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Tuesday, 29 May 1928

Mr LAZZARINI (Werriwa) .- Obviously a fine of £50 is less than a fine of £1,000. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) has apparently been stressing the obvious, in the belief, possibly, that honorable members who object to the clause are under the impression that a fine of £50 is more than a fine of £1,000. In his second-reading speech the Attorney-General when dealing with this phase of the bill said -

I invite attention first to clauses 4 and 5, which deal with the penalties now provided for strikes and lockouts. The penalty at present provided is £1,000 in all cases. The Government considers that that amount is unreasonable in the case of an individual person. It therefore proposes to amend the act by providing that the penalty shall be £1,000 in the case of an organization or employer, and £50 in respect of any other person. It is a mistake to provide penalties which cannot be recovered, or which are out of proportion to the gravity of the offence.

It is of no use for honorable members supporting the Government to hypnotize themselves into the belief that the bill is more acceptable to trade unionists than the act is. The heavier penalties provided for in the act have never been enforced against the individual; therefore, it is only a specious argument to say that the penalties have been reduced. Under the bill a fine of £50 against individual members of a huge organization like the Australian Workers Union would amount, in the aggregate, to an enormous sum if the penalties were enforced. I agree with the remarks of the honorable member for Hunter with regard to the definition of a lockout. In his secondreading speech the Attorney-General said it was difficult to prove a strike but easy to prove a lockout. His statement was an admission of complete ignorance regarding industrial matters. I regret that the honorable member for Barton (Mr. Ley) is not, at the moment, in the chamber, because I wish to give him some information on this point. Not long ago the management of a mine in my electoral division wished to close down to have the machinery attended to. The men had been complaining about faulty lamps. Contending that the lamps were dangerous, they demanded that they be examined. This was done. When the pump was put on to them ten lamps went out one after the other. And he condemned the lot. The management said " We will not give you new lamps ; you must go down without them." They knew that the men would not go down, and the result was that a strike occurred. The Attorney-General would call that a strike, but I maintain that it was a lockout. The same trouble is likely to occur as the result of varying conditions in mining. The men may be working under an award, but in one or two mines, because of local conditions, the earning power of the men is reduced. The honorable gentleman says that they should go to the court and apply for a variation of the award, but before they could obtain the variation normal conditions might be restored, and the men would have no redress for their grievances. By refusing to comply with the men's request for more pay in such cases, the owners may deliberately cause a strike. In the metal trades recently there was a lockout when the employers sacked 30,000 men in order to avoid paying them for the Christmas holidays. Technically, it was not a lockout, because the men were no longer in employment.

Mr Scullin - That was done to evade an award of. the court.

Mr LAZZARINI - That is so. A somewhat similar case occurred when the seamen, obeying the award of the court, held a stop-work meeting on the day following a holiday. In this case the Monday was a holiday, and the award sets out that when the day set apart for the monthly stop-work meeting falls on a holiday, the men are entitled to hold their meeting on the day following the holiday. They did this, and their pay was stopped. Yet no proceedings were taken against the ship-owners for locking the men out, and refusing to take them back unless they were prepared to sacrifice the pay to which they were entitled. The employers at the abattoirs also deliberately flouted the award, and though a few of them were fined, the others continued to break the award, and the men had to go on strike in order to obtain their rights. I am opposed to the imposition of any penalties in connexion with arbitration, because all penal clauses are one-sided in their operation. For instance, it is practically impossible to prove a case of victimization against an employer. If an employer, for any particular reason, wishes to be rid of two or three men, all he has to do is to say that he is reducing his staff, and he can then dispense with these men's services. When the staff is increased again, they are not taken on. That kind of thing is done even on Government works.

Mr Fenton - Governments are often the worst offenders.

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