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Wednesday, 1 June 1904

Mr HUGHES (West Sydney) (Minister of External Affairs) . - Trie right honorable member for East Sydney has occupied his time very profitably, and now has to leave the chamber in order to catch his train. I do not desire to speak at length upon the present occasion, because everything that he said was coloured by the obvious bias that is very natural to gentlemen occupying his position. I desire, however, to say a few words in reply to the accusation which has been levelled against the Government by all and sundry, that we have abandoned the position which we lately took up. The honorable and learned member for Wannon, the honorable member for North Sydney, and others, with one accord - like the cherubim and seraphim - continually do cry that we have given up that to which we formerly held fast. The question is - " Is the accusation based upon fact " ? What was the position which the Government formerly took up? We said that we were in favour of all the public servants of the Commonwealth and of the States participating in the benefits which will be conferred by the operation of anis Bill. To-day it is alleged that we claim something short of that, though how far short our critics are not quite agreed. Some urge that we have fallen very farshort, and others a little short, but all are agreed that we have fallen something short. I propose to show that we have not fallen short at all. The right honorable member -for East Sydney had a good deal to say about our abandonment of principle. Unfortunately he is not present now, and, therefore, the reply which naturally springs to one's lips must remain unspoken. When, however, the time comes for him to fire - not these little crackers, but his big gun - we shall be ready enough to give (him a fitting reply. Just now I propose to deal with his arguments, because all that he had to say in reference to our abandonment of principle, and. our assumption of a virtue that is rather annoying to persons who occupy a less elevated position, is entirely beside the question. This "Bill is introduced by virtue of sub-section xxxv. of section 51: of the Constitution, -which empowers the Commonwealth Parliament to legislate upon matters affecting -

Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.

It is under powers which are derived from that sub-section that we are enabled to submit this measure. . So far, so good. This Bill is introduced in accordance with that power, and its title recites that it is " A Bill for an Act relating to Conciliation and Arbitration for the prevention and settlement of Industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State." That is to say, it repeats the identical words of the subsection in question. I now come to paragraph b of clause 4, and to the amendment which is proposed by the Government. We desire to insert after the word " State " the words, " including disputes in relation to employment upon State railways, or to employment in industries carried on bv or under the control of the Commonwealth or a State, or any public authority constituted under the Commonwealth or a State." Let us deal with the matter fairlv. Under the Constitution it cannot be denied that we are expressly and severely limited by the terms of sub-section xxxv. of section 51. Secondly, under the Bill we are limited to the order of leave. It is not our Bill, but that of a previous Government. The order of leave goes as far as sub-section xxxv. of section 51 of the Constitution will allow, because it repeat's word for word the terms of that pro vision. It will thus be seen that the order of leave and our powers under the Constitution coincide. The question is - Do we stop short only at the obvious restrictions imposed by the Constitution, or do we not set up further barriers? Do we exclude even one individual, who under any interpretation of the sub-section could' be brought under the Bill? If we do, we have fallen far short of that which we urged should be done ; if we do not, then all this criticism, and the accusations which have been made against us, fall to the ground. But what do we say ? We set forth that the Bill shall apply to Commonwealth and States servants employed in any industry. Apart from his personal criticism, which may be passed by for the time being, the right honorable member was not singular in his remarks. I shall be ready enough to reply to them when the time comes, and I think that no one would accuse me of hesitancy in that respect. But the right honorable member said what other honorable members had urged. Let us see if we have excluded one human being from this Bill. If we have not, I should like to know what all this pother is about. We propose to confine this provision to persons engaged in an " industry," and what is the meaning of industry as defined in the . Bill? It means any -

Business, trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling, service, or employment, on land or water, in which persons are employed for pay, hire, advantage, or reward, excepting only persons engaged in domestic service.

So far as I am aware, only one honorable member has ventured to suggest that we have forgotten that exceedingly deserving section of the community - the domestic servants.

Mr O'malley - We must provide for them in the Bill.

Mr HUGHES - I freely admit that we have forgotten them ; but we never proposed either on the 19th April last, or any day prior to that date, to include them in this measure. Therefore, while we have fallen short of the ideal, we have not fallen short of our pledges. Can. any honorable member point to any individual in the Public Services of the States or the Commonwealth, or in the railway services of the States, who does not come within this definition? If no such case can be brought forward, all this pother falls to the ground. Is a clerk outside the definition.? My right honorable friend, the member for East Sydney, who spoke of the ineffable snobbishness - "ineffable" is a favorite word of his - of making distinctions between one kind of civil servant and another, will perhaps answer this question. Failing the right honorable gentleman, the honorable member for Wentworth may do so for him. . Let us hear the opinion of the honorable member upon whom has fallen the mantle of Elijah. I am not certain, for the moment, whether it was Elijah or Elisha from whom the mantle fell ; but I think that it must have been the mantle of Elijah which fell upon the honorable member, because he went up in a chariot of fire. I appeal to the honorable member to name one of these individuals who are said to be outside the scope of the measure. A clerk obviously comes within it. A man who is employed as a clerk is engaged in a calling, service, or employment, and any one of these is an " industry " within the meaning of the Bill. This shaking of would -he venerable heads on the part of honorable members' opposite is idle. The honorable member for Wannon assumes a wisdom which his years will not permit him rightly to affect. He affects an air of indignation which a man of his amiable and cheerful disposition; is incapable of even pretending to assume ; but I would ask. again, what men are excluded from the Bill? I question very much whether even the Commissioners are excluded.

Mr Kelly - Is not the honorable and learned -gentleman dealing rather prematurely with a clause that has not yet been brought under our consideration ?

Mr HUGHES - This is the unkindest cut of all. We have been listening for two days - it seems two years - to the onslaught made upon us by honorable members opposite, on the ground that we have departed from the line which Providence had hewn out for us, and now we are told that we are prematurely replying to their attack. After listening to his onslaught, which was limited only by your ruling, sir, we are told by the honorable member, that we are premature in our reply. He accuses us of being false to our pledges. The honorable member for Wannon and others have made the same charge, and now this latest recruit asserts that our reply is premature. I do not think that it is. Those who are familiar with the facts will say that in view of the patience with which this Government, consisting, as it does, of honorable members for the most part new to Ministerial work, have listened to this torrent of abandoned criticism - abandoned in its freedom, not from the restraint that a sense of decency should impose, but from that which a sense of what is applicable to a new Government should impose - honorable members opposite should have dealt tenderly with us. They should have carefully examined the position. They should have asked themselves, "Are. these Ministerial babes making the error which on the surface they appear to make?" and if, after diligent examination, they considered that we were, they might have said, " Let us give them the benefit of the doubt." Had we stood many times in the pillory of public opinion instead of on this occasion only, they could not have accused us more harshly than they have done. The honorable member for Wentworth last night commenced an harangue which was happily frustrated - I will not say by your ingenuity, Mr. Chairman, but by your very convenient decision that the honorable member could not proceed on the lines adopted. For that I am sure we were all very thankful ; but the honorable member for Wannon started with a tremendous philippic. Then the honorable member for Franklin said, in effect, that the position taken up by us was terrible, while other honorable members attacked us in a remarkable way. I repeat, once more : " Let us hear of the men who will be omitted from the Bill under the terms of this amendment. Let us hear of a public servant who can. say, ' You have omitted me from the Bill.' " What is his name? Is he a postman or a man in the clerical or general branch of the service? Is he employed in the service of one of the States? Is he a draftsman? What is he that he does not come within the terms of the definition to which I have referred ? If no such man can be pointed out, why should honorable members waste an enormous degree of energy in attacking us because we have altered the phraseology of the amendment in order to keep it in harmony with the whole scope of this measure? In every place in which it may be conveniently done, the terms of the sub-section of the Constitution under which we gain the right to proceed, are followed in the Bill.

Mr Mcwilliams - If it covers every individual, why do the Government particularise railway servants ?

Mr HUGHES - I am endeavouring to point out that if the provision covers everyone, it is unnecessary for the honorable member and others to waste so much energy in bewailing the alleged fact that others have been left untouched.

Mr Kelly - Why specify any particular class ?

Mr HUGHES - Because every Government has a right to frame its amendments in any form it thinks fit. We have selected a course which seems to annoy the honorable member by reason of the fact that it covers all that we desire to do, or ever set out to do, and still leaves no loophole for honorable members opposite. It cannot be said that it is ultra vires, because so far as this particular point is concerned it is obviouslv within the scope of the Bill.

Mr Mcwilliams - That is not the reason that was given bv the AttornevGeneral.

Mr HUGHES - All that I can say is that the amendment as proposed by us in effect gives to every man who is engaged in an industry - and an " industry " means any

Business, trade, manufacture, undertaking, calling, service, or employment on land or water - the right to come under this Bill.

Mr G B EDWARDS (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Even the common hangman.

Mr HUGHES -Ido not know whether it does; but it includes every person who can come within the scope of the Bill. If honorable members opposite take exception to the wording of the amendment, let . them do so ; but to take exception to the scope of the measure is more than they are able to do. I repeat most emphatically that I am not prepared to exclude even one human being from the operation of this Bill ; that I am prepared now, as I always was, to include every one.

Mr Lonsdale - Then why exclude domestic servants?

Mr HUGHES - Any one would imagine that honorable members who have just been interjecting in chorus have been advancing opinions of which they are ashamed, and to which they do not desire to make converts. If it be a fact that we have slightly gone over to their side there should be rejoicing among them. Instead of that, they are plunged in a great grief, and almost into confusion, by reason of the fact that they believe, or say,' that we have gone a little towards their way. of thinking. What did the right honorable member for Swan say? He said that he was very sorry to see that we had abandoned our principles ; that, for his part, he was. opposed to the inclusion of either Commonwealth or State servants, but that he was sorry that we proposed to exclude some of these officials for the benefit of the measure itself. Many honorable members have expressed the same opinion, while others agree that the public servants of the Commonwealth and of the States should be included, but disagree with the form of the amendment. I can deal with the latter section, but I cannot deal with those who say that we do not agree that the public servants of the States should be included, and then accuse us of excluding a few of them. The honorable member for Wannon stands up as the champion of State rights - he is a self -constituted champion, but nevertheless remains firm in his support of that principle. He asserts that he does not believe in the inclusion of even one public servant, and the honorable member for Corangamite, who holds the same opinion, was nevertheless most pathetic in his references to our alleged abandonment of principle.

Mr Wilson - I was- not pathetic; I expected it.

Mr HUGHES - If I have done the honorable member an injustice by including him among those who think that no public servant should be dealt with in this way, I shall withdraw the remark, and say that he stands on a pinnacle so fine that there is room upon it for no other man. So far as I can see, we have simply followed the terms of the sub-section, which have been observed wherever possible in this Bill. In the order of leave the terms are repeated word for word. Wherever -possible it ought to be done, and has been done, and we have merely done it in this particular connexion. Further, as to what constitutes an industry there can be no doubt. We do not propose to amend the definition of " industry " in the interpretation clause, in so far as it concerns business, trade, undertaking, calling, service, or employment. It will be wide enough to include everybody. Therefore, I ask honorable members to be a little more careful before they again accuse the Government of having abandoned our principles. Let them be candid enough to admit that they are unable to put their finger upon one person in the Public Service of the Commonwealth or a State who is excluded under the amendment now before the Committee, but who would have been included under the amendment of the honorable member for Wide Bay.

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