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Thursday, 1 December 1927

Senator VERRAN (South Australia) . - I support the motion. It is the duty of the Government to look after the welfare of the people as a whole, and not that of a particular section. The trouble that has arisen on the waterfront will dislocate all classes of business and bring suffering upon thousands of people who have not been consulted by either party to the dispute. The situation puts me in mind of the Irishman who, when going through London, saw a fight in progress. He asked an onlooker, " Is this a private fight or a free fight - can any one have a cut in?" The public have- not been consulted about this strike of the waterside workers. If two ounces of common sense were used in the management of the industrial life of this country, we should be able to overcome most of these difficulties without any dislocation of industry. I am not blaming the men entirely. I know how they feel. Since I was 20 years of age I have been deeply immersed in the industrial life of Australia. I have been through four strikes in eighteen years, and in one case was the chosen leader of 1,000 men. I can honestly say that I have never seen the destinies of the working class in the hands of such a set of lunatics as is the case to-day. I am firmly convinced that 90 per cent, of the workers in the Commonwealth are truly honest men anxious to give a fair return for their wages. The other 10 per cent, might with advantage be placed in a rubbish destructor, or at least their ideas of leadership, might well be so treated. The so-called leaders who are responsible for many of our industrial troubles take very good care to hide behind the crowd at the end. They know that the Crimes Act is operative and may be enforced against them. How can we expect the Arbitration Court to function unless there is a wholesome regard for the observance of the law? For year* now trade unionists have been taught by some few leaders that their duty is tobreak the law. The whole movement has degenerated of late and has become demoralized. The standard of our citizenship is not what it ought to be. Senator Findley and many others who led the Labour movement in years gone by built the House of Labour and did all they could to make it comfortable; but what has happened? These newcomers, by their total disregard of the ethics of trade unionism, have torn it down and wrought destruction in the industrial . world. There must be a bottom and a top to all industrial movements, just as there is goodness and badness right through our social stata. Some of the industrial leaders lately have been telling the workers that their job is to kill the boss. There has never been so much vilification as there is to-day of public men with sufficient courage to have an independent opinion and to give expression to it. In the earlier years of the industrial movement, a strike was impossible unless a secret ballot was taken. These sweating niggers who are now in the forefront are not game to take a ballot. If this issue were put to the waterside workers to-morrow in the form of a secret ballot, I am open to lay my hat that 95 per cent, of the men would vote to keep on working. After all the solution is simple enough if only the unions have the courage to make a definite stand. Let them stop the salaries of these leaders, who indulge in star chamber methods and who, many of them, are getting £10 a week and more by way of travelling expenses. They are the men who are " bossing " this show. When Tom Mann went to Broken Hill to take charge of a strike there, .1 asked the miners "Who is running this strike?" When I was told' that Tom Mann was in charge I inquired "What are you paying him to run it ? " The answer I got was "£9 per week." "Strike my collar off," I said, "if you are not a foolish lot! Fancy paying a man £9 a week to run a strike!" The waterside workers have started what they call an irritation strike-^ a kind of industrial barber's rash - as if all strikes were not irritating. Is it possible to imagine anything more idiotic than a body of intelligent workers in this twentieth century, with the Arbitration Court open to them, taking part in a strike? I am a firm believer in the Arbitration Court. I am a conciliation man. I am entirely opposed to the doctrine preached by these degenerate industrial leaders with all their unglorified ideas. Given intelligent leadership it is possible for the working classes of the Commonwealth through the Arbitration Court to extract from industry the last penny to which they are justly entitled. All that is necessary is for them- to go about the business honestly and fairly. What happens when the court makes an award? Not infrequently within a few weeks the union concerned wants the court to reconsider it. If the basic wage drops 4d., they refuse to carry on. In South Australia not so long ago men working on the Liberal Federation Bulding, when the basic wage went down 4d., said, in effect, "We are not going to work, boss, you lay your own bricks." Of course; it is all right if the basic wage goes up 4d. ! I am not blaming honorable senators opposite for their attitude towards this industrial .upheaval. They have behind them a crowd that would cut their political throats to-morrow, and perhaps be glad of the chance to do it. As one who has spent practically the whole of his life in the industrial arena, I know what is happening. The men who are in the forefront of this trouble have done nothing to put Australia on the slate. We who dug the gold and the copper, and cut the timber, did that. These fellows would wear out two sets of seats to their pants to one pair of knees. Unhappily they are involving good honest hard-working men in the trouble. I know that there are wrongs to be righted. I am a believer in improved conditions for the workers. I believe also that the workers' wives and children should be considered. It certainly is the duty of the Commonwealth to protect them, if that can be done. I have been behind the scenes so I know all the buttons that can be pressed, and the strings that can be pulled. The Commonwealth Government would be failing in its duty if it did not take some steps to protect the wives and children of workers, who always suffer when a strike occurs. But we are more concerned, are we not, about the next election. We are more troubled about majorities than about legislation ! Personally, I never worry about an election - I let the other fellow do the worrying. Do not let us forget that there is in Australia at present an element that is seeking to destroy the British Empire. These men are never without a " quid." Stick them up whenever you like, and always you will find that they have a " fiver " in their pockets, though they never work to earn it. They must have a rich uncle somewhere.

Senator Sir George Pearce - In Moscow, perhaps.

Senator VERRAN - I remember reading many years ago about an insect which injected its eggs into another insect, with the result that when in the course of time the eggs came into a state of life, the insect into which they had been injected died. That is what is happening to trade union- ism in Australia. These wicked rascals have been injecting their infernal and degenerating ideas into the Laborer movement. They themselves are not of the stuff which workers are made of. If men of that trib'3 developed a sweat to-morrow they would be in deadly fear that they had an attack of double pneumonia. They are living in what is really an industrial paradise, and are trading upon the moral character of every honest worker in Australia, The story is told of a little boy, who, when he was discovered in his mother's pantry, told his mother that, "the devil had tempted him. " The mother then asked, " Why did you not tell him to get behind you." "I did, mother," said the boy, " and he shoved me right in." The degenerating elements have got behind the great majority of honest workers in Australia, and have shoved them into their present unfortunate position. The Government has the power to deport Bolsheviks from Australia, but it will take a long , time before their influence upon the industrial forces in Australia will cease to be felt. The Government is to be commended for bringing this motion before the Senate, and giving honorable senators an opportunity to support it in the action which it will doubtless take to preserve law and order in the Commonwealth. I often wonder who is responsible for the attitude adopted by certain leaders in the Labour movement to-day. I read only this morning that Mr. Peter O'Loughlin is to be kicked out of the party; but that is not an unusual experience for any of its members. I was " kicked out " of the party myself. There are, I admit, many men in the Labour movement whom I honour and respect. Perhaps I should have still been a member of that party if I had been willing to sink my individuality. Owing to the action which I took on one occasion a mau threatened to shoot me, but when I challenged him to shoot, he merely sneaked away. He was one of the cowards. Those who are causing industrial disturbances in Australia to-day, and are responsible for the irritation strikes which are holding up industry, and severely interfering with the progress and prosperity of the country, are cowards of the meanest order. Most of the men who 'are causing the trouble to-day will not " come up to the collar " - not the collar on the beer illustrated in the Bulletin - because they are afraid of work. Some of them are the laziest lot of scoundrels I have struck this side of Niagara. Unfortunately these creatures are associated with loyal and honest unionists, and compelling them to strike. Wo have often heard some members of the Labour party exclaim " Down with the capitalist." I should like to know how industry is to be financed and employment provided if capital is withdrawn from the country. I freely admit that tlie employers seldom consider an industrial situation from the viewpoint of the worker. If they did, I believe that much of the industrial trouble which prevails would be avoided. The information we received in this morning's press is somewhat alarming, but too much regard cannot be paid to statements which appear in the newspapers. It is the duty of pressmen to obtain news. On one occasion when a newspaper representative asked me if I could supply him with something of interest, I said, "If you want some news I will arrange for the parson in the church, which I attend, to go in the pulpit in his shirt-sleeves."

Such a simple little incident would, have caused some excitement and provided the paragraph which the newspaper man required. The men who are now out on strike are acting in defiance of the law. I have always advocated that before a strike is declared mother should have a voice in deciding if father should strike.

Senator Payne - There would not be any strikes then.

Senator Reid - How does the honorable senator know that?

Senator Payne - I am sure of it.

Senator VERRAN - In my opinion the judgment of. a woman is superior to that of a man. A man cannot go very far wrong when he trusts his wife. Too many wicked devils do not do that. The women of this country should be consulted before their husbands are allowed to go on strike. Who has to pay the butcher, the baker and the greengrocer? Who has to buy the clothes for the children? Mother in many cases buys the stores, and father drinks the beer. When one considers the amount that will be lost m wages, there is not the slightest justification for the nien to strike. On every occasion the workers may not obtain from the Arbitration Court the wages and conditions which they think they are entitled to; but the law provides that when dissatisfied they can again approach the court in order to get their grievances adjusted. I know the difficulties and hardships experienced by the strikers and their womenfolk, because on one occasion I was compelled to go on strike - I had a family of seven at the time - and when work was resumed I was owing the tradespeople £70. Industrial disturbances of this nature, particularly in the shipping industry, generally occur towards the end of the year, when the trade, which is usually brisk at that time, is seriously inconvenienced. There is, however, another phase to consider. A strike when Christmas is approaching, and when we should be saying "Peace on earth' goodwill to men," we have this calamitous strike. What are the prospects of the little children when Christmas is approaching and their fathers are on strike? Instead of receiving presents, they are being given hell in the form of a strike.

I trust that at an early date the Government will provide by legislation that a secret ballot shall be taken by every union before a strike is declared. Many of the leaders of men in the industrial arena to-day, are without backbone. They are lacking courage. I was kicked for five years because 1 endeavoured to straighten them up. I said if I was not going to be the boss I would not be anything at all. They had to follow me because I was not going to follow them. On occasions such as this, when a definitestand should be taken, some honorable senators are thinking only of the election. Some of them would lap poison out of the hand of any man for a vote. They would not mind if it were milk or any other liquid, so long as it was wet. I hope that before many days have passed, wiser counsels and better judgment will prevail, and that these men will realize their responsibilities as citizens and declare the strike off. Disturbances of this kind can be regarded as hardy annuals. No one believes in the sincerity of those responsible for them, or of those who support them - not even the devil himself.

SenatorFoll. - The honorable senator should not refer to the Leader of the Opposition as a devil.

Senator VERRAN - I have too much respect for the honorable senator to say one unkind word concerning him. I still regard him as my brother. Industrial troubles of this kind may have a tendency to divorce some of us from our fellowmen, but I still maintain thatwe are all brothers. I want the Bolsheviks to be kicked out of thecountry. A party that was strong enough to remove me from its ranks should be able to kick them out of the party by giving them six inches of boot. Perhaps I am using expressions which are somewhat unusual in this chamber, but I am putting the matter in my own way. The Government would be lacking in its duty if it did not take a. determined stand in this matter. It is not a question of who is going to win at the next election. That does not trouble me. I am a breeder of fowls; but I never worry about the chickens that have never been hatched. I am more concerned with those that are here. I trust that on this occasion the Govern ment will do the right thing, and will stand four-square to all the winds that blow. There are disloyalists in Great Britain and unfortunately there are some here. Britain has her hands full of adders to-day. England fed them, and they are biting her. We can feed an adder on milk, but it will still bite. There is a tremendous number of adders in Australia at present, and the easiest way to deal with them is to starve them. A man once said to me " I am a Bolshevik." I replied, " If you are then there is no room for both you and me here." He then remarked: "You were kicked out of the Labour party," and I replied, " That has nothing to do with you." This man visited Adelaide to bring about a strike, and I told him so. He replied that he " had to get it up." What these fellows forget is that the unions will sink into the bottomless pit if their management is not changed. Last Sunday I listened to some speeches at a meeting of the unemployed, and I heard one speaker say, " Get all the money you can." Are such persons fit to lead men ? Honorable senators will agree that the best men are required to lead men. I went further, and I saw two individuals who said that they were the leaders of the unemployed. They were " three sheets in the wind," and the fourth was " blowing strong." I hope that the better judgment of our fellowmen will prevail. Ninety per cent. of them are good, honest workers; but the sooner the other ten per cent. are got rid of the better it will be for the industrialists and all concerned. If a thing is not good, it should be put out of the way. If men will not fight for their citizenship, develop their character and become a dynamic force in the community, Australia has nouse for them. The time for the sentimental doctrine that we should be kind and loving to all men has gone. I used to preach that; but I do not preach it to-day. In the present crisis, I say that justice must be administered. If the men now on strike observed the laws of the land, and fulfilled the divine and moral laws, they would not be out on strike to-day.

Senator LYNCH(Western Australia ) deal of the speech to which we have just Had the pleasure of listening did not have a larger audience. If it had only been broadcast in quarters where the advice contained in it is badly needed, its moral effect might have been very beneficial. It is difficult for me to enthuse over a motion of this nature that seems to have much support in this chamber. While we are considering the present unfortunate circumstances, there are certain regrettable aspects to which, I think, it would repay us to give special attention. We see a large body of men out on strike in open violation of the law. Their's is an illegal act. They have disobeyed a law that was not made by their political enemies. It was made expressly for them, and it was passed by their own party. Considering this unfortunate spectacle, we are forced to the conclusion that something must be done to save them from their folly; to save them from themselves. Another aspect is the untold misery that is about to find its way into many innocent homes as the result of their action. In great industrial upheavals it is not the guilty that are made to suffer. In the eyes of those now on strike the guilty are' the ship-owners, who will not be affected to a great extent. In this, as in other similar conflicts, the innocent will suffer most. These men have resorted to tlie use of that time-honoured weapon, the strike. With all due respect to my friend, Senator Verran, I think that something may be said in favour of the men whom he has condemned. He knows as well as I do that we cannot suddenly break with the past. We know that for centuries the worker had no weapon other than the strike within his reach, and we cannot expect it to bc entirely surrendered in the present era. Having got into the habit of mind of regarding the strike as their natural weapon, these men cannot be expected to suddenly relinquish it. Eras aTe not watertight compartments. Unseen, subtle but very tangible influences from one epoch penetrate into and shape thought and action in a succeeding one. Confidence in strikes is one of them. The pity is that those who are responsible for sending the men out on strike do not realize that, if every section of the community had power to employ the same weapon, there would be very few strikes in this country. Consider the position of the producers who supply the food that we eat. - If those men thought that, in order to advance their station in life and improve their prospects, they were justified in striking, they would do so; but the circumstances are such that they cannot do it. Take the wheat-growers who supply the "staff of life." Suppose they rose in a body and said " Our position is not as it ought to be. We are labouring under a manifest grievance, and, in order to remove it, we will declare openly to the world to-morrow that there shall be no more sales of wheat until we are paid 10s. a bushel for it."

Senator Sir WILLIAM GLASGOW (QUEENSLAND) - They have no Arbitration Court.

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