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Wednesday, 13 April 1904

Mr SPEAKER - Does the honorable member think that this has anything to do with the Bill ?

Mr EWING - I shall connect my remarks with the subject under discussion to,

I think, your satisfaction, sir, and in compliance with the rules of the House. They made that Prince the successor to the throne, exacting from him only one promise - to govern in accordance with the will of Parliament. He, dying without an heir the throne was given to an estimable lady, another daughter of the absent exmonarch, then living near London, and she, dying without issue, a prince was brought from Hanover, with whom the people were not prepossessed, but who, they knew, would serve their purpose. Each of these sovereigns and their successors promised to govern by and in accordance with the will, of Parliament, and they kept that promise. That was the real beginning of our constitutional government, and the origin of legislation such as that we have now before us.

Mr Kelly - Legislation of this kind originated in Elizabeth's reign.

Mr EWING - The constitutional interference of the people in these matters has been possible only since we have had the constitutional arrangement to which I refer. By electoral laws, reform laws, and other legislation, labour, industry, and wealth have become safer in Great Britain to-day than they ever were before.

Mr Robinson - And without legislation such as that now proposed !

Mr EWING - The whole trend of the legislation to which I refer is in the direction of this Bill. But legislation of this description has always been opposed, and always will be opposed, by those for whom it does most. Whatever is done to elevate the masses and place them in a better position, still more is done for the industrious and the wealthy. Imagine the position of a wealthy man, if he had to fight for his own hand, without the support of public opinion, and the protection of the police ! Very few of us would desire to be wealthy under those circumstances. But how is the legislation to which I refer viewed by the well-to-do, who benefit so largely from it ? For example, one may be asked to the house of a prosperous man, and after an extremely good dinner, the host, the typical commercial man, of ordinary ability, and not distinguished for his philosophical thought, or his philanthropic deeds, lies back in his chair, and tells you, knowing you io be a member of the Federal Parliament,that the country is not worth living in, that it is going to the dogs. We hear that every day of our lives from very ordinary persons, who are surrounded by comfort, and have everything that they reasonably require. They may be persons whose commercial value for manual labour would be about three shillings a week, and who, as clerks, might possibly earn £i a week. but who by accident or inheritance have been placed in possession of much. The next indictment the host may make against the Federal Parliament is its responsibility for the legislation which brought about the detention of the six hatters, lt has not dawned upon those who refer to that case, although it is months since it happened, that almost every country in the world, Great Britain included, contemplates similar legislation. Then these men. who have so much, and may be worth so little, speak of the Petriana case. It has not occurred to their stodgy intellects that this case was simply a crafty political electioneering squib, started bv an able press, which rightly appreciated the intelligence of the men with whom it had to deal.

Mr SPEAKER - Have the honorable member's remarks anything to do with the Bill?

Mr EWING - I submit that they have. I am showing that men of a certain type are opposed to reform, because they believe that legislation such as is now proposed will bring about destitution and ruin, whereas their circumstances show that that attitude is utterly unjustifiable. It is held by them that, under any circumstances, arbitration and conciliation must mean absolute ruin. Does not one feel inclined, when dealing with such men, to tell them in plain earnest, to how little, if might were right, their strength and intelligence would entitle them? One might well become indignant, if, under the circumstances, it were worth while, with those whom legislation permits to have and to control so much, and who yet so stolidly oppose all reform. But this spirit rf opposition will always exist. It lies at the base of the speeches delivered by the honorable member for North Sydney, and the honorable member for Wentworth. It is the experience of the past, the onward and upward tendency of communities, that we must regard, not small details and trivial objections as to the possibility of the Court doing this or that. For those who read the history of the nation, there is but one conclusion, that what Parliament has done for the safety of the King's highway, it can do for the improvement of the relations of trade and commerce. Our knowledge of the past should make us hopeful for the future.

Mr Kelly - In the past arbitration legislation has been tried and abandoned.

Mr EWING - Before leaving the historical argument, I will grant one thing to. honorable members opposite, that nothing entitling the doer to high position in the eyes of posterity has ever been done by men to whom an eight hours day or similar privileges were of any importance. Everything worth doing has been done by men of ability and strength of purpose, who gave their whole lives to their task. When the Minister for Home Affairs was an explorer, did he bother about the eight hours day ? No. He did his work when he could do it. So with the inventors. Those men who have taken a high position in the world stand before us as beacon lights to show us that what we have to do should be well done. They have totally disregarded legislation of this kind, and they have thrown their whole life into the work ready to their hands. Do honorable members suppose that the position of Speaker of an assembly such as this was ever achieved by working only eight hours per day ? It could not be attained except by -bringing a trained intellect to bear upon the acquirement of information, and by working to the full limits of physical endurance and mental power. Everything that has placed a man above his fellows has been accomplished by working for longer hours than the democratic party would now permit. It has been a case of the survival of the fittest. All our ablest generals, all our best explorers, all our most capable inventors, all our most gifted musicians who have left behind them symphonies to charm the ears of millions, have done their work strenuously, and without any regard to legislative restrictions upon labour. In this connexion I am reminded of the conditions of daily life in some parts of Australia, in the description of which I shall probably be borne out by the honorable member for Gippsland. Along the eastern seaboard of Australia, in New South' Wales, and along the southern seaboard of Victoria, are great' forests. There, as soon as the morning breaks and the mists lift sufficiently to enable the axeman to see where his axe will fall, he is at work, at which he continues all day long. When twilight comes, and the work of felling timber can no longer proceed, the sound of hammers may reverberate through the forests nailing the slabs which have been hewn throughout the day. These are no eight-hour men. The honorable and learned member for Illawarra knows how men, such as I have described, have performed their work. Although these men have triumphed by their resolution, their vitality, and strength of industry, not one of them would say that we should permit men and women to stand for fourteen hours a day without a seat behind counters in the city. They would agree that factory legislation was necesary to ameliorate the conditions of the workers in the city, and would say that the capital and labour, which form our two great national assets, should not be allowed to tear each other to pieces. Every one of them would say that Parliament should do its best to bring about industrial peace. A passing reference to the statement that we are doing well enough will not be out of place. Are we doing well enough ? The honorable member for North Sydney, one of the most intelligent and modest representatives in this House, .is under serious apprehension as to the cost of the proposed Arbitration Court. Li he aware that the Commissioners for Labour in the United States report that from 1880 to 1900, 22,793 strikes occurred, which affected 117,509 establishments?

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I say that the Bill will not have the effect of preventing strikes.

Mr EWING - What would the honorable member do if he saw two persons fighting; would he not endeavour to stop them? I have already stated that we should proceed in this matter with great caution, but I hold that we should not be turned aside from the object which we desire to attain by any consideraton as to the cost of establishing the proposed Court. The loss to the workmen through strikes in America for the period indicated amounted to £55,000,000, whilst £24,500,000 was lost by the employers, the total loss being £79,500,000. The honorable member has stated that it will cost a great deal to establish the proposed Court, and I am endeavouring to show what will be the cost if we do not create such a tribunal.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I contend that we shall still have strikes.

Mr EWING - We should at least do our best to prevent them. The South Wales miners' strike in 1898 kept 100.000 colliers idle for five months. The great mining dispute which was settled by Lord Rosebery kept idle 300,000 men for many weeks, and involved a loss of millions of money. The cotton strike in Lancashire extended over twenty-two weeks, and threw 50,000 men out of employment for that period. The great engineers' strike in 1897 involved a loss of wages to the men of £3,255,000 ; the union pay, levies and loans amounted to £925,000, the savings expended represented ,£500,000, and the loss to the employers amounted to £5,776,000, the total loss amounting to £10,356,000. Surely honorable members will see that this matter is of sufficient importance to demand our serious attention. I have obtained these figures from the Hon. W. P. Reeves, the very able Agent-General of New Zealand. I express no opinon with regard to them, but Mr. Reeves is inclined to think that the estimate of £10,356,000 is rather too high. I do not propose, however, to quote Mr. Reeves' comments, because, perhaps, he may be regarded by some honorable members as too democratic. The strike of glass-blowers at Charleroi involved a loss of £400,000, and many other instances might be quoted in the same connexion.

Mr Wilks - Then there was the great maritime strike in Australia in 1890.

Mr EWING - Exactly. In dealing with a matter of this kind, it is only necessary for us to draw upon our own experience. . Let us assume the existence of a strike in connexion with the ferry service from Sydney to North Shore, and imagine the most conservative of men coming down to Milson's Point, with the intention of going across, as usual, to his office in the-city.. The ferry employes would tell him that they did not intend to work, and the employers would inform him that the boats were not to run. What would he say ? He would ask - " Do you mean to tell me that I am not to be conveyed to my office, because you are quarrelling as to the conditions upon which the boats shall run ? Do you not see that you are interfering in a public matter ?" Would not that conservative citizen consider it right for the State to refuse to allow such men to strike, and to insist that the work should go on for the benefit of the public, who have to pay for it? After all, who' pay the wages of the ferry-boat employes, and the dividends to the shareholders in the companies? The public.

An Honorable Member. - Who pay the calls ?

Mr EWING - The public pay them every time. The matter is a public one, and the community should not be made to suffer whilst two parties throw stones at each other, and hit the public with most of the missiles which leave their hands.

Mr Wilks - The honorable member might point to the fact that the Arbitration Court in New South Wales prevented a strike of the kind, to which he is now referring, not more than three months ago.

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