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Wednesday, 4 August 1920

Mr BLAKELEY (Darling) .- Arbitration in many phases has been tried in Australia; but, unfortunately, the attempts to bring about industrial peace by legislation introduced by Governments representative of the employing classes rather than of the employees, have not had the tendency to achieve the desired result. The primary object of the coercion Acts of New South Wales, and similar measures passed in other States, has been a regard for the interests of the employers. However, the force of public opinion and the growing strength of the unions have gradually compelled the various Administrations to recognise the necessity for industrial harmony. We have had a series of disastrous strikes in Australia during the last six years, such as the general strike of 1917, the seamen's strike, and others, and although for the most part the losses have been borne by the workers, the nation's interests have been most adversely affected. When introducing this B:ll the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that it must fail without the hearty co-operation of labour; but when we ask, first of all, that the trade unionists should be given an opportunity of discussing the measure and making suggestions, we are told that this is an urgent measure, and that a conference, in order to improve the Bill, could not possibly be called at this stage.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Does the honorable member seriously think that there is a hope of getting anything like substantial unanimity outside on a Bill of this kind?

Mr BLAKELEY - Yes. For the last nine months the Government have promised repeate'dly that they would call a conference, but they have not yet got that conference together.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The Prime Minister has tried hard to get a conference.

Mr BLAKELEY - The Australian Workers Union is ready, and I believe that most of the trades and "labour councils are -willing to attend such a conference. After all, the trade unionists will be called upon to bear the brunt of any trouble. No one goes on strike merely for the fun of the thing. There are people to-day who foolishly say that the Broken Hill workers, who have not enough clothes on their back or sufficient food to give them proper nourishment, had no right to go on strike. Do these people think that these unfortunate workers of Broken Hill are enjoying a strike which has extended over a period of fourteen months? It is only when the workers are driven to it that they take this action; they do not strike for choice. When the Prime Minister said that without the hearty co-operation of Labour the Bill could not succeed, he uttered a truth. If the Australian Workers Union, the coal miners, the transport workers, or the workers of other organizations are not prepared to accept this Industrial Peace Bill, that will be the end of the measure.

Mr Prowse - Why?

Mr BLAKELEY - Simply because the workers are in the position they hold to-day.

Mr Prowse - That is only a threat.

Mr BLAKELEY - The honorable member may interpret the truth as a threat; that is his own lookout. I am merely giving utterance to a fact. If the honorable member knows anything of the industrial world he must recognise the truth of what I am saying. The Government, by allowing not more than twentyfour hours for the consideration of a measure such as this, are not giving the re- presentatives of the workers the opportunity of discussing the proposal or of helping them.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - That is not a correct statement. Within the next fortnight honorable members can devote forty-eight hours to the Bill.

Mr BLAKELEY - I have worked out the time, and a very optimistic estimate of the time which will be occupied in discussing this Bill is twenty-four and a half hours. But even if we should take forty hours, I am extremely doubtful whether at the end of -that period there would not still be a good deal to be said.

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