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Thursday, 2 September 1920

Mr MAKIN (Hindmarsh) .- I hope the Government recognise the serious consequences of an amendment of this description if it be passed into law. It is acknowledged throughout the world that there must be a decided change in regard to working hours and conditions. Australia has not led in this reform, for the lead has been given by other countries, and a step such as that proposed by the Government is retrogressive. There is nothing more likely to create dissatisfaction and discontent than to make the workers feel that they are hampered in their efforts to secure what they consider are just and more congenial conditions. I have knowledge of the monotony of work in the shop and the factory, and if by. any means hours can be shortened, without unduly interfering with production, we ought to find a way out of the difficulty. From the great improvements in mechanical appliances, with the consequential increased output, the workers have reaped little or no advantage. Almost the whole of the advantages which have resulted from the introduction of mechanical appliances as an aid to production have gone to the employing section of the community.

Mr Jackson - Has not the introduction of those appliances tended to ease the burden imposed upon the workers?

Mr MAKIN - Very little. I believe that there has been an improvement in the standard of conditions which obtained ten years ago.

Mr Laird Smith -Why, I have worked at the bench from 7.30 o'clock in the morning until 6 o'clock at night.

Mr MAKIN - The Minister for the Navy must, therefore, know that to work such hours in a factory is very monotonous. Even if an hour less per day were worked, the time would still be excessive. Far too frequently the working man goes to his employment when it is dark in the morning and does not return until it is dark in the evening. He should be able to enjoy a little of the sunshine, of which the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) spoke to-day.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - In what industries do men go to work when it is dark in the morning and return to their homes after it is dark in the evening?

Mr MAKIN - That was my own experience when engaged as an engineer.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) -Was that the honorable member's experience in connexion with his ordinary day's work?

Mr MAKIN - Yes. I was obliged to leave my home towards daylight in the morning and it was after dark before I returned in the evening, although I lived not more than 4 miles distant from my place of employment.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - How many hours did the honorable member work?

Mr.MAKIN. - Forty-eight hours per week. I contend that, with the means which exist for facilitating production, forty-eight hours is an excessive week's work. We ought to allow the workers of this country to share in the benefits which are conferred by the employment of mechanical aids to production.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Everybody agrees with that statement.

Mr MAKIN - It is quite evident that the Government are not anxious to assist in that direction. If the amendment be carried,it will be very difficult for those who have advocated the principle of arbitration to continue to do so. Here it is proposed to deliberately place an obstacle in the way of the President of the Arbitration Court.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - The amendment declares that the conditions of labour shall be determined by the Court.

Mr MAKIN - But, whilst it is proposed to vest in one Judge the power to determine what wages shall be paid in an industry, it is intended that three Judges shall be required to determine what shall be the working hours. If the condition of the worker is to be improved, that improvement can come about only through the medium of shorter hours. The capitalistic section of the community recognise that. I can quite understand this amendment being submitted by the Government, because they stand behind vested interests. But certainly it will not be acceptable to the great majority of the people. I have no doubt that the employers of Australia have taken their cue from what has transpired in the Old Country, where a motion was recently carried by the Associated British Chambers of Commerce urging the Imperial Government to appeal to the Employers' Federation to extend the working hours in order to make up the deficiency in production. The position to-day is that, during four and a half years of war, millions of men were producing nothing, but were actually engaged in the work of destruction. These men are rapidly being restored to civil occupations, and are assisting to bring about increased production. The result will be that normal conditions, from the stand-point of commodities which are actually required, must soon be restored.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - That is not the question which is involved here. The real question is whether a man will get less substantial justice from three Judges than he will from one Judge.

Mr MAKIN - There is a justifiable suspicion abroad that the Government are endeavouring to do all in their power to harass the President of the Arbitration Court. Under the amendment, I repeat, one Judge of that Tribunal will be able to determine what wages shall be paid in an industry, but three Judges will be necessary to decide upon the working hours to be observed in that industry.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - Is that an advantage or a detriment? Surely the question of whether it is better to have one Judge than three Judges is open to argument.

Mr MAKIN - In view of the congestion of business which has been experienced in the Arbitration Court during recent years, it is manifest that industrial organizations would be kept waiting for a very long time to obtain a judgment by three Judges of that Tribunal.

Sir JOSEPH COOK (PARRAMATTA, NEW SOUTH WALES) (Treasurer) - We are anxiously waiting to hear one of the honorable mem ber's leaders upon this point, because he is always appealing from one-man law to three-men law.

Mr MAKIN - I do not know what that has to do with my argument. I have endeavoured to impress upon the Government the serious nature of this proposal, and although I have been an ardent believer in the principle of arbitration, I feel that if the amendment be carried I shall have to revise that opinion.

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