13th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. G. H. Mackay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– Having regard to the difficulties caused to cottongrowers and spinners by the recent alteration of custom duties on cotton yarn, will the Prime Minister afford the House an early opportunity to discuss those duties?
– I have previously assured the House that the House will have an opportunity at the earliest convenient date to discuss the whole tariff schedule.
– In view of the difficult position of the Tasmanian finances, and the urgent necessity for further corrective action, and bearing in mind that the Tariff Board in December, 1929, reported that the effects of the Navigation Act on Tasmania’s trade were so serious as to call for important and prompt action, will the Government take that report into early consideration, and apply such remedies as will rectify this longstanding injustice?
– As early as may be found convenient the Government will give consideration to that report.
– I ask the Post master-General whether employees of his department are being refused the furlough to which they are entitled by length of service. If so, is that because certain sections are understaffed, and is this restriction of rights applied to all branches ?
– I have not heard previously of any such restriction, but I shall inquire into the matter, and let the honorable member have a reply.
– Is the Acting Minister for External Affairs able to confirm the rumour that hostilities between China and Japan have ceased?
– The latest, information from Shanghai is that, following the retirement of the Chinese forces for a distance of twelve miles, the Japanese indicated their readiness to cense hostilities. The Chinese accepted the offer, and hostilities ceased at 2 p.m. yesterday.
– Has the Prime Minister yet had time to negotiate with the State Premiers in regard to the proposed conference of Australian Governments on unemployment?
– I have notified the State Premiers that the Government desires the conference to take place at the earliest convenient date. The Commonwealth Government desires that the matter shall be discussed without avoidable loss of time.
Mr.E. J. HARRISON.- Believing that the only solution of the unemployment difficulty will be through private enterprise, I ask the Minister in charge of industry whether the Government will consider the advisability of convening a conference of industrial and commercial leaders with the object of discussing and evolving some practical scheme for the re-employment of our vast and everincreasing army of unemployed? If so, willthe Government consider the problem in particular relation to theyouth of the country, and the effect which their failure to enter industrial and commercial life must have on the economic future of the country?
– The Government indicated in its statement of policy to the electors that it shares the honorable member’s belief that the unemployment problem can be solved only by the encouraging and stimulation of private enterprise. The policy of the Government is based on that belief, and’ its legislative proposals will be framed accordingly. The Government would be prepared to consider the convening of a conference of private employers, but lengthy consultation with employers’ organizations took place when the Loan Council was considering this problem last year, and further private conferences with employers have taken place since.
– I ask the Prime
Minister whether the Government has yet come to a decision regarding the continuance or otherwise of the Commonwealth subsidy to the State Governments to assist in preventingthe spread of cattle tick; if not, will the Government treat the matter as urgent so that the governments and interests concerned may know what to expect?
– Owing to the sittings of Parliament Cabinet has had little opportunity to meet recently, but as early as practicable the cattle tick subsidy will be considered.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs received from those interested any representations regarding the recent removal of the embargo on the importation of canary seed?
– When the present Government assumed office the prohibition imposed by its predecessor against the importation of canary seed, with a view to correcting the adverse trade balance, was still in operation. The ‘total Australian requirements of this commodity is about 1,500 tons, and Queensland growers had estimated that they would produce that amount. The Canary Seed Price Control Board fixed a price of approximately £32 a ton. Owing to abnormal seasonal conditions, this year’s crop did not exceed 500 tons. Therefore, I felt justified in recommending that, the embargo be removed. I was then asked by the Canary Seed Price Control Board to ration imports so that the price would be maintained at £32. Having already ascertained that the 500 tons produced locally had been sold at ±’32 a ton I could not approve of the artificial regulation of imports to maintain that price. Therefore, canary seed is being allowed to be imported without restriction, but, in the interests of the growers, developments will be closely “watched.
– Will the Government, before deciding to . surrender £1,000,000 of its revenue in order to assist the tobacco-growers of Australia, or any other section of industry, give consideration to the pre-eminent claims of the great wheat, wool, and other primary exporting industries of this country?
– The Government will take into consideration the interest of all the producing sections of the community, without favouring any one section.
– Having regard to the Prime Minister’s recent statement that, in view of the intended holding of the Imperial Economic Conference at Ottawa, consultations had taken place with the representatives of many primary industries, I ask him if consultations have also been held with Australian manufacturers? Since the subject of British preference will probably be discussed at the conference, has consideration been given to inviting Australian primary producers and Australian manufacturers to send representatives to Ottawa, if possible, to consult with the Australian delegates there? Will a statement be made before the delegation leaves Australia, by the Leader of the Government, or by the Leader of the Australian delegation, as to the intentions of the Government regarding trade treaties generally ?
– The Government has already been in touch with representatives of most of the primary industries, and has discussed the questions likely to arise regarding preferential treatment in the British markets for our exporting industries. We have also conferred with representatives of the manufacturing industries in Australia which have an export trade, or any prospect of such trade. In a statement issued the other day these facts were published, and it was announced that if there were any industries concerned with trade preferences that might be obtained from Great Britain, with whom the Government has not been in touch, they should communicate with the Government, to assist in the framing of the general case for Australia. We are now considering what preferences might be granted to Great Britain in the Australian markets in exchange for our preferential treatment by Great Britain. The consideration of all the facts of the case has not yet advanced sufficiently for a useful consultation with the Australian delegation, but, no doubt, consultations will be held later.
As to the suggestion of the honorable member that certain trade representatives should either officially or unofficially he attached to the Australian- delegation to Ottawa to assist it in its work, presumably as economic advisers, the matter has been under consideration, and a decision will have to be made upon it later, when we have discovered to what extent the preliminary discussions may have removed, or emphasized, the need for such assistance.
– Will the Minister for Home Affairs consider the necessity for providing casual work for the unemployed in the Federal Capital instead of granting them the dole?
– The course suggested by the honorable member has already been adopted by the Government.
– In dealing with the problem of employment, will the Government consider providing for a fixed period - probably a short one - a bounty on the export of rabbit skins and carcasses, in order to help the unemployed to help themselves, and at the same time reduce the rabbit pest?
– I cannot encourage any honorable member to hope that this Government will propose any new bounty ; in the near future, at any rate.
– Has any decision yet been reached by the Government regarding certain leased land in my electorate on which coal was stored?
– That is a very old subject, and many efforts have been made by succeeding governments to solve the problem, but up to date no satisfactory basis of solution has been reached. The honorable member made representations to me on the matter a few days ago, and these are now receiving the careful consideration of the department. I hope to furnish him with a reply within a short period.
– In view of the inquiries that have been made in regard to canary seed, has the Minister for Trade and Customs considered the embargo and other trade restraint imposed on the importation of peanuts?
– I shall be pleased to give consideration, to the matter.
– In the AuditorGeneral’s report, under the heading of payments to the writers of certain volumes, the following items appear: -
Several other payments are mentioned, the total of them amounting to £2,773 39s. 3d. I desire to know who authorized these publications, whether any further sums are to be made available to those writers, and, if so, how much? Is the “ H. S. Gullett “ mentioned as having received £1,050 the present Minister for Trade and Customs?
– The present Minister for Trade and Customs is the gentleman referred to. During the war he rendered most valuable service, and was recognized, when these histories came to be proposed, as one of the greatest authorities upon the Palestine campaign. The view will be generally shared, I think, that the decision to ask him to write the story of that campaign for the official war history of Australia was a wise and desirable one.
As to further payments, if the honorable member places that question on the’ notice-paper the information will be obtained.
– Is it not a fact that under the Tariff Board Act representatives of interests appearing before the board are not allowed to cross-examine witnesses, and that all questions must be asked by representatives of the board? Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that according £o the report of the Tariff Board on the tobacco industry which was recently presented to Parliament, Mr. Swinson, representing the British-Australasian Tobacco Company, was permitted by the board to ask questions of witnesses on behalf of his company ?
– I shall have inquiries made, and later furnish the honorable member with a reply to his question. I have complete confidence in the Tariff Board and in the manner in which it conducts its inquiries.
– Is the Minister for External Affairs able to make available to me the twenty-one points which China was compelled to accept in relation to Japan at the conclusion of the world war?
– If I have not already supplied that information in answer to another question, I shall be pleased to do so. I intimated a few days ago, that six of those points had disappeared as the result of the Washington Conference, and that two others had by agreement been left in abeyance.
– In view of the statement which has appeared in the press to the effect that the Government proposes to make further retrenchments in the Public Service, and also to reduce salaries and wages, is it prepared to consider a reduction in the allowances of Ministers and members before it attacks the salaries and wages of public servants and others.
– No proposal is before the Government for the reduction of salaries and wages; but consideration is being given to possible economies in other directions. If the time unhappily comes when we shall be compelled to consider further reductions in salaries and wages, we shall certainly begin with the allowances of Ministers and members of Parliament.
– Will the Minister for Home Affairs inform me whether it is a fact that rural lessees in the Federal Capital Territory are charged a flat rate of ls. per 1000 gallons of water while residents within the city area are exempt from any such charge?
– I shall have inquiries made, and furnish the honorable member with a reply to his question later.
– Seeing that the Government has now assured overseas bondholders that their interest will be paid, is it willing to devote a little attention to the relief of unemployment in Australia?
– The honorable member has, by word of mouth, paid a good deal of attention to the unemployed since his election to Parliament. I take it that he is mainly concerned with the unemployed in New South Wales, and suggest that there should be no necessity for his anxiety in that regard seeing that the leader of his particular political cult is the Premier of that State..
– Will the Minister for Trade’ and Customs inform me whether the deferred duty of 40 per cent, will become applicable to 3-inch water pipe automatically on the 1st April, unless action is taken to still further defer the duty ?
– The Tariff Board has been making a special investigation into this deferred duty within the last fortnight. As soon as its report is available the Government will make a decision on the subject.
– I direct the atten tion of the Minister for Trade and Customs to the fact that a certain American preparation of good quality, which is being sold in Australia, has been put on the market in a packet which bears a label “ Made in Australia.” If that label is lifted the words “Made iu the United States of America “ may be seen beneath it. Is it possible for the Government to prosecute the firm responsible for this inaccurate description?
– I shall inquire into the subject.
– Information is being obtained in reply to a question asked by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Hutchinson) regarding stocks of tobacco leaf held in bond and withdrawn from bond.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the present dole system in Australia is costing the various Governments £13.000.000 per annum, will he consider bringing forward at the next Premiers Conference a proposal to introducea system of reproductive works in lieu of the present dole, in order to prevent the economic waste, and to give the unemployed of Australia an opportunity to assert its manhood and to take its part in the development of the country?
– As I have previously intimated, the whole problem of unemployment is to be discussed at the next Premiers Conference. The honorable member may be assured that all possible means of dealing with the difficulty, including that suggested by him, will be carefully examined.
The following papers were presented : -
British Commonwealth Merchant Shipping Agreement (signed at London, 10th December, 1931).
Postmaster-General’s Department - Twentyfirst AnnualReport, 1930-31.
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory Crown Lands Act 1890 (South Australia) -
Reasons for resumption of portion of Reserve at Darwin, together with sketch showing area resumed.
Public Service Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1932, No. 23.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - proposed -
That Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the Opposition, Sir Littleton Groom, Mr. Makin, and Dr. Earle Page be members of the Standing Orders Committee; three to form a quorum.
– I desire an explanation of this motion. Common courtesy should, I think, have caused the Government to give some consideration, in the formation of this committee, to the party which I have the honour to lead. Seeing that the Government has seen fit to nominate as members of the committee the honorable member for Darling Downs (Sir Littleton Groom), and the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), it should have been willing to give representation to my party.
– Those two honorable members are ex-Speakers of the House.
– I am not aware that it was necessary for me to make application for the representation of my party on the committee, but I certainly think it should be represented on such an important committee. Unless the Prime Minister is willing to grant us representation we shall vote against the motion as a protest.
– Apart from Mr. Speaker, myself, the Chairman of Committees, the Leader of the Opposition, and the Leader of the Country party, the other proposed members of the committee are ex-Speakers of the House, who, because oftheir special qualification, should be included. I had no intention of ignoring the honorable member’s party. He will find that it has been granted representation on the other committees of the House. In the circumstances I am not prepared to amend the motion.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. G. H. Mackay.)
Majority . . . . 43
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker, the Chairman of Committees, Air. Gardner, Mr. Hunter, Mr. James, Mr. Martens and Mr, Price be members of the House Committee; three to form a quorum.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Gander, Mr. A. Green, Mr. E. F. Harrison, Mr. McBride, Mr. McNicoll, Mr. Stewart and Mr. Thompson be members of tlie Printing Committee; three to form a quorum, with power to confer with a similar committee of thu Senate.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons) - by leave - agreed to -
That Mr. Speaker, Mr. .Abbott, Mr. Hughes, Dr. Maloney, Mr. Nairn, Mr. Rosevear and Mr. White be members of the Library Committee; three to form a quorum.
– I move -
That the bill be now road a second time.
Insurance is one of the matters in regard to which the Commonwealth is given power to legislate under the Constitution. This Parliament has been given control over insurance other than State insurance, and also over State insurance extending beyond the limits of the State concerned. Those responsible for the framing of the Constitution doubtless thought that the Commonwealth Parliament would legislate on insurance, and that, throughout Australia, the conditions imposed on insurance companies would be uniform.
In 1908, a royal commission was appointed to inquire into the subject of insurance, and the desirability of Commonwealth legislation with regard to it.
That commission recommended that it was desirable that there should be uniformity in insurance legislation, and that the Commonwealth Parliament should exercise the legislative powers conferred upon it under the Constitution. The commission, in the course of its report, said -
Thu enactment of a uniform federal, law superseding the existing State legislation, would represent a distinct gain to tlie companies transacting life assurance business in Australia, and, indirectly, to their policyholders.
No serious effort has been made to give effect to that recommendation. In 1905, this Parliament passed the Life Insurance Companies Act, which regulates insurance on the lives of children. Further action was taken in 1908, when a Marine Insurance Act was passed. A few years ago a comprehensive measure was prepared to deal with the whole subject qf insurance. It was then proposed to exercise the full powers conferred upon the Commonwealth by the Constitution, so as to make insurance legislation uniform throughout the Commonwealth. That measure was passed twice by the Senate, but never became an act, because, on each occasion, an election intervened before it could be submitted to this House.
The present measure relates only to the deposits which must be lodged by insurance companies for the protection of their policy-holders. The desirability of a measure of this sort must be obvious. At the present time, the law in some States requires that deposits shall be lodged by insurance companies, while there is no such requirement in others. In those States’ which require a deposit, the deposit required is not the same in amount, varying in respect to one form of insurance and another. In Queensland, a company carrying on life insurance must lodge a deposit of £50,000 ; in Victoria, the deposit of £5,000 is required, and in New South Wales no deposit is demanded. From marine insurance companies, Queensland requires a deposit of £20,000. For general insurance business no deposit is required in Victoria and New South Wales, but in both States deposits must be lodged by companies carrying on employers’ liability insurance. It is undoubtedly desirable that deposits should be lodged, and that they should be uniform throughout the Commonwealth. This would strengthen the confidence of holders in the value of the policies which often mean so much to them.
The purpose of requiring a deposit to be lodged is to protect policy-holders against bogus or unsound insurance companies. The lodging of even a substantial deposit cannot be regarded as ensuring security to policy-holders in a large concern. A deposit of £50,000 is relatively small in relation to the business carried on by a big insurance company, but it provides some protection against bogus companies. Insurance business has this peculiarity, that people pay their money in advance to receive a1 return upon the occurrence of a certain contingency. The money received from the policy-holders makes the fund which is used to satisfy such claims. This favours the establishment of bogus companies, the directors of which do not make “proper provision to honour the obligations which they undertake. The policy-holders are entitled to this protection. There are few persons in the “community who are not interested in insurance of some kind, whether life, accident, or fire insurance. Frequently premiums are paid with considerable difficulty, to provide assistance in time of trouble.
The requirement of deposits is of fairly modern growth. Our insurance legislation is based upon the British Life Insurance Act of 1870, for it was as recently as that year that Great Britain awoke to the need for providing legislation stipulating that insurance companies should lodge deposits with the Government. The reason why that legislation was introduced was that a number of bogus companies had sprung into existence in Great Britain and failed, inflicting terrific loss and suffering upon the people who had taken out policies with them. The Albert Insurance Company and the European Insurance Company are two outstanding cases. The former concern had a fairly long and relatively successful career, as, during the course of its lifetime, it absorbed no fewer than 25 other insurance companies. The British legislation provides for a deposit of £25,000, which, though not a large amount, provides a deterrent to the establishment of bogus companies.
This bill provides uniform insurance legislation for Australia. It requires life insurance companies that are carrying on business in the Commonwealth at the commencement of the act to make a deposit of £50,000, or where the liability of the company is less than £250,000, the deposit is £1,000 for every £5,000 of the company’s net liability. Insurance concerns other than those conducting life insurance business that begin operations after the commencement of the act are required to make an initial deposit of £5,000, and thereafter to deposit from time to time £1,000 in respect of each £5,000 of their annual premium income in excess of £25,000 until a maximum deposit of £40,000 is reached. A distinction is made in respect of foreign companies. If a foreign insurance company begins business in Australia after the commencement of this act it must lodge a deposit of £50,000, as in the case of a foreign company that is incorporated or has its head office outside the British Empire, the deposit is £60,000. Life insurance companies which begin operations in Australia after the commencement of this act must make an initial deposit of £5,000, with an annual deposit. thereafter of £5,000, until the maximum of £50,000 is reached. Th, annual deposit for mutual companies, * great number of which are operating in Australia, is £1,000, with the same maximum. The deposit in respect of existing insurance companies, other than life, will be £1,000 in respect of each £5,000 of their annual premium income, with a maximum of £40,000. It will be seen that the treatment is uniform, that a distinction is drawn between the different types of insurance, and that discretion is exercised between companies that are already established and those that begin operations after the commencement of the act.
The bill makes special provision with regard to insurances that are effected with Lloyds, whose operations in Australia are carried out through a number of agents. The ordinary deposit requirements are not abolished, but a number of Lloyds agents may register themselves as a group operating on behalf of that corporation, and a deposit may be made on behalf of the group instead of for each individual.
The bill provides exemption for friendly societies that are registered under the. Friendly Societies Act in any of the States, and also for trade unions and associations of employees that are carrying on small insurance schemes. Provision, exists, also, to exempt superannuation schemes, which are sponsored by a number of large businesses, while a further exemption is made with regard to insurances effected upon church properties. There is an example in Australia of a company which confines itself to such insurances.
The Government has invited the opinions of all sections concerned, whose representations have received consideration, and it is improbable that the measure will operate harshly. The bill provides for the position that exists in the majority of the States, where deposits are now required from insurance companies. Its operation will not bring about any dislocation in that direction, as the States will be allowed to retain the deposits in pro tanto satisfaction of the deposit requirements that are specified in the measure.
-What will happen if the amounts already deposited with the various State Governments are greater in the aggregate than those stipulated by the bill.
– They will be subject to reduction when their return by the States is required by the Treasurer under this bill.
– Will not that adversely affect the finances of the State concerned ?
– No; because the excess amount will be inconsiderable. Provision is embodied in the bill for increasing deposits where securities have depreciated, and have thus caused the amount deposited to be less than that specified by the measure. It is also definitely specified that the deposit is a security to policy-holders, and available to satisfy judgments that may be obtained by them against the company with which they are insured.
The measure is one for consideration in committee rather than at this stage. This Parliament has power to legislate in regard to insurance, and the bill, although it does not deal comprehensively with the matter, and does not provide a complete uniform insurance law for Australia, at least makes essential provision for the protection of the public by requiring a substantial deposit from every company carrying on insurance business in the Commonwealth, accepting the money of policy-holders, and undertaking to give in return certain benefits.
– Is it quite clear that the bill does not affect corporations and associations carrying their own insurance risk?
– The Government has listened to representations from various interested parties regarding internal insurance and other matters. I think that the point raised by the honorable member is dealt with ; if not, it can be considered in committee.
Mr.Prowse. - Will the deposits held by State Governments be included in the guarantee required by this bill?
– Yes. The bill is wise and necessary, and I commend it to the House.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Blakeley) adjourned.
Motion (by Mr. Lyons), proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I pro test against the repeal of the regulation made by my Government in 19301 to provide that awards by the Public Service Arbitrator should apply only to the members of organizations that had applied for and obtained them. By the reversal of that policy, the awards will apply to all public servants, whether members of an organization or not. The principle adopted in 1930 was initiated by the Fisher Government, and is sound. The Public Service Board prescribes the conditions in the Service, and if employees are dissatisfied with them they can appeal to the Public Service Arbitrator through their organizations. Arbitration is not possible without organization. We should have chaos, not only in the Public Service, but throughout the industrial field, but for the organization of workers so that they can bargain collectively.
Those employees who form themselves into organizations and apply to the Arbitrator are acting in an orderly way under the law. Those who do not join the organizations may be assumed to acquiesce in the decision of the Public Service Board, and, therefore, have neither a legal nor a moral claim to the benefits of an award by the Arbitrator. The regula tion made first by the Fisher Govern- ment, and later repeated by my Government, has been condemned as compulsory unionism; indeed, the Prime Minister used that phrase. He did not employ such a term when he was a member of the Commonwealth Labour Government. No compulsion is applied to any public servant to join the union ; but if a man desires the benefits obtainable by organizations he should join the union connected with his calling, and share the expense and responsibility of applying to the Arbitrator. That principle is sound. Organizations incur expenditure in presenting their case to the Arbitrator, and unless a man contributes to the cost he should not share in the benefits. The regulation introduced by my Government has been described as preference to unionists. Strictly speaking it is not; but if it were, would that be a reasonable ground for objection to it? The repeal of the regulation is equivalent to preference to nonunionists, because it enables a man to get all the benefits of unionism without subscribing to the cost. If this is one of the Government’s economy measures it will fail, because it will increase rather than reduce expense. I am concerned, however, with the principle involved. If the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Fen ton) acquiesced in the repeal of the regulations, have they shed every principle of Labour which they have professed for the last quarter of a century ? Many people were induced to vote for the party led by the honorable member for Wilmot because they believed that they would not be restoring the antiLabour tory regime of the Bruce-Page Government. They had confidence in a leader who declared that he had not shed any of his labour principles; now they are being rudely awakened. The repeal of this Public Service regulation and the regulation relating to waterside employ ment are proof of the Government’s antipathy to unionism. Unionism is an accepted principle throughout the world. It permits of the organization of employees and their orderly approach to the arbitration tribunals. The first arbitration act recognized that principle, and only organizations could approach the court. Indeed, provision was made in the act that application might be made to the court to grant preference to unionists, and such preference has been granted where it has been considered necessary for the protection of unionists. I regret this evidence of the Government’s antipathy to unionism. Those workers who were misled into supporting the United Australia party, because it was led by a man who professed Labour principles, are being sadly disillusioned.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Minister for Repatriation a matter affecting one of my constituents, and illustrating the effects of the wonderful economy scheme known as the Premiers plan. I refer to the case of a mother who sent two sons to the last war. One boy, who reached the rank of sergeant, was killed, and the other returned a cripple. She had only two sons who were eligible for war service, and, therefore, this family at least discharged its obligations to the country. The mother is now 75 years of, age, and the father is two years older. The mother was in receipt of a pension of 27s.10d. per fortnight on account of the death of one son, and the crippling of the other; yet, last week, she received a notice in the following curt terms: -
Under the Financial Emergency Regulations 1931, any pension payable to a dependant shall be subject to review, and the commission may reduce or cancel a pension, according to the circumstances of the case.
In this instance the department has reduced the pension of this aged mother to1s. per week. This is one of the results of the marvellous Premiers plan about which we have heard so much. Yet there is talk of honouring obligations and of honesty in government ! Are we honouring our obligations to a mother aged 75 years, who lost her son at the war and has another on her hands as a cripple, when her war pension is reduced to ls. per week? It makes one disposed as a member of this Parliament to hang his head in shame, knowing that there is a government or a policy or a plan in Australia under which such an injustice can be committed.
– What is the reason given by the department for this action ?
– I have already read the communication received from the department, and that is the only reason advanced.
– But that intimation concludes with the words, “According to the circumstances of the case “.
– The circumstances are that this couple also receive the oldage pension; but is the nation meeting its obligations when an aged mother has her war pension reduced to ls. per week, although she has lost one son and has another a cripple? The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) has shown a greater tendency than many other members to give sympathetic attention to such cases.
– Does not the crippled son also receive a pension?
– I am not in a position to answer that question, but I do not wish to evade it. If the crippled son had a pension it would not be nearly sufficient to meet his present needs, lt is an insult to offer this mother ls. a week; if that amount were cut out altogether the parents would know better where they stood. If the regulations make such action possible under the wonderful Premiers plan, I ask the Minister to make the alterations necessary to see that justice is done, and that the obligations of the nation to these parents arc honoured to the full.
.- I support the protest of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) against the action of the Government in withdrawing the instruction that the award rates should apply only to members of claimant organizations in the Commonwealth Public Service. On the 22nd April, 1930, the Public Service Board issued an instruction as follows: -
I am directed to inform you that the Government lias directed that, on and from the 1st Juno, 1930, application of the provisions of the various Public Service awards and determinations shall be restricted to members of the Public Service organization concerned.
That decision was made to apply also to returned soldiers, whether or not they were members of organizations; but fully 95 per cent, of the returned soldiers in the Public Service had already joined their respective organizations, and, therefore, no hardship whatever has- been imposed on that section of the Service. I had thought that something better than the latest decision might be expected from the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), because when he left the Labour party and joined the Nationalists, he declared that he was not forsaking any of his Labour principles. He added that he would continue to be as good a Labour man as ever.. For over 20 years he supported the policy of giving preference to the members of the claimant organizations who had made their full contributions, and had assisted in getting improved conditions for their fellow members in the Public Service. Speaking in this House on the 22nd May, 1930, the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) remarked -
I, and honorable members on this side of the chamber generally, quite understand, and to some extent sympathize with, the objection of members of trade unions to others obtaining benefits for which the unions have fought and struggled.
If the honorable gentleman had acted up to that statement the Opposition would have had no cause for complaint on this matter, but while the Government recognized that certain public servants who were not members of Public Service organizations, had no moral right to the benefit i won by members of those bodies, it rescinded the instructions that were issued at the instigation of the Scullin Government that the benefits of awards applied only to the members of the claimant organizations.
This subject has received a good deal of consideration at the hands of the Public Service Board, and of Public Service Commissioners in the past. For fourteen years Mr. D. McLachlan was sole Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner, and after his retirement from office he was asked to act on a royal commission to investigate the conditions in the Commonwealth Public Service. In 1919, he wrote -
Every officer of the class concerned should join his representative association. In the formation and maintenance of an association, expenses incurred should be met by the members jointly. It would be unfair to the members of an association, which, by its efforts, gained some advantage that persons who, through indifference, refused to join the association, should share in the benefits and not in the incidental expenditure … If any officer refuses to join the association there should be deducted from his salary, at the usual duo dates, the amount of membership fees of the association, and the amount so deducted should be paid to the association.
It cannot be said that Mr. McLachlan was a militant unionist, or was associated in any way with the Trades Hall. As a member of the Commonwealth Public Service, he was not connected with any political party, yet as a royal commissioner he expressed the opinion that the benefits of awards should he extended only to members of claimant organizations. Again in 1925 a report on this subject was submitted to the Bruce-Page Government by the Public Service Board, comprising Sir Brudenell White (Chairman), Mr. W. J. Skewes and BrigadierGeneral McGlynn. These gentlemen expressed the view that there was every justice in the claim that had been urged periodically by the Public Service Association that awards of the Arbitration Court should apply only to members of Public Service associations. I, therefore, call that board as an impartial witness in support of the claim which wo now make. It cannot be urged that its members were in any way associated with the Labour party or had sympathy with industrial unionism. So the fact that it endorsed the opinions and recommendations of Mr. McLachlan, the former Public Service Commissioner should carry a great deal of weight with this Government, if it. is not absolutely biased against trade unionism generally. I am afraid that in extending arbitration awards to non-unionists, the Government is, in effect, giving preference to non-unionists in the Public Service. Every act of this Government has been to discourage trade unionism, and to make for the open shop, where the individual will have to make representations in person to get redress of his grievances. Having a good knowledge of human nature, we all know what many heads of departments would do if a junior officer had the audacity to voice his grievances personally. In most cases, he would get very short shrift, and would be told to get out of the office. The position would be entirely different if all public servants were members of associations. Representations then made to heads of departments would receive careful consideration, because of the knowledge that they had behind them the full weight of the Public Service organizations. This blow which has been struck by the Government at unionism will inevitably redound to its discredit. It will not destroy the spirit of unionism in the Public Service. On the contrary, it will strengthen it, because public servants will realize more fully than ever that such organization constitutes their bulwark against an attempted invasion of their rights.
.- As- a former vice-president and a present member of the Queeusland State Service Union, I support the emphatic protest made by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) against the action of the Government in repealing the regulation giving the benefits of arbitration awards only to members of Public Service organizations. In this matter the Cabinet is following the example set by the Moore Government in Queensland, and its motive is the same. The intention is to strike a blow at trade unionism. Honorable members supporting the Government would have us believe that they are not opposed to unionism, but invariably their’ actions prove that they are bitterly antagonistic. The first executive act of the present Government was to repeal the waterside workers regulations gazetted by the Scullin Government, with the result that, in place of peace- on the waterfront due to the smooth working of those regulations, there were outbreaks of violence, and at one seaport the disturbance was responsible for the death of one man. The Moore Government some time ago repealed regulations giving preference to unionists in the Queensland Public Service, in the belief, no doubt, that its action would cause a large number of public servants to sever their connexion with their respective organizations. In this the Government was disappointed because, during a period of over two years, only ten public servants resigned from the Queensland State Service Union as a result. We may expect the same result to follow the action of this Government. I have had personal experience of the anti-union attitude of the Queensland Nationalist Government. Some time ago, in association with Mr. Copley, the president of the Queensland State Service Union, I dared to criticize the Moore Government’s proposal to disfranchize or give separate representation to members of the Public Service. As punishment, we were transferred to far-distant places in Queensland, but, in my case, at least’, the transfer had results unexpected by the Government, because, recently, the electors of Oxley showed exactly what they thought of such punitive action by electing me to my present position. The Australian Labour Party believes that only those who, by joining organizations, fight for an improvement in their wages and conditions, should have the right to enjoy what is gained. Most of us have a certain amount of respect for the misguided individual who are not members of a union, and will not accept benefits obtained through it, but- all of us have a feeling of contempt for the person who, while not prepared to join a trade union and fight for better conditions, is willing to accept all that unionism can secure for him. In 1914, when there was a double dissolution of this Parliament on the question of preference to unionists, the Australian Labour Party was returned pledged to that policy, with a majority in both Houses. It is surprising, as well as regrettable, that the Ministry should have struck this blow at unionism, because the Leader of the Government (Mr. Lyons), and at least one member of his Ministry owe all they have ever enjoyed in political life to the fact that at one time they were members of a trade union. Although they have since severed their connexion with the Labour party, one would have thought that, out of gratitude to the movement that had done so much for them, they would have fought vigorously against the proposal to repeal this regulation.
Mr. HOLLOWAY. (Melbourne Ports) has taken this action. Not many years ago, when the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) was at the head of another ministry, he conducted negotiations with representatives of trade unions, and definitely assured them that members of the Ministry were in favour of trade unionism, because, so he admitted, modern business activities could not be carried on without organization. They agreed that it was impossible, in these days of collective bargaining, to revert to the old order, and that we could not expect to have discipline in industry without proper organization on each side. They admitted also that the degree of prosperity and progress which industry could make was dependent upon the state of perfection to which we could jointly bring our organizations. They agreed also that in the Public Service as well as in private employment there must be some organization, so that groups of employees could appoint representatives to consult with departmental heads and other authorities with the object of maintaining harmony within the .Service. It was manifestly impossible for the rank and file to negotiate individually, so, in workshops and offices, groups of employees were formed to make negotiation possible. I have on many occasions discussed these matters with the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) and other members of the Cabinet at round-table conferences, and these honorable gentlemen have urged me to do my best to get the Australian workers, for whom I spoke, to take a reasonable view of the problems which had to be faced. On many occasions we have been able to arrange satisfactory working programmes a’t these conferences. This has prevented discord in industry. The same kind of thing has happened in connexion with the employees of municipalities and other semi-public bodies. Year after year, representative Australian workers and representative employers of labour have dealt with the problems of industry to the mutual benefit of all concerned. I believe that if the members of the Cabinet whom I have in my mind were asked to express a private opinion on this subject they would admit that the efficient conduct of industry was impossible apart from organization among both employers and employees. In fact it would be impossible to carry on the commercial operation of this or any other country on economic lines without some degree of organization. The better the organization the more efficient the industry, in my opinion.
It is extraordinary, therefore, that within five minutes, so to speak, of the assumption of office by this Government, it should have taken steps to repeal the regulation to which we have referred. I do not think that this action of the Government will meet with the approval of employers generally. The presidents and secretaries of our various Chambers of Manufactures and Commerce, of the Employers Federation, of Harbour Trusts, of municipal organizations, and the like, will not be happy about this interference with the smooth working of the industrial machine. Thousands of pounds have been spent, in the aggregate, by the men, women and children of Australia to perfect their industrial procedure, and it is deplorable that anything should be done to nullify the good effect of their efforts. The Government appears to forget that if our industrial organizations were to disappear the way would be open for immoral employers to indulge in all kinds of unfair competition. It would be impossible, without industrial organization, to have uniform conditions in industry or uniform wages for similar work. Because the trade union movement has made these things possible, its advent has been welcomed by all decent employers. I know that the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) believes that this is so, for I have heard him speak, and have read -essays which he has written on this subject. I can hardly believe that some of the new members of this Parliament realize the folly of the step that has been taken. Organization among employers, like organization among employees, has had a good effect in introducing peace in industry. I believe that the great majority of employers would far rather conduct any necessary negotiations with their employees through an organization than off their own bat.
Probably the Public Service was the last large body of employees to organize on comprehensive lines. In the old days there was a great deal of diffidence on the part of public servants in approaching the authorities with any request for a revision of working conditions and wages. The environment of the heads of departments possibly made them hostile to any organized effort in this direction; but even they, in common with governments, have since come to welcome the opportunity to negotiate with the representatives of public service bodies. I have had a short experience as a Minister of the Crown, and 20 years’ experience in outside industry, of the good effects of organized negotiations. I know that the responsible officers of the Public Service welcome the opportunity to consider any requests made by organized bodies of public servants with the object of increasing the efficiency and maintaining the harmony of the Service. Parliament has shown that it also approves of organized negotiation in the Public Service, for it has appointed a Public Service Arbitrator and a Public Service Board to conduct such negotiations as are necessary. It is apparent to all thinking people that efficiency requires organization. We object to the repeal of this regulation, because the result must be, in some degree at any rate, adverse to the great majority of public servants, who, with energy and enthusiasm, have built up the public service organizations. It must appeal to the members of the Government as unfair that those who have done nothing whatever to strengthen the Public Service organizations should enjoy the benefits which flow from their activities. It is not as though a big stick was being used. Such negotiations as occur always result in mutual agreement, either through the Public Service Arbitrator or otherwise. Men and women have for long years given up their leisure time, including their Saturdays and Sundays in many cases, in order to perfect these organizations, and 95 per cent, of the rank and file of the Public Service has enrolled in these organizations. Our public servants have gladly paid the few pence a week necessary to enable their organization to watch their interests, and they consider that those who, honestly perhaps, feel that they cannot link up with them should not be permitted to enjoy the benefits that organization has secured. I can see no reason whatever why anything should be done to interfere with the efficiency that has been attained. The repeal of regulations of this kind must necessarily have a bad effect on all industrial organizations. I am not temperamentally disposed to think evil of any one, but this action of the Government has suggested to me that it intends to take the old attitude of hostility to trade unionism generally. The new Government had scarcely taken over its duties before it repealed regulations which did more for the returned soldiers than any other regulations had done. Discord was disappearing; the different sections were getting along well together; every one was satisfied. Yet the Government saw fit to repeal those regulations. Having done that, it got busy with the Public Service regulations. These things give the impression, either rightly or wrongly, that the Government is seeking means of harassing the organized workers of this country. In the circumstances, is it any wonder that they are hostile to the Government? The public servants and the manual workers in this country are not the only sections in the community which believe in organization. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) knows that the stock and share brokers are highly organized. One of the most prominent members of their association told me that he could not give a commission worth 3d. to any one outside the organization without incurring the risk of being fined £200, or even more. When the Asssistant Treasurer introduced legislation with the object of deporting certain persons from this country the officials of the trade union movement decided to oppose it because they feared that it would be wrongly applied. I was given the job of collecting from the trade unions funds with which to fight the case before the court. We fought it for two or three weeks, during which period we called upon the seamen and others who kept the wheels of industry going, to continue at their work. One morning the King’s Counsel who was acting on behalf .of the unions told me that he could no longer continue to act unless the sum of £97 was handed to him each morning. He explained that he, personally, was not pressing for the money, that he would be perfectly satisfied to wait even five or six months for it, knowing that he would get it, but that the code of morality in his association would not allow him to go on with the case unless his fees were paid to hin every morning.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– I rise to reply briefly to the attack which the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) made on the Premiers plan, under cover of referring to a case- connected with the administration of the Repatriation Department, but before doing so I cannot refrain from referring to the annoyance which has been shown by various members of the Opposition at the repeal of a regulation which, among other things, attempted to compel every civil servant to make a financial contribution to the political Labour party in his district.
– Then the Government’s reason for the repeal of the regulation was purely political?
– It is well known that the regulation referred to was framed in order to penalize every public servant who was not prepared to make a contribution to the advancement of a certain party in Australian politics.
The honorable member for West Sydney did not give me notice of his intention to refer to-day to the case about which he has spoken, and, consequently, I am not acquainted with the details; but I shall investigate the case if the. honorable member will let me have the particulars. He said that there had been drastic reductions in pensions, but obviously he was labouring under a misapprehension, when he said that the Government has failed to honour its solemn obligation. I remind him that under the Premiers plan all the pensions which were included in the original Repatriation Act were left intact. Whatever promise was given to the soldiers has been honoured to the full. The action of the man whom the honorable member acknowledges as his leader is likely to do more than anything else to jeopardize the country’s capacity to fulfil its obligations. All reductions of pensions made in accordance with the Premiers plan were reductions of benefits which had been granted in times of prosperity. As times became more difficult - and the difficulty was increased by the actions of the Premier of New South Wales - some curtailment of these benefits became necessary ; but I emphasize that the alterations made were made in accordance with the recommendations of a committee of returned soldiers. The reduction to which the honorable member referred is in respect of the pension payable to a mother who was in some degree dependent on her son when he enlisted. In no case has such a pension been reduced if the parent concerned is in necessitous circumstances. A pension or allowance has been altered only after a full inquiry has revealed that the parent possessed adequate means of support from other sources. The making of reductions in pensions is a painful duty. If -the honorable member is genuine in his desire to restore or even to conserve these benefits, he should use his best endeavours to remove the present Premier of New South Wales from office.
.- The arguments put forward by honorable members opposite regarding the repeal of a certain Public Service regulation indicate that, they regard public service as on all fours with industry, whereas such is not the’ case. The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) has had a wide experience in industry. I also have had a sufficient experience to enable me to say that I agree with much that he said regarding the need for organizing for the proper conduct of industry; but I was unable, to follow his argument as to the necessity for the retention of the regulation referred to. I have had some experience of public service. It is true that in the service in which I was employed, the sword, rather than the pen, was the instrument most used. We had not any union; in fact we were not allowed to have one. The rules of our service never contemplated such a thing, and I hope never will. Honorable members opposite have alleged that the Government is deliberately undermining unionism, notwithstanding the protestations which the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) stated had been made at various conferences with the Assistant Treasurer, the Attorney-
General and others. Such an allegation comes very ill from the mouths of honorable members opposite who, when economies in public expenditure were called for several months ago, reduced the salaries of the members of the Defence Force, the fighting service, at the same time leaving the salaries of other public servants untouched. Are we to assume that the Government took that action to penalize members of the Defence Force because they did not belong to a union?
.- I should not have risen to speak had it not been for the statement of the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) that when the Scullin Government was in office it reduced the salaries of the members of the Defence Force, because they had no union.
– I asked if that were so.
– As the Minister for Defence in the Scullin Government, I can supply the answer to that question. That Government decided upon a considerable reduction in expenditure, because of the rapid drift of the finances. Therefore economies were instituted -in the Defence Department, and, later, in other departments, the members of which were unionists.
– Very much later.
– The policy of the Scullin Government was to substitute a voluntary system for the compulsory system of defence.
– My reference was to the permanent personnel and not to volunteers.
– The permanent personnel were rationed. No permanent officer was dismissed. No other department was so susceptible to a reduction in expenditure.
– And that was the Defence Force of this country.
– Let me remind the honorable member that during the GreatWar we had to rely on the brains and muscles of the workers of this country. The late Sir John Monash sat with the then Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) and the ex-Treasurer (Mr. Theodore) on a
Council of Defence, which decided that it would be quite safe to reduce the numbers of the members of the Defence Force.
– What about the permanent clerks of the department?
– Not’ many permanent clerks were retrenched. The retrenchment applied mostly to temporary hands, as was the case later in connexion with the Postal Department. The policy of this Government, and, indeed, of the Public Service Board is to dismiss temporary men from the Public Service first. The honorable member, in referring to permanent officials, is shifting his ground. Brig.-General Dodds, who is practically the head of the Defence Department, agreed with the scheme put forward by the Scullin Government to ration the officers of the department by giving them so many weeks off per year according to salary.
– It was a reduction of 1G per cent.
– I think that I have fully answered the point raised by the honorable member. I object on principle to the repeal of the Public Service regulation, which has been referred to at length by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) and the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). The trade unionists who supply funds to enable its organization to function should be entitled to. some benefits. The honorable member for Denison (Mr. Hutchin) has said that he has been closely iii touch with trade unionism, which, he said, is essential in the light of our present social system. We have no difference of opinion on that point. He also said that in the service in which he was employed it was not permitted to have a .trade union.
– There is no trade union in the defence service.
– The defence service is entirely different from other services. At one time when I was a member of an ordinary government .department, we were not permitted to have a union. We approached the Postmaster-General of the day, and suggested that we should be permitted to form_an organization, and he replied that if we intended to form an organization something on the lines of a mutual benefit society he could supply us with a copy of the Bible or Charles Sheldon’s work In His Steps. We pointed out to him that we wished to -form an organization to assist the postal employees. Subsequently, the postal employees, the clerks, and the accountants in every branch of service throughout Australia formed themselves into protective societies. These organizations are very useful to Ministers when they desire information on certain matters. Many members of the service have refused to join the unions, some on principle and some through petty meanness. I hope that the Government will reconsider its decision. ‘
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), and some of his supporters, have suggested in respect of a recent decision of the Government affecting the Public Service, that we are antagonistic to trade unionism, and that this is the first of a series of efforts to destroy unionism. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Baker) has said that the Moore Government of Queensland ha3 been trying to destroy trade unionism, and that this Government is following its example. There is not the slightest ground for that statement.
– The repeal of a Public Service regulation is, in itself, a ground for that suggestion, and the repeal of the waterside workers regulations affords still more solid ground.
– That is not so. No intelligent person to-day would endeavour to destroy trade unionism. It is a movement which has conferred many benefits upon the workers, and, as the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr.’ Holloway) has told us, has rendered great service to industry generally. I quite agree with the view that has been expressed by some honorable members opposite that in the absence of trade unionism the successful conduct of industry would be impracticable, and the honest employer would be at a great disadvantage in competition with an unscrupulous and disreputable rival. But 1 u Kerry deny that the Government is opposed to trade unionism. The members of parties in this House necessarily differ as to what is best for the country, the conduct of trade unions, and many other matters; but this disagreement does not justify the baseless suggestion that the Government intends to destroy the great and useful trade union movement.
The Leader of the Opposition said that evidence that the Government is opposed to trade unionism is supplied by the recent waterfront regulations. “ Do we want any more evidence?” he asked. I would remind the right honorable gentleman that the last Government, of which he was the leader, gave absolute preference to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation and to a few returned soldiers. In doing so that Government gave preference to men who had defied an award of the Arbitration Court, and had disorganized the transport services of this country. In consequence of the trouble which was constantly occurring on the waterfront, the preceding Government, with which I was associated, was forced to take action, and to ask for assistance in maintaining essential services. We gave an undertaking to the volunteers who came to the help of the country that they would be protected in their employment, and that so long as we were in power they would not be deprived of their work on the waterfront. When Ave were defeated, and the Scullin Government succeeded us, full preference was again given to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, regardless of the undertaking which had been given to the volunteer workers. Should we not, therefore, now honour the solemn pledges given to the volunteers with the full approval of a majority of the Australian people?
– This Government is giving preference to non-unionists.
– On another occasion I shall be quite ready to argue the whole question ; I merely wish to show now that what has been done on the waterfront in no way indicates lack of sympathy on our part with trade unionism.
The point stressed by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition amounts to this: The’ organizations which represent certain sections of the Public Service have done good work for their members in increasing the remuneration of public servants and improving the conditions which they enjoy, and it is unfair that persons who do not contribute to their funds should share the privileges gained by successful appeals to the Public Service Arbitrator. Undoubtedly there must be some sympathy with the view that only members of an organization should enjoy the benefits which it has secured; but a government has to examine a matter of this kind from all aspects.
Let me suggest a few of these for the consideration of honorable members opposite, and in doing so, make clear the reasons on which the Government has acted. Ministers take this view : ‘ We are the custodians of the people’s money, out of which the public servant is paid. The Public Service is an exceptional .service, and are we to draw distinctions between the men who compose it? It is going a long way to declare that every public servant, whether he likes it or not, must, if he wishes to, enjoy certain benefits, become a member of some particular union. Because this is a country in which we boast of individual freedom of action ! If there were any chance of a man, who was not in a union, by any action he could take getting the same conditions as the men in an organization, when, for any good reason he is not prepared to join the organization, it might be different. A public servant may have conscientious objections to joining a certain union. He may consider that it is being badly run ; he may regard it as a menace to those engaged in the industry which it controls. He may think that this particular union is being dominated and controlled by unscrupulous men, and for that reason he will have nothing to do with it. Or he may regard this union as one that is merely an organization that is being run for political purposes, and that the politics which it is fostering are those to which he is totally opposed. He may wholly disbelieve in the union. For these, and other conceivable reasons, a man may decline to join a particular union. Why, I ask, should such a man be forced to join a union with which he totally dis- agrees ! And if, for such reasons as have been suggested, he does not join that union, is he therefore not to be given, as & public servant, the same conditions as are enjoyed by his fellows who are in the union? It must be remembered that there was no other way, under the regulation, which has been repealed, in which he could get these conditions, because when there is in existence an organization which meets a particular position, and covers a certain class of employment, another such organization cannot be registered. Therefore men were forced to join particular organizations or else forgo benefits which had been given to their fellows who were unionists. That was absolutely wrong in principle, and surely no one would subscribe to it. It is, indeed, contrary to all that is best in trade unionism. If men must be forced into the ranks of unions instead of joining voluntarily, the system has not much to commend it. If you cannot attract them by the soundness of your case, but compel them, you will, in the end, destroy unionism itself. Do not’ honorable members stand by the common rule? “Was not that what the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway) said, in favour of a common rule? That is, in effect, what is obtained by our recent action in repealing the regulation of the last Government. The Government’s action is not directed against, trade unionism; it has been taken in support of a principle which we consider ought to be maintained. Honorable members opposite are not helping the country by making the suggestion that the Government wishes to destroy trade unionism. If we are to surmount the industrial trouble with which we are now confronted, we must have the cooperation of all sections of the community, and this is impossible in an atmosphere of suspicion and antagonism, such as the charges of honorable members opposite must create.
.- It is like old times to hear once again the anti-union sentiments of the right honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce). The regime of the Bruce-Page Government was notorious for its attacks, covert and open, on the trade union movement in Australia. Almost every administrative act of that Government demonstrated its desire to break down the long-cherished principles of trade unionism. Now the present Government has taken up the same work, notwithstanding that in this Government are men who, when they were members of the Labour party, wholeheartedly SUPported the principles which the Government is now attacking. It is significant that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who was a member of the Scullin Government when the waterside workers regulations were promulgated, and ‘the Postmaster-General (Mr. Fenton) who was also a member of that Government, are now both members of the Government which is aiming this blow at the waterside workers of Australia. It would, of course, have been too much to expect that the Prime Minister himself could have accomplished such a complete political somersault, and so the defence of the Government’s action has been left to the right honorable member for Flinders. For two and a half years, while the Scullin Government was in office, the waterside workers were afforded protection, and were able to develop their organization, after the attacks which had been made upon it during the previous six and a half years. Now, with the ascension of the present Government, those attacks have been renewed.
Some time ago the waterside workers took certain action, which was condemned by most people, including many of us in the Labour movement. Everything possible was done by Mr. Scullin to avert the action which was ultimately taken at some of the Australian ports. The Bruce-Page Government imposed penalties upon the waterside workers; it drove them from the waterfront in thousands, and condemned them and their dependants to privations, poverty and the dole. Not content with that, it set no term to the duration of their punishment. No period was stipulated at the end of which they would have their rights restored. The Government is forcing the waterside workers off the wharfs, and replacing them by hand-picked workers.
– Nonsense !
– I do not know whether the honorable member had anything to do with choosing the volunteer workers, but I know the Bruce-Page Government did hand-pick the men who took the jobs away from those who had held them, in some cases, for 20 or 25 years. It is now clear that this Government proposes to continue the anti-union attacks begun by the Bruce-Page Government, notwithstanding that it is supported by a party of spare parts purporting to represent the best in the policies of the Labour party, the Country party, and the Nationalist party. The ink was not’ dry on the documents which set this Government in power when all the fine pledges of the new party went by the board, and we are now treated to the same old policy of union suppression which was begun by the Bruce-Page Government.
.- I have not previously spoken in the new Parliament. For the last three weeks I have listened to a discussion of a bill designed to put Mr. Lang in his place. J have been amazed to hear from honorable members opposite, of both wings of the Labour party, the same old story that they are the friends of the people. Now, on the motion for the adjournment of the House, and after an all-night sitting, they come forward and protest against the withdrawal of preference to unionists within the Public Service. Over 2,000 years ago Aristotle said -
It is tlie ignorance of demagogues that is the ruin of democracy.
That saying may well be applied to their modern prototypes. Recently, the Premier of New South Wales, a man who has brought disrepute on the name of Australia, introduced an arbitration bill, which, though not yet in operation, is designed to give unqualified preference to unionists. I challenge honorable members opposite, of either wing of the Labour party, to say that they do not . approve of that measure. They dare not denounce it. In that bill it is provided that if a union official, agitator or disorganizer, call him what you like-
Several honorable members interjecting,
– Disagreement with the ‘ opinions that are being expressed does not excuse inter jections by an honorable member who has already spoken. Every honorable member of the Opposition has had an opportunity to express his opinion, and a number of them have done so in very definite terms. In common fairness, they must now allow the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. White) to continue in silence.
– Any union official can demand of an employer that he discharge any non-unionist in his employ, under the threat of a penalty of £5 for every day that such a person remains in his employ. Has the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), or any other honorable member opposite denounced that proposal? Its adoption in Russia could be understood; but why should any- person, in Australia be not allowed to earn a livelihood because he refuses to bow the knee to petty tyrants in the trade unions of this country? It is almost unbelievable, but it, is a fact that that was the proposal of the Lang Government. Those not in unions were not even given the right to join a union. By a slender majority, the Upper House in New South Wales inserted in the Arbitration Bill introduced recently by the Government of that State an. amendment providing that any person making application shall be allowed to join a union. There is nothing wrong with trade unionism; everybody knows what it has done in the past. But the days of chains and slavery have gone. These gentlemen should bring themselves up to date, because they are not acting in the interests of the members of trade unions. At one time, unionism was designed to assist the men in their particular crafts. Now, however, it has become a mere political weapon. The workers are conscripted into trade unions by men who, during a great national crisis, were the opponents of conscription. At the behest of these gentlemen, a man must join a union or be refused the right to work. Many members of this Parliament have served their apprenticeship in the ranks of trade unions. They may have been good tradesmen or they may not; but because of the possession of a glib tongue, or perhaps a little more audacity than their fellow unionists, they have found their way into this Parliament, where they have declaimed loudly and frequently about starving women and children. How often have we heard during the last week the protests of these gentlemen regarding the treatment of “the starving widows and children in my electorate’’, and similar nonsense? No one wishes any one in Australia to starve, and it is not true to say that persons are starring here. It is, however, lamentable that there should bc 400,000 people out of work. We must, at all costs, provide those who heed it” with food. But is New South Wales the only State which has any concern for those who arc unfortunate enough to be unemployed? Other States are coping with the problem, and have not defaulted in order to do so. The Premier of New South Wales and his followers inside and outside this chamber would have us believe that Australians want food without working for it. That implies the belief that a bread queue or a soup kitchen standard is good enough for Australians. What Australians want, if they have British blood in their veins, and do not, follow the Russian inspiration, which seems to dominate the policy of New South Wales in particular, is the right to work out their own salvation. No Australian wants to be dominated by union organizers and officials. His desire is to.bo free. Every Britisher is entitled to freedom of choice as to where he shall work. Yet so strong a grip has the blighting hand of industrialism obtained upon Australia that there has been reaction in many directions even within the Public Service. The Scullin Government placed in operation regulations which compelled public servants to become members of an industrial organization in order to benefit from arbitration awards and determinations. Those who were not members of a union received less pay than others working beside them, simply because the latter belonged to a union. I cite the case of a man in the Commonwealth Public Service who, taking the line of least resistance, endeavoured to become a unionist. It was humiliating to him, and was opposed to his principles, because he had been an army officer and did not “believe in domination by men whose ideals were different from those which he held. His application wai deferred month after month. Finally, when pressed to give u reason for the refusal to allow him to join the organization, he was told “ This is an organization for clerks, and not for army officers “. I have the whole of the correspondence relating to this case, and shall place it on the table of the House if requested to do so should there be any further humbug regarding the rights of unionists. I am pleased indeed that the Government “ has taken early steps to deal with this nonsense of preference to particular mcn who choose to allow others to speak on their behalf.
The position of the waterside workers is, unquestionably, the concern of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Holloway). He has been in the industrial movement for many years, however, and must realize that there is good argument on both sides.
– The honorable member at one time was a member of a union.
– I have never been a member of a union in my life, thank goodness. I have always battled along on my own. I am more for individualism than for unionism as it is practised, and would not be conscripted by any union official. The watersiders were making excellent money on the wharfs in . Melbourne, but were misled by a few union officials. That is not my dictum alone. The Victorian Labour Premier, Mr. Hogan, has denounced those who led them astray.’ They refused to obey an award of the Arbitration Court delivered by Judge Beeby. They were not up against harsh employers who wished to place their “heel upon the face of Labour. Union officials, seeking a little notoriety, advised them to go on strike and defy the court. The result was that the shipping of the Commonwealth was paralysed. After a good deal of chaos and disorganization had been caused, the Bruce-Page Government issued licences to any persons who .would undertake the work. Among the volunteers who accepted, the number of returned soldiers was larger than was to be found in the ranks of the Waterside Workers Federation. They are the only men to whom I would give any preference; and it is a sentimental preference that they deserve. Work on the waterfront has proceeded smoothly for about three years, despite the fact that the late Government constantly tried to upset it. I know from my commercial experience that that work ha3 never been better done than during that period of years. Prior to that, there was a good deal of pillaging and breakage of cases; but the union refused to expel from its ranks any man who had a criminal conviction against his name. Because mcn outside the ranks of the waterside workers federation have been prepared to work under an award of the. Arbitration Court, at an excellent rate of wage, these gentlemen have moaned for years that an injustice lias been done to unionism. The ex-Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) is just as enthusiastic now as he has always been in defence of unionism. He had the chance of a lifetime when he returned to Australia from Great Britain. Had he had the mind of a Ramsay MacDonald, instead of a small party mind, he would have realized that there were iu Australia others besides the3e few unionists. He held the confidence of the people at that time, and could have formed a composite Ministry. Had he done so, he would still have bean Prime Minister to-day. He failed to realize what a great opportunity was presented to him, because his thoughts were not of the whole of the people of Australia, but merely of those who wore in tho shadow of the Trades Hall, The consequence has been that his party has dwindled almost to nothing, and the people of Australia now realize what the Labour movement really stands for. For years the right honorable gentleman deluded the people with a spurious unionism. Now they are tired of Trades Hall domination, and have returned to Parliament in overwhelming’ numbers men who will deal with the affairs of Australia in a way befitting the position that the Commonwealth holds in our great Empire, and in keeping with the needs of the whole of the people.
Question resolved in tlie affirmative.
House adjourned al 5.1 >.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 4 March 1932, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1932/19320304_reps_13_133/>.