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Thursday, 1 December 1927

Senator J B HAYES (Tasmania) . - I do not intend to add very much to the debate that has already taken place, because nearly everything that can be said has been said; but I do not care to give a silent vote on such an important matter. I welcome' the motion, and when it was moved expressed the hope that it would be carried unanimously. If I interpret it aright the Government is simply asking Parliament to support it in any action it may take to uphold the law. I do not understand how any member of Parliament can oppose such a proposal, because in so doing he expresses a disbelief in the principle that the law of the land must be upheld. We have an Arbitration Act under which awards are made. When it was introduced for the purpose of preventing and settling industrial disputes I welcomed it; but having had a long experience of the fact that only one side observes the awards that are made under it, I have begun to doubt its efficacy. I realize, however, that whilst we are working under it, it is the duty of every member of Parliament to support the Government in upholding its provisions. If this were a matter in which only waterside workers were affected it would not greatly concern me; but I have in mind its effect on all other industries, particularly those in my own State of Tasmania. Whenever there is a shipping strike Tasmania is practically isolated. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) said this afternoon that the interstate services would be maintained. They are not being maintained. The Kitiwai, which is loadedwith zinc from Tasmania, is at present tied up in Melbourne. The Koronui, upon which we depend for the shipment of our produce to the Sydney market, is tied up in Launceston, full of coal, which to-day's newspapers state will not be unloaded. The farmers in Tasmania are depending on that boat" for the shipment of their produce, and they may lose the return from a year's work because the wharf labourers will not obey the law. For the last twelve months the potato growers have been planning, scheming and working to get their potatoes ready for market. They have now practically reached that stage, but because the wharf labourers refuse to work they are faced -with ruin.

Senator Payne - The balance of the crop will probably be lost.

Senator J B HAYES - That is the case. It should be stated publicly that the point which stands out in this dispute is the utter disregard of the wharf labourers for the welfare of other people. They do not seem to care whether others are ruined. They are being well paid. Senator Chapman has detailed a list of the wages that they earn, ranging up to 9s. an hour. That figure may be exceptional, but 3s., 4s., and 5s. an hour are quite common. Numbers of small farmers who will probably be ruined by this strike would consider that they were enjoying comparative affluence if they had an equal income. They work all the year, take the chance of bad seasons, and very likely have an indifferentcrop and obtain low prices; yet they are to be denied the little that they can get because the wharf labourers will not obey the award of a court that was brought into existence for their benefit. Senator Chapman instanced Holden's motor bodybuilding industry as one that would be affected by this upheaval. I instance the zinc works in southern Tasmania. I dare say that every honorable senator could mention some big industry in his State that will be similarly affected. Probably 2,000 men in southern Tasmania will be thrown out of work. They do not complain of the nature of their work; they are satisfied with the agreements which they have with their employers. Their wives and families were looking forward to a Christmas of comparative comfort; yet suddenly,because of some dispute with which they have absolutely no concern, theiraffairs will be thrown into chaos, and the whole country will bein a state of turmoil. Only a little while ago five or six wharf labourers by their action threw out of work 350 men who were employed in the Catamaran coal mine. It is about time the people of Australia took a hand and stopped this business. Nobody denies that the wharf labourers should have fair play. Perhaps their job is intermittent and unpleasant, and keeps them at work formany hours, but they have chosen that calling, and if they do not agree with the terms and conditions under which they are asked to work, they can state their case to the Arbitration Court. The ship-owners have issued the clear and definite statement that they are willing that work shall continue according to the terms laid down by the Arbitration Court. . No one denies to any man the right to decline to work, but if in doing so he prevents other people from working, action should be taken to put a stop to his proclivities in that direction. I was amazed at the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) moving an amendment. When I heard the motion read for the first time, I anticipated that both the. Senate and another place would say unanimously, " We made the law ; let us back up the Government in upholding it." No matterwhat government was in power I should stand behind it in an effort to carry out the law. If I did not like the law I would use my position to try tohave it altered. If honorable senators opposite are opposed to this law, they would be acting within their rights if they endeavoured to have it altered. The Government cannot take any action that is not sanctioned by law. I hope that it will adopt every legal action that is open to it to settle this dispute, which will bring widespread distress toevery part of Australia if it is allowed to continue.

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