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Thursday, 24 June 1926

Senator LYNCH (Western Australia) . - This bill, though a small one, deals with a matter of the first magnitude. Unlike Senator Gardiner, who states that it is hurried legislation, I think the bill has been delayed too long. A longsuffering public has been grossly trampled upon in the past for lack of this power, which is now sought to vest in the Federal Parliament. It is time that the community had a voice in this matter. The time has come for the Commonwealth Government to be vested with the necessary power to deal with those individuals who, in the past, have so grossly interfered with the liberties of the people. I listened carefully to Senator Gardiner and other honorable senators of his party this af ternoon ; but I see no cause f or alarm. The honorable senator and his colleagues opposite almost put their toes to the chalk line of political and debating propriety in their criticism of this measure. I could not help thinking that, if a visitor from Mars or some other planet, one unversed in parliamentary usage and unfamiliar with the ways of some men, had been present during the debate and had heard the criticism of the Government, he would have come to the conclusion that the Ministry and its supporters were a very indifferent lot. The critics of thebill have raked the Government fore and aft. Supporters of this bill have hardly any character left. But what are the facts? It is only a few months ago since Senator Gardiner and hisparty had a chance to be heard. There was an appeal to the people, and, notwithstanding the. eloquence with which the Labour party put its case, and the employment of all thearts in which its members are so skilled, the people once more reposed their confidence in the Government and its supporters. To Senator Gardiner and his friends they said, in effect - "You may be all right, but for the time being, at all events, you must take second place in the management of the affairs of this country. We put our trust in the other party." In the circumstances, the criticisms which we heard to-day in the course of this debate were uncalled for. The opinion of the electors was reflected through the ballot-box.

Senator Gardiner - I understood the Government was returned because it had made a definite promise to deport certain men.

Senator LYNCH - That has nothing to do with the question at issue. The electors had an opportunity to place Senator Gardiner and some of his party in the position now occupied by Ministers in this chamber, but they did not do so. I feel that there is undue alarm in the minds of Senator Gardiner and his colleagues, who have quite unjustifiably indulged in calculations and speculations as to what the womb of time holds in store for the Australian people. They spoke of bodies of armed men shooting down their fellow-Australians, but I do not know why they should conjure up such thoughts. There have been in this country but three separate incidents which might warrant the expression of such opinions. Honorable senators of the Labour party may be the victims of environment or tradition, and recall the ruthless exercise of power by the few; but it was such incidents that awakened the people, and pavedthe way to the real freedom that obtains to-day. I need only remind Senator Gardiner that shots once fired at Ballarat were more responsible for the freedom and liberty which we enjoy thanperhaps anything else. Apart altogether from the nature of this proposal,it would not be good judgment or good politics for any government to act in the manner suggested by some honorable senators opposite. If this Government fulfilled the prophesies of its critics what would be the result ? How would this Government be regarded by the intelligent section of the community if it used its power in the way some suggest ? The democracy of this country would be so outraged thatthe people would rise in their might and remove the Government from the treasury bench. It wouldbe as I have said, bad judgment and bad politics to introduce a measure of this description with the object of fulfilling the hollow and unwarranted prophesies of Senator Gardiner and his colleagues. What is the proposal? Let us endeavour to get at its genesis. It is a proposal, so far as I can understand, to allow the people to undertake their daily tasks unhampered or uninterfered with by irresponsible men, by whose action untold misery has been caused to an overwhelming body of innocent men and women in this country. I would have some sympathy with the contention of the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters if we did not have an Arbitration Court the like of which is not to be found in any other country - a court that has been of much service to the workers of Australia. If we had not such an institution the workers might reasonably say, "What remedy have we but to strike?" The workers of Australia have what no other country possesses. They have a court before which they can ventilate their grievances, and receive just treatment. They have a means of preventing tyrannical employers doing what they did in our boyhood days, as Senator Gardiner well knows. The power which tyrannical employers enjoyed to the full in days gone by has been wrenched from their grasp, and the workers who for so long were denied their rights have at last come into their own. Notwithstanding this, they have in many instances, after receiving an award, levied a mild form of blackmail against society. Is that fair play? If it is, I should like to know what is foul play. Those who criticize the measure so severely, apparently wish to have two barrels to their pop-gun - they wish to have the Arbitration Court before which they can appear, and also the right tostrike. They cannot play long at that game in a free and intelligent community. Such practices are not allowed in any other field of activity, and should not be allowed in the industrial arena. In the football field, the players have to abide by the rules of the game, and in the industrial sphere the workers should obey the awards of a court the establishment of which they so strongly supported. In travelling throughout the Commonwealth I have found why public opinion has been moulded in such a way as to produce the results which we see before us to-day. The Labour party is in opposition, and the advocates of law and order and sane government are occupying the treasury bench. It is true that essential services have been interfered with by a section of the workers; but who is suffering? It is the workers themselves and that is why Senator Gardiner is where he is today. We have to play the game. The latter-day Labour party has not done so. If the Labour party stood true to its original principles, and did not wander from the path of political rectitude, there would be only one party in the Federal Parliament to-day. It is because the members of the Labour party have listened to the voice of extremists, who have never done an honest day's work and who never will, that that party is where it is. Many of the irresponsible persons who have brought about the downfall of the Labour party have never lifted a finger for the Labour cause, and the present members of the party have not the courage to denounce them. The Leader of the Opposition in another place is an exception, but he only denounced the extremists when he saw his political funeral on the horizon. I am reminded of the story I heard some years ago, of the man who, on finding an egg, broke the shell, and was attempting to swallow the contents when a chicken squeaked. He said, " You spoke too late - down you go." The leaders of the Labour movement spoke too late, and down they went. This measure, which is somewhat belated, is being introduced for the purpose of giving the people at last a measure of justice. In touring the western State some time ago I visited a farm where I saw tons of potatoes for which a market in the East was available at £11 and £12 a ton. They could not be shipped because theKaroola was held up, and they were sold later at £6 or £7 a ton. Those producers were so incensed that they used the only weapon they possessed , and opposed these small-minded men who had not the courage to denounce their betrayers. I also visited a timber mill in Western Australia, at which hundreds of men were usually employed. What did I find there ? To my surprise, one of the employees took the chair at my meeting, and when I asked why such a thing should happen in an industrial centre, I was informed that the products of their labour, which were ready for shipment to the eastern States, had been held up for weeks owing to a strike. The men had been idle for weeks. There were several speakers, all of whom said that they were going to put these men in their place. They did. I could quote many similar instances of the action taken by men who had hitherto been supporters of the Labour party, but who at the last election declined to vote for them. They realized their responsibility, and a decided change was brought about. In a country such as Australia, we must keep on producing the commodities we consume and the articles we wear ; that is the system upon which civilization is built. Russia is considered to have the most advanced form of government on the earth's crust.

Senator Ogden - Considered by whom?

Senator LYNCH - Not by me, but by certain people. There is no interference with essential services in that country. Should there be any disturbance of an essential service in that country it is quickly taken in hand. If honorable senators opposite lived in Russia and said " Booh." to the Government it would be the last "booh" they would say; and they know it. I have in my hand a work which contains the proof, and its authenticity cannot be questioned. It is entitled The First Time in History, and its author is an American lady named Anna Louise Strong. The foreword was written by that distinguished personality, Trotsky, so I presume that whatever statements are made are fairly near the mark. Listen to what the author says at page 64 -

When they had made their programme, they combined with the labour unions to present a united demand of Industry to Congress. That is how industry works in Russia to-day. Fuel spoke first in the conference.

In other words, the provision of fuel is an essential service in Russia to-day. The author proceeds to show how coal and fuel are provided. At page 67, referring to the workers in the Donetz, she says -

The delegates came up to Moscow to the Central Congress of Soviets, saying : - " We work waste deep in water. Can't you give us means to repair the mines V In their union halls, all over the Donetz they put up their list of heroes, the men who collapsed at work and were carried away, only to return to the struggle after a few days' rest. They also posted lists of deserters, who quit because it was hard.

That was the way they mined coal on the Donetz through years of war and of famine and the first year of peace. When I visited the mines myself early in 1923, there was already a different story. It was still bad, from any standard of decent living. Production was less than half pre-war, which meant that the expense of the product was almost doubled; to the injury of all industry. Wages were very low, and not always paid in time. Housing was in shocking condition; even before the war it was very bad, and the civil war had destroyed one-quarter of the houses. There were cases in the Donetz of fifteen workers in a single room.

Yet these essential services were kept going! There was no need for a bill of this description. At page 68 the author says -

I saw red banners proudly displayed in factories, " For the fulfilment of production programme." .... Life was harder here, they said, but more secure. No strikes, no unemployment; everything settled by union agreement.

That is how things are managed in Russia. They have recognized, as we have, the necessity for keeping essential services running so that the communal life of the country shall not suffer. What is wrong with our doing the same thing, especially when we have an Arbitration Court which sees that the worker does not suffer any social injustice? I have read sufficient to show that in Russia there is no stoppage of railways, steamships or other essential services that are necessary to the industrial life of the country. I shall support the bill in the belief that, though it has arrived late, it will do some good. I feel certain that the predictions of honorable senators opposite will never be fulfilled. I am equally certain that that is their belief. They have previously said in this chamber that this Government wants to have wages reduced and black labour employed in industries, and that it is the friend and backer of Lord Inchcape. Theynow make the further charge that we are bent upon bringing out the military to shoot down their fellow Australians. Notwithstanding everything that has been said against the measure, it is necessary for the preservation of our essential services and I shall support it.

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