8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act. -State- ment re Pensions for the twelve months ended 30th June, 1920.
Public Service Act. -Promotion of M. J. O’Flaherty, Department of the Treasury.
War Service Homes Act. - Land acquired at Daylesford, Victoria.
Inspection of Documents
– I ask the Minister representing the Postmaster-General whether he is in a position to supply an answer to the remarks I made on the Supply Bill with respect to the right of honorable senators to see documents in the Department, and with respect to the reply concerning a book which I received from the Department, and which I consider was not a correct reply?
– I was expecting that the honorable senator would take further action in the matters he has referred to. I shall look into the questions raised, and will try to let him have an answer on Wednesday next.
Land Settlement of Returned soldiers.
– I ask the Minister for Repatriation if he is in a position to supply an answer to the question I brought under his notice some time ago as to the desirability of making known at the various offices of his Department the facilities afforded for land settlement in the different States?
– I have nothing to add to the statement I previously made to the effect that communications have been sent out with a view to. inviting the State Governments to consider the honorable senator’s suggestion.
Ewing Commission Report
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Assessmentof Income from Peace Loans.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
In connexion with taxation, is it a fact that a person deriving an income of £300 per annum from the Second Peace Loan, and, say, £700 from personal exertion, is assessed for income tax purposes on the £300 as if he had £1,000 per annum from property, and on the £700 as if he had £1,000 per annum from personal exertion?
– Yes. This is in accordance with the third schedule of the Income Tax Act 1919.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the increasing number of war gratuity bondholders advertising in the public press for cash offers for their bonds -
Are any regulations current by which transfers from holders to speculators are illegal?
) Have any steps been taken by the Treasury to safeguard the par value of the soldier’s holding?
– The answers are -
– Arising out of the answers given to my questions, I think it would be very desirable-
– Order! It has already been laid down that it is not competent for an honorable senator to ask questions arising out of the answers given to questions on notice.
– I may be permitted to say that I consider it is very desirable that the information just given should be scattered throughout the length and breadth of the Commonwealth.
Payments under Agreement.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers are -
Divisional Memorials in France.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer is- 1 and 2. The memorials erected in the name of the First, Third, Fourth, and Fifth Divisions of the Australian Imperial Force were practically completed some time ago, in accordance with the approved plans. The completion of the Second Division memorial awaits approval to the design of the bronze figure and panels, which has not yet been submitted to the Government by the responsible officers. No provision was made in the plans for inscriptions in the French language, and the question has only now been raised through the High Commissioner’s Office. It has been decided to approve of this on certain conditions.
Motion (by Senator Foll) proposed-
That Senator Adamson be granted two months’ leave of absence on account of illhealth.
– Before putting the motion, I desire to intimate to honorable senators that Senator Adamson has asked for leave of absence consequent upon the urgent advice of a distinguished medical specialist in this State, who says that absolute rest is essential to his restoration to health. He is exceedingly disappointed, and regrets very much that he has been compelled to follow this course before he has had an opportunity of taking a really active part in the business of the Senate. Senator Adamson desired that this should be known; and I am sure that honorable senators will join with me in hoping that the holiday will have the effect of fully restoring him to health.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion bySenator Russell) read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 25th August, vide page 3782) :
Clause 10 -
After section 28 of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - 28a. (1) Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, the total cost to the Commissioner of any dwelling-house erected by him, or the amount of any advance made, in pursuance of this Act, may, if, in the opinion of the Commissioner, the circumstances of any case justify the excess, exceed Seven hundred pounds, but shall not exceed Eight hundred pounds.
Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act, where the Commissioner has erected a dwelling-house at a cost exceeding Seven hundred pounds, or made an advance exceeding that amount, he shall require, in addition to any other deposit or security required under this Act or the regulations, from the person purchasing that dwelling-house or receiving that advance, a deposit or security to the extent of 15 per centum of the amount by which the cost or advance exceeds Seven hundred pounds.
Upon which Senator Foll had moved, by way of amendment -
That proposed sub-section 2 be left out.
– Honorable senators will remember that we were considering this clause yesterday when progress was reported. During the interval I have had an opportunity of reconsidering the matter, and, in view of other provisions empowering the Commissionerto safeguard advances which he maybe called upon to make, I am now quite willing that sub-clause 2 of proposed new section 28a should be deleted. Senator Elliott also suggested an amendment, to which I took some exception; but, upon looking into the draft of the amendment, I think I am able to say, without hearing it formally submitted, that his amendment is one with which I can also concur.
Amendment agreed to.
.- I move -
That the following new sub-section bo inserted -
The provisions of this section shall extend to dwelling houses which are, at the commencement of this section, in course of erection, and (a) which are erected by the Commissioner, or (6) in respect of which an advance has been made by the Commissioner.
The proposed new sub-clause is intended to meet the case of men who have been compelled, through force of circumstances, to commence building on their own responsibility, and who have entered into mortgages or hire purchase agreements without being able to await the passing of this measure. The amendment seeks to place such men on the same footing as those who will have been .able to wait long enough to take advantage of this legislation.
– I am quite in accord with the purpose of the amendment, but I am concerned as to whether it will apply to South Australia, in which State the Commissioner is not erecting homes for returned soldiers, but where these activities are being carried on, for the State Government, by the State Bank authorities. Will the amendment extend the same facilities to returned soldiers in South Australia as to those in other States?
Senator E. D. MILLEN (New South Wales - Minister fox Repatriation [3.13]. - Obviously, the amendment will not do so. No Federal Act can limit or extend the activities of a State authority. The South Australian Government will retain control of the houses erected for returned soldiers in that State, and the Government can build them under just such conditions as it may deem fit.
– But does not the Federal Government provide the money?
– No; we are doing nothing in respect of war service home-building in South Australia, ex cept that we are negotiating with the State authorities to prevent a clash of activities. At present the South Australian Government is carrying on the work, into which it entered before the Commonwealth authorities were prepared to do so. The amendment will apply only to those homes which have been erected by the Commissioner.
– There is nothing, of course, to prevent the South Australian Government from advancing another £100 if that should be deemed necessary?
– Nothing that we can do can either assist or prevent any action being taken by the South Australian Government.
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, as amended, agreed to.
Clause 11 (Discharge of total remaining liability of purchaser or borrower).
– I desire information concerning the principles that are to guide the Commissioner where, for example, a soldier who has a little money of his own desires to purchase a house that is worth more than the actual amount being advanced by the Commissioner - say, up to £1,000, or £1,200. Provided that the house has a value over and above that fixed by the Department, would the Commissioner still advance up to £700 or £800 for the returned soldier concerned ?
– - The honorable senator misunderstands the purpose of the clause. It has nothing to do with the purchase of homes, or with applications for, or the obtaining of, advances. In the original Act it was provided that a returned man could make periodical payments in liquidation of his debt; the actual wording of the Statute was phrased on the assumption that returned men would only make the necessary compulsory repayments, and at the periods stipulated, right up to the end of their term of indebtedness, when - having paid off the whole of the amount due - they would be entitled to secure the deeds from the Commissioner. It was seen at once, however, that some men would desire to anticipate the extended period provided for re-purchase. There were men who would desire to repay more than the due quota at the stipulated periods and, obviously, those extra payments would shorten the period of indebtedness. The original measure provided no machinery, however, by which a man could secure the discharge of his obligation and secure his title deeds before the lapse of the full period. The purpose of this clause is to enable the Commissioner, after a returned soldier has paid off all that he is owing, to hand the man his deeds.
– I thank the Minister for the explanation, but I again raise a point that is of concern to many returned soldiers who may desire to build or purchase a superior type of home. Is there any objection on the part of the Commissioner to helping a man to the extent of £700 or £800 to procure a house of a type superior to that being ordinarily ‘built by the Department?
– The Commissioner is entitled to build a mansion for a returned man, provided that the latter can find the difference between the amount of money advanced by the Commissioner and the cost of the structure’ itself ; and provided, further, that the Commissioner is satisfied that the house will furnish ample covering for the amount of his advance.
– Has the term of five years been inserted in the proviso with a view to preventing trafficking?
Senator E. D. MILLEN (New South Wales - Minister for Repatriation [3.19]- - That is so. I mentioned, when introducing this measure, that a tendency had been) discovered to traffic, and that unless some limitation were provided - as in this clause - a returned man for whom a home had been built would be free to go to the Commissioner with a lump sum sufficient to discharge hi« indebtedness, and so secure his deeds, knowing full well that the moment he received his papers he would be able to sell at an enhanced price. This clause does not seek to prevent a legitimate transfer, but it proposes to give the Commissioner the right, if he has suspicions concerning the transaction, to refuse to accede to a transfer for five years.
– A matter which I desire to raise has to do with the arrangement which was first entered into by the Commonwealth Bank, in Sydney, to avail itself exclusively of the services of Messrs. Kirkpatrick for the erection of war service homes in New South Wales. It was pointed out at the time that that arrange ment would necessitate the payment by the Commission, of a sum estimated at about £30,000 to one firm of architects. There is a strong feeling in Sydney, particularly amongst architects who are returned soldiers, that this was a piece of favoritism that should not have been shown by the Commission at that time.
– Will the honorable senator explain how he intends to connect his remarks with the clause?
– I have explained that the liability of the soldiers includes all the costs of the building, and these in their turn include architects’ fees. I am seeking information on this clause from the Minister, who, I hope, will be able to inform me that the arrangement with Messrs. Kirkpatrick, architects, of Sydney, has been cancelled, and that the new War Ser,v.ice Holmes Commission will, if architects are required,- give a fair deal all round to the many capable architects who have served at the Front.
– Senator Pratten’s remarks are invariably interesting, but to me on this occasion they are pathetically disappointing. It is a disappointment to me, after I have on several occasions informed the Senate that the agreement has been cancelled, to find that any honorable senator is still uninformed on the point, and deems it necessary to raise the question again. It, is not often I have a chance of giving Senator Pratten any informaton, and for that reason, perhaps, I should withdraw what I have said, and thank him for the opportunity. The agreement with the Commonwealth Bank has been terminated. The arrangement made with the Bank and its architects was not only a matter ‘for which t decline any responsibility, but, as I previously informed the Senate, as regards the agreement .which has now ‘ceased to exist, but which ,is still operative so far as the 23rd clause in it is concerned, I have demurred to the payment to’ Messrs. Kirkpatrick, and have remitted the matter to the arbitration of our Auditor-General, as provided in the agreement,. As to the future employment of architects, the Commissioner, who is now doing the whole of the building, will be responsible; 1 but, he is quite satisfied that he can do the “architectural work much more economically by his own paid staff than by letting it to individual architects outside. It is costing him now a flat rate of a little over £1 to provide plans and architectural supervision. No architect in private practice would take the work for that sum. If the Commissioner abolished his permanent staff in order to let the work out to private architects, whose nominal charge is4½ per cent., 5½ per cent., and 6 per cent., according to the size of the work, not one of them would take it on a flat rate anywhere approaching the figure at which the Commissioner states that he can now get the work done. I am satisfied that the Senate will support the Commissioner in the line of policy he has adopted, the main object being that as little as possible shall be charged to the soldier for the work that is being done for him.
.- Will the Minister explain the objection entertained by the Deputy Commissioner in Victoria to soldiers engaging their own architects to overlook the work and report on it?
– There is no objection, provided that the soldiers will pay for it.
– The fact remains that the Deputy Commissioner does object.
– I give the honorable senator my assurance that any soldier who likes, out of his own pocket, to pay for extra architectural assistance can get it; but what has been done is that the soldiers have employed their own architects and sent the bill in to the Commissioner. The Commissioner says that he has an architectural staff, which is doing the work well and cheaply, and that if the soldiers want to employ outside assistance they can do so, but they must pay for it.
– I thank the Minister for the information he has given the Committee, particularly the new information regarding the employment of architects, which has been given forthe first time to-day.
– Not the first time to-day.
– I refer to the new information about outside architects and returned soldiers. At the same time, the Minister has not taken us fully into his confidence as to the arbitration now going on between the Auditor-General and the firm of architects that I have named. Can he state whether they have made their claim in full on the agreement, whether the work has been done or not, whether they stand entirely on their legal rights, and not on a fair rate for work done, and what the extent of their claim is in connexion with the agreement made with them by the Commonwealth Bank? With regard to the second point I raised about outside architects, it will be generally satisfactory to the architectural world to know that the War Service Homes Commissioner is keeping the cost of houses to the soldiers down as low as possible. I quite agree, seeing that there are, perhaps, not more than a dozen types of these homes being put up, and that the standardization is now complete, that the cost should be nominal.
: - I am sure that Senator Pratten did not mean tosuggest anything sinister when he said I was not frank with the Committee as to the position of the arbitration proceedings. It was not through any want of frankness, but I did not know that the Committee desired a detailed statement on the matter. The position is that the Commonwealth Bank have lodged their claim for payment for the service.
– Do you mean the architects?
– I know nothing of the architects. The agreement was with the Bank, which undertook to build the houses under it. They made their own arrangements with the architects, and under the terms of the agreement sent in their bill for services rendered. Included in that bill was the charge for their architects at the rate of 3½ per cent. which the Bank proposed to pay them. I have demurred to that payment. Under clause 23 of the agreement, it was provided that if the Bank submitted any account for expenses which was held to be unreasonable - this meant held by the Commissioner or the Minister to be unreasonable -its reasonableness or otherwise should be referred to the Commonwealth Auditor-General, whose decision wasto be final. The matter is how under reference to that gentleman, and theexact position, so far as I am aware, is that the Bank have presumably presented their case in a written statement, and the Commissioner has presented his, buttressed by certain letters from myself. I presume that the Auditor-General’s decision will not be long delayed.
SenatorFoll. - Do the Sydney architects do the work for houses in North Queensland ?
– Does the honorable senator mean houses built by the Commissioner?
– Then, if the honorable senator means those built by the Bank, the operations of the Bank to-day are confined to clearing up the work that was in hand, or for which contracts had been accepted at the time the agreement was terminated. The Bank are not taking on any fresh work.
– Then, if a man wants a house built in Cairns, Sydney architects do not draw up the plans?
– No. He lodges his application in Brisbane, and it is dealt with in Brisbane by the regular staff of the Housing Commission.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 12 agreed to.
Clause 13 (Commissioner may call up advances where security transferred to ineligible person).
.- I should like to know from the Minister (Senator E. D. Millen) exactly what this proposal means. The sidenote presupposes that before the home is paid for, and possibly when a small amount is paid on it, the soldier shall have the right to sell his equity in it for any reason that he may think proper. The desire of this Parliament is to benefit our soldiers, and we all know that there is a number of them who require to be protected from themselves. With this thought in my mind, I ask the Minister what is the full meaning of the clause.
– I recognise that there is a little difficulty in connecting an amending Bill with the principal Act. But if Senator Pratten will refer to section 35 of the principal Act, he will see that sub-clause a, which honorable senators are now asked to adopt, is covered by subjection 1 of section 35. That sub-section reads -
So long as any land or land and dwellinghouse is subject to a contract of sale, mortgage, or other security in accordance with this Act, a transfer of that land or land and dwelling-house, or of any estate or interest therein shall not have any force or effect unless it -
arises through the operation of any law relating to bankruptcy or insolvency; or
is made to a devisee by a person acting in the capacity of executor or administrator of the purchaser as borrower; or
is made with the consent in writing of the Commissioner.
It is quite clear that in such circumstances there is the possibility of a house which was built for a soldier being transferred to a citizen. The purpose of the clause which we are now considering is to make it perfectly plain that in such cases the Commissioner may, by giving the transferror written notice, call upthe whole of the moneys secured under any contract of sale, mortgage, or other security held by the Commissioner in respect of the land or land and dwelling-house, and that thereupon those moneys shall become due and payable. The sole object of the amendment is to prevent trafficking in these houses, and I am sure, therefore, that it will command the sympathy of honorable senators generally.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 14 -
After section 36 of the principal Act the following sections are inserted: - “ 36a. Where a person, to whom any land or land and dwelling-house has been sold or to whom an advance has been made, ceases to be an eligible person, the Commissioner may, by notice in writing’ to that person, require repayment of the whole of the moneys secured under any contract of sale, mortgage, or other security held by the Commissioner in respect of the land or land and dwelling-house, and thereupon those moneys shall become due and payable.”
– I ask the Committee to negative proposed new section 36a. Although that provision was intended to achieve the same object as the other proposed new sections of this clause, it has been found that under it there are great possibilities of hardship arising in quite a number of genuine cases. For in stance, a soldier who married to-day would be eligible to obtain a war service home, but if to-morrow he became a widower he might be deemed to be ineligible. It is not our desire that a soldier who has been unfortunate enough to lose his wife shall also be deprived of his right to continue to occupy one of these homes. I prefer to run the risk of a few ineligible persons getting homes of this kind to homes being taken from soldiers who were eligible to secure them. I therefore move -
That proposed new section 36a be left out.
Amendment -agreed to.
Clause, as amended, and title, agreed to.
.- I move-
That clause 3 be reconsidered.
I ask the Committee to adopt this course, because of the promise which I made that the clause would be redrafted so as to overcome some of the difficulties to which reference was made during a previous debate.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Clause 3 -
After section 14 of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 14a. Before exercisingany power under this Act which involves the expenditure of more than £5,000, the Commissioner shall submit his proposal for the approval of the Minister.”
– In this clause it is proposed to place on the Commissioner in his engagements for the purchase of material, the same limitation as is imposed upon him inregard to his purchase of land. That is to say, he is to have a free hand up to an expenditure of £5,000, but beyond that point he must obtain Ministerial approval. I move -
That the word “ which,” line 4,be left out.
If this amendment is agreed to, I shall move the insertion of the words - in connexion with the acquisition of land or building material, or with any contracts incidental thereto, the Commissioner shall if the exercise of the power’.
The proposed new section will then read on as printed. I think that these words will sufficiently cover what was intended to be achieved.
– Yesterday when I directed the attention of the Minister to the loose wording of this clause, he kindly promised to give the matter his consideration. That consideration has taken the form of the amendment which he has now submitted, and which is intended to limit the power of the Commissioner to the purchase of land or materials in excess of £5,000 in value, without Ministerial approval. During the past few weeks I have not been able to closely follow the proceedings of this Parliament, but I take it that the proposed limitation will be a satisfactory one to the Minister?
.- must say frankly that I would rather be saddled with no responsibility in connexion with this matter. But as a Minister I feel that it is not in conformity with parliamentary procedure that there should be no check on the Commissioner, and no opportunity for knowing precisely what is going on in the Department. Personally, I would be very much happier if the responsibility for all these matters were thrown upon the Commissioner. I hardly think that a safe proposition. I am now submitting a proposal under which the Commissioner will have a free hand up to £5,000, and beyond that amount will have to obtain the approval of the Minister.
– In regard to the expenditure on anything?
– Not on anything, as it is nob proposed that the Minister shall interfere in connexion with the expenditure on the building of houses, but merely when the Commissioner sets out to acquire land and material. There is a distinction between the acquisition of material and the land and expenses incurred in connexion with building. It is not proposed to give the Minister power to veto the Commissioner’s proposals in connexion with building houses, but only when entering into contracts for the acquisition of material.
– In one transaction?
– Yes ; although over a period of time.
Amendment agreed to.
Amendment (by Senator E. D. Millen) proposed -
That the following words he inserted: - “in connexion with the acquisition of land or building material or with any contracts incidental thereto, the Commissioner shall, if the exercise of the power,”
.- The Minister has referred to contracts extending over a certain period of time, and when the Government have taken an option over ‘the premises. Does this amendment cover cash purchases of material ?
Amendment agreed to.
Clause, also verbally amended, and agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Debate resumed from 20th August (vide page 3722), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– When the discussion on this Bill was adjourned last week, it was felt by myself and other honorable senators that a further consideration of its provisions would be advantageous, and on that account the Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) agreed to an adjournment. Last week we had the privilege of listening to two very excellent speeches on the general causes of industrial unrest over a lengthy period. It is not my intention to go over much of the ground that has already been covered; but when a measure of importance to the whole community is before us, honorable senators should give it the fullest consideration, in an endeavour to ascertain the causes of industrial unrest, and suggest, as far as possible, measures for the settlement of the disputes which are so prevalent today.
For approximately thirty years industrial arbitration had been the ambition . of the workers in the interests of industrial peace; and I can remember endeavouring, with many others, in the early struggles of the Labour party, to induce the State Governments of the day to pass legislation whereby industrial disputes might easily be settled. We can trace the commencement of a serious attempt to prevent industrial disturbances by means of Arbitration Courts and Wages Boards to the maritime strike which occurred over thirty years ago. At that time our opponents asked the industrialists, through their organizations, why they did not turn their attention to politics instead of assisting strikes. The advice was taken, and the members of the Labour party turned their attention to politics, with the result that many of them were returned to the State Parliaments. We thought then that our dreams concerning arbitration would speedily be realized, and that in the course of a very few years, through legislative enactments, strikes would be relegated to the region of things soon to be forgotten. Unfortunately, however, our dreams have not been realized, although we have had Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts, and the fortunes of the Labour party from then until the present time have been of a varying character. The great triumph, of course, was the establishment of the Federal Arbitration Court, and there is no doubt, whatever we may say to the contrary, that the Court has been responsible for the settlement of a large number of industrial disputes, and has been instrumental in preventing a good many more. However, like many other institutions, it has apparently reached the limit of its practical usefulness. Some weeks ago, honorable senators were furnished with a return showing the number of cases awaiting settlement in the Court. We know that industrialists have become impatient at the Court’s delays. Those of us who watch the progress of industrial events can see no immediate prospect of many of the cases before it being dealt with by the Court. Without in any way reflecting upon the Arbitration Court, it may be said that its methods are too cumbersome, too slow, and altogether too costly. Notwithstanding the good work which the Court has done, it is now considered by both employers and workers to be out of date, and to a large extent useless for the early settlement of industrial disputes. In other directions the Arbitration Court has not been a success because of the constitutional limitation upon the powers of the
Commonwealth. This has presented the Court from doing the good work that it was hoped it would he able to perform, and it has been one of the most important causes of its failure. Before I leave the Arbitration Court and its work, I should like to say that I have a very great admiration for much of the work it has done, and anything I may have said in condemnation of it has been due in a large measure to the fact that our constitutional limitations have been responsible for its failure.
During recent years industrial unrest and industrial problems have been intensified and multiplied by the war. We had hoped that, during the period of the war, every man would be extended to his fullest capacity in order to defeat the enemy at home and abroad. But some of the worst industrial troubles of our history occurred during the continuance of the war. As a result, the difficulties of the Arbitration Court were increased, and it has been brought home to every man who looks for the welfare of this country that something must be done to give us relief from industrial unrest. The fact that for five years the workers of the world were transferred from avenues of production to those of destruction led to a shortage in the commodities required by the people generally. This, in turn, led to high prices; and, added to this, money has ‘been more plentiful than ever before. We have had a shortage of commodities, high prices, reckless buying, and consequent waste, and all these things have contributed to the bringing about of industrial unrest. The worker, feeling naturally that he is not getting sufficient of this world’s goods to meet the added cost of the commodities he requires, has, from time to time, asked for higher wages, until honorable senators will, 1 think, agree with me that in this country we are near the time when the limit of our capacity to meet wages and cost of production will have been reached, when it is remembered that we are in competition with industries carried on outside Australia in countries where labour is cheaper than it is here.
We have just been discussing a measure to provide cheaper homes for returned soldiers ; but the people generally, as well as the returned soldiers, require cheaper homes. Every person who to-day has to consider the building of a home is confronted with a shortage of material and labour, and ‘honorable senators are aware that in almost every industry associated with the building of homes there have been strikes in some part of Australia almost every week.
– And dear money on top of that.
– That is so. We hear a great deal about profiteering in connexion with industrial unrest, and I have no doubt whatever that profiteering exists. Senator J. F. Guthrie only the other day pointed out the extraordinary discrepancy between the cost of making woollen cloth in the woollen factories, and the price charged’ for the finished article. Something must be done to put an end to that kind of thing. I dare say that profiteering, or the suggestion of it, has been responsible for more industrial unrest than anything else since the war began. In the Bill now under consideration an attempt -is made, which I hope will be successful, to put a check upon profiteering.
– ‘Prices cannot be fixed under this Bill. .
– I was coming to that. Whatever legislation this Parliament may pass must be within the restrictions imposed by the Constitution. In this connexion members of this Parliament, of the Labour party, of the manufacturing community, and the general public must take their fair share of responsibility for the existing limitations of the Constitution. When it was pointed out that in order to secure a greater measure of industrial peace it was necessary that this Parliament should be given extended powers, persons belonging to every section of the community took a stand against the proposals that were made to extend those powers. To-day we are tied hand and foot by constitutional limitations, and every section of the community must bear a share of the blame for any failure in the effective operation of the measure now under consideration, due to that fact*
There is a growing tendency, which unfortunately is encouraged by certain sections of the community, towards a feeling of mistrust, and even of hatred, between employers and employees. This is most deplorable. We recall the old clays when there Avas a perfect understanding between employer and employee, and we hope that as a result of the operations of this Bill they will again- be brought more closely into touch with each other. I believe that the Councils and ‘Tribunals to be established under this Bill will have the effect of enabling the employees to better understand the difficulties of employers and their industry than they have hitherto done, and will also give the employers a better idea of the requirements and aspirations of their employees. Whilst at the present time both sections are equally to blame for the bad feeling that exists between them, I am hopeful that by the operation of this Bill that bad feeling will be removed, and if that be the case we shall be a step further towards industrial peace.
Much as we admired the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and high as our hopes were concerning it, I believe that the Bill now before the Senate will be found to be a better measure for bringing employers and employees more closely into touch with each other. I consider this Bill one of the wisest and most liberal of its kind ever introduced into any Legislature in the world. I know of no measure that approaches it as an anxious, honest and earnest attempt to bring the two conflicting parties - the workmen aird the employers - together- If we can get them to come together we shall have gone a long way towards the settlement of industrial disputes.
I am not so optimistic as to think that this Bill will provide for perfect industrial peace. No man can promise that so long as human nature is what it is. Every man has implanted in his soul the desire to (-10 better for himself, and the manner in which most of us attempt to do better for ourselves is by acquiring a little more of this world’s goods against a time when our labour will no longer support us. So long as this desire of the individual to better himself exists we cannot look for perfect industrial peace. But this Bill provides a common meeting place for both parties. They can sit around a table and discuss their affairs, and by that means arrive at an understanding acceptable to both sections which must make for the prosperity of this country.*
I believe that under this Bill many of the technicalities that seem to hedge the Arbitration Court around will be avoided, and men will be able to discuss their grievances as sensible men should. Whilst this measure will not carry us at once to the promised land, it will provide a fairly straight and smooth pathway to that industrial land of promised peace to which so many of us have been looking for a very long time. There are difficulties associated with the administration of this measure which can be foreseen, while, at the same time, we are not anxious that it shall be delayed in coming into operation. One such difficulty has to do with the question of cost of administration. The item of expense has been one of the chief troubles arising from our arbitration legislation. This Bill makes no provision to meet the costs involved by parties to a dispute. We have to presume that employers and employees will still be called upon to bear their own expenses. The Government would do wisely to undertake to discharge all costs arising from resort to the Tribunals which are to be created by this Bill. Hitherto, the community has had to pay for strikes. We cannot estimate the cost of a strike in pounds, shillings and pence. There was recently an announcement in the press to the effect that, during the past year or two, something like £7,000,000 had been lost in wages owing to strikes. But what those strikes may have cost the general community no one can estimate. If the Bill is to achieve that which is hoped for it, the Government should undertake to meet the costs of parties, taking good care, of course, to keep a careful check upon expenditure, and to see that no money is wrongly disbursed. It would pay the country over and over again if the Government accepted this principle; and, further, it might induce certain organizations to confer with a view to overcoming trouble when, otherwise, they might not hesitate to precipitate a strike.
– Would not such a concession tend to increase the desire on the part of various people to bring about a dispute, seeing that there would be no financial responsibility entailed ?
– I do not see that it would.
– The honorable senator should not lose sight of the fact that if the Commonwealth Council perceives certain conditions tending to create financial disturbance it can inaugurate an in- quiry, and so avoid what might prove, to be a costly upheaval.
– That is so, and the Minister has mentioned one of the most attractive features of the Bill. Naturally, if an authority created by this measure could step in, before trouble had actually occurred, the cost both to the parties involved and to the general community would be infinitely less.
– There is this further consideration, that no members of the legal profession will be permitted to take a hand in proceedings. That in itself should be a factor in keeping down expense; and then there is to be power given for the awarding of expenses according to the discretion of the Chairman.
– But it is still intended, 1 take it, that such costs as may be awarded will be given against either claimant.
– If the Government were to undertake to pay costs, would that not create a tendency to prolong au investigation 1
– And also congest business tremendously by the fact of all sorts of parties rushing in.
– There would be no fear, I think, if the Government were to exercise full and proper control. It may be taken for granted that, if time can be saved by the exclusion of members of the legal profession, costs will be reduced ; but there have been men appearing in the Arbitration Court on behalf of various organizations who have proved worthy disciples of the wordiest lawyers. My point is that if, by the Government undertaking to pay costs of proceedings, parties can be induced to confer before strife has been precipitated, the money spent will be as nothing compared with that which will have been saved.
I am aware that this Bill is meeting with a certain amount of opposition, both from industrialists and from a section of employers. We are now living in a new world. If we are to make good as a nation, every section of the community must put aside the ideas held in past years. I would say to employers who are finding fault with this Bill that it is a step, not in advance of the times, but in keeping with modern progress. Conditions have so varied in the past few years that every one must look upon the rights, both of the workers and of their employers, from a fresh angle. We should be careful, in dealing with this measure, not to say anything which might mar the harmony hoped for .as an outcome of its provisions. Honorable senators should not say anything either hurtful or injudicious. We should not make it appear that we are anxious to push our ideas upon any one section of the community. It would be in bad taste for this Parliament to discuss an Arbitration Bill in any but a conciliatory spirit. We should not employ threatening language, or say anything, indeed, which could be construed as a threat. We should deal with the whole matter as seeking to pour oil upon troubled industrial waters.
– Does the honorable senator think that frankness is harmful?
– Frankness is not only essential, but, at all times, good policy. There is a difference, however, between frankness and harshness, between an attitude of conciliation and the making of threats or the display of prejudice. There is no reason, however, why a note of caution should not be sounded. I would warn those who to-day are taking the wrong road - the road which, if followed to its end, will lead to disaster. There is a section in the community which is working industriously for the expansion of Bolshevik rule. The red flag is being waved in this country. That flag, in all ages, and in every country, has drawn beneath its shadow the undesirable elements, and bloody rebellion has been its accomplishment. In Australia there are men and women who are devoting their lives to the spread of the pernicious gospel of the red flag. Sunday schools have actually been established, and it is well that the public generally should know it. When revolutionary Sunday schools can be created, wherein innocent children may be taken in hand by misguided men and women, and this doctrine instilled into their young minds, it is time for Australians who are thinking of the future of the Commonwealth to bestir themselves, and to see that something more effective than the passage of this Bill is required to deal with such people as those. That revolutionary doctrine attracts to itself the undesirables in every section of the community, but that is not to say that it attracts only the ignorant, because it draws to itself many intelligent and able men and women, who follow it through mistaken ideas. It is time something was said and something effective done to put a stop to this kind of thing, which is’ ‘largely instrumental in creating the industrial unrest, under which we are labouring to-day. I hope that in the very near future the decent, soberminded, industrious workman will, ask himself whether it is not time that he should call a hart, and suggest to certain leaders of the Labour organizations that they have gone far enough along this dangerous track. Having seen the baneful effects of this doctrine in other countries, Australia should be warned before she goes too far along the road which will unquestionably lead to destruction. Prior to the war, and during the war ‘period, propaganda was undertaken in this and every other country, .largely at the instigation of Germany. We know the havoc and mischief that. have been wrought in Russia, and, without going into the details of what has happened , there for the last three or four years and is happening there to-day; we know that the Red Flag leaves behind it a trail of blood and destruction, and of murdered men, women, and little children. It is high time that we took steps to prevent that doctrine from spreading any further in Australia. Several industrial organizations in Australia have carried resolutions expressing sympathy with the Bolshevik doctrine and the Soviet form of government.
– That is human cussed ness.
– I am afraid it goes further than that with some of these people, who are quite anxious to see in Australia, and indeed in the British Empire, a state of. affairs similar to that which to-day prevails ‘in Russia…
– But they do not know what that is.
– That is the danger of it. They do not want to know, and they refuse to believe that from’ the very outbreak of Bolshevik feeling in Russia nothing but destruction and a record of murder and outrage have followed in its wake. These people say that whatever has happened is necessary -to bring about the reform at which they aim.
We hope, by the introduction of legislation such as this, to be able to avoid travelling along the dangerous’ .path by which the people of Russia have travelled, and to escape in Australia the horrors that have taken place in other countries wherever that doctrine has obtained any hold on the people. It is, therefore, the duty of every honorable senator who is concerned about- the future of this country to sound a note of warning to all those who may feel some inclination to take that path, to call a halt and reconsider the position so far as they and this great country are concerned.
The resolutions of sympathy with Bolshevism carried by certain sections of the Labour organizations of Australia are, to every man who thinks seriously of the future of this country, a very sad indication of the trend of thought in certain minds. Here I wish to acquit entirely the great body of Australian working men from the charge of having any sympathy whatever with the outrages that have been perpetrated in other countries, or with the general feeling of the Bolshevik and his form of government, but there is a danger that they may he attracted into this way of thinking,’ and that so the evil will be spread. According to the press the other day, a resolution was carried in New South Wales threatening to hold irritation strikes if there were any further deportations from Australia.
– Did you read how that idea was castigated by the present Labour Premier of the State?
– I read it with very much pleasure, and am glad to know that nien in such responsible positions as the Premier of New South Wales occupies saw fit to rebuke those responsible for carrying that resolution. However, we must not forget that it was carried by a very responsible body in connexion with the Labour organizations in New South WalesS We know ‘perfectly well that we have in Australia a large number of men who are not here for the good they intend to do to Australia. Their real purpose is to damage their country as much as they possibly can, yet those responsible for that great Labour organization have actually carried a resolution saying that if any of those undesirable persons are deported they will support irritation strikes. 1 am confident that a very small1 section of the workers of Australia are behind that idea, and that many more workers1 besides ‘the Premier of New South Wales will see that the movement is put a stop to as far as it is possible to do so. We have a right, and we must insist on that right, to deport from our shores any foreigner, or imprison in our country any Australian, who may be found guilty of such practices as have been indulged in in the past in furthering ideals of that kind. The Parliament of Australia must not forego its right to deal with men of that character, no matter what resolutions are carried by any section of the people.
– Especially those who suggest that rivers of blood should run through the streets.
– They are never by any chance the kind of men who fight.
– Still, we felt safer whilst they were ‘behind prison bars. They are now free, but they should be taught that even they cannot say what they please, because such language may excite a section of the community, and incalculable harm may result. The Government must take the responsibility of governing the country, and, so far as their constitutional powers allow, they must impose a check on such language as is being used by men of that kind.
I hope that when this Bill comes to be better understood it will show the workers of Australia a better means of settling disputes than, those suggested by the Trades Council of New South Wales or by men of the type of Grant and others, who, in my opinion, ought to be behind prison bars. The Bill, as presented to us, is one with which we shall be able to deal more effectively in Committee than by a general discussion of its terms. It contains many clauses which I confess I do not quite understand, because some of them appear to go outside the limits of the Constitution. I have no doubt that in Committee the Minister will be able to tell us just how far they go and where they ought to stop. It would be most unfortunate if Parliament agreed to a Bill of this description containing some provision which went outside the limits of the Constitution, and an adverse decision were given against it on appeal. That would tend more to injure the Bill than anything else we could do. Therefore, whilst anxious to give every latitude possible, we must be careful to see that nothing is put into it which will transgress the very limited constitutional powers possessed by the Commonwealth.
I have referred already to the question of the cost of the Bill. 1 hope the Government will consider very carefully whether it is not possible for them to meet the parties who will make use of the measure, in the direction I have indicated. It is certainly one of the most progressive measures of the kind ever submitted to any Legislature in the British Dominions, and is, possibly, one of the most important. For those reasons, . I hope to see it become law very soon, and I trust that both employer and employee will regard it as intended to secure greater peace and prosperity for every section of the community.
.- It is generally admitted that the Bill deals with one of the most important matters that can come under the purview of the Commonwealth Legislature. Every one is cognisant of the fact that the industrial unrest which was so noticeable during the war period has markedly increased since the termination of the awful conflict in which we have been engaged. I think most of us were justified in assuming that when hostilities terminated the Australian people would settle down in order to repair, as far as possible, the damage that had been caused by the war, to build up the community, to strengthen the Commonwealth, and to bring about within our borders such an increased production as would more than make up for the material loss that we incurred during the war period. Unfortunately, such a happy condition of affairs has not eventuated, and we have found, especially during the last twelve or eighteen months, industrial unrest increasing by leaps and bounds.
The Government are to be congratulated upon having introduced a measure which, although it partakes more or less of the character of an experiment, has for its object the bringing closer together of employers and employees throughout this portion of the Empire. In discussing the Bill we need to consider what are the main causes of the industrial unrest through which we are -now passing. Numerous causes have been assigned for the discontent that is so prevalent. I take it that every honorable senator will admit that something must be done to bring about industrial peace as speedily as possible, and action in that direction, is all the more necessary because the responsibilities of Australia as a nation were borne during the war period. Not only must we recognise the need for doing all that we can to make things better than they are to-day from our own view-point, but we must recognise it from the stand-point of the Empire, because Australia, being now classed amongst the nations of the world, is being closely watched by other nations which are industrial competitors with it. From time to time, both from Commonwealth and State platforms, we have heard much about the need for economy being exercised in order that we might prepare ourselves to meet the heavy expenditure which we incurred upon the war.
I do not wish to be harsh: in my criticism to-day, but I cannot help remarking that those who have preached economy most loudly have practically said to the people of the Commonwealth, “ Do as I say, not as I do.” Both the States and the Commonwealth have indulged in economy campaigns from-our public platforms. Our people are very observant, and they have noticed that despite all this talk about economy no real economy has been practised. Extravagance has been rife in both Commonwealth and State Departments, and this circumstance has been reflected in a greater or less degree amongst the people of Australia. During the war period there was a considerable increase in the amount of cash which circulated amongst our citizens. Many of them handled very much more money than they ever handled previously. Extravagance thus became the order of the day to a greater or less extent. Time after time I have observed that persons who used to live simply became accustomed, during the war period, to spend very much more than they had ever done before upon things which were not essential to their comfort. Now that they are not receiving as much cash as they did, they naturally desire to live up to the standard which they adopted during the war period, and when they find that the cost of living continues to increase, they not unnaturally become more and more discontented.
We have been told that one of the main causes of industrial unrest is profiteering, and there are sound reasons for that belief. But, although profiteering has occurred in respect of necessary commodities, we cannot fail to recog-‘ nise that there have been two classes of profiteers in this country. These classes have been in evidence throughout the entire war period. In one class we must place the worker of Australia, who condemns the manufacturer and distributor for profiteering. How far his condemnation is justified honorable senators know. Anybody who takes an intelligent interest in this question must admit that profiteering has been indulged in both by manufacturers and distributors. I call that man a profiteer who extorts from the people an undue profit upon the cost of his manufacturing or distributing operations. To the other class of profiteer, many of the workers themselves belong. To just as great an extent as our manufacturers and distributors, these people have been responsible for the increased cost of living. I regard as a profiteer any man who whilst receiving a certain wage for eight hours’ work decides that in return for that wage he will do only four hours’ work. Consequently, I am now referring to the “go-slow” policy which has been so much in evidence in Australia. . I do not suggest that all workers have adopted that system; but, undoubtedly, there are certain sections of them who have listened to the advice of agitators who are anxious to maintain themselves in snug positions, and who are responsible for a diminution in the output of our industries. The workers engaged in those industries should be given clearly to understand that the adoption of such a policy -is not only wrong to the country in which they live, but must inevitably inflict injury upon themselves, because anything which decreases the output of our industries must necessarily react upon the purchasers of goods, of whom the workers form the majority. Upon making inquiries into the increased cost of many commodities some time ago, I found that there was a tendency, not only to add the increased price of the raw material to the manufactured article, but to add to the cost to the distributor the profit on the increased cost, whilst at the same time decreasing the quality of the article by, say, 50 per cent. Consequently, the article which the consumer has had to purchase represents only half the quality of that which he purchased in normal times when the price was one-half of what it is to-day. The worker promptly recog- nised this fact, which, has contributed so much to the industrial unrest in our midst. I am an ex-business man, and my sympathies have always been with the merchant or manufacturer who believes in giving to his customers a fair deal. I have no sympathy whatever with those persons who have endeavoured during the war period to extort from the consumer a higher rate of profit than that to which they were entitled. But my criticism under this heading is equally applicable to those workers who do .as little as they possibly can each day, and take as much as they can get for a day’s wages.
Another factor which has contributed to the industrial unrest which is so marked in Australia is to be found in the number of individuals here who live chiefly on their efforts to make men discontented. To discover this, one has only to go to the Yarra bank, Melbourne, or the Domain, in Sydney, upon any Sunday afternoon and listen to the doctrines which are preached there. But I am glad to know that there are young men in our midst who are wage-earners, and who are prepared to attend these places and to combat the pernicious doctrines which are promulgated there.
– Does the honorable senator think that the Yarra-bank orators influence many people?
– I am sure that they do. There is not the slightest doubt about it. The future of Australia is not bound up with the men who have borne the heat and burden of the day during the past thirty or forty years. It is bound up with the younger sections of the community.
– But the great majority of people attend the places to which the honorable senator has referred merely for the purpose of entertainment.
– I admit that. Yet the fact remains that a great many men receive the whole of their education upon economics either on the Yarra bank, Melbourne, in the Domain, at Sydney, or in the park at Hobart. These places are the schools which they attend once a week, and they read only those newspapers which publish the doctrines that are preached by these professional agitators. One of the latter, who has been in public life for many years, was address ing a gathering of this kind not long ago, when I interjected that he and others of his class were always endeavouring to make men discontented. His reply was, “ Yes, that is our policy. When we see men contented we regard them as slaves.” There is no doubt that that is their policy. They dread the possibility of men becoming contented, because they recognise that in that event their own occupations would be gone.
What does this Bill aim at achieving? It aims at creating an attitude of goodwill amongst employers and employees, and for that reason I heartily welcome its introduction. It provides a means by which the representatives of these classes upon Tribunals which are to be created may meet and discuss the whole of the conditions surrounding certain industries of the Commonwealth. Its object is an excellent one. In Australia for some years we have had Wages Boards and Arbitration Courts. The Wages Board system has been productive of a great deal of good, but it must be admitted that it has failed at a certain point. It is a point that should be kept in mind by every citizen of the Commonwealth.
During recent years, much has been heard of the cost of living; and during the discussion on the War Service Homes Bill the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) referred to the excessively high cost of erecting homes. Is it not patent to every one that one of the primary causes of the excessive cost of building, and of the commodities which we daily consume, is the fact that in Australia skilled labour is very scarce, and is becoming scarcer every year ? Is it not a fact that, under our Wages Board system, it has been made absolutely impossible for a large number of our gr owing, lads to be trained in avocations that are useful to the country of which they are natives ? Owing to the limitation on apprenticeships, thousands of youths have been prevented from becoming skilled artisans, and in many instances they are forced to earn their living by street-sweeping, or occupations of a similar character. Honorable senators realize that any man who desires his son to become a skilled tradesman will find the greatest difficulty in placing his lad, notwithstanding the fact that we are spending annually thousands of pounds on technical education to enable those boys to follow a useful occupation. What is the result? The door is closed in every direction, because it is provided by law that in most of our industries for every three adults working in an industry only one apprentice shall be employed. What chances have our boys? What prospect have we of building up a nation if the. bulk of our men are to be unskilled labourers ? The only remedy is to review the legislation that has been passed, otherwise our Australian youths will be compelled to take a back seat, and give preference to skilled artisans imported from other countries. The position I have outlined has a great deal to do with the - increased cost of living. We know, from what we read and from what we have seen, that the work at present being performed by skilled labourers is not to be compared in quantity with that of a few years ago.
– Improved mechanical devices are, to a large extent, responsible.
– I am not referring to those trades where machinery is employed to a large extent.
– The Australian workman ha9 proved himself equal to the workman of other countries.
– I am not suggesting that the men who have had an opportunity of becoming skilled are not equal to those of other countries, because our Australian workmen, when properly trained, can hold their own with any men on the face of the earth; but I am referring to the opportunities of our growing lads, who are to be the men of the future, and upon whom we shall have to depend f or the success of the Commonwealth in years to come. Any employer of labour will say that it is difficult to obtain the number of skilled labourers required, and that factor is to a large extent responsible for the present high cost of production. We cannot wonder at being confronted with such a position when lads are prevented from following occupations for which they are best fitted.
– Specialized labour has a lot to do with it.
– That does not affect the position to which I have referred. In every State of the Commonwealth the annual vote for technical training is being increased, and large sums of money are being spent to enable lads to obtain the initial training which is so necessary. It is no exaggeration to say that m’ore than 50 per cent, of our lads are excluded from taking up the work for which they are receiving training at our technical schools.
– That has been brought about largely by Wages Boards and arbitration awards.
– That may be responsible to some extent. It is easy to calculate that if we keep on restricting apprenticeship, as at present, the proportion of unskilled labourers to skilled workmen will be greater within the next ten years than it is at present.
I do not wish to delay .the Senate any longer. The Bill has my hearty support. I know that it is an experiment, and I trust that, not only public men, but every member of the community, will take a keen interest in its provisions, because, after all, in it lies the key to the whole position. I trust that the interest in the matter will be general, because unless every member of the community becomes concerned in questions of this character the proposal will prove a failure. If we can only create public interest and show the foolishness of carrying on under present conditions, and the necessity of bringing the workers and their employers together in a spirit of conciliation, much good will result. It is time every employer - I believe a great many of them do at present - realized the necessity of extending fair treatment to their men. If the employers are prepared to meet their workmen in a spirit of conciliation, I believe the employees will respond in the same spirit. I sincerely trust the Bill will become an Act, and that the experiment which it embodies will prove a success, and will be the means of preventing industrial unrest, which is the greatest drag on the Commonwealth at the present time.
– Like the last speaker (Senator Payne) I recognise that this Bill is something in the nature of an experiment. I believe it is a well-intentioned one, and I earnestly hope that it will at least achieve a modicum of that success anticipated for it by its most sanguine supporters. I anr supporting the measure because I think it will achieve at least some of the results foreshadowed, and because I look upon it as a step for- ward. For a long time I have believed that we have- not paid sufficient attention, as a Federal Parliament, to the powers which we possess under the Constitution, to legislate for conciliation. We have equal powers in regard to legislating for conciliation as we have for arbitration, but hitherto we have concentrated all our legislative efforts in the direction of arbitration. However successful arbitration may be in principle, it has not been found so in actual practice’, and has proved to be a somewhat cumbersome method of dealing with industrial disputes. First of all, there- must be an actual dispute before the Court can intervene, and, secondly, it is necessary that the dispute should be one extending beyond the limits of any single State. It is not until that condition of affairs has been reached that it is possible to invoke the assistance of the Arbitration Court. Our powers in regard to conciliation are co-extensive with our powers in regard to arbitration, but we nave not utilized them in regard to the former. This is an attempt to do so, and I trust it may result in the benefits anticipated.
One of the disadvantages attendant upon procedure by arbitration, to which we have confined our legislative efforts, is that not only have we to get the necessary antecedent conditions, such as the existence of a dispute extending beyond .a single State, but that we have been limited considerably in applying the principles of arbitration. We have been limited by the human equation. The Commonwealth arbitration work has, so far, been relegated to one Judge of the High Court - Mr. Justice Higgins - who, to some extent, has been assisted by Mr. Justice Powers. All the disputes that it is possible to bring within the jurisdiction of the Arbitration Court cannot, in’ the method and in the procedure that is provided by the Arbitration Act, be dealt with with anything like reasonable expedition by two Justices of the High Court. The result is that the list of the Court is congested, and plaints that have been lodged long since have not yet approximated to a hearing. The discontent in which these plaints originated has been intensified, and so arbitration as a principle has been condemned by people outside, not justifiably, but simply be cause the Arbitration Court could not possibly or humanly reach the different matters in which its jurisdiction and authority had been invoked. But, going a step even beyond that, when matters have reached the Judge in arbitration, what do we find? There are details concerning different industries, and some of those industries have associated with them the most complicated processes. It has been found necessary for the arbitration Judge to inform his mind most particularly in regard to these varying and complicated processes, for the purpose of adjudicating on the particular matter he has under consideration. What a time has been occupied in individual cases in going through that process? Witnesses have been called on both sides, and they have been found contradicting one another, not merely because they are on different sides to the dispute. Very often the witnesses called on the one side of a dispute have given to the Court what has appeared to be conflicting testimony. It is a matter of very great difficulty for the brightest mind to inform itself as rapidly as the circumstances require in dealing with matters arbitrally. It is a matter of very great difficulty for the blank mind to inform itself of all the processes of an industry, because, apart from anything else, every individual witness who goes before an Arbitration Court to give evidence as to the details of the processes of an industry, always postulates some knowledge on the part of the Court, whereas it often happens that the mind of ‘the Court is an absolute blank upon the particular details of an industry in respect to which the witness is called to give evidence. These circumstances have all tended to hamper the Arbitration Court in dealing with the disputes which have come before it. In any event, there is a growing feeling throughout the community that the Court is too cumbersome and costly and too lengthy and involved in its processes to deal with the causes of the widespread industrial unrest. I, therefore, think that the Government have been very wise in coming forward with a recognition of the powers of this Parliament to deal with conciliation legislatively by submitting such a proposal as that before us now.
I notice that it is not intended by this measure to abolish or supersede the Arbitration Court. It is proposed under this Bill to establish machinery supplementary to, and not superseding, the machinery of the Arbitration Court.
– Antecedent to that machinery.
– It will, if effective, prevent a great many disputes in connexion with which the Arbitration Court would otherwise be called upon to exercise its jurisdiction. It will anticipate the action of the Arbitration Court, and should operate to relieve that Court of an immense amount of work which otherwise industrial differences would impose upon it.
– Will it not also take up same of the responsibilities of’ the Arbitration Court?
– Undoubtedly it will, in the sense that it will bring the disputing .parties together, and bring about awards which, under the existing law, can only be arrived at after an industrial dispute has actually occurred and has extended beyond the limits of one State.
– And the findings of these Councils will be registered.
– Yes, just as the findings of the Arbitration Court, are registered to-day by the Industrial Registrar. On that point I aim reminded of a provision in this Bill which enables one of the authorities proposed to be constituted under it to vary an existing award of the Arbitration Court which offends against the principles of fundamental justice through a change in circumstances subsequent to the date of the award. I see in that provision the possibility of friction and collision. It seems to me that it is quite possible that the Arbitration Court may very rightly, as our friends the French say, “ cease to function “ as a result of such action by Councils constituted under this Bill.
– That difficulty today is one of the main causes of friction.
– Not the difficulty to which I refer, which will not exist until this Bill is in operation, and one of these Councils undertakes to vary an award of the Arbitration Court.
– What I mean is that much of the difficulty at present experienced is due to the fact that the cost of living moves faster than the awards of the Court, and there is now no means of varying awards within the terms to which they apply.
– The honorable senator refers to the inability of the Arbitration ,Court to vary its awards in certain circumstances. It is open to question whether the best way of overcoming that difficulty would not be by an amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act itself and not by the establishment of another Tribunal with the power to investigate an award of the Arbitration Court, and vary it without reference to that Court. I think that we shall have to walk very warily to keep these two Tribunals in existence if the power is given to Councils under this measure to inquire into an award made by the Arbitration Court, and vary it without reference to that Court, on the ground that it is no longer consonant with the principles of fundamental justice.
Recognising that the machinery to be provided under this .Bill is supplementary to and not superseding the established machinery of the Arbitration Court, I should like to say that I consider the machinery and procedure so provided will prove very much more expeditious for the purpose of the consideration of a dispute in embryo, and much more, economical than the present process. I think, also, that it will be much more radical in dealing with matters likely to divide employers and employees. When I say more radical, I mean that those who will be charged with the responsibility of overcoming the difficulties likely to lead to a dispute will get right down to the root of the matter, because they will be persons having an intimate daily and uptodate knowedge of the questions with which they will be called upon to deal. They will not be under any obligation to call evidence, because they will know, from intimate daily experience, the circumstances of the industry in which they are engaged, and will be able to come to a decision upon differences, based upon mutual knowledge, and, let us hope, mutual tolerance and trust.
I notice that, in some of the speeches made during this debate, and especially that by Senator J. D. Millen, reference was made to the widespread character of the present world’s industrial unrest. Senator J. D. Millen said that it was not due to the war. I agree with the honorable senator. He traced in an historical sketch the uprising of industrial unrest, especially in the United States of America, for some years prior to the. war. It is not exactly a wave that is going round the world. It seems to me something more like a deluge, it is so very extensive. It is of no use for us to play the ostrich by putting our heads in the sand and blinding our eyes to existing facts. Industrial unrest has been prevalent throughout the world for a number of years, and it is growing. That the war has precipitated some of its manifestations is without doubt.
– - It accelerated it.
– It intensified it, because, when those who were taken from their normal occupations to engage in the activities of the various battle-fronts came back, they were infected with the general prevailing spirit of unrest. They felt it very much more keenly than they would have done if, during the years of their war service, they had continued in their ordinary occupations. A certain amount of conservatism and adherence to the habits of the day would have steadied them, but they were taken away from their ordinary avocations, and, having experienced the excitement of war service, they found on their return that it was difficult to take up their former avocations, and the spirit of unrest abroad by which they were infected considerably intensified their difficulty.
Then we have the fact that during the war, no matter how we may attempt to disguise it, capitalists made immense profits. This has given rise to a feeling of considerable resentment, not merely amongst the workers, socalled, but amongst the general community. One or the main factors contributing to the spirit of unrest prevailing everywhere lies in the .increased and varying cost of living, coupled with the opportunities which the ordinary citizen has offered to him every day of observing the luxury, wealth, and waste that is going on amongst those who made immense profits before, during, and since the war. This is observable everywhere. One has only to walk for half-a-mile in any direction in the city of Melbourne at any hour of the day to note the wealth that is being squandered and the luxury that is being indulged in by people who five, seven, eight, or ten years ago certainly restricted their expenditure within economical limits, but who to-day seem to feel that there are no bounds to the possibilities open to them by reason of the fact that they can spend money which they have suddenly acquired.
– That state of affairs is very much more marked in the northern hemisphere than it is here.
– I believe that it is, and I believe that it is for that reason that the spirit of unrest is not so great in Australia as it is in other countries. I think that the spirit of industrial unrest is much more marked in the’ United States of America and in countries of the Old World than it is in Australia. We must remember that during the period of the war the Government of the Commonwealth very wisely took control of many things under the War Precautions Act. They regulated exports and their sale abroad, and they limited prices at home. Were it not for that fact, I have not the slightest doubt that there would be in Australia to-day, not a large, but a considerable, army of people who would have made immense fortunes out of the war, and who, by their very presence and habits of luxury and waste, would have intensified the spirit of unrest which it is one of the objects of this measure to allay.
The cost of living has increased, and it constantly varies. One of the difficulties with which we are confronted at the present time is that when the workers in any particular industry have eventually succeeded in getting an audience in the Arbitration Court, either of the Commonwealth or of the State, or before some other industrial Tribunal, and have succeeded in securing a rise in wages or a reduction in the hours of labour, there is immediately a rise in the prices of the products of the industry in which they are “ employed. And they do not rise merely in proportion to the increase occasioned by the added wages or the reduced hours, but far above that limit, so that the employers not only recoup themselves for their added costs, but continue to make something beyond that.
– In fairness, the honorable senator should remember the increasing inefficiency of labour.
– I am not going to admit the increasing inefficiency of labour; but even if I did, I would still say that the added cost put upon the general public is such as to considerably more than compensate the employer for any alleged increased inefficiency of labour. The general public has to bear the enhanced cost; and, in saying that, I call attention to one of the shortcomings of our industrial laws, both Federal and State. So far as a specific body of employers and employees are concerned, it is quite possible that a dispute may be settled by the granting of an award. The employees get improved conditions and increased wages, and the employers say, “All right, we will pass it on and add a little more besides. Let the good old general public pay.”
– That only applies to secondary, and not to primary production.
– Possibly ; nevertheless, the general public pays. Senator J. F. Guthrie aptly put the position last Friday. He said that, as a matter of fact, the worker usually pays for strikes; so long as he is out of work he loses his wages.. The honorable senator pointed out, further, that no matter how long a strike lasted, the employer could sit back in his club, or ride about in his car, and wait patiently until work was resumed. When his employees returned, no matter what they may have lost, or what improved conditions they may have obtained, the loss and expense were not his. He would merely call upon the general public to pay, by way of increased prices, for the commodity which he had to sell. Thus, while he was recouped, and more than recouped, for any loss occasioned by cessation of work, his employees had to bear their own losses. The general public repaid the employer, and the latter took care also to see that he made a profit out of the strike, by keeping up the added cost.
– The honorable senator argues, then, that in all. cases strikes are not unprofitable to the employer.
– That is what Senator J. F. Guthrie said, in effect.
– No; the honorable senator should be fair. What Senator J. F. Guthrie said was that the workers lost more.
– He said that the employer did not care, because, when the strike was over, he increased the cost of his product to the public so that his losses were recouped. I go further and say that the employer would maintain the increased price and actually profit by the strike of his employees.
Now, in all these disputes there is one party which never seems to be represented. I refer to the general public. It is true, of course, that employees generally are members of the public; but the fact remains that the moment a particular industry is subjected to an award by which a specific body of employees is benefited all other employees in other industries suffer as members of the general public. Moreover, those very employeeswho have received benefit by the granting of an award find, before long, that their increase in wages is all absorbed in the added cost of necessary commodities. So they return to the Court and say, “What is the good of granting us such and such an increase, seeing that the cost of living has gone up again ? Our wages will have to be raised once more.” It appears to me that that sort of thing must go on indefinitely. Representation of the general public is necessary, whether at the proceedings of the Arbitration Court, or of Wages Boards, or of theTribunals now proposedto be constituted. I realize the difficulty of securing direct representation of the general public, particularly if they are to be represented as organizations are to-day, namely, by the selection of representatives. But, since the Commonwealth Government and the various State Governments may be said to represent the people of Australia, there should be established a Department of Public Representation.
– Should not the Chairman of the Court or Board generally be regarded as the representative of the public?
– I cannot see that. In the long run we must establish a system, or a Department, of Public Representation, whose officials would attend all inquiries in which the interests of the public are directly involved. The interests of the people are ignored almost always in the determination of disputes between employees and employers.
– That applies particularly to the section ordinarily known as the salaried class.
– The salaried, or the middle class, who cannot demand increases for every enhancement of the cost of living.
– The new poor!
– Honorable senators may call it what they will, but it may be said to be that class which is most keenly feeling the effects of having to wear new shoes. I emphasize that, in the long run, there must be provision for popular representation at inquiries of the character under discussion.
Reference has been made, in another place, to the fact that the word “ organization “ is used in various circumstances throughout this measure. Among the proposed amendments circulated in this Chamber by the Government is one for the substitution of the word “ association “ for “organization.” That, however, involves merely a change of name. In the matter of provision for the representation of the workers by organizations, the Government have been asked that those organizations shall be restricted solely to such as are recognised by the various Trades Halls. Rather than accede to that, the Government propose to employ the words “ recognised organizations.” That is a very dangerous and ambiguous phrase. Recognised by whom? I was closely associated, in Tasmania, with a case which dragged its length through various Courts because the State Legislature, in an unguarded moment, had employed the word “ recognised.” The point of law involved was that the use of the totalisator was forbidden, except in various circumstances, amongst others, by “ any duly recognised racing club “ on a race-course while races were actually taking place. Certain club3 used the totalisator, and were prosecuted; and, because those clubs were not recognised by the official governing bodies - that is to say, “ registered “ by the Tasmanian Racing Club in the South, or the Tasmanian Turf Club in the North - the magistrates held that they were not “ duly recognised racing clubs,” whereupon the secretaries were convicted. The cases proceeded from Court to Court, until they reached the Tasmania Pull Court. This Tribunal held that the words involved were practically meaningless.
– Was Judge Ewing on the Bench?
– No ; this was before the days of Mr. Justice Ewing.
There were some very eminent gentlemen on the Bench, including Mr. Justice Dodds, and Mr. Justice Mclntyre. The Bench held that the phrase in the Act was meaningless, in that it did not indicate by whom recognition was to be given. We argued, successfully, that “recognition” meant recognition by the public. And who were the public? They were those people who saw fit to attend a race meeting held by a racing club. They actually “ recognised “ the racing body in question as a club. The Court held that there was nothing in the legislation to restrict recognition to any official governing body; and T might add that, since then, the State authorities have had to amend this specific piece of legislation by providing that recognition meant registration by certain authorities. To use at large the words, “ duly recognised organization “ immediately sets up the question, “recognised by whom?”
– Let us say that there is a dispute in the coal-mining industry, and that while one organization, representing 90 per cent, of the miners, will not approach the Court, another organization, representative of the remaining 10 per cent., is willing to do so. Which body is to be recognised ? I .would prefer to recognise the organization which has been recognised by the Arbitration Court. That, however, will not settle the difficulty.
– No ; we have made provision in the Arbitration Act for the registration of associations as organizations. I see the difficulty the Government are in. I see that there are men who do not belong to unions, who would desire to utilize the provisions of this Bill if it were in operation, and who, by their very use of it, might serve to measure its effectiveness and efficiency. Are we to block them? I see the difficulty; but I warn the Government that they will not get over it by using the ambiguous words “ recognised organization.”
Senator J. D. Millen spoke on Friday last of the industrial turmoil in the United States of America, and of the organizations that have grown up there to cope with industrial unrest, with the Industrial Workers of the World on one side, and huge organizations or trusts of employers on the other. If we are going to establish permanently, as a feature of our social policy, legislation of this character, it is obvious that there must be organization of the two parties, employers and employees. For the purposes of our Arbitration Act, Ave found it essential that there should be organization on either side. The Arbitration Court was not to be- open for an individual employer and his employees to invoke its jurisdiction and to occupy its time. When we affirmed the principle of arbitration, and sought to give expression to it in legislative and judicial form, Ave said, “ The employees in any particular industry may, to such and such a number, or more, register and become an organization. Then that organization will become justiciable. It Will be a competent party in the Court. An organization of employers to such and such a number may register, become an organization, become justiciable, and be a party to any proceeding under the Arbitration Act; but Ave cannot leave it to individuals.” So, too, I think we shall be confronted with the problem of dealing with organizations in this case. If this Bill is to remain on our statute-book, and the Arbitration Act is to remain there, and various other provisions are to be made for meeting the cases of industries, employers, and employees, I think avo shall be confronted with the necessity of having on our statute-book something analogous to a companies law, but which will deal with industrial organizations, their status, their formation, their powers, their responsibilities, and their duties. Then, when these Acts, such as the one Ave are considering, and the Arbitration Act, are being put into practice, only organizations which are registered under and conform with the provisions of our general industrial organizations Act, should have any standing. That, it seems to me, is the only way Ave shall be able eventually to get over the difficulty. That is the proposition Avith which Ave shall be confronted if this legislation and the arbitration legislation are to stand.
Although the Bill may prove ameliorative, and, perhaps, a passing balm for present troubles, it seems to me very restricted in certain respects. I do not know whether it is intended to confine it to secondary industries, and troubles connected with them, but that’ appears to be the effect of the Bill as it stands, especially in relation to a Special Tribunal under clause 15.
That clause provides that a Special Tribunal shall have cognizance of “ (6) any industrial dispute as to which a conference has been held under section. 18 of this Act, and as to which agreement has not been reached as to the whole of the dispute, and which has been referred to the Special Tribunal in accordance with section 20 of this Act.”
– Would that not cover the present dispute between the graziers and the Australian Workers Union ?
– I could not say that; but the portion of the clause which follows is that to which I wish specially to refer. It provides that the Special Tribunal shall have power to inquire into all matters relevant to the dispute “ from the point of production to the final disposal of the commodity.”
– That is to be amended to read “ To the disposal of the commodity by the employer.” That eliminates the possibility of its application to every retailer.
– The point I am driving at is that the Special Tribunal is charged with responsibilities, and endowed Avith certain powers “ from the point of production to the final disposal of the commodity,” all of which seems to imply that its functions will be limited to secondary industries. What, for instance, could it do with regard to the point of production and the final disposal of the commodity in the event of a dispute, say, between the bank clerks and the bankers of the Commonwealth? What commodity would be involved?
– The commodity of their labour.
– I do not think it would be so held.
– Read paragraph a.
– I have done so ; but the subsequent wording seems to imply that some “ commodity “ is involved in the industry.
– In many cases, yes ; but in others, no.
– This wording seems to restrict the inquiry to an industry in which a “ commodity “ is involved.
– Is not this Bill primarily to bring about a settlement amongst those big unions that at present decline to go to the Arbitration Court?.
– Very possibly; but it seems to me that the clause I have quoted implies that the Special Tribunal shall deal only with industries in which the production and handling of a commodity are involved.
– That is a power supplementary to the other two powers.
– Yes ; but it seems to me from the way in which it is worded to be confined entirely to those industries which I have indicated.
– It is a portion .of clause 15, .and I presume that the clause, as a whole, would have to be read with it. Paragraph a seems to cover everything.
– I make the suggestion now so that the Minister may, before the Committee stage is reached, inquire as to the necessity of some amendment .to make that particular provision more clear.
Having regard to the position of others than the immediate disputants whose interests will be dealt with under this Bill, I cannot but express regret that we are dealing with this matter, so important as it is, with such limited powers. On the various occasions on which it was proposed to amend the Constitution in the past, I opposed the extension of the powers of the Commonwealth Parliament; but during the period of war a considerable change came over the Commonwealth, and when the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) asked last year for the extension of the powers of the Parliament, I felt that he was quite justified, especially in those circumstances and under those conditions. Now we find ourselves up against one of the biggest propositions that Australia has ever had to face, and we are approaching it and dealing with it maimed. If this measure does not in its application meet with a modicum of the success that is anticipated for it by its most sanguine supporters, I have no hesitation in saying that it will be because our powers of dealing with the problem are limited.
– “Would the honorable senator say that arbitration has been an unqualified success -in connexion with those questions where the power of the Commonwealth suffered no limitation?
– I have not said sa I have dealt already with the Arbitration Court, and with what I consider the features that have made it so little successful, even in the fields in which it was unhampered. If this Bill is not as successful as we all hope, it will mark very strongly the necessity for a reconsideration of the .powers of the Federal Parliament. It is five years or more since I launched in this chamber the motion for the appointment of a Convention -to consider the necessity of amending the Constitution. It was discussed here at some length, but was not finally dealt with. The same motion was taken up, word for word, in another place more recently, and has been discussed at odd times there. I am very pleased that the seeds sown by me five years ago germinated, and that last year the Prime Minister announced his intention to call a Convention to consider the need, the form, and the substance of amendments of. the Constitution. I believe we shall find that the need for recasting our powers in regard to this all-important matter, important to the whole of the people of Australia as a Commonwealth and as States, and individually as producers, consumers, and exporters, will become more apparent as the aid of the measure which we are now discussing is invoked.
– What limitations are there now in connexion with this Bill if Inter-,State disputes occur in any industry?
– I am speaking not so much about Inter-State disputes as about disputes generally, the limitation of prices, and the question of dealing with profiteering. These are matters which, if this Parliament had the power to deal with them, would enable us to approach this very complex and difficult problem with a greater assurance of success.
– Many of our biggest disputes have been between the State Governments and their employees, and we could not interfere with those in any case.
– Limited as the Bill is, and recognising the need for those limitations, I certainly wish, it every success. I hope that’ when we discuss it in Committee the Minister will give the fullest and freest consideration to any criticisms that may be offered. With these qualifications, I heartily support it, and hope that it will be attended with the greatest measure of success possible.
– After listening to the very able address delivered by Senator Keating on this, perhaps the most important question that can occupy our minds, honorable senators must feel, as I feel, almost as if we want time to, breathe. The question is very involved, because, after all, the unrest that we complain of is not the product of to-day, nor the product of Australian conditions alone. It is an inherited propensity. It is inherent in human nature wherever it is striving to better its conditions. It is part of the uplift that is taking place throughout the world to-day. Much as we may dislike and condemn it, in a very large measure we are indebted to. the spirit of unrest for the progress which has been made in the world.
– Does the honorable senator think that that is a bad thing. ?
– No. But I think that a bad application has been given to it. The fact that we were dissatisfied with our slow method of, locomotion led us to adopt swifter methods. That we were dissatisfied with the slow transmission of our thoughts induced men to investigate scientific research until finally they discovered the electric telegraph and wireless. I do not believe in the gospel of contentment in the way that some persons preach it, because it is tantamount to a gospel of stagnation. But I do strongly hold that a wrong use may be made of a right thing.
During this discussion a great deal has been said regarding the causes which contribute to the existing industrial unrest. But what has been the position of the world during the period within which this unrest has become intensified ? I suppose that from 40,000,000 to 80,000,000 of producers have been called from productive avocations to industries which were necessary to the continuance of the war. That circumstance naturally precipitated a scarcity of the commodities which are necessary to our normal life. Now, history shows that whenever there has been a scarcity of-commodities, the prices of those commodities has increased. The result has been a high cost of living and the necessity for granting increased wagesThus a vicious circle has been produced, and, to make use of an apt phrase, we are compelled to “ chase the devil round a stump.” The increase of wages necessarily involves an immediate increase in the cost of production, and every time the cost of production is increased it becomes necessary to grant a further increase in wages. There is, consequently, only one solution of this vexed question, namely, that of increased . production. How is this result to be achieved? How has it’ been achieved in previous years? It has been said very many times that the man who can make two blades of grass grow where only one grew previously is a public benefactor.
– He is greater than any politician.
– Yes. It is because we are not applying ourselves to the task of production as diligently as we have done in the past that the cost of ‘living continues to increase. Every time that a strike occurs there is a loss of production. It is not merely a loss to the employer, but a loss to the general public. They are not merely losers but sufferers. Consequently, we have to consider this question from the stand-point both of the master and of the worker. It is a problem which strikes at the very root of society, of which man is a unit. After all, the question is not a local or a national one, but an international one.
Wherever machinery has been applied to production in any industry in substitution of human labour more human labour has eventually been employed in that industry than was ever employed before. Take the case of the printing press by way of illustration. When the first huge strike took place in connexion with the printing of the Times in London consequent upon the introduction of steam power for driving the press, a large number of men lost their em’ployment. But the application of that machinery ultimately made for a multiplication of employment m that industry. Again, let me point to the textile industry. The introduction of the power loom in the Old Country threw out of employment a number of people who had been using the hand loom. The little household factories were obliged to cease operations, and big factories were built. Then came that terrible blot in connexion with the introduction of that machinery, namely, the employment of child labour. The employment of children in the factories provoked the deepest resentment against the manufacturers-
– Exploitation then started.
– An agitation was then started which led to shorter hours of employment for children. But the point which I desire to stress is that the destruction of the power’ loom and of the cottage factory eventually led to the employment of a hundredfold more operatives in the textile industry than were ever employed previously, and also to the consequent cheapening of the articles manufactured.
– But I do not think that it added to the sum total of human happiness.
– Huxley questioned whether human happiness had been achieved during all the progress of the world, and whether it would not be better if a comet struck this earth, and blotted it out of existence/ However, that is not the point with which I now desire to deal.
If we are prepared to profit from the lessons of the past, we shall find that there are two things which lie at the root of this problem. The first is that we need to adopt measures which will increase production. Instead of men ceasing work when an industrial trouble arises, they should continue their operations.
– For the benefit of the whole community, and not of any section of it.
– Exactly. I welcome the introduction of this Bill because under it, instead of men ceasing work when a dispute arises, they will continue to work while it is being settled. Adverting again to the introduction of the power loom in the Old Country, I would remind honorable senators that one condition obtained then which does not obtain, to-day. At that time the master and the workman laboured side by side. There was a comradeship between them - a friendly feeling. They ate, as it were, the same food, they were sheltered by the same roof, they endured the same hardships, and they were partners if prosperity came their way. The (man and his master knew each other - they knew each other’s troubles. That was a primitive .stage certainly, but there is no reason why the feeling which was then exhibited should not be exhibited ‘to-day, except that caused by the separation which has taken place consequent upon the introduction of the limited liability company. That has meant that the master knows not his workman. There is a Pharaoh on the throne who knows not Joseph. To the former his employee is just a “ hand,” and if there is any word in our language which is objectionable to me it is the word “ hand “ as applied to a human being, because it seems to entirely eliminate the idea of a brain and a heart. Until employers recognise that the human factors with which they have to deal are men of like passions and kindred feelings with themselves, there is no hope of achieving industrial .peace. I welcome the introduction of this Bill because I believe that that is its aim. So long as parties which are opposed to each other are permitted to remain in conflict, so long as there is presented to them a battle-field rather than a place where they may reason together, so long will there be division and disputes and disruption.
– And the professional agitator.
– So long, too, will there be a field for the professional agitator. But when representatives of the two parties sit at the same table, and prosent their cases calmly and dispassionately, there is every reason to believe that a speedy solution of their difficulties will be found. There are two sides to every question. Very often there is ground for a feeling of unrest amongst workmen, and it is only right that the master should know what that ground is. It is equally right that the men should be made acquainted with the difficulties with which their master has to contend. I have been a servant myself, and I know the different treatment that can be meted out as between one employer and another. When I was employed by a man who recognised that I was a human being, there was nothing that I was not prepared to do for him. With me it was not then a question of the hours of labour, or of the amount of work that I would do for him. I felt that for the time being the very best that was in me belonged to him. If we recognise this, and endeavour to settle industrial disputes by calmly placing the position before the Tribunals to be appointed, I believe we shall be going a long way towards solving one of our greatest problems. The Bill itself presents a good many difficulties, and I believe it is one of the most important that has been brought before the Senate during the present session. Its provisions will have very far-reaching effects.
– We want new ideas; not the old stuff.
– Yes, new occasions inspire new thoughts and involve new duties. I do not think we can re- gard the Bill as an experiment, as has suggested by some honorable senators. It has been said that the measure merely provides for the establishment of glorified Wages Boards, but I do not think that such is the case. I believe it is the desire of the Government to act honestly in this connexion, and as the measure has been framed on common-sense and humane lines, there is a possibility of it doing an immense amount of good. .
In the first place, the danger seemed to be centred on the appointment of the chairmen of the different Boards or Tribunals to be established, and it has been suggested that it would be wise to leave the work entirely in the (hands of a High Court Judge to avoid the slightest suspicion of any political! influence or bias. The question arises as to whether that would be an improvement, because High Court Judges are appointed by the Governor-General in Council, and it therefore comes right back to the same point. After all, the Government must take the responsibility in the matter, and if an appointment is a wrong one, the public must punish the Government for the wrong done. The Bill provides fc the shortest and most effective means of accomplishing our object.
The question of the powers to be vested in Boards or Tribunals, and how far their investigations shall go also demands consideration. We have heard a good deal recently of the investigations of the Basic Wage Royal Commission, where certain witnesses had to reveal private information to the public in a manner that was degrading in our presentday civilization.
– Some of the evidence was like light comedy.
– It was full of tragedy, after all.
– I did -lot see much, tragedy in it.
– There was much that was tragic in it, because many men who are as honest as myself, Senator Pratten, and others, were compelled to answer questions concerning their mode of living in the minutest detail. Many of the witnesses abhor the idea of charity, and naturally hesitated before giving evidence because of the inquisitorial nature of the investigation. It is unreasonable and unjust to bring it down to the level that a man shall be allowed only sufficient for a bare existence for himself and his family.
– Does not the honorable senator admit that a good. deal of the evidence was exaggerated 1
– Is it not possible that the inflated prices mentioned were forced from the witnesses because of the nature of the questions submitted to them ? Does it not strike honorable senators as strange that men like ourselves should say that the remuneration of others should be only sufficient to enable them to exist?
– The honorable senator is evading the point.
– We have not reached that stage in our civilization when the remuneration of a man who works for another should be- based on a bare living allowance. He is entitled to enjoy a share of the profits produced by his own labour.
– We do not deny that.
– And yet the investigation was conducted on that basis.
– By the direction of the Government.
– It does not matter whether it was by the direction of the Government or not; and Senator Pratten knows that his better nature rebels against the procedure that was adopted. When the witnesses were questioned so closely it was only natural that they would make comparisons ; and the Court waa asked to value the profits and perquisites as well as the motor cars, sumptuous dinners and luxuries generally that are enjoyed by others. We must put the positions of the two parties side by side, luxury on one hand and poverty on the other.
– And on the other side a man must bo prepared to do a fair day’s work.
– I give that in. If the Commission inquires into the minutia of the life of a man who is asking for a living wage, he has the right to ask why others should be allowed to enjoy luxuries, and to say that .he has been a partner with his employer and should share to some extent in the profits ho has assisted to produce.
– Will not this Bill do that?
– I trust it will, and that when investigations are being made by the Tribunals to be appointed it will not he necessary to inquire so closely into the private affairs of the men. There should be full recognition of the fact that the employer and employee are partners.
– They should co-operate.
– Yes, there should be co-operation in the truest sense, and if ‘ this measure achieves the good we anticipate it will not be a bad thing that we have been so close to the precipice. I hope honorable senators will consider the circumstances, as the situation is far more serious than we conceive it to be. What is the position confronting us to-day? Under the Navigation Act a certain number of coal-trimmers are allowed in the stokehold to a certain number of firemen. I am simply mentioning this to show how close we are to what may be a great catastrophe. A certain number of trimmers are required, and they have been granted, and yet we see the danger of the whole of our coastal steamships being held up at a time when there is an urgent demand for coal.
– Do you think that fair on the part of the trimmers?
– I am not consider- ‘ ing the fairness, justice or equity of the case, but I am dealing generally with the situation that confronts us. We should approach this measure with a desire to do that which is best, and to bring about a solution of this difficulty at the earliest possible moment. It is for that reason that 1 welcome the Bill, because I believe it is a step in the right direction. I shall do all I can to assist in making it the means of preventing and settling the industrial disputes which are so prevalent to-day.
Debate (on. motion by Senator Pratten) adjourned.
Officers Condemned by Report of Ewing Commission on Northern Territory.
Motion (by Senator Russell) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I desire ‘to refer to the reply given to a question I submitted to the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories with reference to the gentle-, men concerned in the report of Mr. Justice Ewing. These gentlemen, through their legal advisors, have submitted an application to the Government, asking that their case might be considered by some other Commissioner, and, according to the reply I received to-day there is no possibility of their request being acceded to. It would appear from the answer that there is no possibility of these men receiving justice unless they are prepared to raise a riot or make a general disturbance concerning the decision that has been arrived at. According to the information that is contained in the correspondence, it seems that these officers have a very just cause of complaint. T am informed that the position of Commissioner to inquire into the conditions existing in the Northern Territory was deliberately sought by Mr. Justice Ewing, who came from Tasmania and button-holed Ministers in order to obtain the appointment, evidently with the idea of gaining notoriety. Under such circumstances, what chance have the men of getting justice? These gentlemen had no specific charges made against them. Everything was nebulous. If they had been confronted with definite charges they might have had a chance to obtain evidence necessary to meet them.
– Apart from any evidence, the honorable senator should, remember that, from the Government point of view, they deserted their posts. There was no hearsay about that.
– So far as one can judge, they were compelled by armed force to leave the Northern Territory. Possibly it would have been more heroic for them to have died at their posts; but it is questionable whether the terms of their employment called for such devotion to duty.
– Or whether it would have been profitable.
– It would certainly have been uncomfortable.
-We have seen that other persons who were given an opportunity to meet definite charges, and yet were convicted and sentenced, were, because of an agitation which they were able to engineer in certain quarters, given the privilege of having their cases reheard by this same gentleman, and, as a result, a certain number of them have again been turned loose upon society. It would be a bitter criticism of Democracy if. men of that type could secure a rehearing of their case whilst gentlemen of the type of the administrators of the Northern Territory should be unable to secure from this Government a chance to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of society.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Royal Commissioner deliberately sought this opportunity to gain notoriety by ingratiating himself with a certain class of persons who he foresaw, or imagined that he foresaw, would be likely to gain power in the Commonwealth, and to whom he was looking for promotion, perhaps, to the High Court Bench, or for some important appointment. For that reason he took the course of damning these gentlemen, who have bud no reasonable opportunity to clear themselves. I should greatly dislike to move a vote of censure upon the Government in connexion with this matter; but I suggest to them that, as a matter of justice, these men should have their appeals listened to, and, if it is at all possible, they should bo given the opportunity they desire to clear their character, in order that they may make a fresh start in life.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.25 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 26 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200826_senate_8_93/>.