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Friday, 18 June 1926


Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN (Western Australia) . - I find myself in a little difficulty in approaching the discussion of this bill, because, unfortunately, there is a general impression abroad, just why I do not know, that I am particularly well-informed upon the subject. I fear that some of my friends may be disappointed in my contribution to the debate. There is such a tremendous lot that might be said that it is rather difficult to know what to deal with and what to leave out. But I propose to take a lead, to a certain extent, from the debate that has already taken place, and particularly from the very eloquent contribution to that debate by Senator Barwell. I propose to deal at once with some of the statements the honorable senator saw fit to make last night, statements which I regret to say have received a publicity in the press of Australia, if the Melbourne press is anything to go by, that is not altogether warranted, in view of the doubtful nature of some of them. I can understand the honorable senator speaking feelingly and strongly on this subject when he tells us so frankly that he does not believe in arbitration. That is his view. I do not agree with him. He tells us that arbitration has been a failure in Australia, but he makes that statement in very broad and general terms, and produces no evidence in support of it.


Senator Kingsmill - Nor any reason to show why it has been a failure.


Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Precisely. Compulsory arbitration is an experiment. It is being carried on in Australia and New Zealand. So far the evidence does not prove that it is a success. Neither does it show that it is a failure. As a matter of fact, I think the evidence points rather to its having been a success, and that, consequently, we are justified in continuing it for the purpose of determining finally whether it is a success or a failure. My own view is that we shall discover in the long run that it has been a success. Senator Barwell told us that the view abroad, in England in particular, is that in Australia there is a never-ending succession of strikes, that there is more industrial turmoil here than in any other part of the Empire, or, indeed, lie went so far as to say, in any other part of the world.


Senator H Hays - In proportion to its population.


Senator DRAKE-BROCKMAN - Precisely. It is true that there are a number of people in Great Britain who hold that view regarding Australia, probably on account of the unfortunate utterances by public men, such as Senator Barwell and others, who do not take the trouble to investigate the facts for themselves. I propose this morning to look into a few of the facts. In view of the statements constantly being made, both in Australia and abroad, that this country is in a constant state of industrial turmoil, it is easy to understand why capitalists refrain from investing their money here. But if they knew the true position, they would realize that Australia offers as great attractions as any other country, and that there is no more industrial turmoil here than in the majority of the most favoured industrial countries. Certainly there is a great deal less unrest here than in most of those countries. First of all, let us consider the economic consequences of industrial turmoil. It will be agreed, I think, that its economic effects upon the material well-being of the community have, up to the present, been insignificant. I have taken the period from 1919 to 1923, because, in respect to those years, I have been able to obtain complete figures. I have deliberately eliminated the war years, because the statistics for that period are misleading. From" 1919 to 1923 the number of disturbances that occurred in Australia was 2,357, of which 1,534 took place in the mining industry, practically all of them being in the coal-mining industry, and 261 occurred in connexion with transport, mostly shipping. Thus, out of the total of 2,357 disturbances, 1,795 were confined to two industries.


Senator Duncan - They were mostly so small that they would not be called disturbances in other countries.







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