South Wales branch of the Amalgamated Posted Workers Union is incorrect. It is true that a special audit of the funds of the New South Wales branch of the organization was conducted by the Industrial Registrar under the provisions of section 72 a of the Arbitration Act: but the Leader of the Opposition, omitted ‘.to mention the essential fact that the report of the special auditor confirmed the report of the union’s auditors in every detail, which indicates that there was no warrant for this interference in the affairs of the union. The following extracts from the report of the special auditor are a convincing answer to the partisan insinuations of the Leader of the Opposition: -
The period covered by my audit was from 1st. September, 1928 to 31st May. 1930, as laid down in your instructions. A scrutiny of the books and records kept at the office of the branch revealed that the system of accounting employed is satisfactory, and provides the necessary machinery for properly recording the financial transaction* of the branch.
The accounts arc audited annually by a reputable firm of public accountants (Messrs. Allen & Allen), whose last complete audit covered the year ended 31st August, 1929. A certified balance-sheet was prepared by the auditors showing the position of the branch as at that date, and this, together with their report, was duly received and adopted by the annual general meeting of members of the union held on 23rd September, 1920.
An exhaustive examination was made of the accounts and all relevant documents concerning the financial transactions of the branch during the period above referred to.
All moneys for which receipts had been issued were traced to account, and the whole of the receipt forms were accounted for with the exception of six (0) forms numbered A40201 to A40206 inclusive, which were found to be missing from one of the collector’s receipt books. “ The collector was unable to explain why the forms were missing.
In view of the fact that, approximately 20,000 receipts) were dealt with, the result of the abovementioned examinations is regarded as highly satisfactory.
In conclusion, I desire to mention that every facility has been afforded to me by Mr. Burke and his staff in carrying out my examination, and for this ready ‘ assistance I express my appreciation.
The Leader of the Opposition also failed to make it known that the special audit referred to was granted at the request of an insignificant number of disgruntled members - 26 out of a membership of over 4,000 - without any attempt being made to verify the assertions of the petitioners, and without affording the duly elected and responsible officials of the organization the slightest opportunity of answering the assertions of the disgruntled minority. This remarkable interpretation of the law, which was no doubt in keeping with the intention of its framers, the late Government, supplies convincing evidence of the need for radically altering the act. The assertion of the Leader of the Opposition that some of the members of the Postal Workers Union desire a secret ballot on any matter is news to the officers of the organization, and no such proposal has ever been mooted at any meeting of the members. The rules of this organization provide for the election of branch officers by postal ballot from year to year. It has never been suggested at any time by the union that it should be an offence against the union to apply to the court for an order for a special audit or a secret ballot, and the statement of the Leader of the Opposition in this connexion has no foundation in fact. If the honorable member desires to take up the self-imposed task of advocate for non-unionists and disgruntled ticket-unionists, I suggest that lie should at least inquire into the mentality and integrity of his doubtful clients. If he did this, he would be saved the necessity of listening to corrections regarding his false assertions and misrepresentations.
– I am glad that the honorable member has dealt with the other side of this question, although, of course, he had simply put the view of the officials of iiic Postal Workers Union.
– And of the auditor.
– There has certainly been a dispute in the organization in respect of the funds and other matters, and if an audit has disclosed that nothing is wrong with the funds, I shall be glad to know it.
– Did not the Leader oil the Opposition convey the impression that there was palpable dishonesty in connexion with the conduct of the affairs of the union?
– I said that there was said to be a shortage of funds, and that an audit was taking place. This is an internal dispute, and it is certainly desirable that there should be provision for an official audit in no way under the control of the officers of any organization whose accounts are being audited. I have also been informed that the general secretary, Mr. J. V. Dwyer, who is known to many honorable members, proposed a resolution that any member who endeavoured to obtain signatures in order to approach the industrial registrar concerning the registration of a union before submitting his proposal to a general meeting of the union, should be considered to have acted detrimentally to the interests of the union and should be charged under the rules of the union. It may be that that is the view which union members generally are prepared to take. The point that I made was that that proposal had been put forward. That, I understand, has not been challenged. The Postal Advocate, which is the official organ of the Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia, was the source of my information as to the other matters mentioned which relate to the union. In a speech which I made in this chamber on 23rd May last, I quoted from one of the branch reports. The Queensland branch in reporting upon the question of compelling, non-unionists to join Public Service unions, dealt with the terms upon which they should be accepted, and this is the official report -
The Queensland Branch is taking definite Steps to see that all those non-unionists whonow desire to become members of the union, pay in accordance with their service in the department-
It. is all very well for the honorable member to speak of the rules of theunion. Actually officials are now proposing to alter their rules so as to make non-unionists who desire to join the union pay subscriptions back to the date when they were first eligible for membership. I invite the honorable member to read the Postal Advocate of 15th May, and if he does so, he will find that in at- least four States, the officials similarly decided that non-unionists should pay dues back to the date when they became eligible to join the union.
– As much as £ 18 ?
– I have letters claiming £12 in one case and £15 in another case. They are from other Public Service organizations, and I am not prepared to make known the individuals to whom they are addressed. My information as to back dues amounting to . £18 was obtained from an official of the Returned Soldiers’ League. He was not authorized to give me the name of the individual concerned, but in the other two cases I have the names of the individuals and of the associations concerned.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 45 -
Sections eighty-six a, eighty-six b, eightysix c, eighty-six d and eighty-seven of the principal act are repealed.
– I ask the committee to realize what can possibly happen if sections 86a, b,c, d and section 87 of the principal act are repealed. I think it advisable to record in Hansard the precise wording of section 86a so that honorable members may appreciate its significance. It reads -
No person shall -
Penalty: Twenty pounds, or, in the case of an officer of a registered organization, One hundred pounds.
The deletion of those provisions would be a direct incentive to the formation again in Australia of that blot on our industrial escutcheon, the basher gangs.
– I rise to a point of order. Is it parliamentary language to describe anyone as a member of a basher gang?
– The remark was not applied to any honorable member in this chamber.
– What were the basher gangs?
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) - That the question be now put - put. The committee divided. (Tempobary Chairman - Hon. R. A. Crouch.) Ayes . . . . 34
Majority . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the clause be agreed to -put. The committee divided. (Temporary Chairman - Hon. R. A. Crouch.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Friday, 11 July 1930
Clause 46 agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted: - “ 7a. Section eighteen aa of the principal act is amended -
Amendment (by Mr. Brennan) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted: “24a. Section thirty-four of the principal act is repealed and the following section inserted in its stead: -
– (1.) In order to prevent or settle industrial disputes the Governor-General may appoint, for such period as he thinks proper, conciliation committees consisting of such number of persons as he thinks proper, and of a chairman appointed by him in accordance with sub-section (4.) of this section. (2.) An application for the appointment of a conciliation committee by the Governor-General may be made in the prescribed manner to the Industrial Registrar by any party to an industrial dispute. (3.) A conciliation committee may be appointed in relation to industrial disputes in an industry, or in a branch or section of an industry defined by reference to locality or otherwise. (4.) The Governor-General may appoint a conciliation commissioner as chairman of any conciliation committee appointed under this section. (5.) Of the members, other than the chairman, one-half shall be representative of employers and one-half shall be representative of organizations ‘of employees. (6.) Before appointing the members representative of employers or of organizations of employees, the Governor-General may take into consideration any recommendations made by or on behalf of employers or organizations of employees in relation to such appointments. (7.) The first meeting of a conciliation committee in relation to a particular dispute shall be summoned by the chairman, and thereafter meetings shall be held at times agreed upon between the parties or, in default of agreement, fixed by the chairman. (8.) The chairman shall not be present at or take part in any deliberations of a conciliation committee until or unless he is of opinion, or is informed by a representative of one or of each of the parties, that the representatives appear unlikely in his absence to come to an agreement upon all the matters in dispute. (9.) Thereafter the chairman shall preside at all meetings of the conciliation committee. (10.) If an agreement between all or any of the parties as to. the whole or any part of the dispute is arrived at, the provisions of sub-section. (1.) of section twenty-four of this act shall apply to that agreement. (11.) If the majority of the members comprising a conciliation committee agree upon the termsof. a proposed award for the prevention or settlement of a dispute ‘ or part thereof, the provisions ofsubsection (1.) of section twenty-four of this act shall, subject to this section, apply to the agreement embodying those terms. (12.) If the parties are unable to agree upon the terms of a proposed award for the prevention or settlement of a dispute or part thereof, and the views of the chairman do not coincide with the views of either party, the chairman may issue a summons directed to such persons or organizations as he. thinks proper, calling upon them to show cause to him why an award should not be made in accordance with the terms which in his view should be inserted in an award, which terms shall be set forth in, or attached to, the summons. (13.) Subject to this section a summons issued under the last preceding subsection shall, as far as possible, be directed to, and served upon -
where the matter in issue is in relation to an existing dispute which itis sought to settle - all the persons or organizations who or which are parties to the dispute; and
where the matter in issue is in relation to a dispute which it is sought to prevent - all the persons or organizations who or which would in the opinion of the conciliation commissioner, he parties to the dispute. (14.) Where it appears to a conciliation committee or a majority thereof that there are numerous persons having the same interest in the subject-matter of any dispute (in this section referred to as “ the interested persons “ ) which it is sought to settle or prevent, the committee may recommend to the chairman that an order be made appointing representatives ( in this section referred to as “ the representative respondents “ ) of the interested persons in relation to that subject matter and specifying the names and addresses of those interested persons. (15.) The chairman may, upon receipt of a recommendation under the last preceding sub-section, make an order accordingly, and any order so made shall be published forthwith in the Gazette. (16.) All plaints, summonses, orders or other documents served upon all the representative respondents appointed by an order under the last preceding subsection shall be deemed to have been served upon all the interested persons specified in the order and the representative respondents shall, in the matter in relation to which theyare appointed, represent all the interested persons so specified:
Provided that the making of an order under the last preceding sub-section shall not prevent uny person from appearing separately, if he so desires, in any proceedings relating to the dispute. (17.) Upon the return of any such summons, the conciliation commissioner may make such award (if any) as he thinks proper for the prevention or settlement of the dispute and the provisions of section twenty-nine of this act shall apply to any award so made. (18.) Notwithstanding anything contained in the foregoing provisions of this section an agreement (not being an agreement under sub-section 10 of this section) or award shall not be made in pursuance of this section in respect of any matter in respect of which by reason of theprovisions of section eighteen a or eighteen aa of this act a single judge may not make an award.”
– This is a most important new clause and it has been introduced at a late hour. It makes vital amendments in the system of arbitration that has hitherto prevailed in the Commonwealth. It is a redraft, with funudamental and vital alterations, of section 34 of the act. That section at present provides that the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court may appoint conciliation committees, and that those conciliation committees shall be chosen having regard to the recommendations of employers and employees in an industry. Such committees would be quite outside political control, and beyond ordinary political suggestion. They would owe their appointment, not to any Minister, but to the Chief Judge. Under the proposed new clause the appointment of conciliation committees is to be made by the Governor-General; that is to say, by the Government of the day.
– Who appoints the Chief Judge?
– The judges, when appointed, are absolutely independent; and they cannot be removed from their office by mere ministerial action. These committees will consist of political appointees; while any committee constituted under the existing provisions would consist of men and women chosen by the Chief Judge. The law, as it now stands, confers upon the members of a conciliation committee the right to nominate their own chairman. The new clause provides, in rather unsatisfactory language, that a conciliation commissioner shall be the chairman. The parties are no longer to have the right to appoint their own chairman; he is to be imposed on them by the Government of the day. Under the existing section the Chief Judge, before appointing the members of a conciliation committee, “shall” take into consideration the recommendation of organizations of employers and employees. Under the proposed new clause, the Governor-General “may” take such recommendations into consideration. In other words, everything has been done to make it possible for political influence to have full play in the appointment of conciliation committees. Under the law as it now stands, conciliation committees are conciliation committees and nothing else; they have powers only of conciliation. If an agreement is arrived at, it is effective. Further, their power is confined to recommending an award, which can be made only by the court. Under the proposed new clause, the procedure will be, that if a majority of the members comprising a conciliation committee agree upon the terms of a proposed award, that agreement can be registered and have the effect of an award.
– Without considering the public at all?
– Certainly. That is possible under existing legislation. When one side and the chairman are in agreement, an award may be made in the terms thus accepted. It is provided that the chairman may issue a “show cause” order if he is unable to agree fully with either side. And upon the return of the summons to show cause why an award should not be made the conciliation commissioner may make such award, if any, as he thinks proper.
– To whom is that summons issued?
– It is issued to the parties to the dispute. The award which the conciliation commissioner makes in these circumstances then becomes an award of the court, and is binding on all parties. The conciliation commissioner may decide the whole dispute. Under section 34 of the principal act the chairman of a conciliation committee has no vote, and I suggest that that is the proper position for the chairman of a conciliation committee to occupy. But this is apparently another means of dealing with arbitration. The proposed new clause provides that if a majority agrees, then the agreement may be registered and have the same effect as an award, but the point is that a- minority can be bound without a hearing.
– There is no appeal?
– No. If a majority is not obtained, the conciliation commissioner, upon the return of the summons issued by him, makes such award as he thinks proper.
One idea in this new clause which has been urged, mainly by employers, and, I think is worth a trial, is that the chairman shall not be present at or take part in any deliberations of a conciliation committee until or unless he is of opinion, or is informed by a representative of one or of each of the parties, that the representatives appear unlikely in his absence to come to an agreement upon all of the matters in dispute. I do not know how he is to form his opinion except upon information by some one that the parties are unable to come to an agreement.
In anticipation of the passing of this proposed new section 34, a new section 33 has already been inserted, which provides that when a conciliation committee has been appointed in relation to a dispute, the court and the judges of the court can have nothing to do with that dispute, and shall make no award or order in . relation to it. When a conciliation committee is appointed by the Government it is assigned by the Government to a particular dispute. If, for instance, there is an interstate dispute on the waterside, no judge can have anything to do with it, although he may have begun to hear it. It is thus within the power of the Government to remove any dispute from a judge at any time, and place it within the jurisdiction of a conciliation committee.
– Where is provision made /or that?
– The new section 33 reads -
Notwithstanding anything contained in this act, an industrial dispute shall not be dealt with, by the court or a judge thereof, in pursuance, of any power conferred upon the court or judge by this act, in any case in which a conciliation committee has been appointed in pursuance of an application made under sub-section (2.) of the next succeeding section.
– Now the honorable member might read that sub-section.
– That sub-section provides that an application for the appointment of a’ conciliation committee may be made in the prescribed manner to the industrial registrar by any party to an industrial dispute. I agree that before the power given in section 33 operates there must be an application, by a party for’ the appointment of a conciliation committee.
– That is the point.
– But under proposed new section 34, the Governor-General is at liberty to appoint conciliation committees without such an application. The Government is therefore able to act in the matter independently of an application by any party to a dispute. It is a dangerous power, even with the slight qualification which the Attorney-General has pointed out. The power of the court or a judge to deal with a dispute is removed whenever an application is made by any party, and a conciliation committee is appointed.
– Can a conciliation committee be appointed after a judge has begun to deal with a dispute?
– Certainly; it only needs an application from one side or the other. In substance, therefore, everything I have said remains true. Under this provision it will be possible for a government, if one party to an industrial dispute desires it, to remove the dispute altogether from a judge of the court and assign it to a conciliation committee appointed by the Government, and that committee can decide the matter by a majority, or its chairman can decide it if no majority agreement can be obtained. The effect may be really to abolish the jurisdiction of judges of the Arbitration Court in ordinary industrial disputes.
– It sounds too good to be true.
– It is no doubt the possible effect of proposed new section 34 combined with section 33. If one party to a dispute desires to bring about that result, it is only necessary for an application to be made for a conciliation committee, and if a complacent government appoints a committee, the judge of the court can do no more in that particular dispute.
– The honorable member has a terribly suspicious mind.
– I am only pointing out what I assume to be the object of this legislation, and by his smiling face and interjection the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) shows that he is glad that this is the object. Under this clause it will be possible for the judges of the Arbitration Court to be prevented from dealing with a single industrial dispute. The possibilities are these: The Government will either appoint a conciliation committee at the beginning to handle the case, or after a judge has commenced to hear a dispute an application may be made by the union concerned for the Government to appoint a conciliation committee. The Government has refused to accept suggestions I have made to prevent confusion between the work of the arbitration judges and conciliation commissioners; but has introduced a provision under which by a mere application of one of the parties all the arbitration work except in what I have termed the “ three-judge “ case under section 18a can be removed from the jurisdiction of the judges of the court. It is in this recently introduced section that we find the real significance of the bill. The object is to prevent independent judges from dealing with industrial disputes, and to make it possible for Government nominees, appointed from time to time, instead of independent judges of the court, to handle disputes. This is a very serious departure from established practice, and one which should be seriously considered.
.The committee has already passed a clause providing for the appointment of conciliation commissioners, which it is now proposed to supplement by the appointment of conciliation committees. Of course, they are not conciliation committees at all, and like the conciliation commissioners will have the right to force their will upon the parties to a dispute. There is some security for the conciliation commissioners; but the conciliation committees will merely be picked up when wanted, and will comprise men who will be appointed from time to time by the Minister. It is obvious that the object in appointing conciliation commissioners and conciliation committees is to oust the judges from the Arbitration Court. During periods of prosperity Arbitration Court awards were always on the increase, and there were few complaints, if any, against the decisions of the court; but during recent years it has been patent to every one that further increases cannot be given, and that awards must either provide for a decrease in wages or that the existing rates shall not be increased. In these circumstances the unions have revolted against the court, and during recent months suggestions have been made for dispensing with Arbitration Court judges. This new system will be anything but impartial.
– The conciliation committees will consist of representatives of both parties.
– The decisions will ultimately be made by a conciliation commissioner or by the chairman of a conciliation committee, who will give effect to the political views of the Minister. It is obvious that that is intended. Honorable members opposite believe that if the court were to carry on as at pre- sent, and to make awards with due regard to economic conditions, wages could not be increased, but ‘may be reduced. They are anxious that there shall be no reduction of wages. This is a grossly corrupt attempt to interfere with the work of the judges of the Arbitration Court-
The CHAIRMAN (Mr. McGrath).The honorable member must withdraw the word “ corrupt.”
– I withdraw it. I shall say that it is a grossly improper and unfair attempt to interfere with the course of justice. In all other courts a litigant has to abide by the decision of a judge. The policy of this Government appears to be to oust the Arbitration Court judges by this roundabout method, under which practically all the work of the Arbitration Court will be in the hands of the conciliation commissioners and the chairmen of conciliation committees. The clause is grossly unfair, and I trust it will not be adopted by the committee.
– I am pleased to find that at the outset conciliation committees will carry on their work in the absence of the chairman, and I am hopeful that under this system .the settlement of disputes will be facilitated. I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) in his fears respecting the supplanting of the judges by the appointment by the Government of conciliation commissioners and conciliation committees. I trust that the fears which he has expressed, and which I share, may be wrong, and that the scheme upon which the Government is embarking, and for which it must take the responsibility, will be a greater success than I anticipate. I do not think that the Attorney-General has yet in mind any persons for appoint- ment as conciliation commissioners, though I have no doubt he will receive numerous applicants a little later. Prom my knowledge of the late Mr. A. M. Stewart, who held the position of Registrar of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, I am convinced that he did a great deal more for conciliation than is generally known, or credit given for. In a quiet and unostentatious way he served his country well. After considering the good work done by him in that office, it has occurred to me that the Government might consider the appointment of the men at present acting as industrial registrars in the various States. I make the suggestion in the interests of the successful working of the system. These new clauses will have to stand on their merits, and I hope that they will be successful.
– It is perfectly true, as the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) suggested, that this is a very important clause, and that it makes radical changes in the procedure of the Arbitration Court. Conciliation committees are provided for in the act as it stands, but they have been futile and ineffective. They were to be appointed by the Chief J udge, and their duties were to be purely conciliatory. In practice, they have not contributed anything towards the solution of industrial problems. A great deal of argument has been adduced in favour of what have been called round table conferences, approaching as nearly as possible to the system of wages boards. Largely in deference to that argument, and also because the Government held similar views as expressed by the Prime Minister from time to time, consideration of the bill was adjourned for the purpose of correlating the suggestion offered so that the conciliation committees might be made effective instruments of arbitration. That has been done in the amendments proposed to the committee. Life has been breathed into the conciliation committees, and it is hoped that they will function successfully. At all events, our plan has been submitted in good faith in answer to those who have somewhat clamorously demanded that we should free the court of what has been called its legalisms, and permit the parties to come together in round-table conferences.
The provision enabling an agreement to be made, and registered by a conciliation commissioner, is really not new. An agreement between the parties might always have been registered in this way, and this applied not only to agreements relating to wages and conditions generally, but even to an agreement relating to the basic wage and standard hours - -a -very important point not always borne in mind. The Leader of the Opposition condemned the system it is proposed to introduce, and he has given his reasons, such as they are. One cannot help feeling that a not unimportant reason for. his condemnation is that he is Leader of the Opposition. The Government is making an honest effort to cope with the industrial situation, which has not been effectively grappled with in the past. It is true that, according to the act as proposed to be amended, cases which come before a commissioner may be finally disposed of by him, and need not come before the court at all. That is subject to two reservations; first, that the Full Court has still reserved to it consideration of the basic wage and standard hours; and the second, that there still remains the alternative course of proceeding to the court in the old way. The right to do that has not been interfered with if the parties so desire. It is only at the request of a party that the conciliation committee is implemented at all. We have assumed it to be reasonable and desirable that when one of the parties makes such a request, every facility should be available for practising to the utmost the policy of conciliation. As has been already pointed out, the parties are, in the first place, through their representatives, brought together without any officials being present at all. This should, in the minds of the honorable member for Gippsland (Mr. Paterson) and the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell), provide a new hope for the solution in part of our vexed industrial problems.
– It destroys any hope that I had.
– The honorable gentleman has returned to this new Parliament enveloped in a blanket of pessimism which seems to preclude him from seeing any hope in anything suggested by the Labour party, since he has definitely made up his mind to oppose it, and rehabilitate himself with his old friends in the Nationalist party. Not a word of approbation have I heard from him of anything done by the Labour party since he divorced himself from his late colleague, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). Previously he had much to say for this party; he was full of appreciation of it. It had its faults, but he loved it still. The honorable gentleman’s hope has been destroyed because we are endeavouring to give effect to a scheme of conciliation and arbitration which has been strongly advocated by himself. Where request is made, these committees will be put into operation. They will be representative of both parties, and they will not be hampered by any legal technicalities. They will be chosen by the parties themselves.
– That is not provided.
– It is true that something remains to be filled in by regulation, because we have followed, to a large extent, the language adopted by the Leader of the Opposition, and at present in the act in connexion with conciliation committees. If the scheme is rather in framework than complete in all its details, it is because we have paid him the compliment of imitation. The fixing of the basic wage still remains with the full court. If the parties wish to go to the ordinary tribunals they may; but the Government wishes to give every encouragement to the trying out of the conciliation committees.
I do not propose to reply at any length to the suggestion that there will be improper political appointments. It has been said freely in the press that these important and responsible offices are to be filled by means of dishonest political gerrymandering on the part of the Labour party. I have no patience with allegations of that kind, and I treat them with the utmost contempt. Nothing in the history of this Government justifies such a supposition. The Government will make its appointments when it thinks fit, and, after mature inquiries, it will make a choice of persons qualified to discharge these very high and responsible duties. It will not allow itself to be influenced, either by the political kite-flying of honorable members opposite, or by any officeseekers, if there are such, who may be obtrusively pressing their claims for these positions. Up to the present time, I, as AttorneyGeneral, have experienced nothing of the kind. When I spoke previously I was in the position of being able to say that no single person had made representations to me for appointment to one of these positions, and that was the very time when it was being freely published in the press that the corridors of this House were thronged by self-seeking industrial secretaries and others who are anxious for these jobs.
– What have they been been doing here all these days ?
– The honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) was called to order for an offensive observation, and he has withdrawn the remark. That is the only part of his speech of which I took any serious notice.
I am very hopeful that this clause may realize the success that we hope it may. It envisages a new order, and we intend to try it out honestly. We trust that we shall have the co-operation of all sections of the community. If appointments are made and are appreciated, as we hope they will be, I think that this clause and the bill in general will prove an instrument of real service to the people.
– I do not intend to make a speech on this new clause, but I cannot allow the remarks of the Attorney-General in reply to an interjection that I made, to pass without comment. The Minister is extraordinarily sensitive and thinskinned when even the most distant allusion is made to the possibility of his being actuated by anything but the highest motives in anything that he does ; but he is not slow to impute motives to others. What was the insinuation in his offensive remark concerning the Leader of the Opposition that “ of course, he opposes the amendment “. It was that the Leader of the Opposition is not sincere in his criticism, and that it is offered because he leads the Opposition, and is bound to take objections in which he doesnot believe.
– The honorable member begins with a misquotation of what I said and then bases an argument on it.
– The AttorneyGeneral would be up in arms if we suggested for a moment that he was influenced in the slightest degree in submitting these amendments by the fact that he is in constant and close touch with the trade unions whom he represents.
– But I am not.
– I say that he is in constant touch with them.
– I suppose that it is the honorable member’s privilege to call me a liar.
– The Minister has reflected, not only on the Leader of the Opposition, but most seriously on me regarding my attitude to the amendments that have been brought down by (him. He suggests that it is because I have severed my connexion with the right honorable member for North Sydney, and am seeking readmission to the party from which I was ousted some time ago. He said, practically in so many words, that my attitude to these amendments has been determined by those facts.I resent that suggestion with all the vehemence of which I am capable. The AttorneyGeneral keeps on suggesting that the Government received a mandate from the people of Australia to introduce all these specific amendments ; but I repudiate the suggestion. The honorable gentleman has insinuated that my acceptance of Labour support in the last election campaign has laid me under an obligation to support this bill.
– The honorable member might have found some good in it.
– I very carefully considered the amendments, and said in my second-reading speech that I felt bound to oppose every one of them, because they all tended to strengthen the strangle-hold of trade unionism upon Australian industry. That is my honest conviction.
– The honorable member would not have dared to say that during the election campaign.
– The AttorneyGeneral is again insinuating that I accepted Labour support during the last election under false pretences. The fact is that I never asked for the support of a single Labour organization or one Labour supporter ; the support that came to me from these sources was unconditional and unsolicited. My LabouT friends in that campaign did not see eye to eye with me in regard to my general policy, nor did I see eye to eye with them in regard to their policy, and to suggest that we endorsed each other’s policies is, in the highest degree, absurd. We were as one only in respect to our opposition to the Bruce-Page Government’s industrial proposal. During my election campaign I did not discuss any proposals to amend the Arbitration Act, and my Labour friends distinctly understood that [ did not endorse their general policy any more than they endorsed mine.
I cannot vote for this proposed new clause because, like the other amendments that are being made to the principal act, it tends to strengthen the stranglehold of trade unionism upon industry. I have frequently said on public platforms that trade unionism is becoming a menace to Australia. It is becoming a tyranny, and I abominate tyranny in any form. I abominate the tyranny of capital as well as the tyranny of labour. Because I believe that these amendments will tend to increase the tyrannical power of the trade unions, I am opposed to them.
– I support, in a large measure, the remarks of the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell). When the Attorney-General said a little while ago that he had not been in touch with the representatives of the trade unions in regard to the appointment of conciliation commissioners. I asked him what the business of those representatives was in Canberra this week. He replied that he did not intend to answer my question. He then went on to say that I had said something offensive which I had to withdraw. That is not true. I have not had te withdraw any statement that I have made during this debate. The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) has had to withdraw statements that he has made, and I have no doubt that he will have to withdraw others. The speech of the Attorney-General was offensive to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), the honorable member for Fawkner, and myself.
– I do not think that the attack made by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) upon certain persons who cannot defend themselves here was justified.
– The honorable member did not attack anybody.
– Seeing that the honorable member owes his re-election to this Parliament, in some degree at least, to Labour supporters in his electorate, he should have shown a better spirit during this debate. The honorable member’s remarks are not likely to encourage the development of a conciliatory spirit, and I feel confident that he must already regret having made them. It ill becomes an honorable gentleman who has had the advantage of a university education and a legal training to express himself as he has done this evening. I believe that the passage of this bill will do a good deal to promote the best interests of our community. Industrial arbitration has been adopted in Germany, and also with success in New Zealand. I feel sure that when the honorable member for Fawkner finds that he has done an injustice to those honorable members who are endeavouring to improve the bill, he will regret having cast such serious reflections upon them. No one can say truthfully that the trade union organizations of this country are tyrannical of their attitude towards other sections in the community. It is the desire of all honorable members supporting the Government, and also of the leaders of industrial organizations, to see placed on our statute book arbitration legislation which will be a credit to the Commonwealth.
– I ask leave to incorporate in the amendment a new subsection, a copy of which I have handed to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham). It is as follows: - (17a) The foregoing provisions of this section shall apply in relation to applications to vary awards in like manner as they apply in relation to industrial disputes, as if the determination of such application were the settlement of industrial disputes.
-The proposal will make the proposed new section unworkable.
Proposed new clause as amended agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 27a. Section thirty-eight b of the principal actis amended -
by inserting after the word “court” (first occurring) the words “or a Conciliation Commissioner “; and
) by inserting after the word “ court “, “(second occurring) the words “or Commissioner “.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 27b. After section thirty-eight b of the principal act the following section is inserted : - 38ba. The Court shall not include in any award or order a provision requiring a person claiming the benefit of that award to notify his employer that he is a member of an organization bound by the award.
– That is an instruction to the court, which the honorable member has been objecting to throughout the debate.
– For the first time in the history of the industrial movement in this country, His Honour, Chief Judge Dethridge, when making his award in the pastoral industry in 1927, after hearing the arguments of both parties, and without, in my opinion, any justification, inserted a clause denying to a member of the organization the right to participate in the benefits of the award. Honorable members will agree that whenan a ward is made between two parties, there should be no discrimination shown as between the different sections of employees engaged in the industry in question. In the present state of the law, although an employer may be bound by an award, he is free to engage non-unionists at a lower rate, and a non-unionist working for less than award rates may not recover from his employer the full rate awarded by the court if he has failed to notify his employer that he is a member pf an organization. It is unjust that an employer, who is cited as a respondent, and who agrees to abide by the award of a court, should seek to evade it.
– That is what this Government has done in the case of the Public Service. The Government has promulgated a regulation to enable it to pay less to non-unionists than to unionists in the Service.
– Once again the Leader of the Opposition is misrepresenting the Government’s action.
– The circumstances mentioned by the Leader of the Opposition are entirely different from the case which I am citing. . As a fair-minded man of high standing he will admit that what I complain of is wrong.
– I should like to see a common rule introduced.
– No person, no matter how eminent he may be, should have the power to deny to certain sections ‘ of an industrial organization the right to enjoy the benefits of an award. If an employer becomes party to an award, he should observe it in its entirety. His Honour, Chief Judge Dethridge, in making the award to which I have alluded, inserted a clause that unless an employee notified his employer in writing that he was a member of the claimant organization, he would not be entitled to participate in its benefits.
– There were reasons for doing that, and the honorable member should mention them.
– I know no reason other than the desire, on the part of some pastoralists, to secure cheap labour. For the most part, the big pastoralists in this country treat their employees fairly and do not object to the wage which they have to pay to their station-hands. No one can find fault with the manner in which the firm controlled by Sir Graham Waddell treats its employees. There are other persons that I could mention. There has always been a section of men who are never prepared to pay decent wages or to give decent conditions to their employees. I remember when station-hands were working for 12s. and 13s. a week, but the men paying that rate were not typical of the pastoralists of this country. While it may be held that the proposed new clause is a direction to the judge that he must not do certain things, as a matter of justice and fair dealing between employers and employees, no judge should have the right to deny to a member of an organization the full benefits of an award once it is made. For’ that reason I trust that the new clause will be acceptable to the committee.
– The honorable member for Wannon (Mr.’ McNeill) has put his case fairly and reasonably. There is a good deal to be said for the views which he has expressed. This has always appeared to me to be a question on which there is abundant room for honest difference of opinion. I fully agree with the honorable member that there are employers who are always seeking to undercut wages and to undermine conditions. I have no sympathy with them at all. Further, I have less sympathy with the employer who suggests to a man that, if he says he is a non-unionist when he really is a unionist, he will be given a job at a lower rate. I have nothing but contempt for an employer of that class. Accordingly, there is a good deal to be said for the argument advanced by the honorable member. There are, however, other considerations which have to be borne in mind. In the first place the proposed new clause really invites the union to overrule a definite award of the judge who, having heard the evidence, had concluded that, in connexion with the particular industry in which the honorable member for Wannon is interested, it was desirable to make this specific provision. Now the attitude of the Government on certain clauses of the bill has been that everything must be left to the decision of the judge who hears the case. There is a certain amount of weight in that argument, but I do not regard it as conclusive at all. I have said that on some things this Parliament should lay down rules for the guidance of judges, leaving them to exercise their discretion in particular cases. It is important to bear in mind the reasons which led to the inclusion of that clause in the award, and I invite honorable members to say how they think the case ought to be dealt with fairly. The proposal of the honorable member for Wannon is -
The court shall not include in any award or order the provision requiring the person claiming the benefit of. that award to notify his employer that he is a member of an organization bound by the award.
That is, the court shall not require any unionist, as a condition of obtaining the benefit of the award, to notify his employer that he is a member of a union. Such a provision, if in cluded in an award, could apply only to one case, that of a unionist who professes that he is a non-unionist and is paid on that basis. If a unionist professes to be a unionist, of course no question arises as to his being entitled to the award rates. Take the case, however, of a unionist who professes to be a non-unionist and accepts work at the rates provided by a State award. That has to be borne in mind, as well as the undercutting of wages on the part of the employer. In some industries there are both State and Federal awards, varying in respect of wages and conditions. Take the case of a unionist who professes not to be a member of a particular federal union, and is given employment on the basis of a State award. Is that man, as a matter of common honesty, entitled to the benefit of the federal award when he has misled his employer into believing that he is not a member of the relevant federal union?
– Does the honorable member think that the judge has the right under the act or under the Constitution, to include in an award the provision to which I have referred?
– There can be no question as to the constitutionality of that provision in an award. An award contains all kinds of industrial conditions. For example, before sick allowance can be claimed notification must be given.
– And a doctor’s certificate obtained in some cases.
– Exactly. I am unable to see any legal objection to a judge requiring notification before certain wages shall be payable; but, as a matter of policy and what is a fair thing to do, I admit that there are arguments both ways. This clause, to which the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) objects, could operate only in the case of a man lying to his employer.
– No such thing occurred in respect of the union that I represent. Nevertheless, that provision was included in an award by Mr. J Justice Webb.
– It would do no harm in that case.
– Subsequently, the employers took advantage of that provision.
– I am pointing out that, irrespective of what has happened, the clause can apply only in the case of a man misleading his employer. If the man is a unionist, and says so, the clause in the award cannot apply. “Will the honorable member admit that?
– Then it is hopeless for me to try to convince the honorable member. Only in the case of a unionist misleading his employer would the clause in the award operate to deprive him of its benefits.
– Unfortunately, men have to do that sometimes in order to get work.
– There are arguments both ways. Are we on the one hand to put a premium on dishonesty or, on the other hand, to run the risk of allowing employers in some cases to undercut wages? I suggest that it is unsafe for the committee to lay down an absolute rule as suggested by the honorable member for Wannon. It is better, on the whole, to leave the decision to the discretion of the judge. I can hardly imagine that the clause would be included in awards as a general rule. In fact I know that that is not so.
– It was included by Mr. Justice Webb in nearly every award that he made in 1925.
– I do not think that any honorable member will say that that is a general practice. I should think that judges would require specific reasons in respect of particular industries before incorporating such a provision in an award.
– Might I suggest that unless an employee applying for employment registered his letter there would be no proof as to whether or not he had notified the employer that he was a unionist. It would simply be one man’s word against another’s. The Queensland branch of the Australian Workers Union refuses to recognize the claim of any individual who works under award rates and then states that he has been wrongly paid.
– If all unions did that the difficulty would be removed.
– Both employer and employee have been fined for committing breaches of the award in this respect. There are unscrupulous people on both sides, and because a few have done wrong this provision has been placed in awards, to the disadvantage of an organization that has done as much as any other to establish arbitration on a satisfactory basis in Australia. It provides a lever for the employer and makes it impossible for a man to prove that he has stated in his letter that he is a member of the Australian Workers Union or another union. Even if the man registers the letter there is no guarantee that it will reach the employer. It is a dangerous provision and I am pleased that the Government is guarding against it in future. I agree with the statement that an individual judge may make a habit of the practice referred to, but the first time that I heard of it was when the provision was incorporated in the award covering the pastoral industry. It is a bad provision that allows men to scab on unions, and it achieves no desirable purpose.
– While the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. McNeill) is certainly open to the objection, rightly pointed out by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham), that it impinges upon the principle that the court should not be led or directed, there is much to be said for it in other respects, and, while regretting the drawback to which I have referred, the Government recognizing that it has probably something to recommend it is prepared to accept it.
. I support the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition, that this provision in the award would only affect a unionist who posed as a non-unionist. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Martens) stated that the Queensland branch of the Australian Workers Union does not support the case of unionists who have accepted employment below award rates. It is not only the union officials and the unions that are concerned in the matter. There are lots of “smart Alecs” going about the country who have been known to take advantage of what might be termed relief work, and afterwards on their own initiative sue their employer for a week’s wages and get it. There is a story of a swagman who was given a lift by a motorist that illustrates the case excellently. En route r.he swagman opened several gates for the motorist, and afterwards he sued that person for a week’s wages, and obtained them. I do not vouch for the accuracy of the story, but it illustrates the type of case that was not uncommon before this provision was inserted in awards, tn departing in this case from the tenets that he’ has so frequently enunciated, the Attorney-General has demonstrated that he is not very consistent in respect of the principles to which he gave voice when he introduced this bill.
.- I support the amendment. The honorable member for Wakefield ‘(Mr. Hawker) and others claim, that it is necessary to give legal protection to employers against individuals who dishonestly pretend that they are non-unionists. I believe that such a provision would tend to encourage certain employers to avoid complying with the rates of pay and conditions prescribed by awards. Under the terms of the award covering my union it is necessary for the organization to give written notice to an employer that the employee concerned is, a member of the union. A person may work for an employer without notifying the union that he is working for that man. I shall quote an actual case. An employer engaged a man, and at the end of the week paid him at the rate of ls. 6d. an hour. The employee stated that that was not the rate of wages to which he was entitled. The employer’ replied, “Yes, it is. I am paying you under the State wages board determination for livery stable employees.” I point out that that determination had not been altered since 1914, and the rate of wages prescribed in it was £2 5s. a week for 60 hours! The man had actually been paid in excess of the rate prescribed under the wages board determination. The employee continued to work under those conditions for a couple of weeks, and then, as the wages he received were insufficient to support himself and his family, he made a complaint to my union. The union put the matter in the hands of its solicitor who, in interpreting the award, said that since the employer had not been notified that, the person was a member of the union, and the employee had accepted a wage fixed by a State wages board determination, the employer was exonerated from guilt so far as any breach of the award was concerned. It is time that something was done to stop such dishonest practices on the part of employers, and this amendment will provide the necessary remedy.
– I trust that the Attorney-General will reconsider his decision to accept the amendment.
– Does the right honorable member believe in sweating?
– I do not; and I differ entirely from the Government and its supporters when they say that there should be in the Public Service a different rate of wages for those who aremembers of unions and those who are not. I believe that work should be paid for according to what it is worth. The inclusion of this amendment in the arbitration law at the present time, when we are passing through a period of unparalleled depression, may easily increase the amount of unemployment in the rural districts of Australia. There are many men in the country who desire to give a helping hand to people who are absolutely down and out. When a man tells them that he belongs to an organization and must work for a certain definite wage they know definitely whether they can afford to pay him that wage. The inclusion of this provision will prevent many persons from obtaining work who otherwise would be employed for a few days or a couple of weeks. What real objection can there be to any man telling his prospective employer immediately that he is a member of an organization and that he is bound by an award? Such a statement makes everything clear between the two; and there is no better way to promote peace and goodwill, and to secure a proper understanding. I have been associated with many partnerships, and have always found that the correct thing is to know at the beginning exactly where one stands. A deed of partnership can then be strictly drawn up, and need not be looked at again. There is no more potent cause of distrust and trouble than the discovery that a wrong impression has been held or created at the beginning. This is a very unwise provision from the point of view of the need for increasing employment in Australia.
In opposing the amendment, I desire to say that it is absolutely necessary that an employee should tell his employer that he belongs to an organization. Are honorable members aware that the last federal award in the metal trade reduced the wages of engineers, brass workers, moulders, second-class machinists, and so on?
– We are.
– Then the honorable member knows how essential it is that an employee should tell his employer if he is a member of an organization. The State award was originally brought into line with the federal award with regard to hours and rates of pay. The recent award given by Judge Beeby reduced wages throughout the metal trades, which, by a ruling of the court, applies only to unionists, with the result that non-unionists have reverted ro the Stale award, and at the present time are being paid from 4s. to 6s. a week more than unionists. How can a paysheet be made up in any engineering establishment in Victoria unless the employer knows whether an. employee is a unionist or not? There is no victimization on the part of the employers. I do not care personally whether a man is in a union or not. There is a minimum below which one cannot go; but there is no law to prevent the payment of a rate above that fixed by an award. A further reason why it is necessary for an employer to know whether a man is a member of an organization, and of what organization, is that many employers are victimized. I cite the case of a man who said he was a labourer, and wanted labouring work. He was given that work in a fa’ctory. As honorable members know, labourers are on the basic wage. While he was employed in that factory he offered to hold up a piece of work that, was being riveted. When he was dismissed as unsatisfactory some weeks later, he claimed boiler-makers’ rates, and the employer had to pay those rates according to the determination of the State Wages Board. The factories department polices that award, not men like the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis), who can claim no credit on that account. That employer was victimized to the extent of several pounds, because of the deceit of a man who applied for labouring work.
– The employee also should have been fined.
– I agree; but that is not provided for. He was employed as a labourer, and that is all that he was; but he insisted upon helping with a job to the extent of holding up some metal that was being riveted, and at the termination of his engagement, as I have explained, he claimed boiler-makers’ rates, which had to be . paid. I can vouch for the accuracy of what I have stated, because a company with which I am connected was the employer. Therefore, it is doubly necessary that an employee should inform his employer if he is a member of a trade union. The award of the State Wages Board in Victoria is higher than the federal award. Ultimately, they will be brought into line; but there is a “ lag “ of several months. The award for skilled engineers and brass-workers has been brought into line with the Beeby award already; but blacksmiths, and quite a number of other men who are engaged in the metal trades, are outside that award. Therefore, it is impracticable to carry on unless an employee informs his employer that he is a member of an organization.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
Amendment (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 32a. Section forty-four of the principal net is amended -
by inserting in paragraph (b) of sub-section (1.), after the word “ Court” the words “ or a Conciliation Commissioner”; and
by inserting in paragraph (6) of that sub-section, after the word “ Court “, the words “ or a Conciliation Commissioner “.
Amendment (by Mr. Brennan) proposed -
That the following new clause be inserted : - 35a. Section 49a of the principal act is amended by omitting the word “ six “ and inserting in its stead the word “ twelve.”
– Why is it proposed to extend the period for the recovery of wages from six to twelve months after the due date of payment? This has a bearing upon the amendment that was last discussed. The question arises generally in cases where men have deceived employers by representing that they are non-unionists, or are members of a different union from that to which they really belong. There are certain cases of overlapping, where a different rate applies according to the union to which a man belongs. The limitation of six months was really intended to protect an employer from unreasonable claims by men who falsely pretended that they were not unionists. It is now proposed to extend the period to twelve months, and I should like to know whether any actual injustice has occurred or any difficulties have been found under the existing provisions.
– The change proposed is not regarded by the Government as vital, but representations have been made that employees should be in a position to sue for a much longer period than six months.
– An employee should know within a few weeks whether he is being under-paid or not.
– But circumstances may induce him to hold his job when jobs are difficult to obtain.
– It applies mostly to women and juveniles.
– I am glad that my colleague has reminded me of that. Many women and juveniles urgently in need are prevailed upon to accept work at less than the award rates.
– Is not six months quite long enough?
– It is quite true that a provision of this character should not be made simply for an adult who, knowing that he is entitled to a certain wage, continues until his contract ends and then sues his late employer for arrears of wages, although apparently he may have been satisfied with the wage he was receiving. But exploiters who exact service, especially from women and juniors, and in some cases from persons ignorant of their rights, should be given to understand that if they do it for very long they do so at very grave risk to themselves. It was suggested to me that the time should be extended to the six years covered by the Statute of Limitations for civil debts, butI was not able to entertain the idea. On the other hand it appeared to me that the period of six months was rather short.
– I should like to see the period maintained at six months. As there are so many variations in awards, and the basic wage is adjusted quarterly on the Statistician’s figures, if a claim for back pay is made for twelve months it will be exceedingly difficult to calculate the amount actually due.
– If it is demonstrated that the employee has wilfully deceived the employer it is not fair that the latter should have to pay the former for twelve months’ arrears under the award. An amendment has already been agreed to providing that there is no need for the employee to inform his employer that he belongs to a union. It seems to me, therefore, that some protection should be afforded to employers who are wilfully deceived by their employees.
– The strongest plea for an extension of the period from six months to twelve months has been made by unions associated with the clothing trade. Various people who are really dummies for clothing manufacturers make agreements with girls which provide for rates of pay not in accordance with the general award rates applying to the industry. These girls, through ignorance, think that the agreements are all right, but very often they take the work because they need it. I suppose that there are 40 or 50 of these people dummying for clothing manufacturers in Sydney. They have no assets themselves and they make these agreements with their employees. If the period is limited to six months, these employees, mostly juveniles and women, have no opportunity to recover the amounts due to them under the awards, because it is sometimes not an easy matter for the unions to ascertain the facts speedily. The unions have found great difficulty in policing these cases. The amendment will give them an opportunity to help these juveniles and women to take proceedings against unscrupulous people who impose upon their workers.
– Why should the just be penalized as well as the unjust?
– The just people pay the award rates and cannot be penalized.
– The employer may not know that his employee belongs to quite another union and should be paid under quite a different award.
– I know that there are difficulties in applying the provision, but I am trying to show broadly how difficult it is to police the awards in the clothing trade. In many cases a union is not able to ascertain the facts within six months.
.- [ think that the proposed increase of the period in which back pay can be levied will scare employers, and thus bring about greater unemployment than ever. Employers will never know when they can make an arrangement with their fellow citizens which will not, later on, be subject to alteration. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Chifley) wants to have a. drag-net clause which will penalize a large section of people, in order to enable him to police the operations of a few; but I cannot see how that few can be more easily policed with the period extended to twelve months than apparently they have been with the period fixed at six months. At a time like this,when the Prime Minister is appealing for goodwill in industry and for the development of the country, I cannot understand the introduction of a peevish clause like this. It makes one tremble as to what is coming next - whether the Government or the unions are to govern Australia. Power wrongly used is likely to spoil the whole act. Nothing is more calculated to destroy unionism in the public eye than for unions to use their power unreasonably. I ask the Attorney-General to seriously consider the effect of increasing the period from six to twelve months in which arrears of pay may be claimed before incorporating this provision in the bill.
Proposed new clause agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new clause be inserted: - 38a. After section fifty-eightb of the principal act the following section is inserted: - “ 58ba. Any association which is registered as an organization under this act may amalgamate, upon such terms as are approved by the court or a judge thereof, or a conciliation commissioner, with any other association, which is so registered, and upon such amalgamation the amalgamated association shall be deemed to be an organization under this act:
Provided that, until the amalgamated association becomes entitled to the benlit of an award under this act, the members of each of the amalgamating associations shall, for the purposes of this act and of any award to which that association was entitled at the date of the amalgamation,be deemed to have remained members of that association, and that association shall for those purposes be deemed to have continued in existence as a separate registered organization “.
The proposed new clause provides for the protection of members of organizations which amalgamate until such organizations can obtain an award. The Motor Transport Union and the carters and drivers’ organization form one organization; but no provision has been made in our arbitration law to protect members of registered organizations, which have found it convenient to amalgamate, until the new organization can obtain an award. This is the day of big organizations, and provision should be made for organizations whose interests are closely allied to amalgamate. It is likely that our railway and tramways employees’ organizations may eventually amalgamate and form one transport organization. It is also possible that in the near future the carters and drivers, wharf labourers and seamen, and others engaged in transport work, may amalgamate. If the members of those organizations deem it advisable in their interests to amalgamate, such amalgamation should be facilitated by legislation. Their rights should be preserved until such time as the new organization can obtain an award from the court.
– Would the members who joined the new organization have any award after the other organizations, had ceased to exist?
– They would do as was done in the case of the motor transport drivers’ and the carters’ and drivers’ organizations. They joined both organizations. The rules of our organization provide that until such time as an award is obtained, any liability or responsibility in the matter of entrance fees shall be paid as if the amalgamation had not occurred.
– All that was arranged under the present law.
– That is so; but we had to apply to the court for registration, and Mr. Stewart consented to the registration only on the understanding that application would be made for an award to cover the members of the new organization, and that until that was done our old registration would stand. At present we have two organizations registered under the federal act, but that concession was given only as an act of grace.
– Under this amendment amalgamations could be effected only as an act of grace. They would depend upon the approval of the judge.
– There is no machinery at present under which such amalgamations can take place, and an application should be granted provided that the constitution of one organization does not trespass on that of any other organization registered under the act.
– The honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lewis) informed me that he intended to move this proposed new clause, but I have not had sufficient time to examine it in detail. It involves new principles of registration. The registration of one composite organization consisting of other organizations already registered may involve certain complications that should be examined by the organizations outside and by the general public. Although the honorable member has circulated his proposed new clause I ask him not to press it at this juncture, because I have not had an opportunity to consider it.
.- Very reluctantly I shall consent to the withdrawal of the proposed new clause, which, I think, should be incorporated in the bill.
As the Minister has not had time to thoroughly consider its effect, I trust that he will give it further attention, and, if possible, have it inserted in the bill when it is before another place. I ask leave to withdraw it.
Proposed new clause, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments (by Mr. Brennan) agreed to -
That the following new clauses be inserted: - 4.1a. Section sixty-eight of the principal act is amended -
by omitting the word “ summary “, and inserting in its stead the word “ competent “ ; and
by adding at the end thereof the words “, as debts due to the organization.” 44a. Section eighty-four of the principal act is amended by inserting after the word “court” (wherever occurring) the words “or a conciliation commissioner “. 44b. Section eighty-six of the principal act is amended -
by inserting after the word “court” (first occurring), the words “ or a conciliation commissioner “ ; and
by inserting after the word “court” (elsewhere occurring), the words “ or Commissioner “. 45a. Section eighty-nine of the principal act is amended by omitting the word “summary” (wherever occurring) and inserting in its stead the word “ competent “.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments ; report - by leave - adopted.
Motion (by Mr. Brennan) - by leave -proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
.I had hoped that the Arbitration Bill to be introduced by this Government would make a real contribution to goodwill in industry. I regarded the members of the Government, and those who supported it, as individuals who had long professed special qualifications in respect of industrial affairs, and I had hoped from them something of value in their efforts to improve our arbitration system. I was very disappointed when I first saw the bill, and the improvements which have been made in its progress through this House have not removed the fundamental objections which were stated during the secondreading debate. I hope that the abolition of penalties on strikes and lockouts will produce good results. I supported the proposals for their abolition, and I agree that the experiment is worth a trial. Although the bill has been improved, as compared with the form in which it was originally introduced, it still proposes to make some changes in the law which are both undesirable and dangerous. The provisions for the taking of secret ballots have been repealed. I regard that repeal as a surrender to lawlessness and violence. It is not founded upon a principle, but is a mere surrender. The individual members of trade unions are to be deprived of rights under the act. Care has been taken that those rights should disappear. It is a particularly unfortunate time, having regard to the general position of Australia, to make an alteration the effect of which is to remove the declaration that it is necessary for judges and arbitration tribunals to take into consideration the economic effect of their awards and to consider the public interest.
Preference to unionists has been dealt with by an amendment to the act which empowers a court or a conciliation commissioner to grant preference disregarding the provision, which has hitherto existed, that other things should be equal - a provision which was accepted by the Government as . recently as the 1st May last, when dealing with the subject of preference to soldiers.
The salient feature of the bill is found in the provision authorizing the appointment of persons called conciliation commissioners, who really are to be arbitrators, without any qualifications being prescribed for them under the act. There are also to be conciliation committees, and it is apparently the intention of the Government that the work of arbitration should be, in future, done by arbitrators under the name of conciliation commissioners and committees. Provisions have been incorporated in the bill which will make it possible, at the instigation of one party, to remove all arbitration work from the judges of the court. It appears to me that this is a very undesirable course to adopt. Political control has been introduced to the maximum extent permitted by the Constitution. That, also, is very undesirable’ at the present time.
This is partisan legislation very greatly to be regretted in the present state of our national affairs. At the same time, I regard the successful operation of industry as so important to Australia that I hope that the bill, in the form in which it finally leaves Parliament, whatever that form may be, will be of such a character that the parties to industry may be able to try to work together to make the system a success. “With goodwill even a bad system may work. I believe this to be a bad system, but if there is goodwill in industry, even it may work.
. I wish to refer to a matter which it may be possible to deal with by regulation under the act. Lately, a number of applications have been heard by the Arbitration Court resulting in a reduction of wages on the ground that the cost of living has fallen. Trade unionists are extremely anxious that the Statistician shall be required to publish the names of those who supply him with information regarding the cost of living.
– That is prohibited under the Census and Statistics Act as it at present stands.
– Perhaps the AttorneyGeneral can devise some means of overcoming that. It does not seem fair that wages should be reduced on information supplied anonymously. It may happen that in Ballarat, for instance, some person furnishes a return regarding the price of groceries, and on the strength of that return trade unionists are made to suffer a reduction of wages without even knowing who furnished the information. I ask the Attorney-General to give attention to this matter. If the cost of living falls, and awards are. based on that fall, there is surely nothing wrong with letting those who have to abide by the award know the source of the information upon which the award is based.
– I have already dealt in advance with the objections which the Leader of the Opposition has thought fit to re-state. on the third reading of the bill, and I do not propose to delay the House at this unearthly hour by making comment on them. As a matter of fact, I desire rather to thank honorable members generally for the good work they have put in until early in the morning, marked only by such ebullitions of feeling as might reasonably be expected during the consideration of legislation of a highly controversial character. I hope that the reflections cast upon each other’s character by the Leader of the Opposition and myself have been marked by a spirit of reciprocity. Honours are evenly divided between us in that respect. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has retired. I desire to express regret if anything that I said during the debate has hurt his feelings ; but he must make allowance for the acerbity that developed during the lengthy discussion on this bill. I congratulate the Government upon the fact that, notwithstanding what has been said with respect to this measure, we have pursued the rugged road indicated by me at the commencement of the debate with such success that now, at 2.15 a.m., we have passed it through practically all stages in this House. I have little doubt but that in another place wise counsels will prevail, and that there the bill will have a safe and speedy passage.
Question - That the bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Norman Makin.)
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendments.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
The following papers were presented : -
Air Force Act - Regulations Amended -
Statutory Rules 1930, No. 77.
Dairy Produce Export Charges Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No.65.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, Nos. 75,76.
Export Guarantee Act - Return showing assistance granted to 30th June, 1930.
Northern Australia Act - Ordinances of1930.
Central Australia -
No. 5 - Poisons.
No. 6 - Observance of Law (No. 2).
Northern Australia -
No.6. - Poisons.
No. 7 - Darwin Town Council (No. 2).
No. 8 - Observance of Law (No. 2).
Motion (by Mr.Scullin) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. this day.
Duty on Wireless Valves.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed-
That the House do now adjourn.
Dr.EARLE PAGE (Cowper) [2.24 a.m.]. - Yesterday, the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin), in delivering the budget speech, indicated that an ad. valorem duty of 10 per cent, was to be imposed on wireless valves entirely as a revenue tariff. British valves are more costly than either Dutch or American valves, so that a flat rate of 10 per cent-
– I understand that you have ruled, Mr. Speaker, that a tariff item cannot now be discussed.
-The right honorable gentleman will not he in order in anticipating discussion on any item of business before the House.
– I merely wish (o ask the Minister for Trade and Customs to consider this subject from a trade point of view.
– The right honorable member cannot argue the facts of the case.
– I understand that. The latest available official customs figures show that in 1928-29 our importations were as follow: -
The value per valve works out as follows : -
The imposition of a Bat-rate of 10 per cent, is unfair and entirely against the British industry. I ask the Minister to consider whether, in order to get the same amount of revenue as he is at present getting from this source, namely £21,000, it would not be desirable to impose a specific duty per valve instead of the proposed ad valorem rate.
– The figures in relation to importation of wireless valves in 1928-29 are as follows : -
Under the former rates of duty, viz: - Free, United Kingdom 15 per cent, general, the cost per valve was as follows : -
Under the new rates, the valves will be : -
The foregoing figures are worked out on the average value of all valves imported. The former preference of 15 per cent. - 16$ per cent, with the statutory 10 per cent, added- will still bo maintained. The additional 10 per cent, duty is being imposed purely for revenue purposes. The effect of it will be, taking the average value of the valves, that the United Kingdom valve will pay a duty of lOd. instead of being admitted free, and the Dutch valve will pay lid. instead of 6d. This is due entirely to the higher price of the English valve. To restore the former margin of 5d. would require an additional duty of 12$ per cent, general tariff, but this would have no practical effect, as it would merely make the Dutch valves 4s. lid., compared with 9s. for the English valves. The question of imposing a specific rate per valve imported will receive consideration. I understand that the Phillips Company intends to open a factory in Australia at an early date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 2.29 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1930/19300710_reps_12_125/>.