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Thursday, 5 August 1920

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.

Mr Mathews - I withdraw. Perhaps it is not just what I wanted to say. But, in the light of that decision, I strongly hold the view that the present debate is out of order.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - Order ! I am quite prepared to give a ruling forthwith.

Mr Mathews - But I wish to state my case.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - The honorable member has stated it. I rule that the Bill under discussion is properly before the House, and, therefore, that the debate can proceed.

Mr Mathews - Then I give notice of my intention to dissent from your ruling.

Mr ATKINSON - I fear that this Bill, although it represents a step in the right direction, will not provide a panacea for industrial unrest. The trouble is so deep-seated that the measure is not likely to reach down to its roots. Human nature, with all its faults, is involved. Unless we can change the hearts of the people I do not see that legislation will achieve much.

Mr McDonald - Then, why not change the system which is responsible for it all ?

Mr ATKINSON - The only chance I see of effecting a radical, and, therefore, sufficient change, would be to bring in some system of co-operation, profitsharing, or co-partnership. Under the Constitution I doubt whether the Federal Parliament could to-day take steps in that direction ; but the State Parliaments could do much to inaugurate such a system. Until the working man can be made to feel that he is getting a fair proportion of the product of his labour I do not see that there can be any real cure for industrial unrest. The trouble with many people is that they hold the view that the workers should have all the profits.

Mr Considine - They should get all they produce. /

Mr ATKINSON - It would be difficult to estimate what proportion of a product represented the share of the employee actually engaged in producing it.

Mr Considine - Nobody would be so silly as to try to estimate the share of an individual employee in the product of an industry.

Mr ATKINSON - If the employee is to be given all he produces, what suggestion has the ' honorable member for arriving at an estimate of his share ?

Mr. Considine__I suggest that the honorable member take a course in economics; then he will find out.

Mr ATKINSON - If individual cases are to be examined it will be found that there are some workers who will secure mighty little as their share. The man who is engaged in a " go-slow " policy will reap small benefit. However, there is a reasonable course which might be followed. If a system were inaugurated whereby the workers received a proper wage and a fair share of surplus profits from an industry there would be a different state of affairs. Employees would find it to their interest to make the industry in which they were engaged a paying one. They would not tolerate, waste or loafing, for example. They would put their brains as well as their hands into the task of making the industry prosperous, for the reason that the more profitable the business became the greater would be the sum divided. If employees could be persuaded to take up shares in an industry, instead of requiring all cash payment for their services, there would be many more workers in the land who would be conscious of the rights of both sides. They would not take long to learn the difficulties of management, as well as the troubles of wage-earning. In time to come there should be no reason why the workers themselves, by making a beginning along the line of securing shares in an industry, should, not qualify to become directors. They would accumulate so many shares that they would become directors, and men of natural ability and practical experience who had worked their way up from the lowest rung of the ladder to the highest would be valuable colleagues for the men who supplied the brains required in connexion withthe distribution of products and the general management of industry. Only when every man is doing his best for the industry in which he is engaged, because he is getting a fair share of what he produces, as nearly as human agency can estimate it, shall we get a contented community. That is a natural policy to adopt. It is in accordance with theteachings of the best political economists; they have pointed out that a certain amount of selfishness is themainspring of economic action. But there can be enlightened selfishness as well as sordid selfishness. The men who invest their capital in industries do so not forphilanthropic motives, but in order to win some reward;but by the success of their efforts they also benefit the community. If we can develop some system of co-operation, suchas I have suggested, we shall have discovered acure for industrial unrest.

Our trouble is that this Parliament is limited in itslegislativescope. The State Parliaments arenot, and the question arises whether it wouldbe wise for this Parliament to have all the industrial power or whether anyof it shouldbe lef t to the States. If it couldbe shown that with complete industrial authority in the handsof this Parliament awards could be made elastic enough to meet the varyingconditions of living and output in different portions of Australia, I would preferthat the whole of the industrial power should behandedover to a central authority. But theStates could never agreeto any concentrationof power which would result in acommonruleso rigid that tihe one wage would applythroughoutthe Commonwealth inthe same industry, regardlessof localconditions. I should not care if the Commonwealth Arbitration Court were abolished tomorrow, and all industrial matters were handedover to the control oftheStates. The only difficulty inthe way of that course would : be in connexion with maritime, coal mining, and shearing disputes, which extend allover theCommon wealth. If we could devise an efficient means of dealing withthose industries I would not object iftheCommonwealth Arbitration Court disappeared,but Ibelieve it would be best inthe interestsof the community to enlarge the industrial powersof this Parliament, providedthat wecan arrange thatawardsshall show fairconsideration forthe peculiar conditionsof different

States and localities. In the restricted circumstances in which we find ourselves, this Bill is a step in the right direction. It willbring the parties together in a way which is not possible in the Arbitration Court. They may discuss their troubles as man to man, and I believe that common sense and fair play will prevail. I am sorry to notice the lack of confidence in their fellow-man displayed by some honorable members. They do not trust him to do the right thing in any circumstances.

Mr.Gabb. - That is because of our past experience.

Mr ATKINSON - Surely past experience cuts as much one way as the other.

Mr Gabb - We havehad the worstend of the stick.

Mr ATKINSON - The worker will not be getting the worst end of the stick under this Bill; both parties will have equal representation. Iamsatisfied that if the employees and the employers were left alone toad justtheirowndifferences, 90 per cent. of the industrial disputes that drag onformonths, and cause all sorts of suffering to the community,, wouldbe avoided. The disputesaremainlyin relation to wages and working conditionsin industries., and the men who actually live in and by those industries know more about the conditions than can any judicial tribunal. The present system of having to inform a man onthe Bench of conditions ofwhich the parties are fully cognisant, and then relying uponhim to give judgment in the dispute, isa hideous waste of time and money. If the disputants are brought together at a Conference a lot of the ignorance and distrust which are fostered by persons who preach class consciousness will be abolished. Why in a democratic country like Australia there should bean attempt to raise class consciousness passes my comprehension. The Bill will go a long way towards eliminating the vicious influences which areoperating in society to-day, and therefore I have pleasure in supporting it.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon J M Chanter - The honorablemember for Melbourne Porte (Mr. Mathews) has given notice of thefollowing motion to dissent frommyruling -

ThatMr. Speaker's ruling, that the Industrial Peace Bill is properlybefore the House fordiscussion, bedissented from.

The motion is seconded by the, honorable member for Barrier (Mr. Considine), and will be dealt with on the next day of sitting.

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