12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m.. and read prayers.
Senator Sir GEORGE : PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.1]. - by leave - Honorable senators will have noticed in the press a report of certain evidence given by Mr. Percy Deane in reference to free admission to theatres having been availed of by the late Prime Minister, Mr. Bruce, and Ministers of the late Government. That report was cabled to Mr. Bruce, and he has sent the following reply : -
Referring your cable 1 8th, on no occasion did I request or authorize any one on my behalf to request Tait or any other theatrical producer to provide me with free seats. On assumption of office Prime Minister, I understood that it had been the practice of all theatres, as an act courtesy, place boxes at the disposal of Prime Minister whenever he visited theatre. This practice I acquiesced (in) although I did. not like it as it appeared me that it would be churlish to decline what I imagined was designed as a compliment to the high office which for time I held. As a result the practice led to my visiting the theatre very limited number of times, many of them being gala performances national event when presence Prime Minister essential. On many occasions I refrained (from) attending the theatre owing to the embarrassment which arose if I met any of the management which might lead to necessity of refusing what we believed was a courtesy designed by the management to do honour to the Prime Minister by insisting 1 should occupy a box when desire was to spend quiet evening in an ordinary seat as an ordinary citizen. If you consider necessary or desirable you might give publicity to the above.
With other Ministers of the late Government I associate myself with that statement. It is many years since I have accepted a free invitation to any theatre in Australia, and the only occasions on which 1 have done so have been when invitations have been issued to Ministers to attend gala performances such as the one which was given on the occasion of the visit of Their Royal Highnesses the Duke and Duchess of York. On that occasion members of the Commonwealth Government were invited to attend, and I did so in company with other Ministers. But I have made it a rule to pay for my tickets for other performances. On no occasion have I asked Mr. Deane to introduce me to Mr. Tait or provide me with free passes ; and I am sure that that is the case with all members of the late Government.
– by leave - I deem it unnecessary to suggest that the Government is in no way connected with the evidence given by Mr. Deane.
Honorable Senators. - Hear, hear!
– Although members of the present Government differ politically from the ex-Prime Minister, we recognize that in his private life there is no better man in Australia than the Bight Honorable S. M. Bruce, and no colour can be lent to the suggestion that he would abuse any privilege. I regard an invitation to attend a theatrical performance as I regard an invitation to a dinner. Although I have attended theatres on invitation, I have never sought an invitation; and I have never requested Mr. Deane or any one else to procure free tickets for me. Any free tickets that I have used have been sent to me and have been accepted by me in the spirit in which they have been offered. I have accepted the hospitality extended to me in that way just as I have accepted the hospitality of those who have invited me to dinner parties in Melbourne and elsewhere.
– On the 17th July Senator H. E. Elliott asked the following questions, upon notice: -
I furnished replies to questions Nos. 1 and 2, and stated that the answers to questions Nos. 3 and 4 would be made as soon as the information was available. I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows in reply to questions Nos. 3 and 4. -
So members of the Permanent Military Forces were subject to enforced leave without pay for the financial year ended 30th June 1030.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Government in the Senate been drawn to a news item from New Zealand published in the Daily Guardian of the 18th July, as follows: -
RIGID ECONOMY IN NEW ZEALAND.
More Taxes; a Levy; and no Drills.
Wellington, New Zealand, Thursday.
Budget is expected to increase taxation on films, motor cars, and petrol, and to raise the income tax.
To cope with unemployment, a bill has been introduced levying 30s. yearly from every male member of the community over 20. The fund, subsidized £1 for £1 by the Government, will be spent by an unemployment board on providing food and clothing for the workless.
Compulsory militia training has been suspended, saving £250,000.
Is a Labour Government in power in New Zealand?
– My attention has not previously been drawn to the statement. I understand that a Labour Government is not in power in New Zealand.
– I ask the Vice-President of the Executive Council if the Government will consider the desirability of appointing an honorable senator as a disseminator of news for the delectation of honorable senators?
– That is beyond the prerogative of the Government.
– Some time ago I asked the Vice-President of the Executive Council certain questions relating to the Public Service. I received a reply to question No. 1, but I was informed that the answers to Nos. 2 and 3 would be supplied at a later date. I desire to know if the information is now available?
– I understand that the particulars required by the honorable senator necessitate a good deal of research work. The information will be supplied as early as possible.
– I ask the Leader of the Government in the Senate when the Estimates and certain additional budget papers will be presented to the Senate?
– I intended to table the Estimates to-day, but delayed doing so because I promised Senator H. E. Elliott that when they were presented I would also make available a copy of Sir Harry Chauvel’s report, which I understand, will not be ready until to-morrow.
– On the 9th July Senator E. B. Johnston asked the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now able to furnish the honorable senator with the following information : -
Statements by Brigadier-General C. Jess.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In view of repeated statements in the press made by Brigadier-General C. Jess, Commandant of Western Australia, that he regards the recruiting of the forces in that State as highly satisfactory and efficient, will the Minister furnish information as to the following: -
What salary does this officer drawl
How many permanent officers and non-commissioned officers has he under him, and what is the total strength and organization of the troops under him?
How many of his permanent staff were engaged in recruiting duties, and what were their salaries?
What was the average cost of rais ing each of the 31 militia recruits who were raised in Western Australia during the month of June last, according to the returns already furnished?
Does the Minister regard this result as satisfactory?
– The answers are : -
Balancing the Budget.
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice -
Has the attention of the Minister been drawn to a statement, appearing theSydney Morning Herald on the 16th instant, to the effect -
That common honesty demands it.
Will the Minister take steps to see that this resolution is given such publicity as if necessary ?
– The answers are -
Value of Importations
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers are -
3.56,734,860 (Thesefiguresalsoinclude flour -sacks, corn-sacks not being recorded separately.)
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is toing obtained as far as possible.
The following papers were presented : -
Nauru - Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of Nauru during the year 1929.
New Guinea- -Report to the Council of the League of Nations on the Administration of the Territory of New Guinea from 1st July, 1928, to 30th June, 1929.
TariffBoard - Reports and Recommendations -
Spray Guns - Request for increased duty.
Timber - Proposals for embargo and increased duties.
Assentto the following bills reported : -
Western Australian Agreement (Wiluna Gold Mines) Bill.
Commerce (Trade Descriptions) Bill.
Forestry Bureau Bill.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
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 and (on motion by Senator Barnes) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives and (on motion by Senator Daly) read a first time.
Debate resumed from 16th July (vide page 4167) on motion by Senator Daly. -
That the bill be now read a second time.
Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (West em Australia) [3.23]. - The experiment made by Australia and New Zealand to deal with industrial disputes by means of compulsory arbitration attracted the attention of every student of political economy throughout the world. Many of us who took part in the initiation of that legislation believed that we had found the solution of a problem that had puzzled all political economists. It appeared to us thatsince all civilized countries had removed the settlementof civil disputes between individuals from the arena of force, and had placed it within the realm of the law, so also was it possible to deal with disputes between employers and employees as to the wages paid and hours worked in industry on the basis of reason, and by legal methods. In the early years of this experimental legislation the arbitration laws passed by New South Wales, New Zealand, Western Australia, and subsequently by the Commonwealth, gave legal effect to this principle of compulsory arbitration, and provided penalties for its infringement. Unfortunately the dreams we then had, and our hopes and aspirations of future industrial peace, have not all -been realized. It is probable that those of us who believed we could lift industrial disputes from the arena of force, and deal with them in the calmer atmosphere of reason, left out of account human nature. Possibly also we did not pay sufficient regard to certain economic laws that operate, and are operated upon by human nature. No one will now claim that our system of compulsory arbitration has solved this fundamental industrial problem. Indeed we have to admit that it has raised a crop of new problems. No one can assert to-day as we used to claim some years ago in our support of compulsory arbitration that it has eliminated the element of force from industrial disputes. In every country where the system has been applied it has been found that, while industrial disputes have been brought within the realm of the law, they have not been divorced entirely from the element of force. In all the States mentioned there have been series of strikes and lockouts side by side with the working of the system of compulsory arbitration. We have to admit, therefore, that the claim which we made that compulsory arbitration would do away with strikes and lockouts, has not been realized. It is, in fact, most anomalous that in Australia, a country which in all its forms of government, Commonwealth and State, provides for the settlement of industrial disputes according to the law of reason, our record of strikes and lockouts is as bad as any other country which has not adopted this system. That should not be if the system is working satisfactorily.
One concomitant of industrial arbitration is industrial organization. The compulsory arbitration laws of the Commonwealth, and of the various States, have been the greatest organizers of trade unionism that any country has ever seen. The power of trade unionism in Australia is not due so much to the enthusiasm or activity of its members and officials as to the organizing effect of these laws upon the industrial movement.
There is another factor which, especially of late years, has done a great deal to destroy the effect of compulsory arbitration. It is well not to mince words on this matter. I refer to the political character of our trade unions. The fact that trade unionism has become political, and that trade unions are the organizations through which industrial arbitration must function, has brought the virus of political partyism into the Arbitration Court.
I believe that fundamentally the principle of compulsory arbitration is sound. At one time in the history of civilization people settled their individual differences with the aid of clubs, the weakest being subdued by the strongest. But, as society progressed and we became civilized, it was determined, in order to protect the weaker in any disputes that arose, that the matter should be settled by an arbitrator! - a judge or a magistrate - who would mete out justice to the parties concerned, so giving the weaker party the protection of the law. I and my colleagues considered that, if that procedure could be applied to industrial disputes, enabling their settlement on the basis of justice, and not merely in favour of the party that happened to be the stronger for the time being, all would be well. That ideal has not been realized, because, on the part of both employers and employees, there has been a disposition to disobey awards and for either party to become a law unto himself. One of the reasons of the failure of the system has been the political colour given to it by the political association of trade unionism in Australia. I do not say this because trade unionism happens to be officially associated with the Labour party. I do not contend that things would have been any better if trade unionism had been associated with any other party. But this political association has had its repercussion on industrial affairs and disputes, and to-day, and for some time past, every industrial dispute that occurs becomes tinged more or less with political partyism. That is regrettable, and industrial arbitration cannot succeed in such an atmosphere.
I come now to the circumstances which led to the introduction of this bill by the present Government. In 1929, when the Bruce-Page Government was in office, that Government foresaw the financial storm through which we are at present passing, and, to enable Australia to meet such a difficult period, it came to the conclusion that it was advisable for the Federal Parliament to withdraw from the field of arbitration. It desired to avoid the evils and difficulties that are associated with the dual system of having State and Federal authorities operating simultaneously in the same sphere of arbitration. The Labour party, then in opposition, opposed the action of the Bruce-Page Government, taking the view that the interests of its adherents were best served by the dual system. Upon the carrying in the House of Representatives of an amendment which impinged upon the policy of the Bruce-Page Government, that Administration thereupon sought and obtained a dissolution, and went to the country. The issue upon which that election was fought was whether the dual system of arbitration should be retained, or whether the Federal Government should withdraw from the sphere of arbitration. It was upon that issue that the present Government received a mandate. Broadly interpreted, that mandate is that the people of Australia declared at the last election that they preferred to retain the dual system of Federal and State arbitration.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I do not remember anything of the kind. Senator Guthrie interjected that other issues were raised at the last election. They were. It is frequently the case that certain extraneous issues are introduced during elections, but the issue on which the Bruce-Page Government wen to the public, and on which the present Government was returned, was that of the retention of the dual system of arbitration. The Government now proceeds to interpret its mandate. The bill that we are considering does not deal with the subject of dual or single systems of arbitration. If it had not been introduced we should still have retained the dual system of arbitration, and the will of the electors, as expressed at the last election, could have been given effect to under the present law. Who could contend that the people were consulted at the last election as to the vital issues that are raised by this bill? Who could pretend that they were told that such alterations as this bill proposes, and with which I shall deal later, were to be brought in as a result of that election. No one can justly make such a claim.
One statement in the election speech of the present Prime Minister is entitled to consideration, because it was published throughout the length and breadth of the country, and can be said to have received the endorsement of the electors. In that statement the right honorable gentleman said, that, if the Labour party were returned to office, it would retain the federal arbitration system, and so amend cbe existing act as to free arbitration from entangling legalism. T am prepared to make a further concession to the Government. When the last bill dealing with arbitration which the Bruce-Page Government introduced was passing through another place, the then Opposition protested against the penalty clauses both in the then existing legislation and in the amending bill. It can, therefore, be said that the attitude of the present Government towards penalty clauses in arbitration legislation was known to the electors when they ‘cast their votes- at the last election. For that reason any attempt made by the Government to, remove the penalties for non-observance of awards can be said to have the support, of the electors. But I defy the Government to show any justification for the other important provisions of this bill, seeing that the electors were not informed of any intention to make such amendments.
I now come to an analysis of the bill itself. In introducing it, the VicePresident of the Executive Council (Senator Daly) drew our attention to the label of good character placed on its first “page. The Attorney-General (Mr. Brennan) is possessed of a certain impish humour. On many occasions I have sat in the gallery of another place and enjoyed some of his wit, even though it was directed against my colleagues in the late Government. I cannot help thinking that, when Mr. Brennan drafted this bill, he chuckled immensely at the little piece of humour placed on the front page. The bill is described as one “ To promote goodwill in industry by conciliation and arbitration.” Reading through the bill in the light of that preface, I wonder how the honorable gentleman can reconcile the introduction with what follows. One seeks in vain for any provision which will promote goodwill. On the contrary, the bill is likely to stir up ill will and cause bacl feeling by creating divisions and strife in industrial affairs. The bill might well have been called, “ A bill to encourage strikes and lockouts and to create ill will between employer and employee and between employee and employee.”
Senator Daly also drew attention to the so-called conciliation provisions of this measure. I have a great, admiration for Senator Daly’s ability; but I bag. never previously seen him in the role of humorist. The honorable gentleman must have chuckled inwardly when he referred to the “ conciliation “ clauses of this bill. There are no such clauses. The so-called conciliation commissioners are to be, not conciliators, but arbitrators. A conciliator is a person who brings together opposing parties and tries to reconcile their differences.
There is a further point: Whereas penalties against employees and unions, who do not observe awards are removed, the penalties against employers who commit breaches of awards are to remain. Under the law as it will stand if this bill is passed, an award may be given which does not meet with the approval of a union. In that case, the union could say that its members did not like the award, and, therefore, would not observe it, knowing that they could not be punished for failing to observe the decision of the court. But what would happen if an employer said that he would pay his employees only £4 a week when an award of the court stipulated £4 6s. a week? He would quickly find that the Government believes in penalties for non-observance of awards. He would probably find himself appearing before the court and being fined for nonobservance of an award. If the Government believes in the removal of penalties, why does it not apply the principle universally? The reason it does not do so is that the entire removal of penalties would mean the end of arbitration. There can he no arbitration without penalties, for how could awards bo enforced otherwise? The Government has expressed its belief in compulsory arbitration as against one side, but not against the other side. Arbitration is to be compulsory against employers, but not against employees. The Government believes in allowing the employees to play with a double-headed penny, and to cry “ Heads I win, tails you lose”; it has loaded the dice against the employer every time. The employer is to be subjected to penalties, whereas the employee is to be allowed to do as he pleases. That is most unfair. If it is right that there should be no penalties against employees and unions, surely it is right also that the employers should be treated in the same way? Why does the Government not go the whole distance and treat both sections alike? If it really believes that there should be no penalties, it should remove them from both sides to a dispute.
What is the intention behind the appointment of these conciliation commissioners? They are to have arbitral powers. Senator Daly said that the Government desired that harmonious relations should exist between employers and employees, and that the object of appointing conciliation commissioners was to bring about that happy state of affairs. I suggest that it is the sort of harmony that exists when a man has been devoured by a tiger. There is a lot of harm done; nevertheless, there is perfect harmony. On what grounds are these conciliation commissioners to be appointed? Are they to be appointed because the present court is not able to do the work? When Mr. Brennan was moving the second reading of the Bankruptcy Bill in another place, he referred to the transfer of Judge Lukin to the Bankruptcy Court, and said-
I have had the benefit of a consultation with the Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. He has informed mo that the work of that court will permit of the withdrawal from it of one of its judges to perform the important functions of the Federal Judge in Bankruptcy.
He went on to say that it was the object of the Government to avoid making fresh appointments in the interests of economy. The remarks of Mr. Brennan show that there is no need to appoint conciliation commissioners on the ground that the arbitration judges are not sufficient in number to do the work required of them. That being so, are these conciliation commissioners to be appointed because the arbitration judges cannot function in the direction of conciliation? These conciliation commissioners are to have the power to make determinations. What difference will there be between them and the present judges?
What seems to be intended by this hill is that when some dispute occurs, which, in the ordinary course of events, would go before one of the Arbitration Court judges, this Government will appoint a gentleman, whom they will call a conciliation commissioner, and he will intervene before the claim gets to the Arbitration Court. He will be appointed specially to deal with that dispute, although, of course, he must be appointed for five years, and will have to deal with any other dispute that occurs thereafter. It appears to me that the Government is asking Parliament to give it the power to step in between the parties to a dispute and the Arbitration Court, and say, “ This case, in the ordinary course of events, would go before Judge Dethridge, Judge Beeby, or Judge Drake-Brockman, but we shall intervene and appoint John Smith as conciliation commissioner and give him all the powers of a judge in order that an arbitration judge shall not hear this dispute. We shall see that the man we choose hears the dispute.” It is useless to mince words. That is what is intended by the bill. What will be the effect of this? I mentioned just now that this is a bill for the promotion of industrial disputes, and I say now that the procedure relating to the appointment of conciliation commissioners will be the greatest instigator of industrial disputes that one could conceive. If parties want to bring a dispute before the court at the present time, they know that it will probably be heard before one of the judges who is appointed for life, and has no obligation to this or any other government, but can do justice without fear or favour, and will therefore give them an impartial hearing. But if this bill becomes law, the parties will know that they can exert political pressure on the Government to appoint some particular person to hear it. That person will be a partisan. The dispute will not go before an impartial tribunal. It will be heard by a man who is a part-time appointee, and is probably appointed on the plea of one of the parties to the dis’pute
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCEUnder the bill it will be not only possible but also probable.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I am trying to be fair to the Government, but as I have already pointed out, we have the ‘ word of the AttorneyGeneral that there are more than sufficient judges to do the arbitration work, so that there can be no object in appointing others, having the power of judges, under the guise of conciliation commissioners, unless the Government does not trust the existing judges, and wants to have men who are partisans to hear disputes. If the parties want an impartial hearing the judges are available. They are impartial, and there are plenty of them to do the work. At any rate we have the word of the Attorney-General that they are not overloaded with work now. There must, therefore, be some other motive behind the appointment of these conciliation commissioners. Otherwise I do not see the necessity for their appointment.
Senator Daly spoke as if the Government had suddenly discovered the virtues of conciliation. All the machinery for conciliation to the full is provided in the present act. There is provision for the appointment of conciliation committees. Any judge can appoint them. Moreover these provisions have already been used as shown by the following: -
Waterside Workers Federation. - Following on award of 1919, an agreement was entered into in February, 1921; it continued until the next award made in October, 1923.
In 1921 agreements were entered into for coal workers in the ports of Melbourne, Hobart, Strahan and Albany, which agreements still continue with certain alterations agreed to by mutual consent.
Shore Shipwrights. - Agreements were made in 1021, 1!)22 and 1925, the last of these still being in operation. ,
Sea-Going Shipwrights. - An agreement was made in 1921, followed by an award in 1923, but in 1925 an agreement was arrived at which is still operative.
- Shore Carpenters.* - Awards were made in 192] and 1923, but in 1929 an agreement was entered into which is still continuing.
Sea-Going Carpenters. - The position in regard to these is the same as with the seagoing shipwrights.
Coal Hulkmen - Agreements were made in 1920, 1921 and 1922. In 1923 the union approached the court and an award was made, but in 1927 an agreement was entered into which still continues.
Painters and Dockers. - An agreement was entered into in 1921, but later the union approached the court. An agreement was arrived at in 1922 which was made a consent award and the same position arose in 1925. The consent award last referred to still operates.
All these things are done under the provisions existing in the act relating to conciliation, and what has been possible in regard to the industries mentioned could be extended ad infinitum.
In the clothing trades cases in 1923 almost the whole of the matters in dispute were dealt with by Deputy President Webb in conference with the parties. There were probably 50,000 employees concerned in the tailoring, dressmaking, shirt, collar and pyjama-making, millinery, underclothing and whitework and dyeing in New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, Queensland and Tasmania.
When the new claims of the Clothing Trade Union came before Judge Drake-Brockman in 1928 the union insisted on going through the formal proceedings of arbitration in court, and as exhaustive evidence was taken in New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia the case lasted some months and cost the parties several hundreds of pounds.
In the carters and drivers case in 1924, covering respondents in Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, the whole of the claims of the union were dealt within conference with Deputy President Webb. In the judgment [Commonwealth Arbitration Reports, Vol. 21 p. 234) His Honour said- “There has been practically no public hearing of these cases. After formal proof of the dispute had been given, I adjourned the public hearing for the purpose of dealing with the matter in conferences, and the merits of the claims have been fully discussed.”
Judge Lukin ordered the parties in the manufacturing grocers case into conference’ when the matter came before him early this year. As a result agreement was arrived at on all points except two, which were left to the judge for settlement on statements made by representatives of the parties.
In the metal trades cases, which were decided only in March last, Judge Beeby settled a considerable portion of the conditions after having met the parties in conference. These trades embraced engineering, electrical engineering, blacksmithing, boiler-making, moulding, sheet metal working, and ironworkers’ assistants.
Both the textile awards, covering the weaving of materials and the knitting of garments, were made by Judge Lukin as the result of conferences between the parties, the one in 1927 and the other in 1928.
What humbug it is to pretend that there is no power in the existing act for conciliation ! Full power of conciliation is there and has been successfully exercised. It is, therefore, idle for the Government to shelter itself behind the plea that it is now introducing something which is not provided for in. the act. And when one sees that commissioners are- notbeing appointed because there is a plethora of work and a shortage of judges, and that the judges in the past have used the conciliation power successfully and satisfactorily, one can only come to the conclusion that the reason actuating the Government in proposing to appoint conciliation commissioners is that which I have already given. If the Government desires to utilize conciliation let it encourage the system and if it wishes appoint more conciliators under the existing powers. But let such persons be conciliators and not arbitrators.
What are the entangling legalisms that are to be dispensed with under this measure? I must confess that, having studied the bill, it seems to me that, compared with the entangling legalisms of the existing act, the Government is erecting a fresh line of barbed wire. It is adding another line to the already - according to the Government - formidable array of barbed wire. It is increasing the entangling legalisms to which frequent reference has been made. Some of these proposals, I submit, exceed the constitutional powers of this Parliament; and if this measure ever becomes law I believe that the constitutionality of many of its provisions will be tested in the High Court. The Government proposes, under this measure, to appoint so-called conciliation commissioners with the powers of Arbitration Court judges, but without the qualifications of judges. Many think that it is a mistake to bring men of legal training into industrial causes. I do not think so. I contend that the legal training of a lawyer makes him peculiarly fitted for weighing and sifting evidence. Surely that is a qualification that is most desirable in deciding industrial disputes. A judge has before him all the evidence of practical men such as employers and employees who are fully conversant with the conditions in the industry, and with his legally trained mind is able to give a judgment based on the evidence. We are now faced with the proposal that the men who are in future to decide these cases shall be laymen and not persons with a legal training. Surely as such they will be suspect; they must come either from the ranks of the employers or employees. The members of the legal fraternity are not, speaking generally, employers or employees. They are a class apart, and because of their training are more likely to do justice as between man and man. They are not associated, politically or otherwise, with employers who belong to organizations or employees who are members of unions. They are not in any way connected with political parties.
There is an extraordinary proposal in this measure which makes one realize that a very marked change has come over the Labour party in recent years. In the amending act passed by the Bruce-Page Government provision is made for the holding of a secret ballot. What was the justification or the intention behind that provision ? It was to give the rank and file the power to control their own affairs, to prevent any drastic decision being reached which was not in accordance withthe wishes of the majority and which was likely to bring about a great industrial upheaval. Apart from international conflicts, I do not know of any catastrophe that can be precipitated by human beings and which inflicts greater suffering on the people than a big industrial upheaval. If we consider the position which existed in Australia during the coal trouble and the timber-workers and waterside workers strikes, we cannot imagine anything which could inflict more hardship on women and children than did those disputes in which there were displays of violence, and bitter feelings and hatred were engendered. If honorable senators opposite contend that there should be no war without the consent of the people, they should not believe in industrial war without the persons concerned being able to express their opinions. There are certain provisions in the act which give trade unionists the right to be consulted in matters which are vital to them. This Government professes to stand for democracy; but it is denying members of the rank and file the right to say whether there shall be a cessation of work. The secret ballot was pioneered in Australia. When I visited America in 1921 I found that the system of the secret ballot was referred to as the Australian system. Australia was the first country to adopt the system which has now spread to other countries, where it is referred to as the Australian system. The late Government and its supporters introduced into the industrial laws of this country the provision for a secret ballot; but this Labour Government proposes to remove it. What will be the method adopted in the future? When decisions are to be taken on momentous questions upon which the future well-being of the members of a union and of the whole community will depend, mass meetings will be held, the passions of those present will be aroused, inflammatory speeches will be delivered, and a vote taken by a show of hands. The man who has the courage to tell his comrades that they are wrong will be laughed at or abused. May I give a little of my personal experience as the secretary of the Carpenters Union many years ago in Perth? There were about 50 carpenters who were members of our union and about 250 who were non-unionists. There was no arbitration system in operation, and as the wages were low the union decided that the time had arrived to seek an increase. At the union meeting it was pointed out that there were only 50 members of the union, and that 250 to 300 others engaged in the trade were non-unionists. It was considered necessary to secure the co-operation and goodwill of the non-unionists, and I, as the secretary - not a paid secretary - was instructed to call a meeting of unionists and non-uinonists to consider what to us in those days was a momentous question. I had had no experience of public speaking; but I was the unfortunate person chosen to submit and support the resolution, in which we were asking for an extra ls. a day. We considered that it was unfair to ask the contractors to pay the increased rate immediately, because many of them had entered into contracts on the basis of the wages being paid. We, therefore, decided that it was fair to give the employers one month’s notice, to enable them to finish the work they had in hand before the new rate became operative. I stood up before that meeting in fear and .trembling and inadequately supported the resolution which I had moved. At that meet-, ing there was a non-unionist orator, whom, I dare say, some honorable senators will remember - I refer to Mr. Montague Miller. He moved an amendment to the effect that wages should be increased by 2s. instead of ls. He further said that it was ridiculous to give the employers one month’s notice, because it would enable them to go to Victoria - T do not know why Victoria was singled out - and to bring over a number of carpenters to fill our jobs at the then existing rate. Mr. Montague Miller delivered an impassioned and eloquent address, and as soon as he resumed his seat there was a general call for a vote on the question. A vote was taken. My motion was swept aside and the amendment of Mr. Montague Miller was carried. All of the non-unionists supported the amendment, which was to take effect on the following Monday. As the unfortunate union secretary, I had then to send out notices to the employers to the effect that from the following Monday the members of the union were to demand an extra 2s. a day. The employers said that we could go to Halifax, and in a fortnight the men went on strike and our jobs were taken by non-unionists. The result was that the only men out of work were the unionists. That taught me a lesson about mass meetings, which I have never forgotten.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The honorable senator must be a Rip Van Winkle or he would not ask such a question. If a secret ballot had been taken, and the members of that union had had an opportunity to discuss the matter with their wives I am convinced that the motion I submitted would have been carried, and we should have received aD extra ls. a day. As it was we did not get anything.
Other sections are also to be deleted. What are they? Some of them are specially designed to prevent intimidation, and the exercise of brute force on those whose only crime is that they wish to work under an award of the Arbitration Court, which is the law of the country. We all remember what occurred during the timber-workers strike. Certain men said that they were prepared to work under an award of the Arbitration Court - an award made under the law of the land - and for daring to act as law-abiding citizens, they were chivvied, chased, abused, threatened, kicked and even slashed by razor gangs.’ -All these horrible things were done by these people; but this Government says it will remove those sections from the act which prevent intimidation.
In other words, it is removing the penalty for striking and when a strike takes place - we should remember it is a strike against an award of the court and therefore, against the laws of the country - a citizen who is prepared to work in accordance with the law of the country is to be denied the protection which is provided under the section to be repealed. Such persons will now be the victims of any brute, bully, or scoundrel who wishes to use force against them.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.There were several in connexion with the waterside-workers’ and timber-workers’ strikes. The deletion of that section will be a bad advertisement for Australia, particularly at this juncture. Many of the provisions in the existing act are being repealed. The present law provides for preference to unionists other things being equal, but the Government proposes to delete the words “other things being equal “ and . to make preference to unionists absolute.
– The right honorable senator may disregard interjections.
– I think the honorable senator is honestly trying to see the light, and I am endeavouring to give him a little leading if he is amenable to reason. Shall I relate more of my own personal experiences?
– That is what we want.
– I was a member of a Labour government when this provision relating to preference to unionists was inserted in our industrial legislation. I believed in the principle, very likely for the same reason which now influences Senator Dunn ; but, as a result of my experience in administering the law, I came to see the fallacy of this provision, as well as the danger to trade unionists. Therefore, I ceased to believe in it. I came to realize that it forged a weapon that was being used against the interests of the individual trade unionist. It made him the creature and the puppet of the secretary of his union. It gave to the secretary power which should not have been his over the members of his union. Practically it enabled him to become a dictator. In the Defence Department, which I was administering at the time, the practice was to send a message to the trades hall in the city in which men were wanted, advising the secretary of the requirements, and asking him to acquaint his members. Is it not obvious that, in circumstances such as I relate, the secretary has it in his power to dispense to the members of his union the right to work ? He can say to one man - “ Smith, you can get a job,” and to another - “ Jones, you shall not get a job “. That, of course, is an intolerable position. The secretary of a trade union is its paid servant. Under preference to unionists be becomes its master.
– Something more than that.
– Yes ; he becomes its dictator. I am firmly convinced that, in operation, this principle of absolute preference to unionists has been responsible for a reign of tyranny in the ranks of trade unionism.
– The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
– I must apologize to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Sir George Pearce) for my absence from the chamber during the earlier part of his address. I listened attentively to the latter portion of his remarks, and I noted that he had a good deal to say about razor gangs and the action of certain sections, as he alleged, of trade unionists in bludgeoning people who did not see eye to eye with them in industrial disputes. I give an emphatic denial, on behalf of the party which I represent, to the right honorable gentleman’s statement. The Labour, partynever has countenanced, and never will countenance, the action of razor gangs and other violators of the law.
The right honorable gentleman spoke of his earlier belief in the principle of preference to unionists, and went on to tell us how he had come to see the light. Apparently he had been looking for it for a long time, because he believed in this principle apparently from 1905 until 1916, when the ranks of the Labour party were split over the conscription issue. It was then that the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition saw the light. It took him nearly twelve years to discover it. 1 have a copy of the report of the third Commonwealth Political Labour conference held at the Trades Hall, Melbourne, in 1905.
– Cannot the honorable senator find something more recent? That conference was held 25 years ago.
– Accompanying the report is a photograph of the militant members of the Labour party who attended that conference. I find among them a photograph of Senator Pearce The conference debated a number of questions affecting the Labour movement, and gave particular attention to plank No. 9, which dealt with Arbitration Act amendments. As adopted by the conference, that plank of the platform read -
Amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act to provide for preference to unionists and the exclusion of the legal profession.
I agree with all that was then said by the Leader of the Opposition in support of the principle. With all due respect to the Leader of the Senate, and also Senators McLachlan and H. E. Elliott, [ believe that members of the legal profession should be excluded from the Arbitration Court. Up to the present the court has been regarded as a fattening paddock for lawyers. I have often thought that if there had been fewer legal gentlemen arguing within the precincts of the industrial arbitration court better conditions would have been obtained for the workers of Australia. We all remember how on many occasions the three legal members in this chamber argue and differ over the various points that are raised in debate. The Leader of the Opposition strongly advocated this principle of preference to unionists from 1905 to 1916. The only difference between him and honorable senators on this side is, that the Government and its supporters still believe in preference. The right honorable the. Leader of the Opposition has changed his views. He was one of the militant members of the first Fisher Administration, and regarded it as his prerogative that at all May Day celebrations he should be allowed to move the principal motion. If I heard the right honorable gentleman aright he said this afternoon that there was some confusion in the minds of the electors when the Bruce-Page Administration last appealed to them, and that the real issue was not the partial surrender by the Commonwealth of its industrial powers. 1 disagree entirely with the right honorable gentleman. That issue was clearly put, and the people in no uncertain way decided against the previous Administration. They returned Labour to power with a majority of seventeen members in another place. Fortunately for the Leader of the Opposition, there was not a double dissolution, otherwise I feel sure there would have been a great change in thepresent, membership of the Senate. Consequently, I remind honorable senators opposite that, although they are in a majority, this Government is not content to go to them cap in hand and accept the political crumbs which they might care to throw to it. If they intend to challengethe Government on its various items of policy, the sooner they put their cards on the table the better it will be for all concerned. The Government refuses to occupy a humiliating position inthis chamber. The day is fast approaching when it will acceptthe challenge which apparently,honorable senators op intend to offer, and I feel sun that, when appealed to, the people will endorse the Government’s action. In his policy speech at the beginning of the last election campaign the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) made the following announcement with regard to the Labour party’s industrial policy : -
The Arbitration Act to be revised to pro vide fur a system of sound businesslike arbitration, free from the entangling legalisms of the law court - a system framed on the lines of the Industrial Peace Act, to be handled by nien of industrial experience, to ensure equitable, expeditious, and less costly methods of dealing with industrial matters.
Our Arbitration Court judges, Chief Judge Dethridge and Judges Lukin, Beeby, and Drake-Brockman are, I have no doubt, highly respected and men of high attainments in the legal world; but their environment has been such that they are not in touch with the ideals of the great mass of the workers of Australia. In many instances occupants of such judicial positions have come from the be3t families in the Commonwealth. In their youth they attended the great public schools and colleges of the nation, and later, in the practice of their profession as solicitors or barristers, they moved in a world entirely different from that of the ordinary citizen of the Commonwealth. Their social life has been totally different from that of the workers. Luckily for them they have been richly endowed with worldly goods. I admit that there have been isolated cases in which a man sprung from the working class has risen to an eminent position in the legal firmament of Australia. But, generally our eminent jurists are out of touch with the outlook and conditions of the workers. It is the belief of myself and of my party that industrial peace can best be fostered by a system of conciliation and arbitration boards. They would bring into close contact the true representatives of the workers ;and of the employers. At present the whole of our Arbitration Court procedure is cluttered with legalisms, which obscure t”he case of the worker. It is my belief that the existing arbitration system is merely a fattening paddock for lawyers. All that I have seen practising in its courts appear be thriving. The trade unions also favour the appointment of conciliation and arbitration committees, under the chairmanship of conciliation commissioners. Such bodies would represent both parties and would be more capable of settling an industrial dispute on its merits than is a formidable row of lawyers concentrating on knotty points of law.
I have had a Jong experience in the industrial world of Australia. I ham been on strike, and have been placed in gaol for participating in a strike. Pos:sibly I may again be in a similar position. Surely no honorable senator can conscientiously claim that 20,000 or 100,000 workers would go on strike merely for the fun of it? They must be suffering some tremendous grievance to inflict upon themselves the hardships associated with a strike. During the regime of the Lang Government in New South Wales boards of conciliation and arbitration were appointed, and the records prove that they satisfactorily adjusted many disputes, which had they been allowed to develop, would have involved the State in serious industrial unrest. We contend that many trade unions are of opinion that by using conciliation committees more emphasis will be placed upon conciliation than on arbitration, but they stress the point that whether a dispute is to be settled by conciliation or by arbitration the settlement and the award should be the work of men who understand one another, know the problems of their industry, and realize the immense importance to their industry and the community of the work that they are doing. Twelve months ago the tramway men of Sydney made an application to have their case presented before the Arbitration Court. They are a fine and loyal body of men, hundreds of whom served the Empire in the Great War; men charitably disposed towards their fellows and the community in general. For twelve long months they were kept vainly knocking at the doors of the court. They were told that there was a great demand upon the services of that tribunal, which could not find time to hear their case. Then the New South Wales Railways and Tramways Commissioners filed their plaint and gained .access to the court within six weeks. I do not say anything derogatory to the court, but to put it mildly, the whole thing was passing strange. Evidence was heard and the men suffered a reduction of wages and were ordered to return to a 48-hour week. As a result their ranks are seething with discontent.
– Did they not take a ballot in the matter-?
– That remark has no relevance. Those men, who could not by any stretch of the imagination be termed agitators, are now possessed by the spirit of revolt. Eminent legal men represented both sides before the learned judge presiding over the court. Those who appeared on behalf Of the New South Wales railways and tramways systems urged that as those systems of transport were losing in the aggregate millions of pounds a year, there should be an extension of hours and a reduction of wages. Why should the employees be blamed for that state of affairs? Is it not principally a matter of administration I The remarkable growth of motor transport has brought about sharp competition between motor vehicles and the railway and tramway services. The New South Wales State Government has built a splendid concrete road parallel with one of its best paying lines. The result is inevitable. The tramway authorities have allowed private enterprise to build up a huge motor transport monopoly to run in competition with the trams. Daily tramcars may be seen running to the distant suburbs of Sydney practically unladen, whereas competitive ‘buses are filled to capacity. That sort of thing is absolutely improper. The report that I have before me continues - “Each conciliation committee should have full and free power to call evidence, and generally to regulate its own procedure.” There is nothing wrong with that. Here is the opinion of the unions regarding judges -
Arbitration, when administered by judges with no training in industry and no experience in negotiating in disputes between employer and employee, is unsatisfactory, provokes litigation, and is not conducive to the preservation of industrial peace, and for such reason it declares against a Court of Conciliation and Arbitration composed, as the existing court is, of judges, and in favour of the appointment of a court comprised of a president who shall be a judge (to meet the requirements of the Constitution), and such a number of conciliation commissioners as will enable the affairs of each ; industry to be equitably and expeditiously dealt with, such commissioners to be as nearly as possible men drawn from industry with capacity and experience in the work which they are to undertake.
That is a plain statement of facts. Recently, we were on the verge of a great industrial upheaval in one of the great pastoral industries of the nation, because of the award promulgated by Chief Judge Dethridge.
– Why is the honorable senator’s comrade, Senator Rae, inciting the shearers to revolt? “
– Am I my brother’s keeper? I have not seen Senator Rae for the past fourteen days. No doubt if that question is put to him he will answer it. I am proud to say that in my earlier days, when I was battling around the hinterland of Australia; I was a member of the pastoral section of the Australian Workers Union. That organization has always stood, for arbitration. The largest organization of its kind south of the line, and, possibly, the greatest in Australia, it has given many eminent men to the public life of the country,, both in the State and Federal political sphere, and in municipal activities. It is natural to expect that it would oppose this 20 per cent, cut in the wages of its members. It brought the case before the Arbitration Court, but again the issue was clouded, the matter becoming merely a battle of legal wits. Owing to a fall in the price of wool in the world’s markets, the shearers are now asked to accept a reduction in wages. Shearing is a seasonal occupation. When the shearing season is over, the shearers return to the cities.
– They can obtain employment, as shearers, nearly all the year round if they want it.
– It is true that many shearers earn good money while they are employed; but a large proportion of the cheques they receive at the conclusion of their term of employment is dissipated in paying for board and lodgings, and for expenses incurred while travelling from one shearing shed to another. Are we to blame the shearers because something has occurred in Britain, Germany, France, Japan, or elsewhere, to reduce the price of wool? Should the price of wool go up again, will the pastoralists of this country be prepared to go voluntarily to the Arbitration Court and say that they are ready .to pay the shearers the wages they previously received? Chief Judge Dethridge in making his award said that he was satisfied that the employers had done their best to cut down the cost of management, consistent with the maintenance and improvement of the industry. Those of us who have had experience of pastoral properties know that the cost of maintenance has little effect on the price of wool. Many of the larger stations in the outback country beyond Cloncurry, and in the Riverina and elsewhere, do not employ a great deal of labour. During the hearing before Chief Judge Dethridge, Mr. George Robert Horton said that he was the owner of Toogimbie stat ion and managing director of other properties. He went on to say -
They could not provide work for all who called, and generally gave them a little food so that they could carry on. Taking the basis of the value of the food given at1s. or1s. 6d. each week, it represented nearly 50 men a week. Unemployment was very prevalent, and at Toogimbie the number of men calling since Christmas would average about 30 a week.
That was the kind of evidence on which thelearned judge decided to reduce the wages of shearers by 20 per cent. I have herea letter which challenges the evidence of Mr. Horton. It reads -
That evidence is not in accordance with facta, the average number of callers being no more than two weekly, and Mr. Horton’s instructions to the cook are that no rations at all be given to travellers.
– What has that to do with this bill?
– It has a good deal to do with this bill, because it was on evidence of that kind that the judge based his award.
-From what publication was the honorable senator reading just now?
– My quotation was from The Australian Worker, of Wednesday, 16th July.
– A rather onesided newspaper.
– The Australian Worker is just as good as, and certainly more truthful than, any bosses’ paper printed in Australia.
During this debate, reference has been made to the principle of preference to unionists. The trade union movement suggests that the act should direct employers to give absolute preference to members of that registered organization which is covered by the award. It also suggests that the position of non-regis tered unions should be safeguarded by making it a defence (a) that there is no award, and (b) that the persons employed are members of a body recognized by the appropriate Trades and Labour Council as a bona fide trade union. One of the greatest economists in the world - Mr. Henry Ford, the great magnate in the motor car industry - has instructed all his works superintendents to give preference to members of the American Federation of Labour. Another American millionaire, Mr. Nash, who is head of a. corporation that extends from Montreal to Philadelphia and Boston, and is to be found in other great American cities, has definitely stated that only members of trade unions shall be employed in his factories.
For a short time I was an industrial inspector in New South Wales, having been appointed to that position by the Lang Government. After I had been so employed for about six months, the swing of the political pendulum placed the Bavin Government in power. That Government almost immediately gave me a month’s wages in lieu of notice, and told me to get off the premises within five minutes. Luckily, I found “ a better ole,” in which I hope to remain for many years. My duty as an industrial inspector necessitated visits to factories, shops, and other establishments. I found in operation a system of intimidation of employees by employers. The wages sheet of every employee was made out by his employer; but the employee had to sign it as correct or lose his job. In this bill, we propose to do away with provisions of that nature. The existing act gives trade union secretaries the right to visit factories and shops, and to inspect books and records. If I were an employer of labour. I should welcome visits by trade union officials, not only to see my employees at meal times, but also to inspect my books. In conversation with hundreds of employers during my brief period of employment as an industrial inspector, I found that they regarded trade union officials, not as tyrants, but as men of sound common sense, who understood their jobs. In most cases, they had been tradesmen themselves, and were . acquainted with the conditions in industry.
The Labour movement believes that arbitration laws, as administered by Labour governments, are in the interests of both employers and employees. Whatever the industry - whether a tannery, a shearing-shed, a factory, a ship building yard, or a cement works, or whether men are engaged on a farm, on the railways or tramways, or in any other sphere, a contented staff will give better results than one subjected to tyrannous treatment.
There are very few employers to-day who are prepared to rush their employees into the Arbitration Court at every opportunity. The trade union movement contends as follows: -
When I was an industrial inspector, I found in Sydney, hundreds of Greeks, Italians and persons of other European nations,who knew nothing about the labour conditions prevailing in Australia, and were working from daylight to dark in little factories in back alleys and in various shops. Hundreds of these people are now becoming enlightened and are citing their employers before the State industrial tribunals. The trade union movement would also like to see incorporated in legislation the following power : -
Statistics. - JIvery employer who in any waycomes under the award or the act to be compelled under the “Incidental” power (section 51 XXXIX.) and the “Statistics” power (section 51 XI.) -
Both book and sworn returns should be available for union inspection and may be used in evidence.
On one occasion I was sent by Mr. Taylor, the Chief Inspector of Factories in New South Wales, a very fine man, although he is not a supporter of the
Labour party, to investigate a complaint that had been sent to the Department of Labour and Industry by the Meat and Butchers Employees Union. I found that the firm of GraceBrothers, which employs thousands of hands, was actually defying the State industrial laws, and to a certain extent federal legislation, by using its employees as butchers in the sale of meat until 9 o’clock, instead of 5 o’clock, on Friday nights. It was not an isolated case. There have been many similar cases. The unions also want -
Union officials to have, under reasonable restriction’s, right of entry to places of employment for the purpose of inspection.
Surely my friends opposite would not deny to trade union secretaries the right to “go on the job.” The honest employers, and there are many, have nothing to fear. For a few years I worked on Cockatoo Island, where at one time there were about 4,000 men working, and trade union secretaries were accustomed to visit the Island. They did not interfere with any one. The work went on just the same as if they had not paid their visits. I have seen union secretaries visit other jobs. Later in my life I went into business as a hotelkeeper on the North Coast. I kept my books and I paid my staff a little extra to their satisfaction. Industrial inspectors from Sydney came periodically to my hotel, inspected it and found everything in Order. Everything went on all right during the eighteen months I had the hotel. Nothing occurred to justify the outcry frequently raised by honorable senators opposite that to give the union secretaries the right to “go on the job” would cripple industry, and that the principle is quite wrong.
Some of the awards that have been given by judges of the Arbitration Court have caused turmoil, particularly in the cases of the Waterside Workers Federation and the Tramways Union, while the shearers’ award, just made, is fresh in our minds. The trade union movement, which can stand criticism, and the searchlight of public opinion at any time, is a great believer in arbitration and conciliation. It believes that the nation has most to gain by having peace in industry, and it knows that preference to unionists,the principle which was in successful operation when the Fisher Government was in power, is one of the greatest factors for constant peace in industry. IfI were a large employer of labour, I should require every employee to be a member of a union, and to be able to display his union ticket before coming on the job, because I would know that there would always be a spirit of discontent in my establishment if one section of my employees was subscribing to the doctrine of trade unionism and another section was taking advantage of everything gained by awards by the efforts of trade unions, and not contributing to the cost of getting the awards. There is a spirit of discontent in New South Wales today, and it is being brought about by a terrific constitutional barrage raised in the first place by the Bavin Government, and continued by the employers generally with the object of bringing employees before the Arbitration Court to secure a reduction of wages and a lengthening of hours. A lengthening of hours means a reduction of men on the job, a reduction of wages and rationing. We have, to-day, the members of that great organization, the Australian Workers Union, asking why they should be penalized. Chief Judge Dethridge may be a very fine lawyer, “ but I submit that if the representatives of the employers and employees in the pastoral industry could have met at a conciliation board there would not be the discontent among the shearers that now prevails. Assume, for argument’s sake, that there was a “ show-down “ in pastoral industry, and the shearers said, “ We shall not man the sheds. The arbitration award is wrong in principle. The reduction is too much. “ What would be the result ?
– The farmers would do the work themselves as they did it on the waterfront.
– The press would unite in saying that the shearers were following the advice of bolsheviks; that they were practising the doctrines of Moscow, and were influenced by the insidious propaganda of the Beds. One can read between the lines of many of the leading articles in the newspapers of the Commonwealth that there is an impression that thereare agitators in the ranksof the Australian Workers Union.I give it an emphatic denial. For yearsand years, the Australian Workers Union has built itself up on conciliation and arbitration. It is on record that 49,000 members of this organization enlisted for active service overseas.
– Good luck to them !
– But is it good luck to them that they have to suffer this terrific reduction in wages? It is on record that Chief Judge Dethridgehas said that the Arbitration Court workis disgusting. I would not remain five minutes in the job if I thought the work I was doing was disgusting. If I am in order, I shall read what Chief Judge Dethridge is reported to have said.
– The honorable senator will not be in order if he intends tomake any reflections on the judge.
– Speaking inthe Federal Arbitration Court early in June. Chief Judge Dethridge said -
Now I am faced with a most enjoyable task; I can assure you that I am having a lovely time just now; I am enjoying life. If I may get down to frivolities, this is a real treat to me, just now. Together with the Prime Minister, and with the State Premiers, I am faced with the disgusting job of adjusting conditions, wage conditions, in accordance with economic realities. We are enjoying ourselves, the whole lot of us - Mr. Scullin, Mr. Bavin, Mr. Hill, Mr. Hogan, and Mr. McCormack - the Prime Minister and every State Premier;I do not care what their political creeds may be, but I say that we are deserving of the most heartfelt sympathy in the ugly work that we have to do. When you talk of values, of fixing wages regardless of values, it must be remembered that this court has only adopted that creed in regard to the basic wage; it must have regard to market values in connexion with every other form of wages.
According to that report Judge Dethridge finds his work disgusting. If 1 thought for a moment that my duties as a representative of New South Wales were disgusting, I would not occupy my present position for five minutes. It is astounding that a gentleman whose duty is to hold the scales evenly between employers and employees should refer to his work in that manner. The measure which this Government has introduced should enable the workers who for years have been asking for an improved arbitration. system to obtain justice and industry to be carried on to the satisfaction of both parties. The Labour party believes in arbitration. If honorable senators opposite feel inclined to exercise the power which with their brutal majority they possess, God hasten the day when we shall again fight them before the people. They are coming here with their bluff, but they can exercise their tactics only within certain limits. Ten months ago the electors definitely expressed their opinion on arbitration and returned us to power.
-The honorable senator has exhausted -his time.
– There has probably been more controversy over our Commonwealth arbitration law than any other legislation passed by this Parliament. After nearly 30 years’ experience an arbitration system has not yet been devised to prevent or to effectively settle industrial disputes. Notwithstanding our arbitration system industrial disputes have actually increased during the past five or six years. This is due to a great extent to dual control and to the cumbersome methods employed in the administration of our conciliation and arbitration act. The conditions in Australia are in every way suitable for the successful control of our primary and secondary industries. Those in authority possess business ability and common sense; there is a multitude of intelligent and capable workmen, and our natural resources surpass those of any other country. In these circumstances it is very difficult to understand why our industries should be in such an unsatisfactory state. On the one hand we are faced with the fact which is now becoming patent to everyone that our primary industries which are well organized are being conducted at a loss or are showing only a small margin of profit. Out secondary industries are also efficiently organized. .
– Some of them are.
– Generally speaking they are well managed. They are staffed by capable administrators, and they employ highly skilled workmen. Although everything appears to be in our favour the products of our secondary industries, which compare favorably with similar goods manufactured in other countries, cannot successfully compete in the overseas markets. Although adequate tariff protection has been given for many years to assist in the establishment of new industries and to encourage those already in existence, still higher duties are being imposed, and unemployment is increasing monthly. All” this makes it appear that industrially something is wrong.
During recent years many attempts have been made to simplify our arbitration system. The Bruce-Page Government was defeated when it attempted , to vitally, amend the present Arbitration Act, in order to secure peace in industry. The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) in his policy speech, which was delivered last October, referred to the restrictions imposed under the present system. He. said that he would do all in his power to remove the entangling legalisms of our arbitration system, and to introduce more conciliatory provisions than those at present in operation. On that occasion he said that he was in favour of the Arbitration Court being made more easily accessible; but the present amending measure does not offer any solution of the difficulty. In a great many instances the restrictions are to be increased. This will place additional burdens upon industry. Under the existing act an industrial dispute must extend beyond the limits of one State before the Commonwealth arbitration law becomes operative. The present system has, un- fortunately, engendered feelings of hostility between employers and employees. Each side suspects that the other is, trying to take undue advantage of the other. This has resulted in an absence of mutual trust and understanding between the parties. It is absolutely essential to establish a feeling of mutual trust between the parties to a dispute before an agreement acceptable to both can be reached. Instead of encouraging mutual trust and a friendly partnership, this bill will aggravate the distrust which has been so apparent in the past. In 1920 and 1922, and again in 1925 and 1926, Australia enjoyed almost unparalleled prosperity. During that period, employees approached the Arbitration
Court on numerous . occasions with applications for higher wages, shorter working hours and improved conditions, which, it was contended, the prosperity of industry amply warranted, and the court, in almost every instance, granted awards in accordance with the claims advanced. This upward trend in wages was noted particularly in the pastoral industry, concerning which Senator Dunn had so much to say. The court indicated that, owing to the prosperous condition of that industry, it was justified in granting the higher rates. I think I am right in saying that, during the periods mentioned, no protests were heard and certainly there were no strikes against the awards of the court.
– That was because the rates of pay were going higher and higher.
– As the honorable senator has remarked, the workers were obtaining higher rates of pay from year to year. As far as I know the employers did not refuse to obey the court, although the pastoral industry for some years previously had experienced a somewhat lean time. Now- that prices for our primary products have fallen in most instances to an unremunerative level, action is being taken in certain industries to approach the court with a request that the workers should share some portion of the higher cost of production. It is only when this position arises that we realize that the arbitration system has signally failed. When awards do not suit the members of industrial organizations, they decline to obey them. We are forced to realize now that the wages which can be paid in. an industry, and the hours worked in it, depend entirely upon the economic condition of the country. The principal act provides penalties for the nonobservance of Arbitration Court awards, and this bill seeks to delete them. The only course open to those who believe in obedience to the law is to permit those persons who are willing to abide by awards of the court to work at the rates prescribed. But this bill is- designed to. prevent any such action. If it is passed in its present form, it will not be possible for those who wish to obey the court te take the place of others who’ decline to observe its awards. In Queensland last year, owing to the high cost of production in primary industries, thiState rural industries award was abolished. As a result there has been a marked increase in employment, and farmers have been enabled to increase greatly the productivity of their land. At the present time the percentage of unemployment in Queensland is lower than’ in any other State.
– So it ought to be.
– I am glad to hear the Minister say that. The present position in Queensland, as compared with that in the other States, is due to the recognition of the .inability of rural industries to carry the burdens which have been inflicted on them by arbitration awards.
A careful study of the bill now before the Senate will show that it has been designed to benefit one section in industry only. Certainly it will greatly benefitrade union officials. It is not designed to improve the machinery of the court for the settlement of industrial disputes, nor is it likely to simplify arbitration procedure. It proposes to transfer powers now vested in a judge of the Arbitration Court to appointees of the Government, to be designated conciliation commissioners.
– The honorable senator approved of that provision in the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill.
– It is not quite the same. The Minister will remember also that I strongly disapproved of the proposal to appoint an authority to determine wages and conditions of employment in that industry, but said I intended to vote for the bill because I thought itf benefits outweighed its disadvantages.
– The honorable senator voted for that particular provision.
– I voted for the bill; but I mentioned, particularly in my second-reading speech, that I was opposed to the provision relating to the appointment of a board to deal with industrial matters. lu the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill, the Minister has powerto set up a tribunal to fix wages only after al! other avenues have failed. TheArbitration Court and States’ WagesBoard would he consulted first. Thiprovisions in this bill affect the whole of the people, and to a much greater extent than will similar sections in the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill. The proposed conciliation commissioners and committees will have priority over all other courts. There is reason to believe that these clauses were inserted in this bill as the result of representations by the Australasian Council of Trade Unions, and there appears to be no doubt that the Conciliation Commissioners will be appointed from the ranks of trade union officials. The principal difference between the appointment of conciliation committees under the principal act and under this bill is that, under the former the chairman, a conciliation commissioner, was appointed by the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, and the functions of a conciliation commissioner were limited to bringing together the parties involved in a dispute in an endeavour to effect an agreement. If such efforts met with success the resultant agreement was certified to by a judge of the Arbitration Court and recorded by the Industrial Registrar. It then became binding on the parties to the dispute. Another difference between the old and new law is that previously the chairman of a conciliation committee had no vote. This bill provides that conciliation commissioners are to be appointed by the Governor-General in Council, which means the Government of the day, and that when acting as chairman of conciliation committees they shall have a casting vote. That will tend to make any conference between parties to a dispute, a very one-sided matter, as it is practically certain that if conciliation commissioners are appointed by the Government they will be biased towards the policy of that Government.
– That was not the experience under the wages board system.
– I am giving my opinion, and I believe that the general public will also consider that if a partisan were appointed his vote would be biased. Why should not the appointments be made on non-party lines, and the issue determined accordingly.
– I can give the honorable senator an assurance that this Government will not appoint partisans.
– Later I shall deal with the appointment of conciliation com missioners under the Lang regime in New South Wales. As the appointments are to be made by the Government of the day it appears inevitable that any casting vote recorded by a chairman will favour the cause of the industrialists. Conciliation committees may make awards without reference to a judge, and those awards will be binding, irrespective of whether the parties to the dispute agree or disagree with them. That supports my objection to giving a casting vote to a partisan chairman. Although the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) declares that no political appointments will be made, it appears assured that trade union officials will be appointed as conciliation commissioners, thereby creating still more, unproductive jobs for Labour supporters.
The appointment of a judge of the Arbitration court is for life; that of a conciliation commissioner for only five years. Five years is but a short time and leads one to infer that these commissioners will remain under the influence of the Government that appointed them. It is but reasonable to assume that if a man is appointed to a position having a tenure of five years, with the possibility of renewal, he will more or less adapt himself to the views of the authority holding power of re-appointment. Naturally he will endeavour to make his future assured.
– There is no guarantee that the same government will be in power at the end of that period.
– These appointees will have to take that risk. Why not give them a greater security of tenure by lengthening the term of their appointment? These commissioners will conclude that if they do not please their masters they will be cast out at the end of five years, and so will do everything within their power to conform to the policy of the Government which appointed them.
– The honorable senator assumes that we shall be in power at the end of five years.
– I do not. Irrespective of the government that may be in power, an appointment of that nature is not a wise one, and’ it must influence the judgment of the party concerned. I am unable to find any provision in the bill stipulating the amount of remuneration to be paid- to these conciliation commissioners. Apparently, it is to be dependent upon good behaviour during their term - of office.
We must regard the innovation from the view-point of the parties concerned. I believe that, under the new order of things, employers will enter into negotiations with a certain amount of distrust. They will be predisposed to the opinion that the dice are loaded against them. It should be our endeavour to dispel the atmosphere of distrust. There is to be no appeal against the decision of a conciliation commissioner. That is a very arbitrary arrangement. I know of cases were similar decisions have been biased, and prejudicial to the best interests of industry.
– There is no appeal from the decision of a judge at the present time.
– The position is different. The training of a judge enables him to view the matter dispassionately^ to sift and weigh the evidence adduced, and to arrive at a fair decision. That cannot be done by any industrialist not trained in legal procedure. The present Chief Judge of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration is one of the most learned and capable men in the Commonwealth. It is reasonable to assume that no conciliation commissioner appointed by this Government will have qualifications similar to his.
– A judge of the Arbitration Court must previously have been a barrister or solicitor of the High Court or a Supreme Court of a State for not less than five years.
– That is so. Because of the unreasonable bickerings of the extremist elements of certain unions, there has been a great deal of quarrelling against the decisions of the Arbitration Court. That court was able, during prosperous times, to make awards that were highly satisfying to the trade unions. Now a time of depression has arrived, and awards must be determined accordingly. Senator Dunn treated us to” a tirade against the award recently promulgated by Chief Judge Dethridge for the pastoral industry. He declared that it was a terrible thing that that award should reduce wages by 20 per cent. f remind the honorable senator that for the past three years pastoralists have loyally obeyed the old award, made when the industry was enjoying the greatest prosperity-
– The honorable senator knows that the employers asked that the award should be made for five years.
– I am referring specifically to the award for Queensland. It was adhered to loyally by the pastoralists even during times of drought, and when they received appallingly low prices for their wool. Surely both employee and employer should obey awards. The arguments advanced by Senator Dunn have merely strengthened my contention that the bill is one-sided. Undoubtedly, it favours the employees. The other side of industry, which has not only to pay these wages but also to find the wherewithal to pay them in competition with the rest of the world, is given no consideration. Senator Dunn referred to the big pastoral holdings beyond Cloncurry. The pastoralists there have made no considerable profits during the last three years. Indeed, the majority of them have made heavy losses. There is, at present, no indication that they will again experience the prosperous times they enjoyed in “1924, 1925, and 1926. Is it fair that wages which were granted at the peak period of prosperity in the pastoral industry should continue now that that industry has reached the depths of depression? I am glad that the majority of the members of the Australian Workers Union, realizing the difficulties confronting the pastoralists, are content to accept the wages provided in the new award. Senator Dunn may not know that many of the’ pastoralists of Western Queensland realized only 9d. or 9£d. a lb. for their wool at the last Brisbanesales. If from that amount the cost of shearing, freight, and other expenses, amounting to about 3d. a lb., are deducted, there is only 6d. a lb. left to pay rent, general expenses, and interest on overdraft to say nothing of providing a reserve for depreciation of plant.
– There is no chance of providing for depreciation with wool at 9d. a lb.
– It isnot just that one side of the industry should have to carry the whole burden. I hope that the federal executive of the Australian Workers Union will follow the example of the Queensland branch and, instead of trying to create discord, do its best to put this important industry once more on a profitable basis.
Reference has been made to the possibility of partisans being appointed as conciliation commissioners. In this connexion I wish to remind honorable senators of what occurred in New South Wales when the Lang Government was in office. That Government appointed a number of conciliation commissioners, similar to those proposed to be appointed under this bill. Without exception, those commissioners were trade union officials. One of them was a professional pugilist. I doubt whether he had any working knowledge of the conditions of industry.
– He is a well-educated man.
– I have nothing to say against him personally. I was merely pointing out that there are grounds for fearing that conciliation commissioners might be appointed, not because of their fitness for the position, but because of their adherence to a particular political party. Hitherto it has been the practice to select judges from the best trained minds in the legal profession, but under this bill persons with no qualifications for the office could be appointed as commissioners. No unqualified man should be placed in charge of committees which have to deal with problems affecting the industrial life of the community. Even with all their training, arbitration judges frequently have to admit their lack of knowledge of the conditions -operating in industries with which they are required to deal. If men are appointed as conciliation commissioners without regard to their qualifications for the position, such instances are likely to be much more numerous. The present act provides for conciliation commissioners.
– Who might even be pugilists !
– They might be squatters.
– A squatter would at least have some knowledge of the pastoral industry.
– In this bill the Government is not asking for greater powers than now exist as regards the appointment of conciliation commissioners.
– In dealing with a case affecting metal trade workers, Judge Beeby found the matters before him so intricate that he decided to call the parties together with a view to settling their differences at a conference. In that instance we have an example of conciliation under the existing act. Clause 33 repeals section 38d of the existing act, which deals with the cancellation of awards in the event of strikes or lockouts. It is rather a pernicious clause to insert in a bill.
– It is not usual to refer to a clause as pernicious. The honorable senator may say that it embodies a pernicious principle.
– I withdraw the remark. If section 38d of the existing act is repealed, the effect will be farreaching.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– In the event of a strike or alockout taking place in defiance of an award of the Arbitration Court, the court now has power to cancel the award. It is one of the most important provisions in the act, and its retention is essential to the smooth working of industry. Hitherto it has had a very steadying influence upon the extreme elements in the unions. Had it not been in operation during the waterside workers’ trouble in 1928, it would have been impossible for volunteers totake the place of the waterside workers, and thousands oftons of primary produce, on the sale of which primary producers all over Australia depended for their means of livelihood, would have rotted on the waterfront. Produce which represented months of work accumulated on the wharfs between the time when the waterside workers went out on strike and the time when the volunteers got into full swing, and it would have all gone for nothing had this power to cancel an award not been in the act.
Work by volunteer labour was also rendered possible during the timber workers’ strike. The removal of this provision from the act will certainly have a damaging effect on industry generally. This bill seeks to restore the principle of preference to unionists. I think that unions are very fine institutions, and I have nothing against them, but the adoption of the principle of preference to unionists will make it impossible for any one but a unionist to be employed. I know numerous instances in which it has been impossible for workers to become members of unions, even if work has been offered to them; the books of the unions have been closed to them.
– I do not think that applies among the unions now.
– The effect of the preference to unionists principle is that men who are offered work may not be able to take it because they cannot become members of a particular union. The door is opened to the victimization of workers who, in the past, may have chosen to work under an award disobeyed by other workers. It will be impossible for the marked man to get work. One who has been marked down for something he’ has done, or who has displeased the union officials, will never be able to get a job.
– Do the employers victimize?
– We are dealing with the bill as it is before us. If there were a bill before us giving associations of employers the same opportunity to victimize, I should strongly oppose it. The preference to unionists principle gives men no opportunity to display independence of spirit. It puts them entirely under the domination of the unions. If they are not prepared to do what the unions dictate, they are marked men for life.[Extension of time granted.] At the recent election, the present Government, I admit, received a mandate to continue the Federal arbitration system against the system of control by the States which was put forward by the Bruce-Page Government. But the proposals now before the Senate, if put in operation, would greatly increase unemployment, further handicap and restrict industry, increase friction between employer and employee, and have the very opposite effect to bringing about that feeling of goodwill and conciliation emphasized in the forefront of the bill. Honorable senators would be lacking in their duty to the country and to the workers if they did not strongly protest against the objectionable provisions contained in this bill.
– In dealing with legislation of this character, which has for its object the settlement of differences between humans, in the interest of not only the humans particularly concerned but also society generally, there is certain to be a considerable amount of debate and divergence of opinion. When we examine the bill in its larger aspects and keep in mind the utterances of Senator Daly we can come to the one conclusion only - that it is an effort on the part of the Government to substitute conciliation for arbitration. That, however, is not altogether unexpected, because a certain section of the trade union movement has for some considerable time denounced arbitration as a method of settling industrial disputes. When the unions were asked by the Attorney-General of the previous Government whether they desired the abolition of penalties for lockouts and strikes, no reply could be obtained from them. Apparently, there was a division of opinion among them. Speaking for myself, I deeply deplore the action of the Government in doing something which, in my opinion, amounts to the jettisoning of compulsory arbitration. I have always held, just as Senator Pearce put it this afternoon, that there is no real reason why the rule of law should not be applied to industrial questions as it can be applied to civil disputes; and I can see in the proposal to repeal the penal provisions against lockouts and strikes a weakening on the part of the Government in its support of industrialarbitration. Possibly, it has come about because of a belief in the minds of Ministers, based upon failure in the past, that it is impossible to successfully administer these provisions. While on that subject, let me say that in my opinion, we have proceeded timorously upon the question of industrial arbitration. One would immediately say that on the introduction of this system a strong and determined effort should have been made to impose on the people, who up to that time had been free from this form of jurisprudence, a stern and relentless rule of law for a time, and that, in the course of time, the people would have subordinated their view, as they have done under other branches of jurisprudence, to the will of the legislature in this regard. I cannot help feeling that no such determined effort has been made, and I cannot say that I blame any one, because there is a strong body of public opinion apparently favouring the abolition of the penalties for lockouts and strikes; but I venture to say that it is the beginning of the end. I have stood for the adoption of arbitration as a principle of jurisprudence in all sincerity, and to see this breach, as it were, made in the legislation of the past, is not altogether pleasing to me.
In moving the second reading of the bill the Minister (Senator Daly) pointed out that the penalties for lockouts and strikes are to be abolished, and that serious efforts are to be made to settle industrial disputes by means of conciliation. If it is possible to prevent or to settle industrial disputes by conciliation rather than by introducing the machinery of the law, particularly in view of the state which arbitration has now reached in this country, we should do so; but I contend that the work of conciliation and that of arbitration should be entirely separate. We cannot expect a person to act as a conciliator one day, and on the following day to assume all the judicial responsibility of an arbitrator.We shall endeavour to persuade the Minister to separate these two functions as we feel that by so doing he will be giving effect to the policy which he enunciated in his second-reading speech. Industrial arbitration has far-reaching effects, as a close perusal of the existing act will show. The present Conciliation and Arbitration Act not only governs the relationship be- tween employers and employees, but is framed in the interests of the whole comm unity. In the definition section and in other portions of the act reference is made to the interests of the community.
In these circumstances we have to study this measure not only from the viewpoint of the relationship between the parties to a dispute, but with due regard to its effect upon the community as a whole. To repeal the penalties with respect to lockouts and strikes at this juncture savours of hauling down the flag in face of economic pressure. It may be that compulsory arbitration, as I see it, cannot weather the economic storm which we are now experiencing; but at all events this is a gesture of the party in office which is absolutely inconsistent with the principles which it has staunchly supported in the past.
– I suggest that the honorable senator should read the correspondence which we had before us in Adelaide prior to the last general election when I advocated the deletion of these penalties.
– That may be so; but it is an abrogation of the principles of compulsory conciliation and arbitration. The Government is making the first breach in the wall of compulsory arbitration, and we shall see whether the work which it is doing is in the best interests of the Australian people.The abolition of these penalties shows that the Government is forsaking the rule of law for the rule of tooth and claw. Various points emerge from a consideration of this measure, the most important of which perhaps is that relating to the appointment of conciliation commissioners. As I have already indicated the work of these commissioners should be entirely separated from that of arbitrators, and I shall endeavour to ensure that no conciliation commissioner shall have arbitral power. The exercise of arbitral power by a conciliator is an intrusion into the field of arbitration and is likely to promote discord. The Government has power under the existing law to appoint conciliation commissioners. Speaking subject to correction, I believe that the late Registrar of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration was the only conciliation commissioner appointed under the act; but the Government, could, if it wished, appoint additional conciliation commissioners without amending the act. The work of the Arbitration Court has been decreasing in consequence of economic conditions. The AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan) stated- in another place that one distinguished judge of the court had been removed to another jurisdiction, because of lack of work, and that the Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court was now occupying some of his time on other than arbitration duties. One honorable senator suggested that there had been an unnecessary delay in the hearing of cases before the Arbitration Court; but owing to economic conditions there has not been any pressure upon the court during the past few months.
I accept the assurance of the Minister that great care will be exercised in the appointment of conciliation commissioners to undertake this important work. I deplore the criticism, both inside and outside of Parliament, of men entrusted with important judicial work which, in many instances, is most distasteful to them. I have a good deal of sympathy with a person occupying a judicial position who has to decide the wages and conditions under which men shall be employed. In some cases he is compelled to award reduced rates, and if. in doing so, he should describe his task as disgusting - it would, perhaps, be better to term it distasteful - there may be some justification for doing so. It is distasteful to the Leader of the Government in this country to direct that the work in certain departments shall be rationed, [t is a responsibility of the Prime Minister which cannot be avoided, but which I am sure is distasteful to him. Those occupying judicial positions are under a solemn oath to do justice to both parties, and I am sure that the honorable senator who referred to the utterances of Judge Dethridge will realize that, if his duties are not disgusting - as he termed them - they are at times most distasteful. He is called upon not merely to settle a trivial dispute between two persons, but has to determine the conditions which shall operate between a large body of employers and employees. In doing what he knows to be right, he must at times find his task exceedingly distasteful. I trust that only those possessing the highest qualifications will be selected as conciliation commissioners. When Senator Dunn informed us that he was once an industrial inspector in New South Wales, I could not help thinking that he would be as much of a misfit in the position of conciliation commissioner as I should be. I can imagine the honorable senator, with his stalwart form, vigorous voice and determined manner, approaching the parties to an industrial dispute and striking terror into the heart of the employer, and also of the employees who did not know him.
The bill also repeals a section in the 1928 act providing foi the holding of secret ballots. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) indicated very forcefully thi? afternoon that the Government’s action in this respect is not in conformity with its industrial policy, or with the relationship which should exist between a union and its members. It is undemocratic. Every unionist, however humble, should have the right to express his views on at) industrial matter through the ballot-box. The Assistant Minister (Senator Barnes) will remember that when industrial trouble occurred at the Mount Lyell mine in 1921, the members of the union held a ballot, when 90 per cent, voted against a strike. Surely th’e Assistant Minister, who has always been prominently associated with unionism, will admit that the men should have an opportunity to express their views, and that they should not be influenced by the minority. Even Homer nods occasionally. We have illustration of this in the recent award relating to tramway and railway employees in New South Wales. A few weeks ago their leaders strongly urged them to strike against an award, but the good sense of the great body of trade unionists in the employ of the Railway Department of New South Wales realized that that wa3 not the proper course to take. The men appreciated the difficulties confronting the management of that greagovernmental industry; they knew it could be saved only by mutual sacrifice and goodwill. So when a ballot was taken, it was found that the advice given by the leaders was not endorsed. The men decided not to cease work. On the contrary, they resolved to assist the Railway Commissioners in New South Wales- in the task they had set themselves to improve the finances of that Government business enterprise. We all regret their plight. Senator Dunn has no monopoly of sympathy for these people. We should all be glad if the position as to wages and conditions enjoyed could be maintained; but we realize that the present is not the time to stand for that principle, at all costs. Why should not the good judgment of the rank and file of the trade union movement be given an opportunity to decide by secret ballot whether or not they should accept an award of the court before being launched upon some illconsidered strike actuated perhaps by ill-will or hatred on the part of their leaders towards someone else on the employing side of industry? On no right principle canthe elimination of this provision from the act be justified.
This afternoon while the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) was speaking, the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Daly) interjected that it was impossible to enforce thetaking of a secret ballot. If that is the Government’s view, and if it finds general acceptance, then the only logical course to adopt is to jettison, not merely these provisions relating to the taking of a secret ballot, but also the whole of the arbitration system. But why should we haul down the flag for the unrighteous? After all, it is only a right principle for which we of this side of the Senate are fighting - the principle that the rank and file of trade unionism should have an opportunity to decide these issues. If we are going to abandon the citadel in this way, it would be as well if we abandoned all those great ideals which we have held with regard to industrial arbitration, and allowed disputes to be settled, as formerly, by rule of violence, by strikes, intimidation, and perhaps starvation of employees. I cannot understand why trade unionists are not being urged by their leaders and representatives in the various branches of the Commonwealth and State legislature to stand by this most democratic principle of the secret ballot. Before the rank and file of trade unionists are forced to strike, and perhaps commit outrages against the law, they should individually have an opportunity, at the dictates of their conscience and good sense, to say what are their wishes in the matter. These acts of intimidation, as we know, have in the past, been winked at, not only by the industrial movement, but also by the political side of the Labour party. Honorable senators . supporting the Government appear to think that they are the only people who have any consideration for the employees in industry. Of course that is not the position at all. It is the duty of all members of this chamber to pay particular regard to the interests of not only the employees in industry but of all sections in the community. I stand for the freedom of the rank and file to express their views by means of the secret ballot.The tyranny which is being exercised by the industrial leaders is bringing all this trouble upon trade unionism. Certain industrial leaders claim the respect of every one because they guide the affairs of their unions wisely and well, and, wherever possible, avoid industrial trouble. Others, unfortunately, are forever looking for trouble. We never hear from them any words of guidance that are likely to be of help in the settlement of industrial troubles. We have heard this afternoon of what, happens at some of these trade union meetings. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition related some of his personal experiences. As we all know the language used in the early days of the movement and the style of oratory then employed were mild compared with what, passes for currency in certain trade union circles to-day.I have no doubt that some of our friends opposite also can speak from experience and know quite well the kind of language that is hurled at those members of the rank and file, who, in trade union meetings, advocate tolerance or a little discretion in the management of their union affairs.
– Where did the honorable senator get all his knowledge of the procedure at trade union meetings?
– I will tell the Minister. On more than one occasion members of trade unions who were being oppressed by those who should have been their protectors have consulted with me, and have laid bare their souls. Consequently I have an intimate knowledge of all that transpires at trade union meetings during times of excitement. My honorable friend has not. an absolute monopoly of knowledge concerning such matters. It may surprise him to learn that amongst the rank and file of the trade union movement there is a very strong body of opinion in favour of the retention of this provision for a secret ballot.
– Do the lawyers approve of the secret ballot in their organization?
– Wo govern our affairs by the rule of law. If trade union matters were controlled in the same way, there would be no cause for complaint whatever.
There was some discussion this afternoon concerning the shearers’ award, which, I believe, is still sub judice. I should not have referred to it were it not for the fact that it has already been mentioned in the debate. That great organization which represents the shearers - I refer to the Australian Workers Union - has lived by arbitration, and it has done very well indeed. Arbitration has made the Australian Workers Union. It may therefore not be out of place if I remind it that those who live by the sword must expect a certain fate to overtake them eventually. Does the Australian Workers Union intend to enjoy all the benefits of arbitration as it has done while the industry was prospering, and now, when it is on the downward grade, refuse to play its part in maintaining the economic soundness of that great industry? I venture to think that it. is ill advised even to discuss the possibilities. All I care to say now is that no industrial organization can expect to have it both ways. If it believes in the principle of arbitration, it should stand by it at all times, and if it considers that an award is not what might have been expected, it should apply for a variation and fight the matter in the courts. It would appear, from recent happenings, that the brand of arbitration which some honorable senators would desire to have is that system under which they could nominate the arbitrator. Obviously, that would be impossible. Society would not stand for that.
One or two other principles in the bill call for a word or two of comment. Omrelates to the substitution of the Arbitration Court for the High Court. Thai important principle, I suggest, can better be debated in committee. In my view, the proposal is unconstitutional, and can have no effect. Tien there is thcmatter mentioned by. Senator Dunn, namely, the exclusion of members of the legal fraternity from the Arbitration Court. I have never had a brief in the Arbitration Court in my life, but I have been associated with a number of men who have, and I can say confidently - the Minister in charge of the bill would confirm what I am about to say if he were present - that the presence of lawyers iri the court, has resulted in the proceedings being appreciably shortened. It seems to me, notwithstanding .the views that may be expressed by some of my friends on this side as well as in the ranks of Government supporters, that it would be a mistake to exclude them from any part in arbitration proceedings. On many occasions I have been present during the conduct of cases before the Arbitration Court, and I know that the proceedings have been expedited simply because both the lawyers and the judges were thoroughly conversant with their work. Arbitration proceedings conducted in an orderly manner must be more satisfactory in every way than proceedings conducted according to “Rafferty” rules. It should be remembered, also, that besides members of the legal profession, a considerable number of industrial officials who, by sheer brain power and industry, have qualified themselves to make excellent advocates, may also be prevented from appearing in the court if the bill is passed in its present form. 3 suggest, therefore, that, in the interests of speedy and satisfactory settlement of industrial disputes, the Senate would be well advised to reject this particular provision. I have no personal interest in the matter at all. I am in the position of an onlooker, and as such I am able to see more of the game than many of those engaged in it. I say definitely that if members of the legal profession are allowed to appear in the court, a great deal of time will be saved in the hearing and settling of industrial disputes.
– It cost my union £8,000 to obtain an award from the court.
– Which the Honorary Minister’s union is well able to afford. The bill proposes to abolish another form of security. I regard it as a necessity in industrial law that some bond or security should be put up, so that the court, if the necessity arises by reason of the existence of lockouts or strikes, may levy upon the offenders. I admit that it would be impracticable to levy tribute upon thousands of employees, but if proper securities were lodged, such a hard-headed unionist as the Honorary. Minister would think twice before he countenanced any breach of an award by his union. One of the first principles of justice should be that people who desire the benefits of an award and bring their cases into court for settlement should be prepared to abide by the result. The lodgment of a bond or similar security is the one hope of making arbitration successful. We have frequently seen awards of the court flouted when there has not been any speedy method by which tribute could be levied upon the defaulting parties.
Another matter that appears to me to be of great importance is the repeal of the provision that enables the court to ascertain whether a dispute could be best dealt with by a State or the Federal tribunal. Surely that is a thing that could be left to the discretion of the Arbitration Court judges. Their judgment has been exercised on more occasions than one, with advantage to the country. I put it to the supporters of the Government, is it not better to have a tribunal conversant with local conditions to deal with a dispute that has no interstate ramifications?
The bill also contains a provision which prevents any one entering into an agreement with another to perform work in accordance with the terms of an award. That, surely, the Government should not persist in. Still another extraordinary provision, is one to the effect that a man need not inform his employer as to what union he belongs. The employer may have men working under half a dozen different awards, but he is denied the right to ascertain from an employee the union to which he belongs, in order to regulate his wages accordingly. Surely those are matters that have escaped proper consideration by the Government, which it should give way upon when the bill reaches its committee stages.
There is also a remarkable clause, the last one in the bill, that repeals the provision enabling the court to punish for contempt. The provision making contempt a statutory offence remains, but the power of punishment by the court is taken away. What an extraordinary position in which to place this powerful court! The smallest police court in the land, the most insignificant petty jurisdiction for debt, is vested with power that is denied the Arbitration Court. Honorable senators who have interested themselves in arbitration will recollect the occasion when a well-known journal in this country made some comments reflecting upon a distinguished judge of the Arbitration Court. Under the proposed new clause that judge would have to prosecute the proprietors of the journal in some police court ! Is that the standing the court should have in the community; to have to call to its aid some petty State jurisdiction to inflict punishment for contempt committed in the Arbitration Court? Is that the respect in which we should hold the court? It is wrong in principle. The other penalties are treated in the same manner, and I trust that the Minister and those supporting him will agree to an alteration when the bill goes into committee. If arbitration has failed the fault lies with the legislature, which has endeavoured to impose upon the court the decision in too many matters of detail. The great framers of this legislation never contemplated that a judge should be obliged to inquire into the prices of some hundreds of pieces of clothing. They never thought that all this minutiae of detail, covering hundreds of pages in various awards, were to be investigated by judges of the Arbitration Court. They desired that judges should direct their attention to the main points at issue between the parties : wages and hours. If we had confined the court to those issues and left the details to be worked out by conciliation tribunals, or by conferences between parties, throwing upon them the obligation to settle those details, there would not have been that failure of arbitration about which we hear so much to-day.
My colleagues and I feel that the Government has a right to have some of its amendments accepted. We feel, on the other hand, that the bill requires a great deal of trimming, but that there should be no division on the second reading of the measure.
– I do not think that arbitration has failed in its mission. I still have the same faith in arbitration that I had when it was first talked of many years ago. I think that it was in 1899 that I became a unionist by joining the Shearers Union of Australia, now the Australian Workers Union. From its inception that union adopted the principle of arbitration, believing that that was the proper method to settle industrial disputes.
I quite agree with Senator McLachlan when he says that we should either accept arbitration or reject it. I recognize that we cannot have arbitration and strikes. We must be honest and declare for one or the other. If we believe in arbitration we should accept its awards. If for the moment they be against us, we should entertain the hope that in the future they will be altered more to our liking.
– We should be well satisfied if the honorable senator inculcated those sentiments into his union leaders.
– I have always been candid, and expressed my opinions frankly both here and elsewhere. Senator Pearce is not the only unionist, who, in bygone days, got himself disliked because he was on the side of the, minority. However, the right honorable senator has somewhat altered his ideas in recent years. On the 10th November, 1911, he is reported in Hansard as having said -
I never did believe that the federal arbitration law would do away with discontent. I agree with Senator Bae that it will be a bad day for any country when discontent is done away with, because discontent is the mainspring of progress.
Senator Pearce reminds me of the words of Mr. Grayson of the British House of Commons, who once said that he would rather have a discontented pig than a satisfied, individual, because the discontented pig would endeavour to root it3 way out of its sty, and make provision for himself, but the contented individual would stagnate; indicating that the satisfied person would prefer to remain wallowing in a sty of starvation and want rather than endeavour to provide for himself.
– That is precisely what Senator Pearce said 20 years ago.
– I am not disputing that. People change, but principles do not. Senator McLachlan said something about jurisprudence. I quite recognize that we owe to Greece our art and culture; to Rome our jurisprudence; to the Jews, our religion and our code of morals; and to New Zealand our arbitration system. 1 remember that when I was quite a lad and became a unionist, I looked to the New Zealand innovation of industrial arbitration as the thing that would bring peace among men engaged in industry. I claim that the innovation has met with a. great measure of success. ,
I quite admit that what would have been satisfactory, from an arbitration point of view, in 3910, would probably not do now. We must chancre with the times, and must amend existing laws as the necessity arises. That is why we learn that New Zealand has already adopted amending arbitration legislation somewhat similar to that which this Government is endeavouring to introduce by this bill. I shall quote from Wages and tha States, by E. M. Burns, specifically as it relates to New Zealand. It states -
There is one court for the whole of New Zealand, consisting of three members appointed by the Governor. One of these is the Judge of the Court who must be eligible for appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court. The other two members are nominated on the recommendation of industrial unions of employers and workers, respectively, for a period of three years. The court has the power to refer any matter to a special investigating board, and base its awards on its reports.
Later, the following statement appears : -
The first group, the conciliation committees, and compulsory conferences are undoubtedly a very valuable, addition to the system, and are the means of saving much time. In New Zealand all cases must first be dealt with by such a committee, and each year they settle a very large proportion, often as much as 90 per cent., of the cases submitted to them. This system greatly reduces the amount of work to be done by the court, and the delay in hearing cases, which is one of the worst features of the arbitration system.
It would appear that New Zealand has adopted the principle of conciliation embodied in this bill, and that the system has proved wonderfully successful, for very few disputes ever come before the Arbitration Court. There is, therefore, not that delay in dealing with the cases which do reach the court that there is in Australia. In some instances unions which have waited for years to have their cases heard have gone to the length of going on strike purposely in order to have them expedited. It has been said that there are plenty of judges; but, if that is so, what is the reason for the delay in hearing claims? The appointment of conciliation committees should relieve the congestion in the Arbitration Court, in which case it might, in fact, be correct to say that we have a sufficient number of judges. I do not know why honorable senators should be afraid of these conciliation committees. They have worked well in New Zealand, and I see no reason why they should not be equally successful in Australia. The Cotton Industries Bounty Bill, which was before the Senate recently, contained the following provision : - (7.) If-
Provided that, if the representatives of employers and employees fail to make a joint nomination of a chairman within twenty days after being called upon by the Ministerso to do, the Governor-General may appoint a person to act as chairman.
To this honorable senators opposite raised no objection.
– In that case it was a final settlement. The position is different here.
– What is the difference between the provisions in that bill and those in. the bill before us? If honorable senators were prepared to accept the principle then, why do they not do so now?
– In the other case it is a final settlement.
– I realize that to Senator Cooper it is a different matter when cotton is concerned. Cottongrowing is a Queensland industry. But the position is entirely different when the principle is applied to the whole of Australia.
– The Leader of the Opposition drew attention to that point when the vote was being taken.
– It might be well if I were to give the names of those who voted for this provision in the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill. The division list shows that Senators Barnes, Cooper, Cox, Crawford, Daly, Dooley, Greene, Hoare, Millen, O’Halloran, Rae, Thompson and Dunn voted for it, and that Senator Duncan paired in favour of it.
– That could not be done with union representatives.
– The principle is the same. As I have already stated, men may change, but principles remain the same. In this case there is no cotton bounty. If the Government could make this bill apply to cotton, it is probable that some honorable senators now opposed to it would change their views.
– This is a different proposition, as the honorable senator knows.
– There is no difference in principle. Senator Pearce said that arbitration was the cause of the growth of unionism. To a great extent that is true; but when the labour market is buoyant, unionism grows, irrespective of any law.
– What happens when the labour market is not buoyant?
– The honorable senator has only to look around to see what is happening to-day. Irrespective of arbitration laws and arbitration courts, men are offering to work at rates far below those fixed by awards, and . are prepared to sign for the full amount that should be paid to them. When the labour market is buoyant, men join the unions because they are not afraid of the frowns of their employers; but when there are thousands of men unemployed and almost starving, those in employment are afraid to say “booh.” Arbitration prevents unprincipled men from “scabbing” on their ma tes. as it also prevents unscrupulous employers from “scabbing” on their fellow-employers. Arbitration compels all employers to pay the same wages in a particular industry. That is only as it should be. Arbitration protects the just man from the dishonest one; it protects both the honest worker and the honest employer.
– The honorable senator does not want men outside the unions to live.
– Any decent man will recognize that the wages and conditions he enjoys have been fought and paid for by others. If he has any sense of justice he will willingly pay his share of the cost of obtaining the privileges he’ enjoys.
– Then why are 40 per cent, of the workers outside the trade unions ?
– That is easily explained. It is due to the wave of depression that is sweeping the country. I admit that there are always some men who are only too willing to evade the payment of their trade union dues.
Senator Cooper said that the woolgrowers of Australia had obeyed awards which were against them as cheerfully as those which were favorable. For that I give them credit. In order to show how the men who cut the fleece from the backs of the sheep fare I desire to quote an extract from A New Province for Law and Order by the late Mr. Justice Higgins -
In the case of the shearers, the rates for shearing, 24s. per 100, as fixed by my predecessor, were not increased; and the strongest union in Australia, the Australian Workers Union acquiesced. In the same case, the court found that too high minimum rates had previously been fixed for wool-pressers, and lowered them, stating its reasons. There was no strike, no refusal to work, no expression, that I know, of discontent. In the case of the builders’ labourers the court fixed lower rates for Ballarat and Bendigo than for Melbourne, and lower rates for Melbourne than for Sydney, all because of differences in the cost of living. The union leaders were troubled because those cities had always maintained the same “ union rate “ ; but they told the members of the union the court’s reasons, and there was peace. Again, in the same case, the court fixed for Melbourne a lower minimum rate for scaffolders and demolishers than had been previously fixed by the wages board - ls. 34d. per hour, instead of ls. 44d. per hour; and the men submitted. The truth is, I think, that if the men secure the essentials of food, shelter, clothing, &c, they are not so unreasonable as is sometimes supposed. They do not love strikes for the sake of strikes; and the great majority are generally quite willing to submit to reason if they feel that they are reasonably treated.
– The Australian Workers Union had always obeyed the court; its members have fared well.
– They have not fared well on this occasion, for their wages have been reduced by 20 per cent. I suppose that there will be a similar reduction in the wages of other men engaged in the industry. I did not hear Chief Judge Dethridge’s summing up.
– It was based on one year’s clip.
– No. It was based on an average over three years.
– I realize that the wool-growers of this country are being hard hit at the present time. I know that in some of the backblocks of Australia pastoralists have been hand-feeding their sheep, hoping that rain would eventually come, and apparently the majority of the members of the Australian Workers Union will accept the award.
– Why should they not do so?
– We must recognize that a 20 per cent, reduction is a mighty big knock-back. Any one who knows anything about shearing knows that it is hard work and unhealthy. I do not know of any work that is harder or more unhealthy.
– It is not unhealthy.
– I followed the game for many years, and I know many shearers who are crippled by rheumatism due to shearing sheep that were damp. Any one knows that it is unhealthy. The shearer has to bend over each sheep with the animal breathing in his face all the time.
– A commission has declared that it. is a very healthy occupation.
– That merely shows the ignorance of the commission
I quite agree with Senator Sir George Pearce that our ideal has not yet been reached. There was only one man perfect in this world, and we know what people did to Him. We cannot expect any body of men or any law to be perfect, and we have a long way to go before our arbitration law will be perfect, but that > no reason why we should not make some attempt to improve it. This bill is a serious attempt to improve it. I do not know that we have succeeded in abolishing all the entangling legalisms, but we have tried to do so. I have for years been an advocate of conciliation as a means of settling industrial disputes; and .1 think that the system provided for in the bill, that of having three representatives of either party to a dispute, and a conciliation commissioner as chairman, i? a good one. I am hopeful that, it, will bring about good results.
I think it was Senator Cooper who said that if the Australian Workers Union decided not to shear the sheep, the farmers would do it. When I was a shearer there were disputes, and the farmers’ sons tried to shear the sheep, but met with disaster. A man cannot in five minutes learn ho v. to shear a sheep. The value of the wool destroyed by those who do not know how to shear greatly exceeds the actual cost of shearing. I am glad that the shearers will accept the recent award. It will cer tainly avoid economic waste, and .1 trust that when things brighten up again they will get back to the old rate. The members of the Australian Workers Union are broadminded.
– A number of sheds are already at work at the rate of £2 ls.
– Yes; they are setting an example to the others and, at the same time, showing the people of Australia that the members of the Australian Workers Union are prepared to abide by the laws of arbitration and the awards of arbitration courts.
Senator Cooper said that the appointment of these conciliation commissioners should be for a longer period than five years, otherwise there would be a danger of their being influenced by the policy of the Government responsible for their appointment. In South Australia the State industrial arbitrators are appointed for short periods. Mr. Jethro Brown and Mr. Webb, who have filled the position at different times, have given whatever awards they thought proper irrespective of the Governments that appointed them. I do not think that there is any danger that men who will be appointed under this bill will be swayed by the Governments that appoint them. Men who are likely to be so swayed have no right to be appointed. To administer our arbitration laws we should have impartial men who are prepared to hold the scales of justice evenly.
– Could any one do so better than a judge appointed for life?
– I would rather put my faith in conciliation committees, because on them we shall have three practical men on each side with an independent chairman. In my humble opinion we can get a better judgment in that way than in any other way.
– Why should the chairman of a conciliation committee have a casting vote?
– Someone mus have a casting vote if the voting on the committee is equal. It is the usual practice in Parliament to give the president or chairman a casting vote and I see no reason for departing from it in arbitration committees.
– It has not been the custom in arbitration committees.
– If it has not, it should have been. Some honorable senators seem to think that they will amend the bill in committee. How they propose to do so, we shall find out when we reach the different clauses.
– The bill should certainly be consistent with the industrial provision in the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill.
– I expect those who voted for the Cotton Industries Bounty Bill and the “Wine Export Bounty Bill to vote for the provisions in this bill dealing with conciliation committees. I ex- pect honorable senators to be consistent in their support of a principle in which they believe. If they believe in the principle of conciliation committees as incorporated in bounty legislation recently passed by the Senate, they should support the same principle in the bill now under consideration.
– What is the use of having a conciliation committee if its chairman is the union organizer,?
– He will not be.
– I do not know what authority Senator Thompson has for making that statement.
– It has been done in the State of New South Wales.
– I hope that we shall have as chairmen of these committees, men who are absolutely honest and impartial. Of course we cannot expect to get things all our own way. Neither can the employers have things all their own way. What we want is a fair deal and that is all we hope to get by this bill.
– If the Government abuses the power given to it by the bill Parliament can withhold its appropriation.
– Quite so. The matter will rest with Parliament. Senator Pearce has said that one of the damaging features of the bill is the abolition of the provisions requiring the holding of secret ballots. I presume that the Government has proposed the abolition of these provisions because it has found that they cannot be enforced. I do not mean to insinuate that I do not believe in secret ballots. I have always advocated them. We have secret ballots for the election of
Parliament and to be consistent we should have secrecy for all ballots. Had not an individual in Port Adelaide kicked to pieces a ballot box, there would have been no trouble there because 80 per cent, .of the papers that were afterwards discovered were found to be marked in favour of a return to work. The individual who kicked the ballot box to pieces was the first to scab on his mates..
– Did he belong tothe union ?
– He was a member of the Waterside Workers Union. In my opinion he was paid by some employers to do what he did. Although provision was made by the last Government for the holding of secret ballots no secret ballot has yet been taken. As a matter of fact, I do not know how the provision could be enforced. We can compel people to go to the polling booth but we cannot compel them to cast formal votes. We may get as far as compelling a union to take a ballot, but that is about as far as we can go. The onus of taking a ballot should rest on the union itself. If there is a sufficient number of members of the union with the courage of their convictions they will see that a secret ballot is taken, and if they are in a majority, they will certainly have a secret ballot to decide whether they will cease work or return to work as the case may be. Some years ago when we were having a bit of an industrial upheaval in Port Adelaide, Ave held a meeting to decide whether we should go out on strike in sympathy with those who were already out. I was the chairman of the meeting, and when a vote was taken to see whether we should go out on strike or not, there was only one individual who did not hold up his hand in favour of going on strike. Some boo-hooed, but I said that a man was to be commended for having the courage of his convictions. I was then asked if a secret ballot could be taken and I informed the meeting that there was nothing to prevent it. A ballot was held and only six voted in favour of striking and the balance for remaining at work. The . result on . that occasion convinced me that the real opinion of the men can be obtained only by taking » secret ballot.
Senatordaly. - But they cannot be forced to take a ballot.
– No. The responsibility must rest with the men. They must act voluntarily.
– Supposing that they are denied the right by their organization ?
– Provision exists in the present act for taking a secret ballot ; but no one has the power to compel a union to take a ballot. Even if the section relating to ballots is not repealed there is no power to compel a ballot to be taken. The whole position is governed by the union itself which can advocate the taking of a ballot, and possibly that system will be adopted more extensively in the future.
– But union leaders are opposed to ballots.
– They are in the minority. The trouble is that too often men do not attend the meetings of their union. If those who do attend vote in accordance with their convictions instead of as the union leaders may direct, the opinion of the majority will be obtained. In my experience as a unionist -I have been in the same union since 1899 - I have often been in the minority; but the officialshave always treated me fairly, and it is generally recognized that all members of a union cannot hold the same views. IfI think a secret ballot is justified I openly . advocate holding one. Generally speaking.I do not think any opposition would be offered to the holding of secret ballots, and the retention of the section which provides for compulsory ballots would not make the slightest difference. If a secret ballot is desired by the majority of the members of the union it will be taken. We all remember what occurred in con- nexion with the timber- workers’ strike in New South Wales when J udge Lukin ordered a secret ballot to be taken and when the men mobilized and burned the judge in effigy. It is a matter which must be left to the decision of the men themselves. It has been suggested that conciliation committees consisting of three representatives on each side with an independent chairman will be unable to function effectively; but such committees are working successfully in New Zealand, where the conditions are similar to those prevailing in Australia, and the work of these committees should assist materially to ensure peace in industry.
SenatorREID (Queensland) [9.37.]- I congratulate Senator Hoare upon his temperate speech, which was free from bitterness or anything likely to cause friction in the discussion of the important subject of arbitration. If others with whom he is associated held similar views on industrial matters, a good deal of the trouble we have experienced in recent years would have been avoided. The honorable senator has given some of his experiences in industrial matters which are similar to my own. I have had consideraible experience of unionism and have no hesitation in saying that the union leaders are not always responsible for strikes. Like Senator Hoare, I, too, have been in the minority against strikes; but in those days the only weapon of the workers who wished to secure higher wages or improve their working conditions was that of the strike. To-day the industrial position is totally different. The Honorary Minister (Senator Barnes) is conversant with the conditions in the early days, and one can say without fear of truthful contradiction that the conditions and wages of pastoral workers of to-day are those of gentlemen as compared with those of the unionists of years ago. The subject of arbitration has been discussed in this Parliament on many occasions and although, as the Minister said, our Arbitration Act has already been amended on twelve different occasions, our legislative efforts appear to have been ineffective in preventing or settling industrial disputes. The solution cannot be found by legislative action. It can be provided only by the men concerned, who must recognize their duty, not only to themselves, but to their country. When men’s minds become inflamed and they are carried away by feelings of bitterness and class hatred, they are likely to advocate a policy which, in calmer moments, they would admit was not in their own interest. We have endeavoured to ensure industrial peace by amending our Arbitration Act, but notwithstanding the efforts of this Parliament, the industrial position to-day is as bad as it was years ago. Speaking as one interested in industrialism years before the Commonwealth arbitration system was established, I am convinced that the opinion of union officials at the time was that the awards of an arbitration court should and would always be observed.
– Did not the Labour party provide the penaltieswhich are now to be repealed?
– Yes. A penalty of £1,000 was provided, but it was never expected that there would ever be need to enforce it.
– No one ever expected that arbitration would prevent strikes.
– The Minister was a youth when compulsory arbitration was first suggested as a means of preventing and settling industrial disputes. It was then honestly believed that a compulsory arbitration system would overcome our industrial troubles, and do away with strikes. What is the position today? If the awards of the court were observed amending legislation would be unnecessary. The majority of trade unionists do not wish to disobey awards of the court.For the most part the rank and file of the Labour movement are prepared to do their best. I admit that, at the last election, the Government received a mandate to introduce legislation to improve our arbitration system, and I give the Ministry credit for having this objective in view in the introduction of this bill. I would point out, however, that this measure is not designed to benefit the great majority of trade unionists, who, as I have shown, are prepared to obey the law. Certainly they do not want this bill. It is obvious that it has been drafted in the interests of the extremists in the Labour movement - the paid bureaucracy of Labour, that has become a parasite on trade unionism and is doing so much harm to the movement. I say this with regret, as one who took some part in establishing trade unionism in this country. Unfortunately, I and my family had suffered from the active part I took in the Labour movement in the early days. The present generation knows little or nothing about the past, and it is from this section that we have had so much trouble in recent years. I have little faith in the bill. I do not know what is in the mind of the Government; but I protest strongly against the elimination from the act of the provision which requires an arbitration judge to consider the economic effect of an award on industry generally. If any judge made an award without paying regard to the interests of the community, he would be totally unfitted for the Arbitration Court Bench.
– Then the provision is meaningless.
– It was inserted in the act to indicate that Parliament believed that awards given were not to be regarded as made for the especial benefit of a particular industry, but for the benefit of industry generally. It is a common-sense, sane provision. It indicates the mind of the Parliament. It might be considered as the expression of a pious intention, because, after all. this matter must be left entirely to the discretion of a judge. On one occasion, however, a judge declared that he would not be guided by this section, but would make an award which he considered desirable in the interests of the industry concerned.
– What judge was that?
– Mr. Justice Powers. I was associated with him for some years in the Queensland Parliament, and I met him several times after his appointment to the Arbitration Court Bench. 1 believe, also, that the late Mr. Justice Higgins made a declaration to the same effect.
– The honorable senator is in error.
– I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted: debate adjourned.
Senator DALY (South Australia-
Vice-President of the Executive Council) [9.50].- I lay on the table-
Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure from Loan Fund, for the year ending 30th June, 1931.
Motion (by Senator Daly) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 1 1 a.m. to-morrow.
Government Business - Members’ Entertainment Privileges - Central bankselectcommittee.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I have conferred with the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) with reference to the legislative programme for this week. By having a morning session to-morrow, it will not be necessary to sit on Monday next.
– I desire, briefly, to say a few words with regard to the matter mentioned by Senator Sir George Pearce this morning. I refer to the invitations which somehonorable senators, at all events, have received from the proprietors of picture shows and other forms of entertainment. Some time ago. I received from one picture theatre firm a yearly pass entitling me to go to any of its theatres in Australia accompanied by my wife. I returned it by registered post the same night with an explanation that I could not accept it. I think most other honorable senators, who received similar invitations, also returned them. I have, however, accepted invitations to attend preview screenings of the pictures “ All Quiet on the Western Front”, and “Journey’s End”. These, as honorable senators know, are representations of military actions, and I assume that the invitations were sent to me because of some special knowledge which I have of military matters. The people concerned wished, I presume, to get my opinion of the pictures. Those invitations I did accept, but I wish to repudiate, in the strongest manner possible, any suggestion that I have at any time accepted other invitations or that I have solicited at any time any invitations whatever.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [9.55]. - I wish, briefly, to take this opportunity, on behalf of the Senate, to object to the attitude which the Government has taken with regard to the select committee appointed by the Senate to consider the Central Reserve Bank Bill. I understand that the Ministry has refused to make available the ordinary financial provision to enable the committee to carry out its duties. I believe, however, that members of the committee have decided to continue their investigations without the usual allowance. This is, I think, the first time that any government has taken up this attitude towards a select committee appointed by the Senate, and I regard it as a very serious matter. It is the undoubted right of all Houses of Parliament, under British parliamentary government, at any rate, to refer bills to a select committee, or to appoint a select committee to conduct an inquiry into any specific matter of public importance. Of course, if the Senate were to abuse that privilege, the abuse would constitute a public wrong. But I do not think that any one can say that, in the present instance or generally, the Senate has ever abused its power. It is, I repeat, the undoubted prerogative and privilege of either House of the Parliament to appoint such committees, and I think the Government, in refusing to make the necessary financial provision for the Senate select committee has in vaded the rights of the Senate, and interfered with it in the exercise of its undoubted power. I voice my protest against this action. It may besaid that thecommittee was appointed against the wishes of the Government. On that point, I remind the Leader of the Senate that not once, but many times in the history of the Commonwealth Parliament, the Senate has appointed select committees against the wishes of the Government of the day, and on noprevious occasion, so far as I can remember, did the Government refuse to make the necessary financial provision to enable the committee to carry out, its work. In protesting now against the Government’s decision, I feel sure that I have the support of all honorable senators. I also remind the Government that it. has established a precedent which one day may be used against it and its supporters. There i3 another point which I should like to make. It may be urged that the Government took this action because the committee, as constituted, did not include a majority of members supporting the Government. Again, there are precedents in the history of the Senate of select committees having been appointed by the then opposition, and with a majority of members in opposition to the Government, but the governments of those days did not adopt the course which this Ministry has taken. I do not propose to labour the point. I shall content myself with entering my emphatic protest against the action of the Government in this matter.
.- As one who has been a member of the Senate fo.r many years I also protesagainst the action of the Government which I regard as an encroachment upon the liberties of the Senate. As the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) has pointed out, on other occasions, in the history of the Senate, select, committees have been appointed in opposition to the wishes of the Government of the day, but they were not interfered with in the manner now proposed by this Government.
Another matter to which I should like to refer, relates to the allegations made by Mr. Percy Deane as to members of Parliament asking for letters of introduction to theatrical entrepreneurs and for free entrance to theatres. I have been associated with the Senate for a considerable period of time, and, from my own experience and my inquiries, I know of only one honorable senator who has availed himself of those concessions. I have never accepted them from any theatrical concern in Australia. The only occasion when I attended a theatrical performance in connexion with my political duties was when the Prince of “Wales visited Australia. I enter my emphatic protest against Mr. Deane’s allegations.
– I desire to add my most emphatic protest to the statement made by a civil servant in regard to the acceptance by members of Parliament of free tickets to theatrical entertainments. I have never accepted such a concession, and I do not know of any other honorable senator who has. Although I have had free tickets offered to me frequently, I have never, during the time that I have been a senator, availed myself of them. I strongly protest against accusations being levelled at the dignity of honorable senators by a civil servant.
– I have nothing to add to what I said this morning upon ‘the Deane incident.
The Government admits the right of the Senate to appoint a select committee on the Central Reserve Bank Bill. It also reserves to itself the right to decide all questions as to the appropriation’. -“of public , funds. It is useless to think that the Senate did everything that was right in the matter and that what the Government did was clearly wrong; that its attitude is a deliberate slight upon the Senate. The Government brought down for discussion one of the most vital measures that it contemplated introducing; a measure upon which the Prime Minister made it clear he had pledged his Government. It was introduced in this chamber, the second-reading speech made by the Minister in charge, and then, before the bill could be debated, it was referred by a majority in the Senate to a select committee. That was ‘a great slight upon the Government, which was entitled io know what doubts, if any honorable senators opposite entertained about the measure. It was entitled to know the class of opinion honorable senators desired to have in order to remove any agitation that may have existed in their minds.
– The honorable senator knows quite well that it was suggested in another place that the bill should be referred to a select committee, but that the request’ was refused.
– It may be that the majority in another place did wrong. The Senate would have been in an. unassailable position if, instead of appointing a select committee in the manner that it did, it had discussed the bill on the motion for the second reading and then moved the postponement of the debate and suggested that the bill should be referred to a joint committee, which it was entitled to do under the Standing Orders. Instead, it referred the measure to a select committee, nominating eight honorable senators as members of the committee, throe from the Qovernment side and five, including the chairman, from the Opposition. When the. three honorable senators appointed from this side declined to sit upon the committee, the Opposition appointed in their stead two of its own number. That could create only one impression in the mind of the Government, that originally honorable senators wanted eight members on the committee, so making it a certainty that even if supporters of thu Government converted one of the Opposition members to their views the chairman would still have the casting vote against their recommendation. Those are the facts that the Government had before it when it had to consider the proposal to provide the expenses of the committee. The Government felt that it was a deliberate attempt on the part of the Opposition to postpone the measure indefinitely, and it took the stand that if the Senate chose to treat its legislation in that manner, thereby exercising a right that it possessed, the Government also could exercise its rights. It did so, and takes full responsibility for its action. I submit that it has no need to apologize to the Senate.
– It is not responsible to Parliament for its action ?
– It is, but the Senate is also responsible to Parliament for its action. The Government has a preponderating majority in another place, and fi minority here. If honorable senators opposite choose to appoint a select committee of eight, five of whom are Opposition members, the remaining three representing the Qovernment, and expect the Qovernment to make public funds available to the committee, I am afraid thai they are due for many other setbanks of a similar nature.
– One or two matters have been referred to which concern the Standing Orders, aud the constitutionality of the matter should be considered. Primarily, the root of the trouble lies in the inefficiency of our Standing Orders, which, as I have pointed out to honorable senators on a former occasion, and again do so now, require amendment. Standing Order 194 provides, inter aiia, that amendments may be moved to the question, “ That the bill bc now read a second time “ by leaving out “ now,” and adding “ this day six months,” which, if carried, shall finally dispose of the bill ; or by referring the bill to a select committee; or the previous question may be moved. With all due deference to those who framed that Standing Order - and I understand that the reference to the select committee was provided for by a chance amendment moved in the Senate when the proposed Standing Orders were brought up - to move at that stage to refer a bill to. a select committee is decidedly unconstitutional. I do not know of any Parliament other than the Federal Parliament that permits this to be done. The second reading of a bill is the stage at which its principles are considered.
Our procedure at this stage is quite different from that of State Parliaments. When the second reading of a bill has been carried in, say, the Western Australia Parliament, the motion is made “ that the President do leave the Chair for the purpose of considering the bill in committee.” The principle of the bill having been accepted, that motion affords an opportunity for a direct amendment, to refer the bill to a select committee. And at subsequent stages the bill may be referred to a select committee. I should like an expression of the Senate’s opinion on the subject at some future date.
Another matter to which I desire to refer concerns the money available to the committee. Yielding to a request for economy, I approved, when considering the Senate estimates, of the provision of £25 only for select committees. In view of a recent happening, the President - and 1 presume the Speaker will do the same - must place upon the Estimates a sum which is manifestly as sufficient for the service of select committees as the sum that I have mentioned ib obviously insufficient.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 10.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 23 July 1930, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1930/19300723_senate_12_126/>.