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Friday, 23 October 1931


Mr COLEMAN (Reid) .- It seems rather futile to discuss this matter sixteen months after the conference was held. The report of the conference to which this motion refers was tabled by me several months ago, and, in the meantime, another conference has taken place. I, therefore address myself to this subject to-day without much enthusiasm, in view of the delay that has occurred. I recollect that in more tranquil times, the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and I were very persistent in demanding that a fuller measure of consideration should be given in this Parliament to the international obligations of Australia as a member of the League of Nations. The only excuse for the belated consideration of the matter under discussion on this occasion is that the times through which we are passing are abnormal. Otherwise I should consider it a grave reflection on the Government and the Parliament that important matters of this nature are so treated. Of course, it is difficult to arouse enthusiasm in the House or in the community on an abstract, non-party matter such as that involved in our membership of the League of Nations. Consequently, in the past there has been, I am afraid, general indifference to this subject. The circle of honorable members who have shown consistent interest in international affairs, so far as they relate to the League of Nations, is small, if one is to gauge *hat interest by the time devoted by members to the discussion of League of Nations' matters.


Mr Gabb - There is also a certain amount of scepticism regarding the efficiency of the League's work.


Mr COLEMAN - Of course ; but that is a matter for separate consideration. I shall try to place on record, as briefly as possible, the manner in which the international labour organization works, and to justify the continuance of our membership with the League, of which it is a part. I express my appreciation of the great privilege which was enjoyed by me in representing Australia at this important international conference, and I regret that greater opportunities and facilities are not possessed by other honorable members who are apt to doubt the value of these international connexions. "Were they able to see for themselves the serious conduct of the work of these international organizations, they would take a more sympathetic view of the League's work. It is not so much in highly controversial fields of co-operation, as in regard to the problem of disarmament, that we see appreciable advance made; it is in non-controversial fields where we have this co-operation, in regard to health matters, the white-slave traffic, the regulation of the trade in drugs, the codification of international law, and attempts made to regulate international labour conditions. There has been a tremendous advance in world co-operation which has replaced the pre-war state of almost complete independence in the relations between nations.

This is the first occasion on which a report relating to the Labour Conference has been presented in person by an Australian government delegate sent from the Commonwealth Parliament.


Mr Hughes - That is not so.


Mr COLEMAN - It is the first time that a report has been presented. Previously, the reports were tabled with other parliamentary documents, and were thrown aside and forgotten, unless some member thought it appropriate to raise the matter when the Estimates were being discussed, as the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) did last year. In reply to the right honorable member for North Sydney this was not, of course, the first conference at which Australia had been directly represented by a parliamentary delegate, for the late Senator R. S. Guthrie attended the second session held in 1920- at Genoa, as head of the Australian delegation, when maritime conditions were discussed. Australia was not represented at all at the first session held at Washington in 1919, when the Washington eight-hours convention was adopted, nor at the fourth session held in 1922 at Geneva, but has been represented at every conference since the fourth. At the third and fifth sessions held in 1921 .and 1923, respectively, the Australian delegations were headed by Mr. W. S. Robinson and Mr. C. S. Ainsworth, respectively, and not by the High Commissioner. In view of the criticism directed against the Government for sending me instead of the High Commissioner, it is interesting to note that it was not until the sixth session was held in 1924 that Australia was represented by the High Commissioner as a government delegate, and that practice was continued until last year, when I attended as the direct representative of the Government. On only two occasions has the Government availed itself of the right to be represented by two government delegates, namely, in 1920 and 1921, when the highly controversial question of the prohibition of the use of white lead in paint was the subject of discussion at Geneva. The subject assumed great importance because of the effect which any decision arrived at might have upon certain industries in Australia. On that occasion, the delegation numbered eight, including two government delegates, a government adviser, an employers' delegate and adviser, a workers' delegate, and a secretary. In 1927, the delegation consisted of five, while in 1929, the year immediately preceding that in which this Government assumed office, the delegation again consisted of five. On all other occasions, including the present, the delegation consisted of one government delegate - although Australia is entitled to two - one employers' delegate, one workers' delegate, and a secretary sent from Australia House, together with a typist to assist the delegation.

The expense involved by Australia's representation at the International Labour Conference in 1929 was £2,093, while that incurred on the occasion under discussion was under £1,500. I went on the same terms as the High Commissioner had done on previous occasions, and, consequently, the only additional expense involved was that of transportation from Australia to Geneva, and return. In sending a government delegate from Australia, the Commonwealth Government followed the established practice of other countries, including the other British dominions. In no case, except that of India, did the High Commissioner of a dominion attend the International Labour Conference. Canada was represented by two government delegates, one of whom was the Assistant Deputy Minister of Labour sent from Ottawa, while South Africa was represented by two govern sent delegates sent from South Africa, one of whom was Senator the Honorable Thomas Boydell, formerly Minister for Labour. New Zealand was, for the first time, represented by a delegation consisting of one government delegate - Professor Tocker - besides delegates representing the employers and the workers. The decision of the Australian Government to be directly represented, thus indicating that it recognized the importance of the International Labour Organization, was the subject of special and favorable reference by the director of the Labour office.

That the work of the International Labour Organization is regarded as of the greatest importance is revealed by the fact that two British Cabinet Ministers, a former Minister, and a Labour member of Parliament, were included in the British delegation, which numbered 25, while Prance was represented by a delegation of 17. Canada had a delegation of 10, India 9, South Africa 6, and the Irish Free State 6. Every important delegation was accompanied by technical experts, and headed by parliamentary representatives, or those possessing something in the nature of ambassadorial status. The only States which contented themselves with representation by one delegate were those in the Far East, and the Latin American republics. I have no hesitation in saying that the Government was justified in sending a direct representative from Australia. The Australian Government would justly receive criticism if it failed to recognize the importance, from the workers' point of view, of being directly represented, under normal conditions, at a world Labour conference. Under present conditions, when economy is imperative, this principle may require to be temporarily abandoned.

The discussion on the abolition of forced labour was of vital interest to Australia, having regard to the mandated territories, and I propose to deal more fully with that subject presently. As indicating the magnitude of the conference, I may say that 51 countries were represented - the largest number of States yet represented at any session. The representation at the conference consisted of 156 delegates, and 209 technical advisers, or a total of 365. This number was made up of 86 government delegates, SO technical advisers, 35 employers' delegates, 05 technical advisers, 35 workers' delegates, and 65 technical advisers. Twenty-six European countries, and 25 non-European countries were represented at the conference. The Standing Orders of the International Labour Organization provide that each delegate may be accompanied by two advisers for each item on the agenda, a fact which accounted for the large number who attended. The Australian delegation consisted of Mr. W. 0. F. Thomas, representing the employers, Mr. C. A. Crofts, representing the workers, and myself, representing the Government. Major 0. C. Fuhrmann was sent from Australia House as secretary to the delegation, and rendered invaluable service.

The work was strenuous and exacting. The Australian delegation was quite inadequate to enable it to do justice to the tremendous volume of study and activity involved in participation in this world industrial Parliament. I sat on the Forced Labour Committee, Mr. Crofts sat on the committee dealing with hours of work in coal-mines, and Mr. Thomas sat on the committee dealing with hours of work of salaried employees. The committees often began their sittings early in the morning, and did not conclude until late at night, and sat on Saturdays, as well as on the other days of the week. Honorable members who read the report will observe that Mr. Thomas and Mr. Crofts agree with me in saying that Australia is handicapped by the inadequacy of the Australian delegation, and the fact that they are not in continuous touch with the work. If we are to be represented at all, we should be represented effectively. The Australian delegates coming to Geneva for the first time are handicapped by the lack of familiarity with, their surroundings, lack of knowledge of procedure, lack of personal contact with other delegates, and ignorance of the French language. In contrast, most other countries, including Canada, have been represented by one or more delegates who have been going to Geneva regularly for years.

The difficulties are added to by the adoption of what is known as the " double discussion " procedure, under which subjects on the agenda are discussed at two consecutive conferences, that is, with a year intervening between first and second discussions, so that it is most difficult for delegates to follow the second discussion without an intimate knowledge of what transpired at the previous session. I direct attention to the suggestion made by Mr. Thomas, the employers' delegate, that delegates should be appointed much earlier than has been the case previously, when the appointments have been made a week or two before the ship sailed. It is also desirable that government delegates should be acquainted with the Government's policy on matters under discussion, so that they may speak authoritatively on its behalf. The financial difficulties of the Commonwealth no doubt make it difficult, if not impossible, to increase the delegation at the present time, but it is well that honorable members should know the position. The suggestion was made at Geneva, and I commend it to the Government, that the fares and expenses of delegations to these conferences should be a charge on the funds of the League organization, so that they would be distributed equitably over all the member States. The proposal was put forward in 1929 by the British Government delegation to the League of Nations, and I hope that it will be revived by this Government. The Honorable Hugh Dalton and others urged me to lay this matter before my Government. The merit of such a proposal i3 that, if adopted, it would encourage the attendance of complete delegations at Geneva, and make the conferences more truly representative in character. The League of Nations authorities are frankly opposed to delegations being confined to diplomatic representation, as in the case of the Latin-American republics. It impairs the efficiency of the peace machinery, and introduces an undesirable element into the conferences - undesirable in the sense that there is no direct personal responsibility on the part of professional diplomats, whose homes are in European capitals, and who are not called upon personally to present reports to their respective parliaments.

Their attendance, in many cases, represents the discharge in a perfunctory manner of a boring diplomatic responsibility, made tolerable only by incidental social functions. I say that advisedly, and it has been freely stated that the efficiency of the conferences has been seriously impaired through the South American States being represented by diplomatists ordinarily resident in Paris, Berlin or elsewhere. The Latin-American States have, I believe, an undue influence in the affairs of the League of Nations, compared with countries such as Australia. A good deal of lobbying and intrigue goes on with the object of securing preferment in the distribution of offices, not so much in connexion with the International Labour Organization, but more so in connexionwith the general work of the League of Nations as well.


Mr Beasley - Is the honorable member referring only to the International Labour Organization?


Mr COLEMAN - I am referring to that, but more particularly to the general activities of the League. The diplomatic representatives to whom I have referred take little, if any, part in the discussions ; they appear not to be fully informedof the economic conditions existing in their own countries, and have no direct responsibility to their own parliaments.


Mr Eldridge - Are those LatinAmerican States more fully represented than Australia?


Mr COLEMAN - All States are entitled to equal representation, but a small South American republic like Bolivia has the same voting strength as the large, powerful States, and these Latin-American States may hold the balance of power in the conferences of the League of Nations. They control a block of about twenty votes, and they invariably act and vote together. Each independent State is entitled to the same representation, whether it has a population of 100,000 or 100,000,000.

The cost of Australia's annual contribution would be scarcely affected if the proposal for the payment of fares and expenses that I have outlined were adopted, while those States heretofore contenting themselves with representation by diplomats would find it desirable to be fully represented. The cost would be distributed over all the members of the League. Great Britain, France, Italy, and such countries incur only a small expense when sending delegates, but Latin America, South Africa, and Australia all incur very heavy expenses. To that extent, I can quite understand why the Latin American States object to paying the expenses involved in sending a full delegation.


Mr Hughes - How many of the Latin American States are financial ?


Mr COLEMAN - A number of them are unfinancial. One of the worst offenders in that regard is China, which has constantly promised to pay, but has not done so. Because of China's tremendous population and economic importance, the League of Nations has done everything possible to humour that country, and to overlook its financial delinquencies. Within my knowledge, no action has been taken to compel those in arrears to become financial. Our honorable compliance with our obligations, and the payment of our £30,000 per annum to the League organization, stands out in marked contrast to the attitude adopted by China and the Latin American countries. The whole basis on which contributions are assessed should be taken up by this Government in an endeavour to see whether our burden cannot be lightened.


Mr Fenton - Is that not already being done ?


Mr COLEMAN - A Budget Committee was appointed at the last League conference, and its report will, no doubt, be submitted in the near future. The expenses of the League have increased alarmingly. On the other hand, the range of research and the activities of the League are manifold, and we must recognize that the necessity to make the League's activities truly international involves a continually increasing expenditure. The staff of the League of Nations numbers over 1,000. There are 664 employees in the League of Nations Secretariat, 424 in the International Labour Organization Section, and a further 24 associated with the Permanent Court of International Justice. An attempt has been made to see that every nation shall be represented on the Secretariat, to ensure that every opinion shall bc expressed, and every language understood. Personally, I think that it is desirable that Australia should have a permanent representative at Geneva. I doubt whether very many of the delegates that we have sent there understand . French, which is. a primary essential to a- facile consideration of the problems that are raised. Permanent representation would enhance Australia's prestige, and would enable this nation to take a larger part in international affairs. Canada, South Africa, and the Irish Free State, besides scores of other countries, have what are known as permanent accredited representatives to the League of Nations. The advantages of such a system to. Canada are revealed by the fact that that dominion had a seat on the Council- of the League of Nations until recently, and that it enjoys a permanent seat on the governing body of the International Labour Organization. It is regarded as one of the States of chief industrial importance. The Irish Free State has also secured election to the Council of the League. On the Other hand, Australia has had to decline nomination because of the absence of permanent representation, and our remoteness from Geneva. I believe that Australia could have obtained the succession to Canada on the Council had it been iri a position to accept nomination.


Mr Beasley - It is only on the governing body of the International Labour Organization that we could be represented.


Mr COLEMAN - I am dealing with both bodies. We are not entitled to automatic representation, but would have to stand for election.

Of material interest to Australia is the fact that we possess a mandate over New Guinea, and a joint mandate with Great Britain and New Zealand over Nauru. We are, therefore, more vitally concerned in Geneva policy than is Canada or the Irish Free State, both of which have permanent representation. Australia i3 vitally interested in the orientation of international policy, particularly on immigration questions and economic issues. A mere refusal to participate in the development of international law and policy does not disengage Australia from her obligations and responsibilities as a member of the community of civilized and selfgoverning, nations. It is desirable that we should have our views presented at Geneva, otherwise we shall be compelled to recognize rules and principles governing international relationships in the formation of which we have had no part. There is a strong under current of opinion at Geneva which considers that we already have more than enough territorial responsibility, and do not require the mandates. It is held in many quarters in private discussion that we should hand the mandates back to the League, allowing it to decide whether their original sovereignty should be restored. I counteracted that opinion. If we value our mandates, and desire to safeguard our international interests, and if we are anxious to maintain our prestige as a nation, carrying as it does rights, obligations, and responsibilities, we should ensure that our opinions are adequately and effectively represented at Geneva, the world capital, the nerve centre of international politics. There is nothing like continuous human contacts, enabling our Government to know what is doing, and to keep in touch with the atmosphere of things. In the past, Australian delegations have had to rely on a very capable and efficient officer sent from Australia House, Major Fuhrmann; but that is not enough. Other nations having a personal representative can further their interests by canvassing for their opinions, and furthering their candidature for various positions. And that is freely done.

While at Geneva at the Labour Conference I ventured, in my speech, the opinion that the International Labour Organization, tended to become European in character and outlook. A similar view was voiced by other overseas delegates who followed me, but the Director, in reply, said : " The con ventions are not drawn, up in a purely European spirit; or, if they have been, the fault lies with the non-European States. Is the complaint not rather of the manifestation of a spirit of regionalism which is tending to develop at the present time among all international institutions?" That that correctly interprets the prevailing tendency is indicated by the suggestion of Monsieur Briand for a pan-European union.

To those who suggest that we should not bother about the Internationa] Labour Conference I would say that we are bound to be represented thereat as a signatory of the Treaty of Versailles, lt is a treaty obligation, apart from its moral aspects. Under that treaty we are bound to ensure representation of the organized workers and employers, and we are bound to pay the fares and expenses of that representation. From a humanitarian stand-point, it is our bout'.deu duty to assist in raising the standards of labour throughout the world, while from an economic standpoint we tend to minimize trade competition, and at the same time to open up markets.

To those who measure progress by concrete results achieved, the number of ratifications of draft conventions formulated at the International Labour Conference might he unsatisfactory. Nevertheless, the mere annua] discussion of new industrial and social objectives represents a tremendous advance in world thought and evolution. If nothing more, they represent declarations of human rights which are forcing the recognition of higher social standards in backward countries. Mere discussion with the object of bringing about international co-operation in labour matters has been a tremendous social force for international good. I took the responsibility, as a Government delegate, of endeavouring io develop a new international labour objective by urging the international recognition of a 44-hour week. [Quorum formed.}

There is no doubt that the machinery of the League of Nations is admirable, and that, compared with the pre-war atmosphere, there has been a tremendous advance in international relationships. Perhaps the manner in which governments have co-operated with the League hi the past has been open to a considerable amount of criticism. The League machine itself is a marvel of efficienajar^! smooth-working as I have already said. Every nationality is represented on the staff of the Secretariat, and apparently all work in complete harmony and co-operation. The con- ference proceedings are conducted in. French and English, and the scheme functions with remarkable facility. There is a system of telephonic interpretation which enables immediate translations to be made in four, five, or six languages. The proceedings of the conference arecharacterized by courtesy and toleration, and are free from the verbal exchanges to which we are accustomed in Australian parliaments.

I notice that the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Curtin) has been prone to press the merits of the International Labour Organization to the disadvantage of the League. The organizations are inter-related. Both do very valuable work, and no useful purpose is served in stressing the importance of one above the other. The League organization is supposed to be working towards disarmament, the establishment of world peace, and international co-operation in the field of economic and social relations ; while the Labour organization directs its efforts solely to Labour problems. As to the Labour Conference, I should say that if it attempted less and achieved more, its prestige would be enhanced. Its object seems to bc to have a full agenda paper every year. At each conference, there are three weeks of crowded discussion, yet when its achievements over a period of years are examined, taking into consideration the number of its conventions which have been ratified, we are forced to the conclusion that it has not accomplished much directly. But we must consider also the indirect results, and the moral influences which these international conventions exert. Most European countries treat the International Labour Organization very seriously. Many of them have special departments of State iti liaison with it.

I now propose to review the origin of the International Labour Organization, and the nature of Australia's relations, particularly with respect to the ratification of conventions.

Article 23 of the Covenant provides inter alia that -

The members of the League will endeavour to secure and maintain fair and humane conditions of labour for men, women, and children, both in their own countries and in all countries to which their commercial and industrial relations extend, and for that purpose will establish and maintain the necessary international organizations.

Article 427 of the Treaty lays down ^general principles for the guidance of the International Labour Organization, and declares that among those principles the following seem to the High Contracting Parties to be of special and urgent importance: First, the guiding principle above enunciated that labour should not be regarded merely as a commodity or article of commerce; second, the right of association for all lawful purposes by the employed, as well as by the employers; third, the payment' te the employed of a wage adequate to maintain a reasonable standard of life as this is understood in their time and country; fourth, the adoption of an 8-hours day, or a 4S-hours week, as the standard to be aimed at where it has not already been attained; fifth, the adoption of a weekly rest of at least 24 hours which should include Sunday wherever practicable; sixth, the abolition of child labour, and the imposition of such limitations on the labour of young persons as shall permit the continuation of their education and assure their proper physical development; seventh, the principle that men and women should receive equal remuneration for work of equal value; eighth, the standard set by law in each country with respect to the conditions of labour should have due regard to the equitable economic treatment of all workers lawfully resident therein, and ninth, each State shall make provision for a system of inspection, in which, women should take part, in order to ensure the enforcement of the laws and regulations for the protection of the employed.

The preamble to Part XIII. of the Treaty of Versailles is the charter of the International Labour Office. It reads -

Whereas the League of Nations has for its object the establishment of universal pence, and such a peace can bc established only if rt is based upon social justice:

And whereas conditions of labour exist involving such injustice, hardship and privation to large numbers of people as to produce unrest so great that the peace and harmony of the world are imperilled, and an improvement of conditions is urgently required; as, for example, by the regulation of the hours of work, including the establishment of a maximum working day and week, the regulation of the labour supply, the prevention of unemployment, the provision of an adequate living wage, the protection of the worker against sickness, disease, and injury arising out of his employment, the protection of children, young persons and women, provision for oldage and injury, protection of the interests of workers when employed in countries other than their own, recognition of the principle of freedom of association, the organization of vocational and technical education and other measures :

Whereas also the failure of any nation to adopt humane conditions of labour is an obstacle in the way of other nations which desire to improve the conditions in their own countries :

The High Contracting Parties, moved by sentiments of justice and humanity as well as by the desire to secure the permanent peace of the world, agree .

Having outlined the objects of the organization in the preamble, Part XIII, sets out the machinery by which these objects are to be attained.

Membership of the League of Nations carries with it membership of the International Labour Organization, but countries outside the League may become members of the International Labour Organization. The present membership of 'the International Labour Organization comprises 55 countries. The headquarters of the organization are at Geneva. The International Labour Office is under the control of a governing body consisting of 24 persons, of whom twelve are representatives of governments, six of employers, and six of workers. Of the twelve persons representing governments, eight are nominated by those members of the Organization which arc of chief industrial importance. An amendment of the Treaty to increase the total numbers of members of the governing body to 32, of whom sixteen shall be government representatives, and eight each shall represent the employers and the workers respectively, was adopted in .1922, but it has not yet received the requisite number of ratifications to bring it into force. Another provision of the amendment ' is that of the sixteen government members six shall come from non-European States.

The general conference usually meets in June in each year. Members of the Organization are represented at the general conference by two government delegates and two non-government delegates, of whom one represents the employers and the other the workers. Nongovernment delegates must he chosen hy the governments in consultation with the industrial organizations in the various countries most representative of the employers and the workers, as the case may be. The agenda of this general conference is drawn up by the governing body. When it has been decided to include a subject in the agenda of the conference, the machinery of the organization is set in motion for the purpose of collecting data, and drawing up a report setting out the law and the practice on the subject in the different countries. Further information is then obtained by means of detailed questionnaires which are addressed to governments with a view also to eliciting their views as to the advisability of the adoption of a convention or recommendation on the subject. Subsequently, a final report is compiled and issued for the 'information of governments and those attending the conference. According to the procedure recently adopted, a subject is submitted for preliminary discussion at one of these annual conferences, and is not finally dealt with until the conference of the following year.

Each of the members of the Organization undertakes that it will, within a period of one year, or in exceptional circumstances, within eighteen months, bring the conventions and recommendations adopted by the conference before the authorities in the country concerned within whose competence the matter lies, for the enactment of legislation or other action. These conventions are subject to formal ratification, and countries ratifying a convention are bound to bring their legislation into line with its provisions. Members agree to make annual reports to the International Labour Organization on the measures that they have taken to give effect to the provisions of conventions which they have ratified. In the case of a federal State, such as Australia, however, whose power to enter into conventions on labour matters is subject to limitations, it is specially provided in Article 405 of the Versailles Treaty, that it shall be in the discretion of that Government to treat a draft convention to which such limitations apply as a recommendation only, which does not' require ratification. If no legislative action is taken to make a recommendation effective, or if a draft convention is not ratified, no further obligation rests on the member 'government.

Since the first conference met at Washington in 1919, there have been fourteen sessions. Thirty conventions and 39 recommendations have been adopted. Of the conventions which have been adopted, the most important, doubtless, is that which limits the hours of work in industrial undertakings to eight in the day, and 4S an the week, with certain exceptions. Considerable difficulty has been experienced in arriving at a uniform interpretation as between the various countries concerning certain provisions of the convention. A governmental conference was convened by Great Britain, and held in. London in 1926, with a view to arriving at a .satisfactory interpretation of the doubtful parts of the convention for universal application. Representatives of Great Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, and Italy took part in that conference, when certain conclusions were reached, and definitions agreed upon. Subsequently, other difficulties arose. It was recently officially announced, however, that Great Britain would proceed with the ratification of the convention, and a bill has been passed through the House of Commons to give effect to its provisions. Other conventions adopted by the International Labour Conference deal with unemployment, minimum wage-fixing machinery, the minimum age for the admission of children to industrial employment, employment at sea and in agriculture, night-work of women and young persons, workmen's compensation, sickness insurance, night-work in bakeries, inspection of emigrants on board ship, right of association of agricultural workers, weekly day of rest, white lead in paint, prevention of industrial accidents, abolition of forced and compulsory labour and similar subjects.

The International Labour Office claims to .have achieved considerable progress in oriental countries in the way of improvements in industrial conditions as a result of the adoption by those countries of certain of the conventions. In India, the hours of labour of adult factory workers have been reduced from 72 to 60 a week, and the minimum age for the employment of children has been increased from nine to twelve years in certain industries, with six to seven hours a day for children in factories. India has also prohibited the employment of persons under eighteen years of age as trimmers or stokers on board ship, excepting that in the coastal trade, if certified medically fit, the minimum age is. sixteen years. Japan has prohibited the employment of children under the age of twelve, and in the case of employment on board ship the age is eighteen years, and, provided they are certified medically fit, the minimum age is fourteen. China has prohibited the employment of boys under seven years of age and girls under twelve, and has limited the hours of work to eight a day for boys under seventeen and girls under eighteen, night-work being disallowed. It' is claimed that Persia, as a result of the intervention of the International Labour Office, ordered the Kerman local authorities to enforce, among other rules, the eight-hour day, non-employment of children under ten, midday rest period in connexion with factories and the provisions of healthy sites and pure air for factories.

Of the 30 conventions which .have been adopted by the International Labour Conference, only three fall wholly within the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Government, namely: (1) Simplification of inspection of emigrants on board ship; (2) seamen's articles of agreement; (3) repatriation of seamen. In respect of numbers (2) and (3), coastal shipping is specifically excluded, but' in the case of five other conventions " maritime navigation " generally is covered. These five conventions are - (4) Facilities for finding employment for seamen; (5) minimum age for admission of children to employment at sea; (6) unemployment indemnity in case of loss or foundering of the ship; (7) minimum age for admission of young persons to employment as trimmers and stokers; (S) compulsory medical examination of children and young persons employed at sea.

It has been laid down by the High Court in the case of Newcastle and Hunter River SS. Company v. Attorney-

General,that under sections 51 i and section 98 of the Constitution the Commonwealth has power to deal with shipping only so far as it is relevant to interstate and foreign trade and commerce, so that the States become concerned in this latter group of conventions as regards intra-state shipping. This latter group of conventions - numbers (4) to (8) - therefore cover matters which come within the jurisdiction both of the Commonwealth and the States, but so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, will require only minor amendments of the Navigation Act to give effect to their provisions. As regards the remainder of the conventions, while the subject-matter of these falls very largely within the jurisdiction of the States, the Commonwealth is concerned in relation to its territories. As mentioned earlier, however, it is specially provided in Article 405 of the Labour Section of the Peace Treaty, that, where the power of a federal State to enter into conventions on labour matters is subject to limitations, it is within the discretion of such Federal Government to treat conventions relating to such matters as recommendations only. The question of the ratification of conventions was referred to at the Premiers Conference in 1929, when the States were informed as to the position of the Commonwealth in the matter. It was stated on that occasion that the Commonwealth Government would be prepared to ratify any conventions to the provisions of which the States had given effect under their legislation, and in respect of which the States had also given an assurance that they would not' modify such legislation so as to make it inconsistent with the provisions of the conventions without previous consultation with the Commonwealth. It was also pointed out that it would be necessary for all the States, not some of them only, to give legislative effect to the provisions of a convention before the Commonwealth could proceed with ratifications. The Commonwealth has so far ratified four of the conventions, namely, those concerning (1) Facilities for finding employment for seamen; (2) simplification of the inspection of emigrant's on board ship; (3) minimum wage-fixing machinery; (4) marking of the weight of heavy packages transported by sea. Three of these conventions have been ratified by the present Government.

The functions of the International Labour Office include the collection and distribution of information and reports on all subjects relating to the international adjustment of conditions of industrial life and labour, and. particularly, the examination of subjects which it is proposed to bring before the conference, and the conduct of such investigations as are ordered by the conference. Apart from the activities of the International Labour Office arising directly from the conference, work is carried on by certain commissions which have been constituted within the International Labour Organization. A Joint Maritime Commission was constituted. This Commission is composed of five representatives of shipowners and five of seamen, together with one workers' and one employers' delegate of the governing body. There is a Commission of Unemployment, which consists of three members representing each of the three groups - government, employers and workers. Other similar bodies are the Mixed Advisory Committee on Agriculture, the International Emigration Commission, the Advisory Committee on Anthrax, the Advisory Committee on Industrial Hygiene. The International Labour Office is also an international bureau of research on all matters relating to labour and industry, and an international clearing house of such information. Among its more important periodical publications are the Industrial and Labour Information, which appears once a week, and contains information of current interest relating to events and tendencies in the world of labour and industry; the International Labour Review, a monthly publication which contains surveys of various questions in which the Office is interested; the Official Bulletin, which contains the official records of the Office, summaries of the proceedings of the governing body and the annual conferences ; the Bibliography of Industrial Hygiene; the Industrial Safety Survey; and the Encyclopaedia of Hygiene, Pathology and Social Welfare studied from the point of view of labour, industry, and trades. There is also a. Legislative Series containing summaries or the texts of the laws of the various countries concerning labour. The results of special inquiriesand investigations carried on by the International Labour Office are published in a series known as Studies and Reports. In addition to the foregoing, the International Labour Office collaborates with the League of Nations in various directions in which its assistance is useful.

The International Labour Organiza- tion, inter alia, is engaged in improving labour conditions throughout the world, and eliminating those objectionable features in low- wage countries which tend to give an advantage in competition in themarkets of the world against goods produced in countries where the workers enjoy fair conditions of labour and a good standard of living. Any action by the International Labour Organization leading to the improvement of conditions in low-wage countries must tend to diminish the margin of competition operating in the case of the produce of low-wage countries, and so materially benefit the workers of such advanced countries as Australia.

On the agenda of the International Labour Organization were three important subjects - forced labour, the hours of work of salaried employees, and the hours of work in coal mines. Of these, the most -important, from the point of view of Australia, is that of forced labour. The subject of the hours of work in coal mines was referred to the Labour Conference by the League of Nations Assembly, because ruinous economic competition between various coal-mining countries in Europe had created industrial unrest'. At the conference which I attended no convention was agreed to, owing to the strong objection of Germany; but I understand that at a subsequent conference an agreement was arrived at. The discussion on forced labour was of supreme importance to us, since Australia has mandates over territories in which native labour is freely recruited. I found that there was an undercurrent of criticism of Australia, because of our alleged maltreatment of the Australian aborigines, and the alleged abuses in respect of native labour in. New Guinea. Those matters had been the subject of comment in certain international publications. Although the subject was not raised in ' discussion at the Labour Conference, it was mentioned to me by more than one of its officials as well as by a number of delegates. I am pleased that, ultimately, it was agreed to suppress various forms of forced labour. That convention was arrived at despite strong opposition from various colonial powers, particularly Portugal,France and Belgium, Great Britain took the lead in championing the cause for the suppression of this form of slavery, which has led to serious abuses. International attention was attracted to it by the disclosures of the shocking manner in which native labour had been exploited in Liberia. Honorable members who follow international affairs are aware that in that country, a state of slavery practically exists. Furthermore, an investigation by M. Robert Poulaine revealed that one colonial power, which used forced labour to construct 140 kilometres of railway in four years, wasted 17,000 human lives. Forced labour is tantamount to slavery, and, particularly in Africa, it has caused much loss of human life. The Liberian disclosures were the result of an international inquiry commission established by the League of Nations at the request of Liberia. On that commission was an American negro, Dr. Charles D. Johnson, a professor at Fisk University.

There is not much that I need add, other than to say that Australia is in a unique position, in that it has never attempted to utilize forced labour in connexion with its mandate. Every mandatory power has the right to use forced labour for essential public works and services. In a bill which the then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) introduced some years ago to deal with Australia's mandated territories, a provision which permitted forced labour in conformity with the mandate was included; but Parliament deleted it. Australia is the only colonial power which has not extensively used forced labour. It is true that in Papua forced labour is utilized to some extent for porterage for the Government'; but it is illegal in New Guinea. The other draft conventions are not of great importance to Australia, and I shall not discuss them to-day any further.

The subject of the ratification of conventions was discussed, and the various nations were asked why they had not ratified the conventions of the conferences. I explained Australia's difficulties. No machinery exists to compel members of the International Labour Organization to carry out the obligations entered into.

A thing which is calculated to disgust any one attending these international conferences is the enthusiastic lip service of the representatives of certain prominent powers, which it would be impolitic to name. These men appear to burn with fervid enthusiasm for a great international ideal; but their actions are not always consistent with their professions. In this connexion the British representatives were an exception. That Britain makes an earnest effort to carry out the undertakings entered into,was particularly noticeable in connexion with the tariff truce at the League of Nations. After Britain had solemnly carried out her part, it was found that the principal nation which had urged the tariff truce had itself done nothing.

The future of international co-operation in industrial matters depends greatly on the attitude of governments. Unless governments manifest a keen interest in, and are prepared to carry out, the conventions and undertakings entered into, any criticism of the organization is useless.

In concluding, I cannot do better than paraphrase the words of the Director of the Labour Organization, Mr. Albert Thomas, who said that when in the town of Basle he saw the motto, " Where there is unity there is God ". In my opinion, where there is unity of heart there is a chance of success. But until we get that unity of heart in international matters we shall be disappointed with the slow and tortuous progress that is made.

Debate (on motion by Mr. Hughes) adjourned.







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