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Tuesday, 5 June 1928

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) .- I feel something like the old Roman gladiators who, saluting Caesar, said, " W e who are about to die salute thee, Caesar." For Caesar, I substitute the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) who, though he has had a very large experience of the law, has but a very limited experience of trade unionism. While his intentions may be good from his own point of view, I am sure that he must recognize that every honorable member on this side of the House is opposed to the measure, and that there are amongst us battle-scarred veterans in the ranks of unionism. The only honorable member on the other side of the chamber who has had great experience of unionism, both as a member and as a leader, has endorsed the opinions which have been voiced on this side. I, myself, may not have a directly personal experience of unionism, but I do know something of the labour conditions which existed in Melbourne in former years. Any one who cares to go into the splendid library in this House, and study the records of Labour's battles, even during the span of my life, will know something of what the workers have had to endure. I look upon trade unionism as one of the greatest factors for progress and the uplift of humanity that exists in the present stage of our civilization. It is a movement even greater than the friendly society movement, the aim of which is to protect members from the extortionate charges of the medical profession. In passing, I should like to know whether this clause would apply to the medical men who, in cowardlly fashion, struck for higher fees when the members of the friendly societies were fighting at the Front for the liberty of Australia and of the British race. Probably it would not; but if it is passed, and there follow the ill effects which have been prophesied, upon honorable members of the other side the blame must lie. Let me refer, if I may, to the action of Sir William Irvine, now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court' of Victoria, who as Premier of Victoria, brought in an industrial bill more drastic* than any measure ever passed under the name of an Irish coercion act. In the longest speech which I ever made, one lasting for five hours, I compared that bill with the Irish coercion act, and gave the British Parliament credit for not having made its act more severe. It was introduced on the very day that the remains of the unfortunate Burke and Cavendish were buried; yet its penal clauses were a mere bagatelle compared with those in the act for which Sir William Irvine was responsible. The Victorian act provided that any one who dared to assist the wives and children of strikers would be visitedwith imprisonment, and if ten men met on a street corner, they could be gaoled.I told Sir William Irvine on the floor of the State House that, law or no law, I would break that provision, because, while I have never recommended a strike, yet when a strike is once declared, I shall help the women and children - and the men, too - as much as I can. The weapon of the strike has done much to lift the human race upward towards the goal of civilization. What was the fate of SirWilliam Irvine's act? It was repealed by the Legislative Council of Victoria, the most conservative second chamber in any legislature in Australia. That chamber came to a unanimous decision to repeal it, but before that was done Mr. Prendergast - now Chief Secretary for Victoria - marked Sir William Irvine for all time with the name of "Iceberg" Irvine. He embedded in the Victorian Hansard the bill as it was introduced by Sir William Irvine. This was a measure for which Sir William Irvine claimed political credit, yet as soon as he removed to the sphere of Federal politics, it was thrown out with contempt.

Mr RODGERS (WANNON, VICTORIA) - It was recalled.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - It was unanimously repealed by both Houses. I remember when there were no arbitration acts or wages boards. I know that in the great warehouses of Flinders-street, and in Sydney also, they used to pay their employees a miserable pittance; girls were supposed to be able to live and clothe themselves on 2s. 6d. a week.

Mr Seabrook - That was 50 years ago.

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - No, it was not. I can give the honorable member a copy of the report of the late Mr. Harrison Ord, which bears out my statement, dated 1st June, 1889. What I have here is copied from that report, and if any honorable member can show that I have incorrectly quoted a single line he may name any hospital he likes for a life governorship. The great warehouses, from Sargood and Sons to Beith, Schiess and Co., paid their girls 2s. 6d. a week. They were so generous that they paid them 2s. 6d. a week on Saturday morning, and then made them pay it back on Monday morning under the pretence that they were teaching them a trade. I shall read the words of Mr. Harrison Ord, then Chief Inspector of Factories for Victoria, and no one can say that these are the words of a Labour man -

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN - (Mr. Duncan-Hughes).- Does the honorable member propose to connect these remarks with this clause, which deals with the power of the court to declare the existence of a strike or lockout?

Dr MALONEY (MELBOURNE, VICTORIA) - A lockout would have been declared if the girls in these factories had refused to accept the 2s. 6d. per week. Mr. Harrison Ord reported -

The kind employer will then say that instead of insisting on the money down, he allows her to return to him on Monday the 2s. (id. he pays her on Saturday. He explains it is out of consideration for the poverty of the poor girls' parents he allows her to pay hispremium in this way. It is doubted if the above statement would be credited but for the fact that the system has become somewhat public through prosecutions for the very offence described above. If one thing is more offensive than another, it seems tobe the practice of such deeds as the above under cover of " kindness " to the poverty of a poor girl's parents or the poor girl herself. Others charge a premium monthly.

The principal credit for the reform that followed the publication of that report may be justly given to my old friend, Sir Alexander Peacock. If the Government seriously desires to establish industrial peace, why does it not adopt the Denmark law? An industrial dispute in Denmark is referred to a court presided over by a pacificator, who is sworn to make peace between citizen and citizen. I suggest to the Attorney-General that those who preside in our Arbitration Courts should take a similar oath. Before the pacificator no lawyer is permitted to appear; but if either party is not contented with his decision the case may be carried to a higher court where the parties may be represented by lawyers, who, however, are restricted to the evidence already given in the lower court ; no fresh evidence may be adduced. Consequently, all cases are settled with expedition and satisfaction to those concerned. Although I am willing to credit the Attorney-General with good intentions, I am confident that this bill will not realize his hopes of it. He would be well advised to postpone this objectionable clause so that it may be further considered. The law can become a great power of oppression. In the past the laws invariably favoured the man with the heaviest purse. I do not suggest venality on the part of the judges of to-day; but the man with the most money is able to employ the brightest intellects at the bar, and thus has an advantage which is denied the poor man. In the judicial firmament the record of the late Chief Justice Higginbotham shines out like a star on a summer's night. Thanks to him, the words master and man have almost disappeared from our statutes; the words, employer and employee, which he substituted, are now in general use, and are in themselves a monument to his greatness and sympathy. In Australia are many employers whose workers never have to resort to the strike. Ford. the greatest industrialist of America, was told that he could never cope with the unions ; but he did so, and I am certain that if he were controlling a shipping service he would not allow the wages of an extra assistant cook to cause the hold-up of a whole industry. Although I have realized at times the need for strong measures I have never advocated a strike. This bill will create a great deal of trouble, and I -wish that it could be submitted to a referendum of the people, or, alternatively, to a vote by an equal number of representatives of employers and employees. Although I have studied unionism a great deal I do not profess to understand it as thoroughly as do union secretaries and others who have been in the industrial movement all their lives. I have the friendship and loving regard of many union secretaries ; I know them as friends and comrades who would not lie to me. I have never met one who desired a strike; dozens of them have, within my knowledge, done their best to prevent strikes. If they were consulted more freely industrial troubles would be fewer. The problem of industrial unrest is one which has baffled all of us; even the keen brain and wide knowledge of the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) have been unable to devise a solution of it. It is the most difficult problem that we have to face to-day. The only words of hope that I can give are that I do not believe that we shall go backward. I have studied the conditions of humanity as they exist to-day, and as they were when I was born, 74 years ago. I have confidence in my fellowmen, and in that

Divine Presence that controls and ministers to us. I believe that humanity will continue to advance and that tradeunionism, with its great thought and help for humanity, will assist us to achieve that standard of civilization which we all hope to attain.

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