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Wednesday, 1 September 1920


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - On the principle that any excuse is better than none, the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) has made the best of difficult circumstances, and has tried to convince the Committee that his attitude towards this question has throughout been perfectly consistent. What is the position? In 191.3, we went to the country with certain referenda proposals, which the honorable member supported. There was one question as to the extension pf the powers of the Parliament to enable it to deal with mono polies and combines, another dealing with industrial disputes, and a third as to the bringing of State railway servants within the scope of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The honorable member now. says that in 1919 he voted against the proposal that railway servants should be brought within the scope of the Act, because he did not wish to prejudice our chances of carrying, the other propositions. Had he wished to be consistent in 1919, he could have moved that the question relating to the inclusion of railway servants should be put separately to the people.


Mr Bamford - That was not the proposal.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was not, but the honorable member could have moved in that direction. He affirms that he voted against the exclusion of railway servants from that Bill because he did not wish to defeat the referendum. Yet he now says that the last referendum was defeated because the proposal to include railway servants within the scope of the measure was tacked on to it. It is all very well for the legal members of this Chamber to fight amongst themselves, but we have to view this matter from the stand-point of laymen. Should the High Court rule that State railway servants do not come within the purview of this Bill because they are not specifically included, the public will infer that that decision was arrived at because of our action in deliberately excluding them. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) shakes his head, but I submit that that is a fair interpretation for a layman to put upon the position. The honorable member says that the Justices of the High Court do not read Hansard. Will he argue that they are not influenced by anything we do in this Parliament?


Sir Robert Best - They have" no right to be.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Does the honorable member imply that they are not influenced by anything that is done here?


Sir Robert Best - I hope that they are not.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member has said that the Justices of the High Court do not read Hansard, and -;hat they will arrive at their deci- sions irrespective of how we may vote upon this particular matter.


Mr Austin Chapman - What does the honorable member himself think?


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I think that they will be influenced by what we do here. If eventually they decide to exclude railway servants from the operation of this measure, the public will be justified in concluding that that decision was arrived at because Parliament by its rejection of the amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) had shown that it did not desire to include them.


Mr Austin Chapman - Is not the honorable member arguing that the High Court will decide in accordance with the wishes of a political majority?


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Nothing of the kind. That would b'e a very wrong thing to do.


Mr Austin Chapman - Is not that the honorable member's contention?


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. I am merely affirming that the Justices of the High Court should not he wholly influenced by the actions of Parliament. As a matter of fact, I believe that they endeavour to give effect to the will of Parliament. Indeed, they are bound to interpret the will of Parliament.


Mr Maxwell - Only as it is expressed in the Statute.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is the very reason why we should embody in the Bill the amendment which we are now considering.


Mr Maxwell - We say that it is there already.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - -If it be there already, there' can be no harm in our agreeing to the amendment.


Mr Maxwell - If we mention only one State instrumentality the High Court will take it that wc meant expressly to exclude all the others which are not mentioned.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Reference has been made to the coal-miners. They could be included in the Bill.


Mr J H Catts - They were not definitely excluded.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly. However, I am merely giving my interpretation as a layman for what it is worth. Nothing has been adduced by way of argument either by the honorable member for Kooyong or the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) which is calculated to change my opinion. The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) read a list of honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber who voted for the inclusion of railway servants in the Arbitration Bill of 1912, when a Labour Government was in power. Those gentlemen must record their votes upon the present occasion with a full knowledge that if they oppose tho amendment of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan), they will be met by the ghosts of their own past and by the electors in the future. There are many railway servants in the constituencies which they represent who will require to know precisely the position they took up in regard to this matter. The honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) will have to bring forward much sounder arguments than he has advanced if he is to. satisfy the railway workers of his constituency that his action in respect of this matter has been as consistent as he would have us believe. Before concluding his remarks, the honorable member for Kooyong gave away the entire case. Of course, I credit him with perfect honesty in this matter. He has been opposed to this particular proposal from its very inception. He claims that the Commonwealth has no right to interfere as between State railway servants and their employers - that to do so would be an infringement of State rights. In 1912, he advanced the same argument, and also urged that if the Commonwealth had the power to interfere, it would not stop at fixing rates of pay of State railway servants, but would probably go a step farther and fix the freights to be charged upon State railways. It was specious arguments of that description which resulted in the defeat of the referendum. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) has affirmed that in 1913 this proposal was rejected by an overwhelming majority of the electors. As a matter of fact, it was not. I have the figures here which show that 990,000 electors voted against the proposal to include State railway servants within the scope of the Arbitration Act, while 960.000 voted for it. Thus there was a majority of only 30,000 against the proposal. In other words, a swing-over of 16,000 votes would entirely alter the position.Wehave every reason to assume that if the proposal were again put to the electors to-morrow there would be a majority in the other direction. Because there was a majority against it in 1913, we have no right to assume that there is a majority against it to-day. What has happened since then ? We have built our East-West transcontinental railway, and there is a proposal to construct the NorthSouth transcontinental line. Soon, therefore, we shall have railways owned by the Commonwealth and a State running practically alongside each other. We all desire to insure the establishment of industrial peace, without which Australia cannot carry on her industrial operations. But we are going the wrong way to achieve that objective if we are going to keep the State railway servants always in a position which prevents them from getting the higher rate of pay obtainable in the Commonwealth Railways. In South Australia that is the position.


Mr Makin - It is only during recent months that South Australian railway servants have had the advantage of Arbitration Court awards.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is a fact. The honorable member for Kooyong spoke of Classification Boards. But when one speaks of Boards of that description he has to consider the representation upon them. The trend of events in the future will certainly be in the direction of the federalization of our railways. We hope some day to obtain a uniform gauge. The whole trend of events, particularly in regard to the settlement of industrial disputes, is in the direction of bringing our railways under Federal control. However, I have no desire to labour this question. I merely rose because of the explanation offered by the honorable member for Herbert.


Mr Bamford - The honorable member is barking up the wrong tree altogether.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I know that the honorable member is in a difficulty.


Mr Bamford - Not at all.


Mr J H Catts - He is with us.


Mr PARKER MOLONEY (HUME, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am glad that the honorable member is with us, and I wish he would persuade the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) to vote with him. I advise the honorable member for Her bert to ask his friends to be consistent and vote as they did in 1912. I shall be glad if the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) also will support the amendment. The Prime Minister says he has always been in favour of this proposal, and I hope that he and the others of his supporters will vote for a principle which they advocated in former years. We are told by the Prime Minister that if the decision of the High Court is what we believe it is, the State railway employees will automatically come under the Federal Arbitration Act. If that is so, what harm can be done by making assurance doubly sure ?

Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed - That the question be now put.







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