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Friday, 21 September 1928

Mr BLAKELEY (Darling) .- If any one bad any doubt as to the nature of this bill or the reason for its introduction, the honorable member for Roberton (Mr. Gardner) -has completely removed it. Legislation of this type resembles pests which visit us from time to time, the only difference being that the appearance of pests is determined to a great extent by the seasons, whilst the introduction of legislation of this character is determined by elections. Since this Government is barren of constructive legislation, and all its administrative and legislative acts are for the protection of the wealthy, showing a complete contempt for the conditions of the workers, one can well understand that it was necessary that some stunt should be staged by it in order to try to keep the people's minds off the things that matter - that some scare cry such as we have had to-day from the Attorney-General (Mr. Latham) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) should be raised. No doubt other honorable members on that side of the chamber will be giving reasons why these so-called wreckers should be attacked.

Mr Latham - Is not this waterside trouble a thing that matters?

Mr BLAKELEY - It most certainly matters as a political cry for the AttorneyGeneral and those associated with him. The Prime Minister, the AttorneyGeneral, and some of the supporters of the Government have got a lot of hard common sense. They are fully aware of the effects of such legislation. They have just as complete a knowledge of the psychology of the people as we have. That being so, they should know that the passing of this bill will not do much towards the settlement of industrial trouble. The amending Arbitration Bill which was ushered in with great promises, the Crimes Act, with its new penal code, and the penal code which had even to be introduced into the Immigration Act, were to be the last words in the preservation of industrial peace in Australia. But we still have these alleged calamitous conditions, with which the Government proposes to deal. If this Government by some strange set of circumstances again comes back to the Treasury bench, I have not the slightest doubt that the AttorneyGeneral, unless he is elevated to a higher and more honorable position in the meantime, and the Prime Minister, who is fairly sick of his job, will look up their speeches in 1923-24-25-26-27 and 1928, and will say- " What did we say when we introduced the amending Arbitration Bill? We said we could not allow these wreckers to continue to hold up the trade and commerce of this country. We were not opposed to trade unionism. We stood for sane trade unionism. We wanted to help those hundreds of thousands of sane trade unionists who wished to work; but we were not allowed to do so by these wreckers and agitators." I have heard the Prime Minister in his professed solicitude for the sane trade unionist, use practically the same words on five different occasions. The measure under consideration so far as

I can see will have no effect whatever. I cannot conceive of the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General being in any way different from those optimistic politicians in past decades who started out definitely to put these people in their place. In Australia we have a long list of enterprising and ambitious Prime Ministers and State Premiers who have attempted to do something for their living and the patronage of the wealthy, and have started out by introducing provocative legislation of this character. We had in the first place the Irvine Coercion Act. The gentleman responsible for that measure endeavoured to bring about industrial peace on the railways in Victoria, and to completely break up the trade unionism associated with that state instrumentality. After the "leg iron" act had been administered, and the strike was over, the Irvine Government found that the Railways Union was much stronger than it had ever been. New South Wales has also had its union smashing Premiers. Years ago Mr., but later Sir, Charles Gregory Wade made a speech in the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales very similar to that which the Prime Minister made to-day. He said that in the interests of the trade and commerce of New South Wales the coalmining industry had to be protected and that continuity of operations was being endangered by a number of wreckers and agitators. He also observed that all the force of Parliament, Government and the law would be used to discipline those people. The present Prime Minister has made six speeches of that nature during his term of office. But, just as Sir William Irvine and Charles Gregory Wade failed successfully to administer coercive legislation of this kind, so will the Prime Minister fail. It will be remembered that the Wade Administration went to the length of arresting Peter Bowling and putting handcuffs and leg irons on him.


Mr BLAKELEY - By making that statement the honorable member shows that he is sadly lacking in accurate information of the industrial affairs of the period. The Wade Government directed all its force against the Coal Miners Union, but left it stronger than it was before, just as the Irvine Administration assailed the Railways Union and left it stronger than before the attack. ,

Surely the Government does not imagine that the coal miners, the. wharf labourers, the shearers, and the marine cooks of Australia are absolutely devoid of common sense merely because they draw only the basic wage or a little more. It should be remembered that practically the whole of the Labour representatives in our various Parliaments and the trade union secretaries and organizers have come from the ranks of labour. They are just as anxious as anybody that the people should lead a peaceful and contented existence. Any one who expects to impress the workers by introducing legislation of this description is either a fool or a hypocrite. The Prime Minister and the Attorney-General profess a desire to see law and order observed, but they must realize that some laws are held in such utter contempt by the people that they are ignored. Just as there are Commonwealth statutes in the volumes in front of me on this table which are no longer administered because the people hold them in contempt, so there are similar laws on the statute-books of every State. The people utterly disregard these laws, and the governments of the day make no attempt to enforce them. Such measures as the Amending Arbitration Act and the Crimes Act, which have been recently passed by this Parliament, are brought into operation only for political purposes, and not because they are of any advantage to the community. Freak and purely party political enactments passed from time to time at the behest of ambitious Prime Ministers and Premiers must inevitably become dead-letters.

The wharf labourers by a substantial majority decided to go back to work, but the Government, apparently disappointed at the probability of a peaceful settlement of the dispute, issued provocative summonses upon certain of the union leaders. I am of the opinion that this action was taken in collaboration with, if not by the direction of, the ship-owners of Australia, who may also be responsible for the introduction of this bill. I regard this measure as nothing but an effort to inflame the minds of the people, and specially to antagonize the waterside workers. The ship-owners, as everybody knows, are a powerful and wealthy if a small section of the community, and this measure has, in my opinion, been introduced at their request.

Mr Parkhill - Does the honorable member know that for a fact?

Mr BLAKELEY - Let the honorable member inform me how much money he, as secretary of the Consultative Council of the Nationalist Federation, received in subscriptions in 1925 from the shipping interests. I am sure that it will be found to be a substantial sum.

Mr Parkhill - That shows how little the honorable member knows about it.

Mr BLAKELEY - I ask the honorable member to bring before the House the balance-sheet of the consultative council of which he is secretary.

Mr Parkhill - Will the honorable member bring the balance-sheet of the Australian Labour party before the House ?

Mr BLAKELEY - I will, if the honorable member will produce the balance-sheet of his consultative council.

Mr Parkhill - I shall do so with pleasure.

Mr BLAKELEY - I invite the honorable member to do it next week. We shall not be here, but it can be produced in Sydney. I shall produce the audited balance-sheet of the New South Wales branch of the Australian Labour party and of any other branches of the Labour party that the honorable member may desire. I do not expect that he will produce the audited balance-sheet of his consultative council. As a matter of fact I have not the slightest doubt that he will give us no information at all as to the source from which his consultative council receives its money.

Mr Parkhill - The honorable member is quite right.

Mr BLAKELEY - The object of the bill is practically to authorize the Government to proclaim martial law on the waterfront of Australia. Such action is, as a rule, taken only during a war or a revolution. It is only when Parliament is prorogued that extreme power of this description is placed in the hands of one man. We have a parallel of a kind in Italy. It will be remembered that Mussolini declared that Parliament was a cumbersome and unwieldy institution. At his request the Italian Parliament placed full legislative and administrative power in his hands, and then disbanded. The Prime Minister is endeavouring to ape Mussolini, in asking for this power to endeavour to crush the trade union movement.

The Arbitration Court some time ago made an award to cover the waterside workers. It provided for one pick-up, a convenience which had been enjoyed at a number of ports in Australia for many years. At other ports two pick-ups were the practice. The waterside workers gained the advantage of the pick-up, as we now understand it, only after a long struggle. They brought organization out of chaos in this respect. In 1909 I was working on the waterfront in Sydney, and I am still a member of the Waterside Workers Federation. I had to leave my bed at 4.30 a.m., and take a half-hour tram journey to Sydney to be present at a pick-up at 6 o'clock. If a man were lucky he was engaged. If he were unlucky he did not get a job, but had to wait around until 9 o'clock, when there was another pick-up. In those days every wharf was a picking-up place, and it was only after years of agitation that the waterside workers were able to get the employers to agree to definite picking-up places. In the old days a man had to walk from wharf to wharf from '6 o'clock in the morning until 5 o'clock at night in the endeavour to get work. It was a ship-owners paradise when there were hundreds of men walking up and down the wharfs all day long at the call of the stevedore whenever he might desire to pick up labour, and I am not a little proud of the part I played in the Sydney Waterside Workers Federation in starting the campaign which ultimately abolished the 6 o'clock start in the morning. Ship-owners, the press, and tory politicians cried aloud to the heavens that if the wharf labourers insisted on starting at 8 o'clock instead of 6 o'clock in the morning the shipping industry would be ruined and our primary industries adversely affected. For a number of years, however, the Sydney wharf labourers have started at 8 o'clock instead of 6 o'clock, and no ruin has come over the country. By constant agitation and by the very force of their organizations the wharf labourers of Australia have been able to break the old system down to one pick-up a day in some places and two pick-ups a day in other places. But one pick-up a day is quite sufficient for all purposes for the working of the cargoes of the ships of Australia.

Mr Maxwell - We are not here to discuss that question.

Mr BLAKELEY - The honorable member says that very easily.

Mr Parkhill - But has not the Arbitration Court decided the point?

Mr BLAKELEY - The Arbitration Court decided on one pick-up.

Mr Parkhill - On two pick-ups.

Mr BLAKELEY - In some places only. The trouble is that the judge altered his mind after he had given his original decision, and I say that the mischievous action of the judge has been responsible for the present situation on the waterfront.

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