12th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. McGrath) took the chair at11 a.m., and read prayers.
– According to a statement published in the Melbourne Age of yesterday, the Ararat Borough Council applied to the Commonwealth. Bank, in accordance with the recent arrangement that, to provide employment, advanceswould be made by the bank to local governing bodies for the carrying out of undertakings that were financially sound Ararat has a good water supply project which offers every prospect of proving remunerative. The bank replied that the rate of interest would be 6 per cent., with a rebate of 1 per cent. for the first five years.
– I remind the honorable member that the purpose of a question is to elicit information, not to give it.
-I ask the Treasurer whether it is not a fact that ordinary borrowers can obtain overdrafts from the Commonwealth Bank at 5½ per. cent. If so, is it in accordance with the arrangement made by the Commonwealth with the bank that local governing bodies should pay6 per cent. for advances?
– I have not been officially informed of the rate of interest to be-charged by the Commonwealth Bank for advances to local governing authorities. I understood that if would be 5 per cent. with provision fora penalty rate in respect of arrears. A charge of 5 per cent. would not be unreasonable in present circumstances.
– I agree.
– If the honorable member has information that a higher rate is being demanded, I ask him to let me have details, and I shall refer them to the Commonwealth Bank.
– If a bondholder whose old stock would have matured in 1933 can establish that he will suffer hardship if the Government does not repay his principal on the due date, will he have to wait until 1933 before the securities are redeemed under the legislation now before this Parliament?
– The scheme for the relief of hardship in connexionwith the conversion of government stock will be drafted by the Commonwealth Treasury and operated by the Commonwealth Bank. Treasury officials have been in consultation with the. bank with a view to evolving a practicable scheme, but the details have not yet been completed. I can, however, assure the honorable member that relief in cases of hardship will be available prior to the maturity date of the old stock.
– In a letter published in the Canberra Times this morning a correspondent states that he is interested to learn that the Minister for Home Affairs claims that thecost of thebus shelter sheds recently erected, is £20 below the departmental estimate. The writer asks if the Minister will give builders an opportunity to tender against the department for future works. Having regard to the financial stringency, I ask the Minister whether he will consider the desirability of allowing private contractors to tender for works in the Federal Capital Territory?
– The correspondent of the Canberra Times has questioned the honesty of the departmental estimate; I accept the estimate as honest. The suggestion that tenders should be called for future work will be considered.
– On. the 16th of December last I gave notice of a motion proposing a referendum of the Australian people to decide where the Federal Capital shall be situated. On the following day it was placed 11th on the list ; it has now receded to the 18th position. Motions of which notice was given subsequently now take precedence of my proposal. I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether the order of private business is determined on the principle that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.
– Honorable members give notice of their intention to make motions on stated dates. If a motion is not proceeded with on the date for which it is set down, it is transferred below other business listed for the next day of sitting. Other notices are placed according to the dates on which they are to be proposed.
– If I were to withdraw my motion, and give notice of it for an early date, would it take its proper position of first on the list?
– If the honorable member obtained leave to withdraw his motion, and gave notice of it for the next private members’ day, it would take precedence of all but other motions for the same day, of which earlier notice had been given.
FormalMotion for Adjournment.
– I have received from the honorable member for Kooyong (Mr. Latham) an intimation that he intends to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, namely, “ The shipping strike and the necessity for prompt restoration of shipping services “.
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
.- Honorable members will agree regarding the importance of the subject-matter of this motion. By a decision of the Seamen’s Union in Sydney, interstate shipping is being held up in that port, and already, to some extent, in other ports; there is grave risk of a general stoppage of shipping services throughout the Commonwealth. We read that 26 ships are already idle’ in Sydney, and it appears almost inevitable that a large number of vessels in other ports will be affected. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) examined the merits of the dispute on Wednesday last. He pointed out that 400,000 of our citizens are unemployed, and that the action taken by the Seamen’s Union is apparently taken at the instance, not of responsible officers of that body, but of entirely irresponsible men. The precipitation of this conflict will inevitably extend unemployment, not only in the shipping industry, but also in many other walks of life. The right honorable gentleman described the dispute as a wanton disregard of the national welfare, and urged the seamen to man the ships without delay. That was on Wednesday. Yesterday the members of the Seamen’s Union in Sydney met, and passed a motion which amounts to deliberate defiance of the Commonwealth Government, and a challenge to its authority.
– Who was in the chair? That is important.
– I do not know. I am prepared to accept the Prime Minister’s view of the dispute, and, on behalf of the Opposition, I accede to the declaration he made yesterday that the Government will enforce the law unhesitatingly, as it should do in the interests of the community generally. It is often said that those who call attention to the interests of the community on occasions such as this are making provocative statements. We are expected to display in relation to one party to industrial disputes, a tenderness of language which I have never observed to be displayed towards the other party. I am not going to expose myself to any such accusation on this occasion. I shall not say anything more about the merits of the dispute than I have already said. In his statement the Prime Minister clearly recognized the responsibility of the Government, and I wish to say that I appreciate the difficulty of its position. I have had, as a member of a government, experience of a considerable number of disputes of this character, and I take this opportunity of declaring - it is for this purpose, chiefly, that I have submitted the motion - that the Opposition will stand behind the Government in any action it may take within the law, or any reasonable action under new laws, to restore the shipping services, which are all-important at the present time to the community as a whole.
– Both sections of the Opposition will do that.
– The country cannot afford to have its trade and commerce tied up at the present time at the bidding of a few irresponsible men, or at the bidding of anybody. It is essential to obtain, as quickly as possible, and immediately, if possible, the restoration of these services. That is necessary, in the interests of the Australian shipping industry as well as in the interests of the community generally. The shipping industry has been gravely handicapped for many years, owing to the unreasonable and arbitrary action, from time to time of some Australian seamen.
As to what should be done, I do not propose to descend to details; I do not desire to say anything which may embarrass the Government on this occasion. I wish to give an assurance of support from this side of the House to any fair, reasonable, and proper action that the Government may take to bring about the restoration of the services. The matter cannot be allowed to drag on, and wait indefinitely. There is a clear principle involved, and, if a particular body of men refuses to carry on the essential services of the community, it will be the duty of the Government to do everything it can to protect other men who are prepared to carry on under fair terms and conditions. I shall say nothing so far as prosecutions are concerned. As a former Attorney-General, I know quite well that it is very often difficult to obtain evidence demonstrating the truth of statements published in the press. All I shall say is that, where there is evidence of a definite breach; the law ought to be enforced, and the whole of the law on the statute-book ought to be regarded for this purpose. I hope that the Government will treat this matter as one of the most instant urgency, and of most profound importance. The interests of the community are most gravely affected by what is taking place. If prompt action is taken, it may result in an immediate settlement; but, if the dispute is allowed to drift, and to extend still further, it is difficult to sec where the end will be, more particularly having regard to some of the influences associated with the origin of the trouble.
One element that ought to be considered is the declaration of a certain number of citizens organized in Sydney, that they will take the matter into their own hands. As a member of Parliament, I do not believe in action of that character by any body of citizens, so long as there is a ministry which is governing and recognizing the responsibilities of government. Of course, if the Ministry should be a government which abdicated its responsibility, and was not prepared to protect the citizens in their daily work, and to do everything in its power to maintain the essential services of the community, new problems would arise; but, until that happens, the matter should be left in the hands’ of the constitutional authority of the country. I conclude by saying that the Opposition will support the Government in any proper action it may take to bring about the restoration of this all-important service.
.- The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) has moved the adjournment of the House to discuss a subject 0:1 which I made a statement on Wednesday, which he. ha3 partly reviewed. I withdraw not one word from that statement. No information that I have received has caused me to change my view a3 to the origin of this dispute. The words that I used on Wednesday stand. I have received no information from any source that would show that the origin of the dispute is other than as indicated by the representations that we then had. On Wednesday the Deputy Leader of the Opposition said that it was remarkable that the Government could not get fuller information. I was not in a position to reply to that statement when it was made; I had not an opportunity; but I say now that the Government sought through every official channel to get information. The honorable member suggested that we should have got into touch with the Registrar of the Arbitration Court. We had already done so ; but that official was not at the conference. We asked if he could ascertain for us what was officially recognized at the conference as the subject in dispute; and the reply came that the conference took place in camera, and he was not free to disclose the discussion that occurred there. I think that that was a sound position to take. When an attempt is being made to settle a dispute by conciliation, the worst thing that can be done is to give publicity to the discussion. I make no complaint about that reply; I merely mention it to show why we failed to get information from that source.
The point was fairly raised by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) that I should have got into touch with the union, and I replied that I had done so. The statement is published to-day that I made my statement first, and consulted the union afterwards. That is not correct. I sent an urgent telegram on Wednesday morning to the secretary of the union in Sydney, and made it a reply-paid message, to ensure that there should be no delay. I received a reply from Sydney after I had spoken in the House, informing me that the secretary was in Melbourne. I communicated with the secretary in Melbourne, and that evening I got the answer that he was on his way to Sydney, and would reply to mo from there. I have not yet received that reply from him.
I have had no intimation from the shipowners as to what they regard as the origin of the dispute. I received a telegram from the shipowners, which was published in the press, in which I was asked to do two things on behalf of the Government. The first was to urge the men to man the ships. I did that, in as definite language as I could employ. In the second place, I was urged, should they find it necessary to call for volunteers to man the ships in the event of the ordinary crews refusing to do so, to say that this Government would not interfere in that matter. I think that I made that pretty plain in my statement on Wednesday. I made it clear that on all the information we have as to the origin of this dispute, Ave could not, and indeed no government could, countenance it. That is a declaration that the Government will not be behind the wanton holding up of the shipping of this country on the score of the alleged victimization of a man of the character of Joseph Schelley, who had not been to sea for eight years, but who created trouble a few weeks after he joined a ship. We cannot throw the resources of the Government behind anybody who precipitates trouble in that way. It is recognized generally that the Government has adopted a proper attitude; but in some quarters already its action has been sneered and jeered at. Some sections of the press have charged the Government with saying things, and not being prepared to do them. There is even an implication in the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) to-day - though in mild language, I admit - that we are allowing this dispute to drag on. What dragging on have we allowed? The Government has certain powers, but these are limited. Ministers must be permitted to exercise their judgment as a government as to what action should be taken, and as to what power they have to take action.I remind the House that when the coal trouble was in progress, a question was asked by the honorable member for Lang (Mr. Long), who wanted to know what action would be taken by the Government to prosecute the coal-owners for a lockout, and the answer given by the then Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) was - “I am not prepared to announce in advance what action the Government is prepared to take.”
– I recognized, I think, in what I said, the position of the Government in that regard.
– I am not going to tell the people what power the Government does not possess, or what action ii contemplates, until we know what we can do, and what authority we have for doing it. I said in answer to a question asked yesterday by the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) that the Government will enforce the law, but we will not run amok, and we will not be provocative. The restoration of the shipping service rests at the present time with those who control shipping, and with those who own the ships. The Government does not own or run ships, but it will protect the citizens of this community, whoever they are, who carry on the services of this country. I have been jeered at by one section of the press because I said that the Commonwealth Government would support the State authorities in enforcing the law against those who committed overt acts in breach of the law. “ Skulking behind the State,” was a phrase applied to this attitude in a responsible newspaper.
– What journal was that?
– The Sydney Daily Telegraph. One of the last things we want in this country is unnecessary intervention by the military authorities in civil matters.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
– The only power the Commonwealth authorities wield in regard to overt acts against the public peace is the military power. One of the dangers of federation, which was pointed out in the early days by that great statesman, the late H. B. Higgins, is the division of authority between the military and the police. The great safeguard put into the Constitution was that the Commonwealth authorities must act only at the request of, and in co-operation with, the State authorities in regard to military intervention.
I take this opportunity to say that there are mischievous people in both camps at the present time. The official report that I have from Sydney this morning is to the effect that the resolution carried at the meeting of the Seamen’s Union was the action, not of the members of that union, but of a body of men who meet on land and do not go to sea. That is one of the weaknesses of the organization, that the persons “who have most to say as to who shall man the ships are not those who do man the ships.
– Who was in the chair?
– That I cannot ascertain. The previous report stated that the man who occupied the chair was Joseph Schelly, but I was not able to learn who was chairman on this occasion.
– It would, be advisable to find out whether it was the president of the union.
– I have already asked the Crown Law authorities to prosecute inquiries into all details in every seaport affected, so that the Government may be armed with full information. I do not propose to announce publicly every fact as we gather it. The information that we have received up to date is that 24 hours’ notice has been given by the men, and this notice expires at 5 p.m. to-day. Until then we shall not know what action will be taken. Some ships are due to sail this afternoon, and our information is that the intention is that they shall sail. What will happen later, I do not know, and I have no desire to precipitate matters. My information is to the effect that there is a very ugly feeling among the men, due largely, my informant states, to the public attitude and public declarations of the New Guard. That organization should keep out of the trouble, and should cease from issuing declarations. Besides inquiring into the activities of communists, we are also seeking information regarding the activities of the New Guard, and any action by either organization, resulting in a breach of the Commonwealth law, will be dealt with. We must have evidence, however, in all such cases. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested, out of the fullness of his experience as Attorney-General, it is much easier for public speakers and newspaper writers to declare a man guilty than it is for the authorities to prove a case against him in a court of law. I do not know whether I ought to say more on that subject now.
As honorable members know, the Arbitration Court has authority to take action, and it has already done so. The best action that can be taken in the early stages of any industrial trouble is to put into operation the conciliation sections of the act. That has been done. If any section of an award is broken, either party to the award can take action; the Government has no authority to do so. Ithas been suggested that action might be taken under the Crimes Act, but section 30 k of that act applies only if violence, intimidation, or boycott has been, proved. There is another section which deals with the issuing of proclamations. The Government desires to see the transport services of this country carried on.
I repeat the warning I uttered on Wednesday, together with the appeal I made to the men, not to be guilty of the folly of throwing the transport services out of action for the time being, thereby putting themselves out of. employment for an indefinite time. That must be the result if they continue with the line of action they have adopted. They will injure themselves and their organization, and throw thousands of other persons out of work. I regard the action of a group of men acting in opposition to the advice of their duly-elected leaders, and without consulting with other organizations directly affected, as the antithesis of unionism. Theirs is the action of unionbreakers, and not of unionists. I feel strongly on this matter, and, as head of the Government, will take such action as may be necessary to ensure that the laws of the country are enforced, so far as we have power to enforce them; but I shall do that in a sane, not in a provocative, way.
– I am very glad that we have had from the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) the declaration that he will support those ci tizens who are prepared to carry on the essential services of this country, if those who are usually engaged in carrying on those services refuse, without good reason, to do so. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) spoke on this matter with commendable restraint. The Prime Minister, it was evident, also endeavoured to exercise the same restraint in making his reply. He appeared at one stage to feel somewhat resentful of the phrase used by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition that this thing should not be allowed to “ drag on “. I do not think that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition suggested that as yet the dispute had been allowed to drag on, or that he meant to charge the Government with having allowed it to do so. What he had in mind, I think, was that it was most undesirable, indeed, that a dispute of this kind should be allowed to drag on.
Every honorable member in this House must deplore the ill-advised action of the seamen. Everybody must feel indignant that, at a time like this, when there is already so much unemployment, action should be taken which, if carried to its conclusion, must cause very much greater unemployment. It is not sufficient for us in this Parliament to be arm chair critics, and to content ourselves with giving good advice. The Prime Minister has already given his advice to the seamen. I hope that they will take it. If they do not, the Government will be called upon to take an active part in restoring the shipping services. It has power to do so.. If the shipping services came to a standstill, the Government would be recrean to its trust if it did not take such actionas it could to restore them, especially asany prolonged interruption must cause an» enormous increase in unemployment. I remember that when there was trouble o» the waterfront some years ago - not a seamen’s strike, but a wharf labourers’ strike - the unemployment it caused ;spread in a most alarming way, and many persons engaged in industries which seemed to have no connexion with the waterfront became involved. For instance, 2,000 men were temporarily thrown out of employment at Newcastle because the transport facilities necessary to the conduct of their industry were held up. I hope that the Government will succeed in the efforts it is making to bring this trouble to an end. I hope that, if mere advice proves insufficient, the Government will not hesitate to use the powers it undoubtedly possesses under the Constitution to restore the shipping services. I trust that the Government will not act in such a way as to lay itself open to the charge of lacking courage.
– I regret that the Prime Minister has not been able to place before honorable members the opinions of the men concerned in this dispute. When he made his statement on Wednesday, he quoted from two Sydney morning newspapers, each of which had published a report of the causes of the dispute according to its information. I have not myself been in touch with the Seamen’s Union, but I propose to quote from another newspaper a statement which has been issued by the rank and file committee of that union. A body of men would not take the course which has been taken by the seamen unless there was some reason for it other than what has been explained to this House. According to the press reports this morning, the decision of yesterday’s -meeting was arrived at by an overwhelming majority of those present. Those of us who have been associated with industrial disputes realize that decisions of that kind are not reached by an overwhelming majority of unionists unless there is some grave and sufficient reason for it.
– I do not agree with that;
– The right honorable member is not likely to agree with it now, but fifteen or twenty years ago he would have thought differently. In his time he nas been a leader of strikes, and. the instigator of action which has had for its object the improvement of the conditions of the workers. The company he now keeps is such that he can hardly be expected to think other than he does. Thestatement to which I have referred was published in the Melbourne Herald, and is as follows: -
On the 25th August a fireman in the Canberra took ill in Sydney, and was sent to hospital. The stop-work meeting of the union then in progress sent Schelley to All the vacancy.
When the ship arrived in Cairns tha storekeeper became ill, and was sent to hospital.
Hi3 position was filled by promoting a fireman to storekeeper, another fireman being signed on.
The ship returned to Sydney, went to Melbourne, and again to Sydney on her next trip north.
On arrival in Cairns again the fireman, who signed on there during the ship’s last visit, left the ship because of its rotten working conditions.
A trimmer was then promoted to fireman, and another fireman signed on. On Sunday night, 11th October, before the ship’s arrival in Sydney, the trimmer named Schelley was given notice of dismissal. This was at once conveyed to the men and a meeting of the stokehold crew was held.
The mcn decided to instruct their delegate, Todd, to approach the union and ask the officials to interview the engineer.
An official of the union boarded the shi]) on Monday morning, 12th October, and interviewed the engineer iri the presence of the marine superintendent, and accompanied by Schelley.
The superintendent and engineer informed the official that they had no complaint against Schelley. They insisted, however, that the storekeeper must be reinstated after his illness, and they proposed to do this by disrating the present storekeeper to fireman, and the fireman to trimmer, and sack the trimmer, Schelley.
– Were not these men lifted up because of the fireman’s illness?
– I am coming to that. The statement continues -
The union official pointed out that disrating of members was against the policy of the union, and insisted that Schelley was being victimized.
The superintendent denied this, and repeated that the company had nothing against Schelley, and would give him the first job available.
– Was he not satisfied with that!
– Apparently the shipping company wa3 prepared to give Schelley a job at any time, which shows that he must have been suitable to th pIn The statement goes on -
On being asked for a written guarantee on these points, however, both officers refused to give it, and the engineer replied, “If you think I am telling a lie to get out of a corner, you had better get off the- ship.” The engineer then gave instructions that the official be put off the ship.
The official called the nien out of the stokehold and engine-room., and reported the results of his interview, and the men decided to abide by the decision of a special meeting to be held that morning.
The mass meeting of seamen the same day decided: - (1) That we are opposed to the policy of disrating our members. (2) That the only position vacant on the Canberra is that of a trimmer, and that Schelley be reinstated. (3) That the marine superintendent apologize to the union for insulting the officials.
The men on the Canberra accepted these decisions, and refused to take the Canberra to sca.
That statement indicates to me that there has been some shuffling on the part of the owners in their treatment of the men who were engaged on this ship.
The Prime Minister was at great pains to draw attention to the so-called irresponsible attitude of the unionists, and to point out what they ought to do, but he did not utter one word in condemnation of the owners, or call attention to their actions and responsibilities. The right honorable gentleman will agree that there are always two sides to an industrial dispute. He is aware of the tactics that are usually adopted by the employers on such occasions. Instead of indulging in an attack upon the unionists, he might at least have held the scales evenly, and enlightened the House as to his experience regarding the tactics of the shipowners. He should at least have made investigations as to their activities in this particular instance.
The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) talked about the “ unreasonable and arbitrary action of the seamen “ over a number of years. What about the unreasonable and arbitrary action of the employers during the same period? They do not use drawing-room manners, and handle the seamen with kid gloves. They are ruthless in their action against the workers when the opportunity presents itself, and they play second fiddle to none when it comes to the employing of unreasonable and arbitrary methods.
– I suggest that the honorable member should review the statement that I made on Wednesday.
– The Prime Minister must admit that he was at some pains to make clear the faults of the unionists.
– I dealt with both sides; in fact, I dealt too fairly. That is why the honorable member is finding fault with me.
– I contend that the shipowners’ action should be examined, and, if it is disclosed that they have been guilty of double crossing and manoeuvring, to the detriment of the unionists, that should be exposed.
Mr.Scullin. - Does not the honorable member think that I might have had a reply to the telegram that I despatched to the union on Wednesday?
– I cannot understand why the right honorable gentleman has not had a reply to his telegram. It has been said that the officials are not controlling this dispute, but I read in this morning’s press that the general secretary of the union was present a t the meeting yesterday, so that apparently the organization is officially conducting the affair. Its rules provide what course shall be followed in such circumstances.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker–
Honorable Members. - Let the motion go.
– I do not intend to keep quiet. We have too much of this nonsensical interference by governments and parliaments, which has shackled the hands of persons on both sides in a dispute. Because of the policy of the Government which imposes embargoes on goods, far distant States are in a particularly unenviable position during a shipping hold-up. I urge the Prime Minister to consider suspending the coastal clauses of the Navigation Act for a short period to enable those living in distant States, who at present are compelled to purchase their requirements from the eastern States, to obtain supplies from more convenient sources. A hold-up such as that which now confronts us drastically affects the people of Western Australia. I do not want to see them starved out because of the existence of this dispute, and I urge the Prime Minister to give consideration to my request.
.- I can hardly believe that the proposal of the seamen to withdraw crews from all ships at 5 o’clock to-night has not been approved without good cause. It is to be regretted that the Prime Minister did not get into touch with the Seamen’s Union to learn their side of the case. It is incredible that the proposed action is to be taken at the behest of a few irresponsibles, or communists, as is claimed. I am convinced that if these men walk off the ships at 5 o’clock this afternoon, it will be because some of their number have been subjected to victimization. Probably very few honorable members in this chamber have experienced victimization. I know what it means. My personal experience was not the result of my entertaining any communist tendencies. It is usually caused by the spite of the employers, because men persist in holding out for their rights. I know what those who stand up for what they consider their rights suffer when victimized. It is impossible for them to obtain work, and their families go hungry.
I want to contrast the action of the Prime Minister on this occasion with that adopted by him when the coal-owners held the State of New South Wales at ransom. I recall the promises that he and his colleagues made. If the Bruce-Page Government were displaced from office, the sufferings of the miners would cease. The right honorable gentleman went through my electorate during those troublous times, and severely condemned the Bruce-Page administration for its inactivity, and for countenancing the lockout. When addressing the men and womenfolk he referred to the sufferings inflicted on the people of a country that was being blockaded during wartime, and he added “ How much greater are the sufferings to which you are subjected when your husbands are denied work simply because they desire to obey the award of the Federal Arbitration Court.” He promised that if the Bruce-Page Government were cast out, the resultant Labour
Government would immediately bring about a settlement. The Bruce-Page Government was removed from office, and we know what happened. We know that the miners had to bring about their own salvation. This Government made no attempt to prosecute the coal-owners, although, when in opposition, its members had moved the adjournment of the House in an endeavour to force the Bruce-Page Government to take that action against the late John Brown and his colleagues.
Now it appears that men are again standing up for their rights, resisting victimization. The Prime Minister threatens, by innuendo, that drastic action will be taken against them if they persist in their attitude. I hold no brief for anybody who espouses communist doctrines. The political aspect of these matters does not influence me. I think only of the suffering and hardship that is inflicted on the workers and their families when they are victimized. Obviously, the first tiling that the Prime Minister should do is to obtain the facts from the union so that he may be in a position to judge. It is regrettable that he should have threatened to invoke the aid of the law against the workers after hearing only one side of the case. I exhort the Prime Minister to set about making himself conversant with both sides of the question before he takes further action.
Question resolved in the negative.
New Zealand Embargo
asked the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– Information concerning the subject-matter of the ques tions is not immediately available, but inquiries are being made and replies will be furnished as early as practicable.
– The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Tully) has asked a series of questions regarding the export of hardwood sleepers to China. The desired information will be obtained.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
All reasonable arrangements are to be made for rendering items either by orchestras, bands, choral societies, and other organizations from which the programmes are distributed, and a reasonable policy is to be pursued in inducing the establishment and maintenance of organizations devoting their talent to rendering high-class compositions. Local talent is to be encouraged by utilizing the services of persons recommended by local committees who may possess attributes rendering them suitable for providing broadcast items”?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer,. upon notice -
In view of the low price of silver during 1930-31, which realized during a portion of that period1s. per oz., and in view of the fact that 1 oz. would give 5s.6d. in currency, a profit of 450 per cent., will he state what was the price paid for the silver which was minted and issued for the years 1927 to 1931 inclusive, and what was the amount minted during that period, and the profit made thereon ?
– The following is the desired information : -
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Cusack) has asked a series of questions regarding the war indemnity allotted to Australia. The information is being obtained, and will be furnished as soon as possible.
Preference to Unionists and Returned Soldiers
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Evasion of Taxation
– On the 14th October, the honorable member for Richmond (Mr. R. Green) asked me a question without notice in regard to the steps taken by the Government to collect income tax from oil companies.
This question has been the subject of several investigations during the past decade, and both legislative and administrative action has been taken to see that income tax is paid on the taxable income which might reasonably be expected to arise from the Australian business of these companies. In this connexion, I- may say that the Income Tax Board of Review is about to enter into an appeal by one of the oil companies against the departmental assessment under section 28 of the Income Tax Assessment Act. This inquiry must, however, be made in camera, unless the taxpayer concerned desires that it should be open to the public. The allegation by the honorable member that in one instance the evasion of income tax last year amounted to £2,000,000, will not bear analysis. This would appear to be an alleged evasion by a company. The company rate of tax for last year was ls. 4d. in the £1 of taxable income, so that the amount of the alleged evaded tax represents a taxable income of £30,000,000 in that one case. As the gross sales of any one company in Australia do not nearly approach £30,000,000, it is obvious that the statement has no foundation in fact.
– On the 22nd October, the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Nairn) asked me the following questions, upon notice: -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The average period of residence in the Territory of 34 of the 30 nien referred to in 1. was five months. The other two had been resident in the Territory for a longer period.
Bill returned from the Senate with amendments.
– by leave - I desire to make a brief statement on the subject of unemployment relief. During the few weeks that the House of Representatives will be in recess the Government will gather information, and go into the details of work that it hopes to put into execution before Christmas to relieve unemployment. I mention that, because some honorable members feel that the Government should first obtain ar appropriation. The Government will ask for an appropriation of £250,000,^ but the Treasurer did not desire to bring down the bill until he could give honorable members definite information as to the details, which are not at present available. Efforts have been made to put in hand a number of public works by obtaining advances from the banks for the purpose. Unfortunately, those efforts have not been successful. The Government feels that something, if only of a temporary and not very far-Teaching character, must be done as early as possible - certainly before Christmas - to relieve the position of those who are unemployed. It proposes to ask for an appropriation from revenue of £250,000 for that purpose.
Later, Parliament will be supplied with the details of the works upon which the money will be spent. The money to be appropriated will all be expended through Commonwealth departments. This action is being taken as the forerunner of an appeal to all public bodies to put work in hand, no matter how small it may be, or how few men will be engaged on it. That appeal the Government confidently expects will be supported by honorable members generally. Private employers will also be asked to assist. On Monday I shall attend a conference of manufacturers to discuss various matters, and I shall take the opportunity to submit the Government’s proposal to the meeting. The Government will put in hand, through its own departments, only useful work which will have to be done eventually. Public property is already deteriorating through lack of attention, due to shortage of funds. Having itself made a start, the National Government will then ask for the co-operation of all who can give employment to one or more men for even a short period. The effect on industry and business generally will be watched with interest. If 40,000 or 50,000 men are employed on work extending into the new year, it is thought that a great impetus will be given to trade, that business generally will benefit, and the morale of the men, by reason of their being employed on legitimate undertakings, will improve.
Mr.White. - Many of the local governing bodies are already providing work along these lines.
– Some of them are; but others are not. The Government is convinced that the people of Australia are as ready to respond to a widespread appeal of this description as they were to that in connexion with the conversion loan. I mention these things now in order that honorable members will know that Parliament has not been ignored when they find the Government working in certain directions.
– Will Parliament be informed of the way in which the money will be spent?
– Immediately the House resumes, an appropriation of revenue will be sought, and details will then be given to the House.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Deter mination by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 26 of 1931 - Australian Postal Electricians Union.
Shipping Act - Commonwealth Shipping Board -
Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers -
Treasury Loan Account as at 30th April, 1931.
Liquidation Account as at 30th April, 1931.
Cockatoo Island - Balance-sheet as at 31st March, 1931.
Debate resumed from the 22nd October (vide page 1087), on motion by Mr.
That the bill be now read a second time.
– I am glad that the Government has introduced this measure. Only those who know the suffering which the closing of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales has caused to large numbers of people in that State can realize its importance. In moving the second reading, the Minister said that the persons affected by the closing of that bank were among the best people in the community. With that sentiment I entirely agree. The very fact that they have money deposited in the savings bank is evidence of their thrift. As I understand it, the proposal embodied in this measure is that those who have money in the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, and are dependent on it for their maintenance, shallassign that money to the Commonwealth, whereupon they shall be eligible for a pension, to be paid out of their own money until it has become exhausted, after which the pension will be continued in the ordinary ‘way, provided they are still eligible to receive it. The bill will enable such people to have some access to their own money. It is further provided that, in the event of the State Savings Bank re-opening for savings bank business, and there being still a balance to the credit of these depositors, the money will be returned to them. I assume that the proposal has been carefully scrutinized by the Government, and that no difficulties are anticipated in connexion with the assignment of their money to the .Commonwealth by the depositors. I take it also that there will be no difficulty with regard to the pass books of depositors, and matters of that kind. I do not propose to make any extended references to the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales; to do so would be to go beyond the scope of this measure. Moreover, I made some references to that subject last night when speaking on another bill. I am glad that the Government proposes to render this measure of assistance to a deserving section of the people. My only regret is that action along these lines was not taken earlier. I desire to pay my tribute to the fortitude and patience shown by depositors with the State Savings Bank who have been deprived of access to their savings. Many of them are aged persons who had saved a portion of their income to provide for their sustenance in their old age. They never contemplated what has happened. The spirit that they have displayed is worthy of the commendation of this Parliament and the people of Australia generally. In other countries similar happenings would cause a revolution. The splendid spirit displayed by these depositors entitles them, not only to the measure of relief which this bill proposes, but also to the most sympathetic consideration of the Government, when it is possible to return to them their deposits in full. I support the bill.
.- I congratulate the Government on having brought forward this measure. I am particularly pleased at its introduction, because I feel that, to some extent, it is the result of representations which I made to the Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) on behalf of depositors with the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. On several occasions I have referred in this House to the plight of many who had deposited their money with that institution, the latest being the 13th of this month, when I asked the Treasurer whether he had considered the cases that I had submitted to him in response to his request that specific cases of hardship should be brought under his notice. One case which I presented to him was that of an aged couple at West Wallsend, who had £900 in the bank, and had asked that they be granted an old-age pension until such time as their money could be made available to them, when they would pay back the* amount they had received. The Minister did not reply at the time. I am glad that my representations have led to the introduction of this bill. , No doubt it will help, in a small way, a number of people who, although possessing some hundreds of pounds, have been compelled to go cap in hand to the State Government to plead for the dole. They feel their position keenly. They would prefer to withdraw their own money from the bank, as they had a right to expect seeing that the State Government guaranteed all deposits made with that institution. I have felt all along that if the State Government could take a lien on deposits in the savings bank, in order to pay the dole, the Federal Government might grant depositors a pension which, in my opinion, is much to be prefe’rred to the dole. [Quorum formed.’] The effect of the acceptance of these deposits as security for payments made by the pensions department is evidence that the Government is convinced of the stability of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. No reasonable person has ever doubted its stability. Had it not been for the insidious propaganda conducted by political parties opposed to th, Lang party, that bank, would never have closed its doors. That propaganda was started by the ex-Treasurer of New South Wales, Mr. Stevens. It was then taken up by the Leader of the 1 Opposition. (Mr. Bavin). Finally, the bank closed its doors in consequence of a statement by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Latham) in this House.
– That is a strange thing to say. I merely asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) to make a reassuring statement, as any honorable member will find if he reads Hansard. Unfortunately, the bank was finished at the time.
– The A&y after that statement’ was given publicity in the press, deposits amounting to £3,000,000 were withdrawn from thehead office in New South Wales. Therefore the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was responsible toa large extent for the closing of that bank.
-That is ridiculous nonsense.
– In view of recent events, it cannot becontended that the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales is unsound, and it is regrettable that some people are prepared to seize every opportunity to kick Mr. Lang through that institution. I support the measure, but the Government’ should go a little further, and give some substantial assistance to this bank which has assets in Commonwealth loans amounting to £30,000,000. Furthermore, when the bank first gave guarantees to its depositors, it had control of the State note issue and of borrowing, but since federation, the control of thenote issue has passed to the Commonwealth Government, and the Loan Council has been given full control of borrowing.
– I have given the honorable member the same latitude as I extended to the honorable member for Warringah (Mr. Parkhill) in respect of a discussion on the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. I now request the honorable member to confine his remarks to the bill.
– I submit that I am in order in discussing the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, because this bill affects pensioners who have deposits in that institution. I wish to know why the Commonwealth Bank is insisting upon taking over the control of the Government Savings Bank? I support the measure, and I hope that shortly a further measure will be introduced to enable this bank to regain its former stability.
.- The principle underlying this bill is indeed just and proper. I desire, not to discuss the New South Wales Government Savings Bank, but to urge the Government to place pensioners who have property, which they can neither sell nor let, on the same footing as pensioners who have deposits in the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales. The pensions department, I presume, accepts themunicipal assessments of these properties. Under this bill, where a pensionerwho has a deposit in theGovernment Savings Bank of New South Wales assigns that deposit to the Minister, it shall not be taken into account in assessing the net capital value of the accumulated property of that pensioner. It is therefore only fair and just that a pensioner should not have charged against him the accumulated value of property which he cannot sell or let, provided that he assigns it to the department. I should like in the bill a provision similar to clause 3 with this alteration: That the words “ any deposit so assigned “ be struck out, and the words “ any property so assigned “, be inserted in their stead.
– It is not a permanent circumstance.
Mr.GABB.- It is, in many instances. Some eighteen months ago, I knew of such a case. Murray Bridge was at one time a railway depot, and many workers werecentred there. Under the so-called rehabilitation scheme in connexion with the South Australian railways, the depot was shifted from Murray Bridge to Tailem Bend. The railway workers were transferred, and accommodated in houses built by the Government. Because of that, a number of properties at Murray Bridge became vacant. An invalid lady owned in that town three small houses, the aggregate value of Which was from £800 to £1,200. She could not sell or let them, nevertheless the pensions department charged the value of those properties against her in respect of her claim for a pension. As a result, she was prevented from receiving a pension. Other persons who are in a similar position have told me that, if the department would grant them a pension, they would be willing to assign their property to it.
– That cannot be done under the Constitution.
– If that is so, why is a pensioner able to assign to the Minister deposits in the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales ? Of course, it may be said that, as a deposit is more flexible than property, it would be less difficult to assign it to the Government; but I contend that there is little difference between the position of a pensioner who has a deposit in the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales and that of a pensioner who has property which he cannot sell or let, and yet its value, as assessed by the municipal authorities, is taken into account by the pensions department.
– There are in the bill two provisions which I appreciate. The first is that it offers an opportunity to give assistance to people who need it - those who have deposits in the old section of the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales; but as that subject has been fully discussed, there is no necessity for me to deal with it. The second provision is that tending towards assisting the Commissioners of that bank in its rehabilitation. The fact that the pensions department is willing to accept deposits in that bank as genuine assets will help the Commissioners.
– It may be an acknowledgment that the assets are of no value.
– The honorable member is a lawyer, and, therefore, skilled in the twisting of words. He can argue that black is white; but I do not think that he is serious in making that interjection. This measure will be of real assistance to the Government Savings Bank of New South Wales, and, therefore, I have pleasure in supporting it.
– I am pleased that honorable members generally are prepared to support the measure. Regarding the point raised by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), let me explain to honorable members the position in respect of real property which at present is considered to have little or no value. Section 25. of the principal act provides -
– That is all very well; I have tried it out.
– So have I, as a private member. Where the valuation by the local authority was such as to preclude the owner of a property from getting a pension, I obtained a valuation by a sworn valuator; it was accepted by the Commissioner, and the pension was allowed. I am assured by the Commissioner that that is the regular practice. If the owner of the property at Murray Bridge, mentioned by the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb), will get a valuation by a sworn valuator, and submit it to the Commissioner, it will, I am sure, be accepted.
– I thank the Minister for the hint.
– It is not to the advantage to the pensions branch to refuse a pension; the officials have no bias, and I assure honorable members that the act is administered as sympathetically as possible.
– I endorse that.
– The officers strain the language of the statute almost to breaking point in order to meet necessitous cases.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and - by leave - passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
.- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is a non-contentious measure. In the Zoological Museum Agreement Act 1924, Parliament provided for the formation of a National Museum of Australian Zoology, and approved of an agreement made between the Commonwealth of Australia and Sir William Colin MacKenzie, which agreement was set forth in the schedule to the act. Early in 1928 Cabinet decided that the administration of the Zoological Museum Agreement Act 1924, should be transferred from the then Department of Home and Territories to the Department of Health. On the 24th July, 1928, Cabinet approved the alteration of the title of the Museum from “National Museum of Australian Zoology “, to “ Australian Institute of Anatomy”. These decisions of Cabinet necessitate a variation of the terms of the agreement between the Commonwealth of Australia and Sir William Colin MacKenzie. This bill provides for the alteration of the title of the Museum to that of “ Australian Institute of Anatomy”, and for the ratification and approval of the necessary variations of the agreement.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and - by leave - passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Mr. BRENNAN (Batman- AttorneyGeneral [12.38]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This is- a short bill of two substantive clauses. The first proposes to extend the facilities for the interstate service of summons and for the taking of proceedings subsequent to the service of the summons; the second makes provision for the execution of warrants for the apprehension or commitment of certain witnesses who fail to appear and give evidence. The main object of the Service and Execution of Process Act is to provide for the service and execution throughout the Commonwealth of the civil and criminal process and judgments of the courts of the States and of other parts of the Commonwealth. The facilities thus provided ure, to some extent, limited by the provision in section 15 of the act, that the summonses which it is desired to serve in another State must be issued by a court, a judge, or a police, stipendiary, or special magistrate, to the exclusion of a justice of the peace. This limitation has caused considerable inconvenience in certain horder towns of northern New South Wales, which are visited infrequently by a police magistrate. At these towns, police and other informants may have to wait for three months to issue process, and then another three months to have the information heard. The” only alternative is for the informant to travel from 80 to 120 miles to interview a police magistrate. A case is on record of two informants who travelled from Tenterfield to Glen Innes to have summonses issued in order to secure the attendance of Queensland witnesses at Tenterfield in connexion with certain proceedings there. Sub-section three of section 15 provides that all such proceedings may be taken as if a summons had been served in the State in which it was issued in any case where the person summoned fails to appear, and, in the opinion of the authority by whom the summons was issued, the summons was duly served on the defendant in sufficient time before the date fixed for the hearing of the matter. In section 3 of the act a “court” is defined as including any judge or justice of the peace acting judicially. As the issue of a summons is a ministerial act, it is considered that a justice of the peace cannot be treated as a court for the purposes of section 15. Accordingly, clause 2 proposes to enlarge the scope of section 3 5 by authorizing the service in any State of a summons issued by a justice of the peace of any other State, and also the taking of all proceedings consequent on the service of such summons. Section 3 8 of the act relates to the backing of warrants for execution in a State or part of the Commonwealth other than that State or part where the warrants were originally issued. The classes of cases in which warrants may be so executed are set out in the section, but none of the eases thus set out appears to cover that in which a warrant is desired for the apprehension or commitment of a person who fails to appear and give evidence, or to produce books or documents’ in a civil or criminal trial or proceeding, when duly summoned to do so. Thus, in the case of a summons served under the law of New South Wales, for example, there is no means of executing a warrant for the apprehension of a. person so summoned who fails to appear, and eventually leaves that State. The absence of such witness may defeat the ends of justice, and by the insertion in section 18 of the words set out in clause 3 it is thought that absconding witnesses will be brought within the purview of this section.
.- The bill is designed to provide facilities that have been long required. These matters came under my notice when I was. Attorney-General, and only the pressure of other parliamentary business prevented me from introducing legislation of this description. I join with the AttorneyGeneral in commending the hilltothe House.
Sitting suspended from 12.4:5 to 2.15 p.m. [Quorum formed.]
Mr.CROUCH (Corangamite) [2.15].I draw the (attention of the AttorneyGeneral to section 39, sub-section 2, paragraph d,of the Judiciary Act, which states -
The federal jurisdiction of a courtof summary jurisdiction of a State shall not be judicially exercised except by a stipendiary or police or special magistrate., or some magistrate of the State who is specially authorized by theGovernor-General to exercise such jurisdiction.
The headingof the part of the Judiciary Act in which that provision appears is: “ Exclusive and invested jurisdiction “. “When that act was passed, the AttorneyGeneral of the day, Mr. Deakin, desired that justices ofthe peace should have the power to act with police magistrates. At that time the feeling of the House was completely against justices of the peace ha ving this jurisdiction, and it shows how great the change of opinion that has taken place that justices of the peace are now to be accepted. In section 15, which it is proposed to amend, it will be an authority to a justice of the peace having jurisdiction in any State. If the jurisdiction is federal jurisdiction, under the Judiciary Act no justice of the peace has federal jurisdiction, so the amendment may be ineffectual. Sub-section 3 of section 15 of the Service and Execution of Process Act provides -
If such person fails to appear at the time and place mentioned in such summons, and it appears to such court, judge, or magistrate that the summons was duly served on the defendant a sufficient time before the day appointed for the hearing, all such proceedings may be taken as if the summons had been served in the State or part of the Commonwealth in which it was issued.
A question occurs to mo regarding the words “ such court, judge or magistrate.” I presume that the words “ or justice of the peace” will be added. Do these words refer to the authority before whom the person who is summoned must appear? It seems that there is a limitation to the authority who first issues the summons under section 15, sub-section 1. Section 16, sub-section 1,begins -
When a subpoena or summonshas been issued by any court or judge, or police, stipendiary, or special magistrate in any State or part of the Commonwealth, requiring any personto appear and give evidence …”
Is it intended to give justices of the peace power to issue summonses?
– Thenit should be given in this section, as to issue a summons is an administrative act, while the definition of “ court “ includes a justice of the peace acting in a judicial capacity only. I understand that, the object of the bill is to overcome difficulties which arise in border towns and in country districts. I am glad that the measure has been introduced. It will help a number of people, particularly in the country, who find it convenient to avail themselves of the services of justices of the peace; andany measure that will serve public convenience should be strongly supported.
– It is not intended by this measure to invest justices of the peace with federal jurisdiction, but simply to enlarge the machinery for dealing with State matters in respect of things which may not be done at present by a justice of the peace, and which, from the point of view of convenience, should be so done. The amendment does not apply to section 16 of the act. That section refers to cases where action is taken by leave, and after review by a judge or magistrate, and the need for the alteration has not arisen in that regard. The honorable member will find that the amendments contained in this bill are useful, and that we have covered most of the points in respect of which some little friction in working has arisen.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and - by leave - passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 21st April, 1931 (vide page 1043, vol. 128), on motion by Mr. Coleman-
That the paper be printed.
.- It seems rather futile to discuss this matter sixteen months after the conference was held. The report of the conference to which this motion refers was tabled by me several months ago, and, in the meantime, another conference has taken place. I, therefore address myself to this subject to-day without much enthusiasm, in view of the delay that has occurred. I recollect that in more tranquil times, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I were very persistent in demanding that a fuller measure of consideration should be given in this Parliament to the international obligations of Australia as a member of the League of Nations. The only excuse for the belated consideration of the matter under discussion on this occasion is that the times through which we are passing are abnormal. Otherwise I should consider it a grave reflection on the Government and the Parliament that important matters of this nature are so treated. Of course, it is difficult to arouse enthusiasm in the House or in the community on an abstract, non-party matter such as that involved in our membership of the League of Nations. Consequently, in the past there has been, I am afraid, general indifference to this subject. The circle of honorable members who have shown consistent interest in international affairs, so far as they relate to the League of Nations, is small, if one is to gauge *hat interest by the time devoted by members to the discussion of League of Nations’ matters.
– There is also a certain amount of scepticism regarding the efficiency of the League’s work.
– Of course ; but that is a matter for separate consideration. I shall try to place on record, as briefly as possible, the manner in which the international labour organization works, and to justify the continuance of our membership with the League, of which it is a part. I express my appreciation of the great privilege which was enjoyed by me in representing Australia at this important international conference, and I regret that greater opportunities and facilities are not possessed by other honorable members who are apt to doubt the value of these international connexions. “Were they able to see for themselves the serious conduct of the work of these international organizations, they would take a more sympathetic view of the League’s work. It is not so much in highly controversial fields of co-operation, as in regard to the problem of disarmament, that we see appreciable advance made; it is in non-controversial fields where we have this co-operation, in regard to health matters, the white-slave traffic, the regulation of the trade in drugs, the codification of international law, and attempts made to regulate international labour conditions. There has been a tremendous advance in world co-operation which has replaced the pre-war state of almost complete independence in the relations between nations.
This is the first occasion on which a report relating to the Labour Conference has been presented in person by an Australian government delegate sent from the Commonwealth Parliament.
– That is not so.
– It is the first time that a report has been presented. Previously, the reports were tabled with other parliamentary documents, and were thrown aside and forgotten, unless some member thought it appropriate to raise the matter when the Estimates were being discussed, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) did last year. In reply to the right honorable member for North Sydney this was not, of course, the first conference at which Australia had been directly represented by a parliamentary delegate, for the late Senator R. S. Guthrie attended the second session held in 1920- at Genoa, as head of the Australian delegation, when maritime conditions were discussed. Australia was not represented at all at the first session held at Washington in 1919, when the Washington eight-hours convention was adopted, nor at the fourth session held in 1922 at Geneva, but has been represented at every conference since the fourth. At the third and fifth sessions held in 1921 .and 1923, respectively, the Australian delegations were headed by Mr. W. S. Robinson and Mr. C. S. Ainsworth, respectively, and not by the High Commissioner. In view of the criticism directed against the Government for sending me instead of the High Commissioner, it is interesting to note that it was not until the sixth session was held in 1924 that Australia was represented by the High Commissioner as a government delegate, and that practice was continued until last year, when I attended as the direct representative of the Government. On only two occasions has the Government availed itself of the right to be represented by two government delegates, namely, in 1920 and 1921, when the highly controversial question of the prohibition of the use of white lead in paint was the subject of discussion at Geneva. The subject assumed great importance because of the effect which any decision arrived at might have upon certain industries in Australia. On that occasion, the delegation numbered eight, including two government delegates, a government adviser, an employers’ delegate and adviser, a workers’ delegate, and a secretary. In 1927, the delegation consisted of five, while in 1929, the year immediately preceding that in which this Government assumed office, the delegation again consisted of five. On all other occasions, including the present, the delegation consisted of one government delegate - although Australia is entitled to two - one employers’ delegate, one workers’ delegate, and a secretary sent from Australia House, together with a typist to assist the delegation.
The expense involved by Australia’s representation at the International Labour Conference in 1929 was £2,093, while that incurred on the occasion under discussion was under £1,500. I went on the same terms as the High Commissioner had done on previous occasions, and, consequently, the only additional expense involved was that of transportation from Australia to Geneva, and return. In sending a government delegate from Australia, the Commonwealth Government followed the established practice of other countries, including the other British dominions. In no case, except that of India, did the High Commissioner of a dominion attend the International Labour Conference. Canada was represented by two government delegates, one of whom was the Assistant Deputy Minister of Labour sent from Ottawa, while South Africa was represented by two govern sent delegates sent from South Africa, one of whom was Senator the Honorable Thomas Boydell, formerly Minister for Labour. New Zealand was, for the first time, represented by a delegation consisting of one government delegate - Professor Tocker - besides delegates representing the employers and the workers. The decision of the Australian Government to be directly represented, thus indicating that it recognized the importance of the International Labour Organization, was the subject of special and favorable reference by the director of the Labour office.
That the work of the International Labour Organization is regarded as of the greatest importance is revealed by the fact that two British Cabinet Ministers, a former Minister, and a Labour member of Parliament, were included in the British delegation, which numbered 25, while Prance was represented by a delegation of 17. Canada had a delegation of 10, India 9, South Africa 6, and the Irish Free State 6. Every important delegation was accompanied by technical experts, and headed by parliamentary representatives, or those possessing something in the nature of ambassadorial status. The only States which contented themselves with representation by one delegate were those in the Far East, and the Latin American republics. I have no hesitation in saying that the Government was justified in sending a direct representative from Australia. The Australian Government would justly receive criticism if it failed to recognize the importance, from the workers’ point of view, of being directly represented, under normal conditions, at a world Labour conference. Under present conditions, when economy is imperative, this principle may require to be temporarily abandoned.
The discussion on the abolition of forced labour was of vital interest to Australia, having regard to the mandated territories, and I propose to deal more fully with that subject presently. As indicating the magnitude of the conference, I may say that 51 countries were represented - the largest number of States yet represented at any session. The representation at the conference consisted of 156 delegates, and 209 technical advisers, or a total of 365. This number was made up of 86 government delegates, SO technical advisers, 35 employers’ delegates, 05 technical advisers, 35 workers’ delegates, and 65 technical advisers. Twenty-six European countries, and 25 non-European countries were represented at the conference. The Standing Orders of the International Labour Organization provide that each delegate may be accompanied by two advisers for each item on the agenda, a fact which accounted for the large number who attended. The Australian delegation consisted of Mr. W. 0. F. Thomas, representing the employers, Mr. C. A. Crofts, representing the workers, and myself, representing the Government. Major 0. C. Fuhrmann was sent from Australia House as secretary to the delegation, and rendered invaluable service.
The work was strenuous and exacting. The Australian delegation was quite inadequate to enable it to do justice to the tremendous volume of study and activity involved in participation in this world industrial Parliament. I sat on the Forced Labour Committee, Mr. Crofts sat on the committee dealing with hours of work in coal-mines, and Mr. Thomas sat on the committee dealing with hours of work of salaried employees. The committees often began their sittings early in the morning, and did not conclude until late at night, and sat on Saturdays, as well as on the other days of the week. Honorable members who read the report will observe that Mr. Thomas and Mr. Crofts agree with me in saying that Australia is handicapped by the inadequacy of the Australian delegation, and the fact that they are not in continuous touch with the work. If we are to be represented at all, we should be represented effectively. The Australian delegates coming to Geneva for the first time are handicapped by the lack of familiarity with, their surroundings, lack of knowledge of procedure, lack of personal contact with other delegates, and ignorance of the French language. In contrast, most other countries, including Canada, have been represented by one or more delegates who have been going to Geneva regularly for years.
The difficulties are added to by the adoption of what is known as the “ double discussion “ procedure, under which subjects on the agenda are discussed at two consecutive conferences, that is, with a year intervening between first and second discussions, so that it is most difficult for delegates to follow the second discussion without an intimate knowledge of what transpired at the previous session. I direct attention to the suggestion made by Mr. Thomas, the employers’ delegate, that delegates should be appointed much earlier than has been the case previously, when the appointments have been made a week or two before the ship sailed. It is also desirable that government delegates should be acquainted with the Government’s policy on matters under discussion, so that they may speak authoritatively on its behalf. The financial difficulties of the Commonwealth no doubt make it difficult, if not impossible, to increase the delegation at the present time, but it is well that honorable members should know the position. The suggestion was made at Geneva, and I commend it to the Government, that the fares and expenses of delegations to these conferences should be a charge on the funds of the League organization, so that they would be distributed equitably over all the member States. The proposal was put forward in 1929 by the British Government delegation to the League of Nations, and I hope that it will be revived by this Government. The Honorable Hugh Dalton and others urged me to lay this matter before my Government. The merit of such a proposal i3 that, if adopted, it would encourage the attendance of complete delegations at Geneva, and make the conferences more truly representative in character. The League of Nations authorities are frankly opposed to delegations being confined to diplomatic representation, as in the case of the Latin-American republics. It impairs the efficiency of the peace machinery, and introduces an undesirable element into the conferences - undesirable in the sense that there is no direct personal responsibility on the part of professional diplomats, whose homes are in European capitals, and who are not called upon personally to present reports to their respective parliaments.
Their attendance, in many cases, represents the discharge in a perfunctory manner of a boring diplomatic responsibility, made tolerable only by incidental social functions. I say that advisedly, and it has been freely stated that the efficiency of the conferences has been seriously impaired through the South American States being represented by diplomatists ordinarily resident in Paris, Berlin or elsewhere. The Latin-American States have, I believe, an undue influence in the affairs of the League of Nations, compared with countries such as Australia. A good deal of lobbying and intrigue goes on with the object of securing preferment in the distribution of offices, not so much in connexion with the International Labour Organization, but more so in connexionwith the general work of the League of Nations as well.
– Is the honorable member referring only to the International Labour Organization?
– I am referring to that, but more particularly to the general activities of the League. The diplomatic representatives to whom I have referred take little, if any, part in the discussions ; they appear not to be fully informedof the economic conditions existing in their own countries, and have no direct responsibility to their own parliaments.
– Are those LatinAmerican States more fully represented than Australia?
– All States are entitled to equal representation, but a small South American republic like Bolivia has the same voting strength as the large, powerful States, and these Latin-American States may hold the balance of power in the conferences of the League of Nations. They control a block of about twenty votes, and they invariably act and vote together. Each independent State is entitled to the same representation, whether it has a population of 100,000 or 100,000,000.
The cost of Australia’s annual contribution would be scarcely affected if the proposal for the payment of fares and expenses that I have outlined were adopted, while those States heretofore contenting themselves with representation by diplomats would find it desirable to be fully represented. The cost would be distributed over all the members of the League. Great Britain, France, Italy, and such countries incur only a small expense when sending delegates, but Latin America, South Africa, and Australia all incur very heavy expenses. To that extent, I can quite understand why the Latin American States object to paying the expenses involved in sending a full delegation.
– How many of the Latin American States are financial ?
– A number of them are unfinancial. One of the worst offenders in that regard is China, which has constantly promised to pay, but has not done so. Because of China’s tremendous population and economic importance, the League of Nations has done everything possible to humour that country, and to overlook its financial delinquencies. Within my knowledge, no action has been taken to compel those in arrears to become financial. Our honorable compliance with our obligations, and the payment of our £30,000 per annum to the League organization, stands out in marked contrast to the attitude adopted by China and the Latin American countries. The whole basis on which contributions are assessed should be taken up by this Government in an endeavour to see whether our burden cannot be lightened.
– Is that not already being done ?
– A Budget Committee was appointed at the last League conference, and its report will, no doubt, be submitted in the near future. The expenses of the League have increased alarmingly. On the other hand, the range of research and the activities of the League are manifold, and we must recognize that the necessity to make the League’s activities truly international involves a continually increasing expenditure. The staff of the League of Nations numbers over 1,000. There are 664 employees in the League of Nations Secretariat, 424 in the International Labour Organization Section, and a further 24 associated with the Permanent Court of International Justice. An attempt has been made to see that every nation shall be represented on the Secretariat, to ensure that every opinion shall bc expressed, and every language understood. Personally, I think that it is desirable that Australia should have a permanent representative at Geneva. I doubt whether very many of the delegates that we have sent there understand . French, which is. a primary essential to a- facile consideration of the problems that are raised. Permanent representation would enhance Australia’s prestige, and would enable this nation to take a larger part in international affairs. Canada, South Africa, and the Irish Free State, besides scores of other countries, have what are known as permanent accredited representatives to the League of Nations. The advantages of such a system to. Canada are revealed by the fact that that dominion had a seat on the Council- of the League of Nations until recently, and that it enjoys a permanent seat on the governing body of the International Labour Organization. It is regarded as one of the States of chief industrial importance. The Irish Free State has also secured election to the Council of the League. On the Other hand, Australia has had to decline nomination because of the absence of permanent representation, and our remoteness from Geneva. I believe that Australia could have obtained the succession to Canada on the Council had it been iri a position to accept nomination.
– It is only on the governing body of the International Labour Organization that we could be represented.
– I am dealing with both bodies. We are not entitled to automatic representation, but would have to stand for election.
Of material interest to Australia is the fact that we possess a mandate over New Guinea, and a joint mandate with Great Britain and New Zealand over Nauru. We are, therefore, more vitally concerned in Geneva policy than is Canada or the Irish Free State, both of which have permanent representation. Australia i3 vitally interested in the orientation of international policy, particularly on immigration questions and economic issues. A mere refusal to participate in the development of international law and policy does not disengage Australia from her obligations and responsibilities as a member of the community of civilized and selfgoverning, nations. It is desirable that we should have our views presented at Geneva, otherwise we shall be compelled to recognize rules and principles governing international relationships in the formation of which we have had no part. There is a strong under current of opinion at Geneva which considers that we already have more than enough territorial responsibility, and do not require the mandates. It is held in many quarters in private discussion that we should hand the mandates back to the League, allowing it to decide whether their original sovereignty should be restored. I counteracted that opinion. If we value our mandates, and desire to safeguard our international interests, and if we are anxious to maintain our prestige as a nation, carrying as it does rights, obligations, and responsibilities, we should ensure that our opinions are adequately and effectively represented at Geneva, the world capital, the nerve centre of international politics. There is nothing like continuous human contacts, enabling our Government to know what is doing, and to keep in touch with the atmosphere of things. In the past, Australian delegations have had to rely on a very capable and efficient officer sent from Australia House, Major Fuhrmann; but that is not enough. Other nations having a personal representative can further their interests by canvassing for their opinions, and furthering their candidature for various positions. And that is freely done.
While at Geneva at the Labour Conference I ventured, in my speech, the opinion that the International Labour Organization, tended to become European in character and outlook. A similar view was voiced by other overseas delegates who followed me, but the Director, in reply, said : “ The con ventions are not drawn, up in a purely European spirit; or, if they have been, the fault lies with the non-European States. Is the complaint not rather of the manifestation of a spirit of regionalism which is tending to develop at the present time among all international institutions?” That that correctly interprets the prevailing tendency is indicated by the suggestion of Monsieur Briand for a pan-European union.
To those who suggest that we should not bother about the Internationa] Labour Conference I would say that we are bound to be represented thereat as a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles, lt is a treaty obligation, apart from its moral aspects. Under that treaty we are bound to ensure representation of the organized workers and employers, and we are bound to pay the fares and expenses of that representation. From a humanitarian stand-point, it is our bout’.deu duty to assist in raising the standards of labour throughout the world, while from an economic standpoint we tend to minimize trade competition, and at the same time to open up markets.
To those who measure progress by concrete results achieved, the number of ratifications of draft conventions formulated at the International Labour Conference might he unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, the mere annua] discussion of new industrial and social objectives represents a tremendous advance in world thought and evolution. If nothing more, they represent declarations of human rights which are forcing the recognition of higher social standards in backward countries. Mere discussion with the object of bringing about international co-operation in labour matters has been a tremendous social force for international good. I took the responsibility, as a Government delegate, of endeavouring io develop a new international labour objective by urging the international recognition of a 44-hour week. [Quorum formed.)
There is no doubt that the machinery of the League of Nations is admirable, and that, compared with the pre-war atmosphere, there has been a tremendous advance in international relationships. Perhaps the manner in which governments have co-operated with the League hi the past has been open to a considerable amount of criticism. The League machine itself is a marvel of efficienajar^! smooth-working as I have already said. Every nationality is represented on the staff of the Secretariat, and apparently all work in complete harmony and co-operation. The con- ference proceedings are conducted in. French and English, and the scheme functions with remarkable facility. There is a system of telephonic interpretation which enables immediate translations to be made in four, five, or six languages. The proceedings of the conference arecharacterized by courtesy and toleration, and are free from the verbal exchanges to which we are accustomed in Australian parliaments.
I notice that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) has been prone to press the merits of the International Labour Organization to the disadvantage of the League. The organizations are inter-related. Both do very valuable work, and no useful purpose is served in stressing the importance of one above the other. The League organization is supposed to be working towards disarmament, the establishment of world peace, and international co-operation in the field of economic and social relations ; while the Labour organization directs its efforts solely to Labour problems. As to the Labour Conference, I should say that if it attempted less and achieved more, its prestige would be enhanced. Its object seems to bc to have a full agenda paper every year. At each conference, there are three weeks of crowded discussion, yet when its achievements over a period of years are examined, taking into consideration the number of its conventions which have been ratified, we are forced to the conclusion that it has not accomplished much directly. But we must consider also the indirect results, and the moral influences which these international conventions exert. Most European countries treat the International Labour Organization very seriously. Many of them have special departments of State iti liaison with it.
I now propose to review the origin of the International Labour Organization, and the nature of Australia’s relations, particularly with respect to the ratification of conventions.
Article 23 of the Covenant provides inter alia that -
The members of the League will endeavour to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women, and children, both in their own countries and in all countries to which their commercial and industrial relations extend, and for that purpose will establish and maintain the necessary international organizations.
Article 427 of the Treaty lays down ^general principles for the guidance of the International Labour Organization, and declares that among those principles the following seem to the High Contracting Parties to be of special and urgent importance: First, the guiding principle above enunciated that labour should not be regarded merely as a commodity or article of commerce; second, the right of association for all lawful purposes by the employed, as well as by the employers; third, the payment’ te the employed of a wage adequate to maintain a reasonable standard of life as this is understood in their time and country; fourth, the adoption of an 8-hours day, or a 4S-hours week, as the standard to be aimed at where it has not already been attained; fifth, the adoption of a weekly rest of at least 24 hours which should include Sunday wherever practicable; sixth, the abolition of child labour, and the imposition of such limitations on the labour of young persons as shall permit the continuation of their education and assure their proper physical development; seventh, the principle that men and women should receive equal remuneration for work of equal value; eighth, the standard set by law in each country with respect to the conditions of labour should have due regard to the equitable economic treatment of all workers lawfully resident therein, and ninth, each State shall make provision for a system of inspection, in which, women should take part, in order to ensure the enforcement of the laws and regulations for the protection of the employed.
The preamble to Part XIII. of the Treaty of Versailles is the charter of the International Labour Office. It reads -
Whereas the League of Nations has for its object the establishment of universal pence, and such a peace can bc established only if rt is based upon social justice:
And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled, and an improvement of conditions is urgently required; as, for example, by the regulation of the hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week, the regulation of the labour supply, the prevention of unemployment, the provision of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease, and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for oldage and injury, protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, recognition of the principle of freedom of association, the organization of vocational and technical education and other measures :
Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries :
The High Contracting Parties, moved by sentiments of justice and humanity as well as by the desire to secure the permanent peace of the world, agree .
Having outlined the objects of the organization in the preamble, Part XIII, sets out the machinery by which these objects are to be attained.
Membership of the League of Nations carries with it membership of the International Labour Organization, but countries outside the League may become members of the International Labour Organization. The present membership of ‘the International Labour Organization comprises 55 countries. The headquarters of the organization are at Geneva. The International Labour Office is under the control of a governing body consisting of 24 persons, of whom twelve are representatives of governments, six of employers, and six of workers. Of the twelve persons representing governments, eight are nominated by those members of the Organization which arc of chief industrial importance. An amendment of the Treaty to increase the total numbers of members of the governing body to 32, of whom sixteen shall be government representatives, and eight each shall represent the employers and the workers respectively, was adopted in .1922, but it has not yet received the requisite number of ratifications to bring it into force. Another provision of the amendment ‘ is that of the sixteen government members six shall come from non-European States.
The general conference usually meets in June in each year. Members of the Organization are represented at the general conference by two government delegates and two non-government delegates, of whom one represents the employers and the other the workers. Nongovernment delegates must he chosen hy the governments in consultation with the industrial organizations in the various countries most representative of the employers and the workers, as the case may be. The agenda of this general conference is drawn up by the governing body. When it has been decided to include a subject in the agenda of the conference, the machinery of the organization is set in motion for the purpose of collecting data, and drawing up a report setting out the law and the practice on the subject in the different countries. Further information is then obtained by means of detailed questionnaires which are addressed to governments with a view also to eliciting their views as to the advisability of the adoption of a convention or recommendation on the subject. Subsequently, a final report is compiled and issued for the ‘information of governments and those attending the conference. According to the procedure recently adopted, a subject is submitted for preliminary discussion at one of these annual conferences, and is not finally dealt with until the conference of the following year.
Each of the members of the Organization undertakes that it will, within a period of one year, or in exceptional circumstances, within eighteen months, bring the conventions and recommendations adopted by the conference before the authorities in the country concerned within whose competence the matter lies, for the enactment of legislation or other action. These conventions are subject to formal ratification, and countries ratifying a convention are bound to bring their legislation into line with its provisions. Members agree to make annual reports to the International Labour Organization on the measures that they have taken to give effect to the provisions of conventions which they have ratified. In the case of a federal State, such as Australia, however, whose power to enter into conventions on labour matters is subject to limitations, it is specially provided in Article 405 of the Versailles Treaty, that it shall be in the discretion of that Government to treat a draft convention to which such limitations apply as a recommendation only, which does not’ require ratification. If no legislative action is taken to make a recommendation effective, or if a draft convention is not ratified, no further obligation rests on the member ‘government.
Since the first conference met at Washington in 1919, there have been fourteen sessions. Thirty conventions and 39 recommendations have been adopted. Of the conventions which have been adopted, the most important, doubtless, is that which limits the hours of work in industrial undertakings to eight in the day, and 4S an the week, with certain exceptions. Considerable difficulty has been experienced in arriving at a uniform interpretation as between the various countries concerning certain provisions of the convention. A governmental conference was convened by Great Britain, and held in. London in 1926, with a view to arriving at a .satisfactory interpretation of the doubtful parts of the convention for universal application. Representatives of Great Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, and Italy took part in that conference, when certain conclusions were reached, and definitions agreed upon. Subsequently, other difficulties arose. It was recently officially announced, however, that Great Britain would proceed with the ratification of the convention, and a bill has been passed through the House of Commons to give effect to its provisions. Other conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference deal with unemployment, minimum wage-fixing machinery, the minimum age for the admission of children to industrial employment, employment at sea and in agriculture, night-work of women and young persons, workmen’s compensation, sickness insurance, night-work in bakeries, inspection of emigrants on board ship, right of association of agricultural workers, weekly day of rest, white lead in paint, prevention of industrial accidents, abolition of forced and compulsory labour and similar subjects.
The International Labour Office claims to .have achieved considerable progress in oriental countries in the way of improvements in industrial conditions as a result of the adoption by those countries of certain of the conventions. In India, the hours of labour of adult factory workers have been reduced from 72 to 60 a week, and the minimum age for the employment of children has been increased from nine to twelve years in certain industries, with six to seven hours a day for children in factories. India has also prohibited the employment of persons under eighteen years of age as trimmers or stokers on board ship, excepting that in the coastal trade, if certified medically fit, the minimum age is. sixteen years. Japan has prohibited the employment of children under the age of twelve, and in the case of employment on board ship the age is eighteen years, and, provided they are certified medically fit, the minimum age is fourteen. China has prohibited the employment of boys under seven years of age and girls under twelve, and has limited the hours of work to eight a day for boys under seventeen and girls under eighteen, night-work being disallowed. It’ is claimed that Persia, as a result of the intervention of the International Labour Office, ordered the Kerman local authorities to enforce, among other rules, the eight-hour day, non-employment of children under ten, midday rest period in connexion with factories and the provisions of healthy sites and pure air for factories.
Of the 30 conventions which .have been adopted by the International Labour Conference, only three fall wholly within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government, namely: (1) Simplification of inspection of emigrants on board ship; (2) seamen’s articles of agreement; (3) repatriation of seamen. In respect of numbers (2) and (3), coastal shipping is specifically excluded, but’ in the case of five other conventions “ maritime navigation “ generally is covered. These five conventions are - (4) Facilities for finding employment for seamen; (5) minimum age for admission of children to employment at sea; (6) unemployment indemnity in case of loss or foundering of the ship; (7) minimum age for admission of young persons to employment as trimmers and stokers; (S) compulsory medical examination of children and young persons employed at sea.
It has been laid down by the High Court in the case of Newcastle and Hunter River SS. Company v. Attorney-
General, that under sections 51 i and section 98 of the Constitution the Commonwealth has power to deal with shipping only so far as it is relevant to interstate and foreign trade and commerce, so that the States become concerned in this latter group of conventions as regards intra-state shipping. This latter group of conventions - numbers (4) to (8) - therefore cover matters which come within the jurisdiction both of the Commonwealth and the States, but so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, will require only minor amendments of the Navigation Act to give effect to their provisions. As regards the remainder of the conventions, while the subject-matter of these falls very largely within the jurisdiction of the States, the Commonwealth is concerned in relation to its territories. As mentioned earlier, however, it is specially provided in Article 405 of the Labour Section of the Peace Treaty, that, where the power of a federal State to enter into conventions on labour matters is subject to limitations, it is within the discretion of such Federal Government to treat conventions relating to such matters as recommendations only. The question of the ratification of conventions was referred to at the Premiers Conference in 1929, when the States were informed as to the position of the Commonwealth in the matter. It was stated on that occasion that the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to ratify any conventions to the provisions of which the States had given effect under their legislation, and in respect of which the States had also given an assurance that they would not’ modify such legislation so as to make it inconsistent with the provisions of the conventions without previous consultation with the Commonwealth. It was also pointed out that it would be necessary for all the States, not some of them only, to give legislative effect to the provisions of a convention before the Commonwealth could proceed with ratifications. The Commonwealth has so far ratified four of the conventions, namely, those concerning (1) Facilities for finding employment for seamen; (2) simplification of the inspection of emigrant’s on board ship; (3) minimum wage-fixing machinery; (4) marking of the weight of heavy packages transported by sea. Three of these conventions have been ratified by the present Government.
The functions of the International Labour Office include the collection and distribution of information and reports on all subjects relating to the international adjustment of conditions of industrial life and labour, and. particularly, the examination of subjects which it is proposed to bring before the conference, and the conduct of such investigations as are ordered by the conference. Apart from the activities of the International Labour Office arising directly from the conference, work is carried on by certain commissions which have been constituted within the International Labour Organization. A Joint Maritime Commission was constituted. This Commission is composed of five representatives of shipowners and five of seamen, together with one workers’ and one employers’ delegate of the governing body. There is a Commission of Unemployment, which consists of three members representing each of the three groups - government, employers and workers. Other similar bodies are the Mixed Advisory Committee on Agriculture, the International Emigration Commission, the Advisory Committee on Anthrax, the Advisory Committee on Industrial Hygiene. The International Labour Office is also an international bureau of research on all matters relating to labour and industry, and an international clearing house of such information. Among its more important periodical publications are the Industrial and Labour Information, which appears once a week, and contains information of current interest relating to events and tendencies in the world of labour and industry; the International Labour Review, a monthly publication which contains surveys of various questions in which the Office is interested; the Official Bulletin, which contains the official records of the Office, summaries of the proceedings of the governing body and the annual conferences ; the Bibliography of Industrial Hygiene; the Industrial Safety Survey; and the Encyclopaedia of Hygiene, Pathology and Social Welfare studied from the point of view of labour, industry, and trades. There is also a. Legislative Series containing summaries or the texts of the laws of the various countries concerning labour. The results of special inquiriesand investigations carried on by the International Labour Office are published in a series known as Studies and Reports. In addition to the foregoing, the International Labour Office collaborates with the League of Nations in various directions in which its assistance is useful.
The International Labour Organiza- tion, inter alia, is engaged in improving labour conditions throughout the world, and eliminating those objectionable features in low- wage countries which tend to give an advantage in competition in themarkets of the world against goods produced in countries where the workers enjoy fair conditions of labour and a good standard of living. Any action by the International Labour Organization leading to the improvement of conditions in low-wage countries must tend to diminish the margin of competition operating in the case of the produce of low-wage countries, and so materially benefit the workers of such advanced countries as Australia.
On the agenda of the International Labour Organization were three important subjects - forced labour, the hours of work of salaried employees, and the hours of work in coal mines. Of these, the most -important, from the point of view of Australia, is that of forced labour. The subject of the hours of work in coal mines was referred to the Labour Conference by the League of Nations Assembly, because ruinous economic competition between various coal-mining countries in Europe had created industrial unrest’. At the conference which I attended no convention was agreed to, owing to the strong objection of Germany; but I understand that at a subsequent conference an agreement was arrived at. The discussion on forced labour was of supreme importance to us, since Australia has mandates over territories in which native labour is freely recruited. I found that there was an undercurrent of criticism of Australia, because of our alleged maltreatment of the Australian aborigines, and the alleged abuses in respect of native labour in. New Guinea. Those matters had been the subject of comment in certain international publications. Although the subject was not raised in ‘ discussion at the Labour Conference, it was mentioned to me by more than one of its officials as well as by a number of delegates. I am pleased that, ultimately, it was agreed to suppress various forms of forced labour. That convention was arrived at despite strong opposition from various colonial powers, particularly Portugal,France and Belgium, Great Britain took the lead in championing the cause for the suppression of this form of slavery, which has led to serious abuses. International attention was attracted to it by the disclosures of the shocking manner in which native labour had been exploited in Liberia. Honorable members who follow international affairs are aware that in that country, a state of slavery practically exists. Furthermore, an investigation by M. Robert Poulaine revealed that one colonial power, which used forced labour to construct 140 kilometres of railway in four years, wasted 17,000 human lives. Forced labour is tantamount to slavery, and, particularly in Africa, it has caused much loss of human life. The Liberian disclosures were the result of an international inquiry commission established by the League of Nations at the request of Liberia. On that commission was an American negro, Dr. Charles D. Johnson, a professor at Fisk University.
There is not much that I need add, other than to say that Australia is in a unique position, in that it has never attempted to utilize forced labour in connexion with its mandate. Every mandatory power has the right to use forced labour for essential public works and services. In a bill which the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) introduced some years ago to deal with Australia’s mandated territories, a provision which permitted forced labour in conformity with the mandate was included; but Parliament deleted it. Australia is the only colonial power which has not extensively used forced labour. It is true that in Papua forced labour is utilized to some extent for porterage for the Government’; but it is illegal in New Guinea. The other draft conventions are not of great importance to Australia, and I shall not discuss them to-day any further.
The subject of the ratification of conventions was discussed, and the various nations were asked why they had not ratified the conventions of the conferences. I explained Australia’s difficulties. No machinery exists to compel members of the International Labour Organization to carry out the obligations entered into.
A thing which is calculated to disgust any one attending these international conferences is the enthusiastic lip service of the representatives of certain prominent powers, which it would be impolitic to name. These men appear to burn with fervid enthusiasm for a great international ideal; but their actions are not always consistent with their professions. In this connexion the British representatives were an exception. That Britain makes an earnest effort to carry out the undertakings entered into,was particularly noticeable in connexion with the tariff truce at the League of Nations. After Britain had solemnly carried out her part, it was found that the principal nation which had urged the tariff truce had itself done nothing.
The future of international co-operation in industrial matters depends greatly on the attitude of governments. Unless governments manifest a keen interest in, and are prepared to carry out, the conventions and undertakings entered into, any criticism of the organization is useless.
In concluding, I cannot do better than paraphrase the words of the Director of the Labour Organization, Mr. Albert Thomas, who said that when in the town of Basle he saw the motto, “ Where there is unity there is God “. In my opinion, where there is unity of heart there is a chance of success. But until we get that unity of heart in international matters we shall be disappointed with the slow and tortuous progress that is made.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned.
.- I move-
That the House at its rising adjourn until Thursday next, at 3 p.m.
The reason for the motion is that the Wheat Bounty Bill is still being debated in another place, and will not be returned to this House to-day. From what I can learn, there is a possibility of an amendment being made which will require further negotiations with the bank. I do not wish to call honorable members to Canberra on Wednesday next and have nothing for them to do.
-Will the right honorable gentleman let members know if the Wheat Bounty Bill will be ready for us on Thursday?
– If the motion is carried, this House must meet on Thursday. I shall endeavour to advise honorable members in the event of there being nothing definite to transact on Thursday, so that they will not needlessly make the trip to Canberra. The Government desires to have the Wheat Bounty Bill placed on the statute-book without delay, in order that it may operate. Representations were made by the Government to the bank regarding the limit in respect of which the proposed wheat bounty should apply. The principle underlying the bill is sound. Should the price of wheat continue to rise, there may be no need for the bounty, but it is not anticipated that’ it will rise to that extent. The Government made representations to the bank with a view to easing the work of administration and lightening the conditions ; but the bank would not agree. Later the Government urged that the maximum should be raised to 3s. 6d. a bushel. I do not say that the Senate will carry the amendment which I have indicated ; but, should it do so, the Government will require a little more time to carry on negotiations, and, therefore, I have moved that the House meet, not onWednesday, but on Thursday. If, in the meantime, there should be anything definite to tell honorable members, they will be advised of it.
– On what day next week will the Senate meet?
– The intention is that it shall meet on Tuesday.
– Is it proposed to deal with any other business when we reassemble?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Scullin) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- In my speech on the Wheat Bounty Bill, when the Government was rushing it through, 1 used the words “ make haste slowly.” At the time I made every protest of which I was capable against the undue haste in dealing with that measure. The position which has arisen shows that my protest was fully justified. The bill sent on to another place is a disgrace to this chamber.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 23 October 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1931/19311023_reps_12_132/>.