25 June 1924

9th Parliament · 2nd Session

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

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Senator PEARCE:
Minister for Home and Territories · Western Australia · NAT

.- (By leave.)- I moveThai the Senate expresses its sincere regret nl the death of Senator Stephen Barker, and places UPOn record its appreciation of his meritorious public service, and extends its profound sympathy to his family in their sad bereavement.

The late Senator Barker, who had lived a very busy life, attained an age beyond the allotted span. His death removes an interesting figure from the political history of this country. As one of a band of pioneers in the trade union movement in Victoria, he did a great deal to educate public opinion in the direction of. legislation for the amelioration of the conditions of the workers, especially in the factories of Melbourne and its environs, and also in organizing the workers in furtherance of that object. That, his work was recognized by the people is evidenced by the fact that on throe different occasions - hi 3910, 1914, and again in 1932- he was elected a member of this Senate. It is interesting to recall that at the time when much of the pioneering work to which I have referred was done, industrial legislation was in its infancy. It. was little understood and not altogether sympathized with by the great bulk of the people. As a consequence, those representatives of trade unions and antisweating leagues who engaged in the task of educating public opinion and awakening the public conscience, had a very difficult, and, in some respects, an unpleasant duty. The late honorable senator was one of those who played a very important part in that work, and in organizing trade unionists to take the necessary action that eventually resulted in the splendid code of industrial legislation now to be found upon the statutebooks of this state, and which I am sure has materially influenced similar legislation in all the other states, as well as on the part of the Commonwealth Parliament. Senator Barker was a member of the first Clothing Trade Wages Board in Victoria, and was appointed to represent the clothing trade union on the Trades Hall Council in 1897. In the early nineties sweating was rampant. It is no exaggeration to say that the conditions then existing constituted a black page in the industrial history of this state and also of the other states, and that the trade in which the employees suffered, perhaps, more than in any other was that which recognized Senator Barker’s sterling worth by appointing him as its representative on tho Trades Hall Council. In July of the same year he. was elected president of the Trades Hall Council, and in 1901 he was made permanent secretary to that body. That position he held until 1910, when he became a member of the Senate. The late honorable senator not only fought earnestly to secure justice for the workers, but also recognized the need for industrial efficiency, and one of the features of his life’s work was the part he played as a member of the Working Men’s College, a very valuable training institution that has done so much to raise the standard of industrial efficiency in this and the other states of the Commonwealth. For twenty-five years he represented the Trades Hall Council upon the council of that college. Members of that body informed me, at tho funeral on Monday, that they attached great value to his practical, common-sense advice, and that his death was deeply regretted by all of them. During the whole of his life- he was Senator Pearce associated With this class of work, and right up to the time of his death he retained his association with the Trades Hall Council, representing the Victorian branch of the Musicians Federation. As I have already remarked, he reached a ripe old age after a life-time of remarkable activity in the advancement of the industrial conditions of this state. His death, therefore, is a distinct loss to the people of Victoria and to this Parliament: His wife had predeceased him, but he left a grown-up family. I am quite sure that those who knew him realize that, although the members of his family have reached adult ago, they nevertheless must feel their loss very keenly indeed. The resolution, therefore, is intended to convey to them cur sympathy in the loss they have sustained through the death of their father. I invite the! Senate to pass the motion as a tribute of respect by the Senate to the memory of pur late fellow senator.

New South Wales

– I join with the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) in this expression of regret at the loss sustained by the Senate: in the death of Senator Barker. I appreciate very much the kindly references made by the Minister to the earlier struggles of, and the good work done by, the late honorable senator before he became a member of the Senate and associated with those who are hero now. It was my good fortune to enter the Senate with Senator Barker in 1910. He had then reached an age at which most men would be seriously thinking of retiring from public life, but he was full of courage and cheerfulness. He met disappointment and adversity always with a smiling face. To me it was always an inspiration to be associated with: a man so energetic, so willing, and so ready in all circumstances to do his best. I was as much disappointed as any one at his one defeat in a Senate contest, but I found the late honorable senator himself quite optimistic and cheerful. When the people of Victoria, in 1922, again returned him as a member of this chamber, to me it was a matter of great pleasure. to know that, in the first place, my party had honoured him with the selection, and that in the second place the people of Victoria had honoured him in his old age by returning him as one of their representatives. We sincerely mourn his loss, and earnestly sympathize with the members of his family, who, although grown-up, and despite the knowledge that his was a wellfilled life, must feel most severely the removal of such a lovable personality. I also join with Son a tor Pearce and the members o: the Senate in expressing sorrow at the loss the state has sustained in the death of one who so worthily represented it in this chamber.

Senator FINDLEY:

– A veteran in Labour’s army has joined the great majority. The late honorable senator was for very many years a fearless advocate of the people’s cause. He was a conspicuous, figure in the industrial and political life of this state. In the years that have gone, when unionism and labour in politics were weak, both numerically and financially, the late senator did yeoman service It is perfectly true, as the Leader of the Senate has said, that at one time sweating of the worst kind existed in this state, and men and ‘women, and boys and girls, were required to work inordinately long hours for a totally inadequate wage. At that time, Senator Barker, by his voice and pen, helped to focus public attention on the existing wrongs, and largely in consequence of the work then done by the track blazers and pioneers in the industrial sphere of Victoria, legislation was enacted, which, although it did not absolutely remove the deplorable conditions that prevailed, yet it materially minimized them. The late senator filled many important and responsible positions in the industrial and political Labour movements of Victoria with credit to himself and complete satisfaction to his fellows. Ho ‘has left behind him a record of good and useful service to the community. I was associated with him for many years in industrial and political life, and I regret his demise very much. I have lost a staunch colleague, the Labour party a loyal supporter, and the masses of Victoria a sterling advocate. I join with the Leader of the Senate and my own Leader (Senator Gardiner) in expressing our deepest sympathy for the surviving members of the late senator’s family.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. T. Givens) [3.14]. - Before putting the motion, I wish to say that I join with the Leader of the Government and the Leader of the Opposition in expressing, on behalf of the Senate generally, and also on my own behalf, very deep regret at the death of Senator Barker. This demise f follows, after the short space of ‘ only a few months, the death of two other honorable senators. Since this chamber was constituted on the 1st July last, three of its members have died. I am sure that we are unanimous in expressing our sympathy and condolence with the members of the late Senator Barker’s family. It is true, as Senator Pearce has said, that Senator Barker was a pioneer in the fight for better industrial conditions in this state, and at a time when those conditions, especially in association with factory life. cried aloud for some reformation. He was a pioneer in the struggle for the betterment of those conditions at a time when it was both unprofitable and unpopular to take up the cudgels on behalf of the people who were suffering, and he encountered, in consequence, more reviling than praise for his activities.- That he had the confidence of his fellow workers, and the people generally, in Victoria, was shown by the fact that they elected him three times as one of their representatives in this Chamber. He was’ a most unassuming member of the Senate, but while his health permitted it, was assiduous in the discharge of his duties. He attended with care and promptness to all the correspondence he received from his constituents, and I know that he spent many laborious hours in doing his best to meet their wants and wishes. Although his life was long and well-filled, his death has caused deep sorrow to his numerous friends. The members of Senator Barker’s family have grown up, but they must experience the natural sorrow of children at the death of such a devoted father, and our sympathy goes out to them. I am sure that I speak for all the members of the Senate when I say that wo deeply . sympathize with them, and are sincerely sorry at the death of our late colleague.

Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.


– I need hardly say that I shall fake the proper steps to convey ‘ to the members of our late colleague’s family the terms of this motion, and the expression which has been given by honorable senators to our sympathy and condolence.

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Senator PEARCE:
Minister for Home and Territories · Western Australia · NAT

– As a mark of respect to the memory of our late colleague, I move -

That the Senate do now adjourn. . Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 3.18 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 25 June 1924, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.