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Thursday, 1 December 1927

Senator CHAPMAN (South Australia) . - I was rather surprised to hear some of the views expressed by Senator Duncan. The Government seeks the approval of Parliament in its determination to maintain law and order, and to ensure the continuance of services essential to the well-being of the Commonwealth. It will be well for the Senate to let the people of Australia know- that their representatives are whole-heartedly behind the Government in this matter. Senator Duncan suggested that there had been a change in the attitude of the Senate during the last few days; but I cannot see that that is so. The doors of the court , are still open to the waterside workers, and, in the event of their refusing to avail themselves of the processes of that tribunal, theirs will be the responsibility for the industrial chaos that threatens the community. The present position is one of the most serious that we have had to face for a long time, and I propose . to stand firmly behind the Government. I believe in arbitration, and voted with the Labour party in South Australia to preserve our present arbitration, system.Ibelieve that the strikeis an antiquated method of dealing . -with- industrial grievances. . We hear a good deal about the tremendous. cost of arbitration; but it is nothing compared with the huge losses occasioned by strikes. The system of arbitration, of course, is in process of evolution, and I agree that one of its weaknesses is that the awards of the court cannot be enforced as well as we should like. Anything that the Government can do in improving the system in that direction will receive my hearty support. If Senator Needham believes in arbitration, as he says he does, why do not he and his party advise the unions who are now defying the court to abide by its decision ? It is because honorable senators opposite had a mandate from the conference of the Waterside Workers' Federation last September, which conflicts with the parliamentary party's ideas on arbitration. Honorable senators opposite are frightened of a clash with their industrial leaders outside.

Senator Needham - That statement is false.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. Sir John Newlands). - I ask the honorable, senator to withdraw that expression.

Senator Needham - I withdraw the word" false," and say definitely that the statement is incorrect.

Senator CHAPMAN -I shall show that it is not incorrect. First of all, I shall substantiate what I have said in regard to the attitude of the court. These were Judge Beeby's words, in giving the reason why the men were debarred from going before the court -

The court cannot and will not proceed while the union claims the right to make an award itself before the court has dealt with the matter. Therefore, I cannot at present proceed with the case. The matter is still open if ever the union likes to give honest and serious consideration to what has been said, and gives the assurance to the court which it asks for. When that has been done, the case will proceed. You must consider whether you are going to let the court fix your conditions of labour or . fix them yourselves and enter into a contest with the rest of the community, because it ultimately means that. You cannot take . the law into your own hands in this way.

If the branches of the Waterside Workers' Federation make regulations which conflict with the rulings of thecourt, it is hopeless for the court , to make an award,, becausetheunionswould . continue to makerulesconflicting with , thecourt's decisions. Underthose conditions,the -work of the courtwould be rendered absolutely useless. The ultimatum of the Waterside Workers' Federation, after it had considered the demands of the shipowners, was -

That this committee of management, after fully considering the ultimatum from the shipowners, is of the opinion that the terms of normal resumption as requested by the shipowners are impossible, because normal resumption as demanded by them, and previously insisted upon by Judge Beeby, includes reverting to two " pick-ups " a day. This request is contrary to the unanimous decision of our September conference.

It has been said that a condition of the award is that there shall be one pickup a day, but the award provides for two. The owners met on Tuesday to draw up a full list of the Arbitration Court award rules and clauses which have been disregarded by the waterside workers in the past, and oh which the ship-owners now insists. One of the conditions of the award that the waterside workers have been breaking is the provision for two pick-ups a day and they will not go before the court because they know that that would mean reverting to two pick-ups a day. ยป

Senator Needham - How does the honorable senator know that?

Senator CHAPMAN - The men consider that there should not be two pickups a day, notwithstanding that the courthas awarded that number.

Senator NEEDHAM - That provision has been ignored for six years.

Senator CHAPMAN - The shipowners have accepted one pick-up a day under duress.

Senator Needham - The arrangement has been made with the consent and knowledge of the court and of the two parties.

Senator CHAPMAN - The shipowners have tolerated the breach of the award for the sake of peace. Job control has been in operation all over Australia for some time. I was informed recently that one union in Adelaide, whose members were employed -by a certain club, demanded rates and conditions over and above those provided in the award. The club was willing to continue to abide by the award of the court, but that was not sufficient for the union. To avoid trouble, the demands of the men were acceded to. On the west coast of

South Australia men engaged on public work are not permitted by their union to do more than a certain amount of work each day. I was told that one cold day a man, in order to keep himself warm, worked faster than the prescribed rate, and completed his allotted section of work about one and a half hours before knockoff time. In order to keep himself warm for the remainder of the working hours he threw the soil back into the trench and then out again. In such circumstances it is no wonder that the farmers complain of high water rates.

Senator Hoare - Does the honorable senator believe that statement?

Senator CHAPMAN - I am inclined to believe it, because I know that the unions do limit output. Tactics such as these have led to the present trouble. The ship-owners are determined to put up with them no longer.

Senator Hoare - Will the honorable senator tell us how the Adelaide Steamship Company treated the farmers on the west coast of South Australia?

Senator CHAPMAN - That has nothing to do with this debate. I have here a newspaper report which reads -

Work on the steamer BaronBelhaven. which brought portion of a cargo of nitrates to Fremantle from iquique, was resumed to-day, after a stoppage caused by the lumpers refusing to accept the award o' the chairman of the Board of Reference (Mr.V. Walsh) for the payment of 6d. per hour additional on the usual rates, the provision of two extra men in the hold, and two daytime smoke-ohs. When the vessel arrived work began, but it ceased soon afterwards, and the mon made a claim for 5s. an hour, two daytime smoke-ohs. and two extra men in the hold. The board considered the claim, and the chairman made the announcement outlined above. This decision the men refused to accept. An attempt was made to pick up men to-day under the conditions awarded, but was unsuccessful. When ls. 3d. per hour additional on' the usual rate was offered the men agreed to work the cargo, and extra gangs were picked up.

That is another instance of the award of the court being defied. Is that abiding by arbitration? Let me quote another instance of job control. In a statement issued by the chairman of the Oversea Shipping Representatives' Association the following appears : -

Limitations on loading, &c, under domestic rules, reduce efficiency without reducing wages. The latest instance reported is at a northern port, where a conveyor belt is used for loading and discharging. The local watersiders have now resolved to place the bags of cargo on the conveyor at intervals of 6 feet between the bags. It is estimated that the decision reduces the efficiency of the conveyor belt by 50 per cent., thereby making an ordinary ship's gear as effective. Thus the effort to achieve efficiency is defeated.

When men deliberately slow down in that manner the cost of production is necessarily increased. The extra cost of handling have to be deducted from the price that is paid to the producer for his produce. In order to show that these men receive good wages, I desire to place on record the rates actually paid to them. The statement to which I have referred sets out those rates in the following terms: -

Few Australian workers and fewer still struggling primary producers realize the wage harvest being reaped by members of the Waterside Workers'. Federation. The following are some of the wage rates laid down by what the union is pleased to term an " obsolete and inefficient award:- Ordinary rate, 2s.11½d. an hour;6p.m. to midnight, 4s. 3d. an hour; midnight to 7 a.m., 5s. an hour; meal-hour work,5s. 8½d. an hour; supper hour work, 7s. 9d. an hour; smoke-ohs, half an hour each, full pay; double pay if worked. Holidays. - Saturday afternoons, &c,5s. an hour (7s. 9d. for meal hour if worked). Extraordinary holidays. - Sundays,6s.6d. an hour (9s. 3d. for meal hours if worked).

Senator Hoare - Will the honorable senator tell us how much they average each week?

Senator CHAPMAN - In view of those high wages there is no justification for dissatisfaction on the part of the men. They should not endeavour to evade the award of the court or attempt to enforce conditionsover and above the award rates by making local rules and adopting irritation tactics. They know that when they do so they are, in effect, shutting the doors of the court, because it is useless for the courts to deal with them while they are disobeying its awards. Unfortunately, this dispute, if continued, will not be confined to the waterside workers and the ship-owners, but will affect thousands of persons in other occupations. According to a newspaper report, the secretary of the Coachbuilders' Union in South Australia stated that he had been notified by the firm of Holdens Limited that if the action of the Waterside Workers resulted in the holding up of the shipping, it would mean thepartial closing down of their works at Woodville. A serious dislocation of industry is a matter of great importance to Australia, particularly at this time. The harvest throughout Australia is light; the money market is tight, and unless our wheat and other products can be shipped buyers cannot normally finance, and disaster will confront many of our primary producers. They will be forced to sell their wheat at low pricesto a few speculators. The men on strike have no grievance which cannot be settled in the Arbitration Court. It is there they should go for relief if they believe theexisting conditions are oppressive. If honorable senators belonging to the Labour party really believe in arbitration, they should advise the men to appeal tothe Arbitration Court, and to abide by the result. The amendment moved bythe Leader of the Opposition provides for the very thing that the men will not accept. If they will not abide by the decision of the Arbitration Court, it is useless for Senator Needham to advocate a settlement of the dispute by conciliation. Does the honorable senator suggest that another body should be set up, and the Arbitration Court, appointed for the settlement of disputes by this Parliament, be ignored. Judge Beeby says that the doors of the court are still open. The men should be prepared to have their case settled by the court. I trust that wiser counsels will prevail, and that the men will yet agree to that course being followed. Some time ago, when in Sydney, I visited the Domain on a recent Sunday afternoon. I approached the Communist ring and purchased for 3d. a booklet containing the manifesto of the Communist party of Russia, in which I read that the only way the objective of the Communists could be obtained was by the overthrow of the present system. The claims of socialism and communism are somewhat similar, it points out, but the means of obtaining their common objective are different. Communism believes in force, revolution, and bloodshed. It says further, that the present owners cannot be dispossessed without bloodshed, and that bloodshed is inevitable in order to attain their objective. I also purchased another book containing speeches by Trotsky and Lenin, delivered before the central conference at Moscow, and these contained references to the progress of communism in various countries, including Australia. These speeches stated that the communists are achieving success in Australia in the ranks of the trade unionists, and it is significant that on the executives of the unions in Australia which have the most strikes are a number of avowed communists.

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