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Friday, 9 July 1920


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) . - No subject is of more importance to the general community than this question of industrial unrest, particularly in the coal-mining industry; and I should like to make one or two observations with reference to the proposed special tribunals mentioned by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I have always contended that a great centralized Arbitration Court must necessarily be a clumsy, slow-moving piece of machinery, quite unable to attack problems as they arise from time to time in the varied conditions of Australian industries. I believe a Court for every important industry will prove the ideal method of handling industrial disputes in the future. How can it be expected that a Judge of the Arbitration Court shall know everything of every industry? And yet it seems to be a fundamental theory of the Arbitration Court procedure that the Judge should be master of all the facts of all our industries, and thus be able to appraise conditions with an approach to equity. No man can be expected to possess all these qualities. I know of no one who is big enough and wise enough to handle all these problems in their own atmosphere and environment. The costliness of arbitration procedure is, to some extent, due to the fact that a Judge has to spend days and days possessing himself of the facts in relation to a dispute. These facts have to be hammered . into him by experts on either side, when in reality he ought, at the outset, to be thoroughly conversant with all the facts 'in a broad and general way in relation to the industry concerned. Therefore, it seems to me to be proper that we should seek to set up special tribunals in the form of a Court for every important industry. I do not know that I should favour an elaborate Court such as we have to-day. I prefer some kind of simple Court of Conciliation, with arbitration in reserve, to attack the various problems as they arise, and on the spot. I have in mind the experiences of the Mother Country in this matter. Compulsory arbitration is not favoured in England. They can do much better by means of special tribunals comprised of men who devote the whole of their lives to the settlement of industrial troubles in relation to particular industries.


Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - Our Wages Boards approach more closely to that system than any other method.


Mr Tudor - Yes; but they can also " sack " a man concerned in industrial troubles.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I have in mind the very satisfactory results achieved by Sir Rupert Kettle in the coal-mining district of Staffordshire. For forty years he was called upon to settle 'disputes in the coal and iron trades in chat district.


Mr Riley - Are the men satisfied with his decisions?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - No one has ever called his decisions into question. Both sides had confidence in his' judgment. A sliding scale was adopted, and as the price of coal and iron went up, so did wages; and likewise, as prices came down so did wages recede. The condition? were adjusted quarter by quarter.


Mr Mahony - That is a very old idea.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - No doubt; but it contains the germ of the machinery which we" shall have to set up here before we can hone to bring about industrial peace.


Mr Considine - Miners in the Old Country have evidently changed their minds lately.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I do not know that they have.


Mr Considine - Well, what about the Sankey Commission? I would rather have Robert Smillie's opinion than the Minister's.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - No doubt the honorable member would prefer Robert Smillie's. view, but that does not alter facts. This brings me to another point. In my opinion, there will Be no industrial rest in this country until there is a better appreciation of the facts in relation to all disputes.


Mr Considine - Very well; give us a Commission on those lines.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - The honorable member is talking about the Sankey Commission. Does he know what it established?


Mr Considine - Certainly I do.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I will tell him. The Sankey Commission, in relation to the coal-mining industry, established the fact that, for every man engaged in the industry, it was necessary to employ £150 worth of capital. Does the honorable member get that fact?


Mr Considine - Go on. What did the Commission recommend?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - The honorable member is asking for Sankey, and I am giving it to him. I do not think he will like it so much when I have finished. The Commission also established the fact that, taking the industry by and large, the average profit on capital invested was 9 per cent. Therefore, the contribution of each man to the capital that employs him is 9 per cent. on £150, representing about £13 10s. per annum, or 5s. per week.


Mr McDonald - Spread that over 1,000 men, and what is the profit?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - The profit is, 9 per cent. on the average, and means, as I say, about 5s. a week per man employed. Another fact that Sankey established was that there are whole counties in the Old Country where the coalmining industry does not pay at all.


Mr Considine - Is that why he recommended nationalization ?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - It is a reason, I suppose, that led him to recommend nationalization.


Mr Considine - To save the poor proprietors?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - No. Does the honorable member suggest that Sankey was out to save the proprietors?


Mr Considine - Judging by your wail on their behalf, it wouid appear so.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I am "wailing " on nobody's behalf. The honorable member challenged me to show what Sankey had done at Home, and now that I am telling him, he does not appear to like the facts at all. The honorable member asked me for facts, but facts are such total strangers to him that he does not know what to do with them when he gets them. The best thing that could be done would be to throw the light of day on the facts of all these industries, . because nothing would so tend to cure the industrial unrest.


Mr Riley - Give us your policy on mining.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I told honorable members the otherday here what I thought about mining; aud if my opinion is desired, I may say that I think the miner is entitled to every reasonable consideration; he is entitled to a good wage for his work, and also entitled to perform that work under the best possible conditions. In reply to the honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) I may add that I have done more for the miner in my time, in the way of bettering: his conditions, than I am afraid the honorable member himself will ever do. The honorable member ought not to sit there and taunt me in regard to these matters. I remind him that I assisted in New South Wales in securing that every miner was paid his full weight, and I also helped to secure him good ventilation, neither of which he had enjoyed before.


Mr Considine - Is that all that the honorable gentleman did for the miner?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - No.


Mr Considine - Why be so bashful?


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - In the past I have done my utmost for the miner, and there is nothing in reason that I would, not do for him now.

Mr.Considine. - The honorable gentleman has not done half as much for the miner as the miner has done for him.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - I take leave to doubt that. I am sure that the honorable member could not get anybody in Lithgow, who was there when I was, to agree with him.


Mr Nicholls - They all say it.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - Here is another " Johnny-came-lately " who knows nothing whatever about Lithgow and its conditions in the old days, but, because of that, only speaks with the greater confidence.


Mr Nicholls - I was born there.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - That may be, but the honorable member knows nothing whatever about the conditions of which I speak.


Mr Nicholls - I was wandering about Lithgow in your day, and know as much of your record as you do.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Minister for the Navy) - The honorable member is not old enough to know anything about it. I do not know why there should be all these interjections. The moment I begin to lay before the House a few facts I am assailed in this way. I suppose I must apologize to my friends opposite for daring to express the slightest sympathy with the miner, seeing that they claim a monopoly of that sympathy. That, however, must not prevent mefrom expressing my opinion. Despite all this gibing and jeering, I still say that I think I have done as much for the miner as has any honorable member opposite, and there is nothing that I would not do to help him.


Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member's time has expired.







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