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Wednesday, 14 May 1930

Senator BARNES (Victoria) (Assistant Minister) . - I should give the members of the Opposition all credit for exercising the power they are entitled to use in this chamber, provided that they were able to advance a sound reason for their action. But in this case they have not been able to do so. Senator Pearce gave a detailed history of the trouble on the waterfront, and even introduced extraneous troubles, but he did not during his narrative tell the Senate why he thought the regulation introduced by the Government would intensify the trouble or stultify efforts to bring about peace on the waterfront. Had he been able to advance sound reasons for that belief, I should have admitted that there was legitimate ground for the disallowance of this regulation. Just as the Bruce-Page Government claimed that it was endeavouring to bring about peace on the waterfront, so the present Administration, in framing this regulation, is actuated by the same motive, and surely it should have a reasonable opportunity to achieve its purpose. Neither Senator Pearce nor Senator Glasgow has proved that the operation of this regulation will be dangerous in its effect. The Government would not think of introducing such a regulation if it were not sure that it would go a long way towards smoothing over the existing soreness and bitterness, and towards obviating the danger that, is ever present, because of the prevailing ill feeling.

Senator Reid - Where is that danger?

Senator BARNES - The honorable senator knows that, under existing conditions, it is ever-present on our waterfront. It is said that there are sone 700 returned soldiers working on our wharfs as volunteers. I do not dispute that statement, but I believe there aru a similar number of returned soldiers in the Waterside Workers Federation, and am told that the volunteers are getting most of the work, while the unionists are given the " tough stuff." I am not familiar with the working conditions obtaining on the wharfs; but I believe that to be true. Do honorable senators seriously contend that we arc not on the edge of a volcano when some 1,000

Senator Reid - The work is not there to occupy all of those who apply for it.

Senator BARNES - I am nor, in a position to say how far the work would go if properly distributed ; but some members of the Government are thoroughly conversant with waterside conditions, and it is their belief that matters can be remedied. The purpose of this regulation i3 to avoid the danger that I have described. It should b-2 patent to all that the danger is a grave one. I admit that there is a likelihood of the same thing in other industries.

Senator HERBERT Hays - How does the honorable senator propose to ration the work that is available?

Senator BARNES - I do not know; I am not familiar with the conditions of the industry; but the people concerned with the rationing will do that duty if given the opportunity. The operation of the regulation would bring the two opposing factions together, a course which would have a tendency to remove the prevailing bitterness and suspicion. The Opposition has not shown that the regulation will do anything that is detrimental to the waterside worker, and in no other circumstances dare honorable senators opposite disallow it. On the other hand, the Government has indicated that the operation of the regulation will go a tremendously long way towards carrying on waterside work harmoniously; further, it will enable quite a number of people who are at present almost starving to earn a decent living on the waterfront. Honorable senators opposite know the desperate straits in which tens of thousands of our workers now find themselves, a position of affairs that is absorbing the attention of every one who is desirous of protecting the welfare of the community. I am confident that no one desires to see men, women and children hungry and workless when that could be avoided. The object of this regulation is to avoid that kind of thing, so far as it is possible to do so.

It has been contended that the regulation flouts n judgment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. The Government never for one moment intended to tinker with or flout a judgment of any court in this country. We have to live amicably under the laws of the country and, though we may at times disagree with what is done in the name of the law, we at no time flout it or belittle it any more than can be helped. In framing this regulation the Government had no desire to injure the dignity of the court or to interfere with its functions in any way. At the same time there are occasions when even so august a body as a court needs correcting. Its members, after all, are only human, and so are just as liable to make grievous mistakes as are members of Parliament or anybody else in the community. The judges are placed on a pedestal and it is not permissible to criticize them; but no one wants to go out of his road to throw mud at the courts. They were established by the people and by Parliament, and they should be respected. As the Leader of the Government in the Senate (Senator Daly) has explained, the Arbitration Court has ho jurisdiction in this matter, whereas this Government has jurisdiction and has exercised it in what it believes to be the interests of the community. That is its justification for tabling this regulation, and I urge honorable senators to give it. the most serious thought before voting on the motion now before the Senate. The Government believes that its action will in no way intensify the prevailing trouble, but, on the contrary, will go a long way towards introducing that harmony which is now non-existent on the waterfront. If honorable senators opposite exercise their power in the way indicated by the motion they will do a very unwise and unpatriotic thing.

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