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Wednesday, 16 May 1928

Mr GREGORY - Does he defy the law?

Mr LAZZARINI - I did not suggest that he does. I was merely inviting an expression of opinion from the honorable member for Barton, who declared that, if he had his way, he would get rid of all extremists irrespective of their political views. I am sorry that he is not now in the chamber, as I should like to hear what he has to say concerning this suggestion. There are many others of John Brown's way of thinking. They, also, would like industry to get back to the wages of 1914. Possibly they pray in secret that it may, but they have not the courage to declare themselves openly. The honorable member for Barton stated further that he had no time for those who did not support the principle of compulsory arbitration. On that point I should like to quote briefly from a little pamphlet sent, I presume, to all honorable members opposite through the post by the Metal Trade Employers' Federation.

This is what Mr. John Heine, the president of that body, said at the annual meeting in New South Wales a short time ago-

The result is that there is a great deal of unemployment in the metal trades - unemployment for which the manufacturers refuse to take any particle of blame. The employers have told both the arbitration judges and the unions that there can be no expansion in the metal trades industry, while it is shackled to old-fashioned ideas and the fetish that all machinery and metal parts must be " made " by a skilled mechanic in opposition to the " manufacturing " methods adopted by Australia's competitors beyond the seas.

This mean3, of course, that skilled men employed in the Australian metal trades should be satisfied with the pay of unskilled labour. There is a definite move on the part of this powerful employers' organization to get back to low-wage conditions. With regard to their attitude towards arbitration, I should like, also, to quote from an interesting little booklet entitled Nationalist Notes for Speakers, edited by Mr. Archdale Parkhill, now the honorable member for Warringah. When it was published the Nationalist and Country parties were in bitter opposition to each other, and the- honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), then leader of the Country party, but now the Treasurer in this Government, had declared war on the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who was then Prime Minister. If the honorable member for- Barton wishes to get rid of all those who are opposed to arbitration, he should, in view of the statement of the honorable member for Warringah, immediately take steps to get rid of every Country party member in this House. This is what the honorable member for Warringah stated, when secretary of the Nationalist movement -

On broad principles, the platforms of the National and Country parties agree in many respects. This fact alone would make the action of the Country party in coquetting with Labour inexplicable if it were not for the selfishness of the members whose only ambition is to gain the Treasury benches. One important difference in the platforms of the National and Country parties, however, is that the Country platform proposes to dispense with the force of law behind all industrial settlements. This is a conservative reaction from the acknowledged principles of liberalism for many years. To call such a policy liberalism is a farce. It is not even conservatism masquerading as liberalism.

That, in 1922, was the Nationalist party's considered opinion of the Country party. The two parties have now combined, otherwise the fight between them would be more bitter and the abuse more vitriolic. The honorable member for Barton says that the workers to-day view arbitration as a means for obtaining, not a living wage, but more and more of the profits of industry. I remind him that on nearly every occasion that the employees have placed their claims for increased wages before the Arbitration Court, they have had to give detailed evidence respecting their bare living expenses. In one instance the shop girls and typists had to give sworn evidence before the court respecting the prices that they paid for intimate articles of apparel. I wonder if honorable members supporting the Government would like their wives and sisters to be placed in a similar position. According to the press, these girls, when giving evidence, were the subject of jokes and laughter. I wish to know from the honorable member for. Barton whether he considers that those girls are receiving some of the profits of industry or a wage barely sufficient for their needs. A living wage is usually prescribed by the Arbitration Court except, perhaps, in highly skilled trades, for which a margin for skill is allowed.

I wish now to deal briefly with the bill itself. In the first place, it postulates a country seething with industrial unrest. This applied to Australia is untrue. If we were to-day in the throes of a violent industrial upheaval, while I should not support the measure, at least, I might admit that the Government had some justification for introducing it. The Sydney Morning Herald of the 30th December last published an article containing these words - " There were few strikes of importance in New South "Wales during 1927." Indeed, there were few in the Commonwealth; but according to honorable members supporting the Government, New South Wales is the storm centre of industrial unrest, and is the gatheringplace for the revolutionaries of the world ; that, in fact, some day it will be the starting place of a revolution throughout Australia. This bill can be considered only as an instrument forged by the Government to destroy trade unionism as an effective weapon for improving the conditions of its members. It is a hostile move by a hostile Government, with a vicious desire to destroy. The Attorney-General, by his speech, proclaimed himself a man blinded by bias and actuated by malice.

Mr Latham - I object to the words " blinded by malice."

Mr SPEAKER (Hon Sir Littleton Groom - I ask the honorable member for Werriwa to withdraw those words.

Mr LAZZARINI - I withdraw them. With the illogical enthusiasm of a bitter partisan, the Attorney-General sees nothing good in trade unionism, and nothing bad in the employer. He mentioned lock-outs here and there as a matter of form, but during the whole of his speech, which was a denunciation of trade unionism, there was not one word of blame for wrongdoing that could be laid at the door of the employer. The words " general good will," so frequently used by him, were so much humbug.

Mr SPEAKER - The honorable member must not use the word " humbug."

Mr LAZZARINI - I withdraw it.

Mr Latham - Had the honorable member read my speech he would have noticed that I said many things about the employers.

Mr LAZZARINI - I have read the speech carefully, and what the AttorneyGeneral said about employers was well sugar-coated.

With reference to the proposed industrial peace conference that has been referred to during this debate, the action of the Prime Minister and of the AttorneyGeneral can be likened to that of a sabre-rattling junker who opens his so-called peace negotiations with a straightout declaration of war. Proposed new section 25 repudiates arbitration by reversing a universally-accepted principle, and makes it an instrument to legalize sweating. This provision makes it impossible for industrial organizations to accept arbitration if it ceases to be a guarantee of a mere living wage. It is all very well for honorable members behind the Government to say that the bill makes no attack on the basic wage. It means what it says, and the Government intends to carry out its purpose, with the assistance of the judges of the Arbitration Court. The provisions of the bill are watertight, and in many cases the judges will be compelled to give awards below the living wage. Mr. Justice Higgins, twenty - years ago, laid down the principle that an industry, to justify its existence, must at least be able to pay a progressing living wage. The position that the Labour movement takes up is that industries that cannot pay a living wage are of no use to Australia.

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