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Friday, 21 September 1928


Mr Bruce - The honorable member is not suggesting that in the award which came into operation on the 10th September the judge did not embody the two pick-ups ?

Mr BLAKELEY - The right honorable gentleman has evidently not been listening to my remarks, or has not understood what I have said. He knows perfectly well that the first award provided for one pick-up, and that it was the last award that made provision for two pick-ups.

Mr Parkhill - The first was an interim award.

Mr BLAKELEY - It was an award, but was not to come into operation until the parties had spoken to the minutes. In other words, it was purposely left open by the judge for suggestions. An Arbitration Court judge has a very grave responsibility in trying to make an award in connexion with the transportation industries of Australia. I recognize all the difficulties attaching to his task; but I also realize that a judge who makes an award against accepted usages of an industry or deliberately breaks down a practice which the workers have followed for, say, five years cannot hope to escape criticism from the men affected. There was absolutely no justification for Judge Beeby reverting to the system of two pick-ups. Wharf labourers at the best have a very poor job. Their work is essentially intermittent. It is quite possible when the wharfs are slack for a man to be out of a job for two or three weeks; or he may get only one or two days' work a week, and that is an unfortunate position for the married man who has to pay rent. Under the new Beeby award these wharf labourers are expected to offer themselves twice a day, and the period in which they may be expected to offer themselves may extend to four hours a day. On many occasions I have walked all day along the water-front in Sydney vainly seeking work. I had to cart my labour round to the ship-owners just as these unfortunate men are obliged to do in the various ports to-day. After all, their labour is just as valuable as the money which pays for it. There is no need for more than one pick-up a day now that we have the advantage of modern means of communication by land wires and wireless. Ship-owners can tell within two or three hours when their boats are likely to arrive. If a vessel is proceeding to Sydney from Queensland the shipowners know that it will arrive at some time on the following day, and that on the following morning they can with confidence pick up a gang for that vessel. If men are picked up for a certain hour, surely they are entitled to payment for waiting about if the vessel on which they are to work does not arrive alongside the wharf at the time anticipated. But, because labour is plentiful, the shipowners have been forceful enough to induce the judge of the Arbitration Court to depart from the long-established custom of having one pick-up, and in consequence a serious crisis has been precipitated in one or two ports.

Mr Maxwell - May I ask if the honorable member contends that the repudiation of the award is justified?

Mr BLAKELEY - The honorable member can do no such thing. He is not in a court putting leading questions to an unsophisticated witness. In his guileless way the honorable member seeks to put leading questions, not to get information, but merely to gain a political advantage. My attitude is that I stand for the arbitration system of this country.



Dr Earle Page - And for this award ?

Mr BLAKELEY - Yes. But that does not prevent me from pointing out that an extraordinary position has arisen because of the silly and futile action of the judge.

Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mr Bayley - The honorable member for Darling must not refer to a judge in those terms.

Mr BLAKELEY - If a judge of the Arbitration Court or a justice of the High Court brings about an extraordinary position owing to his foolishness, I shall criticize him and continue to do so.

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