11th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at3 p.m., and read prayers.
Motion (by Senator Thomas) - by leave - agreed to -
That the Select Committee on Beam Wireless Messages: Charges, Australia to England, have leave to report its minutes of evidence from time to time.
What was the total cost of constructing the golf links in Canberra?
What is the total cost to date of the upkeep of these links?
What revenue has been derived from these links?
What is the present membership of the golf clubs?
What was the total cost of theconstruction of the tennis courts in Canberra?
What is the total revenue derived from these courts?
What was the total cost of the construction of the bowling greens in Canberra?
What is the total revenue derived from these greens?
I am now in a position to supply the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The total cost of constructing the Canberra and Acton golf links was £9,400.
It has been ascertained from the club that the present membership is: - Full members, 171 ; associate members, 88. This is in addition to a large number of casual players and visitors who pay green fees.
£8,902, not including the courts at Parliament House.
£1,729, not including the green at ParliamentHouse.
The following papers were presented : -
Land Tax Assessment Act - List of Applications for Relief from Taxation during the year 1928.
Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of -
Attorney-General - E. R. Avdall, C. P. Healy.
Treasury- C. W. Watt
Elections, 1928 -
Statistical Returns showing the Voting within each Subdivision in relation to the Senate Election, 1928, and the General Elections for the House of Representatives, 1928, viz.; -
New South Wales.
Northern Australia Act -
Ordinances of 1929 -
Central Australia -
No. 1 - Stamp.
North Australia -
No. 1- Stamp.
No. 2 - Board of Inquiry.
Central Australia - Public Service Ordinance - Regulations.
North Australia - Public Service Ordinance - Regulations.
Tariff Board: Pyrites - Report and Recommendation on request for removal of customs duty.
Transport Workers - Statement regarding the system of registration adopted in certain ports in the United Kingdom.
Bill received from the Blouse of Representatives.
Suspension of Standing Orders.
[3.9]. - I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional . Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
My object in moving this motion is to enable me to move the second reading of the bill to-day, and if any honorable senator then desires to have the debate adjourned, I shall offer no objection. If this course is not taken, all we can do today is to have the first reading, which is formal, and make the second reading an order of the day for to-morrow.
As this is a measurewith which everyone is familiar, there seems to be no necessity for the formal stages to be taken in that way. I have therefore moved the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders to enable the first and second readings to be moved to-day and then, if desired, to adjourn until tomorrow, the debate on the second reading.
– This is the third occasion during the past four weeks that the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Pearce) has moved the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders to enable certain bills to be passed through their remaining stages without delay. On two previous occasions the members of the Opposition supported a similar motion because of the urgency of the measures then before the Senate; but we intend to call a halt when the right honorable gentleman asks the Senate to suspend the Standing and Sessional Orders to allow the Transport Workers Bill to be passed through the Senate without delay.
– With a qualification.
SenatorNEEDHAM.- Yes, with a reservation to the effect that if necessary he will move only the second reading to-day. Despite that reservation, honorable senators on this side of the chamber will not, in a docile way, agree to the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders. Urgency is the only justification for such a motion. The right honorable gentleman has not indicated why this measure should be rushed through the Senate. The principal act was conceived in a moment of hysteria, when men engaged on the waterfront ceased work in consequence of an award of the Arbitration Court. The Government, in a panicky way, passed certain legislation to cope with that particular industrial upheaval, and subsequent action taken was under regulations framed under that act. On this motion I am not permitted to debate the principles of the bill, but I should like to know what necessity there is for it. At present there is no industrial dispute on the waterfront.
– When did peace break out on the waterfront?
– The “ Johnnycomelately “ has arrived !
– The honorable senator has frequently made a similar inquiry. He was the “Paddygoearly “ during an industrial dispute on the Fremantle wharf when he offered to “ scab “ against his mates. He has made that confession in the Senate. Is it essential that the Leader of the Senate should move the second reading of this bill to-day, to-morrow; next week, or even the week after?
– It would be better if he did not move it at all.
SenatorNEEDHAM. - Yes. Parliament was summoned on the 6th February, 1929, and since then, the Senate has already been idle one week. This measure, upon which the Minister places so much importance, has been before another place for several days and we are now asked to rush it through.
-No, we are not. We are merely asked to do some work.
SenatorNEEDHAM.- What work has the Government done since Parliament opened ?
– Honorable senators opposite refused to debate the Address-in- Reply.
– Except that I spoke for about five minutes, honorable senators on this side, in their desire to assist the Government to carry out its legislative programme, declined to discuss the Address-in-Reply. In so doing we gave the Government an opportunity to keep faith with the electors who were told by them during the election campaign that they had an important legislative programme to submit.
– I ask the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the motion before the Chair.
– I have no intention of going beyond the confines of the motion. How many days has Parliament sat and how many times have the Standing and Sessional Orders been suspended during the regime of this
Government? During the three years - 1925 to 1928, Parliament was in session for about 200 days.
– The honorable senator is again disregarding my ruling.
– During the six years the Bruce-Page Government has been in office, it has, despite its promises to the people to submit an important legislative programme, kept Parliament at work for an average of only eight and a half weeks in each year. You, sir, will not deny that the Transport Workers Bill is of vast importance to the people of Australia, that the measure should receive due consideration, and that the Senate should not be expected to deal with it hurriedly. I know that the people outside are vitally interested in this measure, and I thought the Minister would have introduced the bill and moved that the second reading be made an order of the day for to-morrow. On principle I am opposed to the suspension of the Standing and Sessional Orders. They should not be suspended to consider any legislation which is not urgent. I submit that as there is no urgency for this measure, the Standing Orders should be observed. The second-reading speech of the Minister could be made to-morrow as well as to-day. For those and other reasons I shall oppose the motion.
.- There is no necessity for the suspension of the Standing Orders at this stage. I go further and say that there is no necessity for the introduction of this bill. It is said that the Cabinet is composed of two circles - an inner and an outer circle, and that the inner circle arranged a time-table which it submitted to the outer circle of Cabinet and Government supporters generally. It is rumoured that there is to be no departure from that time-table. That legislation. should be enacted according to a time-table is foreign to Australian sentiment.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - The honorable senator is discussing a matter that is foreign to the motion before the Senate. He must confine his remarks to reasons why the Standing Orders should or should not be suspended.
– With -all due deference to you, sir, I was endeavouring to point out-
– Order ! The honorable senator will observe my ruling or take the necessary steps to dispute it.
– Australians will not stand for legislation by time-table. Is that remark in order, Mr. President?
– No, distinctly not.
– Then it is not in order to have a time-table. According to newspaper reports, the Government has arranged that this session shall end on a certain day.
– I again remind the honorable senator that he is not discussing the motion.
– I object to the suspension of the Standing Orders on the ground that a time-table has been fixed for the transaction of business. If that time-table had not* been arranged there would have been no necessity for the motion now before us. The object of the motion is to force us to work at express speed for a few days in order that Parliament may adjourn on the 22nd March. It was rumoured earlier that the date was to be the 12th March, but because of the public outcry against that proposal it was abandoned. The purpose of this bill is to validate certain regulations. I realize that I should not be in order at this stage in discussing the merits of the bill - that is, if it had any merits. In my opinion it has no merits; it is foreign to Australian sentiment, and, consequently, the motion before the Senate is not justified. I hope that all fair-minded members of the Senate, even if they are not opposed to the present motion, will approach the consideration of the bill with an open mind. Why are some honorable senators on the other side so desirous of assisting the Government to give this bill a speedy passage through this chamber?
– Why are honorable senators in opposition so desirous of delaying its passage?
– Anything that I can do while I am a member of the Senate to prevent the passage of this bill will be done by me, and I feel certain that other honorable senators on this side are equally determined to resist it. A short time ago the Government expressed a desire for peace in industry.
– For the first time in twenty years we have peace on the waterfront.
– Then what is the necessity for this motion ?
– It is to take the place of more drastic measures.
– I hope that honorable senators on this side will not be the only members of the chamber to oppose the motion, for I believe that some honorable senators opposite earnestly desire peace in industry.
– Do we not all desire that?
– If honorable senators desire peace in industry they should oppose the motion now before the Senate and assist the Opposition to defeat the bill. Last week the Senate did not sit at all, and only by the merest accident is there any business for it to deal with to-day. Indeed, only by adopting a certain course in another place was it possible for the Government to get a message to this chamber in relation to this bill. I ask honorable senators to look at the business-sheet of the Senate for to-day. It is not necessary that I should read it, although I should not be out of order in doing so. A glance at the businesssheet for to-day shows clearly that there is no justification for the motion which the Leader of the Government has submitted. If the volume of business to be transacted in this chamber were considerable, and had the right honorable gentleman explained the desire of the Government that its legislation should have a speedy passage through this chamber in order that members might reach their homes in good time before Easter, there might have been some ground for the action taken by him to-day. But this bill, which will be introduced this afternoon if this motion is agreed to by a majority of honorable senators, has incensed the working classes from one end of’ Australia to the other.
– Order! The honorable senator is not confining his remarks to the motion before the Senate.
– I was endeavouring to point out that as this bill has displeased such a considerable portion of the community, as many of the workers are extremely anxious to have industrial peace established, and as a conference of employers and employees has been sitting with that object in view, it would be well for the Government not only to withdraw the motion, this afternoon, but to withdraw the bill for the time being, if not for all time. That would afford us an opportunity to see whether any good will result from the industrial peace conference. Prior to the last elections, and from every platform, members of the Government expressed a wish to see peace in industry.
– Order ! I have already cautioned the honorable senator on several occasions. I must insist that he adhere to the motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders and does not discuss the provisions of the bill, or opinions expressed on the hustings.
– I was endeavouring to advance reasons why the motion should not be carried and why, if it were, discussion on the bill itself should be postponed. However, I shall not proceed further along those lines. I offer my strongest objection to the suspension of the Standing Orders at this stage. As the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) said, this is not the first time since Parliament assembled, that such a motion has been before the Senate, and the more that the Government is encouraged in this direction the greater will be the incentive to repeat such tactics. This is supposeed to be a house of review, and I do not wish to have its proceedings characterized by undue haste. I wish to see all matters debated in a calm, cool and deliberative fashion.
This is a most important motion. The Standing Orders are designed for a specific purpose, and only in exceptional circumstances should the Leader of the Government ask for their suspension. When extraordinary circumstances arise the Senate, in its wisdom, accedes to the wish of the Government, as it has done on many occasions, in order that the progress of measures of an urgent nature may be expedited. Is there anything urgent about this measure? I contend that there is not, and that there is no justification for the motion. I warn the Government that, although it has at present a strong majority, it is establishing a very dangerous precedent by seeking, so frequently, the suspension of the Standing Orders. I do not at all times object to their suspension, but there are occasions when I feel that I am justified in doing all that I possibly can to warn the Government to reconsider its position. I know that the Leader of the Government is a man of determination, but I also know that he is not immovable. I believe that when he gives serious consideration to the appeals of those who were at one time more closely associated with him than they are to-day, and when he allows his mind to take him back to the years agone, when he lived in quite a different atmosphere, he will not persist with this motion. The business of the Senate would be more expeditiously carried out if the views of the Opposition were considered more seriously by honorable senators who support the Government. Surely these senators are not always going to be mere blind followers of that Government! Have they no independence ? I believe that they have. I see sitting in front of me Senators Thomas and Reid. who have had a long experience of parliamentary life. I ask them is it not true that motions for the suspension of Standing Orders are agreed to only in exceptional circumstances, either in this or another place ? I know what their attitude would be if they were sitting on this side of the chamber.
– And what would be the attitude of the honorable senator if he were sitting on the Government benches?
– I should be very sorry to sit behind a Government which introduced a measure such as this.
– Order! This is the fourth occasion on which I have requested the honorable senator to confine his remarks to the motion before the Senate. I now warn him that if he again offends I shall be compelled to ask him to resume his seat.
– I should be the last to contravene the Standing Orders, or violate the rules of this chamber. I was not aware that I had sinned four times; I shall sin no more.
I shall not occupy much more time in speaking to the motion. I have endeavoured, to the best of my ability, and without hurting the feelings of any honorable senator, to enter my protest as vigorously as possible against the carrying of the motion. The longer we delay it, the better for all concerned. I hope that honorable senators supporting the Government will not remain silent. I am sure they are not anxious to pass hasty legislation, but that is what the carrying of this motion will mean. In the ordinary course we should have a message reporting the receipt of the bill from another place, followed by a motion for the first reading, and the second reading of the bill would be an order of the day for to-morrow. The Minister now proposes, if the motion be carried, to proceed at once with the second reading, but he has given an undertaking that if any objection is offered, he will not take it further to-day. Why not adopt the usual procedure and allow the bill to be introduced, take the second reading tomorrow, and the third reading at some future date ?
– I propose to be as brief as possible. As I understand it, a motion for the suspension of the Standing Orders is usually moved before the close of a session or part of a session, in order to facilitate Government business. It is frequently resorted to and I suggest that those honorable senators who object to it now, should advance good and sufficient reasons. Up to the present I have not heard any sound reason why the motion should not be carried. The intention of the Government clearly is to distribute the business of the Senate as evenly as possible over the remaining part of this session.What is wrong with that? Senator Findley, I am sure, would not wish the business of the Senate to be compressed into the last week. He does not desire the notice-paper to be so congested that it will be impossible to give proper consideration to the various measures that may come before the Senate. We are all anxious to have the work distributed evenly, to provide for each day its fair share or ration of legislative proposals that the Senate will be called upon to consider.
– How many days work have we had in the present session to date?
– Prior to the last adjournment, I made my protest against the policy of the Government in not initiating more legislative proposals in this chamber.
– This bill could have been introduced in the Senate, but it was not.
– I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that this bill, as well as others, might have been initiated in this chamber. But my object now is to suggest that honorable senators should make the best of the present situation. If we do not pass this motion, the result will be that next week and in the following week, unless the Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues wish us to remain here until after Easter, the business-paper for the Senate will be seriously congested. We can avoid that by passing the motion.
– Let us pass it then.
– I shall not. delay the Senate, but I wish briefly to reply to the Leader of the Opposition. In the course of his remarks on this motion the honorable gentleman threw a jibe at me for some observations of mine on a former occasion in the discussion on a measure dealing with trouble on the waterfront. He reminded me that I said something to the effect that industrial peace broke out occasionally in the maritime carrying trade. I may add that I coined that phrase - a thing which the Leader of the Senate, I suggest, could never do.
– Some years ago the honorable senator “scabbed” on his mates.
– There was then no Commonwealth law to deal adequately with industrial disturbances, and in the debate on the motion for the suspension of Standing Orders to deal with a measure like this I said that when I found a body of workmen tearing the Higgins’ award to “ Smithereens, “ and trampling the principle of arbitration in the dust, I, as a loyal labourite, objected to that action.
– Order ! The honorable senator must not proceed further along those lines. He must confine his remarks to the motion before the Senate.
– The Leader of the Opposition, employing the classic language of certain militant industrialists, has seen fit to apply the ugly word “ scab “ to my action on an occasion mentioned by him. All I care to say now is that when I stood my trial the people of Western Australia gave a verdict in my favour. That is more than the Leader of the Opposition can say about his position as the result of the last election. The people then ordered him to stand aside. I realize that the purpose of the motion submitted by the Leader of the Senate is to economize the time of this chamber and to provide work for honorable senators. I, therefore, support it.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided.
Majority . . 15
Bill (on motion by Senator Pearce) read a first time.
[3.54] . - In moving -
That the bill be now read a second time,
I remind honorable senators that all that it does in effect is to embody in an act that which has already been prescribed by regulations made under the Transport Workers Act 1928. These having been laid on the table of both Houses, and not having been disallowed, are existing law, and the bill adds nothing to them. It merely embraces in an act what Parliament has already authorized to be done by regulations. In these circumstances, it is unnecessary for me to give a detailed explanation of the provisions of the measure. That explanation was given on a former occasion.
The second point I make is that this bill fulfils a definite promise made by the Government and those who supported it at the last election, and has, therefore, the endorsement of a majority of the electors.
– Was a definite promise made prior to the elections that waterside workers would be licensed?
– A definite promise was made that the regulations issued under the Transport Workers Act would be incorporated in a bill and brought before Parliament. The bill provides for the registration of transport workers, the cancellation of registration, and, where good cause can be shown, the restoration of registration. I shall not deal with the clauses in detail. They do not differ in any essential from the regulations with which honorable senators and the general public are already well acquainted. Of the licences issued up to the 14th February last, seven had been cancelled for pillaging of cargo and thirteen for assaults on licensed workers. These assaults were not by one man upon another, but were, generally speaking, by mobs against individuals, the police managing to secure one or. two of the assailants. In some cases the persons assaulted were so seriously injured as to be in danger of losing their lives.
Until quite recently, Australia had about the worst reputation of any country in the world in regard to the pillaging of cargo.
– That is not correct.
– Honorable senators who read the report of a royal commission which investigated the subject of pillaging of cargo will find in it ample justification for my statement. For instance, the commission reported that in Victoria in 1920, pillaging was so extensive that the claims upon the shippers amounted to 2s. 4d. a ton on the total tonnage imported. What would be thought of this Parliament if it imposed a tax of 2s. 4d. a ton on all goods imported? Yet that is what was being unlawfully imposed by a section of workers on all goods imported. The reports show that only a section of the men who work on the wharfs, a small minority, has been taking this toll of the community. Under this bill pillaging is an offence for which, on conviction, the licence of the offending worker may be cancelled.
Certain criticism has been offered to one provision of the bill which directs that a licence may be cancelled if a registered person has refused or failed to comply with any lawful order or direction given in relation to his employment; and a good deal of false sympathy has been expressed for workers who may be deprived of their licences for such a reason. It is claimed that the penalty is unduly severe. I invite those who hold that view to read the judgment of Judge Beeby in the arbitration case of the Commonwealth Steamship Owners’ Association and others, and the Waterside Workers Federation. I shall read a few sentences from that judgment, because I notice that many people speak of this legislation as if it were now being introduced for the first time with malice aforethought for the purpose of disturbing an existing set of peaceful industrial conditions. I remind honorable senators of the circumstances in which the Transport Workers Act was passed. There had “been a revolt against an arbitration award ; the waterside workers were holding up the industries of this country and thus causing loss of employment to thousands of people who had no connexion whatever with the dispute. A small body of men was practically holding this community by the throat when this licensing system was first brought into operation.
– And it was not brought into force in ports where men “played the game. “
– It was not brought into force in ports where the workers obeyed the award of the Arbitration Court.
– It was brought into force on the eve of a general election in order to inflame the minds of the people.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.When the licensing system was first brought in there was no thought of a general election. In the course of his judgment in the case to which I have referred, Judge Beeby said - 1 waa reluctantly forced to the conclusion that the federation and some of its vigilance and other officers, more than the workmen themselves, have been responsible for most of the unrest of recent times on the water-front, and that much disorder has been formented for purposes other than the remedying of legitimate grievances.
He went on to describe the disturbances to which he referred and continued -
These stoppages of work have usually arisen from demands by groups of men, backed up by a branch executive, or by the Federal Committee of Management itself, for restrictive conditions not authorised by the court; from attempts to enforce local rules or regulations in conflict with the award, from refusal to accept the decisions of boards of reference on disputed points; from efforts to secure payments of excessive rates for special work without submission to boards of reference; from demands for increases in the numbers of hands employed without reference to boards; from enforcing the “fair division of work” policy by demanding the employment of more me than were fairly necessary; from effort to destroy the mobility of labour employed and from the adoption by the committee of management and branch executives of a new policy aiming at securing control without responsibility of waterside operations in the Commonwealth.
Further on he showed how Mr. Justice Higgins had previously attempted to deal with the same set of circumstances and restrain that kind of conduct. He then proceeded -
Unfortunately, employers, for reasons which it is not necessary to traverse, although always protesting, acquired the habit of gradually yielding to the conditions imposed by the federation.
We know very well what happened. The employers yielded, but the community paid. Industries had to bear the cost. The cost of production in Australia was increased. Judge Beeby went on to say -
Now, however, the employers have submitted a mass of uncontradicted evidence to prove that the federation has paid no heed to the warnings of the court. Branches have been, and still are, permitted to make their own domestic rules, and, furthermore, the committee of management of thu federated branches, the governing body of the organization, has itself directed the enforcement of conditions contrary to the award. One only of these need be mentioned. The award provided that the times and places of engagement of labour existing on certain dates should continue until varied by agreement or by findings of boards of reference. The committee of management, in defiance of this provision, directed all branches to adopt one pickup only, although a second afternoon pick-up prevailed in nearly every port. There is no escape from the conclusion that the federation has adopted a policy of definite defiance of this court. It has always stated its willingness to accept awards, but with the unexpressed reservation that, so far as the community would permit, the collective power of the organization would be used to extort conditions which the court had refused or had not been asked to consider. It is now necessary to consider the motives behind this policy. Employers in every port admit that 80 per cent, of the workmen are capable men who follow the occupation regularly as their means of livelihood, and who, if left alone, will work peacefully under awards. The workmen, however, attempt to justify breaches of the award by stating that they run the risk of union fines unless they obey local rules and the directions of their branches.
It is the 20 per cent, who object to the legislation now proposed. It will not in any way affect the remaining 80 per cent.
– They will welcome it.
– I venture to say that they will. Judge Beeby further stated, as reported at page 10 of his judgment -
On the plea that a better distribution of work amongst members of the federation is necessary, the accepted policy of the federation is to “ spin out the job,” and so to destroy the mobility of labour engaged that many more mon will be employed than are necessary.
On page 12 we find this statement -
Definite allegations were made during the proceedings that, notwithstanding provisions for extra labour and other advantages conferred by past awards, members of the federation in some ports have systematically reduced output, and that gangs of men, although numerically increased, load and discharge less tonnage per hour than in pre-arbitration days.
The learned judge went on to say -
Consideration of these variations in conditions made me refuse to accept as conclusive a return submitted by employers which purported to show that, since 1912, the average rate of handling oversea general cargo, with four men in each hold, had fallen from 17.87 tons to, with six mcn in hold, 13.04 tons. The figures were, however, sufficiently startling to call for inquiry, and I accordingly asked Mr. Sutcliffe, of the Commonwealth Statistician’s Office, to furnish me with a report as to the main ports. Mr. Sutcliffe’s reports, without the appendices, were as follow: -
The need for investigation, as appears from the terms of reference, arose from allegations made during the hearing of a case before the court, that the rate per hour of discharging cargoes had decreased by 20 per cent, in the year 1925, compared with the rate in 1912. This allegation was supported by a statement put in as an exhibit, a copy of which is given in the appendix. My first step, therefore, was to check the accuracy or otherwise of that statement. It purports to bo a record of cargo discharged from 21 vessels in 1912 and from a similar number in 1925 by the Victorian Stevedoring Company. The company placed the whole of the documents from which the return was compiled at my disposal. It was found that some errors had been made, and these were corrected, and the corrected statement is also given in the appendix. So far as the comparison for the two years is concerned, however, the results are not appreciably affected. The weighted average tons per hour per gang are -
Reading from Mr. Sutcliffe’s report, he continued -
As a further test of the accuracy of the statement, I have had taken* from the available records, and have personally checked a return showing for the same seven vessels the rate of discharge per hour in 1912 and 1925 to 1927, That is, I have taken each of the seven vessels and compared its rate of discharge in 1912 with the rate of discharge in 1925-26 or 27, as the case may be. This return shows that the average rate of discharge in 1912 was ICI tons per gang hour, and in 1925-27, 13.2 tons per gang per hour. This return shows a similar percentage decrease to that shown by the original exhibit. A further return prepared shows that for eleven vessels discharged by the Victorian Stevedoring Company this year, the average rate of discharge was 12.71 tons per gang per hour.
On page 15 of the report of the judgment are given the figures for interstate shipping showing that in Melbourne in 1914-15 the rate of discharge was 15.4 tons per gang per hour, as against 14.5 in 1925-26. In Sydney in 1914-15 the rate of discharge was 18.2 tons per gang per hour, whilst in 1925-26 it was 16.9.
I now come to a very important quotation, which relates to the methods by which the lawful orders of an employer have been interfered with - the very evil at which proposed new section .12 is aimed. On page 34 of the judgment, Judge Beeby, in referring to vigilance officers, says -
The right of officers of the federation to visit wharfs and ships whilst work is in progress, for the purpose of seeing that awards and agreements are carried out, has been conceded by employers. But, on the hearing of these disputes, strong complaint was made that this privilege has been abused. There is no need to review the .evidence, much of which was, as to facts, uncontradicted. I need only say that it was clearly proved that, in the ports of Melbourne and Fremantle, and to a lesser degree in some other ports, officers of the federation have been guilty of most unjustifiable and arrogant interferences with management, and have frequently been responsible for stoppages of work, which would not have occurred but for their interference. . . . Some officials in Melbourne and Fremantle acted with the express purpose of assuming control of operations. I cannot disregard the evidence on this issue. It has become necessary to more clearly define the rights of vigilance officers and to provide for penalties if such rights are abused. No vigilance officer has the right to interfere with management, to direct men to stop work, or to issue orders to men as to how they shall do their work. The award prescribes the conditions of labour. If a federation official thinks the award is being misinterpreted, he can bring the matter before the court or a board of reference. If he thinks the award is being broken, his duty is to make complaint, in a proper manner, to the foreman, and then to proceed in court under the penalty provisions. If he thinks insufficient labour is being provided, he can make complaint to a foreman, and thereafter, if necessary, to the board of reference.
What does this mean? It means that while in all other industries the employee, in following his occupation, obeys the lawful orders of his employer - that is the condition on which he receives his wages-
– Does that apply in all other industries ?
– Yes. Before this law became operative - before the revolt which directed public attention to this abuse - there was a third set of individuals, not appointed by the community, having no interest in the goods to be handled, paying no wages and receiving no salary from the employer, but who, nevertheless, were over-riding the orders of employers by directing the waterside workers amongst other things where cargo was to be stowed or dumped. It was stated in evidence that a ship-owner, whose duty it was to deliver goods as to which he was a common carrier, would order them to be dumped from the sling to a particular place on the wharf from which they could be expeditiously and efficiently placed on lorries or other vehicles that were to load them. But a vigilance officer would come along and take upon himself the right to say that the goods should not be dumped there, but in some other place, his object being to necessitate the employment of another gang to move the goods to a point from which they could be conveniently removed from the wharf by lorries or other vehicles. What does that mean? Not that the additional cost would be imposed upon the ship-owner, but that a toll would be taken from the community to cover the cost of the extra handling of the goods. The people have had to pay for these exactions. It is said that in the bad old days in China, what was known as a “li kin” customs duty was imposed. At the ports or entrances to the great waterways that run into central China the
Government collected customs duties on goods entering those great waterways, but higher up the river a local brigand would impose a further duty so that generally speaking by the time the goods reached their destination at the top of the river - each local brigand having taken his toll - the cost to the consignee had doubled. We have had this system around the Australian coast - a system of tolls or “ li kin “ unlawfully imposed by certain persons. That is shown in this judgment of the Arbitration Court and findings based on uncontradicted evidence. It is this abuse of power - this unlawful levying of a toll on the community - that is aimed at in paragraph (a) of proposed new section 12, which provides for a penalty in the case of those who refuse to comply with a lawful order of an employer.
Who is making all the noise and raising all the objections to this legislation? It is not the men who wish to follow their lawful occupation on the wharves, but those “ brigands “ who have been imposing “ li kin “. They find their occupation gone. They find their power taken from them. They find that the community has taken to itself the power to prevent vigilance officers from unlawfully interfering with the handling of goods as they have been doing. It is these individuals who have been moving motions of protest, calling indignation meetings and “raising the roof” of the trades halls in the various state capitals in protest against this measure.
A determined attempt has been made to make it appear that there is something revolutionary, something foreign to British ideals of justice in this registration system. We do not claim that it is original. It has been in existence in Great Britain for years. It was adopted in Liverpool in 1912, in London and Bristol in 1919, and in Hull in 1925. In those ports it was not imposed by the Government, although the local governing authorities had power to provide for it, but as the result of an arrangement between union representatives and the employers. In other words the unions recognized the advantage of some such system.
– What is the Minister’s authority for that statement?
– It is based on inquiries made through the High Commissioner’s Office as to the conditions existing in the principal ports of Great Britain.
– What unions were concerned ?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Board of Trade and a joint committee of the Dockworkers Union and the employers.
– What are the terms of the licences?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I have the papers here, and the honorable senator can read them.
– Will the right honorable gentleman lay them on the table of the Senate?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes. I have given the findings of Judge Beeby regarding the falling off of efficiency in the handling of cargo throughout Australia, and also his comments as to the causes of that falling off. After the waterside workers had revolted against the award of the Arbitration Court and deliberately thrown up their employment by refusing to work, an appeal was made to the citizens of Australia to come to the rescue of the Commonwealth and carry on the necessary transport services. Large numbers of Australian citizens responded to that appeal and commenced to work. But what treatment was meted out to them ? Although they came along to work in accordance with a law of the country - to work under an award of the court, they were treated as criminals, assaulted, boycotted, and, in some cases, bombed. The use of the bomb was previously unknown in Australia.
– Does the right honorable gentleman accuse the waterside workers of having thrown bombs?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No. I say only that men who came to the assistance of their country in a time of need were bombed.
– The right honorable gentleman implies thatthe waterside workers were responsible for the bomb throwing.
SenatorSir GEORGE PEARCE.If the Leader of the Opposition chooses to fit the cap, he may; I have madeno attempt to do so. The point is that men who offered their services as volunteer labourers were bombed in their homes. It is significant that the houses in South Melbourne which were bombed were occupied by men who worked as volunteer labourers during the strike on the waterfront. No one but a fool would think otherwise than that their homes were bombed because they did so work. Yet, their only offence was that, in accordance with a law of the country, they offered their services to keep the community from starving. I do not know who threw the bombs; if I did I should assist in having them convicted just as other men who bombed the Greek Club were convicted recently.
The following return showing the work performed by these volunteer labourers in comparison with that done before the strike by the members of the Waterside Workers Union, is illuminating: -
Those figures need no comment; they tell their own story, and give the reason why, before the strike, industry in Australia was not progressing. Australia cannot afford that kind of thing; in that way lies the road to ruin. If that is to be the policy of trade unionism in Australia, then trade unionism will soon bring about not only its own downfall, but also the downfall of this country.
There is no novelty in the licensing system as applied to waterside labour. There is no novelty in its application in Australia to other forms of labour. It has been applied for many years to electricians, plumbers, motor-drivers, hawkers and even baggage carriers on the wharfs have had to obtain licences. And yet itis said now that there is something degrading in this system. Those who make that statement did not protest whenthese other classes of workmen were required to take out licences, and no one considers that they are degraded or injured in any way because in the interests of the community they have to secure a licence to pursue their several occupations. I commend the bill to the Senate.
Debate (on motion by Senator Needham) adjourned.
Senate adjourned at 4.27 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 6 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1929/19290306_senate_11_120/>.