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Friday, 21 September 1928

Mr GARDNER (Robertson) .- After the explicit statement of the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), whose speech in the circumstances was a most temperate one, and the explanation of the legal aspect given by the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham), I feel that I may not be able to contribute anything of moment to the debate; but I realize that I owe a duty to my constituents, to whom at the last election I made the promise that by both voice and vote I should support this Government in any action it took in the best interests of every section of the community. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin), in response to an interjection by me, suggested that honorable members who sit on this side of the House are mute and docile followers of the Government, and are not prepared to defend their support of this measure. If the occasion should arise when I have not sufficient courage or intelligence to give reasons for any vote I cast, I hope that the electors of Robertson will look for a more worthy representative, Compared with the Leader of the Opposition I occupy a fortunate position. My actions are not being closely scrutinized by the whole of the people of Australia, nor by even the whole of my constituents. But all Australia has been waiting anxiously to see what attitude he would adopt. I venture to suggest that when the reports of his speech are circulated, the people will be sorely disappointed. A majority of them hold definitely the opinion that industrial unrest in this country, which bids fair to wreck it, is caused, not by the sane members of trade unions, but by the misleaders, the wreckers, and the disloyalists. I feel sure that .they looked to the honorable gentleman to speak out against those who are prepared not only to conduct the affairs of this union in a manner detrimental to its members, but also to bring loss and suffering upon every section of the community. Although I listened very carefully, I did not hear the honorable gentleman define his attitude towards the wreckers. I believe that when the people are asked to decide the composition of the next Parliament they will express in a most emphatic 'way their disapproval of the attitude of the honorable gentleman.

One of the strongest points made by the Leader of the Opposition does not affect the question at issue. It is the province of this Parliament to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, but I have yet to learn that it is entitled to usurp the position of a judge or a court. That is what the honorable gentleman attempted to do when he discussed the merits of the case upon which the men are relying. The point we have to decide is whether we shall stand behind the judgment of a duly constituted tribunal and maintain the supremacy of the law. The accusation has been made that the Government is attempting to do something of a sinister nature. I point out, however, that unless the bill is supported by a majority of honorable members, it has no chance of becoming law. That majority has been given to the Government by the people themselves. There is nothing extraordinary in giving the Government the power to make regulations. As the Parliament will not be sitting when they are made, those regulations will be placed upon the table of the House so soon as the next Parliament assembles. I can see nothing wrong in leaving the matter in the hands of the Executive, which, after all, represents the majority in Parliament for the time being. Possibly, our honorable friends opposite would prefer to leave matters in the hands of the misleaders of unionists, who have no regard for the welfare of the law-abiding section of the community. The people will have an opportunity on the 17 th November next to express their opinion of any action that is taken. When the new Parliament has been duly constituted, it will be the privilege of its members to either endorse or repudiate what has been done.

Reference has been made to previous legislation passed by this Parliament. I accept whatever responsibility falls upon me for having lent my support to it. It cannot be denied that the Crimes Act has done a great deal of good in coping with industrial disturbances. I refer specifically to the trouble that occurred in Queensland. The justices of the High Court apparently are in agreement with honorable members who sit opposite, and with all other rightthinking men, in holding the view that some regard must be paid to the loyalty that should exist in the ranks of members of a trade union; but they were not afraid to point out that while loyalty to unionism is a natural and very necessary thing, a still higher loyalty is that which should be shown with respect to the laws passed by a duly constituted Parliament. That is the basic principle which underlies this action of the Government. I feel sure the people will insist that the awards of a properly constituted tribunal must be observed.

Although the eyes of Australia are upon the Leader of the Opposition, he was not only silent on this momentous issue; he was not only reticent, but definitely refrained from attempting to lay the blame on those extremists who are responsible for the industrial position which is confronting us to-day. He also had very little to say concerning the effect which the unfortunate hold-up of our transport services is having upon the trade and commerce of Australia. As a representative of a country constituency, I rose more particularly to express the viewpoint of the primary producers. I do not wish to belittle secondary industries. I realize their importance, and have always supported protective duties in this House for the benefit of secondary industries; but our real wealth comes from primary production. Our overseas credits and a favorable trade balance, concerning which we have heard so much from honorable members opposite, depend very largely upon our export of primary products. Our exports of wool alone are valued at £60,000,000 to £70,000,000 annually. What will be the position of the primary producers if wool shipments are held up indefinitely? The sale of our wool clip and its export overseas results in millions of pounds sterling being returned to the growers, and it is estimated that if this unfortunate trouble continues, the loss will be equivalent to £1,000,000 a week. It is an outrage. Although it is said sometimes, in this House, that the wool-growers are the " fatted pigs," or the big men of the community, we know that the proceeds of their wool clips are frequently needed to re-establish their credit, or to enable them to make provision for periods of drought. Many of them have big overdrafts at the bank, and when trade is dislocated in this way, it sometimes means ruin. Not only exporters of primary produce, but the whole community suffers, and those who are responsible for the present industrial dispute are killing the goose that lays the golden egg. What is the position in regard to3 wheat? We have a rather poor price offering; we have to accept world's parity. There are already considerable stocks on hand; but now the market has been interrupted, buyers will not purchase because there is no prospect of getting shipments away. Transport difficulties will interfere with financial transactions in the form of credits and bills of sale, and in that respect alone from £90,000 to £100,000 will be involved by the time the wheat is shipped. I am sure it will be admitted by honorable members on both sides of the chamber that if there is one section of the community which deserves more consideration than any other it is the dairyman, who, in comparison with the hours worked and remuneration received in other industries, do not receive a fair return for the commodities they produce. Their activities are stultified. What is the use of this Parliament passing measures governing the control of exports for their benefit if, at a moment's notice, it is found that it is impossible to ship their products away. In New South Wales a vote is about to be taken on a marketing bill; but that measure may as well be torn up if there is no prospect of shipping our exportable surplus. The effects of this unfortunate disturbance are far-reaching in their consequences, and the rural producers who are bearing the heat and burden of the day should receive some consideration. Honorable members opposite would not countenance a reduction in the basic wage, but men who are working not seven hours, but fifteen hours a day, and who are not receiving a living wage will be most seriously affected. Nothing has been said by honorable members opposite concerning this section of the community who are being directly affected, and who, as a result of the action of the waterside workers may have to discontinue operations and join the ranks of the unemployed concerning which we have heard so much recently. I shall conclude by referring to a position which has arisen in Geraldton in Western Australia, in connexion with the production of early tomatoes. If the tomato-growers in that locality fail to catch the early market they loose half of their returns, and will be denied even a living wage. It is reported that there are over 600 tons of early tomatoes awaiting shipment at Geraldton, and that opportunity is denied them. The circumstances are exceptional and even in the dying hours of the Parliament the Government is justified in taking this course, which has been thrust upon it. It would be recreant to its trust if it did not. This may be a gloomy measure, but the result of the hold-up in transport services will also cast a shadow. Although the number in opposition in this Parliament is not large, I feel that I can see the shadow of still more empty benches facing us after the next election in view of the stand which honorable members opposite have taken towards this measure. I trust that it will become law, and that the regulations passed under it will be the means of restoring industrial peace in this country so that every section of the people may be able to carry out its work in a reasonable way, and notwithstanding the financial position with which we are now faced, will continue to progress.

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