8th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
Pollution of Sydney Harbor
asked the Minis ter representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
What steps have been taken by the Captaininchargo of H.M.A. Naval Establishments, Garden Island, Sydney, to remedy the many complaints that have been made regarding the pollution of the waters of Sydney Harbor by the ships, lighters, and oil vessels of H.M.A. Navy?
– The following reply is supplied by the Minister for the Navy : -
The following instructions have been issued to the Fleet:-
Oil and Debris in Sydney Harbor.
All bilges should be flushed through and pumped out before entering the harbor.
Care should be taken that there is no oil in the bilges, when bilges are flushed through and pumped out in harbor.
Care should be taken that no fuel oil is pumped overboard whilst ship is in harbor.
After taking in oil fuel, care should be taken that no oil fuel escapes into the harbor when disconnecting the hoses.
When cleaning out oil fuel tanks in harbor the refuse is not to be thrown overboard.
Oil fuel tanks are not to be flushed out in harbor.
No ashes, food, refuse, disused clothing, broken cases, woodwork, or debris of any kind are to be thrown overboard in harbor.
The attention of Commanding Officers is called to the fine of £100 forfeited under section 80 of the Sydney Harbor Trust Act 1000, given in Sydney Port Order No. 12.
The following paper was presented : -
Public Service Act - Promotions - Department of the Treasury - S. R. Peterson,
It. Cox, B. Perrin,H. H. Emmett,F. B. Lee, J. V. Hawtin, H. H. Trebilco, R. J. Mair, E. W. Tunks, W. R. Kinane.
Debate resumed from 26th August (vide page 3855), on motion by Senator Russell -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
. - It is not my intention to traverse the many able speeches delivered in this chamber on this Bill. We have had the question of industrial unrest put before us from very many angles. I believe the discussion upon this Bill will help to solve in some way, perhaps, the most difficult problem with which the Commonwealth is faced to-day. “ Man’s inhumanity to man “ has not been experienced to the same extent in Australia as in older countries. Neither have we experienced any of the very shocking conditions that were the outstanding feature of the Victorian manufacturing era in Europe. We know nothing of that bare line of subsistence upon which the agricultural labourers in the older countries had to live for generations. We know nothing either of the backtoback houses built in industrial centre? which to-day are amongst the most shocking slums anywhere on the earth. We know nothing of child labour as it is known in older countries. And I am thankful to say that we know nothing either in Australia of the dictum that we ought to be satisfied with the condition of life in which Providence has placed us, our hope lying in the reward we have to look to in the next world.
From an experience of industrial conditions extending over the last thirty-five years in Australia I must say that we have evolved a long way from those which existed at the beginning of that period. I remember a time, perhaps thirty years ago now, when the first Factories Act was being considered in New South Wales by a meeting of manufacturers, that there was evidently, even then, unreasonableness on the part of many employers. One little incident in this connexion has stuck in my memory all through the years, and it was that one very wealthy employer thought that he was about to be almost ruined in connexion with the many hundreds of people he employed, because ther was a section in the Factories Act to which I refer which, gave employees five minutes before knocking-off time to wash their hands. We have progressed a long way since then, and to-day there is a greater recognition of the fact that, after all, we are one brotherhood, and that, partly by voluntary effort and partly by means of laws placed on the statute-book, the past bad old days are gone, never to return
Coming to the present, there is to-day a growing feeling amongst all - rich and poor, educated and ignorant - that birth, rank and wealth are not sacrosanct; that the day of the lord, the squire, and the parson has passed; and that the worker has a right to a fair, aye and a good and full, share of the products of his labour.
In my opinion, we shall never get rid of unrest. One writer has coined the phrase that “ Dissatisfaction is the key of progress.” A poet has sung of “ divine dissatisfaction “ ; and, unless we have something within ourselves that bids us go onward and upward, we, as a community, will stagnate. Therefore, I do not look upon unrest or dissatisfaction as in themselves harmful to the community. “We can reasonably ask ourselves whether the great industrial unrest spreading throughout the world, in an accentuated form since the war, is justifiable. An examination of the position will show that, where the greatest profits have been made, and consequently where there is the greatest resentment on the part of the worker at those undue and unfair profits, there is the greatest industrial unrest. We have heard in this Chamber that, perhaps, in the United States of America to-day there is greater industrial unrest than in any other country that has been at war. That may be due to the fact that 20,000 more persons in the United States of America have, as a result of the war, raised themselves to the comfortable and enviable position of millionaires. In England there is a considerable amount of unrest, and justifiable unrest, because quite recently one of the professors of economics at the Cambridge University told the people of England that, in spite of the so-called waste of the war and losses of the war, the national income of the United Kingdom to-day is almost double what it was before the war. The British excess profits tax, from which the Government collected over £1,000,000 pel day in revenue, also shows that a huge amount of profiteering has gone on there, and consequently, perhaps, a greater rise in the cost of living has resulted there than in any other part of the Empire. It seems to me that, if profits increase, and, as a consequence, the co3t of living goes rapidly upwards, in spite of higher wages the worker is very little, if any, better off. We in Australia have our own problem; not, I believe, so acute as the problem in the United States of America and the United Kingdom, but we still have here a fair amount of industrial unrest.
I regard this Bill as another milestone marking the evolution of reasonable industrial conditions. Tracing briefly the course of legislation of this sort, I go back to the year 1891, when the late Mr. B. B. Wise, in the State Parliament of New South Wales, for the first time in Australia, placed upon the statute-book a Compulsory Arbitration Act.-
– No; the honorable senator is in error there. There was one on the statute-book of Western Australia prior to that.
– I think that the new ground broken in Kew South Wales, in the year 1891, by the late Mr. B. B. Wise marked the beginning of an epoch, so far as arbitration laws in the Commonwealth are concerned.
– I can assure the honorable senator that the first country after New Zealand to pass an arbitration law was Western Australia.
– Everything was voluntary in New South Wales in the year 1894. I can say so, because I conducted the first case before the Court.
– In 1891, I had considerable experience with an Arbitration Bill as it concerned certain industrial unions of employers.
– -In 1891?
– That was not compulsory.
– I think the honorable sen’ator is mistaken, as at that time I was prominently connected with the evolution that took place in the ranks of the employers. I was actively engaged in helping to form seventy or eighty industrial unions of employers, and that was when the Bill was brought in by
Mr. Wise, which made it necessary for employers and employees to organize.
– I was present when Mr. Wise introduced the Bill, and I did not get into the State Parliament until 1894.
– It was a Conciliation Bill.
– I was in the House when it was introduced.
– I shallback my recollections against those of other honorable senators. The Bill created an Industrial Court that was presided over by a Judge nominated by the Government, and there were representatives of employers and employees in the Court. The employers’ representative was elected by eighty or ninety organizations, and the employees representative was elected by the industrial unions of employees.
– Who was the first chairman?
– Mr. Justice Heydon.
– No; itwas Dr. Garran.
– I think the memories of some honorable senators are gravely at fault. The first representative of the employers was Mr.Cruickshank, and the second Mr. J. P. Wright.
– That was in 1894.
– The first representative of the employees was Mr. Samuel Smith.
– He was not elected until 1894, and he resigned to take a seat on the Board.
– I am not speaking of Parliaments, but of the compulsory Industrial Court that was formed as the result of the Bill introduced by Mr. Wise. Mr. Samuel Smith was the first representative of the employers, and Mr. Riley, a member of another Chamber, was the employees’ representative.
– Mr. Samuel Smith went to Parliament in 1894, and resigned his seat to go on the Board.
– I am relating the history of Commonwealth industrial arbitration; and the nature of the work was so harassing - it may be merely a coincidence - that two of the employers’ representatives and one of the employees’ representatives died practically in harness. It may have been that their deaths were accelerated by the worries and responsibilities of the position. Following on the compulsory Arbitration Bill that was introduced in New South Wales, the establishment of Wages Boards followed, and later we had Commonwealth legislation, which created a Commonwealth Arbitration Court.
The other day I came across a pronouncement of Mr. Justice Powers when he was leaving the position of Deputy President of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, that sets out succinctly the opinions he held. He said -
It ought to be remembered that the Commonwealth Court has only jurisdiction to settle industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of one State, and to settle claims generally; and that at least 95 per cent. of the disputes the Court is blamed - by some people - for not settling, are State disputes only.
He further says -
That the Court is a Court of Conciliation as well as an Arbitration Court; and that that branch of the Court’s work has been successfully used to the fullest extent possible. That the Court, as a compulsory Arbitration Court, was only established to be brought into action when every other method of settling disputes, except by strikes, failed - that is, to take the place of “ direct action “ by conciliation or arbitration. That the Act the Court has had to administer was passed in times of peace, when section 28 was a reasonable provision; but it now prevents the Court dealing, during the term of an award, with the abnormal conditions arising from the greatly increased cost of living caused through the unexpected war.
The last reference I shall make to his utterances is also apropos of the position we are at present dealing with. He said -
There is nothing inconsistent with the continuance of the compulsory Arbitration Court, and the passing of legislation for “ roundtable conferences,” Whitley’s method, Chamber of Commerce methods, and American methods, and any and every other method to settle disputes without compulsory arbitration. It is only when all the methods mentioned open to the parties have failed, as they do, that compulsory arbitration or direct action must settle the dispute.
This Bill, to some extent, fills the gap existing in the Commonwealth Arbitration Act that has been pointed out by Mr. Justice Powers. It is a measure to provide for optional conciliation, and is designed, in some cases, to supplant the functions of the Court, and, as far as possible, supplement them. It will enable us to get in early in industrial disputes. It creates four industrial bodies, two of which have the power to determine disputes. The most farreaching change that I see in connexion with the industrial conditions which this Bill will bring about will be by creating a legal right for the Tribunal to inquire into the question of profits made in the production of the particular commodity under review. This is contained in the definition clause, and never previously in the history of conciliation or arbitration has it been legally recognised that profits have any relation to wages.
I believe that a certain amount of the industrial unrest current in the community is caused by partial information only being made available. For instance, our own Government Statistician publishes yearly in that very informative and complete Year-Book tables of the secondary production of the Commonwealth that, on the face of them, are somewhat misleading unless the figures are subjected to much scrutiny. Generally, he who scrutinizes has a fairly complete knowledge of industrial conditions. Mr. Knibbs, in his last Year-Book, shows that the added value to the production in the factories of the Commonwealth was £74,000,000, and the wages and salaries paid, not including working proprietors, was £36,500,000, and fuel was used valued at £4,000,000. Knibbs gives the balance for interest and profit and all other expenses as £33,500.000 out of a total of £74,000,000. The person cursorily examining the figures must come to the conclusion that labour does not get a fair proportion of the value it creates, but any one who has an intimate knowledge of our secondary industries and of all the expense incurred before the net profits are arrived at would take out of the difference of £33,500,000 the cost of distribution, management, insurance, gas, power, water, depreciation, rent, debts, thefts, interest on borrowed money, and one hundred and one other expenses incurred in conducting a business. For instance, the buildings that are being used for carrying on the secondary industries of the Commonwealth were valued at £43,000,000, and the plant and machinery at £47,000,000, so that out of the £33,500,000, which on the surface seems largely to be going to the proprietors, the depreciation on plant and machinery alone would be nearly £5,000,000. So far as my experience goes in connexion with the profits on secondary industries of the Commonwealth, I am of the opinion that if a manufacturer makes 5 per cent. on his turnover he is doing very well indeed. If his net profit is1s. on every £1 worth of sales he is able to pay 10 per cent. in profits on capital. When we analyze the figures of secondary industries it will be found that, in direct and indirect wages, the workers of the Commonwealth receive at least 80 per cent., the balance going in various channels, and not all to the proprietors.
– On what amount of capital?
– That does not matter. If 10 per cent. is made on the capital, or 5 per cent. made on the turnover, wages cannot be increased very much before the line of loss is reached.
– They discovered that in England., and Dr. Bole said that if wages were increased above £160 per annum they would not get anything at all.
– Quite so, but the more knowledge we can secure in relation to industry and capital the less frequently is industrial unrest likely to occur. So, obviously, if there is - let us take as an example - a jam factory, which is turning over £200,000 per annum with a capital of £50,000, and is making 5 per cent. on its turnover -which would be £10,000, or 20 per cent. on capital - and in doing that turnover it was paying £50,000 per annum in wages, a 20 per cent. increase in wages would mop up the whole of the profits made on the turnover.
– But might there not be more efficiency if higher wages were paid ?
– I am not at present dealing with that phase. I am assuming that in every large and successful Australian industry the question of efficiency, up to the present, has been fairly looked after. During the past ten years a great deal of attention has been given by manufacturers in the Commonwealth to factory efficiency. That has been forced on them by stress of circumstances; and, so far as my experience is concerned, particularly in the Old Country, I can say that, in regard to efficiency, we have very little to learn from the British manufacturer.
– Would the same comment apply to the United States of America as well ?
– To some extent; but, with tour small population, compared witu that of the United States of America, we have not the opportunities to go beyond a certain point in relation to factory efficiency.’ Opportunities for bringing about efficiency are created, as a rule, by the volume of the turnover. The turnover in any of the large American factories is, of course, far in advance of anything known in Australia.
Although the cry of profiteering has been raised in Australia time and time again, I think it is fair to say, and for the people to know, that the profiteering which has been practised to some extent within Australia has been as nothing compared with the profiteering imposed upon us by conditions outside, and over which we have no control. We have paid millions of pounds towards the profits of outside ship-owners. The cost of our clothes is, to some extent, the result - shall I say? - of the blackmailing operations of the Yorkshire woollen manufacturers.
– Plus the duties put on by an Australian Government.
– Those duties do not bear, anything like the relation to the increase in the cost of clothes, as compared with pre-war days, that the price of the material to Australian users does. And we are helpless in any way to checkmate the operations of the American cotton speculators. All those factors, over which we have no control, are to some extent responsible for current industrial unrest. I am a believer in education on matters such as these. It was said during the war that, after the war, there would be a new world. I believe there will be a new world, and that the new world. has been ushered in by the world’s Democracy refusing to continue to be led, as in the past, by the kings and princes who have been placed in authority over them. We are marching towards a .point - which will be reached, perhaps, in a generation or less - when the power of wealth, and wealth itself, will have to be limited. We are advancing towards a point where every man who works and performs his reasonable share in the realm of production will be entitled by his very manhood to a fair amount of sunshine in his life; will have the right to live in comfort and content, and not be a prey to the (power of money. I know that the elysium is not yet here, but we are marching on. And probate duties, and graduated taxation, and Whitley Committees, and legislation of the character that is now before the Senate - which will, for the first time in the history of conciliation, legally entitle the workers to know what profits are being made in an industry - are indications that we are progressing.
Something has been said regarding cooperation and profit-sharing. There has been a certain amount of pecking at the principle in Australia; there have been experimental efforts in that direction. Some firms have allocated, out of their large profits, a small sum, perhaps, for the benefit of their employees. In certain companies, upon construction or reconstruction, a small proportion of shares has been ear-marked for employees; for which, sometimes, they have had to pay. But I do not consider that methods such’ as those will satisfy the worker. We must realize now that Labour for the future will demand, and be entitled to, a greater share in what it produces. One scheme of co-operation which has appealed to me in connexion with attempts to solve this very knotty question is based upon the payment to capital of wages; that item of wages being equivalent to 5 per cent. And, after the wages of the workers have been paid, and after that 5 per cent. ha3 been disbursed as wages to capital, the profits are equally distributed pro rata to the sum total of the wages paid and the capital employed in the business. For instance, if there were a factory or a business which was using £50,000 in order to carry on with a turnover of £200,000 per annum, and having a. wages bill of £50,000 per annum and, assuming that that business made £5,000 profit in the year, or 10 per cent on the capital; then labour, out of that, would be entitled to £1,250. To make myself perfectly clear, that £50,000 capital would have to be paid 5 per cent. , or £2,500; and, inasmuch as the factory paid away £50,000 per annum in wages - an equal amount to the capital employed in the business - the difference between the profit made over and above the 5 per cent, on capital would be halved as between the capital used and the wages paid. This scheme has a good many potentialities and is worth some attention from generous-minded employers who look into the future. For I believe that the workers, if they actually knew what was going on, and were absolutely convinced that capital, which is the sum total of the thrift and the savings of the people, is only getting a fair thing, would be content to go on, and not go slow; willing to produce more, and so make more profit, a fair share of which they would receive-
This measure will be voluntary in its application, and its success will depend entirely upon whether or not Labour plays the game. It does not provide penalties in order to compel adherence to the determinations arrived at. Labour has its duties, and, I hope, will not always be obsessed by the freakish doctrine that the less work performed the richer will be every one concerned. Increased costs always hit back. I was recently provided with a vivid illustration of what was going on in the building trade in Sydney. Bricklayers in New South Wales have got so far down as to be laying, in some cases, only 200 or 300 bricks a day. An architect of my acquaintance told me that he came across a few bricklayers who wanted to make a little money, and who accepted a contract job at the rate of £3 per 1,000. Two of these bricklayers were constructing, upon one specific job, at the rate of one story a week, and they were laying bricks at an average rate of 1,500 per day - greatly, of course, to the benefit of the house-builder and of themselves.
There is another problem connected with the question of industrial unrest, and that is the problem of what is to be done with our boys. I attended a function last week at which Mr. Dooley, the new Labour Chief Secretary of New South Wales, made a public pronouncement to the effect that the Government was seriously concerned over the question of apprenticeship and of improvers, and with the fact that by far too great a proportion of our youths was growing into manhood with no trade to their hands, and that the ranks of our artisans and tradesmen would become depleted as the years went on unless something effective were done. I listened with considerable regret a few days ago to the remarks of the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), wherein he touched very lightly upon the attitude of the trade unions regarding the absorption of returned soldier vocational trainees. The Minister remarked that there was some difficulty in getting our returned men into the ranks of the trade unions. In that respect Labour, again, should play the game.
Another consideration of which we must not lose sight in connexion with this vast industrial problem, which is, after all, the key to all our problems, is that the well-to-do section of the community pays nearly all our taxation. The £15,000,000 that will probably be raised during this year by means of income taxation, land taxation, and probate duties will be paid out of the profits of the industrial businesses of which we are speaking. The evolution in industrial conditions’ must be, I think, in the direction of payment by results.
– Has the honorable senator considered that, owing to the rise in wages, a larger number of those who may be termed workers is now included in the taxpaying class than was the case in previous years?
– That is so ; but the aggregate sum paid by the small income taxpayer is only a small proportion of the total received by the Commissioner.
– Pro rata, it is more than the other.
– I believe the average is only a very few pounds per head for the small taxpayer. The total number of income taxpayers is from 300,000 to 350,000, and it is obvious that £15,000,000 cannot be raised from them if they are rated only at a few pounds per head.
I have some hesitation in voting for any amendment of the Bill now before us. It has had full discussion in another place, and has reached us in its present form as the result of many compromises with the leaders or representatives of those great unions that will be affected by it. The Minister (Senator Russell) has given notice of a good many amendments, but I hope that in none of them will he attempt to cut across the compromises made in another place when the provisions of the Bill were accepted by the representatives of the great unions concerned.
– But the Labour party voted against it.
– Certain clauses were accepted by the recognised leaders there. We in this Chamber should consider what has occurred in another place, and should not attempt to cut across any of the vital provisions that were there accepted.
– We in this Chamber ought to use our intellect to make the Bill as perfect as possible.
– Yes; but we must give consideration to the views of those who represent the industries that will be first affected by the measure. The Bill is nothing very much more than a pious hope, but I believe that it is a step in the right direction, and it fills some of the gaps that exist at present in our Arbitration Court and arbitration procedure. I. hail with a considerable amount of satisfaction, not only the advances made in connexion with conciliation and the greater arena we now have in dealing with industrial disputes, but also some of the more progressive principles that have been put into this Bill, and that I believe will appeal to the working man, who wants to play the game, not only to his mates, but to Australia.
.- I congratulate the Ministry on having brought forward this Bill, which we all hope will prove beneficial to the workers, and to the community at large. It is true that the Arbitration Court was constituted for the purpose of bringing about industrial peace, and I wish to place on record now my opinion that thework that that Court has achieved, and the millions of pounds that it has put into the pockets of the workers of this country, have clone much to satisfy the workers in times past. It has also, to a great extent, given a feeling of industrial stability to our giants of enterprise, and enabled them to make the headway they have made. Every honorable senator recognises that the Bill is of vast importance, and if by its means we achieve only half of what we desire, it will have satisfied every man here that the Government did the proper thing in following the lead set out in the matter of the Whitley Councils in the older land.
It is impossible to do full justice to the question of industrial unrest, its effects, and its remedies, in an address to this Chamber in halfanhour, an hour, a day, or a month, because their aspects are many and important. We have had them with us for hundreds of years past. In every community throughout the civilized world cesspools of industrial unrest have existed - many of them, I am sorry to say, in that old land of ours which has endeavoured to be an object lesson to the world as regards industrial matters and greatness as a people. Some of them have existed in the midst of civilizations of the highest character; but I have no fear of the effects of industrial disputes so long as the people who take part in them are desirous only of bettering themselves and the community of which they form a part. When, however, we have industrial disputes shrouded with a cloak ofrevolution, a cloak of something unknown and uncanny, it is then that we as a people must realize our duty to evolve and establish healthy industrialism in its real sense. It is then that we should raise our eyes to discover, if possible, whence comes the danger that exists in our midst. It should not be possible for the conditions to which I refer to exist in our Commonwealth; but, like other communities, we undoubtedly have our industrial cesspools, and their environment is sufficient at all times to create a feeling of discontent, and even of vindictiveness, in the minds of the people who have to endure them. May I refer shortly to one of those great industries from which much of our trouble has arisen, and will continue to arise unless a drastic remedy is applied? I refer to Broken Hill, where the conditions, climatic and otherwise, have not been sufficient to satisfy the requirements of the civilized men and women who have to take part in the great industry carried on there. Unless those evils are remedied, unless the giants of industry realize that it is their duty, even at the expense of the community, to give better conditions to those people who toil to produce wealth for the nation in that remote and unsatisfactory spot, where not only is the climate unsuitable, but where the housing is intolerable, and where they have no comforts such as we in other parts of Australia enjoy, we shall continue to have industrial disturbances, and evils will arise that will cause us now and then to wonder whence they come.
The Arbitration Court has undoubtedly failed, and I hope that these Tribunals will take its place. During the last few years events have moved rapidly, and, as time swiftly rolls along, there is no doubt that in the very near future the Industrial Arbitration Court, with all its greatness and with all its deeds, will become simply another milestone marking our progress along the road to prosperity. Whence comes the voice to which each and all of us must listen, the clamour for better conditions, and for something which the workers themselves cannot exactly define? Just before the awful world’s struggle took place, the conditions to which I have referred existed in the Old Land. The great struggling masses of humanity that were boxed up in those cesspools were allowed to remain in their filth and their misery. But at the sound of the bugle, at the call to battle, the military spirit of Britain was aroused to protect the liberties of the country. The leaders of the nation took control of those masses of humanity that had never known what it was to have a real meal. Thousands of those men were on the verge of starvation, and thousands of their women and children went to an early grave for want of sufficient food to sustain them. Many of the men who were called upon by the leaders of the nation to protect the liberties of the country were unable to hold a rifle, or to stand in the trenches, and do their fair share of the work required of them; but, by the grip of the military spirit, and by the achievements of those who supplied them with food at that hour of our nation’s trial, they were licked into the shape of men, and played the part of men. Those men to-day have seen through the portals of their misery a new world, and we can quite realize their desire to share in its comforts. They are endeavouring by means of industrial strife, or by Soviet councils, or any other means they can possibly create, to achieve what they desire. They have met the lads from this part of the world, and our lads have told them what a fine country this is. They naturally wish to share in the riches and the pleasures which they find that other people enjoy. Those are the feelings that are inspiring the minds of those men to-day, and are being disseminated throughout the community. It is the working of their unbalanced and undisciplined minds that throws over the movement there that cloak of uncanniness which, to some extent, also affects our life here. If we desire to prevent the spread of that revolutionary feeling which has arisen in the councils of our nation, we shall have to be up and doing. We shall have to try to meet these men face to face, in order to convince them, by the force of reason, which is the best way to bring about a permanent remedy for industrial disputes.
We must be careful in regard to the personnel of these Tribunals. The representatives who are selected to sit upon them must be men of sound judgment and of balanced minds. The worker must see that the very best of ‘his class are placed upon these Tribunals - men who are capable of reasoning to the best advantage in the interests of their fellows. The representatives of the employers must also consider the industrial conditions which obtain. They must endeavour to sink all pettiness, to be absolutely fair, and, above all, they must be prepared to make sacrifices for the common good. I trust that these special Tribunals will prove a success, and that as a result we shall, in the near future, be able to abolish the Arbitration Court. Senator Pratten made reference to ‘ ‘ man’s inhumanity to man.” The poet who uttered those words was familiar with the miseries of men. But although he was surrounded by them, he nevertheless proclaimed to the people that the time would come -
When man to man, the warld o’er,
Shall brothers be for a’ that!
If a little common sense is exhibited by both sides, together with a desire to do what is right, I am sure that the passing of this Bill will bring us nearer to the fulfilment of the prophecy of that poet whom we all revere.
.- Whilst listening to the very able speeches which have been delivered upon this measure, I have been most impressed by the note which has pervaded the whole of them - by the expression of a sincere desire to successfully deal with the problem of industrial unrest in our midst, which has now reached such an acute stage. As one who has been interested in this matter for many years, I regard it from a very different stand-point to-day from that in which I formerly viewed it. Before we adopted the principle of arbitration we formed the opinion that if we could only establish industrial tribunals for the settlement of disputes, we should open the door to a land of peace and plenty.
I would like to indorse the remarks . of Senator Plain by acknowledging the very great benefits which the Arbitration Court has conferred upon the workers of this continent. Those who are familiar with labour unions as they existed prior to the advent of arbitration, would scarcely recognise the machinery of those bodies as they are constituted to-day. One can scarcely credit the conditions under which many of the workers used to labour - so great is the improvement which has taken place since the Arbitration Court was established. To many persons who started out to accomplish something in that direction, the progress which has been made in such a brief period is positively astounding. Only those who recollect the industrial conditions which obtained in the days of which I am speaking can realize the great benefits which have been conferred upon the workers of Australia. This Bill is another experiment in the direction of effectively grappling with the industrial problems with which .we are confronted. I am not at all inclined to be pessimistic regarding the result of this experiment. I have seen industrial conditions so changed throughout the world within a comparatively short time that I regard this measure merely as another attempt to solve a most difficult problem.
To-day the world is entering upon a stage of Democracy. It is groping in the dark; it is struggling with many problems without any experience to guide it; and it is suffering as the result of mistakes from which we shall ultimately acquire a great deal of wisdom. It is all a matter of historical evolution. If we look at the history of Great Britain, we cannot fail to admire its Magna Charta. In those days the barons went to King John and demanded their freedom. That monarch had been misusing the powers which had been vested in him, and the barons rose against him and demanded a share of that power. In much the same way, when the commercial era commenced to dawn in the Old Country, the commercial classes demanded from the then limited House of Commons a voice in. the government of the country. To the landlord class that was a revolution. The commercial class obtained the power which is sought, and, like, all other classes, used it merely for its own purposes. Class legislation there is responsible for what is known as the Labour movement to-day. What is called Democracy is now awakening. It is demanding a voice in political matters just as other classes have previously demanded it. In Australia, thanks to the broadness of the franchise under which its parliamentary representatives are elected, it has obtained that voice. But it is also demanding that it shall have a voice in framing the conditions under which men work. Unfortunately the employing class has denied men that voice1, and this circumstance has resulted in a great many of the revolutionary phases which now distinguish the Labour movement.
We have to recognise that quite a new phase is growing throughout the world. As no reference has been made to it during the debate upon this Bill, I would like to touch upon it, because it is really a very important phase of the Labour movement. Those who are familiar with the early trade unions of thirty or forty years ago know that they were very small organizations, and that they were confined to comparatively a few occupations. Until recent years the vast majority of the workers were completely outside those unions. Until the principle of arbitration was recognised and until the law, through the Arbitration Court, compelled employers and employees to organize, the majority of the members of both classes remained outside their respective organizations. There is no doubt that the Arbitration Court has been the greatest organizer for labour that, was ever created.
– It has also done a good deal in that direction for the employers.
Sena’tor REID. - It has done a great deal for both the employers and the employees. Its awards have driven the latter into the trade unions until to-day men employed in most trades consist wholly of unionists. They must either join their craft unions or starve outside of them. That is the point which we have reached. Now we are reaping the whirlwind because of our action in compelling men to join organizations which, otherwise, they would not have joined. The men who had not previously been used to unions have been driven into those organizations, and, like all classes throughout the ages, they are now using their power for their own particular purposes. These unious have given them more money to spend, and have provided them with better industrial conditions. They have the power within their own hands, and power is a very dangerous weapon to give to any class of the community. Each class now has the power of protecting its own interests against the interests of the public. Very frequently a most unwise use is made of this power. The same thing has occurred throughout all ages. When people acquire power they invariably use it for their own selfish ends.
What has this brought about in Australia? It has caused both sides to become completely organized for the purpose of fighting each other for all they are worth. They have become antagonists as the result of viewing things from different angles. I am very pleased that this Bill has been introduced with a view to bringing these rival bodies together. I have alwaysbeen strongly opposed to the legal fraternity having anything to do with arbitration beyond acting as advisers for the purpose of enabling the disputing parties to keep withinthe law.I have always believed that those who aredirectly engaged in any trade should have the settlement of any dispute which arises in connexion with it. These persons are familiar with the conditions which exist in that trade - the employees upon one side, and the employers upon the other. They are thoroughly conversant with those conditions.
– Will this Bill achieve anything in that direction ?
– It seeks to do so by providing for the establishment of what are called Special Councils. What is the position at present? When an industrial dispute arises the contending parties go to the Arbitration Court before a Judge who knows nothing whatever about the conditions which obtain in thatparticular industry. He is a professional man, and, like most professional men, is, to a large extent, out of touch with the things of life. Witnesses are brought from all over Australia to prove to him exactly what conditions exist in that industry. It costs the trade unions an enormous sum of money to secure the attendance of these witnesses in order to establish their case before this Tribunal. The employing class has to adopt precisely a similar course but as they require fewer witnesses, their expenses are not so great. The delays of the Arbitration Court are often such that between the filing of aplaint and the announcement of the decision of the Court upon it, the conditions of the industry have entirely altered, and a fresh inquiry into them has become necessary. I am hopeful that these Councils, if properly conducted, will be able to act immediately. They will require no witnesses in connexion with their work. Both employers and employees on the Councils will have a complete knowledge of the conditions of the industry with which they are concerned, and it will be unnecessary for either side to bring witnesses to establish their case.
– Will the representatives of the organizations on the Councils necessarily be employees or employers in the industry concerned?
– I do not say that they will necessarily be persons engaged in the industry concerned, but I am suggesting that they should be men thoroughly conversant with the business in connexion with which the industrial dispute arises.
– In ninety-nine cases out of 100 they will be.
– They should be men thoroughly conversant with the conditions of the industry concerned, and if they are, a vast deal of time will be saved, which in the Arbitration Court is spent in the examination of witnesses. I am strongly in favour of the proposals of this Bill for that reason. If the work of these Councils is conducted on those lines the effect will be that employees, as well as employers, will be given a real voice in fixing the conditions under which the industries in which they are engaged are carried on.
I regard it as absolutely necessary that the profits made in every industry should be open to public inspection. We have, of course, to be careful to resist the possible demand for the disclosure of trade secrets which should remain in the control of those responsible for them, but the general profits and conditions of an industry should be made known in the interests of the public. I think that this should be so for more reasons than one, but my most important reason is that the vast majority of the workers have got it into their minds that they are being robbed, and that huge and undue profits are being made out of their labour, and, because of the high prices charged for necessary commodities, the general public are under a similar impression. If we were to drop some of our conservative ideas and view this question in a proper way I believe it would be admitted that if the profits made by the om pi oyer s i» any industry were made known to the employees and to the general pub:ie a great deal of industrial unrest would bc prevented, and the capitalists would net lose a cent. If the employer in any industry is securing unfair profits, I think the public should have a right to step in. I was very glad to hear Senator Keating refer to this aspect of the question, because it is the matter upon which I intended chiefly to speak. I indorse and emphasize everything that Senator Keating said on the subject. The employers and the employees in a particular industry may come together and arrive at a decision with respect to conditions and wages which, from their point of view; are just what they ought to be, but if, as a result of their adoption, the cost of the commodities produced by the industry is raised, the effect is felt by every other industry in the country, as well as by all who are consumers of the products of the industry. I think that we have reached such a stage in connexion with the efforts to solve the problem of industrial unrest that the time has arrived when the public should be given a voice in fixing the conditions and wages of an industry. I believe that the public should bc represented as a neutral party on the Councils proposed to be established under this Bill.
– How could a representative of the public avoid leaning either to employer or employee when he would himself be either an employer or an employee?
– Not necessarily. I can give honorable senators an illustration of what I mean. We know that before and during the war the seamen held up the ships. We know, also, .hal for a number of years the shipping companies gave them anything they asked for until they became more or less spoiled children. The shipping companies could afford to do that, because they lost nothing, since the increased cost of carrying on their business was passed on by them to the public. When the miners saw what the seamen had done, they began to upset things. They secured for themselves special tribunals, and even compelled the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to step in, set all else aside, and give them everything they asked for, during the war, in order to keep industries going, whilst’, the increased cost involved in meeting the miner’s demands was passed on to the public. The fact is overlooked that this kind of thing interferes with other industries, and raises the cost of living to the general public. With the best intentions, employers and employees in a particular industry may arrive at what they regard as a most just decision so far as their mutual interests are concerned, but the interests of the public are not consulted. The necessity for considering the interests of the general public in the means adopted for the settlement of industrial disputes has become so pressing that we must devise some means of dealing with the matter. I am sorry that some attempt to do so has not been made in this Bill. Some provision should, .1 think, have been made to secure representatives on these Councils whose business it would be to consider these industrial problems from the point of view of the public, and express an opinion as to whether the public can afford to pay the cost of giving effect to decisions agreed upon between employers and employees.
As a result of the work of the Arbitration Court, unionists have been given preference, and those who do not belong to a union are denied the benefits of awards made by the Court. The effect of this has been to drive unskilled labour into the unions, and many unskilled men are to-day receiving better wages than are received by craftsmen, mechanics, and men of ‘the professional class in this country. Many unskilled men are to-day receiving wages which, from the point of view of the interests of the public in industrial problems, exceed the value of the service they render to the industries in which they are engaged. I can give honorable senators an illustration of this. Some time ago, in Queensland, Judge Dickson made an award for cane-cutters in the sugar industry. It was of such a nature that no one was more astonished at the award than were the cane-cutters themselves. One of its effects was to alter the position of unskilled labour throughout Australia. I know what canecutting is, and I mention this case merely to illustrate my point. Cane-cutters are to-day earning big wages. Under contracts some of them are making from £2 to £2 5s. and £2 10s. a day for cutting cane. Sugar is one of our primary products, and there are many industries carried on in Australia that are dependent upon it. In addition, we know that is an absolutely necessary commodity, and the question arises whether it is right that because of the terms conceded to unskilled labour in the industry the community should be compelled to pay the price that is charged for sugar. Why should the general public be asked to pay an undue price for sugar in order that unskilled workers in the sugar industry may be able to make so much in four or five months as to enable them to live at leisure for the rest of the year in some city? The President (Senator Givens), who knows the sugar industry, will agree with me that no skill is required in cutting sugar cane. This is one of the re-, suits of forcing men into unions, and permitting arbitration Judges to decide the conditions and wages of industries about which they know nothing. I contend that the public, as well as the canegrower and the cane-cutter, should be considered, and they should be given a voice in fixing conditions and wages, which must, in turn, affect the price which they must pay for the commodities they use.
I do not at all object to unskilled labour being adequately rewarded, but I am trying to view the matter from the point of view of the public and the value of the services rendered by the unskilled worker. I take the shearing industry, to give another illustration. Shearers to-day are asking for £2 per 100 for shearing sheep. I know what shearing is, and I have not the slightest hesitation in saying that the shearers are asking for too much, though what they are ask- ing may not be considered too much in proportion to the profits earned by those carrying on the wool industry. I say that we have to consider whether it is a good thing for Australia that unskilled labour should be paid for at such a figure. It is hard to say what boys and labourers engaged in picking up wool in the shearing sheds are getting now, but I think they are being paid from £4 to £4 10s. per week.
– We are wasting our time here, notwithstanding the socalled salary grab.
– I know what picking up wool is. I have perhaps seen as many shearing sheds as any other person in Australia. Some of the boys employed at this work, on reaching a certain age, demand the same wages as are paid to men. When boys can make so much money at picking up wool, they will not seek employment in other industries. I know that, some years ago, boy9 working in the mines at Gympie and Charters Towers earned from £2 15s. to £3 per week. When boys are paid such wages for unskilled work, they cannot be induced to take up trades. This is a matter which is worthy of serious consideration. The boys have now so much money to spend that they acquire extravagant habits, and when they reach the age of manhood, without much prospect of increasing their earnings, they hesitate to marry. So we are cutting our own throats in many ways in paying youths and unskilled workers wages for which thev do not return full value to the community. The condition of crafts and trades in Australia is becoming serious in consequence. The Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) has told us that there is scarcely a trade carried on in the Commonwealth for which there are sufficient mechanics to-day. One might say that thousands more tradesmen might be engaged in carrying on trades throughout the Commonwealth than are available to-day. They cannot be secured because of the inducements held out to youths and others in the remuneration paid for unskilled labour. It is natural that boys should seek employment where they will be able to make most money.
To a great extent, the decisions and awards of men who know nothing about the industries with which they have dealt, are responsible for the present position. This phase of the industrial question is becoming so serious that we are going in for the new Protection. We shall soon have the Tariff before us, and the general public will be called upon to shoulder an increased burden in order that secondary industries may be established in Australia. While we are doing that we are not bringing youths into our various industries. As mentioned by Senator Payne and others, technical schools in the different States are turning out youths who have been taught various trades, but, unfortunately, after they have completed their course there is great difficulty in placing them in suitable employment. I have been interested in the work of our technical schools for a considerable time, and quite recently when I was in conversation with the principal of one of these establishments he said it was his greatest trouble to place the boys in employment after they had been trained up to a certain point. Under our present system,, whereby the number of apprentices is limited, many youths who are taught trades aTe without employment after they have completed their course, and are either thrown back on their parents or have to undertake work of an unskilled nature.
– Will this Bill be the means of improving that?
– I think it will assist. T believe it will be the means of placing certain limitations on different stupid, awards which have been made. I do not blame the Judges for the decisions that have been arrived at, because they have been based on the information that was before them.
I was brought up in the building trade, and I know a good deal concerning its operations. Under this measure it will be possible for the representatives of the employers and employees to meet in conference to discuss such questions as the scarcity of skilled labour, and if the work of the Tribunals is conducted in a proper manner the present arrangements may possibly be altered, and the conditions in various trades considerably modified. The representatives on the different
Tribunals will have a special knowledge of the questions with which they are dealing, and there will be every opportunity of improvements being effected.
– Have they power under this Bill to deal with the number of apprentices?
– When the Bill is in Committee, doubtless the “Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Russell) will be able to answer such questions.
The Boards will open up the way for improvements by showing the necessity for employing a larger number of men who have been properly trained.
During recent years we have heard a good deal of certain industries being suspended in consequence of the actions of miners, engineers, and seamen, and no one can deny the fact that such industrial upheavals have caused considerable inconvenience and loss to the Commonwealth. It has frequently been mentioned by honorable senators that if we could only dispense with Labour agitators we would do away with all our troubles ; but, in my opinion, a more incorrect statement was never uttered. However earnest some honorable senators may be in denouncing agitators, after a number of years of experience with industrial union*, and after closely studying social and political questions, I am bound to confess that it is not the agitator who is responsible.
– Is it not the agitator who leads the union into difficulties ?
– Hear, hear!
– Senator Wilson thinks it is the agitator who leads the unions into difficulty, and. another honorable senator supports that contention. Can the honorable senator who has interjected speak with experience of industrial unions in Australia or elsewhere?
– Yes, I can. I was the general manager of a large industrial concern.
– I am not referring to general managers and their association with industrial unions.
– The management has to face the position when there is trouble with the employees.
– Possibly so. But I am dealing with the general attitude of the members of industrial unions.
– I have had experience, and know who is responsible.
– That does not prove anything. I have been an employer of labour, and I know that, if the men are treated justly and realize that they are receiving a fair deal, there will not be any trouble. I know that, in connexion with huge industrial undertakings, it is difficult at times to get in personal contact with the men.
– I never had a strike in fourteen years; but any trouble that arose was usually caused by outsiders.
– I never advocated a strike, and I have stood up before thousands of men and tried with all the power at my disposal to prevent them from ceasing work. But, when a strike occurred, I stood by them and endeavoured to prevent the situation becoming worse. Although I did that, I was accused of being an agitator and leading the men on. I wish the employing class would recognise the fact that, in nine cases out of ten, it is not the men who speak for the unions who cause the trouble. On many occasions I have fought against strikes, and many old trade unionists, including some honorable senators in this Chamber, will support me when I say that it is not the so-called agitators who are responsible. I know there are some who may be classed as extremists, and others, from my point of view, who are idiots. Although it has been said that it is the agitators who cause the trouble, I deny it. There are, of course, certain men who do a lot of harm, but on the other hand there are some who are called agitators who would not harm a canary, as I know of men who make the most outrageous statements in public, but who are really harmless individuals. When reference is made to our returned soldiers, some honorable senators find it difficult to choose adjectives sufficiently expressive to praise them, and other honorable senators have stated that the Australian workman can hold his own with any one. If that is true, surely they are not such fools as to create industrial disturbance when they have not a grievance.
– It is not always the men who create trouble. Take the wheelers in the colleries; it is the young folk who cause mischief.
– I know that very often the young people are responsible, but, after all, the wheelers are only a very small section of the colliery employees. I am referring to the Labour movement in general, and I believe it is only when the workmen have a genuine grievance that they allow themselves to be led. I am opposed to extremism and I.W.W.-ism, and I am conversant with the position in America and other countries. Much of the trouble that exists today in the industrial arena is due to the fact that the employers, and what may be termed the educated classes, have neglected their duty. They are responsible for much of the turmoil that exists, not only in Australia, but throughout the world. While looking after their own interests and welfare they have neglected to take a broad national view of the whole question : the fault is not only with the employers but with the whole community. Under our educational system provision should be made for teaching our growing youth the responsibility of citizenship, and if that were done there would be more peace and contentment than at present.
I look upon the Bill as an experiment, and I sincerely trust that honorable senators and the representatives of both parties will be prepared to give it a fair trial, not only in the interests of employers and employees, but in the interests of the Commonwealth. As I have already stated, the representatives of the public will have to come into the negotiations, and have a voice in the discussions, to see how the decisions will affect the public. I am glad the measure has been introduced, and I trust it will in some way assist us in solving industrial problems, and be the means of improving not only the position of those engaged in our industries, but will be of great bene fit to the whole community.
– By way of personal explanation, may I say that in the course of remarks earlier this morning, when dealing with the history of arbitration in this country, I came into conflict with certain honorable senators when I made mention of the date 1891. Obviously, the date which I should have quoted was 1901. With that correction of a mistake which occurred, perhaps, owing to some temporary breaking down of the liaison between my brain and my lips, I merely desire to add that all my remarks will stand.
Debate (on motion by Senator Duncan) adjourned.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon.
– I understand that it is the wish of honorable senators generally to take some sort of formal farewell of Mr. Duffy this afternoon. I take the opportunity, there fore, on behalf of my colleagues and myself, to associate the Government with ‘ everything that the President has said concerning Mr. Duffy. The Senate has been particularly fortunate in the character of the gentlemen who have held and adorned the office of Clerk. Mr. Duffy was called upon to follow very distinguished parliamentary officers in Mr. Blackmore and Mr. Boydell, who filled the office of Clerk of the Senate with distinction, and did much to guide this Chamber with respect to its Standing Orders. But the gentlemen whom I have named have had an equally distinguished successor in Mr. Duffy, who has done, in fact, all that any man could do to assist the Senate in the interpretation of its Standing Orders, and, generally, to provide the necessary oil for the smooth working of the parliamentary machinery. I sincerely trust that his successor - whoever he may be - will prove to be a gentleman of the same calibre as Mr. Duffy. I and my colleagues wish him long life in which to enjoy the rest for which he has so long looked. In conclusion, I desire to thank him personally for the very many courtesies which I have received during his term of office.
Senate adjourned at 12.52 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 August 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1920/19200827_senate_8_93/>.