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Thursday, 17 May 1928

Mr GREGORY - Does not that happen to-day ?

Mr MAKIN - It does, but the honorable member condemns it. I also deplore that persons may be forced to become parties to an industrial dispute in respect of which they have no responsibility or voice whatever. The Labour party has consistently advocated that, so far as it is humanly possible, industrial disputes shall be settled by conciliation and arbitration. That is not the principle underlying this bill, as honorable members opposite may later discover to their Borrow. It should not be possible for a section of employees or employers to bring about a general strike or a general lockout without consulting those who must necessarily be affected by such an action.

The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) suggested that, in addition to the employers and employees, a third party should be considered in this matter. He said that there was a great body of consumers whose interests were frequently overlooked when industrial disputes occurred. Who are these consumers? The honorable member knows very well that 85 per cent, of our population are working people.

Mr Lister - Yet the Nationalist party has a majority in this Parliament.

Mr MAKIN - That was brought about by the unfair methods by which the Government conducted the last election campaign. The people were brought to a state of political hysteria. When the Labour party is accorded fair play by the press of the Commonwealth, and the people are allowed to express their views in a proper manner, the majority of which the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister) boasts will disappear. I suggest that the third body which the honorable member for Barton said should be considered does not really exist. It is a myth. The so-called middle classes in the community - the professional men, clerks, shop assistants of all grades, public servants, agriculturists, dairymen, and all settlers on the land - are really workers in just as true a sense as the wage-earner who is employed for so many hours a day in our factories, workshops, fields and mine3. I have often observed on the public platform that the body politic consists of two classes only, the workers and the shirkers. Noue of us would care to be included in the latter class. There is no justification for the' statement that special consideration should be given to the consumers when we are dealing with a matter of this description, because they are actually the great body of people known as wage-earners and wealth producers, and the very people involved and therefore do not constitute a separate class.

Many organizations and responsible people of the community, apart from those associated with trade unions have condemned this bill. The president of the Metal Trades Employers Association in New South Wales, Mr. John Heine, junior, in referring to it in a recent speech, said -

This amending bil! is merely an elaboration of the existing system totally opposed to the great call for national efficiency..... In our opinion it will only aggravate the strife, bitterness, and troubles prevailing at the present time.

He was speaking in a representative capacity on behalf of his association. I point out that his association has very little ground for complaining about judicial decisions which have affected the industries with which he is connected. Mr. Heine observed in the speech from which I have already quoted that in eight out of the nine cases in which his association had appealed against decisions of the Arbitration Court the appeal had been upheld, and that they were still awaiting the decision in the ninth case. Mr. Heine rightly points out that provocative legislation of this description must increase class bitterness and any feelings of unrest and dissatisfaction which may exist in a community. Consequently, the Government would be well advised to withdraw the bill ; otherwise it will commit a serious blunder which may have far-reaching effects upon the Commonwealth.

The bill has been introduced only to save the face of the Government. Just prior to the last election, honorable members opposite found that they had no constructive policy to submit to the people, so they resorted to the old method of stirring up political class hatred. I have grave doubts as to whether the interests which honorable members opposite represent were not directly responsible for the industrial dislocation of the nation at the time of the last election. It is a remarkable thing that just prior to almost every recent general election a serious industrial dispute has occurred. The working class of Australia would be well advised not to allow themselves to be goaded into taking extreme measures just prior to a general election, for that simply plays right into the hands of those who wish to retain political power in Australia. The working people should not permit themselves to be deceived by the promises of this Government, but should rather follow the wise and prudent advice that is given to them by the trusted leaders of labour. They should take every precaution against providing this Government with a special election placard. This amending legislation in an attempt to reconcile the conscience of the Government with its promises to the general public, who were duped and deceived at the last elections by the Government's placard of " law and order." I do not appreciate or subscribe to the principle of deportation of British or' Australian citizens, but it is remarkable that the two men who were at that time cited as being the instigators of serious industrial unrest still remain within Australia in spite of the Government's most definite pronouncements. Another gentleman who was said to foster trouble in this country has not been molested, nor has he been asked to answer in the law courts any charge. These gentlemen are too valuable an asset to the Government for electioneering purposes. When the last election was over, the Government was keenly desirous of forgetting its unsuccessful attempt at deportation, but now that another election is approaching, this legislation has been introduced with a 'view to influencing the public to return the Government under the old ' political catch-cry of law and order.

Mr Killen - Does not the honorable member believe in law and order?

Mr MAKIN - There is no need to ask me that question, and. I do not thank the honorable member for his insulting inference. Too much is said in this House by innuendo and double entente. Honor- . able members behind the Government are continually seeking to place a false construction upon the intentions of honorable members on this side. Any expression of opinion thatI make in this House can be taken by honorable members to be sincere. The bill is designed to excuse this Government before the public for its remissness in duty during the past two years, and to cause the people to believe that its object is to conserve and improve the established systems of law and order. The great body of organized labour has a sincere desire to conserve law and order, and in order to model arbitration legislation upon better lines, the Commonwealth Council of Federated Unions sent a letter to the Prime Minister in 1926 submitting a lengthy review of the Arbitration Act, and numerous suggestions to amend and perfect it in the interests of industrial peace.

Mr Latham - All the suggestions were fully considered, and quite a number of them are embodied in the bill.

Mr MAKIN - Will the AttorneyGeneral, during the committee stage, enumerate the suggestions that have been embodied in the bill?

Mr Latham - I shall do so.

Mr MAKIN - I have in my handa copy of the letter that was sent to the Government by the Commonwealth Council of Federated Unions, and, to my mind, this legislation does not embody many of the suggestions of that body, and certainly not those of major importance. During the committee stage it may be my privilege to show to what extent the tribunals of organized labour have sought to improve materially our industrial legislation. Rather than that this bill should become a coercive and oppressive weapon in the hands of the Government, the council considered that it should foster a spirit of confidence and goodwill by removing many of the anomalies which exist in the law to-day.

Mr Gregory - Was not Mr. Jock Garden among those who were responsible for those suggestions?

Mr MAKIN - No. To the best of my knowledge Mr. Jock Garden was never a member of the Commonwealth Council of Federated Unions. [Extension of time granted.]

It has been contended that this legislation will place the control of a union in the hands of its members, but I would remind honorable members that the membership of unions cannot 'enjoy greater power than they have at present, in electing their officers and determining their policy and domestic problems. The bill is designed to lead the public to believe that that is not so, and that some irresponsible body - either inside or outside the councils of organized labour - is to blame for the industrial troubles of this country. That is not so. I am a member of a trade union known as the Amalgamated Society of Engineers. It is- registered in the Arbitration Court; but we are far from satisfied with the system of arbitration, principally because of the costly procedure and long delays. We are required before taking part in industrial disputes or submitting our claims to arbitration, to hold a secret ballot, and before that can be taken, every branch of the union has to obtain the permission of the Commonwealth Labour Council.

Mr Stewart - Does that apply to all labour organizations ?

Mr MAKIN - It applies to the organization to which I belong. I believe that before an industrial dispute can be brought to the point of a strike, a secret ballot must be taken of the members of almost every organization. I do not know of a single instance to the contrary. It would be absolutely ridiculous for those in control of the labour organizations to declare a strike unless they had the support of the majority of their members, and it was on the absolute direction of that membership. In view of those circumstances the Government is not justified in trying to make the public believe that there is need to place greater control in the hands of the members of unions. In certain instances this legislation seeks to place the control of the secret ballot in an outside authority, removed entirely from the supervision of the membership. The bill does not seek to improve the relations between employer and employee, or to redress many of the industrial wrongs that are suffered by the working class. Rather it will add to the bitterness, hatred and enmity that to-day unfortunately has become far too pronounced in industry throughout Australia.

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