12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W.Kingsmill) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The “ Gibbons “ Resolutions
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Government make available to the Senate the reply of the board of the Commonwealth Bank to the request made to the bank to give effect to what are known as the “ Gibbons “ resolutions?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
It is not considered desirable to make available correspondence between the Bank Board and the Government.
Will the Government make available to members of the Senate the document signed by Professor Copland, Mr. E. C. Dyason, and Professor Giblin, presented to the Ministry on 18th September, and referred to. by the Treasurer in introducing the bill to provide for a fiduciary note issue, in another place, on Tuesday last?
– Yes. Copies will be made available through the Clerk of the Senate.
Senator R. D. ELLIOTT (through
– The answer to the honorable senator’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The right honornble the Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The Government recognizes the importance of developing the shipbuilding industry in Australia, but the possibility of action to that end is governed by considerations of finance. The position of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard is engaging the attention of the Government, but it is not practicable at present to indicate definitely what the future lines of policy in regard to that establishment will be.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s questions: -
The Government is anxious to do all it is possible, in existing circumstances, to improve shipping communication between Tasmania and and the mainland, and has already explored a number of suggested methods of achieving this object.It has not, however, been found practicable, up to the present, to provide funds for the purchase or construction of ships for the Tasmanian service, but by payment of a subsidy to an existing steamship line the Government was enabled to provide the people of Tasmania with a service from Hobart to Sydney during the whole of last year which would otherwise have been discontinued during the winter months. It is not correct to say that the Government has agreed, as the honorable senator appears to assume, to continue the subsidy for a period of ten years. The whole position is still under examination, and due consideration will be given to the shipbuilding facilities available at Cockatoo Island dockyard before any final decision is reached in regard to the matter.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information will be obtained and furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
asked the VicePresident of the Executive Council, upon notice -
In view of the reports of distress of shipbuilding employees in the districts surrounding Cockatoo Dockyard, and also having regard to the decision of the Government to construct a trawler to assist in the revival of the fishing industry in Australia, will the Vice-President of the Executive Council recommend to the Government that an order for the construction of a trawler be placed with Cockatoo Dockyard immediately?
– The Government has not been in a position to proceed with the question of the construction of a trawler. In. addition to financial considerations, many matters of a technical nature would have to be examined before a decision could be reached. The whole question of employment at Cockatoo Island is at present being considered by the Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In regard to the case of Captain Conway, an ex-member of the Australian Imperial Force, is it the intention of the Government to appoint a committee of inquiry into Captain Conway’s statement that he was victimized in relation to responsible positions as they became vacant in the Australian Imperial Force ?
– I will bring the matter under the notice of the Minister for Defence and furnish a reply at a later date.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– Information is being obtained.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Penny-a-word Messages: Report from Select Committee.
Order of the Day for resumption of debate from the 5th September, 1929 (vide page 577), on motion by Senator Herbert Hays, discharged.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [11.9]. - I move -
That Statutory Rules 1930, Nos. 158 and 159, and Statutory Rules 1931, No. 10, Transport Workers (Waterside) Regulations, be disallowed.
I understand that the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has announced that, if the Senate disallows these regulations, they will be immediately re-imposed. I would suggest, for the consideration of the Government, that a proper way to test this issue is to proceed by way of legislation. That would be in conformity with the Government’s policy as announced by the right honorable gentleman at the last election. I am, of course, aware that this suggestion does not appeal to the Government, because members of the Ministry and their supporters do not bother about election promises. I would, however, remind the Senate that, at the last election, Labour candidates definately promised the people that, if returned to power, they would repeal the Transport Workers Act, and I repeat that the Government now has an excellent opportunity to obtain the view of Parliament concerning its policy. The Ministry, moreover, has announced on several occasions that it. intends to seek a double dissolution. 1 suggest that no question more fitting than this could be pat forward by it to challenge the Senate and to give effect to one of its election pledges by means of legislation in this regard. Knowing the temper of this chamber, and also the temper of the people, I feel sure that if, in that way, the Government sought to bring about a double dissolution, the Senate would willingly accept any such challenge. If, as we are assured, this Government stands for democracy, surely it should not object to consult the people upon this and other points of its policy.
I propose briefly to survey the history of events which led up to the passage of the Transport Workers Act, lest they should have faded from the memory of honorable senators and the people of Australia. It goes back “to December, 1927, when members of the Waterside Workers Federation went on strike. Then followed a series of strikes in the shipping industry. The Arbitration Court intervened and consented to inquire into the questions in dispute, provided the federation promised to obey the award when made. The federation gave the required promise, and an award of the court covering the points in dispute came into operation on the 10th September, 1928. Then there was a conference of 36 branches of the federation, which unanimously carried a resolution refusing to work under the award, despite the promise previously given that it would be obeyed. Consequently, there was another strike. Mr. Bruce, the then Prime Minister, in a statement made in Parliament on the 11th September, 1928, warned the waterside workers of the consequences of their action, and appealed to them to resume work. This Government also appealed to the various States to maintain sea and transport services. On the 10th September, 1928, the unions defied the Government and the law, called upon its members to strike and hold up sea transport trade all round the Australian coast, with the exception of certain ports. The position was discussed in Parliament, and the then Prime Minister declared that the Government was determined that the transport services must be carried on. On the 21st September, 1928, the Government introduced the Transport Workers Bill, which gave the executive power to make regulations for the licensing of workers in the maritime industry.
When the Bruce-Page Government had made known its intention by introducing the legislation referred to, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) said that -
The volunteers who had como to the rescue of the community and were carrying on the industry would not bc supported by the employers when the trouble was over - that the employers would as usual desert them.
The employers in response to that challenge gave a public undertaking that they would continue to employ the volunteers, who continued to offer themselves for employment until there was sufficient to enable the transport work to be carried on at all the ports in Australia. After this position had been established, the Waterside Workers Union met and carried a resolution that as the repudiation of the award had served its purpose for the time being, its members were; advised to return to work. As a result, members of the Waterside Workers Federation presented themselves for work in a number of ports. Shortly afterwards there was a general election for the House of Representatives, and a new Parliament met on the 6th February, ‘ 1929. The BrucePage Government having been returned with a majority, an amending Transport Workers Bill was introduced on the 13th February, 1929. This amending legislation gave authority to make regulations under our commerce powers to supplement the Arbitration Court, and to protect it. A large number of licences were taken out under the amended law by volunteer workers, and in some cases by members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and employment proceeded. At first, members of the federation refused to apply for licences, but subsequently they did so. Then began a movement by intimidation and the use of physical force to drive the licensed volunteer workers off the wharfs. This was followed by a series of outrages, including attacks upon the police who were called upon to protect the volunteers, as well as bomb outrages in Melbourne on the homes of volunteers, and personal assaults by mobs of waterside workers on individual volunteers. The operation of the Transport Workers Act has been followed by the longest period of continuous work on the waterfronts Australia has experienced for many years. That is the history of the position up to the present time.
I have received a large number of protests against the regulations which have been re-imposed by the Government, and I propose to read the list in order to show how widespread is the feeling that has been aroused by this action on its part. I remind the Senate that the regulations previously brought in by the Government were disallowed by the Senate. This, therefore,’ is a second attempt on the part of the Government to flout the power given under the Acts Interpretation Act to this chamber, as well as to the other branch of the Legislature, to disallow regulations. The protests I have received are from the following organizations : -
Commercial organizations : The Melbourne Woolbrokers Association, Australian Mines and Metals Association, Geelong Woolbrokers Association, the Victorian Meat Exporters Association, the Queensland Meat Export Companies, the New South Wales Meat Exporters Association.
Employers’ organization : The Central Council of Employers of Australia.
Employees’ organization : The Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia.
Primary producers’ organizations: The Graziers Association of Victoria ; the Graziers Association of Southern Riverina; Victorian Fruit Marketing Association ; the Pastoralists Association of Western Australia; Australian Wool-growers Council; the Graziers Association of New South Wales; the Producers Associations Central Council; the Tasmanian Farmers, Stock-owners and Orchardists Association ; the Queensland Cane-growers Council; Proserpine Mill Suppliers Association; Annual Farmers Convention, Victoria; Tamar Valley Co-operative Company Limited; Tweed Fruit-growers Company; the Victorian Fruit Council; the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania.
That is a list of organizations representing those whose actual living depends upon the transport work of Australia being carried on without interruption. I am not going to quote all of the protests I have received, but I submit a typical one from the secretary of the Queensland Meat Companies Committee, Brisbane, dated 16th March, 1931. It reads -
I confirm the telegram sent you reading: “ This committee endorses Victorian Meat Exporters letter to you of the 9th instant. Am writing you to-day.” At a meeting of representatives of the Queensland Moat Export Companies to-day the matter of the restoration of preference to the Waterside Workers Federation for employment on the waterfront was considered and was viewed with alarm in view of our experience when that federation had control in Queensland ports.
Prior to the strike against the award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court the Queensland works suffered losses through the arbitrary action of members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and there have been occasions when meat sent from the works for shipment has had to be returned to the works owing to trouble on the wharf. Apart from their own losses, it is common knowledge that the community losses must have been consider- able, owing to the delays, and, at times, the complete disorganization of sailing programmes.
Regularity of steamer sailings is of the utmost importance to the meat exporters, who enter into contracts or arrange to meet markets, and failure to fulfil arrangements renders them liable to cancellations and monetary losses and, further, undermines confidence in this country as a source of supply.
Anything that is likely to prejudice the even flow of exports from Australia should not be countenanced, and the granting of preference to any section of the waterside workers is such a matter. The members of my committee, therefore, sincerely hope that the regulations recently issued will be disallowed by the Senate.
I venture to say that, but for the succession of strikes, particularly in the transport industry in Australia, which inflicted great losses upon the community during years of prosperity, our economic position to-day would not be as serious as it is. I can illustrate that point by referring to the fact that recently the Argentine, in competition with Australia, was able to secure a large contract for the supply of meat to the British Army and Navy authorities. This letter from the representative of the meat companies indicates that the danger of interruption in the industry is always hanging over their heads, and that on that account Australian tenderers are at a disadvantage in competing with the Argentine. The Argentine meat exporters are in no such danger. In submitting tenders they do not, have to take into consideration an increase in price which may possibly be necessary in consequence of interrupted work. Knowing at the time when the tenders were prepared that there was a government in office which was supporting the claims of the waterside workers - a union which had inflicted such terrible loss on Australia - can we wonder that these people were handicapped and unable to compete with the Argentine?
In the Melbourne Argus of the 10th of March, 1931, the following paragraph appeared : -
Treatment of Britons
Appeal to British Government
A deputation of waterside workers who were formerly in the British Army and Navy called upon Mr. E. T. Crutchlcy, British Government representative for oversea settlement, to ask for his help to find employment.
The deputation, which was introduced by the president of the Imperial ex-Service Association (Colonel Glyn Chevens), said that a large number of the men represented by them were the fathers of Australian children. The Australian Government had refused them permission to work by their recent action in confining the labour on the wharves to Watersido Workers Federation workers, and younger members of the Australian Imperial Force. Of about 1,700 volunteer workers employed during and since the strike in 1928, about 400 were Imperial ex-service men, and all of these had lost their jobs.
The regulations, which purport to give preference to returned soldiers, as well as members of the organization, exclude ex-service men who served in the British Army or Navy during the war. The paragraph continues -
A large number of them were members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia.
The deputation made the four following definite complaints on which its members sought the intervention of the British Government:
The report then sets out in detail the complaints.
I have also a letter, dated 3rd March, from the secretary of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia, the registered office of which is at 17a Pitt-street, Sydney. The members of this union, which includes volunteers, are willing to obey the awards of the Arbitration Court, and work in, accordance with the laws of their country. That is their only crime. These are the men who are debarred from working by these regulations which the Government has introduced.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The secretary of the union writes -
Herewith please find particulars as far as at present can be obtained, of the misfortunes of our membership in the States of Queensland, Victoria, South Australia, and in the Port of Newcastle, in the State of New South Wales, the Port of Sydney not being affected.
I desire to point out for the information of honorable senators, that no preference of employment (as far as my knowledge extends) was granted to members of the Waterside Workers Federation by the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration-
As a matter of fact the court refused to grant preference.
They got. a lot of peace and quietness out. of it-
The court by its order of 22nd October, 1 928, deleted from existing awards which bound members of the federation, all reference to such preference, and again in a judgment given on 5th May, 1030, again refused such preference of employment to members of the federation. Then to overcome such refusal, resort has been made to obtaining such preference by a regulation made under the Transport Workers Act of 1.928-29, an emergency measure enacted to protect the then volunteers, and to ensure the carrying on of the necessary services of the Commonwealth. We trust that honorable senators will seriously consider this regulation when it comes before them.
The secretary of that organization submits the following particulars: -
The membership -including applicants for membership of this branch amounts to over 1,000 men, of whom only a portion are returned soldiers or sailors. In common with other ports the services of the Commonwealth were disorganized by the actions of the Waterside Workers Federation in the year 1928. Since that time a large portion of the interstate and overseas trade has been carried on by volunteer labour under award conditions by the men who are now, or (as financial considerations permit) qualifying for membership of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia. In common with all other branches it is bound by an award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and prior to the coming into force of this regulation were peacefully carrying on the work of the port’ allotted to them. Under the regulation now in force the majority of these members are debarred from employment on the wharves, and apart from such employment cannot obtain other employment by reason of having been employed as volunteers.
The effect of the regulation has deprived 750 men of the means of livelihood leaving about 250 returned soldiers eligible for employment on the waterfront. Some 42 men, who were unfinancial members of the Waterside Workers Federation, had made application to join the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia. The reason why these 42 men had so applied was because of the tyranny of the Brisbane branch of the federation. A number of these men offered to pay arrears of subscriptions to the federation secretary in Brisbane, but the offer was refused because the proffered payment did not include a fine of2s. 6d. a week for working whilst other members of the federation were not chosen for work. Locally this tine is referred to as a fine of 2s. 6d. a week for being a scab, and witnesses can verify, if necessary, the action of the federation branch secretary.
Six ex-members of the Waterside Workers Federation, who are now members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia, and are not now eligible for employment (unless returned soldiers). The Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia represents 100 per cent, of the volunteers throughout Queensland, who have carried on the necessary services of the Commonwealth during the hold-up by the federation in October 1928, and have so continued up to the coming into force of this regulation. The Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia membership through Queensland are bound by an award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in all respects similar to the award of the federation, and this regulation has disrupted the amicable relations hitherto existing between representative bodies of employers and employees, and caused chaos in place of peace and efficiency.
So far the Port of Newcastle is the only port affected by the regulation made under the Transport” Workers” Act of 1928-29. Out of 1 87 men who are members of the New South Wales branch employed in that port, some 53 have, left the occupation temporarily, owing to slackness of trade. Of the1 34 who remain on the waterfront, 23 are returned soldiers entitled to work under the regulation. The balance of 121 are now deprived of their means of livelihood, and are objected to wherever they apply for work. Until the coming into force of the regulation, these men had performed the work of the port peacefully, and were at all times willing to work with members ofthe federation, but the latter always demanded the whole of the work on any ship for which they were engaged, and would not work with other labour.
This is a reply to the interjection of Senator Daly - were 68 aliens comprising Italians, Greeks, Scandinavians, and Yugo Slavs, and the major portion of these have acquired naturalization.
Out of the total number of 500 members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union of Australia, working at Port Adelaide, there are only 68 aliens. I should like Senator Daly to submit a list showing the number of aliens in the Waterside Workers Federation. It is well known that when seamen, many of whom are foreigners, leave their ships they usually drift into work along the waterfront, and it is only reasonable to assume that a comparatively large number of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation are aliens. The letter proceeds -
At present only 50 returned soldiers are allowed to work on the waterfront by reason of this regulation, the others have been debarred from following the occupation, and the larger portion of them are on the dole.
That is to say they have to be supported by the community -
Some of these men succeeded in obtaining work away from the waterfront, possibly on relief work, but when recognized as having been volunteer wharf labourers were compelled to leave, and have now no chance of earning a living, and included in their number are ten members of the Waterside Workers Federation, who at the commencement of the trouble were leaders in repeated assaults on the volunteers, but afterwards worked peacefully with and amongst them.
The membership of the South Australian branch are bound by an award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration in all respects similar to the award that binds the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and have exactly the same responsibilities and penalities imposed upon them, but for the last two and a half years have carried on the work of the port efficiently and peacefully, and in marked contrast to the occurrences of the past.
While that is the state of affairs the Government has re-enacted these regulations, and is apparently prepared to plunge Australia into the chaos that has always come about whenever the Waterside Workers Federation have had control of the situation. Is it to be wondered, therefore, that I take the earliest opportunity to move for the repeal of these regulations? If the Government wishes to test the matter, I challenge it to bring forward legislation for the repeal of the Transport Workers Act in accordance with its election promise, and, if it is anxious to go to the country on the question, I am quite sure the Senate is willing to oblige it.
– At the beginning and end of his remarks the Leader of the Opposition referred to the means by which the Government has given effect to its policy of preference to unionists, and throughout his speech he urged the Government to adopt what he claimed to be a fairer method of achieving its purpose. Preference to unionists being a fundamental plank in the Government’s platform, Ministers make no apology whatever for taking every opportunity the laws of the country provide to give effect to it. Theregulations to which the Leader of the Opposition takes objection have stood the test of an appeal to the High Court. Whether they will stand the test of a vote in this chamber is quite another matter. They have been brought in with the definite object of having the work on the waterfront carried on without interruption. The work is now being carried out without interruption. It was not prior to their issue. The Government realized that it had no chance of adopting the course suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, that of introducing legislation for the repeal of the Transport Workers Act - the bill would not have passed this chamber - and it had, therefore, to adopt some other method of giving effect to its policy. The right honorable gentleman has challenged Ministers to test the feeling of the country upon the matter. At a later stage it may be necessary to do so. In fact, the people could readily be consulted upon quite a number of questions at the present juncture.
– In the meantime the Ministers remain in power.
– Quite so. Australia has been plunged into so much trouble recently, mostly, I believe, because of the legislation and administration of the previous Government, that I doubt if the party opposite would have much chance of being returned if we went to the country just now. These regulations were gazetted long before effect could be given to them. The ship-owners used all the means at their command to block the
Government from giving effect to its policy of preference to unionists. They took us through the courts and succeeded in getting a prohibition against us, but upon an appeal being made to the High Court, judgment in favour of the Government was given. As the result these regulations came into effect in the ports of Melbourne, Port Adelaide, Newcastle, Brisbane, Bundaberg, Bowen, Innisfail, Goondi, Mourilyan, Townsville, Lucinda and Port Douglas. The licences issued since then are fairly numerous, although not nearly as many men can now secure employment on the wharfs, because there is not” now the quantity of merchandise passing over the wharfs that there was two or three years ago. Whereas 10,880 licences were issued in the port of Melbourne in the year 1928-29 and 8,267 in the following year the number has fallen to 5,258 for the current year. Reports received from the licensing officers show that no trouble has occurred at the various ports in connexion with the issue of licences. No difficulty has been experienced in picking up sufficient competent labour for the working of the ships in the ports, and apparently no friction has occurred between members of the Waterside Workers Federation and the returned soldier volunteers, who between them share the work offering. Prior to the issue of these regulations, almost every morning the newspapers reported disturbances on the waterfront. Since their issue, however, there has not been a single paragraph referring to a disturbance of any sort on any wharf. The action of the Government has, therefore, been amply justified. In any case, we make no apology for what we have clone. For 30 years past preference to unionists has been a plank in the platform of labour, and labour has given effect to it at every opportunity, because it believes that it is in the best interests of the country to do so. It may be true that at times bodies of men do not give strict obedience to awards of industrial tribunals - I am not alleging anything to the contrary - but is it not a fact that in every walk of life men are continually breaking laws and courts have been set up to punish them? I am not claiming that the members of the Waterside Workers Federation acted wisely in the past, but they certainly acted to the best of their knowledge in seeking to preserve their own interests, although, in doing so, they were foolish enough to deprive themselves of work for many long months. There is apparently a great deal of sympathy with the British soldier and the foreigner, but little with the Australian, who may have made a mistake in doing something which amounted to disobeying an award of an industrial tribunal.
– Is the Minister certain that it was an Australian who made the mistake ?
– I think I am right in assuming that an overwhelming majority of the waterside workers of this country are Australian-born, or at any rate British. I know of course that there are some among them who are not British. They have probably secured naturalization papers in the manner suggested by Senator Pearce, and are, therefore, entitled to all the benefits conferred by the laws of this country.
The Prime Minister (Mr. Scullin) has declared in another place that if the issue of these regulations is to be nullified by action taken in this chamber there are other means open to the Government to give effect to its policy of preference to unionists. The Government is courageous enough to stand up to its policy, and I guarantee that it will do so.
– The remedy suggested in another place is most improper.
– The honorable senator would disagree with everything done by the present Government, but his attitude will not prevent us from standing steadfast by our own method of giving effect to a policy which we consider to be in the best interests of all concerned.
– The Government might find these regulations a boomerang.
– In the past many things which governments have done have had a boomerang-like effect, and they have been hurled from office. That happened at the last election when the people woke up and gave effect to- their wishes in no uncertain manner. I do not wish to occupy much of the time of the Senate upon this motion. I know that the Opposition has the numbers find can disallow the regulation if it desires. My purpose was to emphasize as briefly and emphatically as I could the fact that the Government stands behind the regulation because it believes that by so doing it is acting in the interest of the community generally.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS (South Australia) [11.46]. - I hope that these regulations will be disallowed, so that many hundreds of honest workers who are at present ostracized because of thb tyranny of their fellow men may be permitted to resume their work at the waterside. Just prior to my coming to Canberra, I had a conference with representative Port Adelaide business men, and I have since received a communication signed by the Mayor of Port Adelaide and the President of the Retail Traders Association of that area, on this subject. The business people desire that the Port Adelaide unionists shall be permitted to carry on.
– That is precisely what the regulations provide.
– I thank the honorable senator for his reminder. The business people of Port Adelaide do not care a hang who is put off so long as the wharf labourers spend all their money in their shops. Because of victimization -by the unionists, a number of waterside workers have had to leave Port Adelaide, and live in other localities. They dared not shop in the Port Adelaide area, nor did the shopkeepers dare to serve them. If one of these men were seen entering a shop, a unionist would follow him and threaten the shopkeeper that his place of business would be declared “ black “ if he made a sale to the man. Any government that countenances tyranny of that description deserves very little sympathy. I told those who waited upon me that I would certainly not sit in silence in the Senate, and allow 500 men to be thrown out of employment through the employment of such tactics. The letter that I received is dated 11th March, 1931, and reads as follows -
Sir, - We, thu undersigned, representing the whole of the business and civic interests of th’s city. respectfully ask that the members of your party will take into serious consideration the effect of disallowing the regulations giving preference to waterside workers will have upon Port Adelaide.
We would point out that shopkeepers are in a desperate plight being unable to pay their rates or meet other obligations.
The unfortunate men who have been put off as a result of victimization have also been unable to meet their obligations. As a result of the heartless and dictatorial methods of the unionists towards their fellow men, they cannot get work anywhere in Australia. The letter continues -
Port Adelaide is differently situated to most other ports, inasmuch as it is some miles from the capital, and is dependent upon its local trade; consequently the result of the dispute between the shipowners and the Waterside Workers Federation has been most disastrous, although the traders and property-owners noi being parties to it, have had no say in it. A return to the conditions of the past two years would be a calamity that, but a few of those who have been courageous enough to withstand it, will survive. It will also have a detrimental effect upon the morale of our citizens.
We consider that the commercial community of Port Adelaide who have suffered so severely in the past two and a half years, have a right to be heard on this all-important question. We, therefore, appeal to you to consider when the passing of this regulation comes before you, our case, with the sincere hope that our claims will be favorably received.
Should you require further information, ii can be supplied by Senator Newland, who was kind enough to receive a deputation on this mutter in Adelaide.
Arthur -3. W. Lewis, Mayor
I promised those men that I would state their case to the Senate, and allow honorable senators to decide the matter themselves.
Senator Sir JOHN NEWLANDS.The honorable senator’s knowledge of vue must be sadly deficient if he believes that I would refrain from stating both sides of the matter. Having enlightened the Senate on the subject, I shall vote as :r.y conscience dictates. Such an attitude is beyond the understanding of Senator O’Halloran I have another document here, a publication issued by the Australian Government Workers Association. It contains the names of 250 men who were employed at Port Adelaide, and who incurred the wrath of the unionists. The object is .to place those names on record with every union in Australia, so that the men may be blacklisted. This copy of the publication has been badly knocked about, but it is still readable. The only thing that I regret is that the man who edited it was not similarly knocked about. He, at one time, did receive very rough treatment because of his participation in a strike in which he had no business to meddle. A little while ago I approached a unionist at Port Adelaide with regard to this “black list”, and he said “Oh, those men are not so badly off; why do they not go into the country and seek work from the farmers “ ? Senator Barnes claimed that it was a fine thing that the Government should stand behind and find employment for the unionists of Australia. I believe that it is most disastrous that any government should assist in oppressing honest workers who have been ostracised and described as “blacklegs “ by their colleagues. Those men are not “blacklegs.” For years they worked honorably as unionists, and then their fellow workers decreed that they should work no more, mishandled them, insulted their wives and their children, and prevented them from making a living. That treatment has the approval of this Government.
I have here a report of the proceedings of a debate in the South Australian House of Assembly, which deals with the waterside workers’ disputes. A copy of the publication to which I have referred was exhibited in that assembly, and the person who introduced it was subjected toa rather severe handling forhis temerity.
The report reads -
Mr. JEFFRIES. Has the attention of the
Treasurer been drawn to a periodical issued by the Australian Government Workers Association, dated June 15, 1029, in which the following appears: -
Wharf workers who are not waterside workers. - There are many men working on the waterfront to-day who are not members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Further comment is unnecessary. Read the list carefully and you might find the name of some one you know. Keep the list for future reference.
Then follows a page of names. Will the Treasurer see that those voluntary workers are not subject to victimization in the future?
The TREASURER.- My notice has been called to the periodical and I was somewhat astounded to read the names of voluntary workers employed on the waterfront in South Australia appearing in it. It is the more unfortunate because I had them checked and they are correct.
Evidently, he was not in sympathy with the action. The debate continued as follows : -
Mr. Harvey. Are they ashamed of their names ?
The TREASURER.- That is not the point. It is very regrettable in view of the fact that negotiations have been proceeding for some time between both parties, with great hopes of an amicable settlement at a conference to be held in Melbourne next week. [ much appreciated the manner in which the waterside workers’ case was placed before me; particularly in view of the fact that they will have to work with’ these men. It is a great pity that these names have been published under the name of another union, which is led, I understand, by Mr.Nicass, who gives more trouble to the Government than any other men in South Australia.
The Honorable L. L. Hill. - Mr. Nieass’s name does not appear there; why should you bring him in ?
Mr. Nieass did not subscribe his name to the article, but I am aware that he is the editor of the publication. The report goes on -
The TREASURER. - I am pointing out that he is the general secretary of the Australian Government Workers Union.
The Honorable T. Butterfield. - And you are an advocate of the come-together movement?
The TREASURER. - Yes ; that is whyI resent the publication of these names, as it may do a. great deal of harm in preventing that settlement we were all hoping would be arrived at next week. It is a great pity, particularly in view of the work done by the representatives of the Waterside Workers Federation and the member for Port Adelaide, for some weeks past, in conjunction with myself. It is most regrettable that these names should have been published in this way. The Government are not going back in any way on their promise - nor have the waterside workers asked me to do so - that these mcn are not going to be victimized in the future.
Any one reading the report of the debate will be convinced that the present Government of South Australia sympathises with the views expressed by the publisher. Last week this matter was raised in another place. A newspaper report of a discussion there contains the following paragraph > -
In a heated reply Mr. Scullin said that the Government had been returned with a mandate from the people, and it was going to carry out its policy. The Government has come to the conclusion that it was time that tlie unionists of this country should have a right to live.
Apparently, unionists are the only persons in the community who are to have the right to live; others are to be denied that right.
They were starved while the previous Government gave preference to “ scabs.”
The men referred to as “ scabs “ merely did what any honest man would do; they found work available, and they did it honestly. Such statements, coming from a Prime Minister are, to say the least, inappropriate. I resent them. According to the report, the Prime Minister also said -
The unionists were not going to starve, because they had made one mistake, and the regulations would be tabled as soon as it, suited the Government.
Unfortunately, not one mistake, but many mistakes have been made by unionists at Port Adelaide. The report continues -
The vindictive policy of the ship-owners, backed by the Opposition, has been frustrated by an act passed by a former Attorney-General.
The former Attorney-General referred to did the right, thing when he allowed free men to obtain employment. These 500 men, whose names have been circulated throughout, are now branded. They will be prevented from obtaining employment of any kind in any place of Australia. That i3 wrong. The Government should find means of preventing the publication of these names.
The Prime Minister is reported to have said that if the regulations are disallowed, they will be gazetted again later, and that, in any case, there are other ways of doing what the Government desires. He should be given a chance to carry out his threat. If we give him that opportunity, we may learn something about how to control unionists, or non-unionists. I want both to be controlled; any person who breaks the law should be controlled. The first duty of every man is to obey the laws of his country.
– I am surprised that the Leader of the Opposition should ask the Senate to disallow a regulation promulgated by the Government. On many occasions I have heard the right honorable gentleman speak of the necessity for maintaining law and order. Indeed, he so frequently spoke in that way, that I was led to believe that he was a firm believer in the principle that law and order should be maintained at all costs. Yet, when a Government, of which he is not a member, brings in a regulation with the object of promoting peace and harmony on the waterfront, the right honorable gentleman is prepared to throw a spanner into the wheel of industry. When these regulations were first put into operation, their validity was challenged by the shipowners of Australia and the agents of ship-owners in other countries. They appealed to the High Court to disallow them, but the High Court ruled they were valid.
– Was the decision of the Court unanimous?
– That is not the question; it was the decision of the majority of the judges of the High Court. Mr. Justice McTiernan refused to adjudicate on the case because of action taken by him while a member of another place. With the exception of Mr. Justice McTiernan, the remainder of the judges held that the regulations were valid.
– We do not question their validity, but we say that they were not proper regulations for a government to make.
Other Opposition senators interjecting,
– I appeal to you, Mr. President, for protection from the hostile attacks of honorable senators opposite.
– The honorable senator would do well to disregard interjections.
– This trouble goes back to 1925 when a number of British seamen in Australian waters determined on a “ showdown “ as a protest against the action of British ship-owners in cutting down their wages and conditions of employment without notice. They were supported in the stand they took by the Australian trade union movement.
– I ask the honororable senator to connect his remarks with the motion before the chair.
– I shall do so, Mr. President. I was pointing out that the present trouble goes back to 1925. As the result of ‘the support given by Australian waterside workers to the British seamen on the occasion to which I have referred, they have been victimized ever since. Senator Sir John Newlands referred to “ basher gangs “.
– I did not mention “ basher gangs “.
– The honorable senator referred to the vicious treatment of voluntary workers by trade unionists; but he said nothing of the vicious treatment of waterside workers during the regime of the Bruce-Page Government. The history of these disputes on the waterfront dates, as I have said, from 1925.
– The Commonwealth Government has no jurisdiction over British seamen.
– The recent decision of the High Court made it clear that regulations promulgated by this Government under the Transport Workers Act are valid and binding on all who are employed on the waterfront. The right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), who was at one time a prominent trade unionist and took an active part in the movement for solidarity, this morning read, from communications received from the various chambers of commerce and other bodies, views that were absolutely foreign to me as a Labour senator. These organizations are now squealing because of the action taken by this Government to bring about peace on the waterfront. A good deal has been said about the position of Australian returned soldiers and Imperial ex-service men. We have been told that they are being victimized under these regulations. It may not be out of place if I remind the Senate that between 1914 and 1918 the Sydney branch of the New South Wales section of the Waterside Workers Federation sent over 2,000 of its members to serve in the Australian Imperial Force. A considerable number of those men lost their lives. Any one who has attended the eight hours demonstration in Sydney must have noticed emblazoned on the banner of that branch of the federation a memorial wreath honouring the memory of comrades who gave their lives for their country. Nothing has been said in this debate about returned soldier members of other branches of the Waterside Workers Federation, including the Tasmanian branch. Many of them have been obliged to accept the dole as the result of victimization under legislation introduced by the Bruce-Page Government. The shipping interests concerned believe that the time is opportune for a “ showdown “. Australia is in the trough of a depression unparalleled in its history, and as there is a surplus of labour in all the States the Leader of the Opposition challenges the” Government and invites it to appeal to the people on this issue. Is the right honorable gentleman prepared to face the people on the fundamental principles of the Lang finance plan ?
– Honorable senators opposite would not accept a challenge1 to meet the people on that issue, but realizing the desperate situation of the workers, they valiantly attack a few thousand casual workers who secure employment on the waterfront. In the present state of trade these men already find it hard enough to make a living. Peace in the industry is essential. That is what this Government is seeking. In the Sydney Sun recently there appeared the following cable message from London: -
“Must Obey” - Burdens Increased.
London, Friday. “ We must obey the law, but we sincerely regret the decision, as we feel that the Government’s attitude constitutes interference with the liberty of the subject, and will still further damage Australia’s external credit,” stated ship-owners interested, in a statement issued to-day concerning the High Court ruling upholding the Commonwealth Government’s decision giving preference to members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
This is the view of overseas ship-owners, who are. directly concerned in the working conditions on the Australian waterfront. Have they or their representatives been in conference with the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition? I venture to say that they have, and because of his former association with the Australian Labour Party he takes advantage of this opportunity to submit a motion which, he believes will, if carried, htimiliate the Government. Similar action was taken yesterday in connexion with ordinances relating to the Northern Territory. These pin-pricks are intended to irritate the workers. The situation on the waterfront in Australia is not satisfactory. Not so long ago the Premier of South Australia (Mr. Hill) instructed two plain-clothes police officers to make a special investigation into an allegation that a considerable number of aliens were working ships in Port Adelaide. They reported that on one particular vessel all the 60 men working four hatches were foreigners, and that 90 per cent, of these aliens could not speak the English language.
– Of course they do. lt cannot be contended that the Premier of South Australia desired in any way to embarrass the Nationalist majority in this chamber, because, at the moment, he is receiving a good deal of kudos in the press of Australia for certain, action which he has taken in another matter. If these regulations are disallowed, the consequences in Sydney will be serious. The carrying of the motion will be akin to throwing a spanner into the works of smooth-running machinery. From my personal knowledge of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation in Sydney, I know that they will not take this rebuff lying down. I, therefore, appeal to the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable senators opposite not to press the motion, and so cause hatred and distress on the waterfront at all Australian ports. The adoption of this motion will light the flame of discontent. As for Australian returned soldiers, I need hardly point out that, under the existing regulations, they have first preference, so their position is safeguarded. I am proud of the fact that the members of the Waterside Workers Federation are now working peacefully on the waterfront, and that they are no longer afraid to wear their union badges. They are as proud of their badges as I am of being a member of a trade union, or as honorable senators opposite are of being members of a chamber of manufactures or a chamber of commerce. The paragraph in the Sun newspaper continues -
Clearly the shipowners are greatly perturbed. They regard volunteers as a safeguard.
I challenge that statement. How can volunteer workers be a safeguard to the shipping or other interests in this community? Our primary and secondary industries have been built up by the strenuous efforts of the trade unionists in this country. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) suggested that a recent British Army meat contract was obtained by the Argentine owing to the inability of Australian meat producers to submit a satisfactory tender in consequence of the industrial conditions which prevail in this country. He cannot get away with that, as the industrial conditions in the Commonwealth have no bearing whatever on the matter. In support of that contention I refer honorable senators opposite to the remarks of Senator R. D. Elliott in moving a motion in the Senate some months ago with respect to Empire trade. The British Army meat contracts are obtained by the Argentine producers in consequence of the huge investment of British capital in that country.
– But Australia is a better customer to Great Britain than the Argentine.
– It cannot be denied that powerful British interests in the Argentine are responsible for Australia losing the business. Perhaps it would be news to honorable senators opposite to know that on the “ Boko “, at Buenos Aires, which resembles the dyke at Newcastle, there are thousands of half-caste South American Indians, who work under conditions which would not be tolerated by Australian trade unionists. The article from which I have been quoting continues -
They regard the volunteers as a safeguard, and say there has always been peace since they have been employed. The owners consider it very unjust having to employ only men whom the Government tells them to employ. One redeeming feature was that returned soldiers were included.
The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to make it appear that the Government was doing something derogatory to the interests of returned soldiers, but the shipowners have stated very definitely that they are not excluded. The Leader of the Opposition, who read a long list of the organizations opposed to the regulations,” did not mention the trade union organizations which support them. The right honorable gentleman was once a very active member of the carpenters’ organization, which was responsible for his entry into the counsels of the nation. Because he is now outside the trade union movement, and has become “ respectable “, he wishes to go even further than the carpenter of Nazareth, who believed in “ On earth peace, good will toward nien “. On behalf of vested interests the right honorable gentleman has thrown out a challenge to this Government in an endeavour to humiliate it. I appeal to honorable senators opposite not to act in this vicious way, but to be reasonable in their consideration of these regulations and allow the present peaceful conditions on the waterfront to continue.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [12.40]. - In replying to the excellent speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in support of the disallowance of these regulations, the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes) said that the course which the Government had adopted was in accordance with the
Labour party’s platform of preference to unionists. I remind the Minister that by pursuing its present policy the Government is displacing the members of a trade union organization registered under the Arbitration Court in order to. provide work for members of the Transport “Workers Federation who, on numerous occasions, have flouted the awards of the Arbitration Court. I have always been under the impression that the Minister and those honorable senators who are supporting him believe in the Arbitration Court, and the observance of its awards. Honorable senators opposite are aware the whole trouble on the waterfront arose in consequence of the refusal of the members of the federation to work under an award of the court. The Government is now attempting to over-ride that award by introducing regulations which the Leader of the Opposition has moved to disallow. Although the Government contends that it believes in preference to unionists, its action in this instance has been responsible for displacing members of a registered trades union organization.
– What unionists are being displaced ?
– The members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union.
– -That is a bogus affair.
– It is not ; it is a registered organization under the Arbitration Act and its members have been working peacefully under mi award of the court. It is not such a bogus organization as that which the honorable senator tried to establish in Queensland in opposition to the Australian Workers Union. I direct the attention of the Minister to the manner in which these regulations were promulgated. Immediately after Parliament adjourned for the Christmas vacation the Government brought these regulations into operation so that a motion for their disallowance could not be moved until Parliament re-assembled. In that way it was flouting the legislature, which, under the Acts Interpretation Act, is given power to disallow regulations. Two or three years ago when the members of the Waterside Workers Federation were almost daily flouting an award of the court, honorable senators opposite did not attempt to influence them to observe the law. They actually acquiesced in the action which they then took.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
-Senator Barnes has said that, since these regulations have been promulgated, there has been absolute peace on the waterfront, and that everything is proceeding satisfactorily. That may be the case in Victoria, but it is certainly not so in Queensland, as can be seen from the following letter I have received from the secretary to the Bowen Essential Services Association : -
Since the publication of the new regulation on the waterfront the extreme element have been very active locally, and up to all their old tricks, such as ordering people to dismiss hands that they have declared “ black,” &c, &c.
One of the free men (a returned soldier) was set upon by four or five of these chaps and badly knocked about late on the night of Saturday, 21st February. He is still quite ill, having two ribs broken and possibly more serious injuries from kicking. Twomen come before the Police Magistrate on Friday next (Oth), and we hope for exemplary punishment. The returned soldiers of the district are very incensed about the whole business, and had a record meeting last week at which great indignation was expressed, and if there is a repetition of these affairs, I fancy they will not take it lying down.
One of these offenders is also up on a charge of assaulting another free man, so you can see the atmosphere was not pleasant.
The watersiders profess great disgust at these happenings realizing that their case does not improve under such circumstances, but I have good reason to believe that secretly a good proportion of them are jubilant about it.
Prior to the enactment of the Waterside Workers Act the conditions at the port of Bowen were such that the mayor convened a meeting of citizens and an essential service association was formed to ensure the handling of merchandise on the waterfront. At that time the members of the Waterside Workers Federation in Bowen were absolutely a law unto themselves. They were dictating the policy in regard to the handling of goods on the waterfront. They had taken all control out of the hands of those who were authorized to control operations. They were absolutely defying the authorities. According to Senator Dunn conditions are now peaceful on the waterfront, but as shown by this letter, the members of the federation are up to all their old tricks again. In Rockhampton a wharf superintendent was assaulted by members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and the offenders had to be taken before the court. Now these people find themselves protected by the Government which knows they are again offending against the law.
I have no desire to traverse the history of the happenings which made it necessary to enact a Transport Workers Act, as this was done by Senator Sir George Pearce, but no other piece of legislation has justified its enactment more than has this particular law. It has brought relief to the maritime industries. For three or four years there had been continuous trouble on the waterfront all over Australia, and more particularly in Queensland, because that State has a greater number of outports. The members of the Waterside Workers Federation were preventing the loading of ships, and making it impossible for ship-owners to run their vessels according to schedule. It was not a case of one or two isolated offences against an award of a court; there was a continuous series of such offences. There was likewise a continuous series of harassing tactics which made it impossible for the shipping companies to carry on their lawful business, or for producers to get their produce to market. There was considerable interference with the comfort of the seaborne travelling public. A great change was brought about when the Transport Workers Act was passed. Since then there has been peace on the waterfront, with a marked increase in the efficiency of the work performed. Although the men were new to the work, some classes of cargo were handled at the outset more expeditiously by the volunteers than by the federation men, but other cargo, such as frozen meat, was not handled quite up to the previous rate. The volunteers, however, quickly became accustomed to their work, and soon there was an improvement in all classes of cargo. It is considered that the increased efficiency is equal to 30 per cent, on the average. This has had the effect of reducing the cost of handling the cargo and of making it possible for the ships to get to sea quicker, and run according to schedule. There has not been the slightest industrial trouble on the waterfront, nor even a hint at a. stoppage of work. Contrast such a state of affairs with the conditions which existed previously when members of the federation were not only harassing employers, but also holding up industry by squabbles among themselves. Each branch of the federation was a law unto itself, imposing its own domestic rules in defiance of the Arbitration Court, indulging in a policy of go-slow and declaring cargo and individuals black. As a matter of fact, in Cairns, the whole of the work of the port was, at one time, held up while the Dillon and the Brophy sections had a private fight for supremacy.
– The honorable senator will not deny that we have forgiven Germany. Why cannot we forgive the waterside workers?
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.They have shown by their actions since these regulations have been promulgated that they are up to their old tactics again. But if we forgive the members of the federation, what are we going to do for the volunteers who came to the assistance of the country when the Waterside Workers Federation, not in isolated instances, but as a continuous policy, was doing all it could to harass the shipowners and merchants ? When federation men were employed, vigilance officers of the union interfered with the authority of those who were in charge of the work on the waterfront. There were continual hold-ups and sectional disputes, which delayed vessels. The smooth working and increased efficiency which have been evident during the past two and a half years have enabled the stevedoring contractors to reduce their stevedoring charges against the ship-owners. Pillaging has practically disappeared. In 1927 the losses due to pillaging were estimated at £4,572 6s. 10d., and those due to short landings, £5,541 2s., a total of £10,113 Ss. lOd. In 1930 the losses due to pillaging were estimated at £5S9 18s. 9d., and those due to short landings, £189 16s. 3d., a total of £779 15s., compared with £10,113 8s. lOd. only three years earlier. Admittedly the volume of cargo handled last year was not equal to that which was handled in 1927, but if the cargo was reduced by half, and the figures relating to pillaging and short landings were also reduced by half, there would still be a marked difference between the amount pillaged prior to the enactment of the Transport Workers Act and the amount pillaged since. The volunteers were an orderly lot, and well behaved. Drunkenness was practically non-existent among them, and they invariably turned up to work after allotment of jobs, which frequently did not happen when members of the federation had the work. There has been a better spirit prevailing between the employers and employees, and altogether the work has been done more efficiently. I have not the slightest hesitation in voting for the disallowance of these regulations, because by their disallowance work can be given to men who desire to work, and are willing to give a fair day’s work for the reward they get. The transport of goods will be facilitated and work on the waterfront will proceed peacefully and continuously.
.- I support the motion. In his concluding words Senator Dunn made some reference to Tasmania. I have no desire to approach the subject solely from the viewpoint of the State which I assist in representing, but I think that it behoves me to review briefly the terrible conditions into which Tasmania was brought by industrial disturbances on the waterfront prior to the Transport Workers Act. Each year for six or seven years, just when the tourist traffic from the mainland was beginning, and from which the people of the State reasonably expected to receive an addition to their revenue, there was always a disturbance on the waterfront which completely isolated the State. The losses suffered by Tasmania were enormous. It is hard to compute them. Consequently, it is reasonable for me to assist the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in his desire to disallow these regulations. Reference has been made to the manner in which they have been brought forward and put into effect. I cannot find words strong enough to express my disgust at the action of the Government in refraining from tabling these regulations before Parliament adjourned in December last, so that Parliament would have an opportunity to discuss them. That action, which was inexcusable, was evidently inspired by a desire to put into operation regulations which were entirely opposed to the act under which they were framed, for a period at all events, until Parliament had an opportunity to re-assemble. I shall not labour that point any longer, but will refer to the terms of one of these regulations. It stipulates definitely that priority shall be given to those of such workers available for employment, engagement, or picking-up at those ports, who are members of the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia, an organization which is bound by an existing award of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration applicable to such employment : provided that nothing in this regulation shall operate to prevent the employment, engagement, or picking-up of returned soldiers or returned sailors, as defined in section 81a of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act 1914-30.
The provisions of the regulations are very clear and explicit, and have been drafted specifically to exclude all nonunionists from work on the waterfront of Australia, with the exception of the returned soldiers and sailors mentioned.
For the last two and a half years, during the operation of the Transport Workers Act there has been no disturbance on our waterfront. Trade and commerce between the States have been carried on without hindrance, and a condition of industrial peace and continuity of work has prevailed which was previously unknown. Often, when considering measures, we have conjectured as to how they would operate when they became law. Very frequently our hopes have been disappointed. But never has an act been placed upon our statute-book which has been so satisfactory in its application as the Transport Workers Act. To-day the supporters of the Government are urging us to vote against the motion for the disallowance of these regulations. If the motion were defeated, and the regulations became law, there would be a retrogression to the strife and bitterness that previously prevailed on the Australian waterfront. The significant factor is that if the regulations become law, no non-unionist watersider will have an opportunity to obtain employment.
I listened to the speech of Senator Dunn very attentively. The honorable senator, who is honest in his opinions, believes that if a man is noi a unionist he should receive no consideration from the Government or from the community generally. I know a good deal about the activities and ramifications of unionism in Australia, and I say, without fear of contradiction, that the Trades Hall in New South Wales, which State the honorable senator represents in this Senate, is guilty of greater persecution to the square inch of members of its unions than is any other State to the square foot.
– I have already produced conclusive proof in the Senate to show that in recent years the unionists of New South Wales have been persecuted by their officials to such an extent that a large number of them do not dare to give of their best when following their occupations. I can prove that in Sydney during the past three years hundreds of reputable working men, who must be unionists in order to obtain work, have been severely penalized by heavy fines for daring to give an honest day’s work for a fair rate of pay.
– That is simply hot air.
– I have already quoted as one authority a journal which emanates from the Trades Hall, Goulburnstreet, Sydney.
– Members of the Government know that it is true.
– They do. I produced a journal in this chamber, and ‘ can do so again, which conclusively proves my contention. It bore the name of the “New South Wales Furnishing Worker “, and gleefully recorded the fact that a worker had been fined £10 for doing a job in If instead of 2 hours. Reference was made to his return to Melbourne, thi’ inference being, “ Thank God, we have got rid of a man who is prepared to do a fair day’s work.”
– The honorable senator has never worked.
– Had Senator Dunn worked as I have done, he would not have survived the ordeal. I know the spirit of the majority of the workers of Australia. I know that they are prepared to give a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. I know, too, that the principle of preference to unionists has been prostituted in Australia, that it has been used to prevent men from giving of their best to their employers. My warmth against the reintroduction of regulations such as this will, therefore, be understood.
– It should not prevent the honorable senator from talking commonsense.
– I should be very sorry to rely upon the judgment of the honorable senator as to what constitutes common-sense. I could refer to an act of his in this chamber which proves anything rather than that he is over-endowed with that quality.
– What is going to happen to the members of Senator Rae’s new union ? Will they be victimized ?
– I am referring specifically to the utterances of Senator Dunn in this debate. I have not yet heard Senator Rae speak on the subject. So long as I have the honour to be a representative of the people in this chamber
– That will not be long.
– It has already been for a very long time. If, when Senator Dunn is retired from the representation of the people in this Senate, he can look back on as lengthy a term as I have served, he will have nothing to be ashamed of. While I represent the people I shall never be a party to the exclusion from work of any Australian who prefers to retain his freedom, and be a true Britisher in the best sense of the term, in preference to becoming a bondslave. As I have previously said the Commonwealth owes a very great debt to the volunteers, who have been instrumental in maintaining in operation our essential services. Those men undertook the work at great personal risk, and carried it out very successfully indeed. Are we at this juncture going to listen to suggestions that the men who rescued the nation from chaos shall be cast aside like a dirty rag; to assist the Government to hamstring the workers of Australia, and make then mere bond-slaves? No. I shall always stand strongly for granting opportunity and freedom to any mau provideo! that he lives decently, as an honest worker, and is prepared to give of his best.
– The honorable senator himself does not possess liberty; he belongs to the Nationalist party, and must abide by its decisions.
– Senator Hoare is stating something that is absolutely incorrect. I forgive him, as he speaks out of ignorance of the facts. I join with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) in his protest against these regulations. I believe that when the result of this debate is made known to the people of Australia there will be a general feeling of relief, which will continue while this party is in opposition to preserve the best interests of the community.
– Quite a great deal might be said on this subject. Certainly some things have already been said that do not appear to be very relevant to the issue. I am not going to make any appeal to the Opposition to vote differently from the way which they have already determined upon. I know that such an appeal would be futile, and shall not waste any time in making it.
Perhaps it is unnecessary for me to say that I am in favour of these regulations. I am hopeful that the Government will have sufficient backbone to continue to reenact them, and’ that, as it has not at present the necessary numerical strength in this chamber, it will by other means effect the purpose of the regulations. It is my policy to get a thing one way, if I cannot get it by another.
All previous speakers ignored the fact that the present social system seems to have ordained that some considerable number of men must be out of employment. There is, therefore, conflict between those who are unionists and those who choose to serve the interests of their employers. If we had a decent social system there would be sufficient work for all, and over-work for none. There would then be no conflict between unionists and “ blacklegs “. Under the present system, class struggle is inevitable. Those workers who do not remain true to their own< class must be boycotted; and to the best of our ability those of us who are unionists will boycott them.
A great deal has been said about the waterside workers having flouted arbitration awards. I say, unhesitatingly, that the only way the workers have ever got anything approaching a decent deal from the Arbitration Court has been either by direct action or the threat of direct action.
– Some unionists have obtained fair awards from the Arbitration Court, although they have not attempted to strike. That was the case with the shop assistants.
– The shop assistants could go on strike if they had sufficient courage to do so. I repeat that no section of the working class has received anything like the same treatment from the court that would have been granted had it made a more determined stand. Time after time the coal-miners have broken awards of the court; when they could not get a fair deal in any other way they resorted to direct action. It will be a sorry day for the workers of Australia when they relinquish their right to strike as a protest against injustice. Those who talk about the liberty of the subject and similar bunkum must agree that that right strikes at the very essence of freedom. The only weapon which the worker has is his refusal to accept conditions which appear to him to be intolerable.
– The honorable senator is speaking in rather general terms. I ask him to connect his remarks with the motion before the chair.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President; but I thought that as the subject of preference to unionists in one industry had been referred to by other speakers, I also could refer to it. Senator Payne referred to the Trades Hall in Sydney and the manner in which unionists are said to be persecuted hy that institution. A properly-managed union - one in which the rank and file have the final voice in controlling its internal conditions - has a perfect right to limit the output of its members in order to conserve their interests. Why do honorable senators, who defend the employers’ point of view, ignore the fact that employers restrict production whenever it suits them to do so ?
– How does the honorable senator know that they do that? It is only an assumption.
– That employers restrict production in order to maintain high prices is admitted even in the press which the honorable senator so respects. I maintain that employees have as much right to restrict production by decreasing their output as any body of capitalists has to restrict the production of the commodities in which they deal. The honorable senator who contradicts my statement, and says it is pure assumption, has only to read recent newspapers to see where plantation owners decided to restrict the output of rubber.
– I must ask the honorable senator to adhere to the motion before the chair, which is for the disallowance of certain regulations.
– I was replying to an interjection that there wa3 no instance of production having been restricted by employers. If a union at times decides t© restrict production by instructing its members to do less work than formerly-
– Does the honorable senator refer to the union covered by the regulation under discussion?
– That or any other union. It has been contended by honorable senators opposite that the union referred to in these regulations has acted tyrannically by forcing its members to restrict the output of their labour. Surely I am in order in pointing out that what has been denounced when done by the workers is habitually practised by employers ! . I do not blame the employers, because, under the chaotic system of capitalism, it is sometimes necessary to 2’estrict production in order to obtain a decent price for a commodity. Honorable senators cannot deny that that is frequently done. All I say is that, if the capitalists have that right, the workers should have it also. Anyhow, they will claim it whenever they get the chance. I remind honorable senators that the work performed by the waterside workers is arduous, and entails considerable risk. Surely they will not deny that those best fitted to perform work of that nature are amongst the staunchest members of the union! I also point out that these regulations do not deprive non-union returned soldiers of their preference.
– The regulations are not operating in that way at Port Adelaide. The returned soldiers there have been cut out deliberately by administrative acts.
– They have not been cut out by anything contained in these regulations. What has been done by administrative acts has been done with the sanction of the employers, who have their remedy. I do not know the local conditions at Port Adelaide; but I do know that, generally speaking, the regulations, while in force, had no evil effect. On the contrary, they produced good results.
Senator Reid interjecting,
SenatorRAE. - I shall not reply to interjections by ex-Labourites, because I know that they are the most venomous critics of the Labour party. Senator Reid and others who have left the Labour party will take advantage of every opportunity to attack anything which might be of the slightest benefit to those whom they once deserted.
– The honorable senator has recently attacked the Australian Workers Union in Queensland.
– The Labour party says that Senator Rae is himself an exLabourite.
– If I were to attempt to reply to Senator Greene’s interjection I should, no doubt, be called to order. Honorable senators know that on a motion to disallow these regulations I should not be permitted to defend my actions in Queensland and, therefore, they use this cowardly means of attacking me. Were I permitted to do so, I should be only too happy to defend my action in Queensland. I repeat that the most vicious men in attacking anything which might benefit the workers are those who once professed to serve the Labour party, but have deserted the cause.
– Will the honorable senator now return to the subject before the Senate?
– I shall do so, Mr. President ; but I am sure that you absolve me from any breach of the rules in replying to these interjections from the Opposition.
– It is not necessary to reply to them.
– That is true, Mr. President, because no one, excepting honorable senators opposite, believes what they say.
What are the grounds on which honorable senators opposite seek to disallow these regulations? What is there in them that inflicts any injustice on any one? Through long years of distress and struggle, unionists have built up better conditions for the workers, which, unfortunately, have been whittled away of late. Nevertheless, the condition of the workers to-day is infinitely better than it would have been had the so-called volunteers, whom I describe as “ scabs “, had their way.
– What about the Australian Workers Union, with which body the honorable senator was in conflict in Queensland ?
– Order ! I ask honorable senators not to make interjections which may provoke disorder. Particularly do I ask them not to make interjections which have nothing to do with the subject under discussion.
– The conditions which unionists have gained by long years of agitation and struggle would be taken from them by honorable senators opposite if they had thb power to do so. They are out to destroy the trade union organization, and to reduce industry to the chaotic state which existed before trade unionism became a force in the land. I remind them that there has not been a man of any eminence in the public life of Great Britain, or any writer of repute in that country, during the last half century, who has not testified to the great value of unionism in promoting the material, moral and social welfare of those who embrace it. The motion before us is a deliberate attack on unionism in that it aims at preventing unionists from obtaining employment. Honorable senators who object to preference to unionists are well aware that where that principle does not operate, preference is always given to non-unionists in order to destroy unionism. A desire to destroy unionism underlies the mean action of honorable senators opposite in moving for the disallowance of these regulations. Wherever strong unionism exists we find more competent and skilful workers in industry , than where the workers are not organized.
We find also that the most active unionists are among the most intelligent persons in the community.
– Is that why the honorable senator is opposed to the Australian Workers Union?
SenatorRAE. - Senator Greene is now doing what the President reproved Senator Reid for doing. I challenge any honorable senator to debate with me on the public platform my action with regard to the Australian Workers Union. These frequent interjections are a contemptible way of trying to bring me into conflict with the Chair.
– I suggest that the honorable senator use the word “irregular” in preference to “mean” and “ contemptible “.
– I accept your suggestion, Mr. President, but it does not express adequately what I mean. I challenge any honorable senator opposite to prove that the interests of the community will be served by the disallowance of these regulations. I assert, on the other hand, that it is not only the right, but also the positive duty, of the Government to circumvent this reactionary Senate, if it can devise the means to do so. If the majority in this chamber is determined to disallow the regulations, the Government will be justified in using every effort to re-enact them and put members of this chamber to the trouble of using all the time-worn and mouldy arguments to support, another motion of disallowance. Although the waterside workers, individually, may have faults, I think that, on the whole, they deserve the admiration and esteem of the people of Australia for the manner in which they have built up their organization in the face of extraordinary difficulties. I do not suggest that unionists are a perfect body of men. Human nature is the same in all of us. I have known unionists to do things of which I did not approve, but whenever I had an opportunity I entered my strongest protest against them. For instance, I denounced their action in closing their books so as to secure for their members a monopoly of work offering on the waterfront. I am totally opposed to every form of monopoly. In the present difficult state of society we cannot expect any section of the people to reach the pinnacle of perfection ; but I have no hesitation in saying that, on the whole, the waterside workers deserve every credit for what they have done to raise the standard of the working classes in this country. Opposition to that organization is founded on class hatred. I may be told that, by my remarks this afternoon, I am encouraging class hatred in the community. I am doing nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator is making a pretty good effort, at all events.
– There is a vital distinction between advocating a definite stand in the class struggle and preaching class hatred. Honorable senators opposite choose to ignore it. As long as men are employed, on the waterfront or anywhere else, efforts will be made by their employers to beat down their conditions to the lowest level possible. On the other hand, wherever they may be working, employees will do all they can to get the greatest possible return for the least labour. This is the essence of the class struggle which prevails everywhere. In saying this I am not preaching class hatred. I am merely directing attention to the duty which devolves upon all trade unionists to raise and maintain their status and standard of living in the community.
Motion (by Senator FOLL) put -
That the Senate do now divide.
The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill.)
Majority . . 12
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. W.
Majority . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– I move -
That the hill be now read a second time.
With the object of augmenting the national revenue, a general increase in the rates of postage was introduced on the 4th August, 1930, and under the schedule of rates adopted, the postage on printed matter was increased from1d. per 4 oz. to1d. per 2 oz. The term “ Printed Matter “ covers printed papers, circulars, and catalogues, and, in addition, books, periodicals and newspapers which are not eligible for transmission at the lower rates of postage prescribed for matter of the third class, which comprises concessionary articles such as newspapers, periodicals- and books printed in Australia and registered at a general post office. While the increase in the rate of postage on printed matter did not affect the amount to be paid for the transmission of circulars and printed papers not exceeding 2 oz. in weight, the increase was considerable in regard to the heavier weighted articles, such as catalogues and books. Continued representations have been made to the Government by employer and employee organizations in the printing trade, and by firms and corporations issuing large quantities of advertising matter in the form of catalogues, &c, that the increase in postage has very seriously affected the output of printed matter. In addition, strong protests against this increase in rates have been received from public and other libraries, correspondence schools, government and private, and from people engaged in the publication and distribution of books.
While it is impracticable to say what proportion of the loss of postal traffic has arisen from the general depression, and what may be attributed to higher postal charges, the fact remains that in the last few months there has been a considerable reduction in the volume of postings of catalogues, price-lists, and books. It is known that many large business houses have adopted a form of advertising in newspapers which, in a measure, replaces the price catalogues formerly issued by them; also, that many of the firms which have continued the issue of catalogues have reduced the size of the publications so as to bring them within 2 oz. in weight, and thus avoid the payment of increased postage.
Having regard to all the circumstances the Government has reached the conclusion that the additional revenue which may have been derived from the increase of rates of postage on printed matter is not sufficient to justify its retention, especially in view of its adverse influence on business activities, and has, therefore, decided to introduce this bill, which is designed to restore the previous rate of postage on printed matter. It is not proposed to make any change in other rates of postage, as the financial situation precludes such a step being taken at present.
The decline in postal revenue is to some extent due to the higher rates imposed some months ago, and also to the depression which is affecting trade generally. This measure, which has been introduced with the object of removing some of the disadvantages which now exist will, I am sure, meet with the support of honorable senators.
– The introduction of this bill justifies the action taken by some honorable senators when the measure which it is to amend was before the Senate some time ago. That measure increased the rates of postage on various kinds of mail matter. Some honorable members on this side of the chamber contended that the increased rates on catalogues then proposed would have a detrimental effect upon trade, and predicted that it would not be long before there would be a marked decline in postal revenue in consequence of the additional imposts. We strongly urged the Government to reconsider its decision with respect to business catalogues, but a deaf ear was turned to our requests. We are not gloating over what we may term a victory, but deplore the fact that the revenue has suffered in consequence of an unnecessary amendment of the law. I am glad to find that the old rates are to be restored.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
– I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
Honorable senators will remember that last year the excise duty on. spirit for the fortification of wine was increased by 5s. per proof gallon of spirit, and that amounts equal to the additional duty so received are to be paid monthly into the trust account established under the Wine Export BountyAct to meet the payments of bounty. The excise duty imposed is 5s. per proof gallon on spirit, but the relevant provision in the act is worded “ five shillings upon every gallon of spirit.” It is obvious that every proof gallon of spirit is intended to be referred to, and it is considered desirable, therefore, to insert the word “ proof “ before the word “gallon.” The other amendment proposed in the bill is also of a machinery nature. When concentrated must is used in the production of fortified wine, loss fortifying spirit is required to bring the wine to the required proof standard. Accordingly, the trust account is receiving a smaller amount than it should receive - the loss being an amount equal to the duty on the spirit not used when concentrated must is used. It is proposed to meet this position by the imposition of an excise duty on concentrated must, which has been done, and by allocating to the trust fund an amount equal to a proportion of the duty so paid. The proportion fixed in the bill, fiveelevenths, is approximately the same proportion as is payable to the trust fund in respect of the duty on fortifying spirit. As the principle that the bounty shall be paid from the excise duty has been approved by the Senate, I trust that the bill will have a speedy passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
The following paper was presented: -
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1931,Nos. 19 and 23.
Statement by the Treasurer.
.- I move-
That the Senate do now adjourn.
In moving this motion-
– The motion has not yet been seconded.
– I second the motion.
– The Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Barnes) will have an opportunity to reply to any matter that may be raised on the motion.
– On the motion for the adjournment of the Senate last night I referred to answers which had been given by the Leader of the Government in Senate (Senator Barnes) to certain questions I had submitted. I promised the Minister that I would supply him with a copy of my remarks to-day so that he could, if he so desired, make a statement on behalf of the Treasurer on the points which I then raised. Has the Minister any statement to make on the matter!
– The information with which I have been supplied covers, I think, the points raised last night by Senator Payne and Senator Duncan. The statement made by the Treasurer in Brisbane was the same as that made by him on 12th of March in Parliament during the want of confidence debate and was quite correct. During the course of his speech on 12th March, the Treasurer stated that in 1927 Australian Governments floated overseas eleven loans totalling £69,700,000. In 1928, five overseas loans were raised totalling £30,500,000, and in 1929, up to the time that Dr. Earle Page went out of office, three overseas loans aggregating £25,400,000 wore floated by Australian Governments. The Treasurer stated that it would thus be seen that in that period of a little under three years, Australian Governments, of which the right honorable member for Cowper was the chief financial adviser, floated overseas £125,600,000, an average of £6,600,000 every two months. It mattered little that £36,000,000 of that amount was conversion money, the remainder being new money for expenditure in Australia. Dr. Earle Page had spoken about the extravagance of the Labour Government and its reckless unwisdom in regard to finance, yet he was the financial guide to Australian Governments that raised over £125,000,000 in loans within three years, and, as a consequence, exhausted the London market for Australian borrowing.
The Treasurer did not say that the loans referred to were raised for Commonwealth purposes, but that they were for the Australian Governments generally.
– That was the inference.
– On a question of privilege
– The Minister has replied. No question of privilege cannot raise a question of privilege at this stage.
– The point that I wish to raise, as a matter of privilege, is that the Leader of the Senate ‘ (Senator Barnes) in moving the adjournment was about to make the statement he has just made when you, Mr. President, intervened, with the result that honorable senators are now prevented from contradicting the absolutely misleading figures which have been put into the Minister’s mouth. The Treasurer endeavoured to make it appear that the money was raised for Commonwealth purposes whereas, as a matter of fact, the bulk of it- -
-The honorable senator is out of order in discussing the matter now that the mover of the motion has replied. No question of privilege, can be raised at this stage. The honorable senator may raise it at the next sitting.
– May I discuss the subject as a question of privilege?
– No. As a matter of fact I do not think a question of privilege is involved. With regard to the ruling I gave in the first instance, I hold that the question “ that the House do now adjourn “ must be put before discussion can ensue. The Leader of the Senate having moved that motion, without debate, and having sat down, debate may ensue which need not be relevant - this I look upon as an invitation to irrelevancy - and the Leader of the Senate has the right of reply to questions that have been raised during the discussion. But my reading of the Standing Orders is that the Minister may not engage’ in any discussion in submitting the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
– I wish to point out-
– Does the honorable senator wish to disagree with my ruling? If so, he must take the appropriate action.
– I do not wish to do that.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 3.35 p.m-
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 20 March 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310320_senate_12_128/>.