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Friday, 18 June 1926

Senator HOARE (South Australia) .- The framers of the Federal Constitution, which has been in operation for over 25 years, slavishly followed the Constitution of the "United States of America , which was then about 100 years old and which, if the opportunity were now provided, would be amended in certain directions. If the national Parliament of Australia is to be the supreme legislative .authority, the Constitution must be amended in the manner proposed by the Government. The proposals in this instance have been supported and opposed by factions in both political parties, but certain industrialists are against them merely because they are put forward by a Nationalist Government. I am always willing to support reform irrespective of the Government in power. Moreover, some of the amendments of the Constitution for which this bill provides are on the Labour party's platform,- and why, in the name of fortune," industrialists art opposing something which they have previously advocated is beyond my comprehension. If a Government used these powers in a tyrannical way it would invite defeat. Every one must recognize that fact. If arbitration is to be given an opportunity to prove its value as a means of securing industrial peace, these extended powers are necessary. I do not claim that they will ensure freedom from strikes, because there will always be some men who will lay down their tools when conditions are not to their satisfaction. "We should, however, strive to get as near as possible to perfection. That the Arbitration Court has not been a failure is the opinion of many employers and employees, who urge that we should embrace this opportunity to extend the powers of the Federal Parliament. At present a great deal of dissatisfaction exists owing to the varying awards which operate in the different States. Where in the same industry one award is lower than another, those working under the lower award are naturally dissatisfied, and sometimes jealous. These proposals, if accepted, will place all the workers in an industry under one control. There is a strange division of opinion regarding these projected amendments of the Constitution. For instance, the secretary of one large organization opposes them, whereas the president of the same organization is in favour of them. I do not think that this measure should be opposed merely because it has been introduced by the Bruce-Page Government. If the powers sought would be beneficial with a Labour" Government in office, they could not be otherwise under any other administration, so long as they were properly administered. Any additional power which the acceptance of these proposals will give to the present Government will be possessed by its successors. Although I admit that it will probably take some years before we can shift it, the present Government will not remain in office for all time. The political pendulum is . always swinging.

Senator Foll - That does not matter so long as it does not swing too far.

Senator HOARE - At the last election it swung too far for the Labour party.

Senator Elliott - It is too heavily weighted at present.

Senator HOARE - A lot of water will flow beneath the bridge before we again face the electors. Labour lost the last election because of the British seamen's strike. The position may be quite different next time. Notwithstanding what Senator Barwell has said, arbitration has not been a failure. The honorable senator, when Premier of South Australia, attempted to alter the wages board system of that State; but he was unable to do so, because some of his own supporters voted against the proposal. Unfortunately, the honorable senator does not appear to have benefited from that experience. Why ia it that when industrial disputes arise, the workers are always blamed? They are not always wrong.

Senator McHugh - The workers are never wrong.

Senator HOARE - Quite so. The greatest sufferers from any strike are the workers. For that reason 90 per cent, of them are in favour of arbitration as a means of settling disputes.

Senator Barnes - Out of the sufferings of the workers arose our present civilization.

Senator HOARE - That is so. The trade unions of Australia are, for the most part, in favour of arbitration. One of the largest . unions in this country - the Australian Workers Union - is also one of the most law abiding. With one exception, the awards of the Arbitration Court, although not always agreed with, have been obeyed by the members of that union. It is better to endeavour to obtain reform by peaceful methods than to resort to force. In the last analysis, every strike is settled by arbitration. Therefore, why should not arbitration methods be adopted from the beginning, instead of the workers being thrown out of employment by strikes ? A splendid system of determining wages and conditions of work is in operation in South Australia in connexion with the Tramways Union. I do not know whether it applies to the branches of the union in the other States. Since it has been in operation, there has not been a strike of tramway men in South Australia. The wages of tramway employees in South Australia fluctuate with the cost of living. Before the present system was adopted, large sums of money were spent by that union in fighting cases in the Arbitration Court. On one occasion £4,000 was spent in determining whether certain action taken was constitutional. The Bootmakers Union had a similar experience. For weeks it fought a case in the Arbitration Court, and expended £6.000 from its funds in so doing. Money should not be wasted in that way. Arbitration hitherto has been a fattening paddock for lawyers. Instead of endeavouring to settle disputes quickly, lawyers prolong them as much as possible in order to obtain more fees. Lawyers are not necessary in the Arbitration Court. The members of the legal profession who represent the employees in the court get their information from the men actually engaged in the industry concerned. Instead of paying high fees to lawyers to present their cases to the court, the workers with the knowledge gained through practical experience, should present them themselves. If that were done, disputes would be settled more quickly than they are to-day. Senator Drake-Brockman this morning gave a" complete answer to the unfair and incorrect statement of Senator Barwell that Australia was the home of strikes. Senator Barwell submitted no figures to prove his contention, whereas the arguments of Senator DrakeBrockman were supported by figures which had been compiled with great care. Australia is not so bad industrially as Senator Barwell would have us believe.

Senator McLachlan - We are not so bad as overseas newspapers represent us to be.

Senator HOARE - There may be a good deal in that argument. I am sorry to say the newspapers are somewhat unscrupulous. As I said to a friend of mine the other day, they are unmitigated liars.

Senator Guthrie - I presume the honorable senator is referring to The Worker, his own party's newspaper?

Senator HOARE - I am doing nothing of the kind. Has the honorable senator read All Men are Liars? Likewise, all newspapers are liars, but some of them are- superb liars, and the conservative papers are absolute and unmitigated liars.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Newlands). - The honorable senator is using language which is not parliamentary; it is quite disorderly.

Senator HOARE - Very well, 'I withdraw it. In the forthcoming campaign I hope that the newspapers will be more merciful than they usually are, and that they will give both sides of the case, so that, the people may know what they are asked to accept. I hope that the people will carry these proposals, for the simple reason that, if they do, they will have a power which they have for a long time needed.

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