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Thursday, 8 July 1915

Senator BAKHAP - Are there no State Arbitration Courts?

Senator FERRICKS - We have none in Queensland; there is one in New South Wales; but I believe none in Victoria.

Senator BAKHAP - There are adjudicating authorities all over the States.

Senator FERRICKS - We do not believe in adjudicating authorities like the Wages Boards, which consist of representatives of employers and employees, but which often have as chairman one of the gentlemen known as " guinea-pigs." He sits there by virtue of the fact that he receives a couple' of guineas as a fee, and our experience in Queensland is that these "guinea-pig" chairmen are very seldom unfriendly to the employing side.

Senator Watson - That exists in New South Wales also.

Senator FERRICKS - I have no doubt it exists in every place where the Wages Board system is in operation.

Senator Bakhap - The chairmen of Wages Boards in Tasmania are most estimable men.

Senator FERRICKS - Of course there are exceptions; but the majority of them are hangers-on to the anti-Labour party, and very often dependent for their positions on the loyalty they show to that party at election and other times. Unless we extend the operations of the Arbitration Act, and allow any genuine dispute to be settled by the Federal Arbitration Court, we shall undermine the spirit of arbitration. If we are going to break down that spirit, it would be better to wipe it out altogether, and give us again the good, old-fashioned, direct action. We had a general strike in Brisbane some years ago. I heard Senator Bakhap say here on one occasion that a load of flour or bread could not be taken down the main streets of Brisbane at that time without a permit from the Trades Hall.

Senator Bakhap - Quite so.

Senator FERRICKS - Yet the party with which the honorable senator is associated proved, to the satisfaction of the High Court, that there was no dispute in existence 1

Senator Bakhap - No Federal dispute; it was a Queensland dispute.

Senator FERRICKS - We say, If you are not going to make the Arbitration

Court accessible to industrial bodies, wipe it out. Personally, I think that our opponents are doing their best to break down the spirit of arbitration. I am not unduly enthusiastic about the arbitration methods, since I see opponents endeavouring by every means in their power to violate the awards of the Arbitration Court and other judicial tribunals. What is the action of them and the people whom they represent in this Chamber? Almost every award given by an industrial tribunal is violated by the employing class.

Senator Guthrie - They are pure anarchists.

Senator FERRICKS - Yes. They will not accept the awards of these Courts. They do not openly violate an award or refuse to pay; they merely lodge an appeal and take the award from Court to Court, and by that method endeavour to postpone indefinitely the payment of the award and ruin the union financially. Their purse strings are longer than those of the union. In Queensland, we have had any number of instances where the employers have not observed awards. I drop a warning note once more to the Employers' Federation, the Women's National League, and various Liberal associations and kindred bodies, that if they continue to act as they do, the industrial army of Australia, if I know their feeling, will not be bothered much with Arbitration Courts. Unless our opponents realize that fact, and make the Arbitration Court acceptable, and honorably abide by the awards when made, the onus for the existence of industrial disputes and unrest will lie on them, and not on the industrial class..

Senator Shannon - How will you make the industrial classes abide by the awards ?

Senator FERRICKS - We can say with some pride that ever since the operation of the Federal Arbitration Court, there has not been an award made by the Court which the workers have not honorably observed, and I challenge the honorable senator to mention a case.

Senator Bakhap - But has not every truly Federal award been in favour of the workers?

Senator FERRICKS - I am not prepared to grant that.

Senator Maughan - No.

Senator Bakhap - Do you not see that it is almost foolish to ask the question if no such award has been unpleasant to the workers ?

Senator FERRICKS - The awards have been very unpleasant; the men have been by no means satisfied with every award that has been made.

Senator Bakhap - That is, when they were getting 10s., and wanted £1, they got 15s. In every case the award has been in their favour.

Senator FERRICKS - The illustration which the honorable senator gives of wages rising from 10s. to 15s. a day in one jump goes to show how much out of touch he is with the workers. They may get a rise of 6d. or Is., but to suggest that they get a rise of 5s. a day at one jump is absurd. I advise the honorable senator to go and tell that yarn to the marines.

Senator Bakhap - I did not say " a day."

Senator FERRICKS - Slight increases have been given by the Court, but by no means satisfactory increases. Let me assure the honorable senator that, whether it is through the Court, or by some other method, in the very near future other increases will have to be given, and more than a paltry 6d. a day, which has been given with one hand, while Is. a day has been taken out of the pockets of the worker by the exploiter. We believe - in fact, we know - that trusts are on the rampage in Australia. As Senator Watson has pointed out, it is the consumer - the man on a wage of 8s., 9s., or 10s. a day, with a family of kiddies' - who needs to be protected. Perhaps the people whom Senator Bakhap represents- the men who get their wages increased by a jump of 50 per cent, at a time - might not feel the oppression so much as the worker does. But I can assure the honorable senator that we know the evil to exist; and, for the sake of the Australian people, I hope, and sincerely believe, that when the proposals are submitted to the electors, they will be carried.

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