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Thursday, 5 August 1920

Mr BRUCE (FLINDERS, VICTORIA) - I think that they should be- recognised, though whether they are or are not may be open to question. But if by the recognition of unions you ask me to drive into outer darkness the man who does not belong to a union, I shall not do it. I am willing to do everything in my power to get men to join unions, because I believe that organized unionism is the best thing for industry that we can have ; but if I am to be asked to impose on those who do not join some form of compulsion, I decline to do so. The position in France is really terrible to-day. There is no more potent force for the creation of industrial trouble than an enormous increase in the cost of living. The people of Australia have been subjected to a heavy increase in the cost of living, but, compared with what France has had to undergo, our experiences are nothing at all. The cost of living in France has advanced nearly 300 per cent. In Australia, the increase is estimated to be nearly 60 per cent. From enjoying the privilege of being one of the cheapest countries in the world in which ,to live, France to-day has the unenviable reputation of being one of the most expensive. This fact has reacted heavily upon the people, and France is seething with industrial unrest. It will take the best brains of the Republic, and the united efforts of all parties, to .steer France through her .troubles. In , Great Britain, a similar .condition of affairs exists. The cost of living is '.estimated to have .risen about 150 per cent. .To-day, the British people .are grappling, not -only with that problem, but with another, with which the people -o£ Australia, happily, are not faced. Prior to the war, ,the .great majority of the working people were treated like dogs. They never had -'a fair chance, and those who were on top saw to it that they did not get a fair chance. Naturally, to-day, as 'the workers are finding themselves upon 'a "basis where there is time to think and opportunity for making comparisons, 'they are dwelling upon the injustices to which they were subjected not long ago. The attitude of the working masses of England is going to provide a very difficult problem.; indeed, .so difficult will that problem prove that it will only be by extraordinary efforts that a solution is likely to be found. The efforts already being made to .solve the problems of peace, however, are only comparable with those of the British people to solve the problems of war; and honorable members are aware of the nature of those tremendous and successful efforts.

As for the conditions in America, it is almost impossible to dwell upon the situation. I -.saw a good deal of what was going

Mr. Bruce.n tion may break out at any hour. The industrial unrest and the general attitude of labour towards capital constitute a grave menace.

Turning attention to the situation in Australia, we find that our troubles .are very loudly proclaimed; but that is where our safety lies. There is a great deal of noise surrounding our troubles, for labour here has a voice and makes itself emphatically heard. In the voicing of labour's troubles, however, our salvation may be found. While .our troubles are considerably less than those of other people, we must nevertheless make a determined effort to solve them; and, if we can do so, we will have placed ourselves well ahead of any other country in the world.

It has been mentioned in -the course of this debate,, I .think, that there is .a specific sum of £5a000,600 waiting to be invested in Australia, tat that, owing to Australia's terrible industrial situation, that amount of capital will not be coming here. Such a /statement is immediately challenged by the suggestion, "Where 'else would that money 'go for investment ? " There is no better place than Australia to take it. But here another fact arises for consideration. The world does not know what we know about Australian industrial conditions. We have ,never inaugurated adequate propaganda in London to counteract the derogatory statements made and published regarding this country. One never sees .any reference to Australia in the London press unless it has to do with .droughts or '.strikes, or other such calamities. Surely, with our resources, there should be something of a different character in the "London newspapers by way of presenting Australian news. ' 'There '.should be something done in the matter of presenting to the people of England a true statement regarding prevailing conditions in the Commonwealth.

This Bill represents an effort, made in all seriousness, to help regulate the relations existing between employer and employee, and to contribute towards industrial peace. But the effort was inaugurated under unfavorable conditions. There has been a suggestion from honorable members opposite that there should be delay in order that the proposals contained :in the Bill anay be fully and carefully considered. I do not share 'in that view. Tie- Prime. Minister- (Mr:. Hughes) has mad'e. an effort' to- bring- together the two. classes chiefly concerned'; but hisactivities have proved abortive. The. Prime Minister having failed in his. endeavours,, and. the question being undoubtedly urgent, the. Government are now, determined to go on,, and to proceedquickly. In such a course of action, I entirely concur.

Mr Mahony - That is right; limit the time for discussion, and' then take, half of-' it up yourself.

Mr BRUCE - I am' sorry that the honorable member is not prepared' to give me a fair opportunity; but one has certain public duties- to perform, and,, rightly- or wrongly, I' feel that. I ought to speak- upon this measure. The demand for delay in dealing with the Bill' is, based' upon a. proposition, not that there shall be a conference between employers and employees, but that there shall be' separate' discussions. For- conferences of that character, I have no- use at this1 stage. IF the proposal of honorable' members, opposite' were- to call a joint, conference-, there might-, be something in- their- argument-; but. the outcome* of each side of industrial life meeting ism separate conventions upon, the subject-matter- of this Bill' would' be merely to inspire the various delegateswith a: feeling that they must, make out the. strongest possible case' for- their- interests;, 30.' as to. permit, of: their claims; being bargained', down, and! whittled! off to< at. fair andi reasonable level. Procedure of : that; character- is> quite undesirable at this* stage., for Parliament would, become little, more than an arbitrating- body between contending, factions If there, were to. ben delay in order: to. give employers and employees an. opportunity- to meetand' debate separately, many valuable: weeks, might be lost. First, the delegates' would take time -in coming together.;-. then they- would occupy more, time- in: debating, and would, waste, still more time, in resturning to the bodies which had selected* them and reporting upon their deliberations. By the time the Government or Parliament had been made acquainted with the views of the parties chiefly; concerned, the- delay might prove tragic... I. take- the. view that, honorable members having been: elected to sit. in this' Parliament, as- the representatives of the people, the latter: - rightly on wrongly - have decided that we are their- leaders. Now, they are looking Co. us to say what, action- shall', be- taken-, in this; all.-impor.tant: matter; and there should be. no. question, as, to- our giving, the. people a. lead., I suppose that. I may he- regarded' as a, typical) representative of, employers ;, but there. is> going, to bet no- question,, so fax as. I am. concerned,, of waiting until a, representative body of. employers has, informed, me what my. attitude ought, to be. I take, it that my- job is- not to wait for such a lead',, but to suggest in {his Chamber what I consider the right course f or the. people to follow - not in the interests either of employers or employees', but with- a view to bringing- about-- the. greatest good' for- the people ofl Australia as a whore. Honorable members- would be. well advised'- to: take' a bold- and strong- course ; for- there has- been- ample opportunity to consider the- whole grave problem'. There has been scarcely any other question occupying the- minds of; thinking' men for some time- past. In- view of that fact, I have no1 sympathy with the cry that this- Bill is- being rushed through'.. The problem' is' truly urgent; and1 must be- faced. If I were to state- in this House that I' was open, to suggestions, and' was- waiting to hear them,, j dare say that I. would be flooded with communications' from? employers'' organizations, telling- me what to do'.- As an employer, I' have, devoted- a. good deal of time, to- the: problem of industrial, unrest,, and,, while I am. naturally prepared, too listen to proposal's which; may emanate: from sources, likely- to- prove' helpful,, I anr certainly not. ready to> alter my- views unless an- extraordinarily strong case has been made out. for such a change.

Honorable: members: should! consider opinions expressed upon the subject of industrial unrest,, and should examine the- actions taken in Great Britain, where the. matter has been dealt with in every detail-., Most honorable members are aware: of the history of organized Labour in Great Britain throughout the war. I propose-, however, to remind them, of what happened. Very soon after: the outbreak of the war, namely,, in March,, 19-15, it. became strikingly apparent that the fullest necessary production of munitions and' supplies, could' not be secured unless some alteration were made in existing methods. The Government, by the grace of God, bad the good' sense to take organized Labour into, their confidence and to. explain the whole situation. They asked for cooperation and willing assistance. And it. is to be said to the credit of leaders of organized Labour in the Old Country that they rose to the opportunity afforded them and played their part in a way that will ever reflect credit upon those who had the handling of British Labour in those early days of the conflict. The Labour leaders agreed to forego many of the rights that had been fought for for many years and had been secured only with the greatest difficulty. They agreed to the dilution of labour. That was the first great point, and, probably, it involved a principle which had been placed by true unionists on the very highest pinnacle of their beliefs. The leaders agreed to the employment of women and boys in the stead of skilled labour. They agreed to the number of boys in proportion to skilled labour being increased; they agreed to a working week of seven days, and to the institution of unlimited hours of work. In exchange for these great concessions, however, they demanded a pledge, which was given, that those privileges which they were forgoing were to be withheld for only so long as the war continued. After a time the realization became acute that, as the war drew to its conclusion, tremendous problems would have to be dealt with if that pledge was to be honoured. A committee was appointed, with the Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons as its chairman. That body is known as the Whitley Committee. After months of deliberation, it reported in March of 1917, upon what it considered the best means of honouring the pledge and of bringing about, for the first time in the history of Great Britain, true industrial peace. The Committee's recommendations were, I believe, wonderfully wise and prudent. They were' accepted by all classes in Great Britain. One point has struck me forcibly, and that is with regard to the spirit with which the Whitley Committee approached its task. T should like to read to honorable members a paragraph from the preface to the recommendations- of the Committee -

This said that failure to utilize existing opportunities for securing a permanent improvement in the relations between employers and employed might involve the nation in grave industrial difficulties at the end of the war, and proposed the establishment in each of the main industries of the country of an organization representative of employers and workpeople, having as its object the regular consideration and determination of matters affecting the progress and well-being of the trade from the point of view of all those engaged in it - as far as that might be consistent with the general interest of the community.

That was the basis upon which the Committee worked, and I shall indicate to' the House briefly their recommendations. At first sight 1 thought that this Bill reproduced the Whitley Committee's scheme, but I find that it is considerably different.' The underlying principle in the Whitley Committee's report was the fact that they recognised that industrial troubles generally start from some very small beginning, add in order to avoid the genesis of trouble they started their scheme with a works committee to operate directly in every big establishment in which the scheme is adopted. Then there is the district committee, which deals with questions affecting the whole district, such as a coal-mining district like that represented by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). Above both those organizations, there is a national council, which deals with the problems on a national basis and considers all great questions arising in any trade. But I would emphasize the point that the Whitley Committee recommended that each council or works committee should deal with only one trade ; that each trade should have its own complete organization. I shall indicate some of the other recommendations, because I think that if we can realize what was the considered opinion of the best' brains in England, after many months of investigation and study of this problem, we may derive some help in arriving at the solution of a very similar difficulty in Australia. The powers given to the -bodies which the Committee suggested should be created for each trade are very wide. It is contemplated that the various works committees and district councils shall not only deal with questions of labour, hours, and payment, but also assist in bringing about greater efficiency. The- committee's plan was based on the principle that each industry must have its own organization running right through the industry, from- the earliest point at which troubles might arise, on to a national council which would deal with the problems of an industry as a whole. The principles of the Whitley Committee's report have been adopted in a great number of industries in: Great Britain. The first industry to take up the scheme was the pottery trade, and amongst the others which followed were furniture-making, silver and gold, horological and allied trades, match-making, rubber manufacture, silk industry, baking, china clay, tramways, water works, woollen and worsted, electricity, bedstead making, boot and shoe manufacture, table making, carpet making, and many other trades. I have already said that the first industry to adopt the Whitley Committee's report was the pottery trade, and I shall read to the House some of the objects set out in the memorandum of the national council for that industry. The first and' most obvious is the advancement of pottery making, and the consideration of imeans whereby all manufacturers and operatives shall be brought within their respective associations. I quite agree that we should ever try to employ men who belong to industrial organizations, provided always that when they become members of a union they shall take a live interest in its affairs and extraordinarily good care that it is controlled' by the best men in it, and not by a clique of disgruntled and troublesome people who were never particularly keen on work. One point I would like to emphasize is that the Whitley system is not only going ito help the employer and the employed, but also the industry itself, because amongst the other objects are -

(f)   Improvement in conditions with a view to removing all danger to health in the industry.

(g)   The study of processes, the encouragement of research, and the full utilization of their results.

(h)   The provision of facilities for the full consideration and utilization of 'inventions and improvements designed by work-people, and for the adequate safeguarding of the rights of the designers of such improvements.

There is this other object to which I draw particular attention, because it has a bearing upon a point raised by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) -

(j)   The collection of full statistics on wages, making and selling prices, and average percentages of profits on turnover; and on materials, markets, costs, &c., and the study and promotion of scientific and practical systems of costing to this end.

All statistics shall, where necessary, be verified by chartered accountants, who shall make astatutory declaration as to secrecy prior to any investigation, and no particulars of individual firms or operatives shall be disclosed to any one.

Mr McGrath - That information in regard to Flinders-lane would be very handy.

Mr BRUCE - You have that information already.

Mr McGrath - We have not.

Mr BRUCE - That is the sort of wild statement that is continually being made. The Inter-State Commission and the Fair Profits Commission are in possession of every figure and fact in relation to the operations of firms in Flinders-lane. These grossly unfair statements are made with no honest purpose. They emanate from a type of poisonedmind that is trying to poison the minds of other people, and if that atmosphere is to permeate the affairs of Australia, God help the country. I do not believe the average man in Australia has that warped and poisoned mind; when a large number of people have such minds, the country will not be fit to live in. Thank God, there are few men like the honorable member opposite.

Mr Charlton - Would the honorable member be favorable to embodying in this Bill the powers he has enumerated inregard to the collection of statistics?

Mr BRUCE - If it can be done, I see no objection to it. The day has gone by when the employing classes object to the fullest investigation of trade conditions in order to discover what profits they are making, for the purpose of determining what is a fair proposition as between employer and employee. If the Commonwealth Council which this Bill proposes to create is comprised of decent men, there can be no possible harm in the information which the honorable member seeks beingmade available with a view to determining fair rates of wages and rewards for labour. But I think it is the view ofmost decent people engaged in trade that there should be a limit to the number of these inquiries. They are an interference that is becoming an absolute menace to trade to-day. If we can incorporate in this Bill some such power of investigation as the honorable member has suggestedwhereby a check may be made and kept, in the interests of all concerned in the trade, as to what profit is actually being made, we may get rid of the abominable suggestion we continually hear that there is no honest trader in this country. Knowingnothing; some honorable members yet brand everybody inbusiness as a blackguard, when, as a matter of fact, there are in trade a great number of honest and fair-minded people just as there are very many honest and reasonable employees. I have indicated to the House what Great Britain has done. It seems to me that the Whitley system is based on right principles, and it is for us to consider how far we are following in its lines and to what extent this measure will be of assistance.

Mr Burchell - Can the honorable member say how the Whitley Committee was constituted?

Mr BRUCE - It was a very representative body, and both employers and employees were represented.

Mr Mahony - The representatives of the employees were appointed from the organizations. That is the point for which we are contending in this measure. Our contention is that only the organizations should elect the representatives on the councils.

Mr BRUCE - Eor the information of honorable members, I shall mention the personnel of the Whitley Committee -


Hon. J. H. Whitley, M.P., Chairman.

Mr. F.S. Button (Chairman of Committees, House of Commons) (formerly member of Executive Council, Amalgamated Society of Engineers) .

Sir G.J. Carter, K.B.E. (Chairman, Shipbuilding Employers Federation).

ProfessorS. J. Chapman, C.B.E. (Professor of Political Economy, University of Manchester).

Sir GilbertClaughton, Bart. (Chairman, London and NorthWestern Railway Company).

Mr. J.R.Clynes, M.P. (President, National Union of General Workers).

Mr. J.A. Hobson.

Miss Susan Laurence (member of London County Council,and member of the Executive Committee of the Women's Trade Union League).

Mr. J.J. Mallow, (Secretary, AntiSweating League) .

Sir Thos.A. Ratcliffe Ellis (Secretary, Mining Association of Great Britain).

Mr.Robert Smillie (President, Miners Federation of Great Britain).

Mr. AllanM. Smith (Chairman, Engineering Employers Federation).

Miss Mona Wilson (National Health Insurance Commissioner).

Messrs. H. J. Wilson (Minister of Labour) and ArthurGreenwood, Secretaries.

These names are known the world over, and it is only reasonable-

Mr Fenton - But there was a minority report as well.

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