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Friday, 6 August 1920

Mr MARKS (Wentworth) .- Up to the time 'that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) re-entered the Chamber my sympathies were with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony), who made an excellent speech on many matters that required elucidation from some responsible Minister. That speech will, I think, remove many doubts felt by honorable members; a?t any rate, it has removed doubts that I had, and the remarks of the Prime Minister have certainly cleared the air. Before I deal with the Bill itself I should like to lead up to it somewhat in the same way as did -the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who, in an extremely lucid ' speech, covered a lot of ground which I had intended myself to traverse, showing the industrial conditions in Canada, America, France, Belgium, Italy, and so forth. Although I am, perhaps, not closely associated in a large way with industrial affairs, I keep my eyes and ears open, with a view to learning anything that may be of benefit to this great country of ours.

What is the position? Before the war there were industrial disputes throughout the world, and now, after the war, there are still disputes. But the war has loosened ideas, ambitions, and passions, which, in 1914, would not have been thought possible, but would have been regarded as practically beyond the realms of reason. Those ideas, to a certain extent, are confined to what we call industrial unrest, and they have come to stay, and rightly so. We are told that the Prince of Wales, when he visited the living quarters of certain working people in London, described them as " a damned scandal." In America, as the honorable member for Flinders said, the people are living on the edge of a volcano; and why? Because they have something which we, thank God, have not, and that is a black -labour question. Many of the negroes are very highly intelligent, shown by the fact that one of 'the porters who looked after me on the Great Transcontinental Railway from San Francisco to New York was an M.A. and B.A. pf one of the universities in Southern California. Many of the uneducated black people volunteered for the war, and while away from their own country acquired much knowledge as to con- 'ditions in other parts of the world, Those men have returned, and they want better conditions." They have taken a hand in industrial life, which is a factor in the accumulation of industrial unrest.

What has been the history of this question in Australia? Apart from the legislation of the various States to cope with the problem, the Commonwealth, in 1904, entered the ring with its Compulsory Arbitration Bill. That measure was amended in 1909, 1910, and 1911, twice, in 1914, and in 1915 and 1918. That indicates that, from the start, this compulsory arbitration law was like a brick wall which was continually threatening to collapse and had to be trussed and supported from time to time in order to keep it up so that it might serve the purpose for which it had been erected. There have been three main complaints against the system of compulsory arbitration. The first has been that too much power was placed in the hands of one man. With that criticism I entirely agree. No one man could hope to cover the whole field - no matter how he might be advised and helped - and make an award which would last. The second grievance has been in relation to the congestion of cases before the Court. That is a factor which is bound to breed discontent. The third point has to do with the complex nature of the various decisions and awards in existence. Mr. H. Y. Braddon, in the course of an excellent address before the Sydney Chamber of Commerce, dealt at some length with that phase. He pointed out that in one instance alone, namely, in regard to the firm of Anthony Hordern and Sons, there were fifty -eight separate awards under which the firm had to work. From an employer's stand-point that is palpably absurd. It looks as if we were trying to do all we could to hamper our great employers. What have these three main causes of trouble led to ? To one thing ; and I agree with the views of Mr. Braddon upon that one thing. That is, the creation of a spirit of suspicion. It has brought about what, in my opinion, is the greatest curse of all. I refer to the "go-slow" policy. It is a curse to Australia, and demoralizing to the man who practises it, for he knows right well that he is not playing the game. I want to lead up to what I said in this chamber in the course of my maiden speech. I remarked then that there was only one solution of the industrial problem, and that that was to get both parties together at a round table conference. I have 'had some experience of the Federal Arbitration Court. I instructed the Prime Minister when he was plain Mr. " Billy " Hughes, and had just been admitted to the Bar. The case in question was the first, I believe, which came before the Federal Arbitration Court in Sydney, and was taken by Mr. Justice O'Connor. Masters and officers of all the inter-Colonial vessels were proceeding against the owners for the concession of better living conditions, higher wages, and so on. We did not secure anything like what we sought, although all of our points have since been granted. But, even at that early stage, I recognised that compulsory arbitration was going to fail. The fact is that it was based on a wrong plan ; it was wrongly housed. The

Court was not the right place. I would like to see something in this Bill to the effect that wherever a council, or special tribunal, or local' Board may meet, it shall not be in any building which has the appearance of a Court. The effect both on employee and employer is that, directly they step inside the door of a Court - as Mr. Braddon put it - their hair stands up on end, and a spirit of fight is engendered. That is not the atmosphere which leads to amicable decisions. These bodies should meet in a friendly sort of way in a room where there is a round table, and where employee and employer can face each other man to man, and so wrestle with their differences. Mr. Braddon said, " The compulsory arbitration Court sets up an atmosphere of mock legal quarrel, which is an impossible condition." I quite agree with him. What is required is direct contact between the parties. What is America's experience? Honorable members have read statements emanating from Mr. Samuel Gompers, leader of the Labour movement in the United States of America. He has no time for compulsory arbitration. America is not free from strikes; but, in their enormous works, the American people have solved their troubles for the time being by inaugurating a system of giving better conditions to the workers, paying higher wages, and distributing a share of profits, which raises earnings to something more than a basic wage. I quite agree with that procedure. I have always said that the man who produces the wealth should have a fair share of that wealth. If we treat the workers properly and bring them under a profitsharing system there will not be strikes. Great Britain has partly solved her troubles by means of the Whitley Councils, which are working well. By degrees all the organizations are coming into the Whitley scheme. The Bill before the House is framed very much upon the lines of the Whitley methods; but I agree with the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) that, in many cases, matters need clearing up. I am at one with the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who believes in the establishment of unions, and regards them as a factor for good; and I agree with him, further, that no man should be compelled to enter a union. However, in order to bring about industrial peace, and seeing that the unions represent the great majority of the working people, I hold that the representatives of the workers on the tribunals should be selected from those unions. Where a strike occurs among a small body of men who are not members of a union, I understand that the Prime Minister has stated that the delegates should come direct from those people. It should be made perfectly clear that the principle is safeguarded. Otherwise, no good will come of our efforts; the working man of Australia will have nothing to do with this measure. I know the Government are sincere in trying to bring about industrial peace, so I trust that they will leave no loop-hole for suspicion.

Regarding the appointment of chairmen, I agree with the opinions expressed by several honorable members that it is a matter which must be most carefully considered. Sub-clause 3 of clause 5 states -

The chairman shall be appointed by the Governor-General.

That is to say, the Government. Person- > ally, I have not too much faith in certain political appointments. What I would like to see here, and in the case of the appointment of all chairmen under this measure, is provision for their selection as follows: -

The chairman shall be chosen by agreement between the representatives of employers and employees, or, , in default of agreement, shall be appointed by the Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia from names submitted to him by both sides.

That would do away with suspicion, for if there is one man in this country who is above suspicion it is the Chief Justice of the High Court - whoever he may be.

Much has been said concerning whether the Bill does or does not empower the Boards or tribunals to go into the question of profits. Here, the point strikes me whether that right should be granted. But we have to try everything possible to secure industrial peace, and I say that the right should be granted, so long as it is conceded in camera. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) did not object to that. Mr. Braddon represents the great body of employers in New South Wales. He dealt with the same question in his address. In asking that a Conference should be appointed he set out certain points which, he thought should be discussed; and, having cited those points, he stated -

The idea would not be for the employer to part in any material way with the control. The employees will not, I think, desire that, when they understand the great value of capable unified control in the experienced and skilled hands of the employer. They will readily appreciate that too many cooks may quickly spoil that broth. The idea would rather be to give them knowledge of the concern's interests, so that they may have some idea of what is happening, and a right of discussion regarding the conditions under which they work in the factory, warehouse, or shop.

I am certain that, having in mind the wonderful record of trade unionists in Great Britain during the war - when they responded to the appeal of Mr. Lloyd George to set their backs to the wall and give our fighting men their allnecessary munitions and supplies - we would not be disappointed in the workers over this matter.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.

Mr MARKS - I have been asked by honorable members to shorten my remarks as much as possible, because a number of other honorable members wish to speak before the vote is taken on the second reading this afternoon. Before lunch I was discussing the question of profits. Without looking exhaustively into the Arbitration A.ct and comparing it with the Bill, I was of opinion that this measure does confer powers under which the question of profits might be considered. Claude 7 includes amongst the powers and functions of the Commonwealth Council -

To consider any matters, conditions, and tendencies in any part of the Commonwealth leading to or likely to lead to industrial disputes, or in any way affecting or likely to affect industrial peace.

Surely profits would come within the meaning of the words " any matters." Pome doubt has been cast upon my view, however, by the statement that, although the same power is conferred in the Arbitration Act, the . High Court has ruled that the question of profits cannot be inquired into by the Court. The point I dosire to stress is that if the power is not in the Bill, it should be placed there. We heard an able speech last night from the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), who may be regarded as the representative of a large employing section of the community, and he assured us that he personally is not opposed to any inquiry into profits, so long as the investigation is not unduly harassing. There is also the statement of Mr. H. Y. Braddon, which I have previously quoted, that the employeesshould be allowed to have more knowledge of the concern in which they are working. Therefore, if the Bill is not wide enough to permit of inquiry into profits, let us make it wider. Now that we have thechance, we should do everything possibleto remove the suspicion which is hampering the whole industrial world to-day.

Nothing in the Bill prevents those engaged in an industry having their own round-table conference. Perhaps the local Boards might not reach likely disputes, but until a local Board is appointed as the offspring of a special tribunal, there is nothing to prevent employer and employees in each industry meeting at a roundtableconference, with, as one honorable member interjected, a bottle of whisky, to which I would add a box of cigars. I am a great believer in a cigar, a pipe, and a bottle of beer as an aid to negotiations of this kind. If such a conference fails, it is time forthe special tribunal to set going its offshoots, the local Boards. Every decision arrived at by a local Board must be reviewed by the special tribunal which deals with that industry. Therefore, we havenot only an inquiry by the local Boards, but a further inquiry by the special tribunal which governs them, to insure that the decision arrived at by one local Board does not conflict with a decision of another local Board in the same industry.

In regard to the £5,000,000 which I mentioned as awaiting investment in Australia, I assure the House that that is not the whole of the sum that might find its way to the Commonwealth; much more is awaiting investment. The Leader of theOpposition (Mr. Tudor) asked, by interjection, where else in the world could the money be better invested. I remind him that within a few monthsafter the signing of the armisticebetween £40,000,000 and £50,000,000 was invested in various companies in England. But I know that, notwithstanding all that the dear old Mother Country has done for Australia, British capitalists desire to further help us as much as possible, whilst at the same time getting a fair return for their money. There are untold millions of pounds awaiting investment in Australia if we can only establish those stable conditions which I know the whole House is anxious to establish. It has been a great pleasure to me to notice the improved feeling that has developed in the House in connexion with the discission of the Bill. " We have listened to many able speeches, and much light has been thrown on the measure, and I am convinced that, notwithstanding the shortness of time at our disposal, we shall produce a scheme that will have a wonderful effect upon the Commonwealth. It is about time we did something of the kind, for I think we hardly realize what a. momentous period is the present in our history. I repeat what I have always said, that we can only achieve industrial peace by the " get-together" policy.

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