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Thursday, 1 December 1927

Senator HERBERT HAYS (Tasmania) . - This question was raised by Senator Ogden on Tuesday last, when he submitted, a motion for the adjournment of the Senate. Some doubt was expressed at the time as to whether he was justified in bringing his motion forward. I think the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham) said that Senator Ogden was extremely unwise in raising the issue, since there was every prospect of a settlement being arrived at. The events of the last few days have shown that he was fully justified, and also that the Government has good reason for its action. I take it that the motion now before the Senate was not submitted by the Ministry because of any doubt as to what steps it should take. The right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), when speaking to Senator Ogden's motion on Tuesday last, assured the Senate that if the trouble developed, anu. if industry were threatened, the Ministry would take all steps necessary to ensure the continuance of essential services. The Government, however, realizing its responsibilities in the matter, has properly put the issue before the elected representatives of the people, and has asked for their support in any action that may be necessary to maintain law and order. ' Is that unreasonable? Did not every honorable senator, before taking his seat in this Chamber, affirm that he would do all in his power to maintain law and order? If the present trouble extends, its consequences will be far-reaching and disastrous. It is extraordinary that the Leader of the Opposition and other honorable senators opposite should complain that the Government has asked them to say " yes " or " no " to the motion before the Senate. Something has been said, in the course of this debate, about equal citizenship rights. The people have an opportunity, once in every three years, to exercise their rights at the ballot-box. About two years ago the issue which we are now discussing was then before the electors in an acute form, and as a result of the appeal to the people the Government was returned to power with a definite mandate to ensure the observance of law and order. Honorable senators opposite cannot deny the truth of that statement. They fought the election on that issue, and came back in greatly reduced numbers in both this Chamber and another place. In saying this I have no desire to be in any way offensive to the Opposition. I am merely stating the fact that at the last general election the same principle was at stake.

Senator Needham - That was not the issue.

Senator HERBERT HAYS - On other occasions I have heard the honorable senator declare that this Government went to the country with a battlecry.

Senator Needham - Yes - a battle-cry of misrepresentation.

Senator HERBERT HAYS - No. That battle-cry, as the honorable senator must remember, was the maintenance of law and order. At that time there was a serious shipping dispute in Senator Needham's State, and there was urgent need for definite action by some governmental authority to restore law and order.

Senator Needham - The Western Australian Government maintained law and order on that occasion. There was no need for action by the Commonwealth Government.

Senator HERBERT HAYS - When speaking to Senator Ogden's motion on Tuesday last I said I was sure that .the people of Australia were expecting this Government to see mat law and order were observed, and that essential services were maintained. I believe that if the motion is agreed to, the Government will use its power with wise discretion. I feel sure that the Government having this authority to act on behalf of the people, and will exercise the powers it possesses in a way that will not bring discredit upon the Parliament. The people, who are keen judges of the actions of its public men, will not support any tyrannical methods, and if this administration abuses the powers which it possesses, the people will deal with it in no uncertain way. I support the motion.

Senator Sir GEORGEPEARCE (Western Australia - Vice-President of the Executive Council) [10.1]. - I have a few observations to make concerning the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Needham), which is to the effect that the Senate is of opinion that consultations should immediately be held between the Governments of the various States affected, and organizations concerned, with a view to a clear understanding of the matters at issue, and a settlement thereof by means of a conference and conciliation. One would think from the terms of the amendment that the dispute was an insignificant one, that the country could wait a few months until a settle ment had been effected, and thatnothing of consequence would happen. But before the procedure set out in the amendment could be carried out, even if it were right, a tremendous amount of misery and unemployment would have resulted. What does the amendment mean when one analyses it? It asks the Senate to surrenderto the dictation of the Waterside Workers' Federation. That is what it means. The members of that organization are prepared to confer with the ship-owners to-day, provided the owners will flout the court with them. The ship-owners, however, refuse to do that. They say that the court is there to adjudicate, and they are willing to go before the court and let it decide the issue.This branch of the legislature, which assisted in framing the arbitration laws of the country, is being asked by the amendment to join with the Waterside Workers' Federation in flouting a court established under legislation passed by this Parliament. The amendment, which I understand is a concotion of the Labour party in both branches of the Federal Parliament, means that that party has abandoned arbitration. Let them no longer pose as exponents of arbitration, if they are now fathering this amendment. The Government appreciates the tone of the speeches delivered in support of the motion which I submitted to the Senate this afternoon. I feel sure that apart from the terms of the motion itself, and what it expresses, the. speeches made in both Houses on this subject, will' have a considerable moral effect in bringing about a settlement of the dispute. It should also be the means of bringing the men to their senses and showing them that they must conform to the laws of the country. I think that in a crisis such as this, the Government has a right to obtain an assurance from Parliament that it has its support. In view of the season of the year that is approaching, Parliament will probably have dispersed within a couple of weeks, but that does not meanthat the Government will have shed itself of its responsibility. It will continue to exercise its authority, and surely it is ofvalue to the Government to have an assurance from honorable senators, and from honor able members of another place, that in whatever measures it may have to take, it will have their support. That assurance will be a source of strength, and will give to the action of the Government an authority that cannot be questioned. Honorable senators know that this is not the first time that some of us have had a similar experience. On previous occasions when crises such as these have occurred Governments have been taunted with having taking action without consulting Parliament. It has been said on such occasions that Parliament should have been called together. Fortunately in this instance, Parliament is in session, and has been fully informed of the whole circumstances. The representatives of the people have expressed their opinion in no uncertain way, and armed with their support, the Government can go forward with confidence in whatever circumstances may arise. I can assure honorable senators that the last thing which the Government desires is that any action it may have to take shall be of an extraordinary character. It is earnestly hoped - and no one wishes it more than the Government - that a speedy and peaceful solution will be reached. Why should the Government be anxious to seek trouble in a case like this? It is the last thing it desires. Honorable senators may rest assured that whatever action is taken, will be directed towards a peaceful settlement of the dispute. We trust that those responsible for the disturbance will adopt the same attitude. If they do, there is no reason to doubt that before the week is over work will be resumed on the Australian coast, and the industries which have been interrupted will again resume work. I askthe Senate to reject the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition, and to carry the motion which I have submitted on behalf of the Government.

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