8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers are : -
Agreement with Kirkpatrick and Son.
asked the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answer to this question has been forwarded by the Housing Commissioner, but crossed me on my way here. If the honorable senator will revive the matter later on, I shall furnish an answer then.
Bill (on motion by Senator Russell) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Russell) pro posed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
. - I rise to call attention to a statement made by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) in another place that touches a question I put yesterday to the Minister in charge of this Bill, with reference to its operation under the Mandate we are to have for islands in the Pacific. Sir Joseph Cook said that the laws of the Commonwealth will not operate under that Mandate unless specifically applied. I mentioned yesterday that it was likely that there would be a number of persons in the islands covered by the Mandate who might wish to take advantage, by naturalization, of Australian citizenship. It seemed to me, therefore, that this law should operate in those islands. I was satisfied with the reply of Senator Russell that it, would operate there; but, in view of the statement made by Sir Joseph Cook, I am in doubt as to how it is to be brought into operation unless, perhaps, by the issue of some Ordinance. This Bill will apply, not only on the continent of Australia’, but, by specific inclusion, to the places mentioned in the measure - Papua and Norfolk Island. We should, I think, endeavour to link up the islands which will be covered bythe Mandate with other places which are controlled by Australia. Before the Bill passes, I should like to have it made clear how residents of those islands may secure the advantages of naturalization if they desire to do so. I mentioned the island of Nauru yesterday because we have a very vital commercial interest in that island. I understand that Nauru Island is not included amongst the islands that are to be covered by the Mandate. There will, no doubt, be many Australians commercially engaged at Nauru Island,and it may be that there will be aliens there who would desire to be naturalized. It has occurred to me that some confusion may arise from the fact that Nauru Island is not to be covered by the Mandate, and is not specifically included in this Bill. I should like to learn from the Minister how the difficulty mentioned is to be met.
– In connexion with this question of naturalization, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and, I think, Newfoundland, are treated as self-governing Dominions, and by the passing of certain legislation, they will adopt a uniform provision with respect to naturalization. There are other parts of the Empire which need not be enumerated, but in which we are not quite prepared to put unnaturalized persons on the same equality as those in the selfgoverning Dominions. In this Bill Australia is defined to include certain territories, but not the islands, which will be covered by the Mandate, because that has not yet been finalized. When it is definitely settled, it will be possible for this Par liament to adopt, in respect of the mandated territories, such legislation in connexion with naturalization as it deems desirable.
– How would the island of Nauru be included ?
– Australia, in the exercise of its Mandate, could give residents of Nauru the benefits of this measure.
– That is so, but that cannot be done by this Bill.
– It would be done by an Ordinance, or whatever other means was adopted for the administration of the mandated territories.
– Nauru Island is not covered by this Bill; but when the Mandate is finalized, we can, by our legislation, adopt such provisions for the naturalization of residents of that island as we deem desirable. We have not control of the mandatory territories yet, and it is impossible in this Bill to anticipate what decision will be arrived at in regard to them on the subject of naturalization of aliens. We are not likely, however, to extend to natives of those islands the advantages that will be extended, for instance, to white people in Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Russell) read a first time.
Debateresumed from 19th August (vide page 3639), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
SenatorJ. D. MILLEN (Tasmania) [11.13]. - I suppose that one of the greatest and gravest problems facing the Government to-day is the question of industrial unrest. It has been stated that it is largely due to war; but I think we cannot put it down to any pathological condition of nerves that has arisen out of the cataclysm that passed over the face of Europe during the years 1914 to 1918. It is largely owing to an insurgent spirit that has been growing during several decades of our. commercial history. In other words labour and capital have been running individual and selfish enterprises detrimental to true economics, and the people, who are the unorganized majority, pay the price. If we look over the history of past decades, and realize what industrial revolutionary unionism means, we shall get some idea of the nature of the problem facing us to-day.
I would like for a few minutes to deal with this question from the view-point of American history during the past few decades. I may be pardoned, perhaps, for dwelling upon the position of revolutionary unionism there during that period. I wish to say definitely that a great deal of this aggressive unionism was due to false tactics on the part of certain capitalists. In this connexion I would recall the Homestead strike of 1892, Coeur d’Alene 1893, and the Pullman strike of 1S94. Probably honorable senators will remember that these wealthy companies obtained certain injunctions from the Court for the purpose of crushing the men who were endeavouring to force them to grant them a more decent standard of living. These corporations gave a much-looked-for opportunity to the radical element of the Labour wing, and in 1S98 America witnessed the formation -of the Western Miners “Union, which was followed a little later by the American Federation of Labour. In these new bodies there was a desire for the introduction of more vigorous methods, which reached its culmination at the conference held in America in January, 1905. But the more conservative part of the Labour element could point to no place where a number of these more aggressive souls could find a niche, with the result that a further conference was called for a later period in the same year, and it was at that gathering that the organization known as the Industrial Workers of the World was born - a union which is out, as its members have definitely stated, to destroy capitalism and the political system. These revolutionary leaders found that if they were prepared to go a certain distance, the rest of the rank and file at the conference were not prepared to follow them. Such circumstances inspired rather than baffled them. They courageously went forward and formulated a revolutionary propaganda both appealing in its force and adaptable in its content. When these men left the unions their parties consisted largely of the leaders alone. But they put their fingers on the one spot which was to achieve success. At that time unionism dealt chiefly with craftsmen. The unskilled labourer was practically unorganized. The unskilled labourer was told that he was being taken down by his brethren in the craft unions, and that he was thus getting oppressed from all sides. It is an easy thing to entice these people, as Marx did with the cry, “ Workers, unite; you have everything to gain, and nothing but your chains to lose!” and the leaders inscribed on their banners the revolutionary watchword, “Abolition of the wage system.” I suppose that the remark of Huxley, that “ Man is an animal under the sway of Nature, and that it is his glorious and miserable destiny to be an eternal rebel,” will apply largely to the population of the’ world to-day.
The next step in the march was for these people to evidence their power. Honorable senators will remember how the unskilled labourers at the McKees Rocks strike caine out, and showed the fighting spirit of the new movement, which brought that trouble to a close within six weeks. The Industrial Workers of the World had commenced to feel themselves. The free speech fight at Spokane in the same year taught its lesson also. The municipal council determined that they should not carry on that work, and, accordingly, threw them into gaol. Thereupon they induced a number of others to engage in propaganda work there, so that, after costing the municipal council some §20,000 for their maintenance, that body effected a compromise with them, and the Industrial Workers were allowed to speak unmolested. Honorable senators will doubtless recollect further strikes at Little Falls, Akron, during the next few years. The Industrial Workers of the World so staged these performances that they brought terror to the employers. That, coupled with the outrages carried on by the Mcnamaras, who were connected with the Iron and Bridgeworkers Steel Structural Union, made it clear that it was time to try and stop the great wave which appeared to be passing over industry in America.
The philosophy of the movement has been copied from French Syndicalism, a term which in itself is vague. Spargo, in America, said that, as far as capital is concerned, it has no more right to exist in the community than has the typhoid bacillus in a patient’s body. There are three things of which this Syndicalism makes use. The first is the weapon of the general strike. It is effective to be able to tell an audience of workers that, with a general strike, they can bring to a complete standstill the whole of the operations of the commercial world. That has never happened yet, but it is something that is vaguely indefinite, and from which arises its potency of appeal to the rank and file of the unskilled workers. The second thins is direct action, an expression that carries with it panic. I need scarcely elaborate what it is, because we have had examples of direct action in Australia during the immediate past. The third thing, and the most insidious of all, is sabotage. A German syndicalist, who had been reading of a stoppage in the Belfast Rope Works, where the failure of a small portion of the machinery caused a cessation of work and threw 4,000 men out of employment, saw that by adopting similar tactics they might possibly upset an entire industry. Consequently they elevated such accidents into a social policy. They, therefore, sought to instruct labourers in the art of turning blind casualities into a planned onslaught, or they recommended the delicate cruelty of exact truth-telling as the most perfect form for retail vendors. When the bakers did not receive all that they desired they added a little petroleum to the dough, which made it perfectly unpalatable, though not dangerous, to the citizens’ health. Some Italians, when they did not get sufficient wages, followed the example of the Chinese coolies, who, when they were dissatisfied, showed their dissatisfaction by cutting off a portion of their shovels, and saying, “Little money, little shovel.” Other members have taken emery and admixed it with the oil in the machine bearings, thrown glass bottles into the furnaces, or added soap to the water to affect steam raising. All these tactics go to make a strike without the men coming off the pay-roll, to which must be added the disastrous, yet unfortunately prevalent, “go-slow” policy.
These are dangerous tactics. This insidious propaganda is being taught to the people in what has been called the university of the proletariat. In Detroit and Chicago they are broadcasting literature setting out how capital may be destroyed. Spargo said that their whole aim was to destroy both the political and the social state.
These agitators do not desire to destroy only the present industrial state, but also the social state. They say that they have absolutely no time for the Christian virtues; that humility, reverence, and obedience ave morals for slaves, and that the virile youth of to-day must not be taught them under any circumstances. They follow largely the Bolshevists, and when once the mind reverts to Bolshevism it immediately goes back to Russia. There one recalls what Peter the Great said, when referring to the people of that unfortunate country. He remarked that “ other mon.archs had to deal with subjects, but he had to deal with cattle.” Dillon, in referring to their moral twist, said that a merchant in Russia thought he was properly entertaining a client when he took him to the best hotels, lavished upon him the best wines, but probably ended up by breaking the costly mirrors, and working other destruction, then nonchalantly telling the proprietor to add the damage to the bill. During the Russian revolution of 1905-6 the revolutionaries said that they would destroy all the instruments of government. When they were asked what they would put in their place they replied, “ We will see when we have accomplished that.” Solivieff said that their religion is only a museum of liturgical antiquities. From such a source we can easily imagine that there would come the necessary basis to enable them to coalesce with the Industrial Workers of the World. These people who deny the intangible elements of the human soul, who insist that supremacy lies with the physical powers and brain mind, and that there is nothing beyond the physical senses, have inspired a terrible dogma which repudiates all ethical obligations and spiritual qualities in man. These iconoclasts are prepared to destroy practically, the foundations of society, and to do away with the social and industrial state of the world to-day.
I wish now to refer to a portion of the Peace Treaty which deals with labour problems. Here we have a programme and ideas suggested for raising the standard of living and improving the conditions under which a man shall labour. Organizations are suggested which will be able to give expression to the highest ethical ideals of labour, and which will, at the same time, safeguard its interests. It was felt that an establishment of universal peace could only exist if based on social justice. I heartily agree with that sentiment. When we read the words of Count Okuma, the Japanese statesman, that, owing to the cataclysm in Europe, he believes that western civilization has received its death blow, it makes one pause. Does he mean to say that the great Empire to which we belong is likely to be thrown on the scrap-heap of nations, just as was Babylon, Assyria, Rome, and Carthage ? I say “ No “ a thousand times! The Empire has a destiny to fulfil. But we have come to the collapse and the culmination of an industrial era, and now is the time for the Government to elaborate a comprehensive plan for the social rebuilding. The new social order must not’ be based on fighting, but on fraternity; not on a competitive struggle for the means of bare life, but on a deliberate plan of co-operation and distribution for the benefit of all those who participate either by hand or by brain. That being so, we have to deal with a new set of circumstances. May I utter one note of warning. It is this : There is nothing more dangerous to the standard of life and the minimum conditions of healthy existence than any widespread unemployment. Unemployment, as one honorable senator stated in this chamber yesterday, has meant in seven years the loss to the workers of £7,000,000.
– That is so; but strikes bring about unemployment. J say definitely that the menace of unemployment cannot be measured in terms of money, as we have to take into consideration the great loss of vital force which accompanies it. Those whose financial reserves are small feel intensely the insecurity arising from this cause. As
Beaulieu has said, “It is not the insufficiency of pay which constitutes the social malady . of to-day, but the insecurity of employment.” One of the means by which we can overcome unemployment is by co-operation and profit sharing, and I believe that if we undertook a system of profit sharing and co-partnership it would be quite possible to peaceably emerge from Autocracy and Monopoly to Democracy. What is Democracy? At the end of the last century people were looking forward to the salvation of the world through the medium of Democracy ; they believed it was the one means by which industrial calamity could be averted. They have had a rude shock to their faith. What is the meaning of Democracy to-day, and what does it stand for? It stands for things utterly selfish, as the individual in many instances wants to claim the due without performing the duty. It should be founded on the function of an individual as a member of a community, as it stands for the common will based upon the common good. The spiritual souls of men appear to be lost in the intense absorption in the problems of the material world.
Referring to the method which has been used in the past in dealing with this unrest - the greatest menace that the Government have to face - when the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) was introducing the measure yesterday, he spoke of the value of arbitration, and I interjected “ Question.” I desire to say definitely that arbitration has failed in the Commonwealth Courts. In the Harvard Law Journal, of November, 1915, there is an article by Mr. Justice Higgins on “The new Province of Law and Order.” His Honour says, that the Federal Court deals with disputes as such, and prescribes wages, etc., merely as incidental to the prevention or settlement of disputes. If the course to be adopted to prevent strikes is the simple one of always increasing the wages we shall soon come to the breaking point. It was particularly obvious during the early portion of the history of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court that the trade unions were anxious to go to the Court because they believed they were sure to get the wages of their members increased. But now the position is different. I remember reading in the
London Miming Journal some years ago a paragraph, from a correspondent in Australia which was of particular interest. It contained a statement to this effect : “ I was riding on the front of a tram caT proceeding along Collins-street, and a gentleman who passed in front of the car was nearly knocked down. A passenger said to the conductor, ‘ Do you know who that man is?’ He replied! ‘No.’ The passenger said, ‘ That is Mr. Justice Higgins.’ The answer was, ‘Good God, it would never do to kill him !’ “ a selfish answer, proving only that the Court was regarded as one from which benefits were to be obtained. As I have said, the position has entirely changed. All the big unions in Australia now refuse to resort to arbitration. I am not surprised, because a Court whose avowed purpose has been to prevent strikes and unemployment merely by giving increased wages and improved conditions would come to an end sooner or later. Mr. Justice Heydon, in the New South Wales Court, said, “ They did not stand there altogether to give industrial peace; but while they hoped to secure peace, the doing of justice should be the direct object, and justice should be given though the heavens fall.’’
I understand it is the intention of the Government at an early date to bring down an amending Arbitration Bill, and I shall, therefore, defer any further comments on the question of arbitration until that measure is before the Senate. We have to consider what we can do to improve existing circumstances. I have already stated that where we have individuals, or groups of individuals, whose whole aim is the destruction of capital and the overthrow of the political State, it behoves us to seek out and encourage the saner element. England, in furtherance of her reconstruction policy, appointed what is known as the Whitley Committee, which carried out certain work, and submitted numerous recommendations, which are well known to honorable senators. I would like honorable senators to keep these two points in connexion with the objects of that Committee before them. The Committee were instructed to inquire into and make and consider suggestions for securing a permanent improvement in the relations between employers and workmen; also to recommend means for securing that industrial conditions should be systematically reviewed by those concerned with a view of improving conditions in the future. The Committee referred to co-operation, technical and vocational training, and scientific research. What did the United States of America propose ? The Government called a conference, which suggested the following: -
A National Council of nine men to be appointed, three nominated by the Secretary for Commerce, three by the Secretary for Labour, and three as representatives of the public. The States to be divided into regions; regional chairmen to be appointed by the President; and regional Boards to be made up from panels of employers and employees.
The Secretary of Commerce to ask the employers to furnish the names of a number of men to form a panel, and the Secretary of Labour to ask the unions’ organizations and other bodies of employees to supply the names of persons to form another panel, these names to be advertised for a period of twenty days before they are submitted to the President, when they are to be chosen and placed on the panel in an order determined by lot.
In the event of trouble, each party to the dispute to elect a representative and the representative to have the right to challenge any names on the panel.
When two have been selected from each panel they, with the assistance of the representatives and the chairman, to be in a position to deal with the dispute. In the event of their failing to agree, and the decision must be unanimous, they must nominate an umpire.
If either side should not elect a representative, the chairman is to take the two top names on each panel to form the Board to deal with the industrial trouble, and under such conditions there is assumed to be a basis on which to work. The names of the ones chosen are after the sitting, to be transferred to the foot of the panel.
The Bill before us appears to be based on the American system, but I believe many amendments may be made in the measure which will improve it. I realize that something must be done to obviate industrial disputes. I am convinced that round-table conferences and conciliatory methods will help to influence the saner element in our industrial community. It is our desire to see our country progress, and if we adopt means whereby we can bring the employer and employee together in a proper atmosphere we shall be helping Australia to take her place amongst the nations of the world.
– I feel somewhat diffident in speaking after the academic utterances of Senator J. D. Millen. Probably (my remarks will be along practical lines, and I shall endeavour to deal briefly with the conditions as they exist in Australia to-day. I welcome the introduction of this Bill, because I believe it is a genuine attempt on the part of the Government to settle disputes. The measure however, goes further, because it aims at preventing disputes, aud prevention is better than cure. In China the family doctor is paid well so long as there is no illness in the home, but immediately sickness appears his ,pay ceases. That is the system that should be introduced into the industrial arena, because if labour agitators were paid handsomely during times of industrial peace, and their pay ceased immediately a strike occurred, there would be very few strikes in Australia. Strikes are our greatest curse, and, as I stated yesterday, the Commonwealth Government Statistician has shown that during the past seven years they have been responsible for Australian workmen losing £7,598,000 in wages. But that is not all, because, although they lost that amount in direct wages, we have also to consider what the country has lost by the cessation of production. When men strike, who are the sufferers 1 The women and children of the workers are those who feel the position most keenly. Although it may seem strange, the capitalist does not suffer, because the ship-owner or manufacturer concerned merely sits down in his club while the strike proceeds. He does not change the brand of his cigars or drinks, neither does he use an inferior make of motor car. When a strike has terminated, and additional wages have to be paid, the ship-owner increases his freights and fares, and the manufacture! the price of his commodities, to compensate ‘him for any additional expenditure involved. I have never known of a capi talistic undertaking that did .not take advantage of the opportunity of profiting by a strike. If colliery employees strike, and the price of coal is increased, the shipping companies raise their freights and fares in such a ratio that they are not only reimbursed for any loss of business occasioned by the strike, but they make an additional profit in that the increase in freights and fares is more than sufficient to meet the increased rate of expenditure upon coal. It is the same in the manufacturing industry. I have always tried to impress upon the workers - with whom I have entire sympathy so long as their aims aTe legitimate and they do not resort to direct action - that they only injure themselves by striking, and seldom hurt the man whom they desire to hit, namely, the capitalist. Regarding past strikes with which I have had some acquaintance, the employers have been very largely to blame because of their unsympathetic treatment of their employees. Many large employers have treated their employees as machines rather than as human beings. If more sympathy were displayed between employer and employee, and the system of co-partnership were more widely entered upon, Australia would not have anything like as many industrial troubles. To-day neither side seems to realize to the full that capital cannot do without labour any more than labour can do without capital. Partners they must be, and the sooner both sides realize the fact the better for all concerned. (Honorable senators know that the intentions of the Arbitration Court aTe good, and that Mr. Justice Higgins - a very able man - has given almost a lifetime of labour to making the Arbitration Court a success. It has not been a success, however, for many reasons. It has been too difficult of access, too slow, and too costly; and, when its awards have not suited the unions concerned, the latter have simply flouted them, and there has been no machinery by which they have been adequately punished for defying the law. The Arbitration Court has broken down under its own weight. In. the past seven years there have been 2,313 disputes. I have just shown what the strikers have lost in actual wages,’ and have referred, also, to the enormous losses caused to this country by the cessation of production. To demonstrate how overloaded the Arbitration Court has been, I need only mention that in October, 1914, it was two years behind with its work. How could we, as reasonable beings, look for industrial rest when the wage-earners could not get to that Court for two years, while, all the time, the cost of living was soaring, and wages were dragging behind ? It afforded little satisfaction to the workers to know that an award, when made, might be retrospective, if, during the period of waiting, they and their families were deprived of the ordinary comforts of life, which all of us as Christian people wish them to have. For the evil of the high cost of living, increased wages afford no cure. To raise wages as an offset against the cost of living i3 like giving a man dope. As wages are raised, so - higher and higher - goes the cost of living. The high cost of living is due to four primary causes. The first cause is found in four and a half years of destruction, instead of construction; things could not be normal during or immediately after the terrible world upheaval. The second cause is profiteering. . Some people regard the word as being very unpopular at the present time. In my opinion, there has been flagrant profiteering going on in thi3 country. I was rather amused to read last night in the Herald that the poor unfortunate woollen manufacturers were squealing, and were warning the public that they would have to increase the price of clothing for the reason that, since the cessation of the “Wool Pool on the 30th June, they would have to pay higher prices for their wool. As a matter of fact, fine wools are likely to be dearer in the near future, but cross-bred wools considerably cheaper.
During the life of the great wool scheme by which the Australian clip was sold to the Imperial Government at an average price of 15 1/2 d. per lb. on a greasy wool basis, ex seaboard warehouses - which meant that the Imperial Government really paid 16jd. f.o.b. - the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) with a worthy desire to increase the manufacturing industry of Australia, inserted a clause in the contract that the Imperial Government would be permitted to take only such quantities of wool as were not required by Australian manu- facturers. Moreover, the latter were to have the first pick of all wool at the original appraised price. So, for years, the woollen manufacturers of this country have secured the first choice of the best wool in the world at an average price of 12.44d. per lb. They have been enabled, under the most extraordinarily favorable terms, to produce the very best tweeds and khaki cloth at 6s. 6d. per yard and women’s dress goods and boys’ material at as low a figure as 4s. per yard. Yet we know only too well what we are called upon to pay for a suit of clothes. In an all-wool suit there are 7 lbs. of greasy wool. iSo, for that which the producers of Australia have been getting 7s. 3d., we, the consumers, have been paying from 700 to 1,400 per cent. more. The woollen manufacturers are now complaining that they will have to pay more for their wool, which, as a matter of fact, is problematical. And they are already threatening the public with an increase in the cost of clothing, which is a scandal. To the Commission which has been recently examining the affairs of these people concerned, they - despite that they had, no doubt, cleverly reduced their disclosed profits to the greatest extent possible - admitted having netted 33 per cent, upon capital during the period of the war. I know manufacturers in my own city who have actually made over 60 per cent, net profit. I maintain that the unrest rampant to-day is due to certain causes, and that profiteering is one of them. The public know there is 7s. worth of wool in an all-wool suit, for which, however, they are charged from seven to fourteen guineas. They are aware of the extraordinary profits of the manufacturers. But there are even worse instances. Again referring to my own city, I have seen tweeds turned out from the mills on the Barwon at 4s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. per yard, and I have seen those same, tweeds ticketed at 27s. 6d. per yard in shop windows less than a mile away from the mill in which the material was produced. One reason for this tremendous disparity is that the manufacturer, in the first place, makes a huge profit, hut will not sell any of his produce direct to the retailers. He will not dispose of a yard of his output to his shopkeeping neighbours in Geelong. It all goes past their doors to Flinders-lane ; and then much of it goes back again - perhaps, by the next train or steamer - from Flinders-lane to the Geelong shopkeepers, who - I repeat - sell to the public for 20s. to 27s. 6d. a material which cost 4s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. to manufacture at their own door. And the public know these things. They know that this country produces the most and the best wool in the world, and yet, that they have to pay grossly unfair prices for their clothing. Now the manufacturers are howling for increased prices when, as a matter of fact, legislation should be enacted by which prevailing prices of necessary commodities could be forced down to a reasonable level.
The third reason which I have to advance for the high cost of living has to do with the inflation of credit; and the fourth, but by no means least, is the policy of strikes and slowing down. I invite honorable senators to turn their attention to the situation which arises today in the building of a house. Some little while ago the secretary of the Builders’ Labourers Union issued certain instructions to bricklayers. He said, in effect, “ If you can lay 500 bricks a day, do not strike.” He was wise in his advice, since he realized that when men strike they lose the whole of their pay, but that when they slow down they place themselves under no disability other than the realization that they are not playing the game, either by the public or themselves. This union official proceeded with Lis instructions : “If you cannot get what you want, lay only 300 bricks a day; and, if you still fail to secure your ends, reduce your output until you do secure them. Tighten the screw on your employers until you secure all you want.” These bricklayers fail to realize that all the time they are putting into practice their “go-slow” policy they are hurting their fellow employees. Let us say that the house is being erected by a working man who has been fortunate enough to get together a little capital. He may desire to occupy the residence; but let us take it that he proposes to let it to some other working man. Owing to the slowing down of work on the job, this house will cost him a lot more than he had anticipated; and, in order to secure a reasonable return on his capital, he will be forced to ask a correspondingly high rent.
– And it is generally the worker who lives in a rented house.
– Quite so By this cruel and wicked system of downing down the workers are hitting themselves ; but the fact does not seem to have been strongly pointed out to them. The working man of Australia is a splendid fellow almost every time, and he is not an extremist. Unfortunately, however, he is often swayed by extremists.
– Wise men led by asses; and imported asses, at that.
– If a capitalist is building a terrace of houses which will cost him, say, £1,000 each, he may be quite satisfied to secure a return of 5 per cent., and so will charge £1 a week rent. If, however, owing to the “ go-slow “ policy the houses cost him £2,000 each, then, in order to get the same fair and moderate return he must ask £100 a year, or £2 a week each, by way of rent.
I welcome this Bill for the reason that some of its provisions essay to bring about that which I have always advocated, namely, a system of round-table conferences. What is generally the result of a round-table conference? I have participated in many among my own employees, and never yet has a strike afterwards occurred. If employers would only meet their employees in a. spirit of sympathy and forbearance, and with an honest desire to bring about and maintain industrial peace, the result would almost invariably be that the threatened dispute is warded off - to the benefit of all. When wages are increased that fact does not provide a cure for our current ills. The only final solution of industrial unrest is the system of profit sharing. I have had a good deal of experience in this matter, as I have been managing several concerns in different parts of Australia. Many years ago in those businesses, as far as my powers permitted, and in my own concerns and farms, I introduced the profit-sharing system with satisfactory results to myself, to those for whom I managed, and to the employees.
– What about those industries that show no profits?
– You would give always the basic wage. I maintain that the workers are entitled to a share of the wealth which they undoubtedly help to create. They are entitled at least to a basic living wage, and the capitalist is entitled to interest on his capital, and the manager, with the brains of the concern, is entitled to his good salary; but there is generally a surplus of wealth created, and in that surplus I maintain that the workers are entitled to share’ in proportion to their length of service, ana so on.
As the speech of the honorable senator who preceded me (Senator J. D. Millen) was so academic, I should like to give a concrete illustration of how it pays an employer in the pastoral industry to adopt the profit-sharing principle. I am chairman of directors of a large concern in the Northern Territory. We produce beef at a very low price. The ordinary method of ‘disposing of that beef used to be to engage a drover to take the stock to Adelaide, right through the centre of Australia, from away out west of Camcoweal, at the usual rate of pay of 2s. 6d. per head per 100 miles. We found that generally our beef, instead of being fat when it got to the market, arrived there practically skin and bone, and did not bring us much money or providethe necessary food for the community, because the drover was so anxious to earn his 2s. 6d. per head per 100 miles that he hurried them along. We introduced the system of profit sharing. I said to the drover, “ We will pay you the usual wage of 2s. 6d. per head per 100 miles,plus 20 , per cent. of the net profit over a price to be fixed for the cattle at point of starting, because we want to get the beef to the people at a reasonable price, and in good condition, and to obtain a reasonable return on our capital.” This was the result on the last mob of bullocks that I sent through to Adelaide: The drover took great care of the cattle, and brought them into market fat and fit for human consumption, and the cheque that I paid him for his share of the profit over and above the price at which we valued them on the place was £1,666. With that money he bought his wife and family a house in Adelaide, furnished it and put it in their name, and they will have a comfortable home for the rest of their lives. I quote that as a concrete case of what happens if a drover is engaged on those lines, and if it can be done in that class of business it can be done in others, although I do not say it can be done in all.
It is the duty of the statesmen or parliamentarians of this country to try to evolve some scheme by which profit sharing can be more generally introduced.
– In that case it was the brain of the management that resulted in the benefit to everybody.
– I would not like to say that. All I claim is that it was the introduction of the profitsharing system. If we could introduce in this great, rich country same system which would break down the present class warfare, if we could pull together like men do in a rowing boat, if we could put our shoulders to the wheel, wecould shift this great coach of Australia right ahead to prosperity for all. But if one section of the community is shoving one wheel of the coach in one direction and another is pushing another wheel in a different direction, the coach goes round and round, and falls over, and no progress is made. The cure is to endeavour to pull together, and that is why I welcome the introduction of this Bill. We must pull together and increase production. How are we to decrease the cost of living unless we do ? It is the high cost of living which is primarily responsible for the great industrial unrest which exists throughout nearly all sections of our community. The people whoare worst off in Australia to-day are those on salaries, and not those on wages. The members of the great middle class, or whatever you like to call them, are the worst paid of all for the positions that they have to keep up. We must pull together and work. I would pay those who work something to encourage them to increase production. Merely a fair living wage does not give a man or woman the necessary incentive to try to produce more. The man who receives only a basic wage does his work, but has no interest in what he produces. If he receives some share of the wealth that he helps to create, he has the necessary incentive to keep on working and to increase production. The only way in which we can decrease the cost of living, and make this the great, happy, and prosperous country that it ought to be, is to increase our production. The true workers of this country are misled. If we could introduce a system by which those parasites on the community - the paid agitators, who foment and magnify any little trouble, and whose only asset is their power to create strife - would be paid whilst there were no strikes, and have their pay cut off immediately there was a strike, far fewer strikes would occur.
The other day I heard an honorable senator, or it may have been a member of another place, compare the purchasing power of the sovereign in Queensland and the other States. After all, the sovereign is worth only what it will buy? He made the inaccurate statement that, under Labour rule in Queensland to-day, a sovereign would buy more than in any other State. As a matter of fact, Queensland ought to be far and away the cheapest State in Australia to live in. The population there is largely nomadic. The great industry there is pastoral, and many of the people are housed in tents, for which they have to pay no rent. They are also provided with, their keep. On the other hand, in an industrial centre such as Melbourne, the employees have to pay high rents, which reduce the quantity of other goods which they can get for their wages. In Queensland, a very large proportion of the population live either in tents or in more or less poor houses. Another reason why living should be cheaper in Queensland is that the Queensland Government rob the producer. They take his meat at 3jd. per lb. I recently sold, for a company that I manage, 4,500 bullocks at equivalent to that price, delivered at the works. The Queensland Government do not sell their own stock on the State-owned stations to the public at 3£d. per lb. They get as much as . they possibly can for it - 7d., 8d., or 9d. a lb., if they can - although they take their neighbour’s meat at the lowest rate. On the average for the six capital cities of Australia, goods which could be bought in 1911 for 20s. now cost 32s. 9d., but in Queensland what it took 18s. 4d. in 1911 to buy now costs 32s. 3d. The leaders, or misleaders, of the Labour party, and the members of the present Queensland Government, are therefore quite wrong in asserting that the sovereign will buy more in Queensland than in any other State. Compare the figures with those for the city of Perth. In 1911 it took 20s. 6d. in “Perth to buy the commodities which in Brisbane in that year cost 18s. 4d., but the price has risen in
Brisbane now to 32s. 3d., whereas the price in Perth has risen only to 30s. 4d. The rise in Queensland has been 13s. lid., whereas in Perth it has been only 9s. lOd.
I welcome this Bill, because it makes a bona fide attempt to prevent industrial unrest and strikes. The Arbitration Court has failed because it steps in only after the turmoil has become hot and fierce. If we can do away with those agitators whose only marketable commodity is their power to create strife, and introduce a Bill like this, the object of which is to prevent strife, it should have the support of all those who have at heart the welfare of their fellow men and the prosperity of this great country.
– Whilst we must all welcome any Bill that is likely to do anything to decrease industrial unrest in Australia, I do not think we are entitled to be unduly optimistic regarding the benefit that the Commonwealth is going to receive through this Bill being placed upon the statutebook. The Minister (Senator Russell), in the course of his able second-reading speech, referred to the number of working days and the amount of wages lost during the last few years through industrial turmoil. Senator J. F. Guthrie informed us that during the last seven years the Australian worker had lost £7,000,000 as the result of industrial disputes. We must always bear in mind the fact that we are at -present very severely handicapped through the people at the last referendum turning down the constitutional amendments which the Government placed before them. I am sure that of the industrial disputes which in the last few years have caused a loss of wages to the extent of about £7,000,000, only a small proportion have been disputes over which the Commonwealth Government could have any control. I do not think that the number of disputes which have extended beyond the borders of one State, of the class which the Commonwealth Advisory Council is being appointed to deal with, would run into much more than double figures.
Serious complaints have been made, and enlarged upon by the Minister and other speakers, of the excessive delay that has taken place in the hearing of cases by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. It may be news to honorable senators that practically two-thirds of the cases now before the Court, and two-thirds of those which have been before it for the last few years, have concerned the Commonwealth Government’s own employees. It .is the complaints that have arisen in the Commonwealth Public Service that have practically congested the Arbitration Court and kept very much larger industrial bodies away from the Court. There are at the present time fifty-five cases pending before the Court, of which thirtythree are Commonwealth Public Service cases, eighteen are other cases, and four are compulsory conferences that are now being called. Only a few days ago we passed a “measure which will take away from the Court all the Commonwealth Public Service cases, which means that we have practically reduced the work of the Court to one-third of what it was. In spite of the statements that have been made, it must be quite apparent that it is not merely because of the congestion of business in the Arbitration Court that the Government have lost faith in it.
Honorable senators will remember that there was an industrial upheaval in Queensland in 1912. Immediately after the elections, when the new Government took office in 3912 in that State, one of the first measures they introduced was an Industrial Peace Bill. That Bill was bitterly opposed by the Labour Opposition in the Queensland Parliament by stone-walling, and other methods of obstruction. At the same time, in the adjoining State of New South Wales, a very similar Bill, introduced by Mr. Beeby, Minister for Labour in the New South Wales Government, was being supported and indorsed by the Labour party in that State. The Industrial Peace Bill, which was on similar lines to the measure now before us, became law in Queensland on the 7th December, 1912. It was in operation during 1913, 1914, and 1915. A Labour Government took office in 1915, and one of the first things it did was to repeal that measure and to bring into operation the Queensland Arbitration Act. A few figures showing the industrial position under the operation of these measures may be interesting to honorable senators. Whilst the Queensland Industrial Peace Act was in force in 1913, there were 17 labour disputes, resulting in a loss of 55,288 days, an<t a loss in wages of £28,374. In 1914, there were 18 disputes, the number of days lost was 25,703, and the wages lost £11,747. In 1915, there were 17 disputes, the number of days lost were 19,934, and the wages lost amounted to £9,505. Under the operation of that measure, the consequences ‘ of industrial unrest in Queensland became gradually less serious. Under the arbitration law, which was substituted for that measure by the Labour Government, then in office in that State, I find that in 1916 there were 64 disputes, the days lost numbered 170,690, and the wages lost amounted to £96,976. In 1917, there were 39 disputes, the days lost numbered 317,699, and the wages lost amounted to £17S,125. In 1918, there were 84 disputes, the number of days lost was 183,883, and the wages lost amounted to £331,142. It is important to consider, also, that in 1918 the figures indicating the extent of unemployment in the various States were - New South Wales, 3.6; Victoria, 6.2; South Australia, 2.2; Western Australia, 4.2; Tasmania, 1.7; and Queensland, very much in excess of the figures for the other States, 11.6 These figures, I think, clearly indicate that the system proposed to be brought into operation by the Bill now before us for dealing with industrial unrest is likely to be more successful than the system established by our present arbitration legislation.
Senator J. F. Guthrie expressed the opinion that profit-sharing is likely to be the means by which industrial disputes are to be avoided in the future. A certain rate of profit may be decided upon as the share of the employees; but in the course of a few weeks they may come to the conclusion that the share apportioned to them is not adequate, and they may agitate for a larger share. Mr. Walter Runciman, who may be regarded as an authority upon, matters of this kind, some, years ago made this statement on the question of profit-sharing -
Some employers are at their wits’ ends as to how disputes may be avoided, and so they fix on co-partnery. In one or two instances, this has worked well; but in many others, the trial has failed. Profit-sharing, or any other form of remuneration will only work with harmony if the’ men are satisfied, and they are just as likely to become dissatisfied with this plan of payment as any other. Once the imagination is seized with the idea of’ personal attack being made on workmen’s interests it is all up.
I think that Senators Guthrie and J. D. Millen went to the root of the evil when they suggested that industrial unrest is brought about by those people who make a living by stirring up industrial strife. I look for industrial peace in this country, not from the efforts of the employers, but from those of the employees. I “believe that until the employees take a more active interest in the affairs of their industrial organizations, and controlto a greater extent than they now do their executives and paid officials, we shall not be likely to secure industrial peace. We know that at meetings of employees inflammatory speeches are made, and decisions to strike are arrived at when, if more time were given for consideration, and the men could go home and discuss the position with their wives and families, they would probably decide not to strike. In their more sober moments, they would be much more likely to vote against taking such drastic action. Until the workers clear out of their organizations the men to whom Senator Guthrie referred as parasites, we are not likely to have the industrial peace that is so much desired. I am, of course, not referring to all union officials.
Provision is made in this Bill for a number of tribunals. There is to be a Central Commonwealth Council of Industrial Representatives and there are to be District Councils. These Councils can only be called together by the Chairman, if he thinks fit, at the request of the Minister or by a majority of the members. In my opinion, it would be preferable to enable the members of either section represented on the Councils to call meetings when they deemed it desirable to do so. If, under the provisions of the Bill as it stands, the representatives of the employees on a Council desire a meeting to be held they must induce one of the representatives of the employers on the Council to join with them in calling the meeting.
– The Chairman can decide the matter.
– I know that under the Bill the Chairman has a right to call a meeting, but, as employers and employees are given equal representation on the Councils, I think that either side should have the right to call meetings.
– If one half of the members of a Council wished to- hold a conference and the other half was opposed to that they might hold the institution up.
– I am afraid that they will be able to hold the institution up under the Bill as it stands, because it is not likely that the representatives of one side will allow one of their number to vote with the representatives of the other side should they desire to have a meeting called which the other side do not favour.
– The honorable senator forgets that the Chairman will have a casting vote.
– There is another point which I should like the Minister to make clear when he is replying to the debateI should like to raise the question of the necessity for so many tribunals as are provided for in the Bill. There is provision for a central Commonwealth Council and also for District Councils in any State or in any part of a State. In addition to these Special Tribunals may be called together and Local Boards may be appointed. It occurs to me that the Central Council will always be sitting, and that under this Bill we are really creating a permanent Department. In addition there will be District Councils established all over the country. I fail to see the necessity for so’ many councils, in view of the fact that under the Constitution the number of disputes that can be dealt with by them is very limited. There is only a small number of industrial organizations whose disputes are likely to come under the operation of this Bill. In the main the Bill should commend itself to honorable senators, but I think that the penalties provided for breaches of it are not sufficiently severe. I am under the impression that these penalties are similar to those which’ are prescribed in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act.
– In some cases they are much heavier.
– If we are going to make a success of this measure we should provide very severe penalties for offences against it. In saying that I do not refer particularly to any section of the community which will be represented upon the Tribunals which will be constituted under it. I would like to prescribe just as severe penalties for breaches of its provisions by the employers as for breaches hy the employees. The heavier the penalties, the more likely is the measure to operate satisfactorily. I hope that the Vice-President of the Executive Council will consider what I have said with a view to making it a success. The Government are to be congratulated upon having made an honest attempt to relieve the industrial unrest which is so rampant in Australia. I hope, however, that we shall’ not be unduly optimistic regarding the results of its operation, especially in view of the fact that our efforts are so severely circumscribed by the wording of our Constitution.
.- I regard this Bill as one of the most important which has been submitted for our consideration since the introduction of the original Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It is a measure which demands the most careful study at our hands. Under it we seek to introduce new and important reforms into our industrial life. Previously we were under the impression that effect had been given to these reforms under the principal Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The operation of that Statute has proved a great disappointment to every section of the community and, unless we are extremely careful, similar results may flow from the passing of this measure. I know that the Government are very anxious to secure the second reading of the Bill, but it is of such a character that it demands the most exhaustive discussion at our hands. In another place something like a fortnight was occupied in debating it, Yet, I understand that the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) wishes to get the second-reading stage disposed of to-day. I have followed with great interest every stage of the progress of the Bill from the time of its introduction in another place, and I am amazed at the amendments which have been incorporated in it. Those amendments are so numerous and important that the original measure was a very different one from that with which we are dealing to-day. Yet, within the last half-hour, honorable senators have had placed in their hands more than a dozen proposed new amendments. From a casual perusal of these I regard them as of very great importance. Consequently I am not prepared to discuss the merits or demerits of the Bill to-day in the way that I would like to discuss them. I desire to see the measure in its completed form and to be afforded an opportunity of comparing it in the form in which it was originally introduced. At present it is impossible for me to make up my mind as to the attitude I shall adopt towards it, because I have not had sufficient time to closely analyze its provisions. This is a Chamber of review - a place in which proposed legislation should be dispassionately considered upon non-party lines. The Bill was only introduced yesterday, yet we are expected to pass the second reading of it within the brief space of two hours.
– The honorable senator has no right to say that. I ‘have been approached upon that matter by only two honorable senators. I have no intention whatever of endeavouring to “gag” the Senate.
– I am quite aware of that. The Vice-President of the Executive Council has too much common sense to attempt anything of the kind.
– But I think that some honorable senator ought to be prepared to proceed with the discussion of a Bill.
– I sympathize with the honorable gentleman in his desire to get the Bill through this Chamber. But honorable senators ought to be given an adequate opportunity of considering the amendments which have already been made in it as well as those which were placed in our hands only half an hour ago. I therefore ask leave to continue my remarks upon a future occasion.
– By way of personal explanation, may I be permitted to say that, whilst Ministers are naturally keen upon getting their Bills through the Senate. I have never, during my career as a Minister, endeavoured to impose any limitation upon an honorable senator’s right to speak in this Chamber. So far only two ‘honorable senators have approached me with a request for an adjournment of the debate. Of course, if there is a genera] desire that that course shall be followed, I shall be glad to acquiesce in it. At the same time Ministers do not wish to postpone work from day to day, because they recognise that the Senate is of more importance than are the feelings of any individual. As I now understand that there is a general desire for an adjournment of the discussion, I shall offer no objection to the adoption of that course.
Senate adjourned at 12.42 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200820_senate_8_93/>.