Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
 Download Full Day's HansardDownload Full Day's Hansard    View Or Save XMLView/Save XML

Previous Fragment    Next Fragment
Thursday, 2 September 1920


Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) .- It seems to me that we are in a very unfortunate position to-day, and for this the amendment proposed by the Government, at the "death knock," is solely responsible. A short -time ago we spent considerable time in dealing with the Industrial Peace Bill, from which we were told many good things would result. As to that I am sceptical; but, however that may be, the Government have deliberately followed up their negotiations for peace with a direct declaration of war. By the amendment proposed in the Bill before us, war is declared on the whole , of the industrial organizations and work- - ing classes of Australia. We are told that the question of the number of hours to be worked is so important that one Judge cannot decide it, that any reduction will vitally affect an industry, and may involve millions of money ; indeed, one honorable member spoke of hundreds of millions. But may not an increase of wages have similar effects? My own opinion is that an increase of wages is of more moment in this connexion than a reduction of the time' worked by an bour a day; at any rate, one is just as important as the other. We are told that three Judges are necessary to consider any change in the time worked, but that I regard as mere camouflage and humbug. The hours worked are of no more importance' than any other of the many phases of industry which have been decided, and are being decided at the present moment, by one Judge in the Arbitration Court. That argument, therefore, falls to the ground, as a mere pretence, which is put forward to serve the purposes of the Government, or of Government supporters. It was the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Poster) or the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) who compared English and American workmen with Australian workmen in the matter of efficiency. Certainly there is " speeding up"" in America, which I hope to God will never.be introduced in Australia. While the honorable member was speaking I was reminded of something I read in Mr. Foster -Frazer's book, America at Work.Mr. Frazer observed the /lightning rapidity with which the operatives in a factory worked, and there being no old men to be seen about, he asked one of the bosses where they were. The boss looked at Mr. Frazer with a smile and said, " Take a cigar, and we will have a drive around the cemetery." That is what the "speeding-up" system leads to; it is the system which in England, during war time, led to a constant deterioration in the physique of the men as they were called up for service from time to time. If every ounce of energy is taken out of a man; if he is to be allowed no opportunities for relaxation in his ordinary working life, we are on the road to national retrogression and not of national progress. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) discussed whether a forty-four hour week should, or should not, be granted, but that point really has nothing to do with the question before us. The amendment proposed by the Government provides that; on the question of hours, the Judge of the Arbitration Court must call upon two other Judges to assist him ; and the honorable member to whom Ihave just referred admitted that, in some industries, a week of forty-four hours was not too little. If that be so, how do we know that, with the constant changes in the process of manufacture, with possibly the introduction of the use of chemicals, an industry now healthy may become so unhealthy as to make a week of forty-eight hours too long. Then, again, there may, at the present time, be industries of which we have no knowledge, but in which, on health grounds, forty-eight hours is too much, though men are now working, that number each week. Why take from the Judge of the Arbitration Court the power to settle such matters, and constitute an expensive Tribunal of three Judges? To me such a proposal appears to make the Conciliation and Arbitration Act a farce; indeed, I think that is the real intention of the Government. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) made a suggestion which, coming from him, seemed to me strange. He belongs to a party which claims to stand for economy, but he supports the amendment, while expressing the pious hope that the Government will appoint a Commission to revise, i suppose, the whole of our industrial arrangements, and fix the hours of labour. In my opinion, the Judge of the Arbitration Court, who now has to consider the matter of wages, and every phase of industry, is the more fit and proper person to make an award of the kind contemplated. Even if a Commission were appointed to foam all over Australia, the probability is that its report, like the reports of other Commissions, will be thrown, into the wastepaper basket if it does not suit the powers that be.

We have heard a good deal of the old cry, " Produce more," and have been told that this country is " up against it." Personally, I think that if we manage our financial affairs wisely, we shall be able to meet the position. I am convinced that if the workmen of Australia were working eighteen hours a day, and were producing wealth in proportion to the hours worked, we would not reduce our national debt a penny, because the wealth, as is the case to-day, -would go into the hands of a few. If the wealth produced during the last few years had been called upon to meet its proper obligations, we should not have been in our present financial position; but we have ever the same old cry that, during the war, was addressed to the men on the land - " Produce more." The men on the land did produce more, but the persons who benefited were a few middlemen in Australia, and a large number of. middlemen and profiteers on the other side. Our young men were told that our national existence was at stake, and that it was their duty to go to the other side of the world and fight. Now that they have returned, they are told - for the great bulk of them come from the ranks of the workers - to get their heads down, and work hard in order to pay for the war they have won.


Mr Laird Smith - Do you say that the wool-growers and farmers have not been well paid?


Mr LAZZARINI - They have not been well paid in comparison with what they did; by manipulations, either here or abroad, they have been deprived or robbed to the extent of nearly half the value of their produce. I agree with all that has been said on this side concerning the motives underlying the introduction of the amendment; and nothing that has been said by honorable members opposite has -affected that view. The old cry about the ruination of industry has been raisedIt is one with which I am familiar. As a boy I worked in a draper's shop. I began at 7 a.m., and had two breaks, for meals, of three-quarters of an hour each. I "knocked off" at 6 or 7 p.m. for five days of the week, and at 30 or 10.30 p.m. on Saturday nights. Those hours were bad enough; but in the days before that employees began at 7 a.m. and worked until 10 or 11 o'clock every night, and right up. to midnight on Saturdays. When the agitation was raised for Wednesday half-holidays, the cry was heard everywhere, " Trade will be ruined.''

However, the reform was secured, and business suffered in no wise. The next step towards decent conditions had to do with the reduction of hours, and again thecry was raised about the destruction of industry. Nowadays, many employees in the line of business at which I worked when a boy start at 9 a.m. and quit at 5 p.m., and they enjoy their Saturdayhalfholiday. But will anybody say that business has been injured or ruined? Statistics prove that, wherever employees have been provided with good conditions and reasonable hours of work, their output has been better and greater. The forty-four hour week will be instituted whether we pass fifty Acts of Parliament, or one hundred, or none at all. As one who has always sought . the solution of our 'problems constitutionally, who has looked upon industrial upheavals as things to be deplored from . the viewpoint of the worker, and who would do anything to prevent resort to direct action, I am bound to say to the employed classes to-day - who, at last, are getting their due - " Good luck to you !" I regret that the amendment should have been introduced in the midst of a smoke screen of suspicion.


Mr Austin Chapman - What does the honorable member mean?


Mr LAZZARINI - I may be better understood if I say that it is altogether a smoky business. I 'have sought for some genuine reason for its introduction, but the Government have either not cared to furnish one, or have been unable to do so.

Dr.MALONEY (Melbourne) [5.53].- I resent the remarks of the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory). I had thought that, in these days of the supposed spread of knowledge upon sanitary matters, no man would dare to suggest that to work in a mine could be healthier than to engage in an avocation upon the surface of the earth. Such an argument is beyond my comprehension. The amendment is aimed at one man whose greatness has illumined the Bench. Possessing a keen memory of one who stood out like a star on a midsummer night - I refer to the late George Higinbotham - I must say that I know of none so worthy, as Mr. Justice Higgins to wear the mantle of that great Judge..

The , record in ' this Legislature of the President of the Arbitration Court is something with which to conjure. His career in the State Parliament also, and in public life generally, has been such that I wish I could speak in anything like the same praise of any of our other Judges. Is not a Judge such as he - or, indeed, any Judge - deemed capable of determining whether hours of employment should be decreased? Possibly the greatest organizing genius in Great Britain to-day is Lord Leverhulme, of Port Sunlight. He has publicly stated} in effect: "I have reduced the hours for my men to forty-eight per week, and of my women employees to forty-four, and I am getting a greater return of production than ever before.'' But the honorable member for Dampier may say that, in view of the war, we must produce and produce. In the Parliamentary Library will be found three books which I invite him to study. In one, Lord Leverhulme advocates the six-hour day. I have here the other two volumes, which I strongly commend to the attention of the honorable member for Dampier. One is entitled The Works Manager To-day. It deals with the subject of fatigue and of accidents. It shows that most accidents in manufactories occur after the sixth hour, and that the seventh and eighth hours furnish the deadly periods. The other book, entitled Industrial Administration, is also a stout condemnation of long hours of toil. I plead with the Government to eliminate the objectionable portion of the amendment. Judges, as a rule, are wide readers. They can secure up-to-date information from various sources, and it is ridiculous to suggest that any one Judge is not sufficient, or sufficiently equipped, for the purpose of determining hours of employ-' ment. To revert to Lord Leverhulme, in the course of his advocacy of the eighthour day, he pointed out that he had not built his model homes for the sake of charity, but as a business proposition. He said, " I propose to make 3 per cent.' clear. I do not want my workmen to' come to my works tired through having to hang on to straps in tram-cars. I have, given them healthy cottages and healthy surroundings." That they are healthy is proved by the death rate figures. The mortality within three miles of Port'

Sunlight is double what it is in this garden city. I am glad to learn that this great " Socialist," as I termed him when I heard those remarks, is now advocating a six hours day. I cannot understand the attitude of honorable members who would oppose such a proposition.







Suggest corrections