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Tuesday, 29 November 1927

Senator NEEDHAM (Western Australia) . - I followed with interest the speech of Senator Ogden, and I am still wondering whether in submitting his case he was actuated by a desire to protect the interests of the community or to attack the party to which I have the honour to belong.

Senator Ogden - I am anxious to protect the community.

Senator NEEDHAM - He said at the outset that he would not ask the Government to bring any pressure upon the Arbitration Court because that court was the master of its own destiny.

Senator Ogden - That is so.

Senator NEEDHAM - But he concluded by appealing to the Government to take immediate action to de-register the Waterside Workers' Union.

Senator Ogden - I do not care by whom the union is de-registered.

Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator referred to the action of the men in connexion with the loading and unloading of certain ships as if he were giving the history of the whole dispute. He did not, however, touch the main point at issue. He said that the action of the men in this instance would cause unemployment; but it is well to remember that, whilst a member of the Senate, he did not voice his objection to the action of the associated banks of Australia when they had a financial hold-up, which threw thousands of people out of employment. The Vice-President of the Executive Council (Senator Pearce) has definitely stated that the members of the Waterside Workers' Federation are defying the court. I wish to compare- that statement with one made by the Prime Minister in another place, who, when asked a question yesterday morning concerning the same industrial trouble, said he was not going to make at that time any statement which might prejudice a very delicate position. For once I agree with an utterance of the right honorable gentleman. It compares more than favorably with that of the Leader of the Government in the Senate, who has not been so careful in the choice of his words. TheVicePresident of the Executive Council, instead of relieving the position has aggravated it. The Minister also quoted the utterances of Judge Beeby. This is not an arbitration court. We are not assembled here to settle industrial disputes, but intervention by the Prime Minister might be of assistance.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - Does the honorable senator think that awards of the Arbitration Court should be obeyed ?

Senator NEEDHAM - I shall come to that in a moment. The court can intervene if it chooses to do so.

Senator Foll - Does the honorable senator believe that the awards of the court should be obeyed ?

Senator NEEDHAM - The honorable senator knows the attitude of the Labour party towards the Arbitration Court.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - The employers have always had to obey the awards of the court.

Senator NEEDHAM - The Labour party has always advocated arbitration as a means of preventing and settling industrial disputes. It has not been shown today that these men are defying an award of the court. The main cause of the trouble has not been mentioned.

Senator Herbert Hays - What is it?

Senator NEEDHAM - The employers demand that the men shall present themselves for picking-up purposes twice a day, whereas for six years they have worked under three awards which, provided for only one pick up daily. The employers have had opportunity to raise the question of a second pick-up, but have not done so. I understand that Judge Beeby said that the whole of the awards and declarations would be placed in the melting pot and a new award would be made. That was being done when the steamship owners brought a host of affidavits not relevant to the plaint before the court, and on those affidavits Judge Beeby ordered the men to return to work.

Senator Sir William Glasgow - The honorable senator is prejudicing the case.

Senator NEEDHAM - I am replying to the statement made by Senator Ogden that the trouble had arisen from the refusal of the waterside workers to load or unload a certain vessel. If there has been a breach of the award the Waterside Workers' Federation are not alone to blame. The steamship owners as well as other employers have broken awards on other occasions, but in this instance Senator Ogden is endeavouring to place the blame upon the members of the federation alone. ' Hehas also attempted to show that the country is teeming with industrial unrest. The Prime Minister, speaking in September of this year, said -

Australia was not more subject to industrial trouble than any other country. The overwhelming majority of workers in Australia were perfectly sane, sound, decent people, who wanted to get on with their job.

Later he said -

The only way in which these problems can be dealt with is by resorting to a spirit of co-operation and goodwill, which must fill thegap which political action is unable to bridge.

Senator Ogdenhas shown his good will towards the men by suggesting that the organization should be deregistered while the good-will of Senator Pearce consists of accusing the men of having done certain things while ignoring the wrong things done by others. The Prime Minister also said -

Many Empire problems have been solved by understanding and mutual sympathy. Surely in their own small sphere Australians can. bring about a similar spirit. Was there not a tendency towards antagonism in every direction?

Industrial disputes are always injurious, particularly to the workers involved in them. For that reason, the Labour party advocated arbitration as a means of settling disputes. That system is not perfect; but no system is without its faults. The long delay in getting cases heard before the Arbitration Court has frequently been responsible for industrial disputes. I maintain that the present is not the time to discuss this matter. To-morrow the ultimatum of the employers will expire. In the meantime, the negotiations which have been proceeding may lead to a settlement of the dispute. It would have been better if members of this Parliament had held their peace, so that not one word of theirs could be said to have aggravated the seriousness of the position. Our duty is to do all that we can. to remove the obstacles in the way of lasting industrial peace.

Senator Sir George Pearce - I desire to make a personal explanation. During the course of the honorable senator's remarks, he said that my statement of the Government's policy on this question differed from the Government's policy as outlined' by the Prime Minister in another place. When I spoke, I had before me the statement made by the Leader of the Government in another place; but as our Standing Orders prevent me from quoting from the Hansard report of a speech made in another place during the current session, I did not read the Prime Minister's exact words. However, there was no essential difference between my remarks and those of the Prime Minister. We both said that, in the opinion of the Government, the action of the nien amounted to a deliberate flouting of the court, and that their action was an unjustifiable attempt to threaten the court.

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