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Friday, 21 September 1928


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - I ask the honorable member for Angas to withdraw the remark to which objection has tse ti taker


Mr PARSONS - I withdraw it, but I ask honorable members to remember what was said.


Mr DEPUTY SPEAKER - The honorable member must withdraw it unreservedly.


Mr PARSONS - I do. I regret that honorable members opposite are so sensitive. I also regret that some of them are not at all particular about what they say of honorable members on this side of the House. I thank my lucky stars, at any rate, that I belong to a family, the members of which have always been prepared to accept the ups and downs of life without squealing. [Quorum formed.]

I appear to be most unfortunate in following the honorable member for Hindmarsh in this debate, because he has an unfailing faculty of emptying the House. I remember that the honorable member for Hindmarsh was associated with certain gentlemen who during the war went out, not to fight, but into the country districts of South Australia, and one of them used this phase.: " The soldiers have gone to the war of their own free will; let them stew in their own gravy." This debate has been characterized mainly by a constructive argument from this side, and political abuse from the other side. I am perfectly satisfied that the Government, in introducing this bill, is doing the right thing. Once again, it is giving evidence of its earnest intention to carry out the mandate that it received from the people at the last election.


Mr Makin - Hearty cheers.


Mr PARSONS - I am glad to have the approval of the honorable member for Hindmarsh. The honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) referred to certain legislation passed by this Government, and he kept on using the phrase that the Government was always on the verge of doing something. I should like to remind the honorable member of some things that the Government has done in the direction of preserving the peace, order, and good government of this country. First of all, I refer him to the Crimes Act, and to the recent attempt of would-be union leaders to in terfere with the lighthouse service on the coast of Queensland. I remind the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) that on that occasion one or two gentleman had the privilege of' being found guilty. I hope they paid the heavy fine. One hears a good deal about the poor man always having to foot the bill, but I have in mind some wealthy individuals, the Abrahams brothers, who were by no means kindly treated by this Government, which deprived them of £500,000 of their ill-gotten gains. Those men are still liable to imprisonment if they return to this country. The action of the Government in that case has been criticized, but it was taken on the advice of the Commissioner of Taxation, and many eminent counsel, and it was the Crimes Act that made that course possible.


Mr Fenton - There were other avenues of action open to the Government.


Mr PARSONS - I have it on the authority of the Solicitor-General that the Crimes Act alone rendered the action of the Government possible. I wish to refresh the memory of honorable members opposite in connexion with the recent maritime cooks' strike. When the cooks first went on strike the Australian Council of Trade Unions stated that it would bring them to heel very quickly, and asked the Commonwealth Government to leave the matter in its hands. That was done. The union delivered an ultimatum to the cooks, who promptly told it in strong language to mind its own business. Month after month dragged by, and the Australian Council of Trade Unions was unable to discipline those few cooks, who defied the efforts of the organization exactly as a few waterside labourers are now flouting the awards of the Arbitration Court. Then the Prime Minister made the statement that the Government intended to bring the Crimes Act into operation. Within a few days after the proclamation was issued under the act the cooks' strike collapsed. That was due to the very act that is so strongly condemned by honorable members opposite, which was introduced by this Government especially to deal with industrial unrest. When the present waterside trouble began the Prime Minister threatened to put the Crimes Act into operation, which was sufficient to bring the officials of the unions to their senses. They issued instructions to their men to resume work, but having been told to defy the law, they became infected with the spirit of rebellion, and defied their leaders. The union officials, having started an industrial conflagration, are unable to put it out.

The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Blakeley), the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin), and several other honorable members opposite have declared that these regrettable troubles occur, extraordinarily, always upon the eve of an election. He 'would be a very clever Prime Minister indeed who could choose a time for a general election when there was not trouble looming on the waterfront. Once such trouble used to occur only annually, but now it occurs quarterly. My State, South Australia, is almost entirely dependent upon its primary production, and it is remarkable how these strikes always occur when the time is ripe to transport its products overseas. The crafty watersiders, knowing the perishable nature of the products, seize what they think is an opportune time, in an endeavour to force the country to accede to their voracious demands. No country can afford to allow itself to be continually disorganized in thi3 fashion, and any Government which ensures that our transport will not be interfered with will have the support of myself and of thinking people in South Australia. I have always had a high regard for the working man, as I have been one myself and know what both manual and mental labour are. I know that it is only a minority of men in a few unions who cause all this trouble, which is confined chiefly to the waterside unions. Honorable members opposite prate of people obeying awards. If they are sincere they should support this Government in this legislation.

A good deal has been said about one or more pick-ups; but that is beside the point. The real issue is that, after giving an assurance to the court that, if their case was considered, its award would be obeyed, the waterside unions have refused to honour their pledge. At their request an award was made, and immediately the officials of the union instructed the men not to obey it. I blame those officials for misleading the men. It is beside the point to say that work is proceeding at Sydney or Melbourne. A chain, to be satisfactory, must be sound in every link, and if the sea-borne transport of Australia is to be effective, it is essential that we should have continuity of activities at all our ports. Such unions as the tramways union, railways union, woollen mill employees union, electrical and mechanical engineers' unions, agricultural implement makers' union, and others obey awards and seek redress, when necessary, through the proper channels. It is a great pity that their example is not followed by the waterside workers, as Australia would then be saved a tremendous amount of money. Almost uncountable wealth is lost through industrial trouble on our waterfront. Perishable goods are destroyed and their loss is irrecoverable, while, as the trade and commerce of Australia with countries overseas is chiefly, on an exchange basis, the longer that our goods are delayed in transit to oversea's markets, the more we have to pay in interest on the money that is outstanding. Honorable members opposite do not like the word " strike," and resort to the euphemism "cessation of work" in its stead. If a lockout occurred, I should be quite prepared to apply the word "lockout" to the happening. Both lockouts and strikes should be things of the past; they should not exist in a civilized community or a democracy in which every man and women over the age of 21 years has a vote and the whole of the industries are dependent one upon the other. I should like to know whether honorable members opposite believe in strikes or are opposed to them. If we were to judge by their words we should say that they do not; but their inaction would lead one to believe that they do. "We have heard a good deal about this action of the Government being an election move. It has been argued that at the last election it deceived the people; and the charge is that a similar attempt is being made on this occasion. The respect which I hold for the intelligence of the average person in Australia will not permit me to believe that at the last election the people voted upon anything except the facts as they saw and knew them, nor that they will act differently when the next appeal is made to them. I can well understand the vehemence of the speeches of honorable members opposite, and the drama which they imported into them. During the course of debate I have frequently wondered whether 1 was in the Commonwealth Parliament, or a spectator at a vaudeville entertainment.







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