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Thursday, 5 August 1920


Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) .As the Bill is called the Industrial Peace Bill it is to be supposed that its object is the. securing of industrial peace-; but I have the feeling that it will prove a failure. The manner, in which it. has been brought forward, and the attempt to for.ce it through this Chamber, do not guarantee to the people the securing of the object aimed at, and the industrial organizations which have not been given time to consider its provisions, must view it with suspicion. No doubt, we all desire industrial peace and the smooth working of the affairs of the country. No. one but a crank wishes the dislocation of industry through the fighting of sections of industrial employers and employees-. But the Bill attacks only one side of the problem. The Prime Minister admitted in his opening speech that industrial unrest seems to be inherent in the present system. It behoves us,, therefore, to radically alter what has been done in the past. The Arbitration Court has done good work ; but the congestion of business there, and the difficulty of getting before the Court, have perhaps more than anything else been responsible for industrial unrest. If in the Billbonâ fide trade unions and organizations are not recognised and given preference, the desire must be to divide the industrial workers into sections, and to strike at the root of trade unionism, in which case the measure is doomed to failure. It is common knowledge that a large section of the coal-miners of New South Wales have declared that they will not have the Bill. Their reason for saying that is that it makes provision for ascertaining only whether men are being paid sufficient to live on.. My experience is that industrial inquiries resolve themselves into an inquiry whether the wage that is being paid will suffice for the bare existence of the individual, and keep him in sufficiently good condition to continue at work, without getting ahead in the world. Tribunals that will make only such inquiries are useless to the coal-miners. The Prime Minister has spoken of the threat of grave industrial trouble in the coal-mining industry. I do not know what the Government would do if the Bill became law and the miners did not recognise its provisions. They have said that unless a tribunal is appointed to inquire into the profits made by the coal-owners they will have nothing to do with any inquiry. Why? The miners' pay depends largely upon the selling price -of coal. We -know that the [price of 'coal is going up. The miners claim that the industry can well afford, out -of the profits being made from the sale -of >coal, 'to 'give -them increased wages, "without calling upon coal consumers to meet the increase. If we cannot -get beyond the 'point of 'merely stating what wages employees 'shall receive; if we -cannot go further in the direction of preventing -the passing on of increases in wages, and so piling sup the cost of living., "then all our efforts will have been in -vain. Industrial peace will never be achieved.. Dlt is of mo use ito say to the men, " Sou .shall have such:andsuch wages."'' Under the system to-day., profiteering 'companies ':can charge the public -whatever they like for commodities. So .long ms the 'system exists the means of life -cannot be measured by monetary payments. A wage' '-that is sufficient to-day will not be enough 'tomorrow. The "Bill under discussion can only bring about -a, -further inquiry into existing conditions, and possibly award increased wages to 'an industry 'here and there. But the effect 'will be merely to aggravate the position 'by further -sending up prices of necessary 'commodities, so making the cost of living higher than ever. While -I -hold strong views regarding the necessity ."for bringing about radical .changes to-.day,, still, .1 will welcome any course of taction tending to .ease the threatening industrial -position. 'The Government have indicated this much, namely,, that they will be prepared to consider modifications of the 'Bill. Some degree .of .satisfaction, therefore, may be gained ib v the passage of -this .-measure; but, really, .all it ,can (do will -be to aggravate the .general (situation. .It is of no use to say that the Arbitration Court /has failed -.because industrial unrest 'has (continued. The Arbitration (Court has failed -for *he season that its .powers have been so limited. It 'has been -im- ^ possible to .secure a hearing f or the many urgent teases requiring attention. The only way in which to get before the Court with anything like speed is to threaten to 'strike. By 'so doing, an industry can force itself upon -the -attention of the -Judge in preference to others which ;are taking "their legitimate turn. It is of no .use to set up a 'tribunal merely to deal --with the question of -wages. I 'do -not 'believe that industrial unrest has to ;do with wages aft all. What is -re quired is to create machinery for the reduction -of mhA cost 'of living, and to make the ruling wage -sufficient to meet the cost. In that case wages might remain where they stand at present. N'o good purpose would "be served by making them hig'her. The reason why this 'Bill must prove -a failure is that the great problem is how -to attack the cost of living, -and, at the same time, to leave wages where they are. There "is no need for further increases. The .great need is to bring back prices of necessary commodities to to-day's wage standard.







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