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, 4 June 1914


Senator FERRICKS (Queensland) . - Realizing that the speedy passage of these Bills is most desirable in the interests of the people, my contribution to the debate will be brief. The summary action of the Senate a few nights ago in regard to another matter appears to have given the Government cold feet, and the successful passage of these Constitution Alteration Bills will add to their shivers. I shall make passing reference to the most important questions dealt with by the late Premiers' Conference. The delegates to those periodical gatherings take themselves very seriously if nobody else does, and it would be amusing if it were not so serious to read the reports of their proceedings. At the last meeting, a number of resolutions were carried in favour of uniform legislation on health, pure foods, foot-wear, hall-marking of jewellery, and gold buying. These sound very well, but, apparently, it did not strike the bright intellects attending the Conference that the cure for all their troubles on these questions was embodied in the referenda submitted by the Labour party at the last election. The delegates to a man were violently opposed to our proposals on that occasion. Assuming for a moment that it would be possible to get uniform measures on these subjects through the twelve State Blouses without the omission or addition of a comma, it would take about twentyfive years to do it. Even if uniform measures were put through each of the six Lower Houses, does any one dream that they would go through the Upper House in each State without mutilation in the two years which the Premiers themselves anticipate? It is the height of impossibility. Assuming even that uniform measures did get through the Upper

Houses, no one would believe that the power of vested interests would allow any one of them to be successfully administered. The ordinary 1-lb. tin of jam bears on the label the words " Registered under the Pure Foods or Health Act " of Victoria, Queensland, or New South Wales, as the case may be. Similarly, in South Australia, Western Australia, or Tasmania the jam is registered under the local Act. Why should it not be possible to register a tin of jam under a uniform Commonwealth law, allowing it to be sold in any part of Australia? It is ridiculous that we cannot have one piece of legislation controlling food and health matters throughout Australia, and these referenda proposals, in that regard, cannot be logically opposed. The second Bill deals with corporations. Branches of the Employers Federation, Chambers of Agriculture, and Chambers of Commerce, time after time pass resolutions in favour of a uniform companies law for the Commonwealth, but the same people, when this legislation, which would help in that direction, is put forward, most violently oppose the giving of additional powers to the National Parliament. Those who oppose the constitutional alterations profess to be the guardians of the interests of the primary producers, and this aspect of the question was brought rather prominently under my notice in Queensland recently. A number of fruit-growers in the Bowen district met in conference, and passed a resolution complaining about the differential regulations to which their exports are subject in the southern States. In exporting fruit from Queensland they have to pay fumigation charges, inspection fees, and so forth, which is quite right; but their complaint was that when the fruit reached Melbourne it was often condemned, and, even if it wa3 not, it was subject to another series of inspection fees and charges. The Conference passed a resolution advocating uniformity throughout the Commonwealth regarding these matters, yet nine out of every ten of the very same people, for I know them intimately, having represented their district in the State Parliament, voted, -I am sure, against the referenda on the two last occasions, although the referenda proposals aimed at giving the Commonwealth the very power which they are now asking for. The most important question in these measures is the enlargement of the powers of the Arbitration Court, covering as it does the question of industrial peace or industrial unrest. It was laid down by a majority of the High Court, sitting in Melbourne, that, in order that a dispute may come under the operation of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act, it is not necessary that it should exactly fulfil the strict letter of the Constitution and extend beyond the limits of one State. It is laid down that a dispute, actual, threatened, impending, or probable in another State may be joined with the dispute existing in the original State, and so make an industrial dispute which may be brought under the operation of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. That may be said to be arguing upon an hypothesis, and upon the dictum of the High Court, but I shall endeavour to show, in a concrete way, that a dispute which does not actually extend beyond the bounds of one State may have a most significant effect in another. I can refer honorable senators again to the dispute in the meat business which recently occurred in Sydney. It will be agreed that, so far as that dispute went, on the face of it, it was confined, not only to the State of New South Wales, but to the metropolitan area in that State. Still, I contend that it had a very serious application to the State of Queensland. It has to be understood that the shopmen within the metropolitan area asked for improved conditions. Of the 600 retail butchers doing business in the city of Sydney and its suburbs, 540 agreed to concede the demands of the shopmen. Sixty of the 600 were opposed to granting the concessions asked for, and the 540 had to fall into line with the insignificant minority of sixty retailers, at the bidding of the trust on top, per medium of the Employers Federation. The carcass butchers plainly told the 540 retailers that if they persisted in conceding the demands of the men there would be no carcasses supplied to them. Consequently there was an actual lock-out of the slaughtermen at the abattoirs in Sydney. So far, apparently, the dispute did not affect Queeusland ; but I can show that, even at that stage, it affected the northern State. Some of the retail butchers did open in defiance of the Victum of the so-called master butchers md the retailers' association; but, when they tried to do business, they found that they could not get rid of their byproducts, 'as no firm dealing in their byproducts would be allowed to touch them. In these days the butchers give as the excuse for the high price of meat the statement that the by-products constitute their profit. Here is where the application of the matter to Queensland came in, and the dispute really extended beyond the limits of the State of New South Wales. The shopmen were nominally the cause of the trouble; but it was not the shopmen whom the Employers Federation, the so-called master butchers and the Beef Trust, were aiming at. They were aiming at the slaughtermen who were locked out from the abattoirs in Sydney. Slaughtermen are to-day receiving a wage of from £5 to £6 per week in New South Wales and in Queensland, and they earn\ every penny of it. If these slaughtermen at the Sydney abattoirs could have been locked out for a sufficiently long period of time to compel them to cave in and accept, we will say for the sake of argument, £4 per week for the work for which they were receiving £6 per week, honorable senators can see the effect which would follow in Queensland by virtue of the fact that the northern State, is the greatest cattle-producer of the Commonwealth. Had the Beef Trust got going in Queensland and in the Northern Territory, honorable senators can realize how serious the position would have been from theworkers' stand-point, although the dispute was apparently confined to New South Wales. On that occasion it was. forced upon my mind very conclusivelythat the Employers Federation in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland had foregone the old method of combating the workers in industrial disputes. Nowadays these so-called masters have no timefor the "blackleg" and the "scab."


Senator Oakes - Does the honorablesenator mean within their own ranks?


Senator FERRICKS - The '* scab " is. a unionist who goes back on his union.


Senator Oakes - What about the shopkeepers who wanted to open in Sydney and to whom . the honorable senator referred a little while ago?


Senator FERRICKS - They were men who were not in any association.


Senator Oakes - Then they ought tohave been allowed to work.


Senator FERRICKS - The honorable senator told us the other night that he is against compulsory unionism.


Senator Oakes - Does the honorable senator say that they should have been allowed to open their, shops?


Senator FERRICKS - They were in a position to buy cattle and sell meat, because, in most cases, they ran one-man shops. The Employers Federations in the various States are to-day fighting the industrial war on class lines by highly scientific methods. They do not want the "blackleg" in these days, and prefer to carry on the industrial war by endeavouring to make the people feel the pinch. We contend that to protect himself the worker must adopt equally scientific lines, and the Bill now before the Senate dealing with industrial matters aims in that direction. We had an experience in Queensland of the scientific method which the employing class are now using against industrialists in the Brisbane general strike of 1912. The cause of that strike commenced nearly three years ago, is still being debated, and is before the High Court in Melbourne to-day, and finality in the matter has not been reached. The scientific method adopted on the occasion' I refer to was that the Employers Federation of Queensland, like that of New South Wales, issued an ultimatum to the storekeepers - even those who conducted one-man or one-woman shops - that at a certain time, say, 6 p.m. on Thursday, they must close their doors, and no food supplies should after that hour be sold to the public. They did not endeavour to employ blacklegs any more than the master butchers did in Sydney the other day. The object was to make the people feel the pinch. The feeling in my mind at the time of the Brisbane general strike - and I did not hesitate to state it from a public platform - was that if the Employers Federation closed all the shops and prevented the people from obtaining food, I, for one, would not see my wife and children go hungry. That is the feeling amongst the workers of the Commonwealth generally, and I again sound a warning note to our friends opposite. If redress is not given to the industrialists of the Commonwealth by the methods proposed by the Labour party as instanced by the proposed alteration of the Constitution, the onus of any trouble that may -follow will be upon the shoulders of the party they represent. They are really the revolutionaries.


Senator Oakes - The honorable' senator will call me a " red-ragger " next.


Senator FERRICKS - I spoke of the honorable senator, not personally, but as a member of a political ~party and of his politics, and I say that the members of that party are the " red-raggers." They are the coffee-room and dress-circle " redraggers." They refuse to provide a settlement for industrial disputes by a legislative enactment.


Senator Oakes - What is the honorable senator talking about, when he knows that we have Wages Boards established by law!


Senator FERRICKS -The employers are not" abiding by the determinations of the Wages Boards, and they are in that way telling the workers to go on strike, and creating industrial unrest. The man who some little time ago was referred to in Brisbane as a cute Yankee, and who had the forces of the Government behind him, is not now spoken of in that way. The employing class now speak of Mr. Badger as being a blanky fool, although " blanky " is not the word they use.


Senator Oakes - They could not get a load of provisions through the streets of Brisbane without Harry Coyne's signature to a permit.


Senator FERRICKS - No; but the Employers Federation closed up the shops, and there was no load of provisions to be got. I shall show honorable senators why Badger is now a fool in the opinion of the Tories of Queensland. They make no secret of the matter. They frankly say that instead of sacking the unionists who wore the badge straight away, and sending the case to the Federal Arbitration Court, Badger should have allowed the men to wear their badges, and should 'have started calmly to weed them out one at a time, and dismiss them. They will tell you, without a blush, that it would have been necessary for Badger to sack only about a dozen, and the rest, through fear, home necessities, and so on, would have taken their badges off. That is an instance of the scientific method now adopted by our opponents. It is permeating commercialism throughout the Commonwealth. We have an illustration of it in Melbourne to-day, in Adelaide, in Sydney, and in Brisbane, owing to the "'defects of the Commonwealth

Conciliation and Arbitration Court. I refer to the trouble which has taken place in the baking trade. My honorable friend asked rae, a few nights ago, to make a special reference to that case. I contend that this trouble has arisen entirely because of defects in the existing Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act. We can make the proud boast that no award ever made by the Federal Arbitration Court has yet been broken.


Senator Oakes - What about the award in the baking trade to which you are now referring?


Senator FERRICKS - Let me tell the honorable senator that Mr. Justice Rich's award has not been broken.


Senator Oakes - Not by the bakers of New South Wales? «


Senator FERRICKS - No; the honorable senator has evidently not followed the case. I shall explain the matter for his edification. The operative bakers in their claim asked Mr. Justice Rich to order day baking. He did not make that order. He did not make an order for night baking either.


Senator Oakes - No; but they would not work under his award, all the same.


Senator FERRICKS - If the honorable senator will give me his attention, I. can convince him that no award was broken, because none was made in that particular. What did Mr. Justice Rich himself say as to why he did not make the award? He said it was owing to the defects of the existing Arbitration Act.


Senator Oakes - That is another matter altogether.


Senator FERRICKS - It is the very same question. He said that the defects of the existing Arbitration Act prevented the application of the common rule, and without the application of a common rule it would be futile to make the award.


Senator Oakes - He said the facts of the case did not justify the claims of the men.


Senator FERRICKS - He left things as they were. He did not make an order for day or night baking, with the result that the operatives in the various State capitals have fallen back upon their State tribunals. If there had been any breaking of an award the organizations now going to the State tribunals would be liable to penalties. Each member of them would be liable to a fine of .£100, with the alternative of three months' im prisonment. What did we find Mr. Justice Powers saying in the Arbitration Court the other day? When he was waited upon by the employing bakers, and asked to intervene, he would not do so. He took the view that the State organizations were quite entitled to go to their State tribunals, notwithstanding the fact that the Federal Arbitration Court did not reach finality in dealing with one aspect of the question. In Sydney a compromise has been arrived at under which there will be half day and half night baking. The day shift will commence at noon. In Brisbane the employes are fighting the reactionary bakers who are adhering to night baking, and they are fighting them on scientific lines.


Senator Russell - The largest single baker in Victoria, Mr. Passfield, was in favour of day baking.


Senator FERRICKS - He has since declared that he voted on the question virtually at the point of the pistol.


Senator Russell - If he did not fall in with the views of the Master Bakers Association probably he would not be supplied with flour.


Senator FERRICKS - He and another baker who were in favour of day baking have been brought up to the collar by the Employers Federation. If they did not do just as they were told by that body they would not be supplied with flour any more than printers who are not members of the Typothetae would be supplied with paper and ink. I contend that the workers of the Commonwealth and their representatives in the State and Commonwealth Parliaments have made big sacrifices in an endeavour to induce the people to arm this Parliament with the requisite industrial powers. If the electors again refuse to do that, the workers cannot be blamed for what may follow, neither can their representatives here. I fear that unless the workers obtain a greater measure of redress than has been given to them in the past, industrial chaos will ensue. There will be industrial chaos unless the employers cease their efforts tonullify the good effects produced by arbitration. Like Senator Pearce, I do not regard arbitration as the panacea of all evils. I believe that it has the effect of lessening industrial disputes. But if my honorable friends opposite, by virtue of the wealth which they can command, are going to nullify its beneficial effects by taking awards from Court to Court the workers will, in my opinion, make their appeal by means of organized labour.


Senator Oakes - They will resort to force ?


Senator Turley - They will use the ballot.


Senator FERRICKS - The workers are becoming dissatisfied with the irksome industrial conditions which exist to-day.

They have the power of organization-


Senator Turley - And of the ballot. Senator FERRICKS . - Their power at the ballot-box is being nullified by the attitude adopted by my honorable friends opposite. They are taking awards from Court to Court, and the workers are unable to follow them to the Privy Council. At the present time an appeal is being made to the Privy Council in respect of the Builders' Labourers' case. The Merchant Service Guild award, too, is being appealed against by the Steam-ship Owners Association, and the case will shortly come before the High Court. It has been held, and, I think, rightly, that the present Chief Justice of that tribunal has given many decisions which have really placed upon our Constitution the interpretation which is put upon it today. I am not here to reflect upon the Chief Justice. I admit that he is possessed of a great judicial mind, and 'that he is an eminent jurist. Personally, I think he is a bit behind the democratic tendencies of Australia, but that is owing to his environment. I do not wish to go to the extent that the Argus - the bible of my honorable friends opposite - went recently, when it referred to Mr. Justice Higgins as a " one-eyed judge."


Senator Long - Nor does the honorable senator wish to follow Senator Millen's example when he called Mr. Justice Gordon " a chartered bully."


Senator FERRICKS - I will not descend to tactics of that sort. But I am prepared to accept Sir Samuel Griffith at the appraisement of my honorable friends opposite. It will be admitted that on many occasions his casting vote has decided constitutional issues. Mr. Justice Barton has often concurred in his judgment. Now, assuming that the decision of the Chief Justice was right in those cases - that it was beyond all cavil - and that our former interpretation of the Constitution was wrong, I contend that that is the strongest reason why these Bills should be put through the Senate so that they may be ratified by the people. The Chief Justice, by his casting vote, has said in effect, ' ' Your Constitution will not allow you to do this. There it is. Take it back and get it altered." That is the purpose for which these Bills have been introduced. I believe that if they are again submitted to the people at a general election they will be carried. I am not so sanguine that they will be carried if they are submitted by themselves. In that case I fear that they will be lost by a very narrow majority. Should these measures be passed by the Senate they will have to be submitted to the people within a period of six months.


Senator O'LOGHLIN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) -Colonel O'Loghlin. - The Government are not bound to send them to the electors within six months unless they are passed by both Houses in the usual way.


Senator FERRICKS - I am very pleased to have that assurance.


Senator Long - We shall have less trouble in getting these referenda proposals before the people than we shall have in getting Ministers there.


Senator FERRICKS - I believe that. The fact that the Arbitration Act is operating to-day within the narrow limits of our Constitution is responsible for the difficulty experienced in reaching finality. The other night I gave an affirmative nod to Senator Gould under a misapprehension. He stated that the High Court had ruled that there was power to appeal from an award of the Arbitration Court. I do not think that the honorable senator was quite correct in his statement. The position is that the High Court has taken up, not an affirmative, but a negative position in that it has said that there is no right of appeal given in the Arbitration Act, but that the narrowness of our Constitution forbids the Legislature prohibiting an appeal. In other words, the Constitution will not permit of any prohibition of an appeal being placed in the Arbitration Act. I sincerely hope that these six Bills, which are of the utmost importance, will not be delayed in their passage through this Chamber, and that they will be speedily dealt with in another place. I feel sure that the pinch which has been experienced by the people during the past twelve mouths owing to the increased cost of living and to industrial unrest has been the means of making them view with alarm the present trend of events. Belief must be sought, and the requisite power to afford that relief must be given by the people to this Parliament. Whatever party may be in office, I say that no Government can go beyond what the people desire. If they do, they will get short shrift at the hands of the electors. Consequently the fears of my honorable friends opposite that the Labour party might, if this Parliament were armed with increased powers, go to extremes, will not bear examination. Our party can be judged only by its past record. If we proceeded to extremes the people would apply the remedy. I commend these measures to the favorable consideration of honorable senators, and as an Australian I sincerely trust that when the electors are afforded an opportunity of voting upon them they will affirm each of them by a large majority.







Suggest corrections