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Thursday, 2 August 1906
Page: 2267

Mr DEAKIN (Balla.rat) (Minister of External Affairs) . - This is not a question upon which I have consulted my colleagues, and, consequently, address myself to it from my own individual stand-point. The proposal is not simply that uniform industrial laws should be adopted as to which we should probably all agree, but further, that all necessary steps should be taken before the next general election to pass a Bill to secure an alteration of the Constitution. I am not blind to the fact that in supporting the motion - as I shall certainly do - I am indorsing the first proposition. I do not know whether the honorable member who has submitted it - and who hasevery right to be heard upon a question of this kind, to, which he has devoted many years of patient study and practical work - has any intention of proceeding further in the second direction. He must recognise that at this stage of the session, and under existing circumstances, his opportunities of doing so are likely to be very limited.

Mr JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then he should withdraw the motion.

Mr DEAKIN - That is a matter for his judgment and not for ours ; but, meanwhile, the motion reads -

That, in the opinion of this House, all necessary steps should be taken, before any general election, to pass a Bill, &c.

Speaking for myself, I concur in the rest of the motion, though not binding my colleagues to its exact terms. It appears to me to be one of the inevitable developments of Federation. There are a series of provisions in the Constitution which, taken together, render necessary some such addition as the motion suggests, to give them their full force and effect, and to round off the industrial portion of our powers. For instance, there is that great and almost indefinable area which is covered under the heading of " trade and commerce," the most immediate effect of which has been attained by the passing of Tariff laws. But, in addition to that, which enables us to control the general conditions under which Australian industries are carried on, we find ourselves, in conciliation and arbitration matters, introduced further into the arena. Here we are faced with problems with which it is impossible to cope except by a study of industrial conditions, and by determinations having an industrial effect. The exercise of any power relating to conciliation and arbitration necessarily forces the Commonwealth into the industrial field - and, indeed, has done so already. Then, again, the control that we exercise overall trading or financial corporations, is another point at which we touch - and are likely in future to touch even more closely - many branches of production.

The tendency to transfer great undertakings from the control of individuals to that of limited companies marks a familial developmentin industrial affairs. Nor can we exclude from our view the more indirect relation between old-age pensions and the subject under discussion. Altogether, without looking at our remaining powers, such as those relating to taxation, or the granting of bounties for industrial development,and a number of others which more or less impinge upon this question, an examination of the present position of the Commonwealth in relation to industrial affairs will show that it is, as yet, imperfect. It points clearly to a greater, though gradual, assumption of authority, in order that we may give full effect to the powers which the Commonwealth already possesses, and exercise effective control from an Australian point of view. This Parliament has been by no means blind to its obligations in this regard. Quite recently, we passed a measure in which direct reference is made to the industrial conditions obtaining in Australia. Under the heading of " The Commonwealth Trade Mark," we have in the Trade Marks Act, passed last session, recognised the present unsatisfactory want of uniformity in our industrial affairs, requiring us to proceed in a very indirect manner to accomplish a very plain end. Under section 78 the Commonwealth trade mark may be applied to all goods, in respect of which, in the opinion of Parliament - the conditions as to the remuneration of labour in connexion with their manufacture are fair and reasonable.

Under sub-section 2, it is provided that where the conditions are laid down by the States as to the remuneration of labour - prescribed, required, or provided in relation to the goods, by an industrial award or order, or an industrial agreement under an industrial law the Commonwealth trade mark may also be applied. Where those conditions do not exist that trade mark cannot be applied. This cumbrous form had to be adopted by the Parliament, because of the present limitation of its power. It is, nevertheless, an indication of its intention, as far as its authority permits, to mark its sense of the necessary imposition of certain industrial conditions everywhere which shall be equitable to the labourer as well as to the employer. There is also before another place at the present time a measure which recently left this Chamber, the Australian Industries Preservation Bill. Its keynote may be said to be the distinguishing between industries in which civilized industrial conditions have been established, and those in which they are not in force. The inadequate remuneration of labour disqualifies appeals to it. It preserves industries which merit preservation because of the conditions under which they are carried on. Its provisions against unfair competition are amongst its most prominent features. Thus in the exercise of our existing powers we have found ourselves from time to time confronted by the necessity of dealing with the different conditions that obtain in the different States. I am far from assuming that an attempt should be made to rigidly apply precisely the same industrial regulations to the whole of Australia. We have to recognise that, in this vast Continent, there are already manifest certain variations of various kinds, which would render different remuneration necessary, in order that there should be an actual, instead of a merely nominal, equality in the wages paid in different parts of the Commonwealth. Other conditions as to hours and times of work might also be varied without any departure from a fair rule. We have to recognise that, even with our present population, the simplicity of municipal control is not possible federally, since our people live under widely different conditions in several parts of Australia. At present, top, we are faced bv something beyond these natural contrasts; we are faced by contrasts in policy, and in the manner in which industrial conditions are sought to be regulated, or, in some of the States, by an absence of regulation of any kind. In dealing with industrial measures we have been confronted with the difficulties created by the existence of- these marked contrasts in States laws. I have always held that, in the circumstances peculiar to our Constitution as it is - accepting the responsibility which it places upon us - we are and shall be compelled, in discharging our duties to 'our constituents, to face industrial conditions and circumstances. Evidently it is not possible for us to deal adequately with the problems already presented while we are faced with six different sets of industrial conditions in as many different States. I look forward in the future to the inevitable assumption by the Commonwealth - as an agency for the people of Australia - of a greater control over any industrial conditions at present beyond its reach. It does not. rest with this Parliament to say when it will be conferred, nor the extent to which it will be given. Both these questions require to be decided by the electors at a general election when thev have been distinctly appealed to, and when a definite proposition has been submitted to them. I do not know that as yet this question has been discussed outside the Parliament in any systematic or persistent manner. Although in this Chamber it has recurred from time to time, this is the. first occasion on which an attempt has been made to push it to a directly practical issue. The honorable member who fathers the motion and has commended it to the House is probably more closely in touch with the industrial conditions of this State than is any one else in or out of it. I do not know, however, whether his knowledge of the industrial conditions in other States, and the sentiments of those affected bv them, approaches that which he undoubtedly possesses of those in "Victoria. I question whether there has yet been sufficient public elucidation of the necessity for this advance, or a clear delimitation of the change proposed. I do not know whether there has been such an exposition of the case for a change as would entitle us to expect to put this question at the next general election, with that certainty of receiving a favorable answer which the honorable member must desire. I make this statement lest my 'support to the motion be misunderstood. I am in hearty agreement with its principle, because I regard it as the necessarily logical development of the Constitution. The Constitution is to-day imperfect on its industrial side, and can be completed only by an advance in this direction. I also approve of the principle, because I share the considerations which have affected honorable members who have preceded me, and adopt many of their arguments, which, to save time, I shall not repeat. I agree with them that, having regard to the uniformity of conditions we are establishing as far as possible under the Tariff, the Trade Marks Act, and the Australian Industries Preservation Bill, the people of Australia a special .claim upon this Parliament for uniformity of industrial legislation. These Bills deal, and are bound to deal, from our stand-point, with Australian industry. That term covers the whole of the manufacturers and employers of the Commonwealth. They all are Australian, and we are able only by the most cumbersome methods to distinguish between the diverse conditions under which they are now working. We can continue to exercise our present powers fruitfully only when dealing with Australian industries established on the same basis, and conducted in the same manner. Until some change is brought about, our industrial efforts may be crippled, and the discharge of the powers we already have, impeded. It therefore appears natural that the electors of Australia, when more fully informed on this subject - and when more united in taking the necessary action towards its achievement - will press upon their representatives, as no doubt some of them have already done, the necessity of bringing about this uniformity without further delay. When that time comes I shall be well content, if it is my fortune to be able to join, in recommending to them an extension of the Commonwealth powers that will permit of our making uniform industrial laws. The movement is at present in the educational stage. The education of the people must continue some time longer before we can hope that an appeal to -them will receive the overwhelming support which I think it should get. The honorable member's motive is excellent. My honorable colleagues will exercise their right of private judgment in regard to the motion, though I believe all of them are in accord. Personally, I shall support it as necessary to the completion of the Constitution, and' essential to the exercise of the industrial powers which our people wish to be employed on their behalf, and for their benefit.

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