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Wednesday, 13 April 1904


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - After the remarks of the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition upon this measure not being regarded as a party one, I need scarcely say that the criticism which I propose to bestow upon it is my own., and does not necessarily represent the views of other honorable members upon this side of the House. Whilst the speech made by the Prime Minister upon the second reading of this Bill was not as eloquent as his previous effort in the same direction, I think it was a much more valuable exposition of the measure, and gave honorable members some very desirable information, not only as to the legal interpretation of certain clauses but also as to the intention of the Government in connexion with some of its more doubtful provisions. To the tone of that speech generally no exception can be taken, and, therefore, I am the more reluctant to object to one remark which was made by the Prime Minister. He said that he left to the opponents of the measure the creed " whose god is greed, whose devil is need, and whose paradise is the cheapest market." I do not know whether his reference to the cheapest market was intended as a sly hit at the free-traders, but I would tell the honorable and learned gentleman that free-traders have always favoured allowing men liberty to sell their labour in the dearest market, and to purchase their supplies in the cheapest market. That policy has not proved unfortunate for the working man in the countries which have adopted it. I also desire to say to the Prime Minister, that some of those who are opposing this measure have done far more for the workers with whom they have been associated than this Bill can ever do, even if it fulfils the most sanguine expectations of its authors.


Mr Ronald - That is prophecy.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is fact, not prophecy. In making the remark to which I have called attention I think that the Prime Minister exceeded the moderation which characterized the remainder of his speech.


Mr Deakin - It was not intended, I find, to apply to the opponents of the Bill, but to the humanitarian interpretation of the principles and obligations which form the very basis of civilized society. I admit that the honorable member's reading of it is nuite defensible, but I was not alluding to the opponents of the Bill.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am very glad to hear the Prime Minister's explanation. In dealing with this measure, I do not intend to resurrect the speech . which I delivered last session, and which is decently buried in Hansard. At the same time, I wish to allude briefly to some of the objec tions which I then urged against the measure - objections which, in most cases, have been confirmed by' subsequent experience. I then pointed out that the system of fixing the remuneration to be paid, and of determining the relationship between employers and employed, was no new system - that it was in vogue generations, and even centuries ago, and was abandoned after a full trial had been given to it, because of the injury which it inflicted upon industry, and those employed in it, and because of its Ill-effects upon the general community. I am aware that to-day people think that they are cleverer than were their ancestors. In some respects they may be, but I would point out that this revival of a system, which has been tried and abandoned, is at the best - and is admitted oy the Prime Minister- to be - merely an experiment. As an experiment, which is on its trial in different States of the Commonwealth, under different industrial Acts, it should be fully tested before we adopt it in the larger arena of Federal politics. We have every opportunity . to watch the operation of the Arbitration and Conciliation and other Acts in the different States, and to determine which are beneficial and which are not, and to ascertain in what respects they fail or succeed. It would be wise for us as a Parliament, having the opportunity to judge the working of industrial legislation elsewhere, to await the result of those experiments before passing a complicated Federal Arbitration Act. Strange to say, the Prime Minister, as a member of the Federal Convention, appeared to hold this opinion. In speaking of the power under the Constitution of the Federal Parliament to legislate in matters relating to Conciliation and Arbitration he said, at the Melbourne sittings" of the Convention, that -

At the same time, this is a power, like many others, not likely to be exercised by the Federal Parliament for many years to come. The Federal Parliament will be impressed by the importance of the experiments which are proceeding in the States. It will watch them carefully, and will deal with the subject as soon as it feels it is competent to do so.

I am sure that no one who has had experience of the working of the States Acts will yet say that they have proved themselves either a success or a failure.


Mr Spence - They have, at all events, put an end to strikes.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I shall refer to that matter later on. and we shall then be able to determine by comparison whether they have really put an end to strikes. I contend that they have not yet been proved. They may possibly prove successful, while, on the other hand, they may turn out to be absolute failures. I previously indicated that the experience of the working of the Arbitration Act in New Zealand gives us no assurance of the successful operation of such a measure. I have pointed out that in view of the prosperity which New Zealand enjoyed for some little time before the introduction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and since any such legislation would be not only tolerable, but would fail to be seriously felt by industry.


Mr Mauger - The honorable member should put the position the other way - cause and effect.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable member wishes to insinuate that the Act is responsible for the prosperity of New Zealand.


Mr Mauger - That legislation of that kind has improved the position of the Colony.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is not the slightest foundation for that opinion. The honorable member should be aware that during the last few years New Zealand has had an exceedingly favorable experience; that whilst we have been suffering from the effects of drought, she, by reason of her rich harvests, has been profiting from our reverses. He also should know that the South African war poured immense sums into the pockets of New Zealand's producers and exporters.


Mr Mauger - That may also be said of Australian exporters anc! producers. .


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But to a far more limited extent. Practically only the southern States were benefited in that way. The honorable member should likewise know that New Zealand has been fortunate in many ways; that owing to exceptional circumstances - such as the ability to export her oats to Great Britain, and the enormous meat trade which she has developed with the old land - she has enjoyed a time of prosperity which would have enabled the people to work under any Act of Parliament without any appreciable reduction of prosperity. The time to test such legislation in New Zealand, as elsewhere, is the time of adversity. Until they have passed through the cauldron of adversity no one can say that measures of this kind, which are in force in some of the Australian States, are successful. In support of that view of the position, I should like to read a letter written by a- member of the New Zealand House of Representatives who is friendly to the Bill, to a gentleman in this city, who requested him to favour" him with his opinions on the working of the New Zealand Act. It is only fair that I should read the whole of his letter, although some portions of it may tell against my argument. The letter is as follows: -

Your letter of the 20th June reached me only a few days ago, and the excitement of beginning the session of Parliament has prevented me from replying fully to your letter.

You want to know, regarding the working of our Conciliation and Arbitration Act, whether the dissatisfaction that you hear of is caused by the defects of the Act itself or in its administration, or comes from larger causes. You, probably, have at hand a copy of the Act, and the date on which it became law.

We have had an amendment made in the Act nearly every year since it was first passed, and a fresh amendment promised this session.

That shows, of course, the need of experience -

During the first few years the Act was in operation the great body of the workers believed that it was a charter of salvation to them, because it gave a continued series of increases of wages and other advantages of shorter hours and better conditions generally. One thing to be borne in mind is, that, .from the date the Bill was passed, the conditions generally in the Colony were improving. The grice of our produce had increased in the London market, and the effect of the imposition of the land tax, a few years before, had made access to the lands of the Colony more easy. That meant a greater demand for labour, the ranks of which had been thinned in the cities by the exodus of people on to the land. When the Court had once gone round the different industries fixing the rate of wages and other conditions, fresh applications were lodged from those who had been first in the field in getting increases before, and reasons for further increase were given - that the cost of living had increased, which, of course, was the inevitable result of an increase in the wages of those producing different articles.


Mr Mauger - That has not been the result here.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It must be the result everywhere.


Mr Mauger - It has not taken place here.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Because the provisions of the Victorian Act are not so generally applied as in the case of the New Zealand Act.


Mr Mauger - Where they do apply that has not been the result.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Where the increase of wages is universal, there must be of course an increased cost of living, especially when those conducting the industries in question continue to make as large a profit as before the passing of such legislation.


Mr Mauger - That is the whole crux of the question.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I would refer the honorable member to the New Zealand income tax returns. They show that those conducting industries affected by the Act have made, not a smaller, but a larger profit since its introduction, and that that result has been due to the prosperity of the Colony as a whole. Mr. Wise, in introducing his Conciliation and Arbitration Bill in the New South Wales Parliament, quoted the dividend returns of New Zealand companies, in order to show that their profits had not been reduced by the coming into force of the Act. I showed at the time that, those dividends were considerably higher than were those of similar companies carrying on business in Australia. This proves that the Act has not lessened the profits of those conducting industries affected, but that the increased charges have been passed on to the consumer - and that the consumer being able to bear them, owing to the splendid prosperity of the Colony, has made no complaint. The writer continues: -

The first check which the popularity of the Act received was when a decision had been given in the case of the Miners' Union in the Auckland Province, the conditions there being that, one mine, the " Waihi " Mine, was doing very well, making large dividends for their shareholders, while nearly every other gold mine in the Province was just 'struggling along barely paying expenses. The miners employed in the Waihi Mine naturally felt they were entitled to a greater portion of the rich finds in that mine ; but one of the principles of the Arbitration Act was that the awards of the Court should extend over large areas, in fact, the ideal of many trade unionists was to get a colonial award, and when the Court, in the case of the Waihi miners, heard the evidence of the conditions of the industry in the district generally, they came to the conclusion that the demands of the men could not be complied with, and gave their decision accordingly. The result was an immediate outcry against the composition of the Court -

Adverse decisions against a body of men - I do not care what body it is - are sure to lead to resentment and cause the parties concerned to take action to secure a change.


Mr Fisher - The every-day " drunk " in the police court complains of the magistrate.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Quite so; but he has no power to force the hands of Parliament - to secure a revision of his sentence. The letter proceeds - and a deputation of the men waited on the Minister of Justice asking that the President of the Court, who is a Judge of the Supreme Court of the Colony, should be removed from his position. Since then resolutions have been passed by various bodies of workers condemning the decisions of the Court, and in some cases it has been publicly announced that cases which were intended to come before the Court have been withdrawn, because the men had no confidence in the Court.


Mr McCay - Those cases are not very numerous.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am only giving a New Zealand legislator's statement of the working of the Act, regardless whether it operates against my argument or not.


Mr McCay - I am aware of that ; but I repeat that those cases will not be numerous.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They are not likely to be when, under the decisions of the Court, wages have always had an upward tendency. There are only two or three cases in which a reduction has taken place.


Mr McCay - That is likewise correct.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The writer of the letter proceeds -

I may say that the present President is a man of the very highest character and impartiality in labour questions, and if he cannot give satisfaction, no President could give satisfaction unless he made a general practice of giving the men all they asked for. Hitherto the Court has been able to, in most cases, grant some portion of the demands made by the men, because the general tide of prosperity has been rising in the Colony ; but, if a reverse comes in the general prosperity, then will be the testing time of this particular Act. When applications are made by the employers for a reduction of wages, it will take great courage on the part of the Court to grant their request -

I do not agree with the use of the word " courage ; " I do not consider that that is altogether the . right word to employ - - and failure to do so, with shrinking trade, will mean stoppage in some industries, and a throwing of people out of work. I believe the opinion amongst the most intelligent of the labour leaders in this Colony is that the Act has been a useful instrument in equalizing labour conditions; that is to say, it has been the means of bringing the sweating employers into line with the best employers, but that, as a means of permanently increasing the proportion of the products of labour, which come to the producer, it must of necessity fail ; that some more radical cure is required to raise the whole body of workers, but that in the present artificial conditions of society it has artificially stimulated (he upward tendency in the wages of labour. At the present time we have numerous instances of a natural law of wages superseding the awards of the Court. In places where the -Court has fixed is. 2d. an hour as the rate of wages, from id. to 3d. an hour more is being paid, because the demand for labourers in that particular branch is greater than the supply, and, in some instances, where the Court has fixed a minimum wage, which employers found to be too high for all except picked men, large numbers have been left out of work, and they had to go to other parts in search of employment.

As a regulator of labour conditions, I believe it has done good service in preventing unfair competition between the fair and honest employer and the dishonest, but its true value can only be ascertained .after having passed through the testing time of an industrial depression.

I hold, therefore, that the New Zealand Act which is invariably put forward as a proof of the successful results attending industrial legislation, has not yet proved itself and cannot do so until it has been subjected to the conditions of adverse circumstances. I have before said that the great majority of the English-speaking workers are absolutely against such a proposal as this.


Mr Carpenter - They require to be educated on the subject.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - We cannot say that they are not led by intelligent men, or that they themselves are not intelligent. We know that the vast mass of the British and American workers has amongst its numbers some of the ablest leaders in the world, and that these men, by a large majority,, declare that they do not desire the system. Last year, even after the Taff .Vale decision, which the Prime Minister thought might convert them, they rejected, by a majority or three votes to one, a proposal for a measure providing for conciliation and arbitration. They consider that they are doing infinitely better by their system of voluntary arbitration, and that no compulsory Act will stand the test to which it will have to be put. That is their opinion, and it is mine.


Mr Higgins - I think that they wish to hold to the strike system; but that weapon has r.ot Deen left in their hands.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They do not like strikes any more than other working men like them. They have been successful, very largely by voluntary arbitration, in accomplishing the avoidance of strikes. They say that their system is sufficiently successful to promise better results than are promised by a system which they believe, as I believe, would break down when put to the strain which it will have to bear if many -circumstances which have occurred in the past arise in the future. In reply to the question put by the Prime Minister previously, why, when we refer so many matters to courts, we should not refer industrial disputes relating to rates of wage, hours of work, and relations between employers and employes, I pointed out on a former occasion, what has since been proved, to some extent, at any rate, by actual occurrences, that where there is no legal compulsion, and extreme dissatisfaction with an award exists among a body of men, effect will not be given to it. Whenever a Legislature refers matters te law courts, it accompanies the. right of jurisdiction with power to enforce obedience to decisions; but it is not so in this Bill. Since the last Bill was introduced, cases have arisen in which limited and comparatively small bodies of men have rebelled against the decision of an Arbitration Court. Strikes have occurred, notwithstanding the existence of the Court, against the advice of the leaders of the men, and in opposition to the opinion of the bulk of those employed in the industry concerned. There have been several such occurrences in the neighbourhood of Newcastle, and every one of the leaders, or at least, all those whose remarks were reported, advised against them. The great body of men employed in the interests concerned were also opposed to them. Fortunately the men who struck were only a limited number. Had the feeling which, possessed them obtained sway amongst an extensive body - say, the great majority of those engaged in the industry - there would not have been the' repression of their fellows, such as these smaller bodies had to. contend against, and nothing would have prevented a strike as serious as any which took place under the old conditions.


Mr Spence - More breaches of the Act are committed by employers than by employes.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not say whether that is so or not ; but the Court has power to enforce its awards against employers, while it is without that power in the case of employes. The decision of the Arbitration Court in the cases to which I have referred was that it had no power of enforcement ; neither is there contained in this Bill any power of enforcement against the employes, although an attempt has been made by an amendment to prevent the measure from breaking down by the action of the employes in refusing to abide by an award.


Mr Spence - In the cases referred to by the honorable member, the Arbitration Court decided that there had been no breach of the award.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The men would not accept the award. Mr. Spence. - The Court decided that, the action of the men was not a breach of the award.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There was a breach of the rule requiring the giving of fourteen days' notice.


Mr Spence - That rule was not contained in the award.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The giving of fourteen days' notice was the rule of the district.


Mr Spence - Not under the award.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The facts are as the honorable member states them. -But they support my argument. There was a breach of the rule requiring the giving of fourteen days' notice, but there was no breach of the award, because it contained nothing about the giving of notice. If the men had waited fourteen days they could each have marched out of the mine without committing a breach of either the award or the law. That has been seen by the Prime Minister, and he has attempted to deal with the position by placing certain new clauses in the Bill. Those clauses, however, do not meet the case, and it cannot be met. "Under the Bill, men could leave their employer at the end of a week, or whenever the legal notice had expired, and they could not be prevented from doing so. It is proposed that we shall do in connexion with the Arbitration Court what we would not attempt to do in connexion with any other' Court of law, and that is, refer matters to it for decision without putting it in a position to enforce its awards. How could we put it in that position? No one wishes to see large bodies of men sent to gaol. It would be ridiculous to expect that to happen, even if we provided for it in the Bill.


Mr Spence - We cannot compel employers to continue to carry on their businesses.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No; but if they refuse to comply with an award they are practically forced out of the industry in which they have been engaged. That does not happen in the case of the men. They can go elsewhere and find employment. Overhanging the employer is the tremen dous penalty of a possible shattering of his business, and sacrifice of his buildings or machinery. Some employers would suffer more than others.


Mr Spence - An employer could put on other men.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But in any case he would be forced to comply with the award of the Court, so that it would be better for him to keep the men he had got. I am not complaining of the compulsory enforcement of awards against employers ; I am only showing that it is impossible in regard to employes. That is where I anticipate failure will occur, and the labour leaders in England and America agree with me. Without the power to enforce compliance, wherever there is among a large body of men dissatisfaction, justifiable or unjustifiable, with an award, we shall have in the future strikes as serious as any we have had in the past.


Mr Deakin - We have made special provision to meet that difficulty.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The facts I have referred to show how great is the need of experience. It would be unwise for us not to profit by the experience we may get of the working of the industrial laws of the States. There is, however, nothing in the provisions to which the honorable and learned gentleman refers which meets my objection. Men who were dissatisfied with an award could, under his provisions, give a week's notice of their intention to leave their employment, and at the end of that time walk out of their workshop, thus practically refusing to abide by the award without actually declaring their intention not to do so.


Mr Deakin - That action would be equivalent to the action of an employer in discontinuing his business.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes. But while an employer is' practically prevented from continuing to carry on his business, unless he is prepared to comply with the awards of the Court, employes may refuse to do so, and yet still obtain employment in their industry. I have no desire to make the provisions of the measure so drastic that large bodies of men would be compelled to labour under conditions of which they do not approve; I am simply pointing out that, as employes cannot be compelled to comply with the awards of the Court, the Act may at any time break down in its most important particular. Whatever our associations, our prejudices, or our interests, we should try to regard both side's of this question, and to look at it from all aspects. We should avoid extreme views. I- do not deny that there are industrial evils. One of them is the unnecessary reduction of wages. One justification for, and a great purpose of, unionism, is to resist such reduction. Reductions in wages are due to a variety of causes. In some cases they are caused by the -greed of an employer who is able to afford good wages. In many cases, however, they are brought about by want of capacity, or of business connexion, or of capital. There may be a dozen firms in an industry, eight or nine of which are willing and able to pay good wages, while the remaining three or four, for lack of some quality or characteristic, or through' want of capital, are in difficulties. These latter thereupon try to discover how they may reduce expenditure, and if their wages expenditure is their largest item, as it often is, they reduce wages. In these cases that reduction is due entirely to the deficiencies of the firm conducting that business. I quite admit that that creates an undesirable condition of affairs. As I say, unionism was designed in the first place to correct this, and British workers have found that by means of their unions and voluntary arbitration they can adjust disputes arising in that connexion in many of the largest industries. The results have been entrely satisfactory, because those who have had the decision of disputes have been fully acquainted with the resources and possibilities of the trades concerned, and have not imposed impossible conditions, but have adopted a rate of wage' fair to the industry and satisfactory to the men themselves. As the honorable and learned member for Angas has pointed out in his very able speech, more permanently satisfactory - I am not speaking of temporary - results would accrue from a voluntary system than from any attempt at compulsory arbitration such as that contemplated by this measure. I should, be only too glad if I could believe that this proposal would afford a true remedy for some of the admitted evils of industrial life. If you try to remedy an evil by adopting something which will only aggravate.it, or if you succeed in remedying one evil, but at the same time create a greater one, you will not bring about any improvement in the industrial world. I very much fear that eventually a greater evil will be substituted for that which the Bill seeks to cure. The Prime Minister has described the Bill as something which will lift a great burden or pick up pins. Heis no doubt quite correct in that description. He has likened the Bill to an elephant* but it might as well be compared to a hundredton crane. Any one who would employ a hundred-ton crane to pick up pins would be considered a lunatic. An enormous measure, which is necessarily clumsy in its operation, is to be employed for the purpose of picking up industrial pins. All sorts of small matters will be brought within the scope of the measure. Even an angry word spoken in Western Australia might be brought under the cognisance of the Arbitration Court, and become the subject of inquiry.


Mr Deakin - That is if the dispute extended beyond the limits of any one State.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Now the Prime, Minister is dealing with his mystery. I have given him credit for having furnished us with a fuller exposition of the Bill than on the previous occasion, and of having treated us to a very instructive speech. But he carefully avoided saying what would be regarded, within the meaning of the Constitution, as a dispute extending beyond one State, and with even greater care he avoided indicating the disputes which he desired to bring within that category. Surely we ought to know what we are doing. Are we to legislate blindfold ?


Mr Deakin - I said that we were endeavouring to legislate in such a way as to take advantage of all the power contained in the sub-section of the Constitution, but I admitted that it was very difficult, without a decision of the High Court, to say exactly how far our power extended.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That reminds me of the words of an old song : " Leave it to Your Solicitor." In this case the Prime Minister would have us leave it to the Court ; but we ought to make up our minds how far it is wise to go. In regard to other measures we do not say, "We do not know exactly how far our powers go, and we will trust .to the Court." We say that we wish to exercise our powers so far and no further.


Mr Deakin - We wish to exercise our powers as far as they will go.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Will the Prime Minister say how far he thinks it wise to exercise those powers?


Mr Higgins - If it is a good thing we cannot have too much of it.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then why is it not intended to apply it to the States servants?


Mr Higgins - That is what we want.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - There is to be a limit in certain cases, whereas in other regards the operation of the measure is to be without limit. We do not know where its operation will end. That is not a desirable method of legislation. We ought to know what we are doing, and decide how far it is wise for us to go. We are simply shutting our eyes and taking a leap. We do not know where we shall land, but the High Court is to be left to decide for us. We should have some assurance as to how far our constitutional powers extend. At any rate we should know how far the Ministry think it desirable to exercise these powers. We should not be content with the vague statement "as far as it can go," but should have a distinct definition in the Bill. Some people still think that the measure will apply only to disputes extending beyond any one State.


Mr Deakin - Hear, hear.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In my opinion, unless the High Court decides that some of the provisions of the Bill are ultra vires, the measure will extend to the smallest details of every employment in every State. The least transaction, will come within the jurisdiction of the Court. As I have said, even a rude word spoken by an employer, to a foreman or an employer, no matter in what part of Australia, might result in an appeal to the Arbitration Court. The Prime Minister has already referred to the fact that a dispute, with an organization extending beyond any one State is intended by the Bill to constitute an Inter-State dispute.


Mr Deakin - It may.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister will not deny that that is provided for in the Bill. That is to say, that a dispute affecting an organization which extends beyond one State will be regarded as a dispute extending beyond any one State.


Mr Deakin - Oh no; the dispute itself must extend beyond the State. I did not understand the honorable member in the first instance.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I hold that a dispute with an organization extending beyond any one State is, according to the intent of the Bill, to be regarded as a dispute coming within the purview of the Arbitration Court. Of course, we cannot say what the decision of the High Court will be. The Prime Minister cannot tell. This is a species of agnostic legislation.


Mr Deakin - Under an agnostic Gonsitution.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes; perhaps the Constitution is agnostic too. The Bill contemplates that a dispute with an organization extending beyond any one State shall be regarded as an Inter-State dispute.


Mr Deakin - With all respect to the honorable member, I think not.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is my own opinion, and at any rate, the Bill provides machinery with that object.


Mr Deakin - That is only when a dispute has extended beyond one State.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is not necessary for me to labour this matter,, because I have stronger arguments to urge in this connexion. The provision as to the common rule would bring every industry in the Commonwealth within the scope of the Bill.


Mr Deakin - Unless the operation of the common rule were limited.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I mean that, if it were desired by the Court, the common rule might be made to extend to every industry in every part of the Commonwealth.


Mr Deakin - Exactly.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Therefore, if a dispute arose, and were brought before the Court, the decision could be made to apply to every industry of the same character, or of a cognate character, in every State. Consequently, as the Federal law will override all the State laws, control will be exercised by the Court over the smallest particulars relating to every industry in the Commonwealth. Suppose that a man were discharged as the result of his addressing an angry word to his employer. He might make an appeal to the Court', on the ground that he was discharged because he was a unionist. Or a man might . be refused employment, whilst others were being taken on, and might appeal to the Court upon his right of preference as a unionist, and the employer might, have to satisfy the Court that there was good reason for not giving him employment. That is an enormous and far-reaching power, and one which I cannot conceive will be good for the industries of Australia.

The Bill provides machinery for the establishment of Courts of Registration in the different States, and for what purpose? The intent of the Bill is as clear as possible.


Mr Poynton - The honorable and learned member for Angas declares that the Bill provides for only two classes of disputes.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is an entirely different question, which I am content to allow the legal talent in this House to discuss. I am merely pointing out what the Bill is intended to accomplish. Of course it will be for the High Court to decide how far our powers extend, but the Bill undoubtedly makes provision for all that I have stated. If we desire to see the extent of the matters with which it proposes to deal, we have merely to look at the. definition of " industrial matters," as set out in clause 4. There we find that - " Industrial matters" includes all matters relating to work, pay, wages, reward, hours, privileges, rights, or duties of employers or employes -

Under this definition the Court would even have power to say in what work an employer shall engage. That has actually been done under the New Zealand Act. In that country the Court has fixed the work of ah employer. The definition continues : -

Or the mode, terms, and conditions of employment, or non-employment; and in particular, but without limiting the general scope of this definition, includes all matters pertaining to the relations of employers and employes.

Could anything be wider than language of that sort? -

And the employment, preferential employment, dismissal, or non-employment of any particular persons, or of persons of any particular sex or age, or being or not being members of any organization, association, or body.

That Court will not lack business. I was rather amused by one remark made by the Prime Minister. He said that even if the merchant suffered a reduction in his profits it might be better for him. I think that any conductor of industry who has to carry on operations under these conditions will most certainly suffer a reduction in his profits. I only hope that he will not experience such a reduction as will cause him to abandon his industry.


Mr Deakin - Trie experience of New Zealand is not in that direction.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But these provisions are much more severe than is the law of New Zealand, because in some of the States there will be two codes of laws to deal with, and, in addition, we are legislating for the larger territory of Australia. Of course, under the influence of a wave of prosperity an industry may be able to carry on, even under this Bill, and not suffer a reduction in its profits. But we must remember that in Australia our prosperity will be much more intermittent than is that of New Zealand. The recurring droughts which afflict us, and which are practically unknown in New Zealand, are bound to make our seasons of prosperity more intermittent. But, adverting to the reduction in the merchants' profits mentioned by the Prime Minister, it is interesting to note that the Bill does not propose to deal with professional men. The honorable and learned gentleman doe's not attempt to do anything in the way of reducing the earnings of lawyers.


Mr Glynn - Yes, he does not propose to allow them to appear before the Arbitration Court.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That will not reduce their earnings. They are provided with fresh fields and new pastures in which they may grow fat. I have no resentment against lawyers, but I was irresistibly reminded by the Prime Minister's remark that he does not propose to apply the same principle to the professional men % of the community that he wishes to see applied to the merchant. If honorable members wiil read the interpretation clause they will see that - " Industry " means business, trade, manufac- ture, undertaking, calling, service, or employment on land. or water -

I think that covers everything save submarine diving - in which persons are employed for pay, hire, advantage, or reward, excepting only persons engaged in domestic service.

Let honorable members reflect what an enormous power this Court will wield, and. the vast quantity of business which must . come before it, especially when it has a host of other matters to attend to, such as union . rules and levies, . the recovery of union subscriptions, the terms of awards, the interpretation of awards, breaches of awards, &c.


Mr Deakin - It will all depend upon the interpretation which the High Court in the first instance puts upon its powers.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But even if the High Court declares that the Commonwealth possesses the fullest powers which are claimed for it, are we prepared to set up such an enormous tribunal in Australia ? The cost of the Court will, I am sure, be tremendous. I know that the Bill provides that a Justice of the High Court shall be the President of the proposed tribunal, and that he shall receive no additional salary for his services in this connexion. But Mr. Wise has already pointed out how impossible it will be for a Justice of the High Court to occupy the dual position very long. He declares that the time of this tribunal will be largely occupied in hearing appeal cases for the determination of which the attendance of three Judges is necessary. Consequently, no Justice will have time to exercise the enormous jurisdiction of this Court.


Mr Deakin - Of course it may mean the appointment of an extra Judge.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That will mean great extra cost. In New South Wales, at the present time, there is need for the establishment of an additional Arbitration Court in the Newcastle district. T am not aware that it has not been promised. There is certainly need of it.


Mr Wilks - Only whilst there is a "spurt."


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - When is the "spurt" to stop? The honorable member has been absent from the chamber, otherwise he would have gathered from a letter which I read from a New Zealand legislator, who is favorable to compulsory arbitration, that no sooner has one crop of disputes been disposed of than another is forthcoming, because the workers receiving the first awards affirm that the expense of living has been increased. Further, the New Zealand Court is in arrears with its work to-day, although it has been in existence for six years.


Mr McCay - It is only in arrears because one of its members was ill during nearly the whole of last winter.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The members of the proposed Arbitration Court will not be proof against illness. Must not a Court be able to meet the ordinary contingencies of life?


Mr McCay - But the honorable member's point was that the work accumulated beyond the powers of the Court.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say so still. The New South Wales Court has certainly sufficient work before it to occupy it for a year. I believe that if the measure is to prove successful, there ought to be another Arbitration Court established in that State to deal with the mining industry. Possibly there ought also to be a tribunal to deal with the city industries, and there might be a third to deal with rural industries. If three Courts are required in New South Wales, ten or eleven would be necessary for the whole of Australia. When honorable members reflect that in New Zealand, with its circumscribed area and limited population, which does not exceed one-half that of New South Wales, one Court is not more than sufficient to cope with the business coming before it, it will be seen at once that we shall need a large number ot Courts if these tribunals are to be granted the full powers with which it is proposed to invest them. Now I come to the matter of Whether the other two members of the Court, should be appointed permanently, or only in connexion with each dispute. I have watched the operation of the Act in New South Wales, under which permanent appointments have been made.


Mr Deakin - We propose to limit the term of their appointment to five years.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - In my opinion, it would be far more satisfactory to make fresh appointments in connexion with each dispute. One good reason only was advanced by the Prime Minister in favour of permanent appointments, namely, that the Court was given power to reject some unimportant disputes, and that one Judge would not care to exercise that power. Perhaps there is something in that contention ; but I think that any Judge ought to be prepared, as he is in more immediately serious matters in other Courts, to accept the responsibility which attaches to his office. But, as a matter of fact, the method of appointment of the members of the Court, other than the Judge, is one which makes them to a large degree advocates. I consider it would be infinitely better to have advocates with knowledge than advocates without knowledge of the particular industries with which they are called upon to deal. For example, in New South Wales, we recently witnessed the spectacle of a Judge, an engineer, and a fireman deciding a dispute in connexion with a tailoring trade. We see them puzzled with cases relating to coal mines, and having their awards referred back to them. They cannot be expected, at the first attempt, to enter into all the ..intricacies of coal mining, which they are not acquainted with. We see them absolutely embarrassed by a request to give a decision relating to the employes of gas works, and we have, in connexion with that case, an expression of opinion which shows what a vast quantity of work is thrown on the Court under the New South Wales Act - Avork with which no Court should have to deal. According to a recent newspaper report -

Mr. JusticeCohen stated today that he felt himself utterly incompetent to deal with all the issues involved in the dispute, and expressed the opinion that many of them were of a class that the Court should not be expected to settle.

The other members of the Court were also of opinion that many of the matters in dispute might very well be settled out of Court.

Mr. JusticeCohen said it was time the Court took a firm stand. If parties in these disputes were animated by a desire to settle their differences on an equitable basis, and in a give and take spirit, enormous expense would be saved to themselves and the country.


Mr Deakin - In New South Wales they have not the power of conciliation for which we provide in this Bill.


Mr Wilks - That will overcome the difficulty.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It will not; the Commonwealth will have a similar experience.


Mr Watson - The issues are materially reduced, it is said, by Boards of Conciliation.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Those Boards may reduce the issues; but I have just given an instance of the work which the New Zealand Court has to carry out.


Mr Watson - Quite so ; but I can show special reasons for that.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Then Mr. Samuel Smith, the representative of labour organizations in the New South Wales Court, said in February hist-

Unfortunately the congestion of business in connexion with the Court was largely caused by the introduction of matters that might easily be settled on a common-sense basis. It was simply astonishing to find so many adopting a course which caused trouble, annoyance, and loss to all concerned, when there was really no necessity to apply to the Court at all.


Mr Deakin - We give the Court power to brush such cases aside.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Why give the Court power over a long list of minor matters, such as I have mentioned, when the New South Wales Court has already expressed the opinion that many such cases which come before it should not be referred to it.


Mr Deakin - Exactly ; but the Commonwealth Court will be able to brush aside such matters.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The New South Wales Court can do so.


Mr Deakin - But not to the same extent.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It can do so, but is loth to. brush them aside.


Mr Deakin - It has not the specific authority which we propose to give to the Federal Court.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It is desirable that the advocacy which takes place in the Court should be the a-dvocacy of those who understand the occupation with which the Court is dealing.


Mr Deakin - We have also provided for that.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - By appointing additional assessors, and in that way increasing the membership of the Court-


Mr Deakin - When necessary.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That means more expense. Two experts should be sufficient to explain to the President the technicalities of the evidence. If the explanations of one were not satisfactory, the explanation of the other would be available, and enable the Judge to discover any inaccuracy. In this way the experts could thrash out the case with the Judge, and assist him to arrive at some practical knowledge of the matter in dispute, which should enable him to come to a better decision than he would if the members of the Court possessed no technical knowledge, and knew no more about the industry in which the dispute had occurred, than did the Judge himself - the one feeling that he ought to support the side of labour, and the other that he should uphold the side of the 'employers.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Surely the best place for the experts is the witness-box.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Any number of experts may be placed in the witness-box. We have had experts in the witness-box in the New South Wales Court, yet we have the admission of the members of the Court, in one case, that, at the close of the evidence, they understood nothing about it.


Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Judges in our ordinary Courts of Justice have greater difficulties, such as, for example, when they, have to deal with mining cases.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I do not think that any Judge, in our ordinary Courts of Justice, is confronted with the difficulties that face a Judge in dealing with some of the industrial arbitration cases which present many complications and- require the consideration of a vast number of intricate technical details. An ordinary law suit may be determined on two or three details, but in these cases the whole of the details must be considered.


Mr Poynton - Did not the objections of the Court, to which the honorable member has referred, relate more particularly to the trivial nature of the matters brought before it?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - No. In the case to which I have referred the Court had to request the employes who were a party to the dispute to appoint a skilled man to decide the matter. The men agreed upon the appointment of a skilled representative, -and he gave his decision.' Then we had the statement of the men that the decision was practically unworkable. They asked for an order that it should be put in operation for a week, and that if at was found to be unworkable at the end of that period further action should be taken. But the Court said, in effect - "You agreed to the appointment of this representative, who is a man of experience, skilled in the business, and he has given his decision." As a matter of fact, he was at one time in charge of the works in question, and supervised the operations of the men, and the Court said to the men - " You will have to abide by his decision. We shall not allow your request that the decision shall be in operation for a week in order to prove whether it is workable, because in that event you might take care to make it impossible to conduct operations in such a way that a satisfactory trial could be made." A number of the matters in dispute were unimportant ; but some were of importance, and it was in relation to those that the Judge made the remarks to which I have referred. I quite recognise that the majority of honorable members of this House - and in that majority I do not include myself - are in favour of the acceptance of a measure of this kind. Personalis, if legislation in this direction is to be accepted, I should prefer to see an elaboration or extension of the Victorian wages board system, inasmuch as, although compulsory, it more closely approximates to the voluntary arbitration system. . In principle it more nearly approaches the system which has been found so effective in Great Britain. In other words, the representatives of each side on these boards understand the business iri dispute. They understand its limi tations, and to some extent its difficulties and possibilities, when they come to discuss and thrash out the question at issue. If they agree in regard to all or even some of the points at issue, well and good; but if they cannot agree on all, then there is an independent party to decide the points on which they differ. To my mind that is a much more satisfactory system, and one that is more likely to be permanent than is the proposed system of compulsory conciliation and arbitration.


Mr Deakin - It is a modern adaptation of the old guild system.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Exactly. But it has this advantage : that, instead of requiring all the industries of Australia to be dealt with by one Court, it allows of a policy of decentralization, and enables different industries to be dealt with by different boards. I am not arguing against the proposal, save on the ground that I do not believe that it will be successful. I shall, be pleased if it does succeed. I would infinitely prefer that the attempt to secure the objects which honorable members have in view should be made by means of a measure different from that now before us. If, however, honorable members insist upon the system laid down in this Bill, I, with a view to its success, should much rather see it confined in the first instance to the larger questions which usually give rise to strikes. It is easy to enlarge the scope of a measure, and one may often be destroyed by including too much within its scope at the first attempt to legislate in any desired direction. Experience gained on the main issues which arise between employer and employed would be an infinitely safer test on which to base these legislative experiments than is this extensive basis, which, I fear, will have the I results that I have already outlined. There is a proposal to still further extend the Bill by bringing States servants within its provisions. Personally I cannot see any logical difference between extending the operation of the Bill as far as the Government propose in relation to industries in the States and the extension of its operation to States servants. The reasons given by the Prime Minister against this proposed amendment were not, in my opinion, valid ones. He said that -

If the Conciliation- and Arbitration Bill embraced public servants, a decision of the Court might have the effect of raising their wages. That would increase the taxation of the State in which they were employed.

The raising of the wages of the men employed in other industries would increase the cost to the people of that State. Then again the Prime Minister said -

But what would be destroyed by the intervention of a Federal authority, whether judicial or not, would be the power of self-government of the States, their control of their own agencies and instrumentalities which they possessed before Federation, and which they have never consciously surrendered.

The same may be said of the industries of the States. I am perfectly satisfied that the States never anticipated surrendering their power over their own internal industries, when they agreed to that section of the Constitution, which enables us to deal with conciliation and arbitration. They believed that it applied to disputes with which the States Parliaments could not deal. I am satisfied that some of the members of the present Federal Ministry who supported the inclusion of that power in the Constitution were under the impression that it applied only to disputes with which a State could not deal. They never anticipated that it would extend to the variety of matters proposed by this Bill. I therefore hold that the argument against the handing over of the State-owned industries to a Federal authority applies to the handing over of the privately-owned State industries.


Sir John Forrest - Is that proposed?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yes ; the power of control over States industries.


Sir John Forrest - I do not admit that.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That' is provided for in the Bill, but the question is whether the House will agree to it. The common rule will apply to every State industry. Those common rules, when multiplied, as they' will be, will soon embrace the whole of the industries of Australia, of whatever nature, from the farm to the factory, and from the mine to the sea.


Sir John Forrest - To what Government industries does the honorable member refer ?


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am referring to private industries. I do not see the distinction in the reasons given by the Prime Minister for not including State servants. If those were the only reasons, I should be found voting against the Ministry on that point. I shall not do that, however. I intend to support the Ministry on that question. I shall do so because I think that we have extended the scope of the Bill too far in trying to control industrial disputes with which the States can deal, and that therefore a limitation, rather than a further extension, is necessary. The Postmaster - General, addressing a New South Wales audience, spoke of the extension of the provisions of the Bill to State industries as likely to create a sort of Frankenstein monster which would devour its author. The monster has been created in this Bill, and the danger is that it will devour some of the industries now carried on by private enterprise in these States. At all events, that is my opinon. I have expressed it before, and supported it by arguments, and I can only hope that my anticipations will not be found correct. The advocates of the Bill have said that in any case it can do no harm to try the experiment which they propose. I think that that is the most unwise argument that can be used. It must do harm to tamper seriously with the industries of Australia, unless one is pretty sure of success in the endeavour to bring about better conditions. We have every opportunity to experiment. Trials are going on now in the States ; we do not need Federal legislation in order to obtain an experiment. Different systems are being tried in different States. Why not await the result of these experiments, instead of superimposing one Court upon another before we have any reasonable evidence of the success of compulsory arbitration, or any knowledge as to which of the systems now under trial is the best ? The advocates of the measure say that the only alternative to it is the system of strikes ; but even if we pass the Bill, we shall not be secure from strikes. There have been strikes in New South Wales, even in the short period during which the Arbitration Act of that State has been in operation, and, as J have already pointed out, we may be in a worse position under an arbitration law when an award upon some burning question is distasteful to a large body of men than we are in now-. It is not sufficient to say that the alternative to the Bill is strikes, because there may be strikes even under this legislation. It is a curious thing that there have been at least as many - I think rather more - strikes in those States in which legislation for the settlement of industrial disputes has been passed since those measures were introduced as there have been in the States of Queensland and Tasmania, in which there has been no such legislation. I do not say that it is not a desirable thing to try to prevent strikes; hut I contend that it is desirable to know that the measure proposed will effect the object aimed at. I wish now to make a brief reference to statements of the Prime Minister which are either inconsistent with the Bill, or with facts, or with previous remarks made by him. He said in his Speech on the second reading that the Arbitration Court has only revealed disputes which previously existed. I do not think that that is a sufficient or an accurate answer to the complaint that the Court has caused disputes. The differences, if they existed at all. did not exist in the form of disputes. But they became disputes. I . have shown by . the remarks of Mr. Justice Cohen, and of the representative of the labour organizations in the -New South Wales Court, that that body was appointed to deal with every matter, how ever trifling, affecting every branch of industry. Since the passing of the Act, dis.putes have been created which would never have been heard of if it had not been for the existence of these wide powers of the Court. The Prime Minister also said that the tribunal Ke proposes to create will be very rarely wrong, or, if wrong, then in a very slight degree. I think he would have to import members from Heaven-


Mr Deakin - They would be less familiar with the matters to be dealt with than those I propose to appoint.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They might be less familiar with them, but they might possess an omniscience which would be a substitute for experience. We cannot expect omniscience in human beings. If any three men could manage - the Bill practically provides for management - all the industries of Australia they would be the most valuable men on the face of the earth.


Mr Deakin - They would hear both sides.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They might hear a hundred sides, but if, after hearing all sorts of views on the practical management of the various industries concerned, they could come to correct decisions in every case, they would be more than human. The Bill gives the Court power to deal with every business in Australia, whatever its character, and to control it to whatever extent the Court may think, proper. If, under such circumstances, the Court will be .rarely if ever wrong, its members will be men such as, I believe, no other country in the world could produce.


Mr Deakin - Our State Supreme Courts have a far wider jurisdiction than the proposed Court, would have.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Noi in the management of private businesses.


Mr Deakin - They have continually to consider questions affecting the management of private businesses.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Whenever they have to do with the management of private businesses, they admit their incapacity by appointing managers.


Mr Deakin - The Supreme Court has an infinitely wider range of questions to deal with than will be referred to -.he Arbitration Court.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not aninfinitely wider range. It could not have a wider range. Questions affecting every industry will be referred to the Arbitration Court.


Mr Deakin - The Supreme Courts deal with men's relations, transactions, and bargains in every department in life.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Mr. JusticeCohen has admitted that the intricacy of the work of the Arbitration Court is much greater than that of the Supreme Court. The Prime Minister also spoke of the value of the provision under which the same Courtdeals with conciliation as well as with arbitration ; but there are other provisions under which separate bodies will deal with conciliation. As a matter of fact, the Arbitration Court is by no means the only judicial machinery provided for. We may have a Court with three permanent members, or; that Court with four other members added, or with other members substituted, or two assessors may be appointed, or the GovernorGeneral may appoint at any stage of a dispute a High Court Judge or a Supreme Court Judge to be president during the hearing of that dispute, or the Court may appoint committees of reference for conciliation purposes, in any part of Australia. It may use any State industrial authority that is willing to act, or may create a local board, with the Judge of the High Court or of a Supreme Court as chairman, and it may authorize any person to hear evidence, summon witnesses, and to demand the production of books and documents. All that mass of machinery may have to be multiplied considerably, if it is found that one Court cannot do the work.


Mr Deakin - The provisions to which the honorable member refers are designed chiefly to remove the difficulty of dealing with disputes at a distance. A dispute which arose at Broken Hill might be more conveniently heard in Sydney.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - But in some cases reports from Boards of Conciliation have to be referred on from distant places to the Court itself. I am pointing out the complexity and the massiveness of the machinery provided for.


Mr Deakin - In a sense, the complexity is required to provide for simplification.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Prime Minister, in replying to an interjection, said that disputes, not disputants, must extend beyond the limits of a State before the Court could have jurisdiction. But a few minutes later he said -

It may not be a simple thing for a dispute to extend beyond one State, even in the case of private employes, but with the federated organizations there will be many opportunities to bring it within the scope of the Act.


Mr Deakin - First there is the difficulty of it extending beyond a State at all ; but if it does extend, having a Federal organization enables us to deal with it effectively. That is the meaning of what I said.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Well, I have already alluded to the question of extension beyond a State, and the power sought by the Bill. I notice that the Minister, in providing for arbitration between employes and masters, has not made any provision for the important class of small farmers, graziers, and miners, who work under great difficulties. No Arbitration Court is appointed to' render things easier for them. The employers and the employes in the cities may have recourse to the Court, but those who are engaged upon small mining ventures, or in tending their little flocks of sheep, or herds of cows, who are their own employers, and who are entirely dependent upon nature, will gain no advantage from the Court. No provision is made, or can be made, unless Nature is to be a party to the dispute, for them, although they have to pay the piper in bearing part of the cost of an expensive system such as this. They are left to the difficulties heaped upon them by droughts and other disabilities of climate and circumstance; and they will be taxed to pay for this immense piece of machinery, the creation -of which, in my opinion, would be justified only if we were sure that its operation would be successful. The Bill is more burdensome than any of the Acts now in force in the States, for the industries in the States, in which there is already similar legislation, will be under, not one, but two tribunals. The State tribunal will be able to deal with disputes as it likes until the Federal tribunal interferes. The Federal Court, however, may take charge only of part of an industry.


Mr Higgins - It will take over the whole dispute.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It may take over either the whole or part of an industry. It may, for instance, deal only with a question affecting wages, and leave other questions at issue to the State Court.


Mr Higgins - It will exercise its judgment as to whether it shall take all or none.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If only one question is referred to it, that will be the only question it will decide.


Mr Higgins - It is not a matter of reference. If a dispute extends beyond the limits of one State the Commonwealth Court will deal with it wholly.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have already shown that the Bill seeks to interfere, not simply when disputes extend beyond a State, but with the control of every' industry in Australia in every detail. The Court can do that, as the Prime Minis?ter cannot deny, merely by the creation of common rules ; and in my opinion there are other provisions .which allow for similar interference. It can extend the common rule to every industry in Australia, and to every circumstance of that industry. Therefore I contend that the States Court may deal with an industry, and that the Federal Court, towering above it, may go into every detail in connexion with that same industry, the industry having to work under its decision, so far as that decision goes. Some employes may be subjected at the same time to the verdict of one tribunal in r'egard to one set of matters, and to the decision of another in regard to other matters. I cannot conceive how such a state of affairs would prove beneficial to the industries of Australia.


Mr Isaacs - Everyone in the Commonwealth is subject to the operation of two sets of laws - the States laws and the Commonwealth laws.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - They are not liable to two sets of laws after the Commonwealth has legislated.


Mr Isaacs - They may be, because the Commonwealth law may not cover the whole of the ground.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable and learned member cannot draw me aside on that issue. In the case I am now discussing we shall have two sets of laws for the management of the industries of Australia. There will be two managers for every industry, and one may take control over one set of affairs, and the other of another set. I cannot think that that will be good for the industries of Australia. The Prime Minister stated that the opponents of the measure considered that it was Collceived in the interests of the employés only. I do not take that view. If I thought that the measure were calculated to .confer a benefit upon the manual workers of Australia I should be very much inclined to support its principle in some modified form, because, as I have previously mentioned, we cannot really benefit such a large section of the community without conferring advantage upon the whole. I believe that the Bill would impose a serious burden upon our industries, and might deprive some workers of their occupation.


Mr Deakin - The honorable member must remember what was stated by a member of the New Zealand Legislature.


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I admit that in times of great prosperity all difficulties may be. overcome.


Mr Deakin - It is contended that the New Zealand Arbitration Act has brought the sweating employer up to the level of others. '


Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I quite agree that it is desirable that those employers who reduce wages unnecessarily should be brought up to a higher level. But I say that the best means of achieving that result is by unions among the workmen, and by resort to voluntary arbitration. I do not believe that under adverse circumstances the Bill will accomplish what is desired. The successful conduct of industry must depend largely upon the intelligence exercised in its management, and if capital - which, accompanied by intelligence and skill, gives the greatest stimulus to employment, and, by creating demand for labour, tends most to the increase of wages - is discouraged, we shall do harm and not good. If Ave encourage capital, skill, and enterprise, we shall stimulate employment, but I am afraid that the effect of this measure will be io discourage enterprise and skill, and also the investment of capital, and such results must seriously re act upon the workers of Australia. If I am wrong, and if, despite all the difficulties which I apprehend, this and similar measures result in removing the evils connected with our industries, without at the same time inflicting any injury upon them, I, for one, shall rejoice.







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