11th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following paper was presented: -
Public Works Committee Act - Fourteenth General Report of the , Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works.
– I have received the following telegram from McLaren Vale, in South Australia - “ Sales have been made here as follows : - “Grenash £4, doradillo £3, currants, £6 5s.” I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs if he is aware that the price per ton fixed for grenash grapes was £85s. - for which buyers are paying £4 - and for doradillos £5 15s. - for which they are paying £3. In view of the serious position of the grape-growers throughout Australia, which will become worse if these prices continue; I ask the Minister whether the Government will give the matter immediate consideration?
– I can assure the honorable senator that full inquiry is being made into the whole position, and that a reply will be furnished as soon as practicable.
SenatorFINDLEY (through Senator Graham) asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
In view of the estimated cost of reproducing the photographs, the Publications Committee of the Treasury intimated that the photographs were not to be published. The Federal Capital Commission, therefore, decided not to publish the photographs, but arranged for them to be laid on the table of the Parliamentary Library on 7th February.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions is -
The complete report of the Tariff Board was received yesterday. The matter will receive immediate attention.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Is it a fact, as announced in the London Times of 22nd October, 1926). page 18, column o, that post-letter telegrams at the rate of1½d. per word, subject to a minimum of 2s. 6d. per telegram of 20 words or less, can be sent by wireless from Canada to England - the post- letter telegrams being handed in as telegrams between London and Montreal, but collected and delivered as letters ?
British Legislation : Unemployment Pay
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I have no knowledge of the introduction of such a bill other than what has appeared in the press.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In connexion with the projected extension of the aerial service from Derby to Wyndham, will the Minister cause inquiry to be made into the suitability of Turkey Creek as a landing place on such contemplated extension?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.Yes.
Senator P. P. ABBOTT (through
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
Debate resumed from 7th March (vide page 842) on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Upon which, Senator Needham had moved by way of amendment -
That all the words after “ That “ be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the following words : - “ further consideration of this bill be postponed untilsuch’. time as the committee appointed by the Peace in Industry
Conference has made representation to the Government with respect to the penal provisions of industrial legislation passed by this parliament.”
– In following very closely the speeches delivered by honorable senators opposite on this bill, I noticed that special reference was made, particularly by the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Sir George Pearce) to the pillaging which has occurred on the wharfs, which the right honorable gentleman claimed would be largely prevented by this bill. But honorable senators on this side have shown that it is not Australian wharf labourers who are responsible for the pillaging, which unfortunately occurs, as cargo is frequently pillaged before it reaches Australia.
I am a member of a trade union, and I have been associated with trade unionism all my life. I first became associated with an industrial organization because I had been misled by my employer. When I secured employment as a boy, the manager of the mine in which I was engaged informed me that if I did my best and helped to make a success of the undertaking, he would see that as soon as an opportunity offered I should be placed in a more responsible position. I regarded that as an honest promise, and did my very best. In those days there was no payment for overtime, and no award of the Arbitration Court to protect employees. I worked from 10 to 12 hours a day without overtime pay, at times for six hours without a meal, for the paltry wage of ls. an hour. After carrying on fort three or four months I found that, notwithstanding the experience I had gained and the promise made another man was placed in charge of the work which I had been doing. On making inquiries from my mates, who numbered 30, I found that a similar promise had been made to them, and that we were pitted one against the other. We all realized that we had been tricked.
– The honorable senator does not suggest that that employer was typical of all employers ?
– If my first employer had kept his promise perhaps I would have had more faith in employers generally.
– But the honorable senator and the men with whom he was working, in doing their best were only performing their duty.
– Even when a man is doing his best there are some employers who think that he should do more. The Government professes to be sympathetically disposed towards unionism and the working classes generally, but legislation such as we are now discussing will result in increased unemployment, reduction in the standard of living, and wholesale “ scabbing “ on the waterfront. The employees to-day are finding that they have been tricked as I was in my early days. I have always advocated arbitration and I honestly believe that if arbitration is administered with justice it will be a success. Arbitration was, I believe, introduced originally with the intention of forcing unscrupulous employers to deal justly with their men.
– Should it not have the same effect upon unscrupulous employees ?
– If the wageearners are treated fairly they will always render efficient service in return. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are perhaps more concerned than honorable senators opposite with the progress of the Commonwealth, and the necessity to ensure peace in industry. Under a recent award of the Arbitration Court the working hours have been increased from 44 to 48 hours a week, and as there is an army of unemployed numbering perhaps 100,000, the Government must expect some dissatisfaction amongst the workers. Senator Payne has told us that he believes in unionism, but he did npt mention the brand.
– I believe in sane trade unionism. ..
– A system of trade unionism administered, no doubt, by Senator Payne and those who share his views on industrial matters. The honorable senator said he objected to trade union organizers going on to the waterfront and, as he put it, dictating to the workers as to the number of bags they should put in a sling. I have had wide experience in that class pf work, and I can assure the honorable senator that if slings are loaded beyond their capacity, serious trouble will result.
– That was not the cause of the trouble in the case I quoted.
-I have no doubt the honorable senator believes that what he said about the incident was true, but, my experience is that industrial organizers are reasonable and fair.
– The honorable senator must have had a remarkable experience.
– I have been associated with the Australian “Workers Union for thirty years. I know practically every officer of that organization, and I resent the reflection which honorable senators opposite endeavoured to cast on it yesterday. The officials of the Australian Workers Union, from the president down, have always done their best to induce employees to accept the awards of the Arbitration Court, whether favorable or otherwise.
– Apparently they have not been very successful.
– I admit that we have not always succeeded in bringing about peace in industry, but I can assure honorable senators opposite that if this bill is passed the chance of industrial peace will be considerably lessened.
– What did the Australian Labour party in Sydney say about the Australian Workers Union for its attitude towards arbitration?
– What the Australian Labour party in Sydney said about my organization does not concern me so much as what honorable senators opposite have said concerning it.
In the debate on this measure in another place, the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) stated that Nationalist supporters of the Government believed in trade unionism, and, like Senator Payne just now, he added that it must be sane trade unionism, but the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) corrected him by saying “No; we say it must be industrial and not political unionism.” What is the difference between the two brands of unionism? Industrial unionism, as I understand it, has as its objective the passage of industrial legislation that will deal fairly and honestly with all sections of the people, and to this end it seeks to elect its repre sentatives to Parliament. This bill will break down .industrial organizations in Australia. We cannot have the licensing of employees and at the same time retain our trade union organizations. As Mr. Hughes said, in another place, it is impossible and unreasonable to expect the two systems to work together. We cannot possibly have arbitration without organized trade unionism. The two must go hand in hand. Do honorable . senators opposite suggest that in our industrial relationships we should revert to individual bargaining between employers and employees ?
– What is the difference, in effect, between individual bargaining and arbitration as we have it today?
– There has been comparative peace in industry since we have had arbitration.
– At the last elections Senator Rae, one of the honorable senator’s colleagues in the campaign, declared that he was opposed to arbitration.
– The organization which I represent stands for arbitration. If honorable senators opposite can substitute for it something that will ensure a greater measure of peace and deal justly by the employees, we on this side will support it. It would appear, however, that the Government and its supporters are prepared to stand by unscrupulous employers to the injury of the workers in Australia, because there can be no doubt that the provisions of this measure will make serious inroads into the privileges hitherto enjoyed by the working classes.
– Are those privileges exclusive?
– I do not suggest that they should be, but the honorable senator knows, as well as I do, that the trade union movement will fight strenuously against this attempt to smash its organizations.
– Does the honorable senator believe .that this bill will do that ?
– It will seriously damage trade unionism on the waterfront, and if we may judge from the speeches of honorable senators opposite the licensing system will later be extended to other industries. They even mentioned the Australian Workers Union.
SenatorCrawford. - Does not the honorable senator know that the power of the Government is limited in that respect?
– It may be, but in regard to industrial legislation the power of Parliament is unlimted.
As a representative of the workers who constitute 95 per cent. of the people of Australia, I strongly protest against this bill, and will do all I can to prevent its passage. Supporters of the measure argue that since a plumber and certain other mechanics are required to be licensed, there should be no objection to the licensing of men engaged on the waterfront. They overlook the fact that before skilled tradesmen, such as plumbers, can obtain licences to do certain classes of work, they must pass an examination in competency.
– Is a luggage porter called upon to pass an examination?
– He may not be, but his position is entirely different from that of a wharf labourer. Experience has shown that to ensure a reasonable living for those working on the waterfront, the supply of labour offering must not be excessive. Accordingly the wharf labourers, from time to time, close their books, and new members are not admitted.
– If other sections of the community acted similarly, what would happen?
– I am surprised that Senator Lynch should put that question to me. I understand that, at one time, he was a strong supporter of the party to which I belong. I believe, also, that many years ago he did great work on behalf of trade unions. In 1914, however, he appears to have changed his views. He stated then, as Senator Payne did just now, that he believed in “ sane “ unionism. In other words, he approved of that brand of trade unionism which would accept any old conditions that employers cared to force upon employees. No provision is made in the bill to safeguard the interests of the worker in the matter of awards. No penalty clauses are included to deal with the employer who engages men at rates under those specified by awards.
– Those penalties are alreadyprovided in the Commonwealth
Conciliation and Arbitration Act. Is the honorable senator in favour of eliminating the penalties from that act ?
– I am endeavouring to draw a comparison between the Senator Lynch of 1913 and the Senator Lynch of 1929: Speaking in the Senate in December 1913 on the Government Preference Prohibition Bill the honorable
– Unless those remarks have some bearing on this bill the honorable senator will not be in order in reading them.
– Wait until you hear them.
– Order ! I ask Senator Needham to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, but I suggest that Senator Dooley be allowed to quote the remarks before you, sir, deliver judgment upon them.
The PEESIDENT. - Senator Dooley was referring to Senator Lynch. I am perfectly familiar with the contents of the bill and, as it makes no reference to Senator Lynch, I issued a warning to Senator Dooley that he must not trespass beyond its confines.
– I shall do my best to obey your ruling, sir. Yesterday Senator Lynch made a statement, perhaps as rambling as my own, in support of this measure wherein he stated that although he was at one time a supporter of trade unionism, he does not now believe in it. I shall point out the inconsistency of the honorable senator by quoting his remarks from page 4002 of Hansard of 10th December, 1913, wherein, addressing himself to the second reading of the Government Preference Prohibition Bill, the honorable senator said -
We were told at the last election that one of the bad practices - one of the samples of maladministration - of the Labour Government was in connexion with preference to unionists. The electors throughout the Commonwealth were asked to give the Liberal party power to abolish that practice. In Western Australia, the appeal was made with the same force and lack of scruple as was displayed elsewhere in the Common wealth,’ yet that State sent back to this Parliament men more strongly fortified than ever in their determination to support the Labour party in what they had done. In South Australia, the reply of the electors was to send back one more recruit to help the Liberal party in doing their nefarious work.
Queeusland replied to the appeal by sending back more men, though by increasing majorities to maintain preference to unionists. Victoria stands in about the same position, if not a little better, whereas Tasmania has not receded from its position. We, therefore, have only one part of the Commonwealth which, owing to circumstances entirely foreign to tlie issue, gave a chance majority to the Liberal party. But, viewing the Commonwealth at large, we have the spectacle of five States, not only standing firmly behind the Labour Administration in giving, preference to unionists, but actually sending back to this Parliament more representatives to help and sustain that party in what they had done, that is, so far as the election aspect of the proposal is concerned.
The speech continues at some length in the same strain, but I shall not weary honorable senators by quoting further from it. It will be seen that the honorable senator was at one time an ardent advocate of industrial unionism. I believe that the reason why he has altered his vIews is that he was hopeful that his ideals would be realized by the organization and co-operation of employers and employees. We still entertain such a hope, and continue to strive for industrial peace.
I remind honorable senators that the judiciary makes just as many errors as do average members of the community. A judge could not be blamed if he used his own discretion when incorrect evidence was submitted to him. Undoubtedly, there have been cases when matters have been misrepresented to the judge by the employers. The working class has had to wage a lone and strenuous fight to gain the conditions which now obtain in Australia. We know that those conditions can still be improved, and that such an improvement would bring prosperity to the country. But if the workers are to be submitted to reactionary legislation of this character, if working conditions are made worse and hours of employment increased it will constitute the worst day’s work that has ever been performed in this Parliament. Honorable senators opposite have referred to extremists, “reds” and bolsheviks, being in the working class movement. I remind them that nothing breeds extremism more readily than oppression. It is unwise to force the workers to return to conditions under which they cannot live decently. If peace is desired, honorable senators must be honest in their endeavour to bring it about. Legislation of this nature will merely fan the flame of revolt and perpetuate industrial unrest. If thi3 measure is passed I can visualize a future Australia over-run by Southern Europeans and other foreigners, antipathetic to the White Australia policy for which the workers have sacrificed so much,, men who, temporarily, are content to work for poor wages and under bad conditions.
– The honorable senator knows that that will not be permitted.
– It is being permitted to-day.
– Then why are such employers not prosecuted.
– How can they be, when the only men able to give evidence are those unable to speak the English language. An interpreter is necessary and that, with many other obstacles, makes a prosecution impracticable. This bill gives the employer an opportunity to take advantage of the ignorance of foreigners as to our industrial conditions. That is its object. The Government desires to compel the workers to bargain individually for their wage, and to force them back, to the days of slavery.
– Does the honorable senator really believe that ?
– I do. My experience has taught me that the policy of the open door permits such abuses. It will result in the wholesale employment of aliens who have no sympathy with the White Australia policy.
– What about the Labour party and the Shanghai conference ?
– The Senator Lynch of 1913 would certainly have been a delegate to the Shanghai Conference.
– I would not have gone there and have turned my back on the White Australia policy as the Labour party did.
– The Labour party holds the White Australia policy to be sacred and an absolute necessity to this country. It is our contention that there is at present insufficient employment in Australia for British workers and none at all for hordes of Asiatics. I hope that my appeal may convert some honorable senators opposite and, cause them to vote for the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition.
– They are past redemption.
– I hope that they are not. I shall be surprised if the bill is carried, as I believe that we shall have converts from honorable senators opposite in favour of this amendment.
– Senator Dooley has drawn such a harrowing picture of the consequences to Australia of this legislation that I rise to address myself to the bill more or less in fear and trembling. I am one who loves his country, as I believe all other honorable senators do. But when t contemplate the awful happenings that have been predicted by Senator Dooley I begin to wonder whether we should not take immediate steps to obviate their occurrence. It may be, however, that the honorable senator has rather overdrawn the picture, and that he is not viewing the future in that common-sense manner which is usual with him. This is a deliberative assembly, and not the place in which to make wild and impassioned speeches which seek to inflame men by stirring ip the passions.
– Senator Dooley evidently thought that hd was in the Domain.
– Possibly the honorable senator may temporarily have done so. I prefer to be charitable and to think that, as has been the case with every other honorable senator when he first entered this chamber, he is filled with all kinds of visionary ideals acquired by many years of outside experience, but that the corners will be rounded off by contact with others who have gone through the mill and who now probably know more than the newcomer about these matters.
I am not entirely ignorant of industrial affairs or problems. For many years I was a trusted executive officer of the greatest joint industrial organization of Australia. But that was in the clays when trade unionism was quite different from what it is to-day - before it had acquired many of those peculiari ties, shall we call them, that have made certain aspects of it a by-word, in this country, or something for which no one can have very much respect. I do not however approach the subject from that position. Already too much has been said on both sides of the chamber that is not strictly in accordance with what I regard as the actual situation.
Listening to the impassioned addresses of honorable senators opposite one would imagine that the waterside workers are little, if anything, short of angels; that they are men of tremendous capacity and wonderful honesty of purpose; that in fact, they stand pre-eminent over every other section of the community as honorable citizens. On the other hand, we have honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber, who almost regard them as fiends incarnate - men who cannot in any circumstances be trusted to do the right thing and must be reviled and condemned.
– I do not think there is one honorable senator on this side of the chamber who holds such views.
– Things have been said on this side of the chamber about these men that I have been sorry to hear. After all, the waterside workers are ordinary everyday citizens. They are drawn from all grades of society and professions. I have worked with them. I have met medical men and lawyers working on the wharfs as wharf labourers. Most of the workers on the waterfront are eminently sensible and reasonable men. Others, of course, are extremists, men of very poor judgment,, who we may be sure will always do the wrong thing if it is possible for it to be done. But as we have to live and work, with the waterside workers and they have to co-operate with us in building up the Commonwealth to make it the great country we hope it will be in- years to come, we should approach the consideration of this bill in a Christian spirit, always remembering our own shortcomings as well as theirs. And when we hear references to the presence of criminals among the waterside workers let us recognize that it is not peculiar to them. There have been members of this most distinguished and illustrious chamber who have fallen from grace and have rendered themselves in the eyes of society not fit to remain at large, yet the Senate is not to be condemned on that account.
– This is not a confession.
– It is not, but when I have seen what these men have done I have at all times been prepared to say, “ There, but for the grace of God, goes Duncan.”
In moving the second reading, Senator Pearce made out a very strong case ju support of the bill. He argued on fairly sound lines, but I agree with one or two honorable senators who have said that his analogies were not, in one or two respects, as good as they might have been. For instance, he said that plumbers and men engaged in certain trades did not regard it as a hardship that they were required to be licensed, and he therefore contended that no logical objection could be raised to the licensing of waterside workers. There is a greater distinction , between the two classes of licences than there is between the two callings. A plumber does not secure a licence until he has served a period of apprenticeship and can furnish to the proper authorities complete evidence of his capacity to do the work of a plumber.
– Is not this the point : Since unionism flourishes under one class of licensing, why cannot it flourish under another 1
– No reasonable objection can be raised to that argument from one point of view, but nevertheless there is an objection to it and I propose to state it.
– I also mentioned baggage agents. It cannot be said that they differ from the waterside workers.
– No. One or two of the honorable senator’s analogies were certainly sound, but I cannot admit that there is any analogy between plumbers and wharf labourers. Baggage agents are’ licensed for the protection of the individuals for whom they work.
– The licences are given for the protection of the passenger’s luggage. Is not the passenger invited to take a note of the number on the cap of the baggage agent?
– That is so. The baggage agent often handles valuable baggage without supervision; but waterside workers are or ought to be all the time working under close supervision. It may be true that a great deal of pilfering occurs; but it is also true that it occurs to a greater extent on some wharfs than on others. Very largely the root of the whole trouble is lack of proper supervision. On some wharfs in Sydney over which a greater quantity of cargo is handled than over other wharfs, the pilfering is negligible, whereas on otherwharfs there is a tremendous amount of it, because of the lack of reasonable supervision. We know what the opportunity to pilfer means to poor devils of men, some of whom are drawn from almost the lowest strata of society, and it has very often been proved in the courts that these men have seized the opportunity to pilfer at the suggestion of others whose duty it was to check them. The whole of the blame cannot be placed ‘ on the unfortunate waterside workers. The licensing of these men will not stop pilfering unless proper care and supervision are also exercised. Bill Jones, who was a thief yesterday when he had no licence, will not be honest to-day because he has a licence.
– But when he is convicted he loses his licence.
– The honorable senator remembers the famous recipe for jugged hare. “ First catch your hare. “ Most of the offenders are not convicted because they are not caught. Even under the licensing system it will be necessary to catch the pilferer before he can be convicted.
– A man at Port Melbourne was convicted and sent to prison on. twelve occasions, but each time the union insisted on his reinstatement.
– It must not be imagined that I am defending conduct like that. No punishment is too severe for a man of that type, and it is possible that the organizations have been lax to an even greater extent than any one else in imposing discipline on their members who are guilty of such conduct. The union that extends the protection of its membership to men who are, to its knowledge, being continuously convicted of various misdemeanours, is likely to bring itself into disrepute and has only itself to blame if bricks are thrown at it. I suggest that if there is any blame attachable to the Government in connexion with this action as is alleged by honorable senators opposite, a greater blame attaches to the Waterside Workers Union. The time will come when the union itself will take a stand against this kind of thing, as other unions have done. The licensing system will not, of itself, entirely remove existing evils, but it may rid the waterfront of certain undesirable persons who are found guilty of repeated acts of pillaging.
There is a feeling among honorable senators opposite that the licensing system is a deliberate blow at trade unionism. Against certain aspects of trade unionism it is true that it will strike a blow.
– Cannot the men who take out licences be admitted to the unions, as was done in 1893?
– While the fears of honorable senators opposite are, to some extent, justified, there is no justification for certain aspects of trade unionism. Like other organizations, trade unions are not wholly good. Trade unionism is a social system capable of immense service not only to unionists but also to the community generally; but certain developments of an anti-social character in the unions during recent years constitute a menace not only to the community at large but also to the unionists themselves. That aspect of the question has not been dealt with by honorable senators opposite. Some unionists appear to consider that the possession of a union ticket makes a man superior to the average citizen who does not hold one. The licensing system disregards that view because it places humanity before unionism, the man before the union: It provides that any man who is willing to work shall have the right to work, whether he belongs to a union or not. The system meets the demand of those who repeatedly claim “the right to work.” In a free community, every citizen has a right to expect to have an opportunity to earn an honest and decent living, but honorable senators opposite and the members of the Waterside Workers Union would deny that right to a man who refuses to join a union, or, having made application for membership, has his application rejected. They are not concerned that their action might force starvation on that man and his family. The licensing system will strike a blow at that kind of thing. Now, when a worker applies for employment on the waterfront he is asked, not “Are you a member of the Waterside Workers Union,” as was the case in the past, but “Do you hold a licence to work on the wharfs?” If he replies that he is so licensed, he may obtain work; if he says that he has no licence but is a member of the union, it will avail him nothing. The Waterside Workers Union has forfeited the almost impregnable position, it once occupied because it has not disciplined its members and made them deserving of a continuance of that consideration and, indeed, privilege, which they enjoyed for many years.
– Then the honorable senator admits that the licensing system will punish the unions?
– I* will) protect individual members of the community, whether unionists or otherwise; it is not punishment of the union designed as such. I. admit that the licensing system will affect the unions, but had the Waterside Workers Union conducted itself as the Australian Workers Union, or the union to which Senator Needham belongs, this bill would not have been necessary.
– Will the honorable senator tell the Senate the name of the union to which I belong?
– Surely the honorable senator has not forgotten the name of the union to which he has referred so frequently. The story is told of the honorable senator that, addressing a meeting in Western Australia, he drew himself to his full height and said : “Fellow electors, I am prepared, if defeated, to go back and swing the 70-lb. hammer which I so often swung in the past.”
– Can the honorable senator give the name of my union?
– I may not be able to give its exact name, but the honorable senator cannot deny that he belongs to a union. That union will not he affected by this bill, nor will any organization which has conducted itself in an orderly manner be injured by it. There is this further point, that the Government, with the aid of its supporters in Parliament, pledged itself to protect the men who volunteered for work on the wharfs when the members of the Waterside “Workers Union would not accept employment, although award rates and trade «union conditions were offered to them. The pledge to those volunteers must be honoured; and this bill honours it. Those men will be licensed to work on the wharfs. If they want to join the union, and the union will admit them to membership, there is nothing to prevent them from doing so. The bill does not provide that they shall not join a trade union. Possibly, the union will refuse to accept them as members, but that will not drive them off the wharfs.
– Nor will it send them back to Italy.
– The honorable senator seems to be suffering from the Italian bogy. It is true that a comparatively few Italians are employed on certain wharfs, but the honorable senator will not say that the general practice- on the wharfs is to employ Italians, or that they are employed there in such numbers as to exclude any substantial proportion of the waterside workers from their ordinary means of earning a livelihood.
– To me it is a terrible sight to see one Australian family starving.
– It is a terrible sight for any of us; but I remind the honorable senator that the trade unions themselves have not drawn the line against Italians. In the furniture trade in Sydney, the Chinese workers have been organized. That union will admit to membership any person, whatever his nationality, who will accept trade union conditions and abide by the rules of the organization. Will Senator Daly say that Italians should never have been admitted to this country? I submit that if it is wrong to admit them now, or to employ them on our wharfs, it is equally wrong that any of the descendants of Italians should occupy seats in the parliaments of this country. Will the honorable senator tell that to the Lazzarinis the Lamar os and others who are prominent and respected members of Labour organizations in this country?
– The Deputy Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Theodore) is of Italian descent.
– Provided that Italians are prepared to observe our laws, to make no attempt to break down the conditions of the workers, and to come in such numbers as not to constitute a menace to our nationality, there is no justification for prohibiting their entry into this country. The Italians in Australia are comparatively few in number; they certainly are not a menace to the Waterside Workers Union or to the workers of Australia generally.
– They sell their labour on credit. Can any Australian worker do that?
– They are supposed to be working under awards of the Arbitration Court, but if what the honorable senator says is correct-
– It is so in South Australia.
– Then why do not honorable senators do their duty and complain to the court that its award is not being observed?
– Because the only persons bound, by an award are the parties to it. The honorable senator is seeking to create non-parties to an award.
– From a strictly legal view-point that may be true.
– If a worker is employed in contravention of an award of the court the employer can be fined.
– Yes. One of the conditions of the award under which the waterside workers are operating is “ preference to unionists.”
– The honorable senator was dealing with Italians generally.
– If a few Italians are employed in different parts of Australia, honorable senators opposite seem to think that there are scores of thousands, and it will not be long before they will be saying that Italians are as numerous as the rabbits which are at present overrunning certain portions of Australia. They give expression to utterances in this chamber which they know are inaccurate, but which they think will be accepted by the “ mugs “ outside. They pay very poor regard to the mentality of their supporters by telling them such “ tarradiddles.” Honorable senators opposite should for their own sakes refrain from giving expression to the opinions they do. Senator Barnes remains silent because he can vouch for the accuracy of what I am saying.
The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce), in moving the second reading of this bill, referred to the work that has been done in certain Australian ports under trade’ union conditions and under the licensing system. The right honorable gentleman quoted figures to show that those who have taken the place of the ordinary wharf labourers are handling a larger tonnage of cargo per hour than was ever handled by the unionists. When the Minister was speaking I was reminded of what the members of the Royal Commission on the Navigation Act, of which I was a member, witnessed when visiting certain Queensland ports. Whilst the steamer on which we were travelling was at the wharf in one port, tomatoes, which are packed in small half-bushel cases, were being loaded for the southern markets. I have never seen such an exhibition of inactivity on the part of any workmen. Although the trucks used in handling tomatoes were of a fair size, only one-half bushel case was placed on a truck at a time. The way in which those goods were handled reminded one of a funeral procession. When a case had been placed on a truck the wharf labourer, after surveying the surroundings and having a chat, started off with measured tread. The men undertook their work with so much reverence that one would have thought they were handling a corpse.
– Can the honorable senator say what steps the president of the Australian Workers Union would take to prevent such conditions obtaining in that organization?
– I know that he would not countenance such tactics. That organization is in a different position from other trade union organizations. The members of the Waterside Workers Federation revile the contract system, and say that they must be paid so much an hour, whilst the members of the .Australian Workers Union do not wish to be paid a daily or an hourly rate. They believe in the contract system, and the shearers and cane-cutters would revolt if it were suggested that they should be paid on any other than the present basis. If the Government attempted to force the shearers and other members of the Australian Workers Union to work at an hourly rate they would, I think, revolt. They would not have it; they are great believers in the contract system. I have the greatest respect for the Australian Workers Union. I am not attacking it; on the contrary I am commending its judgment, its sound principles and the wisdom of its decisions. Is Senator Daly afraid that this principle will be applied to the members of the Australian Workers Union later ? I do not think that there is the slightest possibility of that happening.
– Would the honorable senator oppose such a suggestion?
– I do not intend to definitely commit myself at this moment ; but I believe that if steps were taken to apply the licensing system to the members of the Australian Workers Union I would oppose it. At present I do not think there is the slightest justification for it. I cannot imagine a member of the Australian Workers Union placing a fleece of wool in one pocket and a sheep in another before leaving the shed.
– Then the licensing system is to provide a means of punishing the men.
– No ; it is to discipline men and to prevent a recurrence of certain unfortunate happenings in the past. We must all be disciplined.
– Have the members of the Australian Workers Union ever gone on strike?
– Of course they have. But they do not strike almost every week, in consequence of trivial differences, as the waterside workers do. I now wish to refer to the punishments provided in the hill.
– The honorable senator admits that the men are to be punished.
– Any one who breaks the law must be punished. Some of the penalties provided are, I think, too severe, and in committee I shall move or support amendments providing for reductions in several instances. I support the second reading of the bill.
– I have been associated with trade unions for many years, and think it is time the people of Australia realized the benefit that trade unionism has been to Australia. I can recall the time when it was difficult for honest working men to walk erect among their fellows. They were compelled to be subservient to every whim of their employers; but, as a result of the work of trade union organizations many of them are now receiving the treatment to which every white man is entitled. The labour organizations have, and are still, organizing in the interests of humanity. No one can deny that. We have been endeavouring, not without strong opposition, to make this a white man’s country, and to improve the conditions of living so that men, however humble their calling, may enjoy the benefits as well as share in the responsibilities of citizenship. As a result of these efforts, the industrial conditions in Australia to-day are better than they are in any other country. The Labour organizations have always advocated improved educational facilities, higher wages, shorter hours, and improved conditions generally. It is the pioneers of the Labour movement who are responsible for the conditions which many of our people now enjoy.
The Government says that it is in favour of trade unionism, and that, without organized labour, the Arbitration Court would be unable to function. Notwithstanding these assertions, the Government has introduced this measure, under which decent and enlightened men cannot obtain work unless they possess a licence. In the pastoral industry many years ago, it was the custom of employers to give their employees a reference, which cer- tified that the holder was of good character and a first class workman. But these references, even if carried from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the Southern Ocean, would not assist a man in obtaining ‘employment, because they often bore a secret mark upon them. Men would present these references to station managers, and would wonder why they were not given work. That system is being restored under this bill. Under that system a man might be carrying what he thought was a reference, but in reality it might be, in a sense, his death warrant so far as the obtaining of employment was concerned. He might be the best worker in his particular line in Australia, but because he happened to hold such a ticket he would be unable to secure employment and at the end of each day’s search would have to go home to his wife and admit his failure. Perhaps he would wonder why he could not get a job. But I know, and so do honorable senators opposite. I know that there is a desire in some quarters to push the industrial movement in Australia back to the position it occupied in 1894, when men had to present tickets before they could hope to secure employm’ent
– Licences under this bill will not be issued by employers.
– I know that, but it is quite clear that the destiny of Australian workmen will be in the hands of licensing officers, to be appointed by the head of the department. I object to this proposal. In my own town not far from
Melbourne there are 125 Australians from one establishment alone, out of a job. They cannot get work,, but apparently men coming to this country from Southern Europe can. I do not know how they do it. I do not know whether there is any “ backsheesh “ in the business or whether they are prepared to work under conditions that do not square with the awards of the Arbitration Court. What I do know, is that they can get work, while good Australians have to stand aside.
In the face of these facts it is no use for honorable senators opposite and the people they represent to tell the workers that this Government is not legislating to break down their industrial standards. The average intelligent Australian when he is out of work and sees a recent arrival from a foreign country getting the job that should be his, draws his own conclusions. It is idle therefore to say that this Government is not plotting to break down industrial conditions.
– The waterside workers gave up their jobs; they refused to work.
– Suppose they did, what are we going to do about it? I do not stand for industrial inefficiency. I say that every man ought to be able to do his job. If he is not able to do it, he should not get it. This standard of efficiency should apply not only to the workers, but also to other people in places of power who so often use the great influence they possess to injure the prospects of the industrialists.
The timber workers are out on strike. Why? Personally I do not believe in the weapon of the strike. It is foolish, too, for any section of industry to use it; but there comes a time when trade unionists can do nothing else. They are forced into a dispute, they are like rats in a corner and have to fight. What has happened in the timber industry? In my own town the wages of timber workers have been reduced by 13s. a week and their hours of labour have been increased by four. Do honorable senators opposite believe that they can convince intelligent Australian trade unionists, when these things are happening, that the Ministry is not plotting to break down their conditions? Is it not a fact, that tens of thousands of Australian trade unionists are out of work at this moment? I accuse this Government of using the industrial machinery available to it to increase the hours of labour and to reduce wages. The Ministry and their supporters are endeavouring to put the industrial clock back 50 years, and yet they have the audacity to suggest that they are the friends of the workers.
– Does not the honorable senator want the Arbitration Court?
– Of course I do. I have fought for the principle of arbitration for more years than the honorable senator has lived. It has always been my endeavour to assist in establishing a sane method of arbitration to which my fellows in the industrial movement could look for justice. The organization with which I am associated has always stood for the same principle.
– What is . wrong with eight hours a day?
– I have worked more than eight hours a day in my time, but I do not think that there is need for one man to work eight hours a day whilst another man can get no work at all.
– Under present conditions much of our produce cannot compete with that of other countries in the world’s market.
– Does the honorable senator wish to see our people driven back to the slave market days, so that we may compete in the overseas markets with the products of certain cheap labour countries? I do not stand for that sort of thing. I have always stood for sane methods even in the conduct of an argument. Persuasion in an argument is much better than direct action.
As a responsible person in the industrial movement I charge this Government and its supporters with having created the industrial unrest that exists in Australia, to-day. The Ministry has the power to prevent trouble but it will not use it. It has allowed things to happen which could have been avoided and trouble has arisen in consequence.
– Does the honorable senator consider that the timber workers should obey the award of the Arbitration Court?
– I shall give the honorable senator my personal views on the subject. To answer that question I should have to put myself in “ Gilligan’s” place. It is easy for any man to stand apart and condemn the timber workers for their action of a few weeks ago. But let us put ourselves in their places. If Senator Foll were a timber worker what would he do? What must be the feelings of the timber worker whose wages have been reduced by 13s. a week and his hours of labour increased by four hours a week, while his neighbour is out of a job? How can we expect him to remain calm in such circumstances? If I had my way I should remove from authority any man who was cranky enough to do that sort of thing in Australia. “We cannot have lunatics governing the people of Australia. “Why does the Government allow all this turmoil to continue when, by a stroke of a pen or by a vote in this Parliament, it could put a stop to it?
It is idle for the Government to say that this class of legislation will save Australia. It is hypocritical for Ministers to suggest that longer hours of work will remedy unemployment. There are 100,000 men out of work in this country, largely because of the policy of this Government, which has been responsible for so much dislocation in - industry. And what is the position in the Mother Country? There 2,000,000 men are out of work. Throughout the centuries the people of Great Britain have fought practically every country on earth in order to build up what is known as the “tight little island” where to-day hundreds of thousands have to tighten their belts and are reduced almost to starvation because they cannot get work to do. This Government has been bringing out many thousands of workless people from Britain and is shoving them on to the Australian labour market at a time when thousands of Australians who have family responsibilities and are willing to work, are vainly seeking a job. The purpose, if I understand the motives of the Government aright is to pull down the industrial standards of the people of this country. And yet honorable senators opposite would have me take them seriously when they say they are the friends of the workers. I am no hypocrite; I believe in giving every man a fair deal and in telling the truth !
– In what way was the Government responsible for the waterside workers’ strike?
– This Government has been responsible for most of the industrial trouble that has occurred in Australia in the last few years. No one knows better than does the Leader of the Senate what is the cause of the industrial unrest in this country. There was a time when he and I were pals in the fight to secure improved conditions for the workers. What caused his change of heart, I do not know. But I tell him now that had this Government been so disposed, the Arbitration Court could have been so easily fixed that there would have been no industrial trouble worth bothering about.
– Apparently the honorable senator wants to “fix” the Arbitration Court?
– Let me tell the honorable senator what I mean by that. My own organization has had a claim awaiting a hearing before the Arbitration Court for two years, and when our members come to me and ask why we cannot get it heard, all I can say is that we are doing our best.
– Why did not the Australian Workers Union members obey the award of the Queensland Board of Trade - an arbitration tribunal appointed by a Labour Government - in the case of the South Johnstone strike ?
– The. trouble at South Johnstone was but a drop in the bucket. It was hardly worth bothering about ; but I remind the honorable senator that the action which the Australian Workers Union took in that strike saved the people of Queensland from a great industrial disaster. We isolated the strike.
– But why did the members of the honorable senator’s union refuse to obey the award?
– We knew that we were up against trouble at South Johnstone, so just as an experienced medical man endeavours to prevent the spread of a contagious disease by isolating his patient, we built a ring around the disturbed industrial area at South Johnstone and in that way kept the trouble from spreading throughout Queensland.
– Why did not the Australian Workers Union discipline its members and compel them to obey the award of the court?
– Why does not this Government adopt the sane course of wiping this legislation off the statutebook? The honorable senator and his party would have the workers licensed like dogs. What will happen under this licensing system? Before a man will be able to secure employment he will have to be registered, and if he disobeys the orders of his employer his licence may be cancelled and he will be unable to get work.
– Does the honorable member suggest that there should be oneway traffic only in this business of arbitration ?
– I believe that every one should get a square deal. Arbitration should work along the sane and progressive lines that we have been following so long in Australia. If honorable senators supporting the Government wish the Arbitration Act to be an effective instrument, they must see to it that it is so administered as to deal justly with the industrial movement. They should realize that the average Australian, unless he feels that he is getting justice, will fight. They will never be able to convince him that it is to his advantage to work 48 hours instead of 44 - and at a reduced wage - and that he should work the additional time because some lunatic has suggested that he should. They cannot expect intelligent Australian workers to take that sort of thing lying down.
– Who is the “lunatic”?
– The honorable senator knows to whom I am referring. He and his party are sponsoring him and allowing this sort of thing to continue. Some people in this country would like to see Australians working 54 hours a week. We, on this side of the Senate, do not.
– People in the country work 54 hours a week.
– I know they do; but surely the honorable senator does not stand for that.
– They have to work longer hours or get out of business.
– I had to work much more than 48 hours a week in my younger days, and I put it to the honorable senator that it is because of the fight which I and others in the Labour movement put up then, that it is unnecessary now for Australians to work long hours.
Silting suspended from 12.U5 to 2.15 p.m..
– During the luncheon adjournment I have recalled to mind Senator Foil’s anxiety to ascertain how I was going to fix the Arbitration Court so that it would render better service to the country. It must be fairly obvious to honorable senators that, to give satisfaction, an Arbitration Court must be able to give quick service. I have previously mentioned the fact that there are many cases in the court that have been long delayed, and that one of them, in which my own union is involved, has been before it for just on two years, awaiting settlement. Meantime the unionists concerned are suffering conditions which they know are not right. Why cannot we so constitute the court that it will be able to expedite the hearing of their grievances ? The remedy is clear. If the court is so overworked and congested, the remedy is surely to appoint more judges. That is done in every other activity when there is a great pressure of work, so why cannot it be done with our Arbitration Court? That seems to me to be a logical argument. What would be the expense incurred by the appointment of even an additional ten judges at £2,000 a year compared with the industrial relief that it would give the country ? By maintaining industrial peace -
– The Beeby award did not bring about industrial peace.
– Even judges are susceptible to the frailties of human nature, and make mistakes. But, instead of perpetuating the trouble, we should try to remedy it. That cannot be done by the methods adopted by this Government.
It is a well established fact that I am not an advocate of industrial trouble. I am the president of the biggest union in Australia, the Australian Workers Union, and my counsels and those of my fellow officers have always been in the direction of keeping our people at work. I have always urged that if a dispute cannot be settled directly between employer and employee resort should be had to the machinery provided by the common sense of the people of Australia - the machinery of the Arbitration Court. Surely that is a fair and reasonable ‘ attitude. The right honorable the Leader of the Senate asked me, “ Do you accuse the Government of causing the waterside workers’ strike “ ?
I do not, but I accuse the Government of prolonging it. I was inCairns when the waterside trouble began there.
– The men did not go out at Cairns.
– They went out three weeks before the main strike, and returned to work as soon as the real trouble began.
– The officers of my union reported to me that there were five people in Cairns who are called “Reds,” and who never work except when requested to do so by the Government in order to serve its own ends; those men were deliberately sent to Cairns to cause the waterside trouble there, and that having done so they shifted to Townsville. The object of the Government was to start trouble on the waterfront, all round the coast, merely for political purposes.
– For years there has been continuous trouble at Cairns between two sections of the local branch of the union.
– The honorable senator may deal with that subject if he chooses when he speaks to this motion; I am expressing my own point of view. Although I personally cannot say that the Government started that strike. I repeat that that was the story told to me by responsible officers of our union. I know that an election was then impending, that the Government could not win on its merits and had, therefore, to create a set of extraordinary circumstances in order to secure a victory. And so the waterside workers’ strike began. The Leader of the Opposition in another place (Mr. Scullin) and Mr. Ned Hogan, then Labour Premier of Victoria, brought the union leaders together and induced them to give instructions to their members to return to work. “Who kept them from doing so ? Did Mr. Bruce, the Leader of the Government in the Commonwealth Parliament, do anything to settle the trouble? The Labour leaders asked, almost begged, him to use the influence of his high position to settle the strike by bringing together the ship-owners and “ wharfies.” But he did not do a thing. The right honorable gentleman and his followers wanted the trouble, bceause it would enable them to indulge in insidious propaganda which would inflame the minds of common-sense electors of Australia. It did so to a certain extent, but not to the extent that was expected and desired by honorable senators opposite.
– If the honorable senator says that our party in Queensland engaged the “ reds “ to whom he referred. I say that is a lie.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Order! Senator Foll stated that a certain remark by Senator Barnes was a lie. He must withdraw that remark.
– I do not wish to contradict you, sir, but I said nothing of the sort. I said that if Senator Barnes stated that the Queensland branch of the party to which I belong, employed “ reds “ as their political agents in Queensland, it is a lie. I repeat that, Mr. President.
Mr. PRESIDENT. I ask the honorable senator to withdraw that remark as it is unparliamentary.
– Then I shall do so and say that the information supplied to Senator Barnes is inaccurate.
– That may be; I am simply repeating the story told to me by responsible officers of my union. It is believed that those extremists to whom I referred acted in Queensland as the emissaries of this Government of which the honorable senator is a supporter, in order to stir up trouble. I cannot say whether the report is right or wrong. Those responsible officers are not employed by the Australian Workers Union because they are the biggest chumps in the country, but because they are trained men who know the needs of Australia. Surely I, as their president, can reasonably expect that what they tell me truly represents the situation.
– What is the opinion of the honorable senator ?
– That they, were right. I and my colleagues, and I claim this without egotism, stand for the uplifting of the interests of the country. I, like other honorable senators of my party am a responsible person with a wife and family in Australia, and it is not likely that I would do anything to injure my country, my family, or my fellow men.
I want the best I can get for my country, for my fellow unionists and myself. That cannot be considered selfish. I do not grudge any one the same conditions. I use all the energy at my command to establish the means, whereby this objective may be reached. There can be nothing wrong with that. If I pull some unfortunate creature out of the gutter, so to speak, and put him where he can stand with other men, surely that is good work ? Who can accuse the Labour movement of doing anything but that type of work? Were we not responsible for shortening the hours of labour, for the establishment of the Arbitration Court, and for the introduction of reasonable methods for settling disputes? Were we not responsible for setting up a higher standard of living in Australia than is to be found elsewhere ? That has always been our objective. Then when we have reached that stage, the Employers Federation, assisted by this Government, deliberately sets itself out to break down the system of arbitration. That is borne out by reports of conferences of Employers Federations. They have declared that the system is obsolete and even the “ Big Four “ - the recent British Economic Delegation which visited Australia at the request of this Government - has said something to the same effect.
This Government is responsible for the flooding of the country with an army of hungry men from all parts of the world. I am one of a race of people that stands for all that is best in life. I realize that, unfortunately, there also exists a hungry army of my kinsmen in other parts of the world. They are hungry, but not because of anything that Labour has done. They are workless but willing to work; they are ready even to fight and die for their country ; but owing to a Government of prototypes of honorable senators opposite, in Great Britain, they have been reduced to the present sorry plight. Australia has been flooded with Britishers and men from other countries who know nothing about the industrial conditions prevailing here, and since they cannot obtain work we now have to feed and clothe and house them. Who finds the wherewithal? Surely it is done at the expense of the rest of our army of workers who are providing the necessities of life to keep the hungry army in idleness. Those men, of course, have no desire to remain idle. They are loyal and big enough to share our responsibilities, and to stand side by side with our workers if they can get their fair share of the rewards of their industry. Why are they not allowed to do that? Provision is made in Australia for old-age pensions and for the superannuation of public servants when they reach a certain age. There comes a stage when a public servant reaches the limit of his powers, according to the view of his Government, and he is paid a superannuation of £1,000. a year, in grateful recognition of his services to. the country. Later, another Government composed of men of the kidney of honorable senators opposite puts the man, who has been deemed by his own Government to be worn out, in a position in which he presides over the destinies of the wageearners of this country. He. draws a superannuation of £1,000 a year and also a salary of £2,000 a year in order that he may lengthen the hours of labour and shorten the rates of pay. Is it remarkable that I should become angry when these things are done? Honorable senators opposite know that they are done and should not be hyprocrital about it. The country ought to wake up. These things make me angry, because I know there is no need for a lot of them, because I know there is a means of settling much of this trouble.
– The honorable senator did not try his advice on the Peace Conference.
– The Peace Conference is portion of the little joke that the Government is perpetrating. Ministers came along to the unions with a gift from the Greeks. They held out, so to speak, a bunch of carrots to the donkey and suggested that peace conferences and round table talks might take the place of the Arbitration Court.
– The honorable senator claimed at the Coolangatta conconference that the Australian Workers Union was not sufficiently aggressive.
– The Australian Workers Union is never aggressive, it simply takes what it wants ! The Government offered the old soldiers of the Australian Workers Union a peace conference, forgetting that there was a time when, we went on our knees to the employers, asking for round table conferences, and our requests were turned down with contempt until we spent our money in having men returned to this Parliament and by that means had arbitration made possible. Now that we are in a position to go to the Arbitration Court or have a round table conference with the employers, we can always get a conference. If the Arbitration Act is wiped out we shall revert to the condition of affairs we had in the ‘90’s. The employers of labour will be able to say, “Why should we have a peace conference when there are 100,000 men out of work, whose economic circumstances will fix the conditions under which you shall work. The 10,000 hungry men at the gate will fix the hours of labour.” The Government is anxious to push labour into that position.
– It is the position into which the honorable senator’s friends are dragging it.
– We are told through the press that we must get rid of the Arbitration Court. The Arbitration Court may not be a perfect piece of machinery, but since it has come into existence, we have had more industrial peace in Australia than there has been anywhere else in the world except perhaps in countries where the workers are almost slaves, and have not the spirit to fight their masters. Surely there ought to be no desire on the part of any Australians to reduce our workers to that condition. Yet the troglodytes in the present Government are endeavouring to do it, and therefore the Australian Workers Union is spending its money to shift them f rom office. When Labour was governing Australia, we had more prosperity and less unemployment than we have had at any other time in our history. Every person was content. Industry was making progress and there were no unemployed.
– Wages have steadily increased since Labour went out of power in -Australia.
– Wages have only been increased at the point of the bayonet, and because Labour has insisted on having a little greater share than it formerly had of the wealth of this country. Honorable senators who sup port the Government are out to smash arbitration. That is why men are appointed to make awards for which no white man will stand. I say to honorable senators opposite, “You take the tools of this Government - the worn-out machinery of this country - and put them in a position of power which enables them to get the workers of this country by the throat and to cut wages 13s. a week and increase the hours of work.”
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Barnes has referred to the judges of the Arbitration Court as tools of this party; I maintain that no honorable senator has a right to insult the judiciary.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - Had Senator Barnes referred to judges of the Arbitration Court, I should have called him to order. He referred to tools and wornout machinery.
– Thank you, Mr. President, I am too old a boxer to fall into any trap. I have no excuse for a man who loafs. Every man should be expected to do a dinkum job; but I trust that the waterside workers will not be required to carry a licence or see their wives and families go hungry. In times past my people have had to go hungry, and I do not want to see a repetition of those days in Australia. I hope that honorable senators will agree to the suggestion of the Leader of the Opposition that consideration of this bill be postponed. We are dealing with an ugly problem, and surely we have no desire to endanger the progress of industry or plunge the country into further trouble. But if we persist with this legislation we shall certainly push Australia over the brink of industrial turmoil.
.- Senator Barnes’ speech was exceedingly disappointing. Thousands of persons look to the president of the Australian Workers Union for guidance, but the honorable senator’s words, when they are read, will only tend to increase Australia’s difficulties. We are passing through desperate times. There is a wave of depression and drought affecting us. There is industrial trouble in the timber and mining industries. Yet the president of the Australian Workers
Union makes a loud noise, tells us he believes in arbitration, and roundly condemns our arbitration judges. His speech from beginning to end was a denunciation of arbitration judges and judgments, and of every one outside his own particular clique. But those who know the honorable senator will not believe that he meant nine-tenths of what he said. I was in Cairns when he was there, and I made it my business to ascertain the cause of the continuous trouble on the waterfront. The honorable senator has told us that he went to the officials of his organization - if they were as biased against the authorities as he is I am sure they would say anything - but I went to impartial people. I shall not mention names, but they were people in authority, and quite outside the ranks of any political party. The majority of the wharf labourers in Cairns are married men, who have houses of their own and families to maintain, but they are constantly thrown out of work by the actions of men who do not belong to Cairns. I was told that the trouble was caused by a communistic section that works between Townsville and Cairns. When Cairns is busy exporting sugar and maize these men go there and foment trouble. The honorable senator does not believe that any government in Australia would employ these useless beings to stir up trouble.
– I do believe it; the Government uses them at every election.
– They are extremists belonging to the Communist party, who travel between Townsville and Cairns stirring up trouble. Their doctrine is that reforms can be instituted only by breaking down capitalism. The maizegrowers of Atherton decided to challenge the waterside workers, but first they saw that the sheds were filled with maize. Then they loaded the steamers themselves. Had the Nationalist party engaged men to cause trouble it would not have taken those precautions to prevent trouble. The Beeby award is identical with that of the Queensland Board of Trade under which the men had been working without trouble for about eighteen months, yet, so soon as those conditions were embodied in the Beeby award, a strike occurred.
– What section of the waterside workers of Queensland were bound by the award of the Board of Trade?
– All the wharf labourers north of Brisbane were bound by it, and had been working under it for about eighteen months. At Bowen, Cairns and Mackay the waterside workers ignored the advice of their own executive and the Board of Trade in connexion with the rotary system.
– The Board of Trade abolished the rotary system a fortnight before the Beeby award came into operation. The workers objected to the Beeby award because it gave the authorities power to step in.
– All that has been said against the licensing system is ‘ intended to deceive the worker. What difference does that system make to a wharf labourer? If he is prepared to work in accordance with the award of the court, his licence will not be cancelled.
Senator Barnes said that the satisfactory conditions enjoyed by Australian workers are the result of the work of the trade unions. It was not the trade unionists, who comprised only seven per cent. of the people of Australia, but the arbitration system which gave to the workers the satisfactory conditions they enjoy in Australia to-day. Indeed, the huge organization of which Senator Barnes is president, has been built up by the Arbitration Court. The real enemies of unionism are their so-called leaders. Honorable senators opposite cannot tell me much that I do not know about the Australian Workers Union. Before the organization was known as the Australian Workers Union it was the Australian Shearers Union. At that time the gentleman shearer, who received £1, and previously 15s. for every 100 sheep shorn by him, did not associate with the rouseabout or the labourer. The treatment of the rouseabout and the labourer by the gentleman shearer caused the workers in that industry to organize. In organizing them I undermined my health so much that my life was despaired of. I know the struggle of the workers in those days. It is true that then, as now, some pastoralists, not fit to be employers, used their power to injure certain men. In those days a great deal of gambling took place in the shearing sheds on days when dews or wet weather made shearing uncertain. Under the preference clauses employers were able to rid their sheds of inveterate gamblers. Others, it is true, misused the power given to them. But the licensing system provided under the Transport Workers Act is not in the hands of private employers ; , it will be administered by Government officers. All honorable senators will agree regarding the neutrality of public servants in these matters ; they do not take sides in matters of this kind. All the talk about the injustice of licensing workers is so much dust thrown in the eyes of the people. If honorable senators opposite realized what arbitration has done for the workers of Australia they would insist on the awards of the court being carried out; but they have not been sufficiently courageous to advise the men to abide by the awards of the court.
– That statement is not correct.
SenatorREID. - It might not be strictly correct, for I know that Senator Needham and Senator Barnes, as well as some of the union leaders, would go out of their way to prevent strikes; but the wild statements made by Senator Barnes this afternoon will make the workers feel that they have been unjustly treated by the Government. A statement by the president of the Australian Workers Union, that the Government hired communists to organize strikes because an election was imminent, although not correct, will inflame the workers. When the strike occurred an election was not pending. Later, the Government decided to appeal to the people, and when they were consulted they returned the Government to carry out the law. All the talk about loss of dignity associated with the licensing system is nonsense. At Brisbane no carter is allowed on the wharfs without a licence.
– He is an employer.
– No man may drive a tramcar in any of our cities unless he is licensed to do so. Is there any essential difference between a wharf labourer and a tram driver? Tram drivers, taxi drivers and other men who are responsible for the safety of the public must be licensed. Similarly, the licensing of waterside workers is a means of protecting the public against those persons who stir up trouble on the waterfront. When the benefits of this legislation have been revealed to the wharf labourers they will have no more to do with those who in the past have caused trouble. The award of Judge Beeby did not reduce the rates of pay; it increased them.
Senator Barnes spoke of the delays in having matters dealt with by the Arbitration Court. So far as I know, those delays have not yet caused a strike; but strikes have occurred because the workers have not been satisfied with awards which have been given. Before Judge Beeby would undertake to make an award, he demanded from the waterside workers an undertaking in writing that they would abide by the award when it was made.
– That is not correct.
SenatorREID. - I shall show that it is.
– Is the honorable senator referring to Queensland only?
SenatorREID. - I refer to the whole of Australia. The guarantee demanded by Judge Beeby was given by the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia.
– The cause of the trouble was the provision for two pickups.
SenatorREID. - I shall deal with that later. ,
The following is a comparison of some of the old and new rates paid to members of the Waterside Workers Federation : -
Dinner, 5s;11d. an hour as against 5s.8½d. ; supper 8s.10½d. as against 7s. 9d. ; dinner and tea on Saturdays 8s. 10½d. as against 7s. 9d.; tea on ordinary holidays,8s. 10½d. as against 7s. 9d., and supper 9s. 8½d. as against 7s. 9d. ; meals on extraordinary holidays 9s. 8½d. as against 9s. 3d. Take a few examples of the hourly working rates. Between 0 p.m. and midnight on ordinary days, 4a. 5¼d. an hour as’ against 4 s. 3d.; between midnight and 7 a.m., including Saturdays,5s.11d. as against 5s.;- Saturday afternoons, 5s.11d. as against 5s.; between midnight and 7 a.m., on ordinary holidays, 6s. 9d. as against 5s.
If honorable senators opposite’ will peruse those rates they will see that they are far in excess of the wages received by rural workers, mechanics in city workshops, or by many other sections of the community. Many men engaged in rural pursuits work as long as 60 hours a week and do not receive even the basic wage. High wages such as some of the waterside workers receive naturally affect the price ‘ of the commodities they handle and that increases the cost of living. Even under the old system many waterside workers were unable at times to obtain sufficient work to provide them with a decent living as foremen preferred to engage regularly certain gangs of men upon whom they could depend. Some of these men whose employment is fairly regular receive as much as £20 a week.
– The Taxation Commissioner in Queensland is now assessing the incomes of some of them and they are commencing to squeal.
– That is so. The regular employment of certain members of the Waterside Workers Federation, whilst others were idle, -was responsible for the adoption of a rotation system under which the work would be more evenly distributed. Reference has been made to the provision in the Beeby award for two pick-ups. As every one with a knowledge of the shipping industry knows, owing to climatic, tidal, and other influences, it is impracticable for the representatives of the ship-owners to determine the exact time when a ship will be able to commence loading or discharging. If the wharf labourers were engaged at the morning pick-up and their services were not required until the afternoon, they would have to be paid during the time they were idle, which in some cases might be eight or nine hours. The Board of Trade in Brisbane, of which an exPremier of Queensland (Mr. Gillies), an ex-secretary of the Australian Workers Union (Mr. Dunstan), and a legal member with strong Labour sympathies, are members, opposed one pick-up. In Brisbane the men are engaged by the representative of the shipping companies at the Wharf Labourers Hall, but the employers have to provide a ‘bus to take them to the wharfs or pay them for the time they are engaged. Senator Hoare, who seems to doubt the accuracy of some of my statements, should carefully peruse the award. He does not seem to understand it.
Honorable senators will recall the great dislocation of trade which occurred some time ago, when the wharf labourers refused to handle sugar from the South Johnstone mill, and when the canegrowers and others undertook the work. Disturbances occurred at Bundaberg, Cairns, and Mourilyan Harbour. Most of the trouble was caused by about twenty extremists. The representatives of the Australian Workers Union, including Mr. Dunstan, member of the Board of Trade and late secretary of the Australian Workers Union, visited the South Johnstone mill on three different occasions, but they failed to discipline the men. Although representatives of the Australian Workers Union met from time to time and told them that if they did not resume, they would not receive any strike pay, they not only continued on strike but dragged the railway employees in. They defied the Government, the Arbitration Court, and the leaders of their own unions until the Premier of Queensland (Mr. McCormack) took drastic action. If the licensing system had been in operation in that case the men who refused to work could have been deprived of their licences.
I believe the licensing system will prove a God-send to the waterside workers. If the men had obeyed the awards of the court it would not have been necessary to introduce such drastic legislation. Honorable senators opposite have referred to unscrupulous employers, and the unfortunate position of many of the workers, but they have not had a word to say concerning the manner in which the general public is being penalized. One would think from their utterances that they were the only friends of the working man. It has been stated that 95 per cent, of the people in Australia are industrialists, and as the policy of the Government was endorsed by a large majority of the voters, many men who are supposed to support the Labour ‘ party must have actually assisted to return this Government.
– Fully 80 per cent, of the workers are loyal to arbitration.
– That is so. They realize what a benefit arbitration has been to them, and many of them wish to assist the Government in its endeavour to preserve the arbitration system and ensure an observance of its awards.
Senator Barnes said that he knew of men who in consequence of the Timber Workers’ Award had had their working hours increased from 44 to 48 and their wages reduced by 13s. a week. If such a reduction has been made, it is because the timber industry in its present state cannot pay more. According to the evidence submitted to the court the timber industry is in a stagnant condition, and the judge, after carefully investigating the whole situation, made a just award. Some honorable senators will recall the depression which followed the financial crash in the “nineties” when, owing to economic conditions, wages in almost every industry were reduced. At that time the people accommodated themselves to the circumstancs, but it was not long before conditions began to improve and wages commenced to rise. No one believes in wages being reduced when our industries are flourishing, but it is impossible for the workers to obtain high wages from any industry which is incapable of paying them. Ever since the Arbitration Court was established wages have been increasing, but we have now reached a point at which we may possibly have to call a halt. The high wages awarded by the Arbitration Court are to some extent responsible for the prevalence of unemployment. Thousands of unionists are out of work and starving because the high awards of the Arbitration Court will not allow them to work.
I do not wish to see our . existing high standard of living break down. I gave many years of my early life to. the building up of that standard, and I and my family suffered while achieving that objective. I know what the old conditions were, but there are very few present-day unionists who do. I feel for the unemployed, because I know what it is to be unemployed. There is only one hope for the workers in Australia, and that is to bring about industrial peace.
– But this legislation will prevent that.
– It is being prevented only because of the political capital that the honorable senator and his colleagues are making out of the measure. It is no more a degradation for the wharf labourer to be licensed than it is for the wharf porter or for the carter. All parties must view the matter sensibly. If that is done, all must agree that it does not matter “ tuppence “ whether a wharf labourer is licensed, so long as he is paid the award rates. If employers and employees would get together and discuss the situation in an unbiased manner, the difficulty would soon be overcome. The whole trouble is caused by those soap-box orators who endeavour to bulldoze the community by making inflammatory utterances in the Sydney Domain, the Botanic Park of Adelaide, and such places.
I worked hard for unionism in the past, and I have nothing to say now against the principle. I realize that it is the extremist element that is causing this trouble, by inciting the men to break awards, as was done by the waterside workers in connexion with the Beeby award. Surely honorable senators opposite realize that something must be done. It was not the Labour party that gave to our workers their present splendid conditions. I admit that they ploughed the lands and sowed the seed, but it was the general public that made possible the harvest. If that public is not properly treated, it will turn and take away the privileges that have been granted. Although I realize that I am making a vain appeal, I urge honorable senators opposite to look at the facts without bias. If they do that, make an appeal to the workers, and so have the Peace Conference again brought together,, we shall have peace in industry and prosperity throughout the Commonwealth of Australia.
– I admire the sincerity of tone adopted by Senator Reid, but I do not like his suggestion that honorable senators on this side are endeavouringto misrepresent the provisions of thisbill to the workers of Australia. We give honorable senators opposite credit for being sincere in their views, and we expect them to believ.e that our views areput forward in all sincerity. Honorable senators on this side recognize that more than one section of the community is endeavouring to destroy arbitration. There is, for instance, an unscrupulous section of employers.
– They are a backnumber and do not exist to-day.
– I shall quote a report which contradicts that opinion, and proves that the people on whose behalf the honorable senator interjects, seek to destroy arbitration. My extract is from the report of the conference of the Metal Trades Association of Australia which was recently held in Sydney, and it reads -
Industrial arbitration is a beautiful ideal and a righteous one. It was originally evolved to protect the workers, who were unable economically to protect themselves. It has overdone it. It has pampered them so that they are becoming bowelless tyrants and unmitigated ruffians towards the industry from which they dra,w their sustenance. Away with it, and let Us get back to the clear open economic ring. That is the only way to prosperity and increased employment.
– Did Arthur Rae write that?
– I am not responsible for what Arthur Rae writes or says. I signed the platform of the Labour party, which declares that the movement believes in arbitration.
– But you disobey arbitration court awards.
– The honorable senator is unfair in making such an insinuation. He knows the stand that I took last year before Parliament was dissolved.
– I mean that the honorable senator’s supporters disobey arbitration. The Australian Workers Union recently disobeyed an award in Queensland.
– Two wrongs do not make a right. Many employers want to break away from arbitration. I recognize what- Labour has to gain from the system and what arbitration has done for unionism in Australia. It has been the bulwark of the working classes. But it has also protected the honest employer by preventing unscrupulous employers from taking advantage of cheap labour.
– Some1 of the unions also want to destroy arbitration.
– I am not aware of that. I recognize that there is a small section of the community who go from State to State - well fed and well groomed, and who have apparently never done a day’s work for years - en deavouring to bring about industrial disruption. They are the people who seek to destroy arbitration.
– What is the honorable senator going to do with them? They are his followers.
– They are not.
– They are paid by the honorable senator’s supporters.
– Senator Foll may not know it, but it is our considered belief that they are paid by the employers.
– We know definitely that they are paid by the honorable senator’s supporters.
– This party realizes that these people cannot live without being paid, and we know that they are not paid by the workers of Australia.
– Is not Jock Garden paid by the unions?
– I have frequently ventilated my views about Jock Garden. I have no time for him.
– Surely the honorable senator does not contend that the employers are paying Jock Garden?
– -I should say that they are. He certainly receives something from New South Wales unions, but it is my firm belief that he is being paid by the employing class to create industrial trouble on the eve of elections.
– Who is paying Jacob Johnson?
– The same people.
– Why did the honorable senator and his colleagues want to get him out of gaol?
– I did not want to get him out of gaol. It has always been my belief that those two individuals and a number of others do not belong to the working classes of Australia. Senator Reid made reference to the Beeby award. I blame Judge .Beeby for the prevailing unrest on the waterfront. Just prior to the Prime Minister making a statement that the election would be held on the 17th November last, Judge Beeby made a court-room of his bed-room arid issued an award foi’ the waterside workers of Australia. An award previously provided for two pick-ups daily, but thousands were not aware of it. When the award was originally promulgated, both the ship-owners and the waterside workers protested against the two pick-ups and were requested to confer and endeavour to arrive at an amicable arrangement. The representatives of Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, and Western Australia met and decided upon one pick-up, which system operated harmoniously for six years.- The unions wonder why Judge Beeby insisted, just prior to the election, that there should be two pick-ups. I do not know that there is any reason for it. If there had been any need for an alteration - if the shipowners or the waterside workers had required it - an application would have been made to the court. But both parties remained silent on the point, and in those circumstances there was no justification for the alteration made by Judge Beeby. He must have recognized that by enforcing that particular portion of his award he. would be helping to create industrial upheaval on the waterfront.
There are others besides the extreme industrialists and unscrupulous employers who are opposed to arbitration. Some of those who are administering the affairs of the arbitration courts seem to’ be endeavouring to break down the system. At any rate, if they were anxious to do so they could not have gone about it in a better fashion than by making such, awards as those relating to the waterside workers and the timber employees. Some people say that honorable senators of the Opposition tried to induce the waterside workers to go out on strike. That cannot be said in truth. For my own part, in this chamber I expressed my regret that the men had decided to disobey the award of the court, and I have often said that it was an error of judgment on their part. They recognize it now. But surely they have been sufficiently punished. Are they to be penalized for all time? It is true that the Port Adelaide workers at first declined to obey the instructions issued by the conference in Melbourne to return to work, but when they did so they were under the impression that the number of volunteer workers would not sub.sequently be increased. The ship-owners, however, have steadily added to the numbers of volunteer workers until there are almost enough of them to do all the work of the port. If the ship-owners had acted fairly, they would have given first preference to the volunteers who came to their assistance and second preference to the members of the federation. The fact that they have not done so has been the cause of a lot of the disturbance which has recently taken place on the waterfront at Port Adelaide. Accompanied by Mr. Makin, the member for Hindmarsh in another place, I had the honour of leading a procession in Port Adelaide.
– The honorable senator did not keep very good control over the procession.
– Before the march started both Mr. Makin and I emphasized that it must be an orderly one and that a good example should be set to the citizens of Port Adelaide. The women and men were agreeable, and everything went well until we reached a spot where it was necessary to head the procession away from a vessel which was being worked by volunteer labour. The women were incensed because Italians and others were working on the boat, and although Mr. Makin and I did all we could to persuade them to keep away from the vessel, our persuasions were of no avail. The women knew that their offspring were being deprived of bread and butter and trouble commenced. Law and order ! On that occasion we had law and order run mad. What happened was a disgrace to civilization. The police seemed to exercise no discretion. They simply let themselves go. They galloped down the thoroughfare on the road and on the footpaths, striking with their batons .at random. Women and children were struck and people almost ridden down. One man alongside me, who narrowly escaped being trampled to death, said to the trooper who was on the horse, “Why are you galloping over me? What have I done?” The trooper simply replied, “You move on again when I tell you.” There was not sufficient justification for that trooper to gallop after the man in the way he did. Policemen should be advised to exercise more discretion and better judgment in similar circumstances.
– Does not what happened at Port Adelaide, indicate that there should be some one who can control these men, seeing that the honorable senator and his brother legislator failed to do so?
– There is one way of controlling them. The women broke out of the procession because their children were almost starving. . And where is the woman who would not put up a fight for her starving offspring?
– Why were they starving?
– The honorable senator knows perfectly well what happens during industrial strife. Why should the women and children be punished for the sins of the fathers?
– The fathers should think of their wives and families.
– It is all very well for the honorable senator to talk in that way. Did he do so when formerly he took part in industrial upheavals? We must put ourselves in these men’s position before we can utter judgment upon them. While we may not agree with their action in disobeying the award of the Arbitration Court, it was quite a different matter with the womenfolk whose children wanted bread. I can readily understand what they felt when they saw men doing work on boats which their breadwinners ought to have been doing. At any rate, that was the cause of the disturbance on that occasion.
When Senator Reid was quoting the rates of pay fixed by Judge Beeby, he did not tell us that men working side by side would be receiving different rates of pay for the same class of work. Provisions of that nature in an arbitration award are always likely to cause dissatisfaction.
While we always endeavour to live up to our system of arbitration, we recognize at the same time that it is a long way from being perfect. When the locomotive engine drivers and firemen of South Australia went to the State Arbitration Court and secured an award, the railways commissioner appealed to the Full Court and employed King’s Counsel to plead for him, with the result that the award was quashed and the men were deprived of approximately £5,000. in retrospective pay and certain improved conditions of labour. The union then applied to the Federal Arbitration Court but it has been waiting for two years and five months to have its case heard and has already spent £1,500. Why should it cost any union £1,500, to say noth– ing of the delay, before it can get its case heard? Delays like this make us understand the difficulties the unions have to encounter in approaching the Arbitration Court. The Government’ should try to find some means of overcoming this. We know that strikes have been brought about for the sole purpose of enabling a union to get its case heard by the Arbitration Court, instead of having to wait for years as the locomotive engine drivers and firemen in South Australia have had to do. The Arbitration Court should not take so long in giving its decisions nor should the process of obtaining awards be so costly to applicants. If more judges were appointed to expedite the hearing of cases, there would be greater peace in industry.
Senator Duncan made light of the number of foreigners working on our wharfs. In South Australia there are numbers of these men who work on a system of credit, sometimes extending over a period of twelve months. Many of them are found on farms and among the workers on the roads.
– One road contractor who recently went through the insolvency court gave evidence that he owed one of these men £170.
– Employers can pay these foreigners what they like, and therefore, they give them preference over Australians.
– It is strange that there have been no -prosecutions for breaches of the law.
– It would be useless to prosecute, for, although it is well known that these things are done, it is difficult to prove them. While foreigners are provided with work, good Australians and their wives and families are left to starve.
– They have brought these things on themselves.
– Nothing of the kind. There have been ho strikes on South Australian f arms. ,
-If farmers are unable to- pay the wages of these men they must indeed be in a sorry plight.
– Surely Senator Cooper does not suggest that Australia can progress along such lines. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
Senate adjourned 3.S2 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 8 March 1929, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1929/19290308_senate_11_120/>.