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Friday, 10 November 1911


Senator ST LEDGER (QUEENSLAND) - Let the honorable senator call them what he likes, but it is irrefutable that the Liberal party in Australia has endeavoured to secure better conditions for the worker. It is either Phari saical or hypocritical to say that the Liberal party as a whole has shown any hostility to legislation of this kind.


Senator Henderson - That is just the thing the Liberal party has never tried to do.


Senator ST LEDGER - There is a people in Europe who have refused to recognise the motion of the stars as a factor in measuring time. There is also a party in this country that, notwithstanding the plainness of facts and the irrevocability of argument, still say that this Liberal party has not given the closest and most sympathetic attention to the fair claims of the workers in these directions. But just as I suppose it would be impossible to induce the Russians to have regard to the motion of the stars in measuring time, so I recognise that it is hopeless to expect honorable senators opposite to do justice in recognising the work of the Liberal party.


Senator Long - Whatever they did was done at the point of the bayonet.


Senator ST LEDGER - My political history is pretty well known. I am not going to say that I have not committed some political sins, and that grave mistakes have not been pointed out. But I do say that there are few men in this Parliament - few who have been frequently before the public on platforms - whose efforts have been so continuous in regard to aiding the working classes in handling this great industrial question. For years I have been pleading and studying the question with the hope of devising means by which the worker might get fair play. I have never ceased in my efforts to attain that end. Senator Pearce has said that he does not expect the millennium to be achieved by this kind of legislation. Neither do we. If there is to be a millennium for Labour, the attainment of it will be slow and laborious. There must be many experiments before success is achieved.


Senator Rae - It will not be attained by legislation.


Senator ST LEDGER - I am reluctantly compelled to agree to that statement. Possibly we are travelling in a circle, and some time or other Senator Rae and I may find that we occupy common ground. It is not too much to say that the adjustment of fair relations, economical and industrial, between the worker and the employer is the greatest problem which presents itself to the human mind for solution. Honorable senators opposite may be cocksure that their remedy is the true one. Some of us may be less cocksure. But, at all events, it must be admitted that the progress which has been made towards industrial peace in Australia is meagre in the extreme. It is unfortunate that when proposals of this kind are put forward by those who profess to be the special guardians of the workers' interests, criticism is either not listened to or honorable senators opposite grow restive under it, and will not take the argument as an argument, but will, if the proposition, or the criticism coming from this side be somewhat difficult, cast it on one side, and simply howl from their seats here, and from the platforms, " You are the oppressors of the worker." Something of this irritation is to be found in the speech of the Minister of Defence, but more of it is to be found in interjections which come from the other side. When the Minister of Defence gets up here, and says that we are to take it almost as morally certain that the Federal legislation, and the awards thereunder, are making fast for industrial peace; when he makes a statement of that kind, supported by more or less plausible arguments, it reminds me very much ot the Mormon advocate, who, when he went to. Great Britain, and asked some people to go to Utah, gave as one of his reasons that there was no social evil there. He said to men and women, " Come to Utah, where there is no social evil." A man who heard the argument, said, "No; because the whole system there is evil." So it is in regard to conciliation and arbitration. I do not care how the position is twisted to suit a particular argument. It is, as I said before, irrefutable that strikes in industries are the rule rather than the exception. Take the Argus of only yesterday, which gave the particulars of every strike which has occurred in Australia during the last nine months.


Senator Rae - Will you analyze the list, and show how many strikes occurred under industrial awards, and how many did not.


Senator ST LEDGER - That is not the point now, as I am speaking of industrial operations generally. It does not matter to us as a Parliament, or to anybody, whether industrial peace, if it is brought about, is brought about by means of industrial awards. If it is brought about by means of the principle of conciliation and arbitration, does it matter a straw what is the machinery by which it is done?


Senator Rae - But take those cases where there was no machinery available.


Senator ST LEDGER - Unfortunately, if we take the industrial history of Australia for the last ten years, especially for the last three or four years, we find that where industrial arrangements between the employers and the employes have been made by agreements between themselves, apart from Wages Boards or Arbitration Courts, there has been more peace, progress, and development in those industries than there has been in the others. It is within my personal knowledge of the position of an industry which is carried on in more than one State, that the employers have refused over and over again to come under any arrangement made in a Court. They have been able, by their numerical majority, I am glad to say, to resist the Socialistic workers, who, when they enter an industry, always clamour for State interference and State restriction. If we take the industries of Australia to-day, we shall find that there is less of strife, and more of peace and harmony in all industrial operations where the arrangements are absolutely voluntary, than is the case under a system where the State is called in to interfere with, or restrict the arrangements existing between the employers and the employes. These are facts which justify an expression of opinion from this side.


Senator Henderson - They are not facts, but absolute delusions.


Senator ST LEDGER - I am stating an absolute fact. I will not mention the industry, but I assure the Senate that I have known the majority of the employers in a particular industry, which is carried on in more than one State, to resent bitterly, and fight to the last, a proposal to bring them under Wages Boards or industrial awards, or a Conciliation or an Arbitration Court. They were so strong that every time, up to date, they have been able to resist every effort to bring the industry under the jurisdiction of a State Court.


Senator Rae - And they have never had a strike?


Senator Chataway - No.


Senator Rae - Model men.


Senator ST LEDGER - There is an instance of a big industry. The men themselves have come to me, and told me that they dread the day when they will not be able to hold that position.


Senator Rae - What is the industry?


Senator ST LEDGER - I have given the facts, and will go no further than to say that it is a big industry.


Senator Long - What is the industry?


Senator ST LEDGER - I do not wish to be misunderstood in this regard. I do not believe that one swallow makes a summer. The industrial and economic conditions are such that, on the whole, the worker would be foolish if he did not organize, because when an appeal for better conditions comes, whether it is right or wrong, concentrated power often brings employers to a position which otherwise they would not concede.


Senator Long - Will you give us the name of the industry to which you referred ?


Senator ST LEDGER - No.


Senator Long - Was it the undertaking industry ?


Senator ST LEDGER - I shall not give the slightest indication of where the honorable senator may find the industry, because, in some cases, where names have been mentioned, there has been such a thing as boycotting the men, or, in some cases, the workers or the managers. But the fact is absolute. I am not speaking without my book. It does not matter who the persons are, or what the industry is. That does not materially interfere with my argument.


Senator Rae - You say that it is a big industry.


Senator ST LEDGER - It is a goodsized industry. Apparently, we on this side are to be charged with that class Hatred, or class prejudice, which the Minister of Defence alleges against the Legislative Councils. I wonder that a man of his intelligence, and in his responsible position, can descend to such an attitude as that. I have yet to learn that, fairly or unfairly, rightly or wrongly, the Liberal party in the Senate is responsible for, or is in any way connected with, any opposition which the Legislative Councils may have offered to industrial legislation.


Senator Rae - Of course, you have been improved a bit by your surroundings.


Senator ST LEDGER - That is always the honorable senator's spirit of selfrighteousness. Once a man is possessed with that spirit, nothing can take it out of his mind that he was predestined, and will become an angel, and that every one who is not with him was not predestined, and will go down below. In the moral world, that is a frequent thing.


The PRESIDENT - Order. The honorable senator is getting away from the subject before the Senate.


Senator ST LEDGER - I was drawn off my track, sir, by interjections. Assuming that it is true that Legislative Councils have resisted conciliation and arbitration legislation-


Senator Rae - And mutilated it.


Senator ST LEDGER - And if the honorable senator likes, mutilated it. Is it fair to say that they have taken that course, if they have done so, because they are opposed to the principle of conciliation and arbitration, or rather to the improvement of the conditions of the workers?


Senator Rae - No, it is because they are representatives of greed and pig-headed stupidity.


Senator ST LEDGER - Every time that the Legislative Councils have opposed conciliation and arbitration legislation, if they have opposed it,they are to be taken as pig-headed, and the enemies of Labour.


Senator Rae - Undoubtedly.


Senator Millen - That is the platform stock-in-trade.


Senator ST LEDGER - Of course it is.


Senator Rae - It is a positive fact.


Senator ST LEDGER - I intend to occupy some time, and to quote at some length, to show the honorable senator and the Senate that, down to the present time, the ablest Labour men in the world have been irreconcilably opposed to, and have condemned in words which we would be afraid to utter, the whole principle and system of compulsory conciliation and arbitration.


Senator Rae - We do not dispute that.


Senator ST LEDGER - When Legislative Councils resist such legislation, if they do resist it, is it fair to call them pig-headed enemies of Labour, when we find that Labour representatives of the highest character throughout the world, some of them living in Australia, have opposed it also?


Senator Rae - No; but when they deliberately wreck the thing, and make a sham and a fraud of it, they are.


The PRESIDENT - Order. I must ask Senator Rae to cease interjecting. I think that Senator St. Ledger is getting very wide of the mark. He has stated that he intends to quote at some length the opinions of persons who are outside Australia in connexion with this matter. This measure is, I understand, being passed for Australia, and its operation is not to extend beyond its boundaries.


Senator Millen - Am I to understand, sir, that in dealing with a measure which proposes a certain course of legislation, we are not at liberty to refer to other countries to see whether their experience will help us or not?


The PRESIDENT - There is no objection to a reference of that kind being made, but Senator St. Ledger said that he was going to state at considerable length the opinions of persons outside Australia who were opposed to this kind of legislation. If that were permitted, what would happen? The honorable senator could simply quote the opinions of persons scattered from one end of the world to the other, who do not believe in this class of legislation, without dealing at all with the subjectmatter of the Bill.


Senator McColl - May I be permitted, sir, to state that an honorable senator opposite quoted the members of the Legislative Councils in Australia as persons who are opposed to this kind of legislation, and criticised them in very strong terms indeed? Senator St. Ledger said he would prove that Labour men of the highest character throughout the world had also opposed this kind of legislation. Surely that is cognate to this debate?


The PRESIDENT - I do not dispute the honorable senator's right to quote instances of the kind. The Minister, when speaking, mentioned that the Legislative Councils of Australia had opposed legislation of this description. So far, Senator St. Ledger's speech has been confined to' answering that aspect of the question. When the honorable senator says that he proposes to quote extensively from the opinions of people outside Australia on this matter, such quotations, if used as illustrations, may be made, but if the honorable senator is to quote such opinions at great length, I do not know where he will stop.


Senator ST LEDGER - I hope that I thoroughly understand your ruling, sir, and I shall try to obey it. The Leader of the Opposition has stated, and I confess, that I am disposed to agree with him, that there is some reason to despair of the results of compulsory conciliation and arbitration. When those who take that view here are referred to as " pig-headed opponents of Labour," it is not unreasonable that I should quote, I hope not at undue length, from Labour authorities, amongst the highest in the world, who take a similar view. They believe that compulsory conciliation and arbitration is bound to fail, and I go further, and say that this proposed extension of the principle will result only in a more marked failure and disappointment. I propose to quote now the opinion of Samuel Gompers, who has been for years, and I think is to-day, the head of the largest Labour organization in the whole world. He contributed an article for the editor of a work entitled Labour and Capital - The Relations of Employers and Employed, published by G. P. Putnam's Sons in 1902 -

It may not be known to the advocates of compulsory arbitration that in the fifteenth century there was a species of compulsory arbitration ia vogue in Great Britain, where the courts determined the wages and conditions of employment. To the student of history it is an open book that the workers in Great Britain at that time were practically enslaved; that industry was hampered, and that only through violent revolution was a change brought about by which the labourers were permitted to quit their employment at will ; and from that revolution, by slow and painful processes, the industrial progress of Great Britain has developed.

Compulsory arbitration is the very antithesis of freedom and order and progress. On the one hand, it would mean confiscation of property ; on the other, it involves slavery ; and the enforcement of either or both of these is the beginning of the end, the death-knell of the industrial and commercial superiority of America.

That is the opinion of the head of the greatest industrial organization in the world.


Senator Henderson - What is that organization ?


Senator ST LEDGER - Samuel Gompers is described as the President of the American Federation of Labour. I have another work in which he is more fully described, and in which it is stated that he said of himself, at a Congress in Paris, that he was the representative of the largest body of organized workers in the whole world. I give now the opinion of John Mitchell, the head of the Coal-miners Unions of the United States.


Senator McColl - Who are 400,000 strong.


Senator ST LEDGER - He says-

Arbitration has been advocated by many eminent and worthy people for many years, but I am glad to note that the advocates of compulsory arbitration are growing fewer with each succeeding year, and that there is a corresponding increase in the number of those who favour voluntary arbitration. Arbitration, to be practical, to be beneficial, must be entirely voluntary.

Might I interpolate here that that is one of the characteristic marks distinguishing Wages Boards from Courts of compulsory conciliation and arbitration. The element of voluntaryism is more effective and reasonably applied under a Wages Board system than under a system of compulsory conciliation and arbitration. Wages Boards do not depend upon compulsion, whilst compulsory "conciliation and arbitration, as the term implies, does depend on compulsion. Hence it is that Mitchell is justified in saying that arbitration, to be practical and beneficial, must be entirely voluntary. He goeson to say -

Compulsory " and " arbitration " are in themselves contradictory terms ; there can be no real arbitration that is compulsory, and were the people of our country forced to agree that arbitration should become compulsory, that penalties should be inflicted on either the employed or the employing classes for a failure to accept the award of a board of arbitration, it would destroy every principle of free government, and I am free to confess that I know of no method by which compulsory arbitration could be adopted which would not mean the imprisonment of those who refuse to accept the decisions of boards of arbitration, providing they were unable or unwilling to pay fines.

So that it Is not merely the hide- bound Tory, or persons who may have some inherited prejudice against the working classes, who view this principle of compulsory conciliation and arbitration with alarm and resentment.


Senator Long - There is one country which has given a splendid trial to the principle, and the honorable senator might quote from its experience.


Senator ST LEDGER - To which country does the honorable senator refer?


Senator Long - To New Zealand.


Senator ST LEDGER - I do not desire to be led off the track, but, before I conclude, I may refer to the experience of New Zealand. Mitchell continues in more marked terms to express his views of compulsory conciliation and arbitration, and in the same article says -

As a result of years of experience in the tradeunion movement, I have become fully convinced that industrial disturbances have more frequently occurred because of the refusal or failure of employers" and employes to know one another, and to know one another's business, than for any other reason.

Here, again, one is side-tracked on to another aspect of the matter. Mitchell says that the failure to preserve industrial peace arises from employers and employe's not meeting in connexion with their business. This Bill, as the Minister has explained, is intended to give a number of workers the opportunity, if they choose to avail themselves of it, to separate themselves from the industry in which they are immediately engaged and the employers for whom they are working, and so to prevent any closer relationship between employers and employes. I say that it will be disastrous if by legislation we encourage unionist employe's to separate themselves from the industries in which they are engaged. We have failed already in connexion with this legislation, and our failure under this proposal will be only more marked. I have only one or two more extracts to make.


Senator de Largie - Does the honorable senator think it is worth while to quote the opinions of men who have never seen the principle applied?


Senator ST LEDGER - I have quoted from the head of the Coal-miners Unions of the United States, and I think his views are well worthy of attention in connexion with this discussion, if only for the reason that our honorable friends opposite cannot say that he is a pig-headed Tory, unsympathetic with the claim of Labour. If I had used similar words from a platform, it would be made too hot to hold me. The English language would not supply adjectives sufficiently strong to enable honorable senators opposite to describe me. I would be called a pig-headed Tory and the comradeinarms of predatory Legislative Councillors, and all kinds of unworthy motives would be attributed to me.


The PRESIDENT - I think the honorable senator has dealt with that question now for over half-an-hour, in reply to a few passing references made by the Minister of Defence to the action taken by Legislative Councils in Australia.


Senator ST LEDGER - Am I to understand that, on the general question of conciliation and arbitration, I cannot quote from Labour authorities opposed to the principle ?


The PRESIDENT - The honorable senator was not quoting authorities, but, in reply to an interjection, was referring to the manner in which he alleged he would be treated if he had used the expressions which he has quoted.


Senator ST LEDGER - I shall not follow the matter up. If I have been trespassing, I should, perhaps, thank you, sir, for allowing me to go so far. I think I have pretty well effected my purpose, but I should like to make one other quotation from Samuel Gompers. I quote from an address which he delivered before an Arbitration Conference, and the extract, though shorty is very explicit. He said -

It is submitted that the very terms " arbitral tion" and "compulsory" stand in direct opposi- tion to each other. Arbitration implies the voluntary action of two parties of diverse interests submitting to disinterested parties the question in dispute or likely to come in dispute.


Senator Long asked me why I did not quote from the experience of New Zealand. In the address from which I have just quoted, Samuel Gompers referred to the experience of both Australia and New Zealand, and still arrived at the conclusion indicated in the quotation I have made.

Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.30p.m.


Senator ST LEDGER - Dealing more directly with the Bill itself, I do not think that it is desired by the workers of Australia. I believe that it has been forced upon the Government by a minority of the workers who are members of trade unions, and who are anxious, at all costs, and as soon as possible, to centralize the control and management of industry, distribution, and exchange. These workers, I believe, are in an absolute minority ; but through their unions they are able to exercise immense political power. I do not think that I am doing an injustice to the Government when I say that this minority has compelled them to introduce this legislation, with a view to centralizing the control of all industries in Australia, irrespective of the limitations imposed by our Constitution, which confines Commonwealth jurisdiction to industrial disputes extending beyond the borders of any one State. Notwithstanding all the defects which can be urged against either the workers or the employers, I wish to say that every enduring and substantial success which the former have achieved has been the result of their own united efforts.


Senator Henderson - So that the honorable senator absolutely believes in the doctrine that is proclaimed by Arthur Rae?


Senator ST LEDGER - The more interjections that are made by honorable senators opposite, the more do they accentuate the fact that there is very little difference between their desires and my own. The difference is only as to the machinery which shall be employed to achieve the object that we all have in view. Everybody recognises that the Britisher has always been characterized by the splendid virtue of selfreliance. I admit that, at one time, I was hopeful that legislative enactments would go far towards achieving the result which we all desire to see brought about. But recent experiments have shown - and especially the experiments which have been made in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Court - that we have merely created a means, not by which each worker may have his individual interests considered and advanced, but by which organizations, which are largely of a political character, shall be able to exercise stronger power than they otherwise could exercise. I may claim the indulgence of the Senate if I express the opinion that much of the judicial interference between employers and employes has to be carefully watched. In the past the workers themselves have been suspicious of it. To-day their leaders are suspicious of it; and I admit that I am suspicious of it, because I do not believe that it is to the welfare of the worker that there should be this repeated interference between employers and employes. Upon that point I am supported by very able Labour authorities. Professor Flint, of the Edinburgh University, who is in no way hostile to the claims of the worker, in his book on Socialism, which was published in 1895, makes the following remarks, which are particularly apt at the present time, when we are seeking to extend both legislative and judicial powers : -

They (the workers) have fully proved that they can organize themselves, and owing to their organization numbers, and the importance of the services which they render to the community, they can give effective expression to their wishes as to wages, the duration of theworking day, and other conditions of labour. They are probably as able to protect themselves as their employers. They have manifestly outgrown the need for exceptional State protection and for grandmotherly legislation.

Now I say that whilst Liberals, both here and elsewhere, approve, to some extent, of legislation in this direction, our alarm is amply justified. We are justified in expressing that alarm by the fact that before this legislation was introduced eminent authorities, who were somewhat sympathetic with Socialism, had pointed out the very dangers which have since actually arisen in Australia as the result of this rash extension of judicial interference between employer and employe. I am a very great believer in the principle of self-help. I believe that it is the main principle underlying human intelligence and human effort. Every attempt to control the intelligence is an infringement of an inherent right, which, if not properly guarded, may inflict injury upon the State, and even greater injury upon the individual. I come now to a man whose name is well known in the Labour cause, who was, so to speak, cradled in the Labour movement, and who lived and died a worthy and admirable exponent of every claim on behalf of Labour - I refer to George Holyoake. In volume II., page 610, of his History of Cooperation, he writes -

There have always been too many people ready to regulate society in their own interests, whereas the welfare of the world lies in the direction of self-government. The English working class, if not brilliant, have a steady, dogged, unsubornable instinct of self-sufficiency in them. Being a self-acting race, they are alike impatient of military or spiritual mastery, or political coddling, and in their crude but manly and ever-improving way they make it their business to take care of the State and not to call upon the State to take care of them.

I view any extension of legislative interference with the same suspicion as he viewed it.


Senator Findley - There is no doubt that the honorable senator is an avowed individualist.


Senator ST LEDGER - For many years we have had experience of legislative interference with the conduct of business in Australia. The author goes on to say -

Without self help, self trust, the life of the poor is reduced to monstrous helplessness, servilude,and charity. Centralization is the doctrine of despots and paralyses all who are under it.

If I had made that statement for the first time during this debate, what would have been the reply ? I appeal to those authorities against whom no suspicion can attach to ask the other side whether by this extension of conciliation and arbitration legislation they are not encouraging the very evil which Mr. Holyoake warned us against - namely, centralization. That brings me hack to the point that I do not think that the worker himself, who is not under the heel of the Socialistic bosses in the trade unions, wants this sort of thing. I believe that the average British worker prefers to rely upon himself in the first instance, and objects to excessive legislative interference. Hefears, and rightly fears, the movement towards centralization, believing that it will turn out to be, as it has proved to be in the past, a machine set up by despots.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - Who are the bosses? I have not met them yet.


Senator ST LEDGER - I think that the minorities in the trade unions, impregnated with the Socialistic virus, have become bosses, and through an accident they have obtained power in the Commonwealth.


Senator Long - What is the alternative to industrial legislative enactment?


Senator ST LEDGER - To go back to the principle of self-reliance. I believe that this Bill will hasten the day when individual effort will be reasserted amongst the working classes.


Senator Long - Does the honorable senator believe in settling disputes by the method of strikes?


Senator ST LEDGER - If our legislative enactments will not give us industrial peace and secure freedom to the worker, the alternative is, of course, that we must go back to individual effort.


Senator Long - Does the honorable senator believe in that?


Senator ST LEDGER - I should like to find another remedy. I take it that this Bill is an honest attempt on the part of the Government to prevent strikes and industrial disturbances. But it is our duty, and as long as the Senate is a deliberative assembly it is our right, to point out the dangers.It is possible to go too far in this matter. This very Bill may hasten the recrudescence of those evils which we are anxious to avoid. When the VicePresident of the Executive Council introduced the measure, he made use of these words concerning the High Court -

They have a perfect right to interpret the law of the Commonwealth as it presents itself to them, and they have done so, although, in many instances, their interpretation appeared to be strained in the direction of limiting the powers of this Parliament as far as the Constitution is concerned.

I do not think that that was fair comment from some points of view. But by making it the Minister invited a challenge. In taking it up one is conscious of being upon dangerous ground. It is not for us to say whether the High Court has put a strained interpretation upon the Constitution or not. That is for the Judges to say. But I wish to make another comment, not upon the High Court itself, but upon the Court which will have the interpretation of this measure when it is passed. I do not care what jurisdiction over industrial matters the Court may possess, or what power may be given to it - if you are going to write upon the walls of the Court that this legislation is to be interpreted from the point of view of regarding every worker as an Esau, and every employer as a highwayman, the sooner we cease to legislate for that purpose, and the sooner the Court shuts up, the better it will be for the worker, and for the whole community. Unless there is a determination to see that the just claims of workers and of employes shall be considered in a spirit of equity and fair play, any tribunal which we set up is bound to fail, and will defeat the intentions which Parliament had in passing conciliation and arbitration legislation at all. I come now to another phase of the Bill. Clause 2 contains the crux of the measure.


Senator Henderson - Save us a little of this drivel !


Senator ST LEDGER - I do not know how a professed representative of the workers will be regarded by people outside for treating in such a spirit the efforts of one who, at all events, has given evidence of research in this matter.


Senator McDougall - We are not used to blither like this.


Senator McColl - It is not very nice or dignified to use such terms.


Senator ST LEDGER - It does not matter what terms are applied. Such treatment is not going to interfere with me. I regard this matter as too serious. I have sought to look at it entirely apart from party considerations, which I have eliminated from my remarks. If Parliament has ceased to be a deliberative assembly, I can quite understand the attitude of the supporters of the Government.


Senator W RUSSELL (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My trouble is that I do not understand the honorable senator.


Senator ST LEDGER - I am not responsible for that. The honorable senator should look to his Creator for the cause of his failure to understand. Clause 2 says -

Section 4 of the Principal Act is amended by omitting from the definition of " Industrial dispute " the words " arising between an employer or an organization of employers on the one part and an organization of employes on the other part."

A reading of that clause, with the section proposed to be amended, reveals the fact that this Bill is intended to separate employers and employes from their industries - from the pact by which they are brought togetherand to group them in quite a new manner. The central point around which conciliation and arbitration has revolved has been the principle that the law was to be applied to organizations of employers and employes. But this is something more than an amendment of the principal Act. It involves a total revolution of our ideas of the principle of conciliation and arbitration as applied to industries. This Bill is in fact not an amendment ; it is a revolution. I should like to have a little more time to deal with another phase of the question, and therefore I ask whether the Government will permit me to continue my remarks on the subject next week.


Senator Pearce - The honorable senator can continue them in Committee. I want to gelt the Bill into Committee to-day, if possible.


Senator ST LEDGER - I wish to deal with broad principles at this stage. I have already indicated that the proposed amendment of the principal Act amounts to a revolution ; but I cannot show that very well in Committee.


Senator Pearce - I am prepared to adjourn when we get into Committee. The honorable senator will have the next few days to prepare any remarks on that point.


Senator ST LEDGER - In other words, the position is, that if I exceed the time fixed for applying the new sessional order, I must go on.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is now debating a question which has no relation to the Bill.


Senator ST LEDGER - I must go on, sir. If I felt that I could introduce this matter in Committee as effectively as I should like to do, I would not have drawn attention to it at this stage. The Minister is, of course, quite entitled to force the position, as he has indicated his intention to do. It is in order to give effect to the principle of centralization of organization, to confer extraordinary powers on organizations, especially organizations of employes, and to alter the main principle which keeps employers and employes round an industry, that the Bill has been introduced. The Minister has told us that the Bill is intended to do that ; and it is for that reason that I have said that it proposes something more than an amendment of the law - a revolution.


Senator Walker - I think, sir, that we might have a quorum to listen to these remarks. [Quorum formed.]


Senator ST LEDGER - I believe that the proposed amendment of our law will be disastrous to the workers. This system of legislation has been considered more than once in many other Chambers. A measure which was the beginning of a series of laws, was proposed by M. Millerand, Minister of Labour in the French Chamber of Deputies, in 1902. He was the first statesman in France to attempt, with the power of the Government behind him, to give effect to the principle of voluntary or compulsory conciliation and arbitration in the settlement and prevention of disputes. In the Chamber of Deputies, as well as outside, he explained the objects of his measure. He pointed out the principles on which he intended to act, and defended the soundness of them. I shall quote what he said on that head, because it has a direct bearing on this Bill. In defending his own measure, he said -

But the time is, I feel confident, not far off when people will account it in the general interest that the world of workers should not be organized solely outside the factory.

Here I may interpolate that one of the objects of. this Bill - I refer to clause 2 - is, as far as possible, to discourage the formation of organizations solely outside the factory. Millerand knew what he was doing when he introduced his Bill. He continued -

The Bill on the friendly regulation of labour disputes which I introduced(i.e., into the French Chamber of Deputies) aims precisely at replacing the inorganic mass of workers of the middle-sized and the great industry, exposed in war - I mean strikes - as in peace to every impulsive influence, by a methodical organization making the workers in every factory into an ordered group represented by. regular delegates having habitual and normal relations with the management fitted for taking deliberative and reflective resolutions. The adoption of its principal will save at once the special interests of the workers and those inseparable from them, of national production.

Here is a remarkable contrast. It can be seen on the face of this Bill that it is not the factory, nor the particular industry, nor the relations between the employers concerned in the industry,nor the relations of the employes to the employers which are to be considered. The Bill departs entirely From that. It separates, as far as can be done, or it gives the means and facilities forthat separation, the employers and the employes from the industry concerned, and throws the whole of the industrial struggle back into the organization. Otherwise there can be no purpose in clause 2, and the dependent clauses. Will the Minister place his desire for the improvement of the worker; will any honorable senator on the Other side, place it at a higher level than that of Millerand, who was Minister for Labour in France, and is often called a Socialist?. Honorable senators opposite dare not do so; they cannot do so. When we are asked to deal with amending legislation of this revolutionary kind, we have a right to look to the experience of the outside world, in order to guide us as to how far, and how properly, we may go in our revolutionary amendments. Therefore, I quote the warning of Millerand, and the article which he wrote on his Bill when it was introduced, to show that, on the crucial point in this measure, the Government have departed from that essential principle which he regarded as the means of making it effective; and that is to keep the employers and the employes, for the purpose of conciliation and arbitration, as closely connected as possible to the industry in which both are concerned. I have pointed out one radical distinction between the two. Lest the Government may think that I have misunderstood the writings and speeches of Millerand on this subject, I shall quote another authority as to what he meant when he introduced his measure. Voltmar, who is a professed Socialist, and who desires to see the conditions of the workers improved, made these comments -

Millerand's Bill is based on workshop representation.

But the Commonwealth Government deny that. They say, " Sweep it aside ; leave out the petty workshop and the petty factory; leave out the large workshop and the large factory. Do not take the workshop into consideration as a factor or an element in the settlement of industrial disputes." Are we going to sweep away, without criticism or without protest, any consideration of that great principle, supported as it is by such strong authorities, because that is what this Bill pretends to do? Referring to the French Bill, Voltmar continues - .

Representative bodies are elected by the universal, direct, and secret suffrage of the workmen and employes in the firms subject to the law.

How history will repeat itself in more places than one ! We have noted here one remarkable phase in industrial disputes - that nearly every . industrial dispute which has occurred recently in Australia has been voted in open meeting. The object of that is, of. course, intelligible to every one of us; but the intention of Millerand and others, when they adopted this principle of some form of legislative machinery to stop industrial war, was to confine the matter in dispute as far as possible to the industry, and to ascertain the decisions of employers and employes by secret ballot. What happened in regard to certain strikes the other day; and it is either for, or in relation to them, that this measure is submitted? The Minister of Defence knows, and every citizen in Australia knows, that two strikes, following one upon the other, were ordered. Why? Because some trade unionists had the power of. bringing in their proposals, and forcing them to open ballot. We know as a matter history, too, that what these persons fight for all the time is not a secret ballot, in order to ascertain the unprejudiced, and, so to speak, the free, opinion of every man in his union, or of any man in the industry. Not so in the case of the Bill which was introduced into the French Chamber of Deputies. It provided that, whenever a dispute arose between employers and employes, the matter in dispute should, before it came to be acted upon, be resolved by a secret ballot. That is what public opinion in Australia is often asking for; that is what the press is often asking for; and that, I can say from personal knowledge, is what many workers desire before a strike or a conflict with their employers is entered upon. Voltmar goes on to say -

They are to be in constant touch with the employers, and in the labour regulations definite times are fixed at which the workers' representatives are to be received by the employers.

It is round the industry and the secret ballot that the whole of the legislation for conciliation and arbitration in France was proposed by a great Frenchman, and a very able exponent df the Labour cause. It is somewhat remarkable, as following up the history of his attempt, that, because of that temperate, moderate, and, I might say, perfectly equitable proposal, as far as we can devise anything perfectly equitable, his Bill was howled down. It never went beyond its .first reading, I believe. Because Mil.lerand recognised the existence of employers and the interests of employers, in relation to their industry, and because in his Bill, and in his writings, he recognised that the rights of the employers and of the industry, as well as the rights of the employes, in their relations with their employers, ought to be considered, the Socialists howled him down; and at the Bordeaux Conference, which met in 1903, it was moved that he be expelled. Jaures, who was the head of the French Socialist party, came to the rescue of Millerand, and, in defending him, said that whether he was right or wrong in recommending a closer relationship between employers and employes in an industry, it was an honest attempt on his part to solve a great social problem, and for that reason he ought not to be expelled. Millerand did not get his way, and when we on this side criticise the Government measure from this point of view, honorable senators opposite are absolutely silent, and cannot answer the criticism. If they would not expel the man offering such criticism, they at least refuse to hear him or to reply to him. It is evident that I shall not get a reply to this criticism on the second reading of the Bill, though possibly it may be replied to in Committee. I do not think that the Vice-President of the Executive Council or the Minister of Defence will attempt to dispute the assertion I now make, that this amending Bill is certainly unprecedented.


Senator Pearce - I shall not dispute any of the honorable senator's assertions, if he will let us get into Committee on the Bill.


Senator ST LEDGER - That was the kind of thing I was told last night. The honorable senator is practically inform-, ing me, in a parliamentary and courteous way, that it does not matter what on earth I say so long as I let the Bill get into Committee. But I recognise that I am speaking to a larger audience than the Ministers and the few who are assembled in this chamber.,


Senator Needham - Is this a preelection address?


Senator ST LEDGER - I do not care whether it is a pre-election or a postelection address. I repeat that this amending. Bill is unprecedented in history. No reason has been given for it except it be one which involves a charge against the Constitution and indirectly against the High1 Court. Even assuming that there were no Constitution and no High Court, I remind honorable senators that we have still the highest authority for taking exception to this proposal, and for warning the people against it. It is a dangerous thing, especially in connexion with the industries, of a young country, to resort to revolutionarymethods of procedure in dealing with them. I have not yet heard or seen any argument by a member of the Federal Parliament justifying this revolutionary amendment of the existing law. It may be said that since the condition of France and Australia are not analogous, instances taken from the experience of France are not applicable toAustralia. If that be said, I will quote an instance from the experience of our own people. Honorable senators are familiar with the history of the dockers' strike in 1899 in England. I shall not refer to it in detail. But, as a result of it, methods and principles were widely considered and debated to prevent any recurrence of such industrial disasters. The same course followed the great strike in Australia in 1890' and 1 89 1. I make special reference to the dockers' strike, because some of the highest intellects of the Empire, and amongst them men against whom there could be no breath of suspicion for antagonism to, or prejudice against, the workers, applied themselves to devise methods to prevent the recurrence of such troubles. In co-operation with the London Chamber of Commerce they drafted a scheme, one portion of which was that the London Chamber of Commerce should be empowered to secure the appointment of a Conciliation Committee to prevent any repetition of the awful disasters which resulted in the dockers' strike. A Conciliation Committee was constituted. They set to work and devised a scheme, which, for a time, was put into practical operation. One of the most important features of that scheme for conciliation and the prevention pf industrial disputes provided that every separate trade should have .a Conciliation Committee, to be composed of equal numbers of employers and employes. It was further provided that each Trades Hall should elect its own representatives, employers and employed voting separately for their respective representation. The number of members and the general rules of procedure were to be determined by each particular trade, which was subject to the Conciliation Board. Here, again, we have a radical difference from the Government proposal. The pivot upon which, under the scheme adopted after the dockers' strike, conciliation was to turn was the mutual interest of employer and employe" in a particular industry. This Bill departs entirely from that principle, and that is one of my greatest objections to it. The articles of the Conciliation Committee to which I refer further provided that every trade Conciliation Committee representing more than 1,000 individuals, should send two representatives to the City of London Conciliation Board, one being an employer and the other an operative workman, each to be separately elected by employers and employes respectively. That Committee was presided over by Cardinal Manning. The Labour world has never had a stronger, abler, or more intelligent advocate of the rational and best means of dealing with disputes between employer and employe" than was Cardinal Manning. If to any one man the honour belonged of settling that great dispute honorably, and to a certain extent favorably for the workers, it was Cardinal Manning. When he was considering, with Sir John Lubbock and others, how to prevent a repetition of such awful disasters, the means adopted centred around conciliation based upon the related interests of employer and employe" in a particular industry. I think I have made my point clear, so far as argument can do so.


Senator Pearce - The honorable senator should now be content to let us go into Committee. We shall not go further than the first clause of the Bill.


Senator ST LEDGER - No; because there is another matter with which I intend to deal. But I feel, if I were further to pursue my present line of argument, I should become like the hero of one of Dryden's poems, of whom it is said -

Thrice he routed all his foes, and thrice he slew the slain.

There is one other point which I desire to make.


Senator Needham - The honorable senator has made no point so far.


Senator ST LEDGER - I am not responsible for the honorable senator's inability to see my point. There is such a thing as impenetrable head armour. This Bill contains a clause to prohibit appeals to the High Court. Ministers are labouring under some disadvantage in having no legal adviser in the Senate. I should like to hear, when we get into Committee, what is the intention of the clause to which I refer. In order that we may do so, I wish the Minister of Defence to consider what I am now going to say. Do the Government propose by this Bill to limit the power of appeal from the Conciliation and Arbitration Court to the High Court ? Is that the intention ? The Minister is silent. He will wait until we get into Committee. I think that on so important a matter we should have an answer to such a question on the second reading of the Bill. Is it the intention of the Government, by the clause prohibiting an appeal from the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, to limit the jurisdiction of the High Court ? The Minister of Defence should be prepared to answer that question. He has only one way of treating it, and that is to remain silent.


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator has no right to demand a reply from the Minister on the second reading. The Minister has a right to reply to the whole of the debate.


Senator ST LEDGER - I admit that there is a difference between asking and demanding. May I be allowed to ask the Minister to answer the question as to whether it is the intention of the Government to attempt by this Bill to limit the appellate jurisdiction of the High Court?


Senator Pearce - I shall deal with that in Committee.


Senator ST LEDGER - I may anticipate, to some extent, what will be said in Committee in reply to the question. Perhaps the Minister of Defence will submit the question to the legal advisers of the Government for their consideration. There is a section of the Constitution by which the judicial authority of the Commonwealth is vested in the High Court. If we can take away a right of appeal to that Court, or limit its jurisdiction in one matter, we can limit it -in any number of matters, until we have finally whittled away its jurisdiction altogether. Is anything like that to be attempted by this Bill? I hope not. If the supporters of this measure propose to make any such attempt, I offer the opinion, with all humility in view of my imperfections as compared with the legal talent on the other side, that they cannot do so. Under the Constitution the judicial authority of the Commonwealth lies with the High Court. It is the final tribunal, and so long as it exists will decide how and when the Federal jurisdiction shall be exercised. If we wish to limit its powers, as proposed' in this Bill, we can do so only by an amendment of the Constitution. I mention the matter now in the hope that the Minister of Defence will submit the point to the Vice-President of the Executive Council, who is in charge of this Bill. I hope the honorable senator will be able to say whether the Government intend to attempt, even if they could do so, to whittle down the judicial power of the High Court in the face of the fact that we have, under the Constitution, conferred it by express terms, and without limitation, upon that Court. Perhaps the Minister of Defence will ask the legal adviser of the Government to give some attention to that important point. I regret that here, as elsewhere, this most important of economic subjects has been thrown into the melting-pot of party politics. I hope that the day is not far distant when the worker will insist that it shall be removed as far as possible from the area of politics, and discussed from the point of view of what is best for the entire community. I hope that the time is not far distant when the worker will recognise that many of the utterances of the politician who stands upon a public platform and says, " Look what a friend I am of the worker," are merely political fireworks. I recognise that it is more popular to stand upon a public platform and to say, " I will extend to you this power, and I will give you that power," than it is to take up the attitude which I am adopting. From a political point of view, it is more profitable to say, " I believe that you are an employ^, and, therefore, a social Esau, and if you send me into Parliament-


The PRESIDENT - Order ! The honorable senator is not discussing the Bill at all.


Senator ST LEDGER - Do you, sir, rule that mv remarks are out of order?


The PRESIDENT - Yes. The question before the Chair is, not one of a person appealing from a public platform to be elected to Parliament, but of the principles underlying the Bill


Senator ST LEDGER - It may be my fault, sir, but you misunderstand my attitude in this matter. I regret that this amending Bill has been thrown into the melting-pot of party politics. Am I not entitled to comment upon that ? I say, too, that the view which I take of this measure is not the popular one. The Bill does not provide the most effective means of dealing with industrial troubles. Am I out of order in commenting upon the measure in that way?


The PRESIDENT - I think that the honorable senator should confine himself to the principles of the Bill. A wide latitude has been allowed as far as the general question of conciliation and arbitration is concerned.


Senator Walker - I would suggest that we should have a quorum. [Quorum formed.]


Senator ST LEDGER - I feel that I should be taking up a more popular attitude if I allowed this Bill to be framed from the stand-point of regarding every employe" as an Esau, and every employer as a highwayman. But the question which I have to consider is, " Will the Bill be conducive to better conditions for the worker, or will it not? " In my opinion, it will not, and, therefore, I shall vote against it upon every occasion.







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