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Thursday, 3 December 1914

Senator TURLEY (Queensland) . - I address myself to this measure with rather mixed feelings. This is the fifth occasion on which the Parliament has been asked to legislate on this subject. A few years ago we all approached the subject with, a great deal of certainty and a great deal of hope, believing that a Federal law would achieve far better results than those which have been attained up to the present time. I approach this measure in much the same way as I approached a measure relating to trusts, which has been introduced here at odd times. I believe that Che Arbitration Act has done some good. When it was introduced, the organizations were under the impression, I think, that it would give them a far freer hand than they had been able to obtain on account of the limitations in the Constitution. Senator Millen stated yesterday that the unions of New South Wales prefer the State system to the Federal system. I cannot speak for New South Wales, but I can speak for Queensland. Although there is legislation in Queensland for the prevention and the settlement of industrial disputes, I think that events have proved that a big majority of the members of the organizations will, when an opportunity is permitted to them, go to the Federal Court in preference to the State Court, for this simple reason : that they realize that there is a possibility of getting, at any rate, something like uniformity. They realize that, as regards the various Courts and Boards in the States, it is a matter of their settling the question purely from the stand-point of the State, which may or may not put them in a better position than similar persons in the other States. If that is the case, it means a diversion of trade from one State to another, as has been observed by the Judges in the different States when they have been asked to give a larger increase than they felt themselves at liberty to grant. In connexion with the Federal Arbitration Court, no fear of that kind is entertained, not because men have believed that they were likely to get better terms from the Federal Court, but because they thought that there should be some standard of uniformity in connexion with the conditions of employment throughout Australia. Let us take one organization : The Seamen's Union is an organization which almost came to an agreement with the employers, but there were a few points which had been left undecided, and on these they appealed to the Federal Court. Although the Federal Court had jurisdiction to establish wages and conditions for the people who were employed on vessels engaged in InterState trade, it had no power to say that the conditions in connexion with a vessel which was employed purely in the trade of one State should be uniform. Had not the organization been able to arrive at some understanding with their employers, there might have been different conditions in connexion with vessels trading Inter-State and vessels employed solely within the limits of a State.

Senator Millen - That is obviously an industry which is Inter-State.

Senator TURLEY - Yes ; but if a vessel is employed in the trade of only one State, practically the award of the Federal Court does not apply to the employes on the vessel. I think it is only right that people employed in the same industry - employed practically at the same work - should receive the same conditions as men who are travelling from one end of Australia to the other. Again, take the case of the bootmakers. They were able to get to the Federal Court. I was told by a manufacturer in Brisbane that either six or seven firms were cited. These firms would have had to pay the wages and give the conditions which were provided for in a Federal award. No one who was not cited to the Federal Court would be under any compulsion to observe the award, but, fortunately, the employers and employes got together before there was any possibility of trouble arising, and they all agreed to accept the award as set out by the Federal Court. Any one could have evaded the award. A manufacturer said to me, "We registered, for instance, as Smith, Jones, and Company. If we want to escape the effects of this award, although we were summoned and made a party to the award, all that we have to do is to cancel our registration and get two more of our shareholders to put up their names as representing the firm, and then immediately we shall be outside the award." That is not the sort of conciliation and arbitration which is likely to give satisfaction to the workers of this community. I think that there is some force in a remark made by Senator Keating yesterday. He said that in passing arbitration Bills we had, to some extent, led and induced the members of organizations to believe that they would be able to obtain justice and satisfaction from the Federal Court, but afterwards it was discovered that there was no jurisdiction. I am prepared to accept all the responsibility which may be due to me in that regard, but whatever we did, I submit that we acted in good faith, believing that those who were advising the Government of the day were right in the opinion they held that this Parliament had certain powers, and that those powers should be exercised.

Senator O'Keefe - And a majority of the legal talent of Australia believed the same.

Senator TURLEY - I dare say they did, although I would not care to speak for the innocence of a majority of the legal fraternity. I do not forget Senator Keating's remark yesterday that many persons try to take lawyers down when they meet on a staircase or in any out-of-the-way place. I have never been able to believe yet that there are many persons who are capable of taking down the smart members of that profession. I view this legislation as I view legislation to deal with trusts and combines, because I believe we cannot expect any satisfactory results from it until we have secured an amendment of the Constitution which will prevent any Court in Australia saying that there is no jurisdiction to hear these cases. Industrial organizations have spent considerable sums of money in order to bring their disputes before the Arbitration Court, but I am of opinion that if that money had been spent in an effort to carry the referenda proposals we should be in a far better position in connexion with this matter than we are in at the present time. I am one of -those who have been to some extent disappointed with the operation pf our Federal arbitration law, but I have never believed that it was possible for organizations established in the various States to get to the Arbitration Court merely because they agreed to federate. I have always held that under the Constitution it was possible only for organizations of an Inter-State character to bring their disputes before that Court. I have believed that it was possible for such organizations as the Seamen's Union, the Australian Workers Union, and similar organizations of an Inter-State character to get to the Court, but I have never believed that many of the State organizations would be able to do so. The Tramways dispute has been cited a number of times in the House of Representatives, and also in this Chamber, during the discussion of this question. I was in Brisbane during the tramway trouble, and knew the secretary and some of the officials of the Brisbane Tramway Union fairly well. In conversation with the secretary and members of the organization, I was asked whether I thought they would be likely to have their case brought before the Federal Arbitration Court, and whether I thought that Court would have jurisdiction to deal with such a case as theirs. I had no hesitation in saying that I did not think so. I was not surprised when that was practically the verdict of the Court, because I could not understand how, within the meaning of the Constitution, a dispute which was confined to a particular industry in one State could be considered an Inter-State dispute. I am sorry that organizations have been put to the trouble and expense of determining such matters; but our experience of the Labour movement is that it has been a fight all along the line, and enormous trouble and expense must be incurred before we can gain any ground at all. I hope that our industrial organizations will not be induced to believe that the passage of this Bill will greatly extend the jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. Some statements have been made which would lead to the inference that the effect of this Bill will be to remove many of the obstacles which have previously prevented industrial organizations from bringing their cases before the Court. I am afraid that some of them may be induced, because of such a belief, to rush into more expenditure, and incur more trouble, only to find eventually that' they are up against the same fence as that which has blocked organizations in the past. I be- lieve that a word of warning in this connexion will do no harm. I read the whole of the debate which took place on this Bill in the House of Representatives. The Attorney-General admitted candidly that whilst he sincerely hoped that the passage of this measure would have the effect he desired, he does not feel too sure about the business. On the point of the determination of the question of whether there is a dispute by one Judge, a long debate took place in another place. I must say I do not think the Attorney-General was very sure of his facts in connexion with that point. I read the speech made by Sir William Irvine on the subject. He was more emphatic in the expression of his opinion on this matter than he usually is in giving an opinion in the House of Representatives. The AttorneyGeneral said that if a Judge could decide the question of fact as to whether a dispute existed the case could be proceeded with, but Sir William Irvine said that he did not think so at all. Mr. Hughes said that a prohibition could not be obtained against the Judge, but Sir William Irvine said that while a prohibition could not be obtained against something already done, a prohibition might be obtained against a Judge doing anything under an award in the future. If that be the case some of our organizations may be induced to spend money in the belief that this measure will have an effect which it will not really have. I do not think that, we shall be able to do very much for them in this way until the Constitution is amended. The Vice-President of the Executive Council in introducing the Bill made practically the same statement. He is not at all sure that it will do what it purports to do. It may have the effect of enabling something to be done for organizations registered under the Act, and working under awards of the Court at the present time, but I do not think that it will enable organizations that are not of a strictly Inter-State character to reach the Federal Arbitration Court. Senator Keating said that there have been many mistakes made because the executive authorities of different unions have assumed to themselves the right to decide these questions of law. I wish the honorable senator had a better acquaintance with industrial organizations. The executives of most of the organizations have consulted lawyers in their various States before they have taken any definite steps in connexion with these matters. What was the explanation given by the President of the Federated Tramway Employes Union when the verdict in their case was given? He said that all he could say was that the organization had not moved one step except under the express direction of members of the legal fraternity. I think that the executive of nearly every organization has followed the same course. The fact that a lawyer is not allowed to appear in Court in connexion with these cases does not prevent the officials of industrial organizations acting under legal guidance. No body of officials would dream of dragging the members of their organization into trouble and expense without first discovering whether they had an opportunity of having their dispute brought before the Court. If the members of the legal fraternity whom they consult advised them that they have such an opportunity they go ahead. It is only when the employers realize that the limits of the Constitution are such as to enable them to defeat awards of the Arbitration Court that the members of industrial organizations begin to be disheartened. This cannot be wondered at when we remember that they have had to put up a great deal of money to fight their cases, and may then be called upon to collect thousands of pounds in addition to fight appeal cases. We can only succeed in giving some sort of satisfaction to those interested in the settlement of industrial disputes by arbitration when we have done away with the possibility of these appeal cases. I believe in arbitration as the best method of settling such disputes. Many people believe in international arbitration. If it were possible to settle international disputes without people having to go through what nations are going through in Europe today it would unquestionably be a good thing for mankind. But we have to realize that there is always possible a resort to force eventually. No doubt many international disputes have been settled by arbitration where those in authority have been able to induce their people to agree to such a course. So it is in the industrial .world, and we all realize that it is better for employers, employes, and the community generally that trade and industry should be allowed to run along smoothly with out the interruptions due to industrial disputes. There are times when we are unable to make use of the method of arbitration in which we believe, but until such occasions arise it behoves us all to resort to every expedient to remove obstructions in the way of the smooth running of the commerce and industry of the country. We desire, as far as possible, to give satisfaction to the bulk of the workers of this country formed into organizations. I have nothing to say against this Bill. I hope it will be found to be as successful as those who have introduced it desire. I rose chiefly to sound a note of warning to members of organizations who may be induced because of the passage of this measure to endeavour to bring their case before the Arbitration Court, only to find, after trouble and expense, that the Court has no jurisdiction to deal with it. It is just as well that the organizations should realize this, because we can do nothing to alter the Constitution except to pass measures for submission to the people, and it is up to 'those outside who think they ought to be able to obtain the benefits of organization to get to work, so that when they have an opportunity of voting for an alteration of the Constitution they may do so, and enable us to do away with the present power of the High Court to say, as it does say, that we have no jurisdiction in the matter of industrial disputes.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time, and reported from Committee without amendment.

Report adopted.

Motion (by Senator Gardiner) proposed -

That this Bill be now read a third time.

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