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Saturday, 9 June 1928


Mr GREGORY (SWAN, WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The two could not work together.


Mr KILLEN - They may not, but I am hopeful that if conciliation committees were set up they would be effective in settling many disputes. The system that I propose is similar, in many respects, to that of the United States of America. I know that different American States have different methods, but voluntary conciliation and round-table conferences are common. This matter is referred to in the report of the industrial delegation to the United States of America, from which I should like to quote several extracts. First let me point out that in a report submitted to the Delegation by the Secretary of Commerce of the United States of America there is the following suggestive sentence: -

The high standards of living enjoyed by the American people are the result of steadily mounting per capita productivity. 0" page 25 of the report of the Delegation, under the heading, "Relations Between Employer and Employee," the following passage appears: -

An important part of the management is the conduct of industrial relations between it and the working force, and it would appear that strikes and lockouts in manufacturing industries are diminishing.....

The effort of employers generally to understand the wants and requirements of their employees, and, on the other hand, the readiness of the employee to grasp the idea of the employer that the interests of both are identical is very pronounced. *

That indicates clearly what is taking place in the United States of America, a country in which there is no compulsory arbitration. Disputes there are settled by conciliation and friendly argument at the round table, and the old methods have been p'ractically abandoned. On page 26 of the report the following paragraph appears: -

In many industries the militant domination is being supplanted by constructive activity in the form of union-managements co-operation. Wherever we found this operating there were undoubted proofs of contentment amongst the workers and management, and prosperity with progress in the industry.

Many unions and the American Federation of Labour apparently subscribe to the view that it is better to convert money, that previously was spent in fighting, into studies of what an industry can pay under proper organization brought about by co-operation between managements and the trade union movement. As a result we found strongly organized unions employing technicians, professors and consulting engineers, engaged on research work for the unions.

This system, where it obtains, has aroused and maintained the interest of employees, who to-day feel as though they have " invested " their labour - their all - in the industry and are anxious that it should prosper. They appear to feel that they have a voice in the management or control of their industry and arc anxious to assist. They no longer object to the introduction of more efficient machinery and methods. They welcome scientific management and encourage amongst members increased production, which cheapens the product and thus makes it available to many more of their fellows.

Silting suspended from 1245 to 2.15 p.m.


Mr KILLEN - On page 30, the report states : -

Tables taken from the American Labour Year-Book for 1927 show that in 1917 there were 4,450 disputes reported in all industries. In 2,325 cases the number of workers affected was given, the total being'1,227,254. The number of disputes together with the number of employees affected has gradually reduced until in 1925 the disputes totalled 1,301. In 1,012 cases the number of employees affected was given, which gave a total of 428,218 indicating a reduction by one-half at least. . . Wage earners per thousand of the population in 1925 were 16.1 per cent, fewer than in 1919; nevertheless, there was an increase of 25 per cent, in the quantity of goods produced.

That shows how co-operation, voluntary conciliation, round-table conferences and friendly argument, instead of compulsion, have led to a reduction in the number of disputes, and brought about a large increase in output. Again, on page 32, the commission reported : -

Arbitration as it is known in Australia does not exist in the United States of America. The number of industrial disputes which occurred throughout the United States of America caused a great majority of the State legislatures to enact laws designed to prevent cessations of work, caused by strikes or lockouts. Not only are the objectives of the various measures similar, but in all cases the methods closely resemble one another. A feature common in all such laws is the absence of any provision compelling the parties to submit the matter in dispute to a third party, but, instead, they authorize a " body " to intervene and endeavour to persuade the parties to meet in conference and thereby reach a settlement; further, in the event of such conference failing to eventuate or to reach a settlement, to persuade the parties to agree to a settlement by arbitration. . . . There is a provision in the law that work shall continue and the relations between employer and employee shall continue unaltered by either party until the Commission, Board, or Arbitration ends its jurisdiction, which jurisdiction is always limited to a specified number of days after the hearing of evidence.

On page 34, the report states: -

The most popular method of settling disputes is by the parties meeting, selecting their own Arbitrator, and entering into working agreements. Many of such agreements provide for the appointment of Arbitrators for future requirements.

There is undoubted hostility to any form of compulsory arbitration - that is, any law compelling parties to submit their troubles to a permanent tribunal for settlement.

Professor A. H. Tocker, who holds the Chair of Economics at Canterbury College, Christchurch, New Zealand, has made a special study of the compulsory arbitration system in New Zealand. In the course of a lecture, delivered in Sydney in February last, he stated, in referring to the coal industry: -

Australia, with arbitration, is having in that industry, infinitely more trouble than America is having without arbitration.

In that I quite agree with him. We have a good deal more industrial trouble here than the United States of America has. Professor Tocker went on: -

Some claim that arbitration has raised wages. Wages have been raised but prices have risen, too, and what matters to the worker is not so much the amount of money a man gets as the amount of goods he can buy with the money he gets. It is the purchasing power that really counts. Statistical investigations in New Zealand indicate that real wages now are no higher than in 1900, and the rise in Australia, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, has been comparatively slight. Though it may be true that the court has raised wages, prices have also been raised, and the worker in New Zealand is no better off. In the United States, the purchasing power of wages, or the amount of goods which can be bought with wages, is estimated at 25 per cent, greater in 1925 than in 1914. During the last few years, there has been a very decided rise in the workers' purchasing power there. Wages have gone up, and prices have gone up, but wages have gone up far more than prices. In a country where labour conditions are practically unregulated, wages have risen very greatly. In our country, where we have strictly regulated conditions, real wages have not risen.

In face of the testimony of the Australian Delegation to the United States of America, on which both sides in politics were equally represented, there is ample room for inquiry into the wisdom of continuing the present system. The report showed conclusively that the workers in America are much better off with the voluntary system of arbitration, with co-operation, conciliation and round-table conferences, coupled with payment by results, than are the workers in Australia.


Mr Perkins - Is that not due more to the attitude of the American people than their arbitration laws ?


Mr KILLEN - I think that the absence of compulsion in arbitration has a good deal to do with their success industrially, and I do not know why honorable members opposite do not recommend the workers to adopt the American system. I do not believe that compulsory arbitration has reduced industrial strife in Australia; it has rather increased it. Under a system of voluntary conciliation and arbitration there would be fewer disputes, because compulsion tends to antagonize the two parties, and produces a frame of mind in which they are not likely to settle their disputes amicably. I do not understand the attitude of the Opposition.

Most honorable members opposite must be regarded, I should think, as being in favour of compulsory arbitration ; but the speeches of a number of them would lead us to a different conclusion. I notice that the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) said that if conciliation committees were appointed they would be preferable to arbitration. The honorable member, I take it, means compulsory arbitration. If so, I am in agreement with him; but it appears that he is not in favour of compulsory arbitration.


Mr Charlton - Oh, yes!


Mr KILLEN - The speech from which I have just quoted does not indicate it. The honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. E. Riley) remarked that we should use our best efforts to bring about harmony and peace in industry, but not by . force of law. With that, also, I agree. The honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Theodore) said that the basis of arbitration should not be an appeal to force, but an appeal to reason. To my mind, that is directly opposed to compulsory arbitration.


Mr Anstey - What happens when a conciliation committee does not come to an agreement?


Mr KILLEN - The parties must then fight the matter out. In any case, that often happens even under the system of compulsory arbitration. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) stated only last night that there should be more conciliation, and he gave it as his experience that round-table conferences usually led to the settlement of disputes.


Mr Fenton - I said nothing about round-table conferences, but I am a strong believer in conciliation.


Mr KILLEN - So am I, but I do not know how the honorable member reconciles his present statement with his advocacy of compulsory arbitration.


Mr Anstey - The majority of disputes to-day are settled by conciliation, and not by compulsory arbitration.


Mr KILLEN - We require a system that will bring conciliation into more general use. I should like to see it made the leading feature of this bill. It should be moulded much more than it is on the lines of the legislation of Canada and the United States of America. Th, workers in the United States of America under voluntary arbitration, co-operation, and the system of payment by results, now actually own thirty-six banks that have a total capital of £25,000,000. They are also large shareholders in many of the leading manufacturing businesses, and in some cases I think that they hold a controlling number of shares.


Mr Fenton - The control still remains with the employers.


Mr KILLEN - That may be so in practically all cases, but the workers hold very large interests.


Mr Fenton - The workers in Australia put their surplus money into the savings banks.


Mr KILLEN - But a system that has brought about remarkable results in the United States of America is surely worth trying in Australia.


Mr Gregory - The workers could have almost owned the coal mines to-day, if they had liked.


Mr KILLEN - Yes. A system of conciliation and round-table conferences would prevent most of the strikes, and, coupled with payment by results, would enable the workers to attain a position equal to that of the employees in America. The amendment of the clause in the manner that I propose would bring it more into consonance with the system obtaining in Canada and the United States of America.







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