12th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
correspondence with commonwealth Bank. .
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON.Is the Leader of the Senate yet in a position to lay on the table the correspondence between the Government and the Commonwealth Bank regarding the non-payment of the guaranteed price of 3s. f.o.b. for wheat, which correspondence the Senate has decided should be laid on the table?
– No reply has yet been received from the Commonwealth Bank.
– I have received a letter from Mrs. H. E. Elliott and family thanking honorable senators for their expression of sympathy in their recent bereavement.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 3 of 1931 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia; Australian Postal Electricians Union; Australian Workers Union; Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks Union; Commonwealth Legal Professional Officers Association ; Commonwealth Medical Officers Association; Commonwealth Postmasters Association ; Commonwealth Public Service Artisans Association; Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association; Commonwealth Telegraph, Traffic and Supervisory Officers Association; Commonwealth Telephone Officers Association ; Commonwealth Temporary Clerks Association ; Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia; Fourth Division Officers Association of the Trade and Customs Department; Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union; Line Inspectors Association, Commonwealth of Australia; Meat Inspectors Association, Commonwealth Public Service ; Postal
Overseers Union of Australia; PostmasterGenerals Department StateHeads of Branches Association: and Professional Officers Association, Commonwealth Public Service.
No. 4 of 1931 - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers Federation of Australia.
No. 5 of 1931 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers Union and Commonwealth Naval Storehousemen’s Association.
No. 6 of 1931 - Commonwealth PublicService Clerical Association.
– On the 15th May,. 1931, Senator Dunn addressed to the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral the following questions, upon notice : -
I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator as follows: -
Assistance fob Gold Prospecting.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government set aside the sum of £20,000 for exclusive use in goldprospecting in and about the Federal Territory in order to assist the unemployed; such funds, if made available, to be used by the Department of Home Affairs at once?
– The Government has already provided for the payment of £1, Australian currency, as bounty on each ounce of fine gold produced in excess of the average number of fine ounces of gold produced annually during the years 1928, 1929 and 1930.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What was the percentage of strength to establishment, by battalions, in the Commonwealth Militia Forces, as at 31st March, 1931?
– The information is being obtained, and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as soon as possible.
Motion (by Senator Dooley) agreed to-
That Senator Barnes bo discharged from attendance as a member of the House Committee, and that Senator Daly be appointed in his stead.
Motion (by Senator Barnes) agreed to-
That Senator Thompson be appointed to fill the vacancy now existing on the House Committee.
Notice of motion (by Senator Barnes ) -by leave - withdrawn -
That a standing committee on regulations and ordinances be appointed, to consist of Senators Barnes, Sir Hal Colebatch, Daly, Dooley, R. D. Elliott, O’Halloran and Payne.
Order of the day read and discharged for the resumption of the debate from the 16th April (vide page 904) on the following motion by Senator Pearce -
That in order to assist Australia to redress the overseas trade balance the Senate is of opinion that the Government should give consideration to the formulation of proposals by which the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth could be encouraged to export manufactured goods to overseas markets.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [3.9]. - I move -
That Statutory Rules 1931, No. 53, Transport Workers (Waterside Workers) Regulations, be disallowed.
I regret to say that what I regard as the incitement of the Attorney-General to a breach of the peace has already occurred, not under the original regulations, but under the latest regulations brought in by this Government. This morning I received information from Melbourne to the effect that when 109 returned soldiers holding licences under the Government’s regulations were picked up to work the steamship Manunda they were attacked by a mob numbering approximately 1,000 members of the Waterside Workers Federation and were very severely dealt with until thearrival of the police.
SenatorSir George Pearce -
Sir - Referring to a letter that was put in the Melbourne Age by one Eugene Walsh, accusing the Senate and ship-owners in trying to boycott the Watersiders Federation, may I beg to state my case of pure victimization from both law and union. I started work as a stevedore labourer in the Waterside Union back in 1902, and worked for the Victorian Stevedore Company as such, and casual foreman, till the time I enlisted, December 1st, 1914, and went into camp, leaving Australia as sergeant with the 13th Light Horse. I returned in 1916, and during the time.I was convalescent, I was appointed a recruiting sergeant, and was the first sergeant in Victoria to get enough recruits in a country centre to form a training camp at Maffra, also a second one there, and was complimented by yourself, if you can recall, and also the State Commandant, Brigadier-General Williams, through the papers, and I also hold a reference as such from the State Recruiting Committee, signed by Sir A. Robinson.
Later on, sir, I re-enlisted and went away as ships sergeant-major, again returning in 1910. When I returned I had been in hospital from February 1919, in Belgium, 20 C.C.S., and was a cot case to 3rd. Dartford from there to Weymouth, returning in hospital ship Ormonde after I was discharged. I was advised to go to a drier climate, and instead of returning here, in Melbourne, to my work, I went to Sydney and there obtained a position as foreman stevedore and remained there till most of the firms had to reduce their staffs, I being one, I returned to Melbourne only to find that, because 1 was not working in a port where a licence was issued, I am debarred from going to work, and the union say I am not a water sider, after my close on 30 years of this* class of work.
I pause to interpolate here that, under the original regulations, this man would have been entitled to apply for and get a licence. The writer goes on to state -
The union says the ship-owners are debarring them from going to work. What more glaring case do or can they point out than mine, and since these regulations have been in force, I am to be debarred from earning my living, although I can get work to go to by several different firms, but I cannot take it because I just happened to be in Sydney where a licence was not needed. Yet, sir, a watersider from the union in Sydney can get a transfer over here and go to work, so where is the justice?
Well, sir, you can use this note as you think fit, and as I consider I have been done a very great injustice, I being a returned soldier, also a watersider before the war, and now in ft position that I cannot go to work.
Hoping that perhaps something can be dons and also to show when the other side cries out to the outside world, they are also crushing people who was always willing and still willing to do my work.
I shall not give the name of the writer, but if honorable senators wish to test the bona fides of the communication, they are at liberty to see it. The writer gives his regimental number as 61,946, 23rd Battalion, Australian Imperial Force, and states that he was formerly Sergeant No. 46 of the 13th Squadron of Light Horse. For obvious reasons I do not wish to publish his name in Hansard, although he has given me permission to do so. For his own protection I intend to withhold it. Yesterday also I received the following letter from Mr. A. J. W. Lewis, Mayor of Port Adelaide: -
Sir, - I am forwarding for your information copy of resolution passed at public meeting held on Thursday last (1.4th instant) in response to numerously signed requisition, protesting against the action of the ship-owners in again introducing into the city of Port Adelaide volunteer labour against the expressed wish of the citizens, and in their opinion, against the best interests and continuity of peace in industry.
The meetings were held in the Town Hall, and an overflow meeting in the Working Men’s Hall, both of which were packed with citizens representing all sections, particular interest being taken by the traders, many of whom will become insolvent if the ship-owners adhere to their decisions not , to employ waterside workers who are residents of Port Adelaide, and upon whom the shopkeeper depends for his assistance, which is reflected throughout the city, and is having a very serious effect upon the finances of this corporation, owing to the number who are unable to pay their rates. There are more than 400 waterside workers owning their homes in this city, several of whom have borrowed on these to pay their rates and taxes.
I trust you will see the seriousness of the situation as it affects this city, and would respectfully ask that you will use your influence in an endeavour to settle amicably this long standing difference.
To that letter I sent the following reply :-
My dear Sir, - Your letter of 18th May, conveying copy of a resolution passed at “a public meeting in respect to the question of the employment of volunteer labour on the wharfs of Port Adelaide, received.
First of all, let me say that the volunteers are not responsible for the position that has been created throughout Australia as a result of the waterside workers’ strike against the award of the Arbitration Court some years ago. The responsibility for that lies solely at the door of the Waterside Workers Federation. I would also remind you that that strike was only one of a continued series of strikes in the shipping aud waterside industries, and in every case the strike perpetrated by the Seamen’s Union, and the Waterside Workers Federation was against an award of the Arbitration Court. It was these continuous revolts against the law that led the late Government to introduce the Transport Workers Act, and I would remind you that, since the passing of that Act, Australia has had the greatest period of industrial peace in the shipping and waterside industries that has obtained for many years. I would also remind YOU that, during the period of the Waterside Workers Federation strike, the Government appealed to the ship-owners to employ labour and carry on the transport industry, and promised that they would see that the labour that responded to that call should not be victimized as a result of their action. It is in honoring that promise- that the Senate has taken up the attitude that it has done against the regulations issued by the present Government, the intent of which is to deprive those volunteers of their livelihood.
I regret that the shopkeepers of Port Adelaide suffer in this matter, but I would remind you of the violence that was used towards the volunteers, which is a very large contributing factor in causing those volunteers to live elsewhere than in Port Adelaide.
The members of the Senate feel that they are bound by the promise given, and that .they must do their best to see that it is honored.
I do not propose to enlarge upon the facts as set out in the letters which I have just read. I think there is in those- letters, and in the happenings in Melbourne this morning, sufficient to warrant the Senate in adopting the motion. I, therefore, content myself with moving the motion standing in my name.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) has made the very serious statement that news has reached him from Melbourne to the effect that there has been a riot in that city between 1,000 unionists and 109 volunteers or scabs.
– Does the honorable senator apply that term to returned soldiers ?
– A man who is not prepared to back up those who are working to improve his occupation by becoming a unionist is a scab. I say that as a returned soldier.
– I suggest that the honorable senator divest his speech of technical terms employed in trade unions which are unparliamentary.
– There has been no opportunity to check up the statement that has been made by the Leader of the Opposition; consequently I ask leave to continue my remarks on another occasion.
– Is it the pleasure of the Senate that the honorable senator be allowed to continue his remarks?
Leave not granted.
– The AttorneyGeneral is justified in claiming that peace has ruled on the waterfront in Australia under the system of preference to unionists. It, is only eighteen, months ago that the present Government was elected by the people; yet a hostile and brutal majority-1-
– I rise to a point of order. I object to the words “ brutal majority”, and ask that they be withdrawn.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw the expression.
– I withdraw the word “ brutal “, and say that, had the very large hostile majority that is opposed to the Government in the Senate gone to the country eighteen months ago, it would have been turned into a minority. Many years ago, when the Leader of the Opposition was a good Labour man, he attended various conferences throughout Australia, and advocated the principle of preference to trade unionists; yet now he castigates the Attorney-General for giving effect to that policy. Let him read what the Sydney Bulletin, in a leading article, has to say about him. On one occasion Smith’s Weakly characterized him as the “ Minister for Adaptability.” He is the last person who should criticize any one.
– I point out to the honorable senator that neither Senator Pearce’s character nor his past is under discussion.
– That is true. But it cannot be denied that in years gone by he was a member of a government that stood for the principle of preference to unionists.
– I asls the honorable senator to speak to the motion.
– With all due respect to you, Mr. President, and the dignity of your position - which I appreciate - I submit that an honorable senator, whether he sits on the Government side or the Opposition side, should have the right to round off a sentence. I appeal for fair play. It is all very fine for you to smile, sir. I consider that you are turning the Senate into a kindergarten, and I object to it.
– The honorable senator must not reflect on the Chair. I ask him to observe that rule throughout his speech. Furthermore, I again call upon him to speak to the motion.
– Only the other day, as can be proved from the files of every newspaper in Australia, there was peace on the waterfront. I have taken particular care to have the matter checked up.
– There is peace on the waterfront in Melbourne I
– There was peace in Melbourne. I was in Queensland a few days ago, and can assure honorable senators that there was peace on the waterfront in Brisbane. There is peace also on the waterfront at Newcastle, Sydney, Adelaide, Fremantle and, no doubt Melbourne. There has been a great deal of pinpricking in regard to these regulations; and according to statements that have appeared in the press, the Leader of the Opposition in this chamber (Senator Pearce) has threatened that if the Government continues to table those regulations it will be refused Supply.
– The Leader of the Opposition did not say that.
– I have the newspaper report, and the honorable senator cannot get away from it.
– It is only a newspaper statement.
– I rise to a point of order. The honorable senator is misrepresenting me. I made no such statement, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable senator must withdraw the statement that he has made. I would like him also to recognize that quotations may not be made from reports of debates of the present session, other than those that appear in Hansard.
– I am keeping that standing order in mind for a future occasion. I have no wish to labour this question. Perhaps I may be privileged ro ask the Leader of the Opposition through you, Mr. President, whether he has been sending letters or lists of questions to the ship-owners, similar to those which he sent to Sir Robert. Gibson?
– The honorable senator well knows that he cannot at this stage ask questions.
– I am pleased to know that the waterside workers are prepared to work in peace and harmony under the regulations that have been promulgated by the Government. I :im at all times ready to criticize the Government as well as to applaud it. I say, more power to the Government and to the Attorney-General if they gazette further regulations whenever others are disallowed.
, - We have had many debates on this subject, and I should not have risen on the present occasion but for the statement of the Leader of the Opposition relating to an alleged riot in Melbourne. In the limited time at our disposal we have had that matter checked up and have found that the right honorable gentleman’s statement was an “ absolute exaggeration of the position. If it was intended that the Senate should record its verdict in this matter on the evidence submitted by the right honorable gentleman, it would have been a courteous act to accede to the request of Senator Dunn that he be allowed to continue his remarks, because an opportunity would then have been afforded to obtain verification of the allegation. It is remarkable that when anything of this description happens in the Senate, some such demonstration takes place. The right honorable senator’s description of the demonstration which is alleged to have occurred in Melbourne this morning is much more inflammatory than that which we have just received.
– That will not affect the attitude of the Opposition.
– Apparently, honorable senators opposite have made up their minds how they intend to act in this matter, irrespective of the accuracy or otherwise of the information supplied to them by the Leader of the Opposition. In those circumstances, I agree with Senator Payne that apparently it was right for honorable senators opposite to refuse Senator Dunn leave to continue his remarks. If this Senate i3 to sit in judgment upon regulations promulgated by this Government, then neither Senator Payne nor any other honorable senator who comes here with a fixed opinion has the right to say on the hustings that this chamber is not a party house.
– It is a matured opinion.
– Of course, certain things reach maturity very rapidly. I have always imagined that an opinion takes some time to mature. That is why we suggested, that this matter be allowed to remain open until to-morrow, when the actual facts in connexion with the alleged disturbance would be available.
– What is the information which the honorable senator has received?
– It is to the effect that there was a hostile demonstration. There was a protest, I understand, such as there might be on any similar occasion, but there were no acts of violence.
– Were any bottles thrown ?
– No, “the members of the Waterside Workers Federation are not in the habit of using bottles.
– They like blue metal better.
– Honorable senators opposite seem to have an absolutely wrong conception of the true character of the waterside workers. Just as there are good and bad in every body of men, including the Senate, so also are there good and bad among the members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– I trust that there is a greater percentage of the former in the Senate than there is among the members of the federation” engaged on the waterfront at Port Phillip.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. W. Kingsmill) . - Order ! I ask honorable senators to allow Senator Daly to discuss the motion without interruption.
– As I am not closely in touch with the operations at Port Phillip, I prefer to discuss the position at Port Adelaide, with which I am better acquainted. I should like to tell Senator McLachlan that there is as high a percentage of good and honest men on the waterfront at Port Adelaide as there is in this Senate.
– There is no doubt about that.
– Their records will prove the accuracy of what I am saying. There is no section of waterside workers in Australia with a higher reputation than the men for whom the four Labour senators representing South Australia in this chamber are appealing for justice today. There is no port in Australia that has been more seriously affected by the regulations under the Transport Workers Act than Port Adelaide. The letter which the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) read from the Mayor of Port Adelaide, establishes the fact that, so far as South Australia is concerned, this fight has risen above party politics, and an effort is being made by different- organizations in and around Port Adelaide to have the old conditions restored. I am surprised that any representative of South Australia who knows the conditions existing at Port Adelaide should support the motion. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) referred to the conditions existing not only in Melbourne, but at Port Adelaide.
– The incident to which I referred occurred in Melbourne.
– The Leader of the Opposition by interjection cast an aspersion upon the men at Port Adelaide.
– I did not.
– The honorable senator referred to their actions.
– I made no reference to them in my speech.
– Will the Leader of the Opposition agree to these regulations applying only to Port Adelaide? Of course he will not. Honorable senators opposite have definitely made up their minds that the interests of British shipowners must be considered before the interests of the waterside workers.
– The interests of the public.
– The interests of the public have not been properly considered by honorable senators opposite during the operation of these regulations. The only hostile demonstration ‘ that occurred was when the Senate interfered with the Government’s policy, which would have had the effect of securing peace on the waterfront. By disallowing the Government’s regulations the Senate has been responsible for a hostile demonstration. If the members of the Opposition are anxious for peace on the waterfront, they should allow the present regulations to remain operative.
– And the volunteers to starve. “Senator DALY. - The volunteers would not starve if the Senate would allow the Government to give effect to its financial proposals which would enable work to be available for all.
– The honorable senator is humorous.
– It is tragic, not humorous. There is not sufficient work on the waterfront at Port Adelaide for the waterside workers and the volunteers. 1 do not believe in any one starving ; every man should have the right to work. I am opposed to the British shipowners’ interests having preference over those of the waterside workers. The British shipowners have resolutely refused to discuss a compromise with the AttorneyGeneral (Mr. Brennan), who is entitled to retaliate by saying that he will place on the wharfs the men who were originally there. If the shipowners were amenable to reason they would meet the Attorney-General at a round table conference with the idea of evolving some scheme whereby the interests of those particularly concerned might be protected. If that were done some good might be achieved. Every attempt that has been made by the Government to confer with the representatives of the British shipowners has met with the reply - “ There must be absolute preference to volunteers “.
– How can the disallowance of these regulations benefit the British shipowners?
– The Opposition is only pandering to the British shipowners’ caprice.
– In what way would they benefit?
– The action of the Opposition suggests that the policy favoured by the shipowners is right. I have never seen the volunteers at work, and am therefore not in a position to say whether they can carry out the duties required of them more efficiently than the members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– The honorable senator infers that they are not.
– I have inferred nothing of the sort. I cast no reflection on the volunteers as workmen; but I did say that the Government, recognizing that there was unrest on the waterfront, and that the members of the Waterside Workers Federation were entitled to some share of the work there, notwithstanding their action in the past, attempted to do something to bring about peace on the waterfront. Every effort it made was opposed by the British shipowners who were determined that the members of the Waterside Workers Federation should be kept off the waterfront and the volunteers kept on. For weeks the AttorneyGeneral conferred with the shipowners in an endeavour to introduce a roster system, or other means of enabling the shipowners to honour the alleged promise made to the volunteers, and at the same time to grant some measure of justice to the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, but every appeal that he made fell on deaf ears. As the shipowners were not prepared to recognize the claims of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, the Government felt bound to step in and mete out to them some measure of justice. Like the previous speaker, I congratulate the Government on the stand that it is taking. I sincerely hope that it will continue to make regulations until such time as the British shipowners are prepared to confer, with a view to bringing about some system on the waterfront which will ensure permanent peace there.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (Queensland) [3.42]. - I do not intend to speak at length, because on at least two previous occasions when similar motions have been before the Senate this subject has been discussed fully. We have had two accounts to-day of the recent happenings at Port Melbourne. I realize that the first reports of such occurrences are likely to be somewhat exaggerated. I shall now read an account of what took place at Port Melbourne as recorded in to-day’s Melbourne Herald -
When 08 stevedores were being escorted-
– Yes; he is not quoting from the report of any debate in the Senate.
Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW.The Herald report continues -
When 68 stevedores were being escorted by 9 police under Senior Constable Sleddon to the Manunda at No. 5 wharf at 9.30 a.m. to-day they were attacked by about COO members of the Waterside Workers Federation. Three patrol cars containing 30 police were rushed to the scene and quelled the disturbance. The stevedores who were attacked were returned soldier members of the Permanent and Casual Wharf Labourers Union. One man running to attack another during the uproar dived in front of a motor car that was being driven to the Manunda and was knocked down. The car passed over him, but he was not seriously hurt, having fallen between the wheels. While his men were trying to quell the disturbance Senior Constable Sleddon asked for reinforcements and when these arrived the men immediately quietened down and meetings were held on the wharf. A second group of non-federation men set out from the compound to the Manunda during the disturbance, but seeing the mob turned back. Later, they were escorted to the ship by the police.
– That is the third account of what took place.
– I desire to refer to a statement made yesterday by the Assistant Minister (Senator Dooley) when speaking to the motion moved by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) for the adjournment of the Senate. The Minister read a statement relating to what he alleged had happened in Queensland. I do not suggest that he was attempting deliberately to mislead the Senate when he said that four Chinamen, whom he named, were engaged on the waterfront at Bowen. Having some doubt as to the accuracy of the statement, I sent a telegram to Bowen asking whether four Chinamen had been granted licences under the Transport Workers Act, and had been employed on the waterfront at Bowen. To that telegram I have received the following reply: -
Your wire. Statement absolutely untrue. They never have been.
I suggest that the Minister should be sure of his facts when he makes statements in the Senate. Senator Daly said that work on the waterfront was more efficiently performed by members of the Waterside Workers Federation than by the volunteers.- If that is so, the work of the members of the federation has improved considerably since the Transport Workers Act was enacted, because the work .done by the volunteers in Queensland is 30 per cent, more efficient than that of the members of the union, before that act became law. Moreover, pilfering and short landings have been reduced considerably since the volunteers have been employed. All honorable senators will agree that, prior to the coming into operation of that act, conditions on the waterfront were far from satisfactory from the point of view of the public.
– They were satisfactory at Port Adelaide.
– I submit that conditions on the waterfront, prior to the passing of the Transport Workers Act, were unsatisfactory for years. Probably Queensland suffered more than did the other States, because of the greater number of ports in that State, at all of which the conditions were bad. No ship was ever allowed to run to schedule continuously, while the cost of loading and unloading vessels was* much higher than it ought to have been. Conditions were so bad that people at Bowen were unable to send goods away, or to receive goods, because that port had been declared “ black “. These people were obliged to have their goods sent to Townsville and railed all the way back to Bowen. That state of affairs lasted not for a week or two, but for years, and it was not an isolated matter. Until the passing of the Transport Workers Act, the members of the Waterside Workers. Federation imposed a continuous series of harassing conditions on the producers and trades-people of North Queensland, so that the Commonwealth Government was forced to take action in the interests of the public generally.
– Queensland has now a coastal railway.
– Yes. It became necessary because of the difficulty the . trades-people and exporters had in getting their goods transported. Its construction had the effect of bringing many of the unionists at the ports to their bearings. It made them realize that if they did not handle cargo in and out of the ports it could be sent by rail, although it added considerably to the cost of handling the goods. I have no desire to debate the matter further. It has already been discussed previously. I do not accuse Senator Dooley of having deliberately misled the Senate, but he has certainly given information which is not correct, and I have taken the opportunity to show just to what extent it was not correct.
– In regard to the Chinese who have been employed on the waterfront at Bowen, a matter which I mentioned yesterday, I quote as my authority a letter forwarded by Mr. W. Brennan, president and actingsecretary of the Bowen Branch of the Waterside Workers Federation, which reads as follows : -
A meeting of our members was held yesterday. The tone of the meeting was nothing but expressions of disgust against the Federal Labour Government, owing to their action of giving .preference to scabs on the waterfront. The fact of the Bruce-Page Government prostituting the White Australia Policy at the commencement of the Waterfront strike by registering under the Transport Workers Act, four Chinese prohibited immigrants to scab on unionists was well ventilated. The Chinese scabs’ names are Lam Choy, Ching Ling, Harsee Ting, Too Yeang Ling. Bruce, by registering these scabs under the Transport Workers Act, proved himself an honest man to the shipping companies.
I have also a report upon the trouble on the waterfront in Melbourne to-day, from which it appears that a hundred returned soldiers, non-members of the Waterside Workers Federation, were picked up on the footpath outside the compound. When they went alongside the Manunda they were attacked by a few hundred members of the Federation. No stones were thrown, and as far as can be ascertained no one was injured. It is true that there is trouble at present on the waterfront between unionists and non-unionists, loyalists or scabs - I do not care what term you apply to them - and that there are two factions seeking the work to which the unionists rightly contend they are entitled.
– Although they had previously refused to obey an award of the Court.
– I am at a loss to know why honorable senators are so vindictive. Is a man to be penalized for the rest of his life because he has once made a mistake? Is there to be no forgivenessof the Waterside Workers Federation? Are its members still to be penalized although they have already been kept out of employment for over two years?
– But the honorable senator is not prepared to forgive the volunteers although they are unionists.
– What one man may consider a unionist, another may describe as a scab. The Government has no desire to aggravate the position.
– Then let it do the fair thing and cease issuing these regulations.
– The Government is trying to do the fair thing by issuing regulations which will allow returned soldiers and unionists to secure the work available on the wharfs. I cannot see anything wrong with that. I cannot understand why the Senate is so inclined to disallow these regulations, when no good purpose can be served by doing so. I have read that the employers prefer the unionists to the new bands, A man with experience must be in a position to do more efficient work and render greater service to the ship-owner than one who is new to the work. In the present financial position of the country, however, thousands of men are looking for employment, and the possibilities are that the ship-owners may take advantage of their distress and employ them in preference to the unionists. I knew a ganger on the railways who was called the Maltese ganger, because on pay day he always insisted on getting 10s. a head from the Maltese in his gang for keeping them at work. No unionist would be prepared to sell his soul to keep his job.
– Was that ganger a member of a union?
– I suppose so, but apparently the same thing is now’ happening on the waterfront. Italians are said to be paying £10 and £5 for licences. If these regulations are allowed to stand there will be no question of depriving the returned soldiers of a living. Most of them are unionists.
– The men attacked to-day in Melbourne were all returned soldiers.
– I do not know definitely if they were returned soldiers or not, but I think it would be safe to say that if these regulations were allowed to stand the returned soldiers and unionists could fill all the jobs available. I do not think any discrimination would be shown. I trust that the Senate will not hamper the Government in. giving effect to its policy. The Government has a perfect right to give effect to a policy upon which it has been elected, and there is no doubt the policy upon which it was elected was the maintenance of arbitration. That policy implied preference to unionists, as granted by the Arbitration Court.
– But the Government -has over-ridden a decision of the court.
– I do not know that it has done so. The purpose of the regulations is to give preference to returned soldiers, whether they are unionists or not, and bona fide members of the Waterside Workers Federation were also to be restored to the work they formerly did. I trust that the Government will do its best to give effect to Labour’s policy.
– Labour’s policy was to repeal the Transport Workers Act. Why has that not been done?
– Circumstances have altered. The honorable senator would like us to repeal the act, when it does not suit him and his friends, and to have it in force when it suits him and his friends. We find that it is easier to give effect to the policy of the Labour party by letting the act remain on the statute-book. The Senate, if it disallows these regulations, will only hamper the Government in its endeavour to carry out a policy upon which it was elected. I trust that the Government will carry on the good fight.
– I am at a loss to understand why the Government persists with these regulations, particularly when its, supporters are very halfhearted in regard to their merits. They have entered the debate in defence of it with no enthusiasm. Their remarks have been more an apology than anything else, for the re-gazettal of the regulations. I supported the Transport Workers Bill when it was introduced. Honorable senators at the time realized that it gave wide powers to the Governor-General in Council, and they gave him those wide powers with reluctance, but drastic steps were necessary to bring to an end the long-drawn-out dispute and unrest existing on the waterfront. If any section of the community has shown tolerance it is those who were running ships and handling produce that had to pass through the seaports. Year after year, for many years, attempts were made to settle disputes, and I think that each dispute was au act of disobedience to an award of the Arbitration Court. In every instance facilities were provided to enable the unions to have their disputes settled by the Arbitration Court, but those facilities were not availed of. It is no wonder the people felt that drastic action should be taken to end such a condition of affairs. Although there were never any disputes on the. waterfront in Tasmania, the waterside workers in that State were always drawn into trouble by the action of waterside workers in the other States, and, quite contrary to their own wishes in the matter, they were frequently called out. In not a few instances they knew nothing about, and had no sympathy with, the disputes at the mainland ports. No one can deny that, since the passing of the Transport Workers Act, work has proceeded smoothly at all ports. The regulations were made to apply only to what may be regarded as the storm centres of those industrial disputes which occurred so frequently on the waterfront. Consequently men are working under licence at only Port Adelaide, Melbourne, and two or three ports in Queensland. Honorable senators supporting the Government would have us believe that the volunteer workers, as they are called, ure “ scabs “ and non-unionists. Actually they are all unionists, who are working under Arbitration Court awards. Many members of the Waterside Workers Federation, realizing early how the position would develop, took out licences and registered for employment under the regulations, which, as I have stated, apply only to the ports where disputes occurred.
– The regulations do not apply to Sydney or Fremantle.
– That is because waterside workers at those ports continued to work during the big dispute which dislocated the shipping industry a few years ago.
– Waterside workers did not go on strike iD Sydney.
– That is so. There was no dispute at that port. The people of Tasmania have good reason to thank the Bruce-Page Government for having passed the Transport Workers Act, because, under it, essential services between that State and mainland ports have been maintained for some time now, whereas, prior to the passing of the act, steamship communication was, for years, subject to sudden and complete dislocation at the busiest time of the season. It is no exaggeration to say that, at no period in the history of Australia during the last twenty years, was there the continuity of services which we have enjoyed since the passing of the Transport Workers Act. The argument used by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) that these regulations were gazetted in order to settle disputes on the waterfront, will not bear examination, because there has been no dispute of any magnitude on the waterfront since the Transport “Workers Act was put into operation. If the Government sincerely desired the smooth working of our trade and commerce, it would have refrained from making these new regulations, which are wholly unnecessary and unjust to a deserving and efficient body of workers on the waterfront. In this matter the Government has apparently yielded tamely to pressure from outside organizations, and acting possibly against its better judgment, has brought in these new regulations, partly to honour a promise that a Labour Government, if returned to power, would repeal the Transport Workers Act. I feel sure that, eventually, the Government must realize not only the folly, but the injustice of its action. If the regulations were allowed to stand, there would be forced out of employment a large body of efficient workmen who had been specially invited to i. “une to the aid of the country during a time of grave industrial unrest. The waterside workers who are now seeking preference in employment on the waterfront, deliberately defied the awards of the Arbitration Court. They had every facility for the settlement of .their disputes with the shipowners, and invariably the Arbitration Court, in its decisions, gave them the benefit of any doubt that might have arisen as to the bona fides of their claims. No doubt the court realized that, since the work on the waterfront is a key industry, every effort should be made to ensure continuity of service. For this reason, possibly, substantial concessions, which had the effect of increasing the cost of production in Australia, and which in other circumstances might not have been given, were made to employees in the industry. The shipowners naturally prefer to continue the employment of volunteers because they know that there will be no interruption in shipping services. This means a reduction in the cost of handling cargo. Wages, however, are not affected, as the volunteers are working under awards of the Arbitration Court. Ever since the act was passed, the trade and commerce of the country has been carried on harmoniously and satisfactorily. I intend to support the motion for the disallowance of the regulations.
– I feel sure that the demonstration in Melbourne this morning could not have been of a very serious character, because, apparently, no one was seriously injured. I have no doubt that the magnitude of the incident lost nothing in transmission to the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), who referred to it in his opening remarks this afternoon. The report, like all rumours, probably exaggerated the real nature of the trouble. Senator Glasgow, speaking in support of the motion, declared that, since the passing of the Transport Workers Act, the work at the various ports of Australia had been done more efficiently than previously. Since the regulations apply only to Melbourne, Port Adelaide, and one or two Queensland ports, any charge of inefficiency against the members of the Waterside Workers Federation cannot be sustained, because the great bulk of the work at all Australian ports is still being done by members of the federation. It has been alleged that the volunteer workers at Port Adelaide are more efficient than the regular waterside workers at that port. The facts do not substantiate that claim. The following comparative figures, relating to the work done by two stevedoring gangs, on the steamer Nolisment, at Port Adelaide, disclose greater efficiency on the part of the waterside workers. I am quoting from a speech delivered in the South Australian Parliament on the 13th August, 1929, by the Honorable F. J. Condons-
No. 1 hatch, Tuesday, 5th March, the number of bags handled by the volunteer workers was 571, and by the waterside workers 941. Wednesday, Oth March, 2,027 bags handled by the volunteers, and 3,505 by the waterside workers, but the latter worked four ‘ hours longer. Thursday, 7th March, 2,874 bags handled by the volunteer workers, and 3,117 by the waterside workers. Friday, 8th March,, volunteers, 2,481 bags; waterside workers, 2,G25. No. 4 hatch, Tuesday, 5th Mardi, 517 bags handled by the volunteer workers, and 828 by the waterside workers. Wednesday, Oth March, 1,737 bags by the volunteers, and 3,212 by the waterside workers, the latter working four hours longer. Thursday, 7th March, volunteers, 2,445 bags: waterside workers, 2,904. Friday, 8th March, volunteers, 1,803 bags; waterside workers, 2,440 bags.
Cargo on boats that were loaded by volunteers at Melbourne had to be re-stowed upon arrival at Port Adelaide. One ease among many was that of the City of Canberra, upon which on Tuesday, the 2nd April, a gang was engaged from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. re-stowing wool that was loaded by volunteers at Melbourne; and other gangs were employed for eight hours. That should prove that the waterside workers are superior workmen.
– Senator Cooper has figures which prove that the reverse is the case in Queensland.
– It is strange if that be so. The volunteers cannot be expected to compete against men who have had many years’ experience of loading and unloading vessels. May I also point out that the men who were responsible for the strike at Port Adelaide afterwards taught the volunteers how to do this work. “When a ballot was taken among the men to decide whether they should return to work, one of these individuals rushed into the polling place, and kicked the ballotbox to pieces ; but of the ballot-papers picked up, it was found that 82 per cent, of them were in favour of a return to work. The shipowners made that man a boss ! Nearly all of the men who caused the trouble among the waterside workers at Port Adelaide were placed as bosses over the volunteers. Having brought about the trouble, they turned traitor and “ scabbed “ on their mates. There has not been for a long time greater peace at Port Adelaide. The stevedores and the representatives of the shipowners, I feel sure, would employ the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, if they were allowed to do so. The business men at Port Adelaide have made overtures to the shipping companies to give preference to these men. By the employment of loyalists, men are being punished who had no connexion with the industrial upheaval. Some of these people have been in business at Port Adelaide for a number of years, and they are facing ruin because the money that should be spent with them is going elsewhere. No other seaport in Australia is affected in equal ratio with Port Adelaide, because members of the Waterside Workers Federation live within that district, and when they are not employed very little money is spent there. The volunteers live elsewhere. A number of the business men have closed their doors, and the remainder are just hanging on in the’ expectation that something will be done on their behalf by this Parliament. During a period of three months the earnings of the volunteer workers, numbering 500, amounted to £44,000; that is to say, £44,000 left the district of Port Adelaide during that period. The amount earned by members of the Waterside Workers Federation during a similar period was £47,000, the average for each waterside worker being £31, and for each volunteer £88.
– The money did not go outside the State.
– Its distribution over the whole of the State, or even over the metropolitan area, would be hardly noticeable; but if the members of the Waterside Workers Federation were employed, the whole of it would be spent in Port Adelaide, and the business men of that district would not be faced with ruin, as they are to-day.
– Why are not the volunteers allowed to live in Port Adelaide?
– They have never lived there; their homes have always been elsewhere.
– Is the honorable senator endeavouring to make this a strong point in favour of the regulations ?
– I consider that I am making a strong point on behalf of the business men of Port Adelaide.
– Does the honorable senator hold a brief for them?
– I am endeavouring to show that innocent persons are being punished. It seems to me that the Senate has made up its mind that this see-saw shall continue.
– Too right.
- Senator Sampson says “ Too right.” At an earlier stage he asked why the Government had not attempted to repeal the Transport Workers Act. When that measure was introduced in this Senate, I pointed out to the then Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) that it was a two-edged sword, and that one day our turn would come. Our turn has now come, and we are not repealing the act, because it suits us to retain it.
– Because you are not game.
– When a weapon is useful to us, we are not so foolish as to cast it aside. It is our job to endeavour to prevent the disallowance of these regulations. If the Senate is to be kept sitting week after week for the purpose of disallowing regulations, the fault will lie with honorable senators opposite, not with those who sit on this side, and they must be held responsible for any consequences that may ensue. Some day, I suppose, this see-saw will stop, and one side will become the stronger. In all probability it will then be our turn.
– The honorable senator did not make that statement with conviction.
– We are sincere in our desire to keep these regulations in existence; otherwise Senator Daly and I would have stayed at home instead of coming here this week. We considered that it was our duty to be on deck, and to vote to keep the regulations intact.
– I realize that this subject has been well ventilated in the Senate on three occasions. It was with a certain amount of surprise that I found that the Government was continuing to enact these regulations, especially after they had been disallowed by the Senate, and that decision had been upheld by the High Court of Australia.
– The High Court did not uphold the Senate’s decision, but merely the procedure that had been adopted.
– At all events, the decision to disallow the regulations was not reversed. It appears to me that Port Adelaide is the only port that is suffering from any disabilities. I admit that Senator Hoare made out quite a good case for his friends; the business people of Port Adelaide. That, however, has no actual bearing on the subject of the regulations. These people may have suffered; but so also may the business people of any town in Australia. The existing depression would be responsible for that.
– The honorable senator should realize that even the sugar embargo is a somewhat parochial matter.
– I cannot see any connexion between the two subjects. No argument to which I have listened to-day has caused me to alter the view that I had formed, that these regulations should be disallowed. Senator Kneebone spoke very feelingly on the matter. We are all considerably distressed by the unemployment that exists throughout Australia ; but this is not a question of giving employment to an additional number of persons. If members of the federation were employed, those men who are now being engaged on the waterfront would he thrown out of work. So far as I can see, the whole matter boils down to a question of principle. The Cabinet, with the support of a majority of members of another place, has gazetted regulations, which on two occasions have been disallowed by the Senate. Regulations adopted by the Executive Council and subsequently gazetted can be disallowed by either branch of the legislature. In this instance the Leader of the Opposition has moved to disallow certain regulations issued under the Transport Workers Act. During the 30 years in. which the Federal Parliament has been in existence, I do not think that there is an instance in which a government has persisted in framing regulations, which in every respect are similar to those which have been disallowed by either House of the Parliament.
– The Opposition is governing in this case.
– The Senate is merely exercising its constitutional right ; but the Government is endeavouring to deprive it of a power constitutionally conferred upon it. If this practice is to continue, this chamber will have to sit almost continuously, in order to disallow regulations which the Government persists in introducing.
– Then, perhaps, Parliament would awaken to the foolish policy of government by regulation.
– Government by regulation as originally intended has no unsatisfactory features, but in this instance the Government is endeavouring to defeat the will of Parliament. Senator
Hoare and Senator Daly referred to the greater efficiency of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation at Port Adelaide as compared with the volunteer workers. I cannot speak with authority concerning the position in Port Adelaide, but I shall quote some authentic figures with respect to the position on the waterfront in Queensland. In the port of Bowen which has been mentioned during the debate, and which was one of the industrial storm centres in Queensland in 1928, the figures show that the volunteer workers are far more efficient than the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. In 1927 the cost of loading sugar - I am taking sugar as it is the principal produce of that portion of the State - was 8s. 2d. a ton; in 1928 after the regulations under the Transport Workers Act had been in operation for only three months it was reduced to 5s. 8d. a ton, and in 1929, when the regulations had been in operation for twelve months, it was reduced to 2s. 6d. per ton, or a difference as compared with 1927 of 5s. Sd. a ton. Those are authentic figures supplied to me by the Bowen Chamber of Commerce, and show conclusively that the volunteer workers at that port are doing more efficient work than was done by the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. As regards general cargo, which includes hides, tallow and other general loading, I find that in 1928, when the regulations had been in force for three months, the cost was 12s. 8d. per ton, and in 1929 when they had been in operation for a full year, the cost of loading the same class of cargo was reduced to 4s. 5d. per ton. Within the last twelve months the cost of handling wool at Townsville has been reduced by 7d. a bale.
– Those figures show that those quoted by Senator Hoare require an auditor’s certificate.
– They certainly suggest that the Queensland worker is superior to the workers at Port Adelaide. Moreover it is the duty of the Senate to protect the volunteer workers, who, during a great industrial crisis, and when work at all ports in the Commonwealth with the exception of two was held up, came to the relief of the community.
When primary producers and many others were unable to despatch their produce and the whole trade and commerce of the Commonwealth was practically at a standstill the volunteers undertook to carry on work on the waterfront at arbitration rates and to observe the award of the Arbitration Court. Although as a result of the introduction of volunteer labour there has been a complete cessation of industrial disturbance in the maritime industry for two and a half years, the Government is now endeavouring to upset a system which has proved highly satisfactory by introducing regulations under which preference is given to those who were responsible for a state of almost continuous industrial turmoil. I should like to know why the Government wishes to interfere with a system which has been a great success, and to revert to a policy that in the past has had such disastrous results. Senator Glasgow referred to the conditions which existed in Northern Queensland when the members of the Waterside Workers Federation refused to handle the necessaries of life, and when certain sections of the community were actually deprived of food. Prior to the completion of the Rockhampton-Townsville line, and during a strike of waterside workers, a steamer had to be chartered to take flour from Rockhampton to Townsville, where it was rationed in order that the population should receive sufficient food to maintain them. In such circumstances drastic action was necessary. I have not heard any fresh arguments adduced by tho Government in support of the regulations which the Senate now proposes to disallow, and I shall certainly support the motion moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) as I feel that in doing so I shall be rendering a great service to Australia and particularly to the people of Queensland.
– But for one or two observations of honorable senators opposite I should have recorded a silent vote on this motion which involves, not only an obligation, but a duty to this country. It has been suggested, not directly but adroitly, that honorable senators on this side of the chamber are acting in the interests of British ship- owners. That suggestion was effectively denied by interjection. British interests are not being conserved in this instance, in view of the fact that the men in question are working under an award of the Arbitration Court. I intend to support the motion because the volunteer labourers were promised protection; because they deserve protection, and because by doing so I shall be assisting to keep in check the reign of terror which prevailed in this country for some years. During my absence yesterday it was suggested that a high percentage of the volunteers were foreigners. When this subject was under discussion twelve months ago, I quoted some figures supplied to me on that occasion by a representative of the waterside workers. He pointed out that the Southern Europeans in the ranks of the volunteers in South Australia represented 12 per cent, of the membership, a figure far below that of the Southern Europeans among the members of the Waterside Workers Federation. I remind honorable senators opposite that the Southern Europeans in this country came here at our invitation, and are entitled to the full rights of citizenship. Some of the prominent men in the ranks of the Labour party are themselves descendants of these despised Southern Europeans. Senator Glasgow dealt with a suggestion made by the Assistant Minister with regard to certain other gentlemen who were mentioned yesterday. I am not concerned with the constitution of the body to which they belong; it is sufficient for me that they are Australians who are doing their job. Nor am I greatly concerned with the hostile demonstration that has so recently taken place at Port Melbourne. It will not influence my vote in .the least. The incident only emphasizes that we may expect such demonstrations when feeling runs high. The trouble with the members of the Waterside Workers Federation at Port Adelaide is that they have lost their prey. As to the efficiency of the men doing the work on the waterfront, the firms responsible for the loading and unloading of vessels should he the best judges. They are content to have the work done by volunteers. I do not know the period to which the figures supplied by Mr. Condon, and quoted by Senator Hoare, refer, but I mention that Mr.
Condon is also a follower of the party of which Senator Hoare is such a distinguished member. I desire to quote from Hansard of the 14th May, 1930, in reference to a letter to which I have previously referred - a letter which dealt with certain happenings at Port Adelaide which led up to the passing of the Transport Workers Act -
In other words, these men, because they disagreed with the decision of the body created by the people of Australia to decide wages, conditions of work, &c, defied the law of the land, and, in effect, said : “ We do not like this law and so we refuse to obey it”. The ship-owners thereupon issued a. plain warning to the waterside workers that if they persisted in their attempt to coerce Australia, volunteers would be called for, who were willing to abide by the award of the court. In spite of this warning the members of the Waterside Workers Federation continued to defy the award. The ship-owners then carried their threat into effect and called for volunteers, accompanying that call with the promise that men volunteering would be given preference of work on the wharfs, even if and when the. waterside workers desired to return to work. This promise was approved publicly by the Commonwealth and State Governments of the day, and, I venture to say, by every rightthinking and law-respecting citizen in Australia. The volunteers were also guaranteed adequate protection by the government of the day. In response to’ the ship-owners’ call hundreds of men volunteered - volunteered to work, it will be noted, not under conditions prescribed by the ship-owners, but under conditions laid down by the law of the land, the Arbitration Court. The waterside workers made no move to recognize their mistake or to return to work, but, on the contrary, disgraced Australia in general, and South Australia in particular, by organized violence against the men who had thus volunteered to obey the award of the court. It is unnecessary to remind you of the doings of that day when waterside workers, outnumbering the volunteers three or four to one- not even with the elemental spark of decency required to fight man to man - violently drove the volunteers from their work. Protection was soon forthcoming from the citizens of South Australia in overwhelming numbers and the volunteers returned to work. Only then did the waterside workers realize that they were beaten and asked for terms.
One cannot but sympathize with the tradespeople of Port Adelaide on whose behalf Senator Hoare made such an eloquent plea. I am disposed to think that the honorable senator’s concern is not so much for the tradespeople of Port Adelaide, as for members of the Waterside Workers Federation there. Judging from the honorable senator’s references to them, we would be justified in regarding those men as being as peaceful as doves ;but if they are as law-abiding as has been suggested, why do notthe volunteers live alongside their work? They choose to live elsewhere, because they dare not live in the vicinity of the wharfs. Even where they do reside they have been threatened from time to time. They have, however, taken measures to protect themselves, and judging by what I have seen of them, they will give a good account of themselves should the occasion to do so arise. A reign of terror, detrimental alike to commerce and to the morale of the nation, prevailed on the waterfront until the passing of the Transport Workers Act restored peaceful conditions. The Assistant Minister asks why we on this side seek to aggravate an already serious position. It is he who would aggravate the existing trouble, for he would set one class of unionists against another. I remind him that the volunteers are members of a union, and that they are working under an award of the Arbitration Court. The honorable senator suggests that the members of the Waterside Workers Federation should be given preference over the members of another duly recognized organization, who are complying with the law of the land and have never demonstrated their powers for destruction as the members of the Waterside Workers Federation have done. The Senate would be lacking in a sense of duty if it did not disallow these regulations. Yesterday I indicated that, in my opinion, these regulations are not worth a snap of the fingers. If the Government persists in issuing regulations’ after the Senate has disallowed them, it will eventually meet its just reward.
-That is an invitation to the shipowners to defy the regulations.
– If I were a shipowner, I would defy the regulations tomorrow, and if action were taken against me, I would take thecase to the highest tribunal in the land. It is a reflection on the powers of the Senate, and of Parliament, for the Government to defy the Senate by issuing new regulations to take the place of other regulations, the same in substance, which have been disallowed. I suggest that the Assis tant Minister should take his courage in his hands and, in defiance of the gibes which would be thrown at him, act in a constitutional manner, and withdraw these regulations altogether. If the Government continues to issue regulations which have been disallowed, Parliament will become a laughing-stock. If the Government remains obstinate, it must accept the responsibility of its action, and for any serious consequences which may result. At this stage, the duty of the Senate is to disallow these new regulations. I shall vote for their disallowance most heartily, notwithstanding that some persons may suffer thereby. We must adhere to our principles ; otherwise Parliament will become a byword in the mouths of the people.
SenatorKNEEBONE (South Australia) [5.1], - I hesitate to take any further part in this debate seeing that the subject now before the Chair was so fully discussed yesterday. Nevertheless, I do not desire to pass a silent vote on such an important matter. The statement that I made yesterday has been borne out by the letter from the Mayor of Port Adelaide which the Leader of the Opposition read this afternoon. Yesterday, we spent a good deal of time allocating the blame to one government or another, and in questioning the constitutionality of these regulations. To-day, we are dealing with the effect on industry of their disallowance. If the previous regulations, which the Senate disallowed, are no longer in force, and the Government has issued other regulations in their place, it is obvious that the Senate has the same right to disallow the new regulations as it had to disallow the earlier ones. I desire to say again that there are phases of this question which rise above even the constitutional aspect. I agree that the Senate, as perhaps the highest authority in the Commonwealth, must protect its rights, and so long as I am a member of the Senate, I shall seek to protect those rights. But having an intimate knowledge of the position at Port Adelaide, and of the effect of the disallowance of these regulations, I am forced to say that I am prepared to go to the limit allowed by the Constitution in order to deal humanely with my fellow citizens. Senator McLachlan spoke of a reign of terror, and used other phrases not uncommon with some agitators. He suggested that the waterside workers of Australia are either themselves outlaws, or have been misled by outlaws in the past.
– Their actions are somewhat difficult to define.
– Apparently, there is a certain class of waterside worker in Queensland, but I remind the honorable senator that all these men are human beings. Australia has reached a certain standard of civilization, largely because of the influences exercised by men and women connected with the work on the waterfront. The great movement which is represented by the Government in office to-day practicallyhad its genesis in a waterside dispute. At that time, the waterside workers were advised to cease from fighting one another, and to resort to political action. They did that so effectively that from time to time they have had their direct representative in the Government in power.
– In America, they use other methods.
– My hands are so fully occupied in dealing with affairs in my native land that I have not time to deal with what goes on in other countries. To suggest that the members of the “Waterside Workers Federation should be denied their inalienable rights-
– Does the honorable senator mean the right to work?
– Why should it be refused to the others?
– I am talking about it in connexion with the members of the Waterside Workers Federation, but of course if I claim the right on their behalf obviously others have the same right. But to scour the country in a time of industrial trouble and pick up a lot of people who have not previously done waterside work and place them in charge of work on the waterfront, saying to those who have admittedly done wrong, “ You cannot do this work any more “, seems to me to be an erroneous and unjustifiable policy. I am not reflecting on the volunteers, but would not Senator McLachlan, who is a member of the strongest trade union in the world, resent it if some one who was not a member of the legal profession, and who might be described as a volunteer, took charge of the legal work in Adelaide because others had refused to do it ? That volunteer would get very little sympathy from the honorable senator’s organization. I am, however, endeavouring to discuss the matter from a higher, loftier angle than that. It has been said that trouble has occurred at Port Melbourne to-day because of this endeavour to change over again. I am afraid that trouble will keep on recurring while there are men on the waterfront who are not fitted for the work to be done there. Because it is intermittent and dangerous work, industrial tribunals have awarded a special rate of pay for it. The men who are qualified to do it are denied the opportunity to do it although they have spent their lives on the waterfront. It is just the same as taking a man who has rendered many years of service as a civil servant, and turning him out to look for a job. It is unreasonable to suppose that men who have not been trained to a particular calling, no matter what it is, are capable of doingthe work as well as qualified, experienced tradesmen.
– The volunteers have satisfied their employers.
– That is not the point. Preference is now being given to men who are not naturally suited to the work on the waterfront.
– It is not skilled work.
– I differ from the honorable senator. Mention has been made of a vessel which had to be reloaded at Port Adelaide because of the unskilled way in which it had been loaded at the port of Melbourne. That work had been done by volunteers, possibly under instructions which they had to obey but when the vessel reached Port Adelaide it was in a dangerous condition.
– Will the honorable senator say that such things did not happen when vessels were loaded by unionists ?
– I would not make such a suggestion, but I do say that the work must be entrusted to skilled men. if the maximum quantity of cargo is to be put into a ship and carried safely overseas. If I wanted any legal work done I would entrust it to a man trained in the law. Senator Herbert Hays has said that honorable senators on this side are not very enthusiastic to-day. When the numbers are 28 to 8 against us, and when the same motion has already been twice carried, not much enthusiasm can be expected from the eight. A good deal of party politics has been infused into this question. First of all it is regarded as an opportunity to have a shot at the Government, and veiled threats have been made that if the Government continues gazetting regulations after they have been disallowed, the Opposition will bring about a crisis. Threats should not worry us when we are endeavouring to deal faithfully and honestly with a substantial section of the workers of this country. As I have already said, we have established on our waterfront some of the best industrial conditions in the Commonwealth. It is true that two and a half years ago in a minority of the seaports sections of the waterside workers ran riot and refused to obey an award of the Arbitration Court which they did not think was right. At times we have all been guilty of doing something like that. But are these men to be eternally banished from the waterfront, and their wives and children made to suffer? If so, they are being cruelly treated. If the regulations are allowed to stand, the work will be given to men who are rightly entitled to it.
– And the volunteers will be allowed to starve.
– Not at all. It was suggested by Senator McLachlan that the volunteers would not dare to live in Port Adelaide, but I venture to suggest that not 90 out of 100 of them would live there if they were given houses rent free. They prefer to live in other parts of the city. They journey to the waterfront in motor vehicles, and as soon as the whistle blows they go off to their homes which are in more congenial surroundings than are obtainable in Port Adelaide. It is unfair to suggest that they would be threatened with violence if they lived ia Port Adelaide.
– It is not only suggested; they have actually been threatened with violence.
– There might be an isolated case of that. Senator Hoare has mentioned men who, having got the rank and file of the waterside workers into their present unfortunate position, have since been taken up by the ship-owners and to-day are the bosses controlling the volunteers. One could understand the unionists having very bitter feelings towards such men. They would be less than human if they did not.
– That applies to practically the whole of the foremen at Port Adelaide to-day.
– It applies to quite a number of them. Senator Hoare has told us of the occasion when the unionists tried to take a ballot, and extremists, fools I call them, rushed in and kicked the ballot-box to pieces, bringing about a state of chaos. The men who did that were immediately afterwards taken up by the ship-owners and to-day are leading the volunteers in Port Adelaide. Much as we all cherish the idea of peace in industry, it is not possible while such conditions prevail. Honorable senators opposite are determined to disallow these regulations, in spite of the fact that a week ago to-day the whole city of Port Adelaide was practically idle, business being suspended while, as a result of large signed petitions, the business people held two of the largest meetings ever held at the port, and unanimously carried the resolutions referred to by the Leader of the Opposition to-day. It was nOt made a party question at all. The action which the Senate will probably take to-day will perpetuate an injustice upon the citizens of Port Adelaide - upon men, women and children who are absolutely innocent. Honorable senators opposite ask when this repetition of the issue of the regulations is to stop. We ask them when the punishment of the waterside workers is to stop. The Mayor of Port Adelaide, who is a prominent member of the Nationalist party, says that, in. the opinion of the Port Adelaide people, the waterside workers have been sufficiently punished and should have an opportunity to come into their own again
If there is an obligation to make good to the volunteers, those who made profits out of them should compensate them for the service they rendered.
– To what profits does the honorable senator refer?
– The profitsmade by those whom the volunteers served.
– They served the country.
– That is a matter of opinion. But if they did serve the country, have not the waterside workers also served their country all their lives?
– They refused to do so.
– On one occasion only - 2-J years ago.
– On more than one occasion.
– I am referring to Port Adelaide. The honorable senator, of course, is referring to the Queensland coast. It seems to me that a comparatively small group of waterside workers have been carrying on tactics on the Queensland coast which would not meet with the approval of the great bulk of the members of the federation, but it is not fair to blame the whole federation. Nor is it fair to blame the thousands of unionists on the waterfront at Port Adelaide for an action taken by a minority, particularly when that minority is now in another job. I plead with the Senate to allow these regulations to stand. If they are allowed to stand I am confident that there will be more peace and prosperity on the waterfront than ever before. I believe that the unionists have learned a lesson from their indiscreet action of 2£ years ago. There are young men in Port Adelaide who were only seventeen or eighteen years of age when this trouble happened. They are our future citizens, yet they have no other means of livelihood than that which is to be obtained on the waterfront. How are we to treat them? They are classed with the guilty. It seems to me to be unfair to punish them. I appreciate the need of the Senate maintaining its constitutional right to disallow an ordinance, but on an occasion like this, when there is dire distress among a substantial section of the people of South Australia as a result of the Senate’s previous action, I think that the Senate should overlook its constitutional right and, in the interests of humanity, give these regulations a trial.
– If the regulations under discussion did not involve so serious a matter, they would be humorous. What could be more humorous than the following, which appears in these regulations ? : -
The Government knows well that if the waterside workers had been agreeable to be bound by the awards of the Arbitration Court none of this trouble on the waterfront would have arisen. But they refused to be so bound. I do not altogether blame them, because I heard an honorable senator, who was then in opposition, saying that the Arbitration Act failed if the workers did not get all they asked for; that the act was passed to give the workers what they asked for.
– Who said that?
– Ex-Senator Findley. I have great respect for him. He was thoroughly honest, although the greatest leg-puller under the Southern Cross. There would have been no trouble on the waterfront if the members of the union had been willing to abide by the decisions of the court. I can remember when there was no Arbitration Court in Australia. When the act was passed establishing the Arbitration Court, the workers in Australia, and particularly the waterside workers, believed they had reached the Mecca of their industrial pilgrimage. Nevertheless, when awards given by the court did not suit them, they refused to obey them.
Senator Kneebone spoke of the last waterside dispute as if it were an isolated incident in tlie industrial history of Australia. If it had been the Government’s action might have been justified.
– It was an isolated dispute as far as Port Adelaide was concerned.
– No; there had been trouble for years.
– The disturbance which led up to the passing of the Transport Workers Act was the culmination of years of trouble on the waterfront. The people of Western Australia have good reason to remember the frequent disputes that occurred. For a number of years, at the height of the fruit season in Western Australia, there would be an interruption of shipping services resulting in a shortage of sugar in that State. As the enormous surplus soft fruits could not be marketed in the other States, and, because of the lack of sugar, could not be made into jam, it rotted in the orchards.
– And yet the licensing system does not apply at the port of Fremantle.
– I am referring to the long series of disputes which had occurred in Western Australia. In no other country would people have been so patient and long suffering as were the people of Australia during those years when the waterside workers dominated the industrial situation. The Transport Workers Act, which was introduced and passed by the Bruce-Page Government, was a last desperate effort to meet an evil that was getting beyond control. Even honorable senators supporting the Government in this chamber will admit that, since the passing of that act, there has been peace on the waterfront. The Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes), and Senator Kneebone, speaking this afternoon on behalf of the Waterside Workers Federation, asked how long this punishment of its members should continue. Surely, they said, these men have been sufficiently punished, and now should be allowed to return to work on the waterfront. I do not admit that the Bruce-Page Government, in passing the Transport Workers Act, was moved by a desire to punish waterside workers. Its .one object was to protect the people of Australia from the consequences of disputes in which, apparently, the interests of only the employers and employees were considered. The people were being crushed between the two opposing forces. The results have amply justified that Government’s action.
I referred just now to the loss and inconvenience suffered by the people of Western Australia as a result of these all too frequent disputes on the waterfront. One instance in particular, will, I have no doubt, still be fresh in the minds of honorable senators. They will recall what happened on the waterfront in 1917, when the Empire had its back to the wall.
– Thousands of wharf-labourers went to the front.
– That is true; but unfortunately those who were left behind did not play the game. At one stage in a dispute the call was made for volunteers to maintain continuity of work on the wharf at Fremantle. A large number of men responded, and when the trouble was over, they were compensated, as Senator Kneebone now suggests the volunteer workers should be compensated - to what extent I do not know, but the amount paid was, I am sure, trifling - and they left the wharfs. Those who remained in the State were unable to secure employment elsewhere until they had changed their names. I do not ask honorable senators to accept my word for this statement. If they are sufficiently interested they will find the necessary confirmation in the Hansard reports of debates of the Western Australian Parliament. Nine years after the trouble on the Fremantle wharfs one of the volunteer workers was one day discovered working on the Subiaco sewerage scheme, a Government contract. When his fellow workmen learned that he was one of the volunteers on the Fremantle wharfs in 1917 they threw down their tools, and Mr. Alec McCallum, who was Minister for Public Works in the Collier Government, to appease the- unionists, dismissed the man in question. His punishment was extended over a far greater period of time than is suggested by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Barnes) and Senator Kneebone with regard to those waterside workers, who now seek to return to the waterfront.
– And yet the waterside workers at Fremantle are not licensed?
– That is because, like Belshazzar. they saw the writing on the wall, and, unlike him, were able to read it. They knew what was being done and mended their ways in time. It has been urged in support of the Government’s action, that under these latest regulations preference is given to returned soldiers. I have’ examined the regulations to see to what extent preference is given, and I find the following provision is made : -
Notwithstanding any tiling contained in the last preceding sub-regulation, persons who are returned soldiers or returned sailors . . . who were, at any time during the first six months of the year 1 930, the holders of licences under part III. of the Transport Workers Act 1928-29, in respect of any ports to which that act applied at any time during that year, may be employed, engaged or picked up for work . . .
From this it will be seen that the extent ro which preference is given to returned soldiers or sailors is very slight, because the regulations in question applied only to Adelaide, Melbourne, and two or three Queensland ports. It follows, therefore, that unless a returned soldier is a member of the “Waterside Workers Federation he will not, under these regulations, be eligible for employment at the majority of Australian ports. Every Government should legislate in the interests of all the people. Because all returned soldiers and sailors responded to the call of the nation in its time of need, they are entitled now to a fair share of whatever work may be available on the waterfront. No honorable senator who has spoken in opposition to the motion has suggested that any member of the Waterside Workers Federation was refused a licence under the Transport Workers Act regulations.
– That is so.
– All members of that organization were eligible for work if they took out a licence and registered for employment. Therefore the action of this Government, in bringing down fresh regulations, is not justified. If the volunteers were being employed for the purpose of slashing wages and reducing the standard of living, they would get no support from me; but it has been made abundantly clear that the sole purpose which the late Government had in view, when it introduced the bill, was to ensure the safety of the nation by maintaining essential services. The volunteers have been working under conditions laid down by the Arbitration Court, and I see no reason why they should be displaced.
– They did work which was refused by members of the Waterside Workers Federation.
– That is so. There was an urgent appeal for volunteers to come to the assistance of the country. They did so, and now they have every right to expect adequate protection from the Government. They should not be thrown to the wolves, as was suggested recently by a Minister in the New South Wales Government. Unfortunately, on the many prior occasions when volunteers took the places of strikers on our wharfs they were . left to shift for themselves when the trouble was over. But, in the dispute which led up to the passing of the Transport Workers Act, they were given a definite undertaking that they would be protected, and, in the interests of decency, if for no other reason, that promise must be honored.
– The subject-matter of the motion has been well discussed by honorable senators on both sides. I was much impressed by the letter which was read by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) from the Mayor of Port Adelaide. That gentleman, according to information supplied to me by an honorable senator on the Government side, is not in sympathy in a political sense with the views of members of the Waterside Workers Federation, but he has at heart the interests of the citizens of Port Adelaide. His views, I contend, should influence the vote which honorable senators will be called upon to give on this motion. His letter confirms the statements made yesterday by Senator Kneebone, who dealt at much greater length with the situation at that port. It has been claimed that the volunteers have proved more efficient than the regular waterside workers. Without denying the sincerity of those who make that assertion, I would say that, if it is true, it is a contradiction of the industrial history of this country. Ever since Labour set out to organize there have been industrial troubles of various kinds. These have been brought about necessarily by the desire of the workers to better their conditions. For many years that was the only means which they had of impressing their .will, not only on the persons who employed them, but also on the people generally. Then they began to look for a saner means of settling industrial disputes, and the arbitration system was evolved. Trior to arbitration, whenever volunteers - as they are now courteously termed - came to the relief of the employers, and broke down the resistance of the trade unionists who were fighting for what they deemed to be justice, they found themselves discarded when the trouble was settled. The employers thus showed unmistakably who, in their opinion, were the more efficient workers.
If I am rightly informed, the late Government insisted that the employers should give preference in employment for all time to the men who took the places of the strikers on the waterfront. I believe that the employers gave that assurance, and that they have endeavoured to observe it; but I have not the slightest doubt that they would embrace any opportunity that presented itself to escape from it, because, according to the press on Tuesday, work was proceeding quietly and with perfect contentment among the men at Port Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. That postulates satisfaction on the part of the employers with the work that is being performed under the regulations of this Government
One or two points of importance have been raised in this debate. The recent High Court judgment upheld the validity of the disallowance by the Senate of the Transport Workers Regulations. The meaning of that judgment, however, is that the Governor-General in Council acted strictly within his constitutional limitations in making those regulations; that is to say, the Government acted absolutely within its constitutional rights. The Governor-General acts upon the advice given to him by his executive. That, too, is strictly constitutional. Certain remarks that have been made by honorable senators opposite would appear to involve the proposition that the Governor-General should act in accordance with the opinion of the Senate, not the Executive Council, by which he is supposed to be constitutionally advised. That is an entirely novel idea, and is wholly contradictory of the provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution provides for a Federal Executive, to advise the Governor-General in the government of the Commonwealth. If it is asserted by the Senate that the executive is abusing the powers that have been conferred upon it, and is defying the will of Parliament, honorable senators have at their disposal a sane and constitutional remedy. They have no need to go to the High Court; their simplest procedure is to bring in a bill to take away or to control the power of the executive to make regulations. They have the numbers, and if, as they allege, Parliament is being defied, why do they not bring the matter before Parliament for its decision? That is their duty. They are obstructing the business of the country by insisting upon the Senate meeting every week for the purpose of disallowing these regulations. I thought that they would be only too pleased to accept my olive branch of a three-weeks’ holiday; but I understand that they have rejected it. However, while there is life there is hope, and I shall not be convinced until I see the result of the division on this motion.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.43]. - The rock to which the supporters of the Government appear to cling is that a number of shopkeepers at Port Adelaide, who have not received the income they expected because volunteer wharf labourers have to live in other suburbs, have passed resolutions supporting the action of the Government. Let us consider what occurred at the time of the waterside workers’ strike, when these shopkeepers were in exactly the same position as that which they occupy to-day. At that time, no work was done by and no wages were paid to the waterside workers. Did these shopkeepers then hold public meetings urging the men to return to work? Senator Kneebone knows that they dared not do so. Had they done so, they would have been subjected to methods of peaceful persuasion similar to those that were adopted in Melbourne to-day. The mayor would have had to attend the meeting under police escort, and the gentle friends of the Waterside Workers Federation would have been waiting with a bottle for him and for any others who dared to speak. Just imagine any of these shopkeepers who are now so concerned” about the interests of Port Adelaide, daring during that strike to move a motion condemning the action of the Waterside Workers Federation, in holding up the transport services of the country ! How their business would have flourished afterwards! There is a little instrument of torture known to modern trade unionism that has become immensely popular with the Trotskys and the Lenins in the movement. It is called the boycott, and its use is not confined to matters of this kind. As Senator Kneebone is aware, when a trade union wants money it goes to the publicans and the storekeepers of these places with a list. Let any one dare to refuse to put his name on that list, and his name is placed on another list at union headquarters.
– That is not correct.
– That little instrument of the boycott is the one which made this meeting in Adelaide the other day such a success.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Leader of the Opposition in order in introducing irrelevant matter into the discussion of a motion to disallow the Transport Workers Regulations? Is he at liberty to bring forward a new subject, when no other honorable senator will have an opportunity to reply to him?
– I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition has said anything which is out of order.
– Is it in order for the right honorable gentleman to say that the trade unions of this country keep a list of publicans and shopkeepers who refuse to make donations to their funds?
– If it be not so, the honorable senator can call attention to it.
– I am not concerned at the moment with whether the statement is accurate or inaccurate. My point is, whether it is relevant to the question of the disallowance of the Waterside Workers Regulations?
– Repeatedly this afternoon I Avas ruled out of order when I made certain statements that were leading up to the point under discussion. I was told by you, Mr. President, that my remarks were not relevant to the question before the Chair.
– I think the honorable senator will remember that I said that the biography of the Leader of the Opposition was not under discussion.
– That was so on one occasion. Can the Leader of the Opposition deal with the biography of the Labour party in its relations with storekeepers ?
– If either Senator Daly or Senator Dunn wishes to disagree with my ruling, he may do so at once and in writing; and the matter will be discussed at the next sitting.
– I have no wish to do that.
– Nor have I.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.What I said was that the modern Lenins and Trotskys who are leading certain sections of the trade union movement today have borrowed from Russia tho principle of terrorism in trade unionism; and also apply the principle of the boycott.
– We say that that is absolute rot.
– By the use of those weapons, if any shopkeeper in the peaceful town of Port Adelaide had dared at the time of the waterside workers strike - which was responsible for the introduction of the Transport Workers Act - to address a meeting of protest against the business of the port being held up, he would have been driven out of business in that town. On the other hand, had any shopkeeper dared to abstain from taking part in the meeting that was held the other day, or had he attended it and objected to the resolution, he also, by the use of these two little weapons, would be forced out of business. Although honorable senators may weep crocodile tears into Hansard, their utterances will not have much effect upon those who object to the methods under which the Trotskys and the Lenins from modern trade unionism are terrorizing, not only volunteers, but unionists. These are the weapons which they employ and the means by which they_ place a stranglehold upon the unionists themselves, compelling them to knuckle down and do what they want them to do. That is proved by the statements made this afternoon by Senator Kneebone. Did he not tell the Sell ate that a great majority of the men did not want to strike? Did he not say their leaders forced them to strike, and that those leaders are now the “ curled darlings” of the Employers Federation? How did the leaders force them to strike? If the leaders were in the minority at Port Adelaide, how was it that a majority of the members of the Waterside Workers Federation at Port Adelaide went on strike against the award, against their own judgment and their own will? It was because of the power of these two instruments - terrorism and the boycott. Whatever may have been said at public meetings at Port Adelaide fails to impress me; it only confirms me in my determination to disallow these regulations.
Question - That the motion be agreed to - put. The Senate divided. (Thu President - Senator tics Hon. W. Kingsmill.)
Majority . . . . 13
Question so resolved in the affirmative:
Motion (by Senator Barnes) agreed to.
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Wednesday next at 3 p.m.
Sir Robert Gibson’s Evidence Alleged Blackmail by Trade Unions - Administration of Senator Sir George Pearce.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
A few days ago the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) asked me whether it was practicable to supply in pamphlet form the report of the proceedings in this chamber covering the examination of the Chairman of the Commonwealth Bank Board, Sir Robert Gibson, on the Commonwealth Bank Bill. As a full report of the proceedings appears in Hansard it is considered that the additional expense involved in supplying copies in the form suggested is not justified.
– I desire to place on record that there is absolutely no truth in the statement made by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce), this afternoon that the trade union movement in this country attempts to blackmail publicans and storekeepers. I challenge the right honorable senator to prove his statement, and if he cannot do so he should apologize to the movement he has maligned.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.58]. - In the first place I should like to say that I did not make the statement attributed to me.
– The right honorable senator did.
– What I said I will repeat. I said that the practice has grown up among the Lenin and Trotskys to extort money from tradespeople by telling them that if they do not put their names to certain subscription lists their names will be posted at the union office.
– The right honorable senator said that such names were posted.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 21 May 1931, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1931/19310521_senate_12_129/>.