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Wednesday, 16 November 1910


Senator FINDLEY (Victoria) (Honorary Minister) . - Senator Symon has, in effect, said that if the people of Australia approve of the railway servants of the States having, in common with other industrial workers, the power of citing a casebefore the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, it means destroying the sovereignty of the States ; it means, in short, the bringing about of Unification.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I did not say that it means the bringing about of Unification. I think that there are a good many steps before that.


Senator FINDLEY - If I understood the honorable senator aright, he regards this as a step in that direction.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - I . said I would rather see a definite proposal for Unification than this one.


Senator FINDLEY - I hope that the people will give this Parliament the power which the Commonwealth Government is asking, namely, that in order to prevent a dispute in the railway service of a State extending beyond its borders - in order to prevent a stop to the wheels of industry and avoid industrial paralysis - the points in dispute shall be remitted to a properly constituted Commonwealth tribunal, and settled accordingly. I am not unmindful of the fact that not long ago there took place in Victoria a strike on the part of its railway servants.


Senator Vardon - Which public opinion very soon settled.


Senator FINDLEY - Public opinion was not consulted. After all, what is public opinion? Is it the opinion of the man in the street, or the opinion expressed through the columns of a newspaper? Public opinion, as it is understood in some quarters, has been opposed to every kind of legislation with a democratic tendency since I have been able to understand anything.


Senator Vardon - -You do not understand very much, then.


Senator FINDLEY - If the public opinion which was in favour of the legislation to bring that strike to an end was right it must have been wrong afterwards when it repealed the legislation which disfranchised publicservants, and which was truly described as panic legislation. I venture to say that had the strike lasted for another week or so, it would have extended, probably, to two or three States.


Senator Vardon - It certainly will do so under this Bill. You are inviting that all the time.


Senator FINDLEY - No; it will prevent a strike from extending beyond the borders of a State.


Senator Vardon - Rubbish ! No Arbitration Court has ever prevented a strike.


Senator de Largie - Yes, hundreds of strikes have been prevented by that means.


Senator FINDLEY - There have been fewer strikes since we have had Industrial Courts than there were previously. There would be much more satisfaction in the ranks of the railway servants throughout the Commonwealth to-morrow if they had an opportunity of bringing their grievances before a properly-constituted Court erected by the Commonwealth.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - Why should not State Governments settle the grievances of their own servants?


Senator Lynch - They do not do so now.


Senator Sir Josiah Symon - That is an indictment against the State Governments.


Senator FINDLEY - In the States there are methods for the settlement of industrial disputes. In Victoria we have Factories Acts, with provisions for Wages Boards. Similar legislation exists in all the States, except that land of no desire - Tasmania. Notwithstanding the existence of Wages Boards in the States, we have a Federal Arbitration Court. What is good for those outside the State service ought to be good for those within it.


Senator Sayers - Why not take the lot at one swoop?


Senator FINDLEY - We are not asking for the lot here and now. I feel sure that some of the State Governments would be well pleased indeed to have the grievances of their railway employes settled by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. What have the State Governments to fear? If we obtain this power, it does not mean that we shall take control of the railways, because if we get this power we shall not be able to put even a solitary window in a railway carriage ; we shall not be able to make any alteration in regard to properties belonging to the States; we shall not have power to employ an additional man or to dismiss one. We merely ask that State servants shall be placed in the same position as is occupied by outside citizens.


Senator Sayers - We are to say how they shall be governed by the States.


Senator FINDLEY - We are not. We simply ask that State servants shall be afforded an opportunity of citing their grievances before a properly-constituted Court, which will then decide whether or not they are being fairly dealt with in regard to wages and conditions of labour.







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