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Friday, 17 June 1904

Mr WATSON - I may be wrong, but that is the view I take of the amendment. It is all very well for the honorable member for North Sydney to say that it is an excellent one ; but it is singular that honorable members who have, from the first, opposed the Bill, display a remarkable unanimity in the view that the amendment will be beneficial to the measure itself, from the verv outset they have welcomed every proposal to restrict this measure as a heaven-born inspiration in favour of the Bill. I do not include the honorable and learned member for Corinella in this category, because I know that he has given an earnest support to the principles of the Bill, and- am convinced that he believes he is doing right. Those who favour the passing of this Bill in an effective form are, however, naturally a little suspicious when they hear every declared opponent of it supporting the amendment.

Mr Knox - I am prepared to exclude these special organizations.

Mr WATSON - If that is the general view, and the amendment is put in that form, I shall not object to it.

Mr Higgins - We will accept that offer.

Mr WATSON - Quite so. I have not endeavoured to draw a hard and fast line. We have already indicated that we are willing to accept the amendment, provided that those engaged in transportation are excluded from its operation, and I should also like to exclude the shearers. I have drafted an amendment, that I should be willing to submit, which provides that the Court, before declaring a common nils -

Shall pay due regard to the extent to which the industries or the persons affected enter, or are likely to enter, into competition with one another.

I am in favour of indicating to the Court, to use the term employed by the honorable member for North Sydney, the lines on which we think it ought to proceed ; but why should we compel it to refrain from granting a common rule where the convenience of all parties may be in favour of it? What does this amendment mean? If the members of the shearers', seamen's, or wharf labourers' organizations desire io have a decision applied generally throughout Australia, what course will they have to pursue if this amendment be carried ? They will have to join as parties to the original dispute every employer in the industry throughout Australia, and subject them to all the inconvenience which litigation involves.

Sir William Lyne - The result of the amendment would be to cause trouble that might otherwise be avoided.

Mr WATSON - That is the point. The parties affected in the districts to which the organization in question extended would be automatically joined. If the wharf labourers had a dispute, the employers at Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, and< Adelaide would, no doubt, be joined as parties; but there are various other ports, where wharf labourers are employed, at which' no organization exists.

Mr Mcwilliams - They are very few.

Mr Hutchison - Launceston is a case in point.

Mr WATSON - Yes ; but I am speaking of all the ports on the north-west and north-east coasts of Australia.

Sir William Lyne - Then there is Devonport.

Mr WATSON - Quite so. If the amendment were carried, the unions concerned in any dispute brought before the Court would be compelled in self-defence to join as a party every employer in the industry whose name could be ascertained by reference to a business directory. It would be absolutely necessary for them to adopt that course, in order that none might be left out of the original award. If they failed to join them in the first instance, they would not be able at a later stage, when circumstances appeared to justify it, to ask that the common rule should be applied to Brown, Jones, or Robinson, whom they at first thought it advisable to refrain from joining.

Mr CrOuch - Would not the labourers at the other ports be entering into competition with those under the award?

Mr WATSON - I should like the honorable and learned member to consider that aspect of the matter. Competition between individuals, when considered from the abstract point of view of political economy, and the law of supply and demand, exists, no, doubt, to such a degree as would render the amendment of no value as a restriction. But we have to ask ourselves whether the Court would be likely, in construing an Act of Parliament, to take that abstract view of what is meant by the word "competition." In my opinion, it would regard the word " competition " as meaning, as the honorable and learned member for Corinella said last night, something

Teal, that is, tangible or substantial.

Mr McCay - Not if the word " substantial" is to be construed as meaning something large, rather than real.

Mr WATSON - Let us accept the word as meaning something real. Do honorable members think that the Court would consider the word " competition " in the amendment to refer to that abstract competition, which, under our present state of civilization, exists practically between every individual ?

Mr McCay - I will trust the Court.

Mr WATSON - The honorable and learned member from time 'to time says that he will trust the 'Court, but he perpetually misapplies the term, because he demonstrates that he will not trust it. The Government are prepared to trust to the good sense and judgment of the Court in all matters. We say that there should be practically no restrictions of the power of the Court, except those which the Constitution compels us to impose. The honorable and learned member, however, seeks to fence the Court round in such a way that it will not be able to give expression to its own opinions. It will be bound, by Act of Parliament, to refrain from extending the common rule, even although the convenience of all parties might justify that step, unless competition can be proved. I fail to see how it would be possible in the case of the seamen or wharf labourers, or, practically speaking, even in the case of the shearers, to prove the existence of competition in the sense in which that word would be regarded by the Court. The honorable member for North Sydney says that the Government have now no right to put forward this view, because the only justification we advanced for the proposal to allow of the application of the common rule was that competition would exist. That is not the only justification. It is one of the arguments in support of the principle, and I admit, a very important one, but there are other reasons. There is the question of convenience.

Sir William Lyne - - The honorable member for North Sydney is wholly opposed to the Bill.

Mr WATSON - The honorable member is one of those who has consistently opposed it. I do not object to that attitude, although it is perhaps inconvenient from the stand-point of the Government.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - What I said was that I was against the introduction of a Federal Arbitration Bill until the State Arbitration Acts had been more fully tested.

Mr WATSON - The honorable member " was against the introduction of the New South Wales Bill.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I announced that I would not repeal the State Act bv-

Mr WATSON - The honorable member was against it when it was first introduced.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Certainly, I was ; I say that it has not vet been tested.

Mr WATSON - That' is a matter of opinion.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The honorable gentleman is pointing out what he says are my views, but I am seeking to tell the Committee what they really are.

Mr WATSON - What the honorable member has said is not inconsistent with what I have attributed to him". He has always been hostile to this kind of. legislation.

Mr DUGALD THOMSON (NORTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not hostile. Mr. WATSON.- We will say, then, that the honorable member has, so to speak, adopted a policy of armed neutrality. The point which I wish to put is that the principle of the common rule, in my view, will be of comparatively little value, unless it is available to the classes of workers for whom this Bill was primarily intended ; and, secondly, that the amendment would increase the number of disputes, and the consequent expense by compelling those unions having no opportunity to take advantage of the principle of the common rule to resort to the inclusion, as original parties, of every «, employer in the industry whom they could discover. That would be a most unfortunate state of affairs. It would be much better to allow the unions to join as parties to the proceedings those who are immediately concerned, and if they wish to extend the award, to come before the Court and show cause in each individual instance. We are proposing to surround this paragraph with provisions that will insure the recognition by the Court of local conditions and every factor that ought to enter into its consideration. As showing that the Government is not adopting a hard and fast line, I would point out that we have already amended this clause in a restrictive way. Without any request being advanced by honorable members, we have substituted for the words " industry affected by the award," the words, "industry in connexion with which the dispute has arisen." That shows that we do not wish to facilitate the extension of a dispute in any under-hand way, so that it would cover every branch of the industry in the Commonwealth. We have shown a proper desire, as far as possible, to confine every dispute within its original area, and, I think, that we may, with justice, expect those who favour trie Bill, to meet us with a reasonable degree of liberality in this connexion.

Mr. McCAY(Corinella).- I shall not detain the Committee for more than two or three minutes, as I assume that the debate is nearing its close.

Mr Spence - I must speak again.

Mr McCAY - I am very sorry to hear it. I object to the assertion made bv the Prime Minister that if this amendment were carried, seamen, for example, would not be able to come under a common rule. I assert that they would. There must be two parties to a dispute among these men - the seamen, and the employers of the seamen - and, having regard to the way in which ships trade between the different ports of Australia, it is impossible to conceive of a case in which some one of the ships, under the award of the Court, would not come into competition with a ship that was not under the award. In my opinion, shearers could also be brought under the common rule, if the Court thought fit to apply it. The products of the industry of shearers are continually in competition. The common rule would also apply to coal miners, but, so far as its application to gold miners is concerned, I think that there is something to be said on either side. There is, perhaps, some doubt as to whether, under this amendment, the common rule could be made to apply to wharf labourers. But if we are to deal with specific cases and specific facts, I remind the Committee of the remark made by the Prime Minister,- that the Minister of External Affairs happens to be President of the Waterside Workers' Federation. The great bulk of the men engaged in the industry are members of the unions forming that federation, and therefore members of the organization which would be a party to any dispute brought before the Court. There would be no necessity for a common rule for them, because practically every one employed in the industry is within the organization, and would come under the award of the Court. Honorable members appear to forget that my amendment applies only to a common rule, and does not limit awards in any way. Some arguments have been directed against it, as though it would limit awards.

Mr Spence - In a great many instances awards would be of no use without a common rule.

Mr McCAY - With respect to the industry with which the honorable member for Darling is most familiar, there can be no reasonable doubt that it would come under the common rule provisions.

Mr Batchelor - If a common rule could be applied, where is the necessity for the amendment?

Mr McCAY - I remind the Committee that there is a fundamental principle justifying . the application of awards to people on either side who have not asked for them, and it is that somebody else may suffer injustice because they are not brought under a common rule. The injustice can only arise' where there is competition, and we are here only to remedy injustice. It is not a fair comment to say that this amendment would injure the Bill, whether it is intended to do so or not. It is not sufficient for the Prime Minister to say that I and others have no wish to injure the Bill, because I contend that what is proposed will not injure the Bill. We are laying down a principle which it is admitted on all sides the Court will have to apply. The Prime Minister ' says that he is willing to put in a direction that the Court must consider what I have suggested in giving a decision. He has admitted that that is one factor which should be regarded by the Court. I say that it is the fundamental basis upon which the Court should proceed. If it is wise 'to give such a direction as the Prime Minister suggests, it is only because that is what the Court ought to do. If we believe that the Court ought to do that, it is our duty as a Legislature to direct that it shall do it. When we use the expression " trust Che Court," we mean that within the limits of the authority which Ave choose to confer upon the Court we should leave it a free hand. We are doing that, but when there is a clear principle which may be laid down, and of which the Legislature approves, it is the duty of the Legislature to inform the Court of its 'approval of that principle, and of its intention that that principle shall be adhered to. I have referred to the cases of the wharf labourers, the seamen, and the miners, and I ask the Committee 'to pass this amendment to give legislative form to what practically every honorable member believes to be the true basis upon which the application of the common rule should be conducted. We shall be shirking our duty if we do not take such steps in this Bill as are necessary to carry out what we believe to be a correct principle.

Mr. HUGHES(West Svdney- Minister of External Affairs). - There is one aspect of the question to which I should like to direct the attention of the Committee in connexion with wharf labourers. Competition can hardly be said to arise betweenwharf labourers employed in Melbourne and in Sydney, or between those employed in Sydney and in Fremantle. I am not dealing with a supposititious case, and I remind the Committee that wharf labourers at Adelaide do not belong to our federation. In one port of Western Australia, wharf labourers engaged in the industry do not belong to our federation. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has said that the basic reason for a common rule, and its application, is competition. Very well, competition in what ? - o--

Mr McCay - Competition which causes the people, coming under the common rule, to be injured by being under it.

Mr HUGHES - If the rate of wages paid to wharf labourers in the port of Sydney is increased, and the rate paid to wharf labourers at Fremantle, or elsewhere in the Commonwealth, is not correspondingly increased, I ask honorable members to say whether the increase will not have a deterrent effect upon the shipping going to the port in which if operates, providing it is of such a character as will be felt bv the shippers. .Honorable members should not forget that the stevedores never pay the increase, or very rarely do so. It is the shippers who have to pay it. I will give an illustration. If men work between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., the ordinary hours, the stevedore pays the wages ; but for overtime the shipper, and not the stevedore, has to pay. It will, therefore, be seen that if an increase of wages is directed in any . particular . port, and the rule does not include all the ports of Australia, its effect will be in the nature of a direct embargo upon the shipping entering the port in which the rule applies. If a proposal, is made to increase the wages of wharf labourers in Sydney or Melbourne the Court must consider what effect it will have, or will tend to have, upon the shipping of those ports, when some other ports are excluded from the common rule, and when, under the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, on his own admission, they cannot be brought within the rule, because there is no real competition between them. Such competition as there may be cannot be said to be competition between port and nort in the sense in which we use the word here, because the persons coming before the Court are employer and employ! and the stevedore cannot say that the effect of the rule would be to decrease his "profits, because it would not.

Sir John Forrest - Would not the wages be the same in every port?

Mr HUGHES - The right honorable gentleman will permit me, with my special information on the subject, to tell him that they are not the same now. At the port of Fremantle, for instance, is. 6d. per hour is paid for work for which one lot of men receive is. an hour in the ports of Melbourne and Sydney, and another lot is. 3d. per hour. Iri the port of Brisbane for the same work they receive is. per hour, but when we go up the coast to Cooktown, I believe that the rate is is. 6d. or is od., and if we go round Cape York to Normanton the rate there is, or used to be, 2s. an hour for the same work. Yet if we exclude Brisbane, where the men engaged in this work are poorly paid, these amounts represent practically the same rate of wage. That is to say, they represent practically the same purchasing power. If there is any one of the ports excluded from the common rule the Court may say, "One of the effects of granting this very just application for increased wages in the ports of Sydney and Melbourne will be that persons carrying on business in the port of Adelaide, or some other port where the wharf labourers do not belong to the federation, will be able to handle cargo very much more cheaply than those engaged in the industry in Melbourne, and Sydney. That will naturally tend to decrease the chance of shipping going to the ports in which the increase is allowed; especially as the increase is in many cases directly, and in every case ultimately, paid by the shippers, and not by the stevedores.

Mr Ewing - That is a theoretical argument, but has it any practical bearing?

Mr HUGHES - The bearing is this : the honorable and learned member for Corinella says that there is competition in every trade but that engaged in by wharf labourers, and then he assumes that all the wharf 'labourers employed in Australia are members of the Waterside Workers' Federation. My word must be taken in this matter, and I say that some wharf labourers do not belong to the federation, and further, of those who are in the federation some may not desire to be brought under a special rule. The unions are autonomous bodies in the different ports, and they can only be brought together when they are all agreed. My honorable friend will understand that a dispute within the meaning of this Bill is a difference of opinion as to the pay that should be given or the conditions of work imposed. I point out that the Court of New South Wales was asked to increase the wages in the tailoring trade, and the application was met by the statement that, in Queensland, there was no factory legislation, and no method of increasing the wages or of determining the amount to be paid for each garment, and that, therefore, if the wages were increased, the trade would drift from Sydney to Brisbane. It has done so to some small extent. I point out that, if there is any way by which the members of the

Waterside Workers' Federation will be deprived of the benefit of a common rule, there the whole of the wharf labourers will be excluded from the Bill. Honorable members will agree that the Court may refuse to apply a common rule if in their opinion to do so would be to injure the shipping industry in a particular port. If it is the intention of the Committee to exclude wharf labourers, we should say so in set terms, but we should not pretend that it is our intention that they shall enjoy the benefits of this measure, when by the amendment it is proposed directly to prevent them from, enjoying them. So far as the wharf labourers are concerned, I earnestly ask the Committee to accept the suggestion of the Prime Minister, which is practically to the same effect as the amendment, except that it will not be mandatory in every case upon the Court to have regard to competition, and competition alone.

Mr Watson - I will propose the amendment to which I have referred if the other is defeated.

Mr HUGHES - Competition, as has. been shown, will not directly affect this particular industry, and there are others which the honorable and learned member for Corinella has perhaps* overlooked in the same position. I do say that if thismeasure was intended to benefit any one at all, it was the maritime labourers and shearers. The honorable and learnedmember for Corinella now proposes to exclude the members of a federation numbering 11,000 men from the benefits of the Bill. Perhaps more than any other, the object aimed at in this legislation was to benefit the class of men who were engaged in the great maritime strike. The Committee, after saying that it is prepared to allow maritime labourers to come under the Bill, i9 now deliberately being asked to exclude the most powerful body of them.

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