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Wednesday, 4 August 1920


Mr CHARLTON (Hunter) .- This is a very important Bill, because it seeks to alter the principle that has been followed in regard to arbitration legislation since its inception in the Commonwealth; and in order to get a grip of tho question, and deal with it in a proper manner, it is necessary for us to carry our minds back some years. As the result of the general wish, not only of industrialists, but also of the community as a whole, to have some means whereby industrial troubles might be settled without recourse to strikes or lockouts, an Arbitration Bill was introduced in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales by Mr. B. R. Wise in the year 1901. I had the honour of attending a Conference convened by Mr. Wise, comprising representatives of trade unions from every part of the State. It was called together so that Mr. Wise could become acquainted with the views of those who could guide him in framing his Bill, and had the same course been followed on this occasion the conditions surrounding the introduction of the Bill now before us- might have been more satisfactory. Honorable members know the history of industrial legislation in the State of New South Wales, and how it was that, on account of the great congestion of cases listed for hearing which the Court was unable to deal with, what is known as the Wages Board system superseded the Arbitration Court, and has ever since been in operation. But whether the system adopted be to have an Arbitration Court or Wages Boards, it is a fundamental principle of all our industrial legislation that the workers are given full recognition through their trade unions. No matter how good the machinery may be. for the settlement of industrial disputes, the workers will not accept it unless their unions have recognition. However, that fundamental principle of our industrial legislation of the past is absent from the Bill before us to-day. For the first time we depart from the recognition of industrial unionism, and make it possible for any bogus union which may come into existence, after the passing of this measure to secure a tribunal if it extends beyond the confines of any one State, and so come into conflict with existing bond fide trade unions. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) was quite right in pointing out the omission of this fundamental basis of arbitration, which the industrial unions will assuredly claim ought to find a place in the Bill. It is idle for the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to say that these bogus unions already have the power under the existing Act. The power is not there. Let the Prime Minister compare the definition sections of the New South Wales Act and the Commonwealth Act, which makes provision for industrial unions to be registered. I would not go so far as that, but I claim that only the recognised trade .union in any particular industry should be the body to take part in the formation of a council, !Board, or tribunal, as the case may be. Unless that provision is made in this Bill, it will meet with strong opposition. Many of the coal miners in New South Wales who took no part in the industrial trouble brought about by the railway employees in that State, although it was claimed over here that they were parties to it, were victimized through the action of the State Government, and not permitted to return to work. When I raised my voice in this House, pointing out fiat injustice was being done to certain persons in New South Wales, my remarks were unheeded; but now the facts have become public property. Certain men who were engaged in Victoria to go to work in New South Wales turned out to be failures when they arrived there ; but if they were still working there, and others might be working in Victoria, under this Bill they could get a Board to decide the conditions of their employment. Also, in the case of the wharf labourers, the regular unionists were supplanted by other men, both here and in Sydney, and as it became an Inter-State matter, if the provisions of this Bill had been in operation, those men' could have applied for recognition, and the appointment of a tribunal bo deal with an industrial dispute. The legitimate body of wharf labourers would have been shut out, and the bogus union might have accepted conditions of employment quite at variance with those applying in the industry before their time. As the members of such bogus unions only work when other people are in trouble, they really are not acquainted with the conditions applying to the particular industry they are following for the time being., Nevertheless, they can shut out the recognised unions, and have conditions of work fixed quite different from those applying right through the history of particular callings. I consider this the fundamental mistake of the Bill. No matter how disposed the unions may be to accept this form of legislation, I am sure they could not accept it without proper provision being made for the recognition of the bond fide unions that have been in existence in the various industries. It may have been an oversight on the part of the draftsman, or on the part of the Government, but certainly we are not justified in passing a measure whose provisions are contrary to the recognised customs of arbitration. I do not say that the machinery proposed to be set up might not be in some respects an improvement on the existing machinery, and I believe that the time has arrived when we must get machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes within a reasonable time.1 The chief cause of the failure of arbitration is that this has not hitherto been possible. Some of the more powerful industrial unions will not register as organizations, and will have nothing to do with the Arbitration Court. The miners, whom I represent, take that stand. They do . so because, in 1901, they registered, and found that it t6ok over two years to get some of their plaints heard. At the end of two years circumstances are often quite different from what they were when a dispute occurred, and it is idle to conduct an investigation. They found, too, that they had often to stop work in order to procure the hearing of their grievances. The Act was passed to prevent strikes, but it has really offered an incentive to the men to do something to get before the Court. I shall not say that the tribunals proposed to be. set up are exactly what are required, but I believe that the miners would welcome a measure providing for the settlement of their disputes locally and as they occurred. If a local Board could deal with a dispute at a particular mine, and settle it, ,or send it on to a special tribunal, the men would feel that their grievances were being heard within a reasonable time, and would be willing to continue at work. Therefore,, these tribunals, if put on a proper footing, may be acceptable. There is great unrest in the coal mining industry, and any stoppage in the supply of coal affects every part of Australia. The miners themselves are endeavouring to prevent a disturbance, and their leaders are anxious that there shall be no stoppage in the production of coal, because they know how necessary it is for the welfare of the country that sufficient coal should be available. I say this in justice to the leaders, because men in their position are often maligned when trouble occurs. The men desire to have their case fairly considered. The Bill does not provide for that, which is the chief objection they will urge against it. There is not sufficient power given to do what they desire. I believe that the miners could obtain an increase in wages; but what they desire is to know whether such an increase can be given to them without increasing the price of coal to the consumer. They are of opinion, rightly or wrongly, that at present prices their wages could be increased so as to make them equal to what they were prior to the war, having regard to the increase in the cost of living, and they ask for an inquiry into the facts. When a conference was held in Sydney recently, the Prime Minister was led to believe that the employers were prepared to agree to a tribunal which would have power to investigate every phase of coal production up to the point of distribution; but in Melbourne the proprietors would not agree to that. It is said that the miners have no right to know anything of the business of the proprietors beyond what is necessary for the -fixing of the hewing rates. In coalmining there is a system of payment by results. Prior to the war there was a declared selling price, according to which the miners' wages were fixed on a sliding scale, under which they benefited by a certain percentage for every rise of ls. in the price of coal. They contended, however, that they should know exactly what price was got for the coal; that the coal might be sold at a higher price than the " declared price." That furnished matter for dispute for years, when the " ascertained price " was given. But that is not satisfactory. Circumstances have changed completely since arbitration was introduced in 1901. Since then the employers generally have combined, and by hiring the ablest brains have been able to use methods for gettingbehind the Act, and making it impossible to inquire into all the ramifications of their business. Formerly the miners had to deal only with the colliery proprietors; but to-day the steam-ship companies throughout Australia hold a controlling interest in many of the mines. They are chiefly the largest mines. The owners declare a price for coal at Newcastle - I am speaking of normal times, when the War Precautions Act is not operating - but when the coal is sold in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, or any other State, charges are made for freight, labour, and so on, which make its cost very high. Our men say that it is too high, and they ask for a full inquiry, to see whether they could not be given an increase of wages out of the profits which are earned without increasing the cost of coal to the consumers.

Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.


Mr CHARLTON -I desire to place on record particulars in connexion with the earnings of off-hand labourers, who are at present the principal cause of unrest, and in regard to whom there is a significant paragraph in this evening's press, according to which the situation is very gloomy. I desire to show that these men have not been earning a living wage, notwithstanding the high price being charged for coal. The figures which I shall present are taken in respect of the wages of men who are paid at the rate of 13s. 6d. a day. At a recent conference with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the proprietors offered 14s. 6d. per day, but the men refused this extra shilling on the ground that it was inadequate. They want a special tribunal to deal immediately with the matter of wages, and, thereafter, to hear their claims generally for better working conditions. Honorable members should remember that, in dealing with these miners, their wages must not be calculated by the day. They must be reviewed on the basis of annual totals, or of weekly earnings. In mining the work is by no means regular. It depends greatly upon trade prospects, and upon the demand for coal. It must not be forgotten, either, that when the men are not actually engaged they cannot pick up work elsewhere. They must be on the spot ready to begin when required. The particulars are as follow: -

 

It must be evident to honorable members that these day labourers are not making a living wage. They are very impatient, and, personally, I do not think it is possible to hold them for any length of time. We want to try to prevent an upheaval, but unless a tribunal can be created which will have power to inquire into every; phase of the industry, there is bound to be trouble. I emphasize that the offer of1s. a day more is regarded by the men- as quite insufficient. They are demanding the fullest inquiry to ascertain whether or not the present charge for coal warrants an increase in wages, still leaving a fair return upon capital invested. That is a fair request, and honorable members on this side had hoped to find provision in the Bill to meet that request ; but there is not such provision. The men have been advocating a tribunal of this kind for a considerable time. It is because the Bill does not provide necessary machinery for an investigation of the whole business of coal production from the first point of production to the final distribution, that it is regarded as being of no use.


Mr Maxwell - What is the period covered by those figures which the honorable member has provided ?


Mr CHARLTON - They cover a term beginning on 5th May, 1919, and ending on 8th March, 1920.


Mr Bamford - Who furnished those figures?


Mr CHARLTON - The honorable member can get the particulars from the Mines Reports of New South Wales and work them out for himself, so checking my own figures.


Sir Granville Ryrie - Is the amount per day calculated on the number of days actually worked or on the total of days in that ten months' period ?


Mr CHARLTON - The figures are based on the days actually worked. In order to fully inform honorable members of the situation, I will place on record the following press report of 3rd August : -

Representatives of the top-hands employed at the various collieries on the Maitland coalfield met at Cessnock on Saturday to deal with matters seriously affecting them, and to devise means of having them given the earliest attention'. Mr. W. North presided, and Mr. W. Lane was appointed secretary for the meeting. The delegates considered the position as it was presented from each colliery, and decided that the time had arrived for decisive action in reference to their claims for a living wage. It was pointed out that there was no desire or suggestion that they should break away from the federation, as some of the mine-owners and others interested wished; but,at the same time, while determined to do nothing that would weaken their forces by disunion, they were as equally determined that their cause was not going to be shelved, but rather that the federation would be called upon very plainlyto see that they received justice. The following resolu tions were unanimously adopted: - That a conference of delegates of top-hands employed on the Maitland coal-field be held at Weston on 'Sunday afternoon; that the men working on the pit-tops at all the collieries be requested to send delegates; that this conference of top-hands recommends to the Weston conference to be held on Sunday afternoon that an aggregate meeting be immediately held, and that the position of the pit tophands be fully discussed and a plan of action mapped out; that this conference demands that at any conference betweenthe federation and the mine-owners direct representation be given the top-hands on the matter of wages scale for top-hands.

The top-hands admit having been told that they have been represented by top-hands at conferences, but they demand that they shall be represented by delegates selected by their conference or directly representative of it, in order that their views might be fully expressed and their claims urged by men fully authorized by the top-hands - themselves. The fact that many of them are not receiving a living wage is responsible for the unrest prevailing, and the reports presented by delegates show conclusively that there is more than talk in their contention. Every class of labour on the coal-field admits the justice of the claims made for a living wage by these men.

That account shows plainly that while the top hands are a branch of the Miners' Federation they are not satisfied with the existing condition of affairs. They say they do not want to sever their connexion with the Federation, but will insist that the Federation gives them justice, and does so promptly. They hold that action must be taken without delay to provide them with a living wage; otherwise, they will take certain steps themselves. It is difficult for men leading an organization, such as is the Miners Federation, to combat this kind of thing within the organization itself. It does not matter what arguments or promises are placed before these dissatisfied men; they have now reached a point where they are determined to force the issue. They say they are tired of promises about Arbitration Court action or the creation of special tribunals. They urge that the cost of living is constantly pressing down upon them, and thatthey positively must have relief. Whether the Miners Federation approves or not, the disquieting fact remains that if these men stop work the whole of the coal industry will be held up at once. The effect, of course, will be disastrous to Australia, to say nothing of those countries which are more or less dependent upon the importation of our coal to-day.

I urge that there should be a tribunal created to deal with the situation. I believe there is a feeling that if. an increase in the selling price of coal is authorized a more satisfactory increase in these men's wages can be granted. At present the miners are working under a regulation, gazetted under the War Precautions Act as the outcome of a conference' held some time ago. This agreement will not expire until the end of October. It provides that the miners shall receive so much per ton while the selling price is 17s. 9d. per ton at Newcastle; and no more than' that amount can be charged. I have heard from fairly reliable sources that, while not more than 17s. ,9d. can be" charged for coal at Newcastle, yet, if one were to buy coal from a colliery owner at' 17s. 9d., one could sell again immediately, and without handling it, at probably much more than that figure. It has been stated, with respect to Japanese steamers which have been carrying our coal away, that certain men have been buying at 17s. 9d. and selling to foreign buyers forthwith at 22s. 6d. per ton.. I have been supplied with the names of particular persons, who have adopted this practice, but I do not intend to mention them. .If they are receiving 22s. 63. per ton for the coal is it fair that the miners, who have to cut it, and the other lower paid employees, whose wages are fixed on a sliding scale according to the selling price of the article, should not participate ? I do not say that all the companies are receiving a price higher than that fixed, but coal is being sold by some persons at 22s. 6d. per ton.


Mr Richard Foster - Are the sellers independent of the miners?


Mr CHARLTON - Yes. The honorable member or I could go to> the mine and buy coal at 17s. 9d. per .ton, and simply transfer it to somebody else at a higher price.


Mr Maxwell - But do the mineowners get any benefit from that?


Mr CHARLTON - I do not know about that ; the honorable member is asking me too much. I am urging that the special tribunal shall be clothed with sufficient power to discover all these things in the public interest. If the House will agree to the appointment of a tribunal comprising three or four representatives from each side and an independent chairman, and clothe it with the fullest possible power to investigate every phase of the industry, including the selling price and the profits of the companies, there will be no trouble in the industry. I give that guarantee now. The miners desire a complete investigation; they desire to know where they are, and they say that the time has arrived when the public, too, should be taken into consideration.


Mr Prowse - Can that not be done under this Bill?


Mr CHARLTON - The power is not contained in the Bill.


Mr Hill - Cannot we insert the power ?


Mr CHARLTON - If I can get the support of a sufficient number of honorable members I shall move an amendment for the purpose of placing the requisite power in the Bill.


Mr Laird Smith - Where in the measure is the limitation which prevents the full inquiry for which the honorable member asks?


Mr CHARLTON - The Bill makes no provision for inquiry into profits and selling prices. It deals only with the employer and the employee.


Sir Granville Ryrie - The Bill . does not say that the tribunal shall . not- inquire into these things, and surely the representatives of the workers will see that they are inquired into.


Mr CHARLTON - If the power is not expressly stated in the Bill, the representatives of the employers on the tribunal will object to inquiry into certainmatters, and such an objection will be fatal. Let me read to honorable members what the coal miners are asking, so that the House may understand how far the miners have proceeded along the lines which this Bill proposes to travel - -

Employees' proposed Basis and Scope of Inquiry fo)b Coal Tribunal.

Whereas it has been asserted, by and on behalf of the coal mine-owners, that the industry of coal, shale, and coke producing cannot under the present circumstances afford to pay to the employees engaged therein wages higher than those now being paid.

And whereas it is claimed, by and on behalf of the employees of the said industry, that the said industry can easily afford to pay substantial increases in the present rate of wages.

We are desirous that a complete inquiry bo held, into the matter by a representative tribunal, so that justice might be done between all parties, and are willing to recommend to the employees, members of our federation, to continue to work upon the present rates of pay pending such inquiry, provided always and subject to the following conditions: -

(   1 ) That our recommendation to the employers be to continue to work for two months from the 1st August, 1920.

(2)   That the Federal Government appoint a Commission of Inquiry with all necessary powers and authorities to conduct a full and comprehensive inquiry into the coal, shale, and coke industries.

(3)   That such Commission shall have all the powers of the Supreme Court of Victoria with respect to compelling the attendance of witnesses; the production of books, documents, reports, balance-sheets, papers, and writings; the obtaining and adduction of evidence and the administration of oaths, and all necessary powers and authorities for the purpose of making a full and comprehensive inquiry into all aspects of the coal, shale, and coke industries, and the sale, carriage, and distribution to the consumer of such products and their industrial by-products.

(4)   That such Commission shall have full power to inquire into all matters in any wise relating to the wages and conditions of employees in the said industry.

(5)   That such Commission be composed of representatives of employers, employees, and the general public, and be open to the press and the public.

(6)   That the Commission be fully empowered to determine the rates of pay, the conditions and hours of work of the employees, the rate of profit to the employers, the question of the proper control of the industry, the price of products thereof, also the question of commissions, percentages, rebates, and allowances.

(7)   That the Commission be appointed forthwith and complete its work prior to the 1st October, 1920.

(8)   That, in the event of the Commission determining that there be an increase in the rates of wages, that such increase be paid as from the 1st August, 1920.

(9)   The Commission shall consist of three representatives from the employers and three representatives from the employees, with an independent chairman.

Thatproposal was submitted to the proprietors, who refused to accept it, and that is the reason why the parties were unable to come to an understanding with the Prime Minister, and is possibly the explanation of the introduction of this measure. The Bill does not give the power to make that full inquiry which is essential .


Mr Marks - I differ from the honorable member.


Sir Granville Ryrie - Clause 7 empowers the Commonwealth Council "to consider any matters, conditions, and tendencies in any part of the Commonwealth leading, or likely to lead, to in dustrial disputes, or in any way affecting, or likely to affect, industrial peace."


Mr CHARLTON - That has nothing to do with the point I am arguing. The Commonwealth Council has only advisory powers and functions. The body that will inquire into the details of the industry is the special tribunal. The Commonwealth Council has only to inquire into and report upon any dispute that may arise in connexion with any industry or portion of an industry. If the Council fails to provide a settlement it will report to the Governor-General, and a special tribunal will be appointed. The special tribunal cannot be clothed under this Bill as at present worded with the powers which I say are necessary.


Mr Atkinson - What part of the Bill says that the special tribunal will not have those powers ?


Mr CHARLTON - What part of the Bill says that it will have them? The onus of showing that the powers exist rests upon the Government.


Mr Atkinson - Cannot a special tribunal deal with any point of inquiry suggested by the Council?


Mr CHARLTON - Sufficient power is not given to the special tribunal to deal with the selling price of coal," for instance, in other States.


Mr Atkinson - Yes, if the question of price is referred to the special tribunal.


Mr CHARLTON - No; the only power to be given to the special tribunal is equivalent to that now enjoyed by the Arbitration Court, and the Court has never dealt with these matters.


Mr Atkinson - The Bill contemplates that these matters shall be inquired into.


Mr CHARLTON - Very often a Bill contemplates a certain thing, but lacks the power to accomplish it. Have not honorable members heard the argument advanced in this House that constitutional limitations prevent any such inquiry by a Commonwealth tribunal? The only judgment upon the point that I can recollect was given in the McKay case, - but that does not bear upon the point Iam arguing. It was held in that case that a Commonwealth Court could not fix the selling price of an article. We are not asking that a special tribunal should have power to fix the selling price, but we are asking that it shall have power to inquire as to the price which the companies are receiving for the coal, the cost of transport, and other charges, net profits, and as to whether the miners' cannot receive a living wage without increasing the cost of the commodity to the public. We have been arguing that profiteering should be prevented. The miners are anxious to do something in that direction, and for that reason they ask that this power of full inquiry be given.

Apart from the case of the coal miners,

I wish to give the House an additional reason why greater power should be provided in this Bill than in any previous legislation to inquire extensively into matters pertaining to industrial unrest. The position to-day is different from what it was a few years ago. In almost every industry there is a closer combination of employers. We may read in the papers almost every day of companies having been reconstructed, but not by putting additional capital into the concern. They had carried so much money to reserves during the war that now, finding that legislation in the direction of regulating wages is against them, they are nominally increasing their capital by giving to their existing shareholders so many additional shares for each share now held by them. Unless a tribunal has power to inquire fully into all these things, the employers will show that a particular industry cannot afford to pay more than the present wages, because the profits are only 6, 7, or 8 per cent. They will not say, and the tribunal will not be able to discover, that that profit is reckoned on inflated or watered capital, and the result of an inquiry, therefore, will be that the industry cannot afford to pay more than a certain wage, because shareholders are entitled to a fair return on the capital invested.


Mr Gregory - A very wide power is conferred in the last portion of the definition of " industrial matters."


Mr CHARLTON - The power contained in that definition is not wide enough to cover the points upon which I am arguing. It reads - "Industrial matters" includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, reward, hours, privileges, rights, or duties of employers or employees, or the mode, terms and conditions of employment or non-employment; and in particular, but without limiting the general scope of this definition, includes all matters pertaining to the relations of employers and employees, and the employment, preferential employment, dismissal, or non-employment of any particular persons, or of persons of any particular sex or age, or being or not being members of any organization, association, or body, and any claim arising under an industrial agreement", and includes all questions of what is fair and right in relation to any industrial matter having regard to the interests of the persons immediately concerned and of society as a whole.

That definition applies entirely to an industrial matter, but it gives no scope to deal with the prices charged for an article after it leaves the producing industry. That is the point. The term " industry " is held to apply only to the particular industry in which the dispute has occurred; it does not extend beyond the direct employer and employee. I have already pointed out that in connexion with mining, in particular, the position is changed ; we cannot deal with the employer and employees alone, because the shipping people have got control of most of the mines, ..and can regulate wages and make handsome profits out of freight, and so forth. This .definition is not broad enough to touch that position. If honorable members think that my argument is a fair one, they ought to meet me in Committee by accepting an amendment, which would go far to settling the trouble. If the coal miners think that they will be granted an inquiry to cover all the ramifications of the trade throughout Australia, so as to ascertain its exact position, there will be no trouble, which is likely only because the belief is that such an inquiry will not be held. If the Prime Minister would say now that he will make some provision of the kind, he would relieve the tension in the coal industry.


Mr Poynton - Is there not that power under the Arbitration Act?


Mr CHARLTON - No.


Mr Riley - The Judge has the power, but not the parties to the dispute.


Mr CHARLTON - The Prime Minister is not present; but I suggest that some of his colleagues might convey to the right honorable gentleman the ideas I have expressed. I go so far as to say that, in regard to trade secrets, profits, and so forth, if there were any objections to the proceedings being made public, they might be discussed in camera in the presence of the representatives of the men. That is another idea which, if carried out, will go a long way towards a settlement.


Mr Mahony - -The special tribunal may sit in private.


Mr CHARLTON - Of course. Under the New South Wales Arbitration Act, the Judge couldhear evidence as to the Belling prices, and so forth, in camera, for his own satisfaction; but there is no such power in relation to Inter-State disputes.


Mr Riley - There was a representative from each side present.


Mr CHARLTON - That is so. The honorable member is familiar with these matters, having been a member of Wages Boards for a considerable time. I myself have appeared on many occasions to advocate miners' cases before the Court, and we took such action as I have described. Industrial organizations, after nearly nineteen years' experience of arbitration, will not accept any proposal which does not afford them the fullest protection, and permit investigation of every phase of the industry concerned, especially in view of the events of the last few years, during which exorbitant profits have been made, and certain people have become exceptionally wealthy. The miners contend that the time has arrived when their industry should be put on a proper and fair footing. If the miners are entitled to an increase of Wages, it does not follow that the extra cost should be placed on the general public. If the House takes no notice of the miners' demands, we shall probably find coal going up in price, and the miners getting so much more in wages. Their contention is, however, that in , this industry we ought to get back to normal conditions, and if they are entitled to more remuneration, with the present prices, they ought to have it. In any case, coal here is the cheapest in the world to-day.


Mr West - At the pit's mouth.


Mr CHARLTON - No; free on board; the honorable member is speaking of the olden days. The idea now is to follow the coal from the pit's mouth to its destination, because, as I have said, the shipping people are interested in the mines. It is not a matter of dealing with the colliery proprietors only, but also with the shipping people, who are easily making two profits.

Mr-. Maxwell.-That would protect the public as well as the workmen.


Mr CHARLTON - Exactly ; that is their idea. The men thought that such an inquiry was to be agreed to, and I think that the Prime Minister himself was under the same impression. At the first conference, in Sydney, the proprietors raised no objection to it; from what I have been informed by miners' representatives, and from other quarters, they tacitly agreed to the idea; and it was only when they came to Melbourne that they changed" their views. Now it appears they are prepared to accept ; and why should they do that if the results are going: to be what some honorable members think? It is because they know that the proposal does not give the power that the men think, but that the inquiry is confined to Newcastle.


Mr ROBERT COOK (INDI, VICTORIA) - What was the prewar price at the pit's mouth? .


Mr CHARLTON -Speaking subject to correction, I think it was 12s. when the tribunal sat. We are all interested in the continuity of employment, arid desire no upheaval at the present moment ; we desire to increase production, so that we may be able to carry the burden of the war. If that be so, surely in a matter of this kind we can meet the men ? What is the good of complaining about the money that the men earn? The whole matter will depend on the tribunal, which may be relied on to do nothing wrong or unjust. There will be three representatives from each side, and, if they fail to agree on a chairman, the Executive will appoint one; and what could be fairer? Why rush a measure through that does not provide the proper machinery when we know what must happen if we do not give the power to hold a thorough investigation ?


Sir Granville Ryrie - The honorable member may move an amendment in Committee.


Mr CHARLTON - That is my intention; but the trouble is that I may be closured before we Teach it. Suppose that a long discussion takes place on a previous amendment, and the time allowed for that portion of the Bill elapses, I shall not be able to submit my amendment or argue my case.


Mr Maxwell - If you foreshadow your amendment it might be accepted.


Mr Tudor - Only Government amendments are put under the standing order.


Mr Atkinson - The Government will accept an amendment if it is a reasonable one.


Mr CHARLTON - I see that the House appreciates the position that I am taking up. This is important legislation in the face of a crisis we desire to avert. In view of the likelihood that 1 may not be able to place my amendment before the Committee, I am endeavouring to give honorable members now some idea of what is in my mind, and in the minds of the industrial leaders outside.

Mr.Fenton. - The Prime Minister ought to be present to hear all this.


Mr CHARLTON - If the Prime Minister were present, he might agree to something like what I have put forward, and it is unfortunate for me that he is not, because it is of the greatest importance to the community that something should be done in this direction; it would minimize to a very large extent the objections to the Bill. The amendment I should propose in Committee would be to the effect that, so far as the special tribunal is concerned, it should be empowered to inquire exhaustively into every phase of coal mining or other industry, from the production of the commodity to its final destination. My object is to give the fullest possible scope of inquiry in regard to profits, selling price, and so forth; and, as I have said, if there is any strong objection to publicity, these matters may be taken in camera. I am prepared to go so far as that in order to avert trouble. Nobody knows better than the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that, in the mining industry, once there is unrest, there is likely to be a breakaway in spite of the union officials. There are so many sections of the industry that, if one of them make a break the trouble is on. The suggestions I have made would materially help the official leaders of the miners, and, in my opinion, enable them to settle the business without any great difficulty.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) says that if we do those things we are making a vicious attack on unionism.


Mr Blakeley - The honorable member is under a misapprehension.


Mr CHARLTON - The honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine) has handed me a proposal drafted to the effect that a Royal Commission be appointed to investigate and report on the conditions in the mining industry at Broken Hill, more particularly in regard to the cost of production, wages, hours and other conditions of "employees, the health of those engaged, selling prices, profits arising from the industry, and their methods of distribution. These are just the matters that the miners desire to have investigated by a tribunal, and no tribunal without such powers will give satisfaction.

Probably very few members will agree with me when I say that the time has arrived when we should, as far as possible, go in for conciliation only. This measure goes a long way in that direction, and I here suggest that it would be better if penalties were abolished. The whole of my experience shows that with a round-table conference more can be done than by any other means; do away with penalties and leave the parties to come together and effect a settlement.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - We are getting back tothe conditions of thirty years ago !


Mr CHARLTON - It is admitted that we cannot possibly prevent strikes and lockouts - that all we can do is to hope to minimize them. No legislation will prevent either of these actions. I say, candidly, that for years, as an industrialist, I have been an advocate of machinery to deal with disputes as they arise in preference to any system leading to delay. If a dispute arises in the mining industry, for instance, and an immediate settlement is not arrived at, the trouble will magnify, and grow like a fire. Before I entered politics I worked in a colliery, and during the whole time I was there we had no strikes. That was because the proprietor, Mr. Duncan McGeachie, told me that if any trouble seemed likely I, as the miners' representative, should see him; and when trouble did arise, two or three representatives of the men met the management, and we never failed to effect a settlement, although we had, during my employment there, as many as fifty matters requiring adjustment.


Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - I had an exactly similar experience at Lithgow during the whole of the time I .was there, but that method of settling disputes is now regarded as old-fashioned.


Mr CHARLTON - The parties are brought together, and an endeavour is made to settle a dispute. If they fail, then a tribunal is created to deal with it. But we want that tribunal to be clothed with the fullest powers to sift all that is necessary for the settlement of a dispute.


Mr Considine - The power to inquire into profits and costs of distribution could not be exercised by a local body, which may readily settle a local dispute.


Mr CHARLTON - It is true that the bigger questions which affect the whole of an industry, and which have an InterState character, can only be dealt with by a special tribunal. However, I ask the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to make a declaration before the week is out as to whether machinery will be set up to enable the tribunal dealing with the coalminers' dispute to have the fullest possible power to make such an exhaustive inquiry as may serve the purpose of preventing future trouble.







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