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Tuesday, 29 November 1927

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- Senator Ogdenwas fully justified in "bringing this matter forward, if only to give honorable senators of the Labour party an opportunity to express their views concerning a matter so profoundly affecting the public welfare. I agree that we in this Senate should say nothing which- could be construed as an interference with the Arbitration Court ; but when the country is confronted with a serious problem, it is the duty of all public men to take a stand and to express their views.

Senator Findley - What purpose will it serve?

Senator PAYNE - If honorable senators opposite would express their views on this matter, they might assist in the settlement of the difficulty. Unfortunately, they are silent whenever there is an industrial dispute; they will not even tender advice to those on whose votes they depend ; in a time of crisis they are of no use to the community. Senator Needham knows well that the majority of the men engaged on the Australian waterfront have no desire to be out of work at this season. On the contrary, they are desirous of earning as much money as they can. Unfortunately, during recent years there has sprung up a new army of men called organizers - I prefer to call them disorganizes - whose sole object seems to be to create disputes so that they themselves may not be without a job. I have on many occasions talked with men who earn their livelihood as waterside workers, and they have told me that frequently they have not desired to cease work, but have been ordered to do so. If the Leader of the Opposition shuts his eyes to facts, he is not doing his duty. He should recognize that to a great extent the people follow the lead set them by their representatives. The position, as pointed- out by Senator Ogden, is indeed serious. I know something about one of the disputes which has caused the hold-up of an important Australian industry. I refer to the suspension of the Electrolytic Zinc Company's operations. It is not generally recognized that the wharfs from which the company ships its product are privately owned, and are situated at least 5 miles from Hobart. As there are no waterside workers residing in the locality, the suggestion that the cargoes handled at those wharfs should be handled only by members of the Waterside Workers' Union - all of whom live in Hobart and suburbs - is intolerable. The company's own employees do the work, and I am informed are paid for it at the same rates that would be paid to members of the Waterside Workers' Union. The company has, moreover, gone to considerable expense in providing labour-saving machinery to handle the zinc in the most expeditious manner. No arbitration court would overlook those facts. Those who are responsible for the present cessation of work should realize that nor only are the waterside workers affected by this strike, but that many thousands of workers throughout Australia are also affected. Particularly at this time of the year, public men should not hesitate to urge the workers to resume work, and to rely on the Arbitration Court to deal justly by them. Otherwise of what use is the Arbitration Court? If, after an award had been given, circumstances arose which would justify an alteration of the award, a further appeal could be made to the court. The people of Australia will not much longer tolerate these continual cessations of work in face of the machinery that has been provided for the settlement of disputes. I approve of Senator Ogden's action in bringing this matter forward, and I hope that this expression of the opinion of honorable senators will have some weight with those who are called upon to deal more directly with the settlement of the dispute. I trust that their efforts will be successful and that work will again be resumed.

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