12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
A little while ago I asked some questions relating to the quantity of whisky in bond at various dates. I should like to know if the matter has been lost sight of, or whether the information is being obtained ?
– The honorable senator’s questions have not been overlooked; but owing to the change in the control of the Trade and Customs Department, consequent upon the return of the Minister for Trade and Customs from the Naval Conference, delay has occurred. I shall again bring the matter under the notice of the Minister and see if I cannot supply an answer tothe honorable senator during the current week.
Customs, Excise, Land and Income Taxation
– On the 4th July, Senator Carroll, asked me the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to furnish the following reply: -
– On the 10th July, SenatorH. E. Elliott asked the following questions, upon notice -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that the particulars desired are shown in the following statement : -
– Is the Leader of the Government in the Senate aware that during the last three months the average price of wool in Australia has been 9 1/2d. per lb. and that the average price for the last twelve months has been i 10 1/4d. per lb. or 3d. per lb. below the actual cost of production; also that ifr is reported that shearers in the western part of New South Wale3 have gone on strike, notwithstanding the fact that the cost of shearing sheep is from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent, of the gross price of wool and that shearers are able to earn on the average from £S to £10 a week?
– I am at a loss to understand what information the honorable senator is seeking, but if he will put his question on the notice-paper I shall endeavour to get him whatever information he desires.
Effect os Retail Pricks.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.In view of the declaration of the Prime Minister that the Government will take steps to lower duties where evidence is given that the recent increase in customs duties has been followed by an increase in retail prices, has the attention of the Loader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to an announce-^ ment in this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald that the Hotelkeepers Association has decided to raise the price of bottled ale and beer by Id. a bottle? In the circumstances, is it the intention of the Government to withdraw the amount of increased protection which this particular industry now receives through the tariff?
– Again I am at a loss to understand what information the honorable senator is seeking, but if he will put his question on the notice-paper I shall sec if I can supply him with the information he requires.
The following papers were presented: -
Coal Industry - Report, together with Appendices, of the Royal Commission appointed by the Governor of New South Wales.
Customs and Excise Duties, and Land and Income Taxes, Western Australia - Particulars of collections and payments for the three years ended 30th June, 1930.
Militia and Cadet Forces of the Commonwealth - Particulars of strength for months of May and June, 1030.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1930, No. 70.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - .
Bill (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Sir William Glasgow) agreed to -
That Senators Thompson and Cox be appointed to the Select Committee on the Central Reserve Bank Bill.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendments made by the Senate in this bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
– I move -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all its stages without delay.
I have conferred with the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) in connexion with this matter. Honorable senators will see that the only business on the notice-paper relates to the budget, and, as the Estimates are not yet available, it is impossible for the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) to debate that subject. To relieve the position as much as possible, I ask the Senate to agree to my motion, which will enable the second reading of the bill to be moved so that, if necessary, the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition may secure the adjournment.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a first time.
Senator BARNES (Victoria - Honorary
Minister) [3.13]. - I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The Commonwealth Public Service Act 1922-1928 is administered by a board of commissioners consisting of three persons. The Government considers that administration by boards and commissions is extravagant, and in pursuance of its policy of eliminating waste, does not propose to fill the vacancy on the board arising out of the retirement of BrigadierGeneral McGlinn. This will effect a saving of £2,000 per annum. The suggested amendment, which is set out in clause 2 of the bill, is of an elastic nature, and will permit, at some later date, of the work of the board being carried on by one commissioner. On the other hand, if experience shows that the appointment of three commissioners is necessary, the appointments can be made without the delays consequent on an amendment of the act.
The Government is anxious to assist graduates of the Naval and the Military Colleges who are in excess of present requirements in the defence forces of the Commonwealth. They have given up a number of the formative years of their life in fitting themselves for public service of a special nature, and, consequently, are lacking in commercial training. It is, therefore, proposed, where possible, to afford them the opportunity of joining the Public Service.
Clause 4 of the bill is designed to remedy the invidious position of an officer who, seconded for service as private secretary to a Minister, member of the Executive Council, or the Leader of the Opposition has, by years of service as private secretary, lost the chance of promotion enjoyed by other officers. The proposal is similar in principle to the provisions contained in the Officers’ Rights Declaration Act passed by the last Government.
Because of the valuable privileges, such as sick leave and superannuation enjoyed by permanent officers of the Service it will be realized that it is essential that appointees shall be physically sound. Excessive sick leave or early superannuation will involve the Commonwealth in expenditure which it should not be called upon to meet. Honorable senators can be assured that the medical examination of prospective officers is very thorough, but at the same time they will understand that incorrect answers to questions relating to the medical history of the person concerned will, at times, lead the medical officer to give a certificate of fitness to a person who is unfit. Clause 5a will meet cases of this nature.
The amendment proposed in clause 5b is rendered necessary by the fact that, where an appeal is heard in Canberra, the divisional representative who sits on the Appeal Board has to travel from Sydney. The appointment of a divisional representative in Canberra will result in a saving in travelling allowances and be more convenient.
In explanation of clauses 6 and 7, I may say that recently the League of Nations sought from the Commonwealth the services of a medical officer for duty under its organization. It was considered desirable to accede to the request, as the experience which would be gained by the officer would be of advantage to the Commonwealth when the officer resumed his normal departmental duties.
Clause 7 has been framed with the object of covering the absence of an officer whose services may be sought by the League of Nations in circumstances as outlined. It goes further, however, by providing that leave will be granted to an officer for duty in similar circumstances with the Government of the United Kingdom, or of any State of the Commonwealth, or of any British dominion, colony or dependency. It appears desirable to extend the provision for leave of absence to enable an officer to serve with any Government within the Empire if occasion arises, and this has been provided for.
Clause 6 is being amended by a proviso which has for its purpose a restriction upon officers from utilizing section 71 of the principal act for the purpose of obtaining an extension of the leave which may be grantable under the proposed section 72a.
Regarding clause 7 of the bill, the proposed amendment of section 89 of the principal act is to enable its application in the manner originally intended. The proviso to section 89 (1) of the principal act, as it at present stands, reads as follows : -
Provided that where any such building has been acquired or erected by the Commonwealth solely for the purpose of residence of the officer without an incidental obligation of supervision or general control by the officer over personnel or property, the officer occupying the premises shall pay such rent, and be subject to such conditions of occupancy as are determined by the Minister in charge of the department eontrolling the premises.
The law authorities submitted an opinion to the effect that unless the Commonwealth had acquired or erected a building solely for the purpose of residence of the officer personally and actually occupying the premises, then the proviso to section 89 (1) of the principal act, as it at present stands, could not be applied in allowing the Minister in charge of the department controlling the premises to determine a reasonable rental for them. Where those conditions existed, notwithstanding the commercial value of the premises being occupied by any officer, a rental in excess of 10 per cent, of - his salary could not be charged. The amendment now proposed will correct this serious anomaly and allow the Minister to determine the rental of premises occupied by an officer in the manner in which Parliament originally intended.
Clause 9 involves an amendment of section 91 of the principal act, which deals with the question of granting permission to officers to engage in employment other than in connexion with their office in the Public Service. During recent years trouble has been experienced as a result of certain officers engaging in occupations for which they alleged they received no remuneration. Unless it can be proved that in respect of participation in some such calling an officer receives remuneration, it is impracticable to require him to refrain from acting in such a manner. As a matter of principle the Government holds that the policy of “ one man one job “ should operate so far as public servants are concerned. It is with that purpose in view, and to correct the undesirable practices which have grown up because of loopholes in the act as it stands, that the amendment has been introduced.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and sessional orders suspended and bill (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators have before them the explanatory memorandum which on Friday last I said would be supplied to them, and a perusal of it will make it clear that the bill is essentially one for discussion in committee, rather than at the second-reading stage
In introducing this bill I desire to emphasize the opening words of paragraph xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution - “ Conciliation and Arbitration.” Those who make a careful analysis of the bill will realize that these proposals adhere more closely both to the letter and the spirit of our powers than does the act as it stands at present. In this measure conciliation is not typified by a figure armed with a bludgeon. The punitive penal sections of the act have no rightful sphere in a measure dealing with conciliation and arbitration. The Government proposes to repeal them. Why should industrial organizations - whether of employers or employees - be regarded as potential criminal combinations, and therefore be menaced with sanctions appropriate only in a criminal code? That point of view is obsolete and has been discredited for half a century. Compulsion and punishment inevitably leave behind them resentment and a sense of oppression - both fertile grounds for the propagation of further trouble. Let us frankly recognize that strikes and lockouts cannot be prevented by a legislative ban. Once this truth is admitted, the futility of penal clauses in industrial legislation must be granted. That, I submit, is the only logical consequence.
In addition to the penal sections, other sections, inserted by the 1928 act, constitute an unwarranted’ interference with the domestic affairs of the unions. In operation they have not achieved the objects their framers sought to achieve. We all resent any attempt at interference with our personal concerns. It is both irritating and provocative. In pursuance of the Government’s policy of fostering industrial goodwill, these provisions also will be repealed.
Our system of arbitration has been subjected to criticism on the ground that there are long delays in obtaining an award of the court. Criticism also arises out of the formalities and legalism inseparable from court procedure. The Government believes that these difficulties may be solved in part by extending the functions of conciliation commissioners. Honorable senators who are familiar with the splendid work accomplished by the late Mr. A. M. Stewart, will, I think, subscribe to this belief. This portion of the policy of the Government should relieve the congestion of the court, and also dispense, to a great extent, with technicalities of law. With respect to the latter matter the Government proposes to restore the practice by which appeals now made to the High Court on technical grounds will be heard and determined by a judge of the Arbitration Court in chambers.
There has been much controversy, regarding the conciliation commissioners and the functions which this bill proposes to entrust to them. It has been suggested in certain circles that this measure is an attempt on the part of the Government to deprive the judges of their judicial functions, and to confer those functions upon conciliation commissioners. I remind honorable senator* that the Constitution requires that judicial functions shall be performed by judges duly appointed.
This fact is emphasized by recent decisions affecting the Bankruptcy Act, which follow an earlier decision - Alexander’s case - under the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It will be seen, therefore, that the functions of the conciliation commissioners must be purely arbitral. They cannot encroach on the judicial powers of .the judges of the Arbitration Court.
– They can make an award.
– The conciliation commissioners will carry out the functions which this statute authorizes them to perform ; but they may not perform judicial functions. I mention that because of suggestions that this bill is a subterfuge by which the Government proposes to rob the judges of their judicial powers. Under the Constitution we cannot confer judicial powers upon industrial commissioners. Illustrations of the judicial sphere may be seen by reference to the document which honorable senators have before them, in respect to sections 17, 17a, 21 aa and 38 (d) (/).
When the committee stage is reached it will be seen that many of the sections in which it is proposed to insert a reference to conciliation commissioners are of a machinery nature. Consequently, as no question of principle is involved I do not propose to deal with them at prest-nt. Sections 28 and 29 of the act are typical in this respect. Discussion ns to the merits of this part of the Government’s proposals should therefore revolve around section 18o of the act as proposed to be amended. This section deals with the appointment and powers of conciliation commissioners. The provisions of the principal act with respect to their appointment are not affected by this bill with the exception that there is a fixed term of office, namely five years. It is proposed to extend the powers of the commissioners to cover the whole arbitral field instead of limiting their usefulness.
By “the whole arbitral field” I mean the arbitral field open to the Commonwealth. No new ground can be broken, for again we meet constitutional limitations. This time it is the lawyer’s friend - paragraph xxxv. of section 51.
Honorable senators may find it convenient if at this stage I refer to proposed sub-sections 4, 5 and 6 of section 31 of the act. These provide machinery for the reference to the court of matters concerning an alteration of the basic wage or of standard hours in an industry. The proposition that the wages paid in an industry shall be limited to a rate that will enable the industry to be carried on appears, on a superficial view, obvious and indisputable. Closer scrutiny shows the principle to be vicious in its operation. It means that operatives in that particular industry must adopt a lower standard of living. It means unequal pay for equal work. It means that the more competent workers will seek other employment with the result that the industry will be carried on by less competent workers. With the lowering of efficiency the vicious circle of wage reduction must occur. The industry will in the end be worse off. In this respect it is important to remember that under the existing conciliation and arbitration power the judges do not fix wages or prescribe conditions, qua wages or qua conditions. Wages are fixed and conditions are prescribed as a means to an end - the end being industrial peace. The late Mr. Justice Higgins once said that judges of the Arbitration Court should be careful that in driving in one iifi.il they did not loosen a dozen others.
I ask honorable senators whether they think it possible to have a system calculated to maintain industrial peace which permits a single judge or a single conciliation commissioner to fix wages and to prescribe conditions of labour which do not and cannot dovetail into the general scheme of wages and conditions ii! industry. Such a system may temporarily restore peace and relieve hardship in .a particular industry; but its general effect on industry will be such that the interests of the consumer, who, after all, is the third party in all industrial arbitration proceedings, will not be properly conserved, lt is therefore the intention of the Government, under this legislation, to limit the power of the court in matters of industrial jurisprudence to the consideration of factors which affect industry generally and not one industry in particular. In this connexion I direct the attention of the Senate to a judgment given by the late Mr. Jethro Brown, who was once president of the South Australian Arbitration Court and probably one of the most celebrated jurists of this age. In his judgment on the living wage in the Tinsmiths’ case, as reported in the South Australian Industrial Reports, volume 1, page 82, a particularly fine passage appears. Mr. Jethro Brown pointed out the importance, from the viewpoint of the community, of maintaining a living wage standard, and it is the community which is used as an argument by those who attempt to defend a certain provision in the act. In his judgment this learned jurist said -
The importance of maintaining the living wage at a reasonable figure, from the point of view of the community, is well expressed by ft writer already quoted. “ The cost to individuals and to the community of the poverty which is caused by inadequate wages cannot bc estimated. We pay for it in infantile deaths, in crippled and damaged bodies of the children who survive, in the inadequate return we get from the expenditure in education, in the creation of unemployables, in sickness and loss of work, in consumption and other diseases, in pauperism, in the cost of public and charitable institutions for the support of the sick, the poor, and the insane, and in the incalculable loss of industrial and mental efficiency. So vital is it to the maintenance of industrial efficiency of the community that labour should be paid a wage which enables men to live in decency and comfort, that it has become a proverb that ‘ High wages pay. while cheap wages arc. dear wages.5 “.
From another point of view wage reduction puts a premium on sloth and mismanagement. There is no incentive to reorganization and increase of efficiency or elimination of waste so that the industry may be placed on a sound basis. The question of whether or not the continued existence of an industry, which is in danger of extinction, is necessary or advisable in the interests of the Commonwealth, is, I submit, clearly a question of public policy which ought to t/e determined by Parliament.
If you have an industry in respect of which the judge finds that to prescribe standard hours or to fix standard wages would mean its closing down, the responsibility should rest upon Parliament and not upon an arbitral tribunal. If we decide that the industry shall continue, we can foster it by means of our tariff and bounty powers. The evils of judicial excursions into the political field require no enumeration by me. The isolation of the judiciary is one of the fundamental principles of British government. We have attempted for the first time in the history of this Parliament to remove the judiciary from the field which should be occupied by Parliament. In other words we propose to relieve the judges of the responsibility of prescribing wages in a particular industry which are admittedly below the standard wage, or of prescribing hours that are admittedly longer than the standard hours in industry generally. If Parliament affirmed that in the framing of every award the court should pay regard to its economic effect on industry generally, that would merely be a declaration of the present judgemade law, because, since the initiation of our system of industrial arbitration, every judge has taken into consideration the probable effect of awards upon industry generally. What I object to is the principle which, in certain circumstances, compels a judge to prescribe an award below the regular standard of either hours or wages, without having regard to its effect on the general scheme of wage fixation. It is advisable therefore, on principle, and for material considerations, to repeal the provision that requires a court to take into account the economic position of a particular industry.
– That is not the real question.
– The real question, as I understand it, is bound up in this particular section which compels the court to take into account the economic effects of awards on a particular industry.
– The Minister admits that the judge can do that.
– Already, as I have stated, the court pays regard to the effect of an award on industry generally. Suppose, for example, there was an application before the court, relating to the moulding industry, which is one section of the metal trades industry. Prior to the introduction of this particular section in our industrial legislation, the court, in making an award or prescribing the hours for the moulding industry, would take into account, not only its effect upon the moulding industry, but also upon industry generally.
– -That is what tho court does now.
– That is what the court should do, but under this particular statutory provision, to which I am directing attention, the court must consider the probable effect of an award on the particular industry concerned. In the case of the moulding industry, which I have cited as an illustration, it would pay regard to the economic effect of ari award upon that particular industry.
– And upon the metal trades industry generally.
– The honorable senator no doubt has in mind the conditions that obtained prior to the enactment of this particular section. The late Mr. Justice Higgins, and other framers of our industrial jurisprudence, laid it down as a principle that if we desire to have industrial peace we must have some comparable scheme of wage fixation, and that in fixing wages for one section of industry, regard should be had to its probable effect upon other industries.
– Upon kindred industries.
– Not necessarily kindred industries. There might be sound reasons, owing to the prosperity of a particular industry, in favour of an increase in the wages paid to persons employed in it; but if, by this action, the wage standard in that industry were raised above the standard possible in other industries which might not be so prosperous, a feeling of discontent would be created in industry generally. Therefore, although an industry might be flourishing and able to pay a higher standard of wages, the court should consider the economic effect of such an award on industry generally. It might fix the wages for drivers in that industry at 90s. a week; but if drivers in less prosperous industries were receiving only £4 5s. a week they would become dissatisfied. At present the court, in making an award, must pay regard to the economic position in the particular industry. This, I submit, is a vicious principle which should be repealed.
The requirement that the court shall consider whether or not a dispute before it should be referred to a State tribunal for settlement, is,I contend, another example of the error into which the previous Government had fallen. The proper office of the court is to consider the merits of the cases constitutionally committed to it. The section which we propose to repeal is an attempt to hand over, in part, to the States, Commonwealth jurisdiction in industrial matters. Whatever may be the opinion of honorable senators on this subject, it seems to me that it is one upon which they can hardly quarrel with this Government. The previous administration proposed to hand over to State Govern ments industrial jurisdiction which the Commonwealth then enjoyed and the electors in no uncertain voice declared for a continuance of Commonwealth authority in the industrial field, so the action of this Government in seeking the repeal of the provisions dealing with this matter, requires very little defence from me.
A general survey of the bill shows that the repeal of a large number of sections is proposed. In the main those sections were inserted in the act in 1928 by the previous Government, whose industrial policy brought it to disaster at the polls. I therefore submit that this measure is a preliminary to the establishment of harmonious relations between employers and employees. Our programme, constructive though it is, is limited by our constitutional powers of conciliation and arbitration. With respect to the latter, we propose but slight alterations in the direction of simplification. Insofar as the burden on the court has been too heavy, we propose to lighten it by widening the scope of conciliation, and, if our objective is reached, the whole community will reap the benefit.
The bill contains no far-reaching innovations. Consequently the Government makes no extravagant claim that an industrial millennium is about to begin. Variations of the season bring, in their turn, prosperity and adversity. The extension of commerce and the introduction of new processes and new machinery are responsible for altered conditions in primary and secondary industries. Adjustments of wages and conditions must follow these variations and innovations. In short, the industrial sea is forever disturbed. To pour Oil on these troubled waters is the extent of our power, and that is exactly what we propose to do.
– The Government will require to use a fair quantity of oil.
– I am hoping that, in the course of the debate on this measure, honorable senators will realize that the oil which the Government is using is of a character calculated to achieve its purpose. I confidently urge honorable senators to pass the second reading, so that in committee we may have a free and frank discussion of its numerous provisions and in the end we may reach a solution of those difficulties which confront industry generally. I believe that if the bill is passed in its present form, it will play no mean part in ensuring peace in industry.
Debate (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) adjourned.
Business for the Senate.
– As I have no further business to bring before the Senate, I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
For the information of honorable sena tors I may state that I had a conference with the Prime Minister this morning as to the business the Government intends to bring forward, and am to have another conference with him to-morrow, at the conclusion of which I propose to confer with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce). , I am confident that by to-morrow I shall be in a position to make some intimation in regard to the programme of business with which the Senate will be asked to deal.
– It would be helpful to honorable senators of the Opposition if Senator Daly could say which bill will be taken to-morrow. Personally, I have no desire to speak on the budget to-morrow.
– I am anxious to meet the wishes of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition. Personally, I prefer a discussion to-morrow on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill.
– Some honorable senators are absent because of the announcement made by the Leader of the Senate last Friday that the discussion of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill would not take place till next week.
– It was really as a matter of personal convenience to myself that I thought we might commence the debate on the conciliation and Arbitration Bill to-morrow, because I find it necessary to leave for Adelaide to-morrow night. The Public Service Bill could then be debated on Friday, with Senator Barnes in charge. At any rate, no vote will be taken on the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill this week.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.55 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 16 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300716_senate_12_125/>.