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Tuesday, 31 May 1904

Mr CROUCH (Corio) - I feel that, after the great speech and splendid arguments we have heard this afternoon from the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, it is almost an intrusion on my part to speak. Those of us who are here, do feel very greatly privileged to have heard it. " In regard to the very copious extracts which the honorable and learned member made from judgments delivered in Tasmania, and which he described as monumental, and such as would be stored up for years to come, certainly some of those judgments seemed to me to have the familiar ring of his own speeches in this House, just as if some of their Honours had stored their memories with words and phrases which he had addressed to this House.

Mr Deakin - That is because I quoted Marshall so much.

Mr CROUCH - Possibly so. I tried to make an interjection, of which the honorable and learned gentleman did not seem to see the point when he Avas referring to that extract from the Age. in which it was stated that, in Colorado recently, and perhaps now, 300,000 persons and£10,000,000 worth of property were affected by a strike. What I interjected was that, twelve months ago in Victoria, 1,250,000 persons and £40,000,000 worth of property were affected by a strike, I wished him to try to apply the same state of things that he wants to apply to Colorado, to prevent a recurrence of the railway strike, which threw that large number of persons out of employment and brought that vast amount of property into peril here. I must, however, do him the justice to say - and I think he did so state when he was Prime Minister - that if this were a State Parliament dealing with this subject he would include State railway servants.

Mr Deakin - Hear, hear.

Mr CROUCH - I am glad that the honorable and learned gentleman assents to that statement. But I want to take him further than that. Knowing that this Government propose to extend the area of the Commonwealth Public Service, that they intend to have a bank-note factory, a clothing factory - at least, the erection of such a factory was proposed last session, with the approval of some Ministers - and a tobacco factory, and to increase largely the number of Commonwealth public servants in these directions, I think that we can take the late Prime Minister this far, that in order to be consistent with his statement - that if he were a member of a State Parliament, he would include State railway employes in this legislation - he should go with us to the extent of including in the Bill those men who are distinctly under our jurisdiction, and all those other phases of Commonwealth industrial life which, under the advanced socialistic and nationalistic policy of the Government, seem to be coming. Certainly the honorable and learned gentleman should be only too glad and ready, if he is logical, to include those persons in the scope of this Bill. So far as that part of the amendment I have given notice of is concerned, he should be with me. When the present Prime Minister was announcing to the House the policy of the Government, he told us then - -for the first time to my knowledge - that he would not propose to include all public servants in the Bill.

Mr Watson - I expressed a doubt on the point in September last.

Mr CROUCH - And I interjected, " Then you abandon the public servants "? His reply is not completely recorded in

Hansard,because, to the best of my recollection, he said, " Well, we do not abandon them," and then he added, "We abandon nobody. " There is no doubt that there has been an abandonment by the Ministry of public . servants, State and Commonwealth, in this matter. I need only refer to the speech which the Minister of Trade and Customs made on the 19th April last, when he was moving the amendment which, on being carried, dispossessed of the Treasury Bench the late Government -

If a Conciliation and Arbitration Act is desirable, I claim that its provisions should be applicable to the whole of the workers, irrespective of whether they are in the employ of private individuals, of the States, or of the Commonwealth. I should like to know the difference between an employe in the service of the Commonwealth and an employé in the. service of a private individual.

So that we can take it that, so far as he was concerned, he was only too agreeable to include, not only the industrial portion of the States employes, but the whole of the public servants. Speaking on the same date, to the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay, which included public servants, the present Prime Minister is reported at page 1061 of Hansard to have said -

I do not wish to do more at this stage than to say a few words with regard to the expediency of this amendment. Of course, I make no appeal to honorable members who, like the honorable member for Wannon, are opposed lock, stock, and barrel to the Bill. We cannot hope to convince them of the desirability of making the Bill harmonious and complete. We must leave them to the judgment of their consciences, and the tender mercies of the electors a little while hence. But to the other members of the House - and I am glad to say that there is an overwhelming majority in favour of the principle of compulsory conciliation and arbitration - I certainly do appeal not to leave outside the provisions of a measure which they declare to be beneficent in its action a large proportion of the members of this community. If strikes are disastrous - and I think there are but few persons in the community to-day who will not admit that they are - this measure is the best one that can be devised under present conditions to try to prevent their occurrence, I ask why should many thousands of those engaged in industries be excluded from the operation of its provisions?

Speaking on the 19th April, the Minister of External Affairs said -

We now ask that the pledges given to the people shall be respected -

I intend to ask that the pledges given to the people - the pledges . that induced me to vote against the last Ministry - shall be respected - and that the civil servants of the Commonwealth and the States, together with the railway employés of the States, shall be included in its provisions. So far as any constitutional difficulties are concerned, if they exist, I do not regard them as serious,

Here is a lawyer - the only lawyer at that time in the Labour Party - saying that he thinks that both Commonwealth and States public servants should be included in the Bill, and that he does not regard constitutional difficulties, if they exist, as serious - because in the last resort the High Court is the only tribunal which can decide the issues involved.

Afterwards the Minister of Trade and Customs spoke to the amendment. I am only referring to the speeches of Ministers. No doubt, if I were to go through the speeches of those supporters of the Government who spoke on that occasion, I should find that one after the other rose here and said, " I think that every public servant should be included; but my desire is to leave this question to the High Court to decide." I believe that all the members of the Labour Party who spoke took up that position, and supported the amendment. I find that on the 21st April the Minister of Trade and Customs summed up the position of his party, just before the vote was taken on his amendment to include public servants, in these words -

My own idea is that a Bill of this kind should contain no restrictions whatever. The limitation which is contained in clause 4 is one to which I particularly object. I hold that we ought not to insert any restriction which will have the effect of preventing the public servants of the Commonwealth and the States from coming under its operation.

I was anxious to see to what extent the present Ministry, and my late colleagues in support of including public servants in the Bill, intend to be consistent, and consequently I gave notice of an amendment for that purpose. I move -

That the amendment be amended by the insertion, after the word " employment," of the words "in the Public Service of the. Commonwealth."

At the request of the Prime Minister, and certainly without a desire to embarrass anybody, [ do not propose to strike out the subsequent words. That amendment, I think, sufficiently meets my position. A newspaper said this morning that in moving this amendment, as far as the Public Service is concerned, I am out-Heroding Herod. I think that the writer of that


statement has gone astray in his scripture, because I am really trying to bring the Government back to their position of pristine purity and consistency, so that instead of being described as out-Heroding Herod. I should rather be described as a John the Baptist.

Mr Deakin - Why, is the honorable and learned member going to have his head off ?

Mr CROUCH - I should be described as one who is trying to bring the Ministry back to that primitive state of consistency and honest conviction which 1 think they had before they got into office. As I have shown from their speeches, ever\ member of the present Ministry, except the Attorney-General, was strongly in favour of including the public servants under the Bill. I must say that it is a compliment to those of us who regard ourselves as democrats that as soon as the AttorneyGeneral, who' is a true democrat, got into the midst of the Labour Party, he was able to lead not only the Government, but the caucus as he pleased. I do not think that the Labour Party is always democratic. I think that its members are too much tied, anil that it is too autocratic in its methods for free men. The Attorney-General was able to point out, when sitting behind the late Ministry, that there was a constitutional difficulty. He is the one consistent free man in the present Government. He said definitely that the Arbitration Bill should extend to all industrial workers in the Commonwealth, but not to all public servants. But I never heard any other member of the present Government say that. Every ohe of them said - "Let us leave it to the High Court. We are quite willing to include all public servants; we do not know whether we have power to do that or not. But as a matter of expediency, let us include not merely railway men ; let us make absolutely no exceptions. Let us include every man, woman, or child who has the possibility of striking, and give them the right to come to the Court." That is the position which I intend to take up to-day. I am going to see what those honorable members who made such statements a month ago are going to do when the division is taken. I wish to know whether thev intend to be consistent or to swallow their convictions. I take it that if .the solid band of twenty-three members 'who support the Labour Party meant what they said .when they gave their pledges to their electors, and what they said when. they declared that they were sorry to turn out the Deakin Government, they will vote for my amendment.

Mr Watson - The honorable and learned member for Ballarat objects even to one public servant being included under the Bill-

Mr CROUCH - Quite so; and he has always taken up that position, but, on the other hand, the Labour Party were always claiming to be the friends of the public servants. They go upon every platform in this State and say that they are the friends of the public servants. During my election I was charged with inconsistency because I was not prepared to support everything that the Public Service demanded. In consequence of a belief that the Labour Party are the strong supporters of the Public Service, I find the railway servants selecting labour men as their candidates for election at the forthcoming State elections. The bulk of the public servants will probably support, labour men, and every labour man makes an appeal for the Public Service vote. Yet the first time the members of the Labour Party have an opportunity of showing their sincerity in this direction the Government - I hope notthe supporters of the Government - throw the public servants overboard, and say that they intend to limit the Bill to what a democrat - a man who is not in chains, and was not a member of the labour caucus - said was the true position. They will have to depend upon the votes of the Opposition, and the men they displaced, in order to carry their first division. It seems to me that the Government are anxious to get out of a difficult position by accepting a constitutional view which previously they were only too ready to reject. I am anxious to see whether, the honorable member for Melbourne Ports and others who were with me previously will be consistent in their votes on the present occasion. I desire to explain that in moving this amendment I am not acting only in the interests of the public servants. I am acting just as much in the interests of the States, and believe that' I am protecting States rights and privileges just as- much as is the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I take it that honorable members who support my amendment do not desire to support whatever the public servants want. My view is that whatever is right for an ordinary tradesman, or an ordinary employer, is equally right for the public servants of the

States. Honorable members are well aware that when the Public Service Bill was before Parliament we were inundated with letters from public servants informing us what they required, what their position was with regard to shorter hours, and higher schedules, and every thing else affecting their positions. They informed us of their opinions concerning the appeal board, for example. Every privilege which public servants claim was put before us. Occasionally the Minister in charge of the Bill made certain concessions, though he did not know what their effect was likely to be. I think that that was a very great pity. We are too unwieldy a body to deal with the Public Service of this country in a proper manner. We treat some very unjustly, and others with undue generosity. A court with assessors representing the Government on the one hand and the Public Service on the other is the proper tribunal to deal with such questions. Before such a body the Public Service could be represented by counsel, and the Commonwealth Government could also be represented by counsel. Then, instead of having the lobbying which undoubtedly took place when the .Public Service Bill and other measures of the kind were before Parliament, issues in dispute would be brought before a properly constituted tribunal, at whose hands both parties would receive justice. It may be argued that my amendment is unconstitutional, but if so I am merely in the position which the members of the Government took up previously. I am well aware that we shall be in a hopeless minority. It is impossible to expect that all of those who voted with us on the last occasion will vote with us now. But I believe that there are members of the Labour Party who, although following the Government, will not swallow their convictions simply because it is inconvenient to the Government that this amendment should be moved. ' The public servants have always been regarded as the special -proteges of the Labour Party, and those who hold that position will, I hope, vote with me, and be consistent.

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