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Thursday, 21 May 1931

Senator BARNES (Victoria) (VicePresident of the Executive Council) . - The subject-matter of the motion has been well discussed by honorable senators on both sides. I was much impressed by the letter which was read by the right honorable the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Pearce) from the Mayor of Port Adelaide. That gentleman, according to information supplied to me by an honorable senator on the Government side, is not in sympathy in a political sense with the views of members of the Waterside Workers Federation, but he has at heart the interests of the citizens of Port Adelaide. His views, I contend, should influence the vote which honorable senators will be called upon to give on this motion. His letter confirms the statements made yesterday by Senator Kneebone, who dealt at much greater length with the situation at that port. It has been claimed that the volunteers have proved more efficient than the regular waterside workers. Without denying the sincerity of those who make that assertion, I would say that, if it is true, it is a contradiction of the industrial history of this country. Ever since Labour set out to organize there have been industrial troubles of various kinds. These have been brought about necessarily by the desire of the workers to better their conditions. For many years that was the only means which they had of impressing their .will, not only on the persons who employed them, but also on the people generally. Then they began to look for a saner means of settling industrial disputes, and the arbitration system was evolved. Trior to arbitration, whenever volunteers - as they are now courteously termed - came to the relief of the employers, and broke down the resistance of the trade unionists who were fighting for what they deemed to be justice, they found themselves discarded when the trouble was settled. The employers thus showed unmistakably who, in their opinion, were the more efficient workers.

If I am rightly informed, the late Government insisted that the employers should give preference in employment for all time to the men who took the places of the strikers on the waterfront. I believe that the employers gave that assurance, and that they have endeavoured to observe it; but I have not the slightest doubt that they would embrace any opportunity that presented itself to escape from it, because, according to the press on Tuesday, work was proceeding quietly and with perfect contentment among the men at Port Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane. That postulates satisfaction on the part of the employers with the work that is being performed under the regulations of this Government

One or two points of importance have been raised in this debate. The recent High Court judgment upheld the validity of the disallowance by the Senate of the Transport Workers Regulations. The meaning of that judgment, however, is that the Governor-General in Council acted strictly within his constitutional limitations in making those regulations; that is to say, the Government acted absolutely within its constitutional rights. The Governor-General acts upon the advice given to him by his executive. That, too, is strictly constitutional. Certain remarks that have been made by honorable senators opposite would appear to involve the proposition that the Governor-General should act in accordance with the opinion of the Senate, not the Executive Council, by which he is supposed to be constitutionally advised. That is an entirely novel idea, and is wholly contradictory of the provisions of the Constitution. The Constitution provides for a Federal Executive, to advise the Governor-General in the government of the Commonwealth. If it is asserted by the Senate that the executive is abusing the powers that have been conferred upon it, and is defying the will of Parliament, honorable senators have at their disposal a sane and constitutional remedy. They have no need to go to the High Court; their simplest procedure is to bring in a bill to take away or to control the power of the executive to make regulations. They have the numbers, and if, as they allege, Parliament is being defied, why do they not bring the matter before Parliament for its decision? That is their duty. They are obstructing the business of the country by insisting upon the Senate meeting every week for the purpose of disallowing these regulations. I thought that they would be only too pleased to accept my olive branch of a three-weeks' holiday; but I understand that they have rejected it. However, while there is life there is hope, and I shall not be convinced until I see the result of the division on this motion.

Senator SirGEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia) [5.43]. - The rock to which the supporters of the Government appear to cling is that a number of shopkeepers at Port Adelaide, who have not received the income they expected because volunteer wharf labourers have to live in other suburbs, have passed resolutions supporting the action of the Government. Let us consider what occurred at the time of the waterside workers' strike, when these shopkeepers were in exactly the same position as that which they occupy to-day. At that time, no work was done by and no wages were paid to the waterside workers. Did these shopkeepers then hold public meetings urging the men to return to work? Senator Kneebone knows that they dared not do so. Had they done so, they would have been subjected to methods of peaceful persuasion similar to those that were adopted in Melbourne to-day. The mayor would have had to attend the meeting under police escort, and the gentle friends of the Waterside Workers Federation would have been waiting with a bottle for him and for any others who dared to speak. Just imagine any of these shopkeepers who are now so concerned" about the interests of Port Adelaide, daring during that strike to move a motion condemning the action of the Waterside Workers Federation, in holding up the transport services of the country ! How their business would have flourished afterwards! There is a little instrument of torture known to modern trade unionism that has become immensely popular with the Trotskys and the Lenins in the movement. It is called the boycott, and its use is not confined to matters of this kind. As Senator Kneebone is aware, when a trade union wants money it goes to the publicans and the storekeepers of these places with a list. Let any one dare to refuse to put his name on that list, and his name is placed on another list at union headquarters.

Senator Daly - That is not correct.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE - That little instrument of the boycott is the one which made this meeting in Adelaide the other day such a success.

Senator Daly - I rise to a point of order. Is the Leader of the Opposition in order in introducing irrelevant matter into the discussion of a motion to disallow the Transport Workers Regulations? Is he at liberty to bring forward a new subject, when no other honorable senator will have an opportunity to reply to him?

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon W Kingsmill - I do not think that the Leader of the Opposition has said anything which is out of order.

Senator Daly - Is it in order for the right honorable gentleman to say that the trade unions of this country keep a list of publicans and shopkeepers who refuse to make donations to their funds?

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