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Wednesday, 6 June 1928

Mr YATES (Adelaide) . - I again emphasize my opposition to this clause, which, as I have stated previously, is a provocative one. It is not framed within the powers of the Constitution. It purports to prevent industrial trouble, but, instead, it will generate and extend it. Practically every honorable member on this side of the committee has been employed in industry and has a comprehensive knowledge of its ramifications. He knows the psychology of the worker and realizes that there will always be differences between employer and employee, from which sectional strikes will arise. The Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Act was introduced in the endeavour to prevent industrial strikes and lockouts, and, after long years of experience, it has been brought up to a very workable standard. Now the Government proposes to alter the act and to insert a clause which cannot do other than increase industrial turmoil. It would be useless for an employee to go to the court, declare that a strike existed in an industry, and ask that the award be abrogated. What would be the advantage of that action to him? The mere declaration by the court that a lockout existed in an industry would not correct the trouble or alleviate the sufferings of the employees concerned. On the other hand, an employer could go to the court, assert that a certain section of his employees refuse to conform to the conditions attaching to his industry, and ask the court to declare a lockout either for the whole industry or a section of it. That clause helps the employer, but not the employee. The existing marine cooks' strike affords an excellent illustration. I have not the slightest doubt that had the ship-owners met the marine cooks at a round-table or other similar conference, and heard the reasons actuating their demand for additional assistance, the trouble would have been over ere this. The ship-owners would then have had some concrete knowledge as to the reason for the unrest. This clause simply invites unscrupulous employers to take advantage of its provisions. It will enable the shipping company to approach the court, declare that the Ulimaroa is held up through the action of the men, and ask that permission be granted to them to hold up all the other steamers in order to bent the mcn into submLesion. Honorable members on this side realize that there are many employers who wish to do the right thing. This clause will be of no advantage to them. Instead of employing methods of conciliation the Government intends to allow employers to use the " big stick." This is merely an effort to make the act unworkable, bring the system of arbitration into disrepute, and so,f break it down. I may be asked what I suggest should be done. I suggest that the whole clause be deleted, and in its stead a new clause inserted. The Government will be unable to say that the Opposition has failed to offer a constructive suggestion calculated to assist in making arbitration what it should be. It will at least be on record that a suggestion along the lines urged by honorable members on this side was made. I urge that the present clause be deleted, because it is provocative and will not do what the Government and its supporters claim for it. A number of honorable members, even on the Government side, including the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), have declared that the clause will prove futile. The present dispute in the shipping industry, as well as past industrial troubles, have demonstrated the fact that industrial peace cannot be brought about by handing to the employers a big stick with which to beat the workers. My suggestion is that the Government should substitute for the present proposal a clause such as the following: -

When a lockout or strike occurs in an. industry, or in some section or part of an industry, employers or employees in which are subject to an award, the court may require representatives of the employers or employees in such industry, or part of the industry, to appear before the court immediately to decide the matter in dispute.

Mr Latham - Provision for that is already made in the act.

Mr YATES - The conciliatory sections in another portion of the act are nullified by the present clause. If a provision such as I now suggest is already in the act there can be no objection to its amplification.

Mr Latham - Sections 16 and 16a fully provide for what the honorable member wants.

Mr YATES - But the conference contemplated by section 16a has to be appointed before a dispute occurs. Sections 16 and 16a deal particularly with cases in which employees desire an alteration of the conditions of an award.

Mr Latham - That is not so.

Mr YATES - Section 16a has not been put into operation as often as it might have been.

Mr Latham - It is being given effect constantly - almost daily.

Mr YATES - Then it must be in small disputes that do not seriously disturb the public mind. I wonder if the Marine Cooks' Union was summoned to a compulsory conference.

Mr Latham - It was.

Mr YATES - Then the AttorneyGeneral is desirous of giving the employers an opportunity to do something that the court cannot do. The Government wishes to legalize the strike. I thought that a clause such as I have suggested would possibly meet what is required in this portion of the bill. The Attorney-General has made several references to job control, and a provision such as I have outlined would enable a dispute to be dealt with at the moment it occurred. The judge could hale the representatives of both sides before the court, and a settlement could be arrived at immediately just as well as weeks later, when the dispute might have extended to hundreds, of persons who should not have been affected by it. Honorable members on this side of the chamber believe in arbitration. We know that strikes are irksome to the workers ; but I will not admit that they have never won anything by means of strikes. The conditions that the workers enjoy to-day were brought about by their determination to remedy industrial evils by resorting to the strike, and convincing the public that improved conditions were desirable. The workers have succeeded with industrial arbitration to such an extent as to inspire the hope that it is now possible to meet their requirements by means of round-table conferences rather than strikes. The present clause will inflame the minds of the trade unionists. If it were put into operation it would cause more industrial trouble than has been occasioned by any other legislation. The clause should be redrafted to meet the needs of the case. The bill should aim at conciliation and arbitration instead of fostering and legalizing lockouts and strikes.

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