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Thursday, 1 December 1927

Senator MILLEN (Tasmania) . - I congratulate the Government on its action in bringing forward this motion, and I cannot imagine any loyal Australian objecting to the terms in which it is couched. It is a declaration by the Government that it is determined to maintain law and order.

Senator Hoare - What is the necessity for the motion ?

Senator MILLEN - It is desirable to indicate to the people of Australia that this Government will not tolerate defiance of the law. Honorable senators of the Labour party say that the unions find it impossible to have their disputes dealt with by the Arbitration Court. Have the men in this case tried to approach the court? I know something of the procedure of the Arbitration Court, because from 1909 to 1919 I was interested in cases from time to time brought before it. In the circumstances, therefore, I know what weight is properly attachable to such a plea. During this debate it has been urged that there is no necessity for the Government to submit the motion and to make this demonstration of its determination to maintain law and order. I differ from that view. This is not a mere election cry as some honorable senators have suggested. I am delighted that the Government are not raising the cry of law and order on the eve of a general election, but' are acting when action is most necessary in the interests of Australia.

Senator Hoare - Why parade the fact that the Government stands for the maintenance of law and order?

Senator MILLEN - Because there appears to be a desire in some quarters that Australia should be governed by emotionalism, which causes a great deal of discontent and adds largely to the covetousness of a certain section of the community.

Senator Hoare - The ship-owners ! They are responsible for the present situation.

Senator MILLEN - The ship-owners have no voice in the matter. It is idle for the honorable senator to at tempt .to .saddle the ship-owners with the responsibility. It is useless for him to talk like that in the presence of honorable senators who travel weekly by steamers and see exactly the treatment to which the ship-owners have to submit.

Senator Chapman - The court has given its decision.

Senator MILLEN - Yes; but the employees will not obey it. They can-, not have it both ways. If they favour a policy of laissez faire, let them have it. If they want the instrument of the strike, let them have that. If, on the other hand, they want the Arbitration Court, let them have that; but they must not be allowed to flout the Arbitration Court. Senator Findley said that other administrations had adopted the policy of conciliation and that the Commonwealth Government should encourage it. They have. If my memory serves me aright, the Premier of Queensland, Mr. McCormack recently adopted it, and used it very well; but I cannot recall that there was conciliation on the part of the unionists. We are told that it is a reproach that the Prime Minister does not go to the ship-owners and tell them to give the waterside workers what they want, as long as they are prepared to continue to work. It is time that we ceased to adopt that attitude towards these men. Time after time men have absented .themselves from their ships and returned at their own sweet will. When a vessel was about to leave Launceston for the mainland recently two or three of the firemen turned up after a "hectic" time. It must have cost them a lot of money to produce' the condition in which they returned to the ship. The vessel could have proceeded on its journey without them; but the rest of the men replied, " No, we will tie up the ship." And they did. The vessel was placed alongside the wharf in Launceston, and kept there all night, much to .the discomfort of numbers of mothers with infants. The following morning the absentees drove up in state in a motor car, and insisted on being driven right on to the wharf, while the passengers stood aside for "these captains of industry"! Can we tolerate conduct of that kind? It is no use saying that the fault lies entirely with the unionists. We know perfectly well that the great bulk of them are sensible men. Their leaders are to be blamed.

Senator Grant - There thehonorable senator is wrong.

Senator MILLEN - I amnot, but I would remind the honorable senator that one of the distinguished leaders of Labour in New South Wales, Mr. Mutch, tells us that the. whole of the movement is riddled with RussianInternationalism. I assume that he knows what he is talking about.

Senator Hoare - The honorable senator ought to blame the" red-raggers". Russia has nothing to do with Labour in Australia.

Senator MILLEN - I would say that is absolutely incorrect.

Senator Hoare - The story must have come from the Nationalist party.

Senator MILLEN - Our party avoids the Sovietism of Russia as a plague. It knows enough about the character of the Australian people not to attempt to introduce anything in the form of Russian rule.

Senator Hoare - The law and order cry was the best asset the honorable senator's party had at the last election.

Senator MILLEN - Yes. We let the people know what would be the dire consequences of the conditions the Labour party was allowing the extremists to impose upon them.

Senator Hoare - The honorable senator knows that cry was not true.

Senator MILLEN - We knew that it was. The people, too, realized the danger, and decided that the Prime Minister should " carry on." I am glad, therefore, that the Government has come down with this motion, with which I heartily agree. It is unthinkable that a handful of wharf labourers should be allowed to say to the people, " We shall despatch the ships when we like, or they shall not be despatched at all." Honorable senators opposite ask, " What is the necessity for the motion ?"

Senator Hoare - No necessity exists for it.

Senator MILLEN - They haveno conception of economy of finance, otherwise they would appreciate the necessity for this action. If the strike continues, and our trade and commerce are held up, Australia will be seriously embarrassed.

Isnotsimilartrouble being experienced practically all over the world? Ours is not an isolated case. The Government has been advised to smooth the trouble over and say that, even if the law is being defied, the wheels ofindustry must be kept moving at any price. That would be a mistaken policy on the part of any government. As Senator Reid pointed out it has been adopted in the past; but has not helped the situation and will not do so. The case demands strong but careful handling. If the men do not stand up to their obligation to honour the awards of the Arbitration Court, but strike, then let us carry on and load the ships with other labour. I am pleased that, the Government is determined that law and order shall be maintained.

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