23 May 1930

12th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.

page 2086



Senator COOPER:

asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -

  1. Are any of the aerial transportation companies or aircraft manufacturing companies in receipt of Government subsidy?
  2. If so - (a) what are the names of the companies; (b) what is the amount of subsidy paid to each company; and (c) on what basis are the subsidies paid?
Senator DALY:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · ALP

– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator assoon as possible.

page 2086


Second Reading

Debate resumed from 22nd May (vide page 2023) on motion by Senator Daly -

That the bill be now read a second time.

Senator OGDEN:

.- Yesterday I was emphasizing the fact that, although in the United States of America there is comparatively little industrial machinery as we know it in Australia, wages have increased, and working hours decreased. Statistics show that, compared with an index figure of 100 in 1913, prices were represented by the figure 226 in 1920 and by 150 in 1926. That shows for the better conditions which have been obtained for the workers of that country, arbitration cannot be given the credit. Probably the result mentioned is due largely to the different outlook of industrialists in the United States of America from that of their fellow workers in Australia. On page 25 of the report of the industrial delegation which visited the United States of America in 1927, there is a statement by Mr. Hugh Frayne, chief officer of the Federation of Labour at New York, which shows the mental outlook of the industrialists of his country. Mr. Frayne said -

The development and co-operation between management and the Labour movement for the elimination of industrial waste will develop automatically a mighty agency for elimination of industrial conflict.

In the United States of America the workers co-operate with their employers. Mr. Green, the president of the American Federation of Labour, stated an obvious fact when he said that the only way the worker can gain any material advantage, or reap a larger reward for his services, is to increase production, and place industry in a better position to pay higher wages. In Australia, many industrialists do notcare whether an industry can pay increased wages or not; they make their demands just the same. The different mental outlook of the industrialist in the countries mentioned is largely due to the fact that in the United States of America, the industrial movement takes no part whatever in political affairs. On page 27 of the report, there is the following extract from the rules of the federation -

Party politics, whether they be democratic, republican, socialistic, populistic, prohibition, or any other, shall have no place in the convention of the American Federation of Labour.

The report goes on to say-

Provision is made, however, for the appointment of a legislative committee to safeguard the interests of the workers in regard to any legislative action. Several rules cover the adjustment of grievances and the financing of strikes, either local, State or international.

On page 26 the following paragraph appears! -

Many unions, and the American Federation of Labour, apparently subscribe to the view that it is better to convert money that previously was spent in fighting, into studiesof what an industry can pay under proper organization, brought about by co-operation between managements and the trade union movement. As a result, we found strongly organized unions employing technicians, professors and consulting engineers, engaged on research work for the unions.

That is scientific industrial organization. The workers in the United States of America realize that they are partners in the industrial progress of their country, and that it is in their interests to see that industry can pay higher wages. This report contains a lot of useful information, and it is regrettable that industrial organizations do not make more use of it. Senator Sir George Pearce very clearly pointed out that the passing of this measure will not provide work for one man who to-day is unemployed; that it will do nothing to help Australia to face her difficulties. The great problem in Australia is unemployment, and a good deal of that unemployment is attributable to the persistently unreasonable attitude of certain trade union leaders, who press exorbitant claims upon industrywhich cannot be met. I desire as strongly as anybody else to protect the interests of the worker. I have no wish to see him exploited. That exploitation would affect members of my own family, who are working under industrial awards. The present conflict results merely from a difference in method and in thought. It is sheer madness, with the existing depression, for unions to press for increased wages and’ shorter hours. Recently the Clerks Union demanded exorbitant conditions, including a 33-hour week, morning tea, and all sorts of other pin-pricking requirements.

When I was a member of the Labour party I considered it to be my duty to tell the unionists whenthey were going in the wrong direction. I never misdirected them by refusing to speak when the circumstances demanded candour. Are present Labour members leaders of political thought or merely the rubber stamps of industrial extremists? It is their duty to direct the thoughts of the Labour movement, instead of blindly following the footsteps of a militant section.

Senator Barnes:

– The honorable senator ran away from them.

Senator OGDEN:

– I confess that I ran away from men of the type of Mr. Jock Garden and others who are to-day dominating the Labour party. That party cringes before him and his fellow extremists and says “Yes, Mr. Garden,” and “No, Mr. Garden,” and forthwith does his bidding. Hundreds of such people are now battening on the Labour movement. One is reminded of the old verse :

So, naturalists observe, a flea

Has smaller fleas that on him prey;

And these have smaller still to bite ‘em ;

And so proceed ad infinitum.

No alteration of the Constitution to increase the industrial powers of this Commonwealth, will help one jot towards improving the economic position of Australia. An honorable senator interjected that this is an important question. Undoubtedly the relationship between employer and employed is an important matter. But it is more important to see that the army of unemployed has an opportunity to earn a reasonable living, and there are other ways than that proposed by which that could be effected. “We should endeavour to increase the field of employment by increasing our export trade, and by other obvious methods. Senator O’Halloran said that our strike figures compare favourably with those of other countries. That may be so, but it must be remembered that with the partial exception of New Zealand, this is the only country in the world that has a comprehensive system of compulsory arbitration. It must not be forgotten that when our Conciliation and Arbitration Act was orginated in 1903, the unions after full consideration, forfeited their right to strike. I do not subscribe to the view that we should debar the worker from the right to strike. I have very decided views on the subject, and consider that ri ere are times when a strike is justifiable. Until about 1916, when the late Mr. Justice Higgins retired from active participation in Arbitration Court work, there was never a strike against an Arbitration Court award. Unfortunately in recent years hardly an award of that court has been .issued against which the workers have not rebelled. I have come to the conclusion, and I think that Senator Daly and Senator Barnes will agree with me, that no industrial machinery ever devised can eliminate the. unfortunate complex between worker and employer. We cannot change human nature. Natural human combativeness will always operate, and no artificial barriers that Parliament sets tip will prevent industrial conflict.

I have here the International Labour Review, a publication issued at Geneva. It gives strike figures for various countries, showing the average number of days lost per annum, per thousand of population, and I shall quote the figures for the information of honorable senators. The volume was published in 1926, and the table reads -

Those figures clearly indicate that in Australia, where we have the most complete system of arbitration in the world, our strikes were nearly as great in number as those in Great Britain, where they have no industrial machinery. Unfortunately this tendency to strike and . bring about industrial unrest increases as the years pass. Paragraph c of the bill before the Senate seeks power to pre, scribe terms and conditions of labour in employment in any trade, industry, profession, occupation or calling, while an- other bill to be considered stipulates that this Parliament shall not take over the control of State railways. If the people grant those powers, the Commonwealth Parliament will have almost complete control of the State railway systems by being able to prescribe the rates of wages to be paid, the hours of work, and so forth, without bearing any financial responsibility. It, is interesting to note that the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution contains a minority report by the Labour representatives, Messrs. Duffy and McNamara, to the effect that the Commonwealth Parliament should have power over railways. Apparently the proposal in the bill with which we shall deal seeks to fulfil that ambition. The idea of conferring power without responsibility is a contravention of the first element of political justice.

Senator O’Halloran:

– Railway employees are at present under federal awards.

Senator OGDEN:

– Yes, but this Parliament seeks full power in the matter.

Senator O’Halloran:

– It seeks power to set up the necessary tribunal.

Senator OGDEN:

– It simply asks for a blank cheque. It may .delegate the necessary power tb the State’ tribunals, or carry out the task itself. We shall have the spectacle of members bringing down proposals for the alteration of wages and conditions in almost every avenue of industry in Australia. It is an unthinkable proposition.

Senator Dunn:

– Is not the Bavin Government in New South Wales -cutting down wages and specifying conditions?

Senator OGDEN:

– I am never surprised at what is done in New South Wales. This Government seeks to have power to interfere with matters that should bo dealt with by the State Parliaments, as at present. The report of the commission on the Constitution also intimates that Mr. H. C. Gibson,’ an industrial advocate of long experience, who gave evidence 011 behalf of the Australasian Council of Trade Unions in favour of the Commonwealth having full power in regard to all industrial ‘ matters, expressed himself on the point as follows -

My experience shows me that, if we are going to rely for arbitration on one court having jurisdiction over the whole ‘ Commonwealth, it will fall with .its own weight.

That is exactly what I and my colleagues say. Would it not be better to allow existing conditions to stand until such time as the desired goal can be achieved by more suitable means?

I have no ill feeling towards industrialists. I have always endeavoured to preserve « proper standard of living. Some people imagine that a reduction in wages must, in all circumstances, mean a reduction in the standard of living; but as Judge Beeby pointed out the other day, it does not follow that a lowering of wages means a decline in living standards. Lower prices for commodities must enter into the calculation. This, at all. events, is a fair inference to make. If we can reduce costs in other directions, even a reduction in wages will not represent a reduction in the standard of living. No member of this chamber desires to see the living standard of the working classes lowered. I am afraid, however, that the enormous, concentration of effort by industrial organizations to maintain wages at existing levels has not had quite the results which the leaders of the trade union movement expected. I have not exact figures by me, but I can quote them approximately, and I have no hesitation in saying that after many years of conflict in the field of industry, after a great deal of regimentation in the industrial movement during and since the war, the wages of the workers have been raised by only 5 per cent, or 6 per cent.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– 6 per cent.

Senator OGDEN:

– And now we are faced with a volume of unemployment, almost unparalleled in the history of the Commonwealth. I make bold to say that if all this industrial machinery had not been created, the worker would have benefited perhaps to a greater extent. I believe we are wasting a large amount of money and enormous energy fighting for something which experience has shown is difficult, if not impossible of achievement under present methods. In the United States of America, as I was able to show- last night, the position of the workers has improved enormously without the aid of arbitration tribunals, or any of the other machinery employed in this country for the fixation of wages and the maintenance of the standard of living. This result has been achieved by co-operation of employers and employees.

If this Government had proposed to ask the people to grant increased industrial powers to authorities, as was contemplated in the Bruce-Page constitutional amendment of 1926. it would have had the hearty co-operation of many members on this side of the chamber. I think I can say that definitely. But the Government’ has seen fit to take another course, and I feel sure that the people will not endorse this proposal to grant increased industrial powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. I regret the psychology or philosophy of the trade union movement of to-day in striving ever to widen tb: gulf between the different sections of the community. Present day labour leadei’3 preach the gospel of class hatred. They declare that there is no affinity between employer and employee; that the employer is the natural enemy of the employee, and the employee must fight the employer through his industrial organization. This is a vicious doctrine. There should be no division between employers and employees. All sections of the community should unite in furthering their mutual interests. We are all partners in industry, and wo all should help to ensure the prosperity of this great country. Whilst we are at sixes and sevens, whilst bitterness is exhibited between the two sections of industry, there can be no peace, no progress and very little prosperity. I should very much like to see a better spirit in the relationship of employers and employees. One thing which contributes largely to this bitterness between the two sections is the inculcation of this false doctrine of class hatred which even in this Parliament ranges the people into two opposing parties. I believe that the only solution for economic and industrial troubles is an alteration in our system of responsible government. Ministers dependent upon party support must always have their ears to the ground, and at times they must fail to do what they believe to be in the best interests of this country. I have always contended that the abolition of the present system of party government and the substitution of the more ‘sensible system of elective ministries is the remedy for most of our difficulties, and I have advocated this policy practically all my life. I sincerely trust that the electors “will refuse to sign this blank cheque which the Government intends to present to them and that we shall work out our industrial salvation in some other way. I hope that our labour leaders will be more humane in their outlook and not continue to preach this vicious doctrine of class hatred, and that eventually there will be a better spirit shown between employers and employees.

Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH (“Western Australia) [11.37].- If this bill is presented to the people it will represent the fifth attempt of the Commonwealth Parliament to secure additional industrial powers. It may be of some interest to reflect for a moment upon what happened on ,previous occasions. The first attempt to obtain increased industrial powers for the Commonwealth was made in 1911. It was defeated by 742,000 votes to 483,000 votes. In 1913 a similar proposal, differing in detail but having the same end in view, was almost carried, there being 961,000 votes in favour of it and 9S7,000 votes against it - an adverse majority of only 26,000 votes. In 1919 a further submission was defeated by a still narrower majority, there being 911,000 votes for the proposal and 924,000 votes against it - a hostile majority of only 13,000. Subsequent to that appeal to the people, the Commonwealth Parliament passed legislation providing for compulsory voting at all elections and referendums, and when the next attempt was made to. extend the industrial powers of the Commonwealth, in 192C, there were 1,247,000 votes in favour of the proposed amendment and 1,619,000 votes against it, the hostile majority being not less than 372,000 votes compared with an adverse majority of only 13,000 in 1919. 1 should have thought that would be a sufficient lesson to this or any other government; clearly it was an intimation by the people that they did not wish the whole of the industrial powers of the Commonwealth to be vested in the Parliament at Canberra.

The Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) in moving the second reading of this bill quoted extensively from- the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, but apparently he did not think it necessary to read one brief paragraph of the report which I say, in all modesty as a member of that commission, constitutes the recommendation of the majority of its members on this particular matter and is as deserving of attention as any other portion of the report. The majority of the commission summed up its attitude on this question of industrial powers in the following recommendation : -

We do not recommend that the Commonwealth Parliament be empowered to legislate with respect to industrial matters generally. In our opinion, the reasons which may be urged against the abolition of the federal and the establishment of a unitary system of government in Australia may be urged against the transfer of this power to the Commonwealth. In our opinion, industrial legislation should be regarded as a function of the States. In many matters industrial legislation is experimental, and each State should decide for itself whether it is prepared to test the value of proposed legislation of this character and to accept the responsibility for its consequences. We also think that industrial legislation peculiarly requires local supervision, and should be in the hands of the authority which is responsible for the maintenace of law and for the good order of the community. We think, further, that the general power to legislate with respect to industrial matters should be in the hands of the legislature which has the general power to deal with health, trade and commerce, mines, lands, public works, and the development of a State. We do not think that it would be for the good of Australia that the Commonwealth Parliament should be occupied with industrial questions or that Federal elections should turn on industrial issues.

I direct- the attention of the Senate particularly to that portion of the recommendation which suggests that this industrial power is tied up with the trade and commerce power. I am inclined to think that had it not been for the extraordinary manner in which these proposals for the alteration of the Constitution were evolved, we should have had the .second and third of these bills in the form of one measure. Obviously the original- intention of the Government was to seek a further grant of general power. Then, as an afterthought, it brought forward this proposal for an additional grant of industrial power and after it had been debated at some length, the- Ministry introduced a third proposal asking for additional trade and commerce power. But how is it possible to separate the industrial and trade and commerce powers? What has happened in recent years? The previous administration passed the Transport Workers Act under its trade and commerce power which by a section of the Constitution is extended to navigation. Only under this power was it competent for the Parliament to enact the measure referred to, but legislation passed under it is subject to the limitations imposed on the Commonwealth Parliament by its trade and commerce power. It follows, therefore, that the provisions of the Transport Workers Aegean apply only to those engaged in interstate transportation. Consequently if we pass the proposal relating to the trade and commerce, and if it is endorsed by the people, there will be no need for this measure, because there will no longer be any limitation on the Commonwealth in the exercise of its control of industry under the trade and commerce power. Had these general proposals for the amendment of the Constitution been carefully considered, and had mature judgment been brought to bear upon them, probably they would not have been submitted to Parliament; certainly we should not have seen the first proposal, which I venture to say we shall hear no more about, and the other proposed amendments would have appeared in one measure, because the two powers are so closely associated as not to admit of separation.

The majority of the commission carried its recommendation to a logical conclusion by suggesting that paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution be eliminated so that the Commonwealth Parliament should no longer be concerned with industrial matters. Had the Government acted in accordance with the recommendation of the Royal Commisison on the Constitution and submitted to the people a proposal to eliminate paragraph xxxv. of section 51, it is not at all improbable that the result would have been satisfactory. Reference has been made to elections, but let me remind honorable senators of an instance in which the people gave what may be termed an entirely contradictory vote as between a referendum and an election.

On two occasions, I think, when theelectors were asked to agree to compulsory military service overseas, they rejected the proposal but at a general election held about that time they utterly rejected the party opposed io compulsory military service and returned the party which favured it. The last general election for the House of Representatives was contested on all sorts of false cries. During the campaign, candidates opposed to the party then in power made continuous references to wage reductions, increased working hours and to certain proposed impositions on the moving picture industry. A proposal for the abolition of paragraph xxxv. of section 51 and the complete retirement of the Federal Parliament from the industrial field would probably receive the approval of the people, and would doubtless be of great advantage to Australia. It has been suggested that if this measure is passed by Parliament and accepted by the people, overlapping industrial awards and difficulties of that character will entirely disappear, but the answer to that is that they will disappear only if this Parliament so desires. A paragraph in the report of the Royal Commission on the Constitution, which appears on page 12, may be of interest. It reads,: -

The distinction between the concurrent and exclusive .powers of the Commonwealth Parliament does not limit its powers or affect the scope of its legislation. Matters within its concurrent powers are only left to the State Parliaments so long as the Common wealth Parliament does not see fit to supersede or exclude State legislation. A State Parliament, has, for instance, concurrent .power to make laws with respect to marriage and divorce. It has been free to do this from thu establishment of the Commonwealth, as the Commonwealth Parliament has not, except for the special purpose of the Matrimonial Causes (Expeditionary Forces) Act, 1919 legislated on these mutters The Commonwealth Parliament may at any time enter the field and indicate, expressly or impliedly, that its legislation is to be the only law within the field It may at any time vacate a field, but so long as it occupies it, a State Parliament is excluded to the extent to which the field is covered by Commonwealth legislation.

If ‘this amendment of the Constitution is made it will be competent for this Parliament to say that there shall be no industrial legislation except that passed by the Commonwealth Parliament, and it will be equally competent for the Commonwealth Parliament to deal only with certain phases of industrial legislation. So long as the Commonwealth Parliament confines itself to thosephases, it will be quite competent for the State Parliaments to legislate in that field which the Commonwealth Parliament does not wish to enter.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– In neither case would it be a fixed condition, one Parliament could repeal or amend what a preceding Parliament had enacted.


– Exactly. The Federal Parliament having occupied the whole field might see fit to retire, but while it legislated industrially in the whole field the States could not intervene. We shouldkeep in our minds that under this amendment State arbitration can be completely destroyed ; it may be competent under this proposed amendment to set up a complete federal arbitration system if so desired. Federal conciliation and arbitration is provided for in the Constitution, but it is now proposed to remove that provision and substitute a general industrial power, which might be used for any purpose that Parliament saw fit, either by setting up an industrial tribunal, or by Parliament itself legislating industrially. It is significant that, among those who are pressing for this amendment, there is a very strong volume of opinion entirely hostile to the principle of conciliation and arbitration. We can draw our own conclusions as to the use which Parliament, after responding to the wishes of the sponsors of this amendment, would make of the power if it were given. At the last Labour conference held in Sydney in February, the ideals of the Labour party were made clear. One proposal was -

A 44-hour week for all industries by parliamentary enactment that will provide penalties against employers and employees working more than 44 hours in any one week.

That is the first use which this Government would make of this power if it should possess it. What would become of the industries of Australia if a compulsory 44-hour week were imposed upon them ? That, however, is a point with which I will deal later.

Senator Dunn:

– What is wrong with a 44-hour week?


– It is all right for some in privileged industries in which it is allowed; but extremely serious for others. That, however, is a point with which I shall deal later, and in its proper sequence. Another proposal of the Labour Conference was -

The total abolition of all forms of piecework, bonus paymentsand payments by results.

Why should not those industries which are working peacefully under the piecework system, with satisfaction to the employer and employee, be allowed to continue? The next proposal submitted at the conference was -

An equal living wage for both sexes.

I would not object to that if it were not associated with the preceding proposal. If the Government were to abolish everything in the nature of piecework, would it not be ridiculous to suggest that men and women should be paid the same wage? If wages are to be based upon the work performed, the women should be on the same rate as the men, but what would be the position with wages based on some such fantastic idea as the cost of living? How could we have the same standard for women as for men? The whole structure would break down.

In answer to a question submitted in another place the other day, the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) set out the conditions under which wages are based on the cost of living. To me it was amazing to find that the basic wage had been materially reduced in consequence of a sudden decline in the price of potatoes. Apparently wages are determined by the price of potatoes! If there is a glut in potatoes, wages decline, and if there is a famine in. that commodity they are to be increased. In other words the less a man has the more he can eat. It is a ridiculous assumption, and a basis on which no country can expect to prosper.

The last proposal at this conference was, “ complete preference to unions”. We have had some discussion on that point. If the Government had the power, legislative effect would be given to this proposal, and we may judge how a policy of preference to unionists would be applied towards the community generally by studying how it is used at present towards the employees of the Public Service over which this Parliament has complete constitutional power. That complete power which the Constitution gives to this Parliament, has, in my opinion at all events, been improperly usurped by the Government, which by regulation is doing that which should be done by act of Parliament. I have before me a copy of an instruction issued to the heads of governmental departments. It is so full of interesting matter, that I am sure I shall not weary the Senate if I quote it. It reads -

I am directed to forward forgeneral information and guidance, the following copy of a circular memorandum from the secretary, Public Service Board, dated 22nd April, 1930. I am directed to inform you that the Government has directed that on and from the 1st June, 1930, application of the provisions of the various public service arbitration awards and determinations shall be restricted to members of the public service organizations concerned.

Parliament has set up a tribunal to determine what is fair remuneration for a fair day’s work, and such a tribunal having so decided, the Government says that such remuneration shall be received only by the political supporters of the Government. The circular continues -

Action is accordingly being taken for the repeal of Public Service Regulations 74d and 85.

I venture to say that it will be well for honorable senators to closely study the regulation under which those regulations are to be repealed, and when it is tabled in the Senate, we should seriously consider its disallowance. The circular continues -

The board suggests that the decision of the Government should be made generally known throughout the departments, and that steps be taken immediately to obtain and record particulars as to the membership of the various organizations in order that the decision may be applied from the date fixed. It will also be necessary to make arrangements for receipt regularly of particulars as to employees subsequently joined or seeking to be members of organizations. The Public Service Regulations are being reviewed by the board, and advice will beissued in due course as to the conditions which will be applicable to non-members of organizations.

I suppose such regulations will contain the measure of prejudice to which non- members of organizations are to be subjected. It is further stated that -

The Government’s decision will also extend to officers and employees who are subject to the Defence Act and civilian staff regulations and who are working under determinations of the Public Service Arbitrator.

Senator McLachlan:

– Was that circular issued by the Public Service Board?

Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCHYes; under instructions. It continues -

I am to request that action be taken immediately to obtain and record particulars of membership of the organizations, care being taken to ensure that the particulars are correct by reference to the union concerned for verification. Arrangements should also be made for the regular receipt of particulars respecting officers and employees subsequently joining, or seeking to be members of organizations. I am also to ask that a list be forwarded to this office in due course of permanent officers and employees who are members of organizations, indicating the particular union to which the officer or employee belongs. Subsequent variation should also be notified from time to time. With regard to temporary employees, it is desired that in future an additional column be inserted in the quarterly return under the heading “ Union,” in which the name of the relevant organization should be inserted opposite the name of each employee.

Senator McLachlan:

– Does the circular refer to officers in the military service ?

Senator Sir HAL COLEBATCH.Yes. The Government will find it extremely difficult to give effect to such a policy. There will be serious discontent amongst those compelled to comply with the conditions of that circular, and if the Government is not careful there will be a good deal of “white-anting” of a different nature from that concerning which we. have heard a good deal.. There will be a simmering from within. In the wall of the Doge’s Palace in Venice there is a hole leading to a distant receptacle, and in the days of the worst tyranny in Venice, it was customary for citizens - fanatics, people who wanted to satisfy a private revenge or were animated by all sorts of motives - to drop into this hole, called the Mouth of the Lion, anonymous letters, naming persons as suspect - just as some public, servant who is seen talking to a Nationalist member, or two or three who are. overheard rebelling against the demands of their union officers may be classed as suspects. The missives dropped into the Mouth of the Lion ultimately found their way into the hands of the myrmidons, of the Doge, and a day or two after the persons named in them took the perilous passage across the Bridge of Sighs. Our Government will need something of that sort before it can ensure the success of the system of abominable tyranny on which it has embarked. “We are told that on this matter the Australian Labour party and. the Australian party are at one. I almost regret that there has come about a rift in the lute; because apparently they are not to-day so much at one as they were a week ago. Last Sunday the distinguished leader of the Australian party delivered an address, in which he said that the whole trouble in Australia at the present time is that we are producing too much wealth. That is certainly a very comforting thought. Evidently the more unemployment increases, with a consequent diminution in the production of wealth, the better off will everybody be, and if the Government would only declare a general holiday for everybody for six months, by the end of that time production of wealth would be so much reduced that our present trouble would have disappeared! I contrast the declaration of the Leader of the Australian party with that of Mr. Hogan, the Labour Premier of Victoria. He even went a little further than Mr. Scullin in urging increased production. He said -

Not only farmers, manufacturers and employers, but workers too must realize that the safety of the country lies in giving birth to increased production.

Then, he added words which honorable senators can accept or reject as a reference to the Australian party. He said -

Some people not otherwise eligible for a lunatic asylum talk of the danger of overproduction. That is impossible in a country like this, especially as Ave have now a bigger home market to supply.

There is thus a distinct cleavage, more distinct than could otherwise be imagined, on fundamental principles between the Australian party and the Australian Labour party, so far as Mr. Hogan is able to speak for the latter.

Every one of the proposals carried at the Sydney Labour Conference, which would be implemented if the power sought’ by this bill were given to the Federal Government, aims directly at decreased production - in other words at the policy of the Australian party - and is diametrically opposed to the policy outlined by Mr. Hogan. To my mind the present situation in Australia is due more than anything else to the arbitrary fixing of artificial industrial conditions. For many years these have been bolstered, partly by high prices for wool and wheat, and partly by excessive borrowing abroad; but it will be found impossible so to bolster them in future. Senator Dunn asks what is wrong with the 44-hour week. The 44-hour week as applied on the New South Wales railways system caused it to employ 2,000 or 3,000 more men than were necessary. It was a grand thing to have 2,000 or 3,000 more men at work; but at what a cost! As we have seen, the whole scheme has broken down, because the taxpayer could no longer bear the loss it imposed , upon State railways, and even long before the taxpayer rebelled the user- of the railways was taxed to an extent that helped very considerably to reduce the volume of production and eliminate profits the railways might otherwise have earned. As a means of righting the railway revenue of New South Wales it is now proposed to impose extremely drastic regulations against motor traffic. It is quite unnecessary for me to go into the details of the matter; but is it not obvious that any country that deprives itself of the advantage of modern means of transport, recent discoveries of science, or achievements of inventors, will lag behind the rest of the world? It may be necessary to have some sort of regulations over motor traffic; but the idea that motor cars are to be driven off the road in order that 3,000 or 4,000 extra men may be employed on the State railways at 44 hours a week, is one that, in the words of Mr. Hogan, can only be advanced by people not otherwise eligible for a lunatic asylum. The arbitrary fixing of utterly artificial wages brought into the coalmining industry 5,000 men more than were necessary, with the result that the industry became impoverished, and a number of others necessarily dependent on it were also almost destroyed. What has happened in connexion with the rural workers awards in- New South Wales and Queensland? The chief reason for the defeat of Labour governments in those States was that the general public came to the conclusion that the economic structure was toppling about their heads, and that ruin would follow if matters were not put right. Arbitrary conditions may be maintained in sheltered industries, but not in those that are unsheltered. The rural workers experiment tried in New South Wales and Queensland was put right because the people in those States realized what was happening; but if we have an Australian-wide experiment on the same scale it may take a long time to correct the evil that will result, and in the meantime it may be a sorry business for the community.

We are told by Senator Daly that the Commonwealth power has been exhausted, and that all its efforts have led nowhere. Is there no lesson in that? If Ministers, instead of asking to be given more power on the ground that their efforts so far have led nowhere, would only admit that all their efforts in the industrial field have led to nothing but destruction, and that it is time to give them up, theywould be doing the right thing. To my mind, it is obvious that the further they go in the matter of regulating industries and thetrade and commerceof this country, the more trouble is likely to be brought about. It is astonishing to me that the Government is not prepared to listen to the advice of experts. During the last few months a number of eminent economists in all parts of Australia have been telling the truth, and trying to impress it on the Government and the people. I commend to honorable senators a book issued in 1927 by Professor Shann, Professor of Economics at the University of Perth, foreshadowing clearly what has happened, and telling the people of Australia that, if they followed in the track they were then following, the consequences so evident to-day would be inevitable. Within the last two or three months Professor Shann has published another book, Bond or Free, equally prophetic of what will happen if the policy to which this Government is wedded is persisted in. Professor Brigden, Professor Copland, and Professor Giblin, other eminent students of economics in Australia, have preached the one doc trine: increased production, a lower cost of production and the removal of every restriction that limits production. I commend, particularly, a splendid address given in Melbourne on the 28th April last by Professor Giblin, who is not only a great economist, but also an outstanding democrat. I know of no man in Australia with a more passionate love for the people than he has. He is always keen on fighting the battle for the underdog. He looks at matters from the point of view of what is good for the working man and what will help him. Speaking in Melbourne, he said -

Now, unemployment, when persistent at such levels - now 14 per cent. for all organized labour - means, in the first place, overpopulation for the resources of the country at the basic standard in force. In a free working economic system, the remedy is either emigration or a fall in wages, which would come about automatically. Emigration we may rule out of court as a remedy for Australia, and wages have been “ pegged “ by trade union combination and industrial legislation, so they will not respond to the situation. The pegging has been mainly useful in the past, a moderating and stabilizing influence, if rigidly adhered to, it may bring us into dangerous waters now. So far we are on safe ground. The total income has come down, and there is no fall in numbers from emigration. So the average income must fall. Still there is a gap before we reach the position “ wages must fall.” The argument must be very right and clear. We have to convince’ not only the income tax payer - whose easy conviction on this point is rather a handicap - but the wage earner himself. If the argument is right and he is not convinced, there is likely to be trouble. The logic of facts may come home with hunger and misery and, perhaps, bloodshed, and certainly passionate class hatred - a poor foundation on which to build a new economic structure.

I commend the whole of that address, particularly to honorable senators in the Labour party. It was delivered in the interests of the workers by a man who cares more for the worker than he does for the whole system of capitalism.

Senator Ogden:

– He was a Labour member in the Tasmanian Parliament.


– An argument often advanced as to why this complete power should be given to the Commonwealth Parliament is -

  1. That the legislative body which controls customs taxation, should also control industrial conditions, and
  2. That central control is necessary to prevent unfair competition in the case of an industry operating in different States.

That argument may appeal to the individual manufacturer or trade unionist. It is a view held extensively, particularly by New SouthWales manufacturers, that it does not matter very much what wages and conditions of labour apply in their industry, so long as they also apply in Victoria. It is the only thing they worry about.When the boot employees took a case to the Arbitration Court in New South Wales, appealing for a 44-hour week, the old contention that in 44 hours a man would produce as much as in 48 hours, was at once abandoned. The court said that it could not grant a 44-hour week because the working week in Victoria comprised 48 hours. In fighting that case the employers were not concerned about the 44- hour week, but about the unfair competition of Victoria. They tacitly adopted the attitude that if the working hours in Victoria were reduced to 44 a week they would not mind a similar working week in New South Wales.

The question we have to decide is whether our prosperity is to be obtained by cutting out competition between State and State, or by enabling Australia to compete with the rest of the world. Those who tell us that we can become prosperous by eliminating competition between the States, cutting down the volume of production, advocate a policy which would bring ruin to the country. The only policy that can save Australia is one which will enable us to compete with the rest of the world. That policy alone will enable us to maintain and improve our standard of living. The whole question is whether there shall be central or local control. If honorable senators want to cut down production and eliminate competiton, in order to build up what they call a high standard of living for certain privileged industries and specified interests, then I say to them “ Pass this bill ; have central control “ ; but if, on the other hand, they desire that Australia shall prosper; that there shall be room for additional.millions of British people; that each State shall be able to produce its goods at a competitive price so that our surplus production can be sent away and the country enabled to buy those things which cannot profitably be made here, then I say “ Reject this bill.” We must have not only a minimum of governmental control: that control must be exercised by the government which is on the spot, and understands local conditions, and, moreover, is quickly responsive to any change that might take place.

Several honorable senators have referred to the Government’s intention not to submit to the people arguments, in pamphlet form, for and against the several proposals. I understandthat the Government proposes to introduce an amendment to the Referendum Constitution Alteration Act 1906- 1926 in order to avoid the expense, calculated at £25,000, of preparing and issuing a pamphlet for the guidance of electors. If the Government is determined on a course, which, I think, would he damaging to itself as well as entirely unfair tothe people, it will not need to amend that act. Section 6a of the act mentioned reads -

  1. 1 ) If within nine weeks after the passage of the proposed law through both Houses there is forwarded to the Chief Electoral Officer -

    1. an argument in favour of the proposed law, consisting of not more than two thousand words, and authorized by a majority of those members of both Houses of the Parliament who voted for the proposed law; or
    2. an argument against the proposed law, consisting of not more than two thousand words, and authorized by a majority of those members of both Houses of the Parliament who voted against the proposed law; the Chief Electoral Officer shall, within two months a.fter the expiry of those nine weeks, and not later than two weeks after the issue of the writ, cause to be printed and posted to each elector, as nearly as practicable, a pamphlet containing the arguments together with a statement showing the textual alterations and additions proposed to be made to the Constitution.

The wording is almost exactly the same as that of the first portion of section 128 of the Constitution -

The proposed law for the alteration thereof must be passed by an absolute majority of each House of the Parliament, and not less than two nor more than six months after its passage through both Houses the proposed law shall be submitted in each State to the electors qualified to vote for the election of members of the House of Representatives. if a referendum is taken on this occasion it will not he under that method at all. The Senate will not pass these bills, and, therefore, any referendum which is taken will be taken under the alternative provision that a bill, having been rejected by one House, although passed by the other, and then, after aninterval of’ three months, passed again by one House and rejected again by the other, may be submitted to the people. The Referendum Constitution Alteration Act 1906-26 makes no provision whatever for referendums of that kind. That is not merely my own opinion; it is also the opinion of men whom I regard as among the highest constitutional authorities in this country. This form of amendment was missed by the framers of the 1906 legislation. Obviously, it is ridiculous that a bill which has been passed by both Houses shall not be submitted to the people without a considered statement for and against it, whereas a bill passed by only one House and rejected by the other may be submitted without any such statement. There is all the more reason for the issue of a pamphlet when one House has rejected a proposal. I question whether the Government is obliged to submit the case for and against its proposals; but I venture to say that if it omits to issue the usual pamphlet, it will do so at its own peril, for it will lay itself open to the charge that it desires to keep the people in the dark. The reason given for not issuing a pamphlet is that the Government wants to save £25,000 : but that excuse will carry no weight with the electors, in view of its determination to spend probably £100,000 in the taking of a referendum which, to say the least, can do no good.

In conclusion, I repeat that the whole aim of the Government in this, as well as in the preceding and successive proposals, is to increase governmental control over trade, commerce and industry. While the Government is aiming at that goal the whole soul of Australia, through the throats of the pilloried slaves of primary production and the 200,000 starving unemployed, is crying to high heaven that these shackles shall be taken off the limbs of industry and that there shall be a return to the freer operation of the inexorable and beneficent law of supply and demand.


: - I feel at a disadvantage in following Senator Sir Hal Colebatch, who has just concluded an able speech, but I think that I should give the Senate views drawn from my long experience as an employer. If these proposals are accepted we shall have the unfortunate spectacle of political parties’ endeavouring to outbid one another as to the terms and conditions of labour they will provide if elected. Moreover the time of Parliament will be occupied to a great extent with details of wages, labour conditions, and similar considerations. The first result must be demoralizing to any people or Parliament; the second is impracticable. Senator O’Halloran said that, if these proposals are not accepted, we shall put back the hands of the clock thirty years. That is a ridiculous statement, for we have only to look to Canada and the United States of America to find countries which are prospering without any form of arbitration whatsoever. When I. was in those countries about two years ago, I had an opportunity to study industrial matters there, particularly in California. I found that disputes were settled by means of conferences between employers and employees. I also found that unionists and non-unionists worked amicably side by side and that there was an excellent feeling between employers and employees. I found, too, that the unionists in those countries recognized the economic aspect of industry and. rendered good service to their employers. They realized that, unless they acted fairly towards their employers, either there would be no employment for them, or what employment there was would he at lower wages than they were receiving. In the building trade especiallyI found wages were much higher than in Australia. Certainly the conditionsof living there are not lower than they are in this country. Moreover, it is not denied that their production per man is greatly in excess of that in Australia. I was also informed that the trade unions assisted employers by having vigilance officers in the various workshops to see that each man did a fair day’s work. A great deal of the work in the United States of America is done on the piecework system, and where that principle does not operate, union organizers,

I was told,saw that every man did a fair average day’s work. A man who did not do so was warned once, twice, or perhaps three times, after which if theman still failed to act fairly the union organizer recommended that he he dismissed, and thereupon he would be dismised. The result is that in both Canada and the United States of America the workers have obtained better conditions than the workers of Australia enjoy. In those countries the workers have no political aspirations-. I wish that were the case here. Samuel Gompers, the great American labour leader, declared that it was no part of the policy of unionism to interfere in political matters. The main purpose of the unions in the United States of America is to see that the workers get a fair deal. They recognize that such can be attained without political interference. In this country union organizers do their utmost to encourage class consciousness. They say that there can be no community of interest between employers and employees. During my many years connexion with the employing class I have seen many instances to the contrary. I remember, for example, that when the war broke out and the price of copper fell, the Mount Morgan Gold-Mining Company kept on working for about three months at a tremendous loss in order not to cause inconvenience to the workers at that difficult time. Years later, when the war had ended and the. company continued to make losses, due chiefly to labour troubles and the diminution of ore values, it continued working at a loss for four years mainly in the interests of the many men in its employ. I could mention numerous other instances to show that employers are not unmindful of the interests of the worker. Senator O’Halloran said that the framers of the Constitution desired federal arbitration.We have only to read the Constitution itself to come to an entirely opposite opinion. The Constitution contains clear evidence of a desire to keep clear of arbitration and to leave to the States the control of all industries with the exception of transport. Senator O’Halloran also said that employers frequently resisted the awards of the court. They have no chance of doing so. Should they attempt it,they can be haled before a court and fined large sums of money. On the other hand, the workers have defied the court time and time again. The honorable senator urged that the States wanted federal arbitration. I point out to him that in Queensland there are very few federal awards. The industrialists of that State, who work mostly under State awards, do not desire to be placed under federal control. Senator O’Halloran referred to the quality of the work performed by Australian industrialists. I admit that our workers are capable of better effort than the workers of any other land; but the methods of the union bosses prevent them from putting their best into their work. So far asI have been able to gather, production comparisons are unfavorable to the Australian workers. I read last week in one of the Sydney newspapers that the Argentine required 5,000,000 to 6,000,000 tons of coal. Certainly the price was low - £1 a ton f.o.b. - but if our employers and employees showed a sane and proper spirit, Australia could have secured that enormous contract. That £6,000,000 would have assisted to place our exchange position on a favorable basis. Instead of opening our coalmines on only half staff, the whole of the miners of the different districts could have been fully employed for five days a week for about nine months. All that was needed was a little give and take, to enable the collieries to quote a price that would capture that immense order. However, such a splendid opportunity will surely be lost, for it has been difficult enough to induce the miners to resume work under conditions which allow them to earn up to as high as £16 to £18 a week.

Senator O’Halloran also made mention of the abolition of awards by Nationalist governments, and specifically to the rural awards of New South Wales and Queensland. I consider that the abolition of those awards was the best thing that could have happened for our country workers. It is impossible to pay in our rural industries wages approximating those ruling in the cities; therefore the work was simply not being done and hundreds of people were unemployed. Under the new conditions they are able to obtain work at reasonable rates of pay, and are perfectly satisfied.

State instrumentalities were also referred to, and it was claimed that they should be controlled federally. I do not believe in that. I consider that it would be an insult to any State if authority Over its own servants were taken out of its hands and placed under the control of the Federal Government. States have sovereign rights even greater than those of the Commonwealth, and I should not like to see State instrumentalities transferred to the control of this Parliament. This Senate has been rebuked for opposing the referendum proposals now before it on the ground that the people, who are, after all, the final arbiters in the matter, have the right to say whether they approve of the proposals or otherwise. Personally I feel it my bounden duty to oppose these measures, and I shall again do so on the hustings when they are before the people. If I thought for a moment that my vote would interfere with these proposals getting to the country I should not oppose them in the Senate, or make any effort to prevent their reaching the people. But as they will eventually go to the country I and my colleagues are justified in backing our opinions to the utmost of our ability.I intend to vote against this measure, and to oppose it when it goes to the country.

Senator BARNES:
Assistant Minister · Victoria · ALP

– This is not the first time that a matter of this description has been brought before this chamber. Similar proposals have been discussed on many occasions. The desire for an amendment of the Constitution has not been the monopoly of any one party or of any one government. Every government that has endeavoured to carry on the affairs of Australia has found itself hampered to some extent by the limited powers conferred upon it under the Constitution. Actually the proposals of this Government are not going much further than thoseof the Bruce-Page Government. The purpose of this amending bill is to confer on the Commonwealth Parliament full control over industrial matters, including -

  1. labour;
  2. employment and unemployment;
  3. terms and conditions of labour and employment in any trade, industry, profession, occupation or calling;
  4. the rights and obligations of em ployers and employees;
  5. strikes and lockouts;
  6. the maintenance of industrial peace; and
  7. the settlement of industrial disputes.

If this Government is given the power that it seeks, who is going to use that power? It has to be used by somebody, and as Parliament is the institution that gives the breath of life to the desires of the people, this is the only sane and organized method by which it can be done. If it could be otherwise effected no regulations would be needed for anything. Everybody could go along in his own tin-pot way and a state of chaos would result. The purpose of this bill is to give Parliament, not a party, the power to do something; to regulate the matters to which the bill refers. That does not appear to me to be asking toomuch of the people. It certainly does not seem tome to be too much for the people to place in the hands of this Parliament. In the event of the Senate rejecting this measure, and its being submitted to the people, after we comeback with full authority-

Senator Reid:

– There is no chance of that.

Senator BARNES:

– I am not so sure. I believe that the people realize that there is something wrong with the constitutional machinery at the disposal of: this Parliament to regulate industrial affairs. We have seen disastrous strikes occurring time after time, which have disorganized the affairs of the country, affecting people who were perfectly innocent, and had no desire to be embroiled in the trouble. That has all happened because no authority has been endowed with sufficient power to handle the matters responsible for the disturbance. If Parliament is granted the necessary power to handle such troubles, it will be Parliament’s own fault if it does not initiate machinery effectively to deal with the situation, irrespective of the party responsible for the trouble.

Senator McLachlan:

– What could Parliament do?

Senator BARNES:

– A Parliament having sufficient authority and determination could do almost anything. It certainly would not allow any obstreperous individual or party of individuals to wantonly disturb the industrial peace and harmony of the country.

I shall quote very briefly from a speech made bythe present Leader of the Opposition in the Senate (Senator Pearce) in 1926, in support of additional powers being granted to this Parliament. The honorable senator said -

Obviously, any enlarged powers provided for by an amendment of the Constitution are given, not to any particular party, but to the Parliament itself. The object of the powers sought in relation to industrial employment is to bring about material progress in industry and commerce, better relations between employers and employees, and, consequently, more contentment in the community generally.

That seems to me to state the case as it stands to-day. This Government is asking for precisely the powers advocated by Senator Pearce in 1926.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– No. The Bruce-Page Government merely asked for the setting up of authorities,’ not that Parliament should be given power to legislate in these matters.

Senator BARNES:

– I shall quote the right honorable senator further to show that the request of this Government is in no way new. During the same speech the right honorable gentleman said -

So far back as the 28th June, 1901; Mr. (now Mr. Justice) Higgins moved in the House of Representatives, the following motion: -

That in the opinion of this House it is expedient for the Parliament of the Commonwealth to acquire (if the State Parliaments see fit to grant it under section 61, sub-section xxvii. of the Constitution Act) full power to makelaws for Australia as to wages and hours and conditions of labour.

Those sentiments were voiced in the Commonwealth Parliament 30 years ago by one of the most eminent gentleman we have had in Australia.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator BARNES:

– Thirty years ago the late Mr. Justice Higgins declared that Australia required efficient industrial trial machinery for the settlement of its industrial problems. Since then the Commonwealth has established its arbitration system and in the realm of industrial legislation has blazed the trail for the rest of the world. Many years ago several members of this Parliament were closely identified with the industrial movement, either as employers of labour or workers. Realizing that the condi tions in industry were far from satisfactory they took steps to provide the remedy. Both sections became convinced that if progress was to be assured it was necessary to appoint a judicial tribunal to hear and determine all disputes. Accordingly the Commonwealth Parliament passed the Conciliation and Arbitration Act under which the Arbitration Court was established. It has been said that the industrialists of other countries, without the assistance of arbitration machinery or tribunals for the fixation of wages, have made better progress than have the workers of Australia. My experience of the conditions of employment in other countries is gained from my study of recognized authorities on industrial matters, and I am satisfied that, generally speaking, tie workers of Australia are enjoying better conditions than those of any other country.

Our purpose now is to perfect the machinery available to us so that ourconciliation and arbitration system may function efficiently to ensure peace in industry and the progress of the Commonwealth. Parliament reflects the opinion of the people and since members of this legislature are elected on the adult franchise, where is the harm in this proposal? What is wrong with this request that the people shall grant to this Parliament additional power to do what is considered desirable in the interests of the nation? We believe that if this grant of power is given, our conciliation and arbitration machinery will work more smoothly , and effectively. The person or party that persists in disturbing industrial harmony cannot expect much consideration from a Parliament representative, as this Parliament is, of the people its masters. Our duty now is to go back to them to ask for this additional power which experience has shown to be necessary. I say . quite frankly that if honorable senators opposite were in power, and if they were asking Parliament topass suchmeasures as those which are now before this chamber, I should have no hesitation in supporting them.

Senator Reid:

– The honorable senator’s party objected to a similar proposal in 1926.

Senator BARNES:

– The electors are the masters of this Parliament. In my capacity as a citizen of the Commonwealth, I am privileged, on certain occasions, to sit in judgment upon its actions. There should be a close bond between the electors and their elected representatives, just as there is between the leaders in commerce and industry; whose word so often is their bond, irrespective of the magnitude of the interests involved.

When a similar proposal was being dehated in this chamber in 1926, I spoke in favour of it; but said that the then Government was not asking for sufficient power. Had the Bruce-Page Administration submitted proposals similar to those now before the Senate, it would have swept Australia, because the party which I represent in this Parliament would have been whole-heartedly behind the Government. The referendum in 1926 was defeated because the then Government was sr-eking extended powers not for the Parliament, but for a judicial tribunal created by the Government. The people rejected the proposal, not because they were afraid to trust Parliament, but because they feared to trust the judicial authority, members of which are not elected by themselves, but appointed for life subject to good behaviour. They declined to hand over to such an authority, the industrial destiny of the Common wealth .

The fear has been expressed by some honorable senators that if this amendment is accepted by the people, Parliament itself will be called upon to settle industrial disputes. The suggestion is ridiculous. It is ridiculous for any man permitted to grace this Parliament to suggest that as a reason why this power should not be granted to the Commonwealth Parliament. What would be the result if- these additional industrial powers were granted? During the recent political campaign the candidates and supporters of the party of which I am a member told the people that industrially something was wrong, and that if a Labour Government were returned to office, it would seek additional .power to overcome the’ difficulties which now exist. We now propose to ask the people for’ these additional powers to place us in a position to construct an effective industrial machine. This Parliament can only provide a means by which certain things can be done - we frame -the laws which the courts interpret. The courts do not legislate for Australia; they interpret the wishes of the people as expressed in the laws which Parliament passes. This power having been given to the Parliament, the next step is to frame legislation which, when interpreted by the judiciary, will effectively express the wishes of the people. Honorable senators are aware that, in some instances, when a case has been before -the criminal court the judge has. said, in effect, that if he were in a position to do as he really wished, he would punish the accused more severely than the law allowed. In such circumstances, he can express only his opinion - his decision must he based on the law. In a sense ‘the people give up their power to Parliament, but it is the responsibility of Parliament to construct a machine to function effectively in preserving industrial peace. I am an industrialist, and have been all my life; but I know that I and those whom I represent have to conform to the laws of the country. We must necessarily do so to enable us to carry on. In order to control our men we form them into labour armies. We instruct them as did those distinguished honorable senators opposite who were entrusted with the training and control of our troops. There is no “ beg your pardon “ about army orders. What has to be done, must be done, or. severe penalties are inflicted. We have informed the members of the industrial army that a limitation is placed upon them, and that as citizens they are expected to obey the laws of the country.

Senator Herbert Hays:

– Is not that the position to-day under our arbitration system ?

Senator BARNES:

– Yes ; but I know of instances in which arbitration judges have done a grave injustice to a section of the people. A judge may, quite unintentionally, make a grave mistake, but, from his high pedestal, he will not reverse his decision. In consequence of such mistakes the workmen of this country .may lose. roughly, £2,000.000 in wages. ;

Senator Herbert Hays:

– But the judge may he right.

Senator BARNES:

– But in the case I have in mind he was wrong. I am not saying that he was wrong merely because I think he was wrong, but because he gave a decision onwrong premises. If he had reversed his decision, he would have exposed the error he had made. Some men have the courage to admit that they have made a mistake, but that was not so in this case. Had there been an opportunity an appeal would have been made to a higher authority, and I would have blown that gentleman out of the water on his own figures.

Senator Herbert Hays:

– That is lopsided arbitration.

Senator BARNES:

– Not at all. Provision should be made in our arbitration laws for a right of appeal to a higher tribunal, just as there is under other laws. There is no appeal from a decision of the Federal Arbitration Court.

Senator Crawford:

– Surely we could give appellate jurisdiction to the Full Court?

Senator BARNES:

– Yes, by legislation. At present there is no appeal against an award of the Arbitration Court. Only the other day an incident occurred in connexion with a case . connected with the Australian Workers Union. The act provides that a judge may take into Consideration the economic conditionsof the industry concerned, and in doing so can prescribe a wage below the basic rate. For eighteen years the male and female employees in the industry concerned had been receiving £411s. a week and in numerous awards made during that period a uniform rate for both men and women had been retained. The court was subsequently approached and an award made under which the rate paid to women was reduced from £411s. to £2 18s. a week. Is it any wonder that employeesin such circumstances become dissatisfied with conditions of labour? We are all human. Some need waking up more than others, but all are roused if the spur is driven in far enough. Notwithstanding the judge’s decision in that case, the women employees have continued to receive the higher rate and there has been no industrial disturbance. The Government is now asking for power to legislate in a way to prevent incidents of that kind that are likely to lead to industrial trouble. I am naturally anxious that this country shall progress. All my life I have been accused of being an agitator. During the many years I have been associated with industrial organizations I have devoted all my energy and ability to preventing industrial trouble, and strikes have never benefited me, nor any other officer of the organization with which I am associated. It has often been said that while the members of an industrial organization are on strike, its principal officer is receiving his salary and consequently the duration of the struggle does not affect him. Of course, he is known to every “ Bill Jim “ of the organization, and, knowing that they are not working, he assists them financially from his own pocketwith the result that he is in no better position than the men who are out of work. Such men have not a feather to fly with, yet they are accused of being persons who stir up strikes for their own benefit. These officers do not encourage men to strike. That is the last thing they wish ; a strike means a hell on earth for them. Honorable senators opposite fear that if the Government possessed the power now sought it would do some grievous wrong to the people, but this Government has no desire to do anything detrimental to the people. We believe that if we are given the power for which we are asking we shall be able to do greater things than have previously been possible in the industrial arena. It is said that a man’s love for his country counts for something, and probably it does. I am an Australian and I want to see my country blaze the track. Older countries have taught us much, but we have, if we like to avail ourselves of it, opportunity to teach them something. I think that, with confidence, the Government can say to the people, “ Why do you fear us? We are Australians; we and our families and all our dependants have to live here. All we are asking for is power to enable us to bring forward legislation which we think will be of benefit to our country.” I should not worry if my political opponents were handling the power which is now being sought to be obtained, so long as they were required to go back .to the. electors, and give an account of their stewardship. When .Labour was .previously , in power if did what it promised the electors it would do; and when,it went back to them to give an account of its stewardship it could honestly say, “ We have carried out every promise we made.”’ The. things Labour did during, its period of office remain as monumental blessings to the people of Australia to-day.

Senator Crawford:

– Compulsory military training, for instance?

Senator BARNES:

– Compulsory military training was one of the things Labour thought necessary at that time, but since then tragic events that led to the sacrifice of millions of the flower of the earth’s manhood, including 60,000 Australians, have caused men and women to ask, “ What is the use of glory at such a frightful cost?” And now there is an agitation all over the world for disarmament. Times have changed. Thoughts have changed. The old piratic mind that one should profit by sporadic raids on the property of others has gone and facts, hard-driven into the hearts of the people of the world, have led them to ask, “ What is the sense of it all “ ? What does military training bring about? If the man next door sees’ that I am training my son he asks himself why I am doing it, and, probably, comes to the conclusion that I am doing it so that they may be able to jump his fence and steal his fruit. He, thereupon, sets about training his own boys to prevent the raid upon his fruit. That is exactly what is happening among the nations. If one arms its people the others infer that it is doing so for some nasty purpose, and immediately proceed to arm their people. Labour brings a message of peace. Not only does it say, “We shall abolish compulsory military training-

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon W Kingsmill:

– Order! The honorable senator is making more than a passing reference to compulsory military training.

Senator BARNES:

– I am sorry. It was because of Senator Crawford’s interjection. I agree with what Senator Pearce said in 1926 that the power now sought is to be given to a Parliament, and not to a party. The Government is serious in its proposal. If it is rejected by this chamber- the alternative procedure laid down in the Constitution will be followed, and the people will be asked to give what Parliament .refuses to give. I should like honorable senators opposite to take up the stand I took when the last referendum was held. When the Bruce-Page Government was asking for extended industrial power, though not the full power now being sought, I asked the people to vote “Yes,” because I thought the Commonwealth should get an extension of industrial power. If the Commonwealth had the full industrial power and honorable senators opposite were in charge of the administration of the affairs, I should have no fear that they would do any grievous harm to Australia. They would merely be doing what they thought was in the best interests of the country. I ask honorable senators opposite to have the same faith in us. I want the fullest possible powers to be given to this Parliament, so that the people of Australia will be able to express themselves in no unmistakable way, and they can do that only through the Parliament of the nation. I almost plead with honorable senators opposite to allow this proposal to go to the country, knowing well that the day will come when they will be in power with the opportunity to wield the authority for which we are now asking. I should be the last to begrudge to them the opportunity to do what they regard as best in the interests of the country.


– Honorable senators have listened with a great deal of interest to Senator Barnes. No one questions his earnestness or sincerity; but we cannot let his earnestness lead us away from the real point at issue. He would have us believe that the power sought by this bill will bring, peace and goodwill out of industrial chaos, and establish the industries of the country on such a sound and firm basis that they will be able to compete with industries in other parts of the world. But the honorable senator’s arguments in many directions condemn the principle of arbitration for which he declares be stands. No one knows better than he does that arbitration, as it has operated in Australia for many years now, has not been the means of bringing about satisfactory’ arrangements’ for the carrying on of our industries. He has told us that an upheaval ‘of a few months ago was really due to a judge having given, a wrong judgment. According to the honorable senator, it was ample justification for the union’s disobedience of the law, and for throwing the whole of industry into a state of turmoil. We can well imagine what the position would be if this Parliament had to deal with a. similar case. Of course, the honorable senator has explained that Parliament would merely provide the machinery by means of which a duly-constituted tribunal would deal with disputes; but, at a time like this, I think we could more profitably bend our energies in other directions, instead of attempting to deal with legislation which can have no other effect than that of aggravating a position which is already serious in the industrial life of this country. If we are to be guided by past experience of the Arbitration Court we can come to no other conclusion than that it has failed to bring about industrial peace. The reasons for it are quite obvious. Employers and employees meet in an atmosphere of hostility. They regard each other as enemies, instead of partners in industry. If our industrial problems are to be solved by legislative action, it must be in the direction of giving more control to the States. The maritime and transport industries are proper fields for federal control ; other industries should be under the jurisdiction of the States. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Daly) referred to the evils of dual control. I remind him that our greatest industrial troubles have occurred on the waterfront where the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has had a clear run. In the light of that fact it is difficult to see how the granting of additional power to the Commonwealth will assist to establish industrial peace. These proposals are doomed to failure; the people will reject them. Their rejection will provide the Government with an excuse for not having fulfilled many of the promises it made to the electors some months ago. In the future, when charged with not having settled industrial disputes, or relieved un- employment, the Government will be able to say that it would have done so ‘ had the people granted it the power it now seeks. We should not lightly pass by the conditions now prevailing in the industries in this country. Australian industries would profit immeasurably if they were freed from parliamentary interference. We should allow them to develop on sound lines. That means that they must establish themselves on a competitive basis. Senator Colebatch has already dealt fully with that aspect of the matter. While some of our key industries, which have been given a full measure of protection, are able to carry on, the position of most of our other industries is anything but prosperous. That is true particularly of our primary industries. The best thing this Parliament can do for the industries of this country is to allow them to develop without parliamentary interference. Parliament has enough problems to face without interfering in industrial matters. I regret that the Government proposes to submit these questions to .the people, for not only ‘will the taking of a referendum he a waste of money, but it will also divide the people into opposing camps and engender feelings of hostility. It is. inconsistent for a Government, which has appealed for co-operation between all classes, to submit, particularly at such an inopportune time, proposals which will divide the people. I intend to vote against the bill. ‘

Senator REID:

.- Senator Barnes said that he favoured making every worker join a union. During recent years there has been so much regimentation of the workers of all classes, from bank managers to office boys, that it is difficult to see’ what scope there is for further progress in that direction. Were- it not for the fact that the workers of Australia have organized, under the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, into unions and associations, wages and conditions of labou’r would ‘have been interfered with long ago. Nevertheless, no amount of regimentation can alter economic laws. The speech of the honorable senator demonstrated clearly that the organization of the workers into unions has not been very successful. Our duty at the present time is not so much to the man who is in work, as to the man who is unemployed. Senator Barnes said that we on this side are afraid to give additional powers to the Commonwealth Parliament. I reply that it is not the duty of Parliament to deal with the details of industry.

Senator Barnes:

– But cannot Parliament provide machinery to deal with them ?

Senator REID:

Senator Barnes quoted the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in ‘support, of his contention that this Parliament should he vested with additional powers. Additional powers should certainly bo given to this Parliament; hut Parliament is not the instrument to wield those powers. It is on that’ point that we on this side differ from honorable senators opposite. Parliament has neither the ability nor the time to deal with industrial matters. Its duty is to pass legislation, and to allow that legislation to be administered by others. Already there have been twelve amendments to the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, each designed to make it more workable and to prevent friction; but, despite them all, trouble still exists. There is no greater contentment among the workers to-day than there was previously. Senator Daly also referred to the industrial peace conference held in Melbourne. At that conference both employers and employees admitted that the conglomeration of awards and determinations made it impossible for industry to be carried on without friction. The honorable senator said that because, after all, the judiciary was only human, it was not infallible. That is so. But is Parliament any less fallible? In my opinion, Parliament is less qualified to deal with these matters than the judiciary is, for Parliament is more or less ruled by the people, and consequently each party is concerned chiefly with the interests of the section it specially represents.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– The granting of these powers would turn Parliament into a wages board.

Senator REID:

– Parliament would be a poor wage’s board. It would not have that intimate knowledge of industrial conditions that is possessed by members of - wages boards. I have not the slightest doubt that each successive Common wealth’ Parliament has made its best endeavour to improve the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, hoping that the result would be beneficial to the community. Instead of that happening, as soon as awards adverse to the workers were made, trouble ensued. I instance the case of the timber-workers, ‘ who defied an award of the court. Their union had gradually built up a very strong organization, but the- substitution of various materials for timber, coupled with the unfortunate strike in which thai union engaged and was defeated, has resulted in a lack of employment and more or less chaotic conditions in the industry. The same remarks may be applied to the miners. For years they were practically spoon-fed with special awards and, so long as the employers could pass on the increased cost of production to the public, everything went well. As soon as economic conditions became adverse to the industry, the miners suffered. Neither the State nor the Commonwealth Arbitration Court has been able to cope with the situation of recent year3. There has been a succession of strikes, the worst of which have terminated only because of the possibility of starvation. Even if the Government were granted the power that it seeks, it could not compel the workers to accept adverse awards, nor could it prevent strikes or lockouts. 1 believe that much of the prevailing trouble is due to political interference, and that the present attitude of the Government is merely camouflage. The waterside workers’ industry is the only one that can correctly be termed interstate. All of the other unions which have approached the Arbitration Court to. obtain the benefit of its awards have been artificially federated. Almost invariably, as each union became federal in nature, it was able to obtain its demands from the court, because Australia at the time was in a flourishing condition. Everything went satisfactorily until the economic situation brought about adverse awards to the employees. Then came trouble. There has been no dual control in connexion with the watersiders, yet, until the advent of the Transport Workers Act, they were the most turbulent body of workers in Australia. and for many years held up the industry of this country to ransom. Does that not indicate that the Federal Arbitration Court has done nothing to bring about peace in industry? I say nothing against the principle of arbitration. I know that it has done much to improve conditions generally, but it has merely been used by the workers to suit their own purpose. It has definitely been proved that the court has not abolished dual control.

Senator Barnes was the only one who gave us definite information as to what the Government intends to do if it obtains this power. The honorable senator said that he desired to see an appeal court established, through whose medium the men could appeal against the decisions of the Arbitration Court. If such a step would obviate existing friction, I should be only too pleased to see it taken. But that could be done under the present power of the Parliament, without going to the enormous expense of a referendum. The present court acts at times more or less in the nature of an appeal board, as one judge will remit a case with which he is dealing to the Full Court for its decision.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– Under the Government’s proposals the men could come from the appeal court to Parliament.

SenatorREID. - Parliament would make a very poor court of appeal, as it is not a judicial body having a proper knowledge of industrial conditions. I should like to know why the Government has introduced this bill. Senator Sir George Pearce quoted at length the resolutions carried at a recent Labour conference in Melbourne. They were very illuminating. About two years ago practically every union was opposed to the Arbitration Court, but there appears to have been a change of front. As the hour is getting late, I ask leave to continue my remarks at some future date.

Leave granted ; debate adjourned.

page 2106


Motion (by Senator Daly), agreed to-

That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till Wednesday next, at 11 a.m.

page 2106


The following papers were presented -

Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -

No. 10 of 1930 - Professional Officers Association, Commonwealth Public Service.

No. 11 of 1030- Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia.

No. 12 of 1930- Federated Public Service Assistants Association of Australia.

No. 13 of . 1930- Commonwealth Telephone Officers Association.

No. 14 of 1930. - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.

No. 15 of 1930 - Professional Officers Association, Commonwealth Public Service.

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Wine Industry - Business of Senate

Senator DALY:
Vice-President of the Executive Council · South Australia · ALP

.- I move-

That the Senate do now adjourn.

The Prime Minister announced to-day, in another place, that in response to representations made by the wine interests, and in view of the financial support accorded the wine industry by the Commonwealth Government, arrangements had been made for the Hon. J. Gunn, of the Development and Migration Commission, in collaboration with Mr. R. McK. Gollan, Senior Inspector of Excise, to investigate the various aspects of the industry and furnish a report for the consideration of the Commonwealth Government.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.28]. - I think that it would be a convenience to honorable senators if the Vice-President of the Executive Council gave them some information as to the order of business next week, and particularly if he indicated the time and length of our sittings next week. I know that it is the desire of one honorable senator on this side to leave Canberra next Thursday night. If the Senate sits on Wednesday and Thursday morning, it may be possible to take the division on the Constitution Bill by Thursday, particularly if no other measure is interpolated on the notice-paper. Also, is it proposed to take the Nationality Bill and the Wine Export Bounty Bill at the beginning or towards the end of next week ?

As Senator Daly is contemplating asking the Senate to adjourn at the end of next week, enlightenment on those points would enable honorable senators to make their arrangements.

Senator DALY (South Australia - Vice-President of ‘the Executive Council’ [3.29L - I have had an opportunity to examine the notice-paper in another place, and, after conferring with certain Ministers,’ I interviewed the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Sir George Pearce). It seems to me that with the despatch with which the Senate is conducting its business, we shall very nearly clear the business-sheet next week. The only bill that is likely to come from another place next week is one relating to the cotton bounty. My intention is to proceed with the business of the Senate in the order in which it ‘appears on the notice-paper, except that the Nationality Bill, which I understand is of a noncon.tentious nature, may be moved to a higher place on the list. There will be no other’ change in the sequence of the business of the Senate. I am prepared to assist, as far as possible, to get a division on the Constitution hills by Thursday night next. If those measures are disposed of we shall have Friday for the consideration of the Wine Export Bounty Bill, or, if the Senate is so disposed, we may consider the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill instead.

Senator Sir GEORGE Pearce:

– I doubt that the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill will be - disposed of in one day. It may engage our attention for a week.

Senator DALY:

– I agree with the right honorable the Leader of ‘the Opposition. It may take a week to pass that measure, but I am hoping to have an opportunity to move the second reading before we adjourn. The Government will not ask honorable senators to remain here unless there is business to be done. As far as is possible I am endeavouring to meet their wishes, and I believe that, with the co-operation which, up to now, they have shewn in the passage of Government measures, we shall be able to clear the business-paper next week, and adjourn for at least a week.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at 3.38 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 May 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.