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25. Chapter XXV. Labor in the Commonwealth.

WHILST it must be admitted that there have been for many years a number of Australians who were genuinely in favor of a federation of all the colonies, it was found impossible to consummate their desire until after it became clear that Labor was going to try to capture the several Parliaments. A Convention held in 1891 drafted a Constitution and left it with the people. The press all over the colonies tried hard to galvanise the thing into life, but it fell flat. Later a move was again made, and with success. A Convention met in 1897, the delegates to which were elected by the people. Capitalists rejoiced in the hope that now they would have a Parliament to which Labor could never attain. Not a single Labor delegate secured a seat on the Convention, and it was therefore natural to expect that the Constitution was not so democratic as desired. It was submitted to the people, and after some slight alterations made by a Conference of Premiers was adopted, and the latest of all the world's federations started on its career.

On January 1, 1901, the Governor-General (Lord Hopetoun) landed in Sydney, and was publicly sworn in under a specially erected pagoda in the Centennial Park amidst the plaudits of many thousands of spectators. Sydney was en fete for a week, and money was lavishly spent in all sorts of


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entertainments in order to celebrate fully the important event of Australia having become a united people. The march of events since has more than confirmed the wisdom of the step then consummated. There have been a few miserable parochialists who have now and again raised their croak against Federation, but they secure no following, and Australians generally rejoice in the steady growth of the new nation in the Southern Seas. As a matter of fact, there is a strong desire for unification and abolition of the six State Parliaments. This feeling is quite a spontaneous one, and has not been fostered by politicians.

Photograph facing p.376. HON.ANDREW FISHER, M.H.R., Leader of Australian Labor Party.



It is almost certain that, as time goes on, extended powers and functions will be vested in the Commonwealth Parliament, and those of the States decreased. The work done by the Commonwealth Parliament has popularised that body. This is easily understood when we remember that both Houses are elected by full adult suffrage. It cannot be denied that the influence of the Labor Party has forced humanitarian questions to the front, and such legislation appeals to the masses. The demand for a “White Australia,” set forth in the Labor Party's platform and also supported by members of other parties, could only be met by legislation from a Federal authority. The abolition of the kanaka contract labor in the sugar industry of Queensland was another kindred matter which was early dealt with. The exclusion of alien and colored races gives a chance for the development on the Australian Island continent of a great nation of the white race,


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and that ideal has come to stay and dominates Australian sentiment very largely. The elections for the first Parliament took place on the 29th and 30th March, 1901, with the following Labor results:—

For the House of Representatives New South Wales returned six—J. C. Watson, Bland; J. Thomas, Barrier; W. M. Hughes, West Sydney; W. G. Spence, Darling; T. Brown, Canoblas; D. Watkins, Newcastle. Queensland returned four—F. W. Bamford, Herbert; A. Fisher, Wide Bay; C. McDonald, Kennedy; J. Page, Maranoa. South Australia one— Mr. E. L. Batchelor. Western Australia two—H. Mahon, Coolgardie; J. M. Fowler, Perth. Victoria two—F. G. Tudor, Yarra; J. B. Ronald, South Melbourne. Mr. King O'Malley, who ran as an Independent in Tasmania, joined the party as soon as the House met. This made sixteen.

For the Senate the result was: Queensland, three —Messrs. A. Dawson, W. G. Higgs, and J. C. Stewart. West Australia, two—Messrs. G. F. Pearce and H. de Largie. Victoria—J. G. Barrett. South Australia— G. McGregor. Tasmania—D. J. O'Keefe. This made eight—or a Party of twenty-four for the whole Parliament.

After the elections the first Ministry was formed. Sir W. Lyne, as Premier of the oldest State, had the call, but gave up to Mr. (now Sir) Edmund Barton. Messrs. Lyne, Deakin, Turner, Kingston, Forrest, Drake, O'Connor, and Fysh formed the Ministry under him. The Parliament was opened by His Royal Highness the Duke of Cornwall and York in the Exhibition Building, Melbourne, on May 9, 1901,


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at noon. The function was a great and impressive one. In connection with the visit of Royalty Melbourne had a week of festivities equal to Commonwealth time in Sydney.

The House met at 2.30 p.m. on the 9th to elect the Speaker in the Representatives, and the Senate met at the same time to choose their President. The members of the Labor Party were informally called together to authorise some one to offer congratulations to the Speaker. It was thought that it was well to assert themselves as a distinct party at once, and Mr. J. C. Watson was asked to speak for the party. Later, at a properly constituted caucus meeting he was chosen as chairman and leader of the party. The choice was a wise one, as he filled the position with distinguished ability, tact, and judgment. His retirement at a recent date was a great loss, as not only had he secured the confidence of those within the Labor ranks, but also of those unconnected with the Labor movement. His alertness and close acquaintance with the undercurrents of political movements enabled him to checkmate many attempts to undermine the Party's influence which political enemies put forth.

Mr. Barton had included some of the Labor Party's planks in his programme, hence the Party naturally gave an independent support to the Government. The elections had been fought on fiscal lines so far as New South Wales was concerned, and the main body of the Opposition came from Representatives of that State, led by Mr. G. H. Reid. Mr. Reid had done some good work in the


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New South Wales Parliament whilst kept in power and pushed on by Labor, but when he entered Federal politics he joined with the Conservatives and reactionaries of Victoria and other States, who, though calling themselves Freetraders, were simply Revenue Tariffists.

Of the three parties in the Commonwealth, Labor was the only one in favor of direct taxation for revenue purposes. The Government favored Protection of a revenue-raising kind, the Opposition a revenue tariff only. Labor members had each a free hand on the fiscal question, though the majority were Protectionists. Thus on the first Tariff some of the party voted with Mr. Reid, whilst the majority voted with Mr. Barton. The party was united and solid against purely revenue duties, and took steps in caucus to select a list of such items upon which to vote as a party. In all sixteen items were agreed to, including tea and kerosene, cotton goods, etc.—all items which could not be produced in Australia as yet, and duties upon which pressed heavily upon the workers. These items involved over £1,000,000 of taxation, which the party succeeded in having struck out of the tariff. It was found afterwards that there was ample revenue without that million.

The House met for business on May 21, 1901, and the debates on the Address-in-Reply lasted until June 5. The first division was on a motion by Mr. Joseph Cook, since Leader of the Opposition, who thought to trap Labor members by an addition to the Address expressing the opinion that the clause dealing with kanakas did not go far enough. The


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voting was 7 for and 39 against. Only one Labor member voted with him. This in no way indicated the strength of parties. The majority of the House favored democratic legislation, but were divided into three parties, Labor holding the balance of power. No time was lost in tackling the big measures such as Immigration Restriction, Adult Suffrage, Pacific Islanders, Public Service, etc. The foundations of the Commonwealth had to be laid and built upon. There were many machinery measures of a non-party character but of great importance, and for which there were practically no precedents. In all these Labor took an active part, and materially helped the Government to make the measures as near perfection as earnest men could make them.

The party meets every Wednesday morning. On measures affecting the platform the party votes solidly together. On all other questions each member is absolutely free to vote as he likes. All important bills, whether affecting the platform or not, are discussed and in most cases remitted to a committee of the party, who go through the measure and recommend amendments. The Leader would then take these amendments, if approved by caucus of the party, to the Minister in charge of the bill. Many would be accepted, others would be left to the House to decide. This method helped to improve legislation, and justified the claim that the party wielded an influence far greater than its mere numbers warranted. No other party worked so hard or so efficiently; hence the good done. The relations with the Government were open and above-board, never-theless


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the Cabinet readily considered any suggestion made by the party. If not prepared to accept or to go so far, then the party tested the House on the question.

The policy of a “White Australia” was given effect to by the passing of the Immigration Restriction Act. The bill passed the second reading on August 2, 1901. Out of consideration for English fears and prejudices the Government provided for keeping out undesirable aliens by an education test. If the person desirous of entering Australia is considered undesirable the department finds out some language which it knows he does not understand, and then dictates fifty words to him. Of course he fails, and is then deported back to where he came from.

This is a round-about and mean sort of way to accomplish the end sought, and Labor believed in saying straight out that we did not want any other than the white race here. On reaching the clause on September 25, Mr. Watson moved to insert—“Any person who is an aboriginal native of Asia, Africa, or of the Islands thereof.” On division this was lost by 31 to 36, only one Government supporter (Mr. Higgins) voting with the party. Mr. Watson, in another clause, secured the exclusion of manual laborers under contract. The measure as finally passed can only be made effective by careful and active administration, and depends too much on Customs officials, who may not in all cases be in sympathy with the spirit of the Act itself.




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The kindred measure—the Pacific Island Laborers' Act—was passed, in which provision was made for deporting back to their old homes all kanakas who had been brought to Queensland. The work was to be done gradually, but has long since been completed. Associated with this measure was the adoption of a Sugar Bounty Act, under which a liberal bounty was paid to growers of sugar cane or sugar beet if produced by white labor, with an excise charged those who employed black labor. This has proved a great success. There has been not only the removal of the colored employees, and consequent increase of employment for white men, but the industry has grown to such an extent that the supply of Australian-grown sugar is sufficient for the requirements of the people of the Commonwealth.

Another big measure was the Public Service Act. In this the abolition of political patronage is provided for, and the whole Service is placed under a Commissioner, while at the same time Ministerial responsibility is retained. The Labor Party took an active interest in this measure, and secured the provision for a minimum wage. All employees who reach the ago of twenty-one years and have had three years' service must receive not less than £110 per annum. When the Postal Departments of the States were taken over it was found that in the two States of New South Wales and Victoria alone there were over 1100 above the age, and with from three to as high as twenty-three years' service, who were receiving under £110. Over 400 were being


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paid under £90 per annum. They all secured a rise after the Act became law.

Another principle secured by the party was that of equal pay for equal work for men and women. The sexes were placed on an equality in status and in pay. Apart from Supply Bills, twenty-four Acts of importance were passed in the first session, besides passing a tariff, which in itself was a very tedious and difficult matter owing to the differences in the several States.

The first test as to how parties stood came when we reached the tariff. On October 15, 1901, Mr. Reid tried to oust the Government on the tariff issue. The division resulted 39 for the Government and 25 for Mr. Reid. Five Labor members voted with Reid. The session lasted till October 10, 1902.

The second session opened on May 26, 1903. It lasted until October 22 of same year. The most important of the Acts passed during that session were the two measures setting up a High Court for Australia. We are now enabled to decide appeals within our own borders, and secure an interpretation of our constitutional powers whenever conflicts arise between Commonwealth and States. A Defence Act was also passed, in which the Party secured recognition of its plank of a Citizen Force. The next step will be to arrange for compulsory training somewhat on the lines obtaining in Switzerland.

Sir Edmund Barton and Senator O'Connor having been appointed to the High Court, Mr. Deakin became Premier on September 24, 1903.




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In order to save the cost of having separate elections for the Senate and Representatives the House was dissolved, and the elections were held on December 16, 1903. The party was very successful. The retiring Victorian Senator, Mr. J. G. Barrett, declined to stand for selection by the leagues for the Senate, and therefore left the party and was defeated at the polls. Mr. E. Findley took his place, and every member of the previous party was returned in both Houses, with the following additions:—New South Wales—W. Webster, Gwydir. Queensland—Dr. M. Culpin, Brisbane; D. A. Thomson, Carpentaria; J. Wilkinson, Moreton. South Australia—J. Hutchison, Hindmarsh; A. Poynton, Grey (the latter had been in the previous Parliament as a Free-trader). West Australia added W. H. Carpenter, Fremantle; C. E. Frazer, Kalgoorlie. Victoria—Dr. W. Maloney won Melbourne after the election of Sir M. McEachern had been declared void on petition. For the Senate J. W. Croft and G. Henderson were added for West Australia; T. Givens and H. Turley for Queensland; and R. S. Guthrie and W. H. Storey for South Australia. This made twenty-five in the Representatives in a House of 75, and fourteen in the Senate in a House of 36—a party of 39 altogether.

The second Parliament opened on March 2, 1904. There were still three parties, and the relationship between Labor and the Government continued to be cordial and friendly. On March 17 Mr. Watson raised a rather important principle when he moved—“That the House records its grave objection to the


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entry of Chinese labor into the Transvaal until a referendum of the white population of the colony has been taken on the subject or responsible Government is granted.” Objection was taken that this was an interference with matters outside our jurisdiction, and that we had nothing to do with what the Home Government had control of. The majority of the House claimed, however, that as a part of the British Empire we had a right to express an opinion upon any act calculated to injure our own kindred. An amendment was rejected by 45 to 13, and the motion was carried by 54 to 5.

It was during this session that the Labor Government came in. The change arose over the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. That measure had been framed originally by Mr. Kingston, but, owing to his ill-health, was taken charge of by Mr. Deakin. It had been introduced in the first Parliament, the second reading passing without opposition on July 30, 1903. On September 8 a division took place on the Labor Party's proposal to make the measure apply to the Public Service of Commonwealth or State. This was lost by 28 to 21. An amendment by Labor member McDonald to make the Act apply to the railway servants of any State was carried by 26 to 21. The Premier, Sir Edmund Barton, at once said that the Government must consider its position, and next day announced that they had dropped the bill.

This naturally caused the question to arise at the election. Labor favored no limitations, and would have the measure apply to all that the


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Constitution allowed. Mr. Deakin declared himself strongly opposed to inclusion of any of the Public Service. Thus both parties were pledged to opposite courses. The Bill was re-introduced and passed the second reading on March 22, 1904. On April 19 Mr. Fisher, on behalf of the party, moved to include the Public Service under the bill. On the 21st this was carried by 38 to 29. The Deakin Ministry resigned, and on April 27 a Labor Ministry took charge of the affairs of the Commonwealth, constituted as follows:

The Hon. J. C. Watson, Prime Minister and Treasurer.

The Hon. H. B. Higgins, Attorney-General.

The Hon. Andrew Fisher, Minister for Trade and Customs.

The Hon. W. M. Hughes, Minister for External Affairs.

The Hon. Hugh Mahon, Postmaster-General.

Senator The Hon. A. Dawson, Minister for Defence.

The Hon. E. L. Batchelor, Minister for Home Affairs.

Senator McGregor, Vice-President of Executive Council.

Mr. F. G. Tudor acted as Whip in the Representatives, and Senator O'Keefe in the Senate.

In selecting his Ministers, Mr. Watson followed precedent and tried to have every State represented. The Attorney-General, Mr. Higgins, was not a member of the party, but his views and votes had always been with Labor, and as Mr. Hughes had only recently passed as a barrister he refused to take


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the responsibility. Mr. Higgins—since raised to the High Court—was a great acquisition to the strength of the Cabinet. When the Labor Ministry met the House the scene was one to be remembered. Twenty-six sat on the Government side of the House, and the rest of the seventy-five crowded on to the other side or in the corner. The twenty-six were prepared to stand or fall on their measures, just as they had always supported measures and not men. They expected to get fair play. For a time they did so, but soon the restless schemers after office found an opportunity to cause the downfall of the Government.

Mr. Watson went on with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and at four o'clock on Friday, 24th June, 1904—just at the close of the sitting, as members were leaving to catch their trains—Mr. McCay moved, on the question of preference to unionists, that “no preference be given unless the application is approved by a majority of those affected by the award who have interests in common with the applicants.” There was no debate, and, to the surprise of the Government, the motion was carried by 27 to 22.

Mr. Watson announced that he would have the clause recommitted later on, and on August 10 he moved the recommittal of ten clauses, the schedule, and two new clauses. The schemers had ripened their plans by this time, and so Mr. McCay moved to strike out clause 48, which contained his own amendment. Debate followed, but it failed to prevent the anti-Labor section of the House from striking a blow


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at Unionism and at a Government whose work in the House and in the departments had been without fault. They took the business out of the hands of the Government by 36 to 34. Mr. Watson asked for a dissolution, but was refused, and at once resigned.

Meantime some extraordinary proceedings had taken place. Secret conferences and negotiations were being carried out between Messrs. Reid, Turner, and Deakin. A section of the Deakin party, led by Mr. Isaacs, stood by Mr. Watson; hence it was doubtful whether Mr. Reid could secure a working majority. However, on August 18 a Government with two heads equal in all things took charge. It was the Reid-McLean or McLean-Reid Government. It contained also Sir Josiah Symon, Sir G. Turner, Mr. D. Thomson, Sydney Smith, McCay, and Drake.

On September 20, 1904, Mr. Watson moved a vote of want of confidence. This was debated until October 13, and resulted in 37 for and 35 against the Government. The matter had been kept in doubt all the time, because Mr. D. N. Cameron, of Tasmania, could not make up his mind. Eventually he stood at the centre of the table opposite Mr. Speaker, and after “slating” and abusing both sides equally, he announced his intention to vote for the Government solely to avoid a dissolution. It was a disgraceful exhibition, and no decent Government would have held office under such circumstances, but the double-headed Ministry had schemed too hard to secure office to allow a thing like that to force them to give up. The action of the anti-Labor party stood out


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in marked contrast to the admittedly highly honorable conduct of the Labor Government.

The session ended on December 15, and Reid-McLean had passed one little Act called the Sea Carriage of Goods Act. The twin Government then took the longest recess any of the Cabinets has taken. They did not meet the House until June 28, 1905. Reid then made one of the many blunders he has made in Federal politics. Had he brought down a good programme of business he could have carried on, but instead, to the surprise of his own following—who were not consulted—he had a blank sheet as the Governor-General's speech. He proposed to pass a measure fixing new boundaries for electorates, and that was all. Deakin, in his anxiety to see only two parties in the House, had helped Reid, but had found out his mistake by this time; and so, after a lengthy speech he wound up by moving an addition to the address in reply as follows:—“But are of opinion that practical measures should be proceeded with.” This was carried by 42 to 25. The twins thought they could get a dissolution, hence the brief programme; but when Mr. Reid applied for it he was refused, and so Deakin came back to power on July 5, 1905. He took in Isaacs, Lyne, Forrest, Chapman, Groom, Ewing, Playford, and Keating.

The Reid-McLean coalition period was an interesting one, as it showed the foolishness of trying to force a situation. The House had been doing good work with three parties. The work was too good to suit the Conservatives and anti-Laborites, hence the scheming to dish both Labor and Liberal forces.


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Deakin's action only split his own party, and led to there being four parties instead of three. For his return to power he had to thank the alliance formed between Labor and the section of the Liberal party who remained true to their principles. The alliance was in writing, and was agreed to at a joint meeting of the two parties held on September 7, 1904. It ran as follows:—

“CONDITIONS OF ALLIANCE.

“1. Each party to retain its separate identity.

“2. Alliance to be for the life of this and the next Parliament.

“3. Each party to use its influence individually and collectively with its organizations and supporters to secure support for and immunity from opposition to members of the other party during the currency of the alliance.

“4. A joint election committee to consider contested seats and make recommendations to both parties.

“5. Any member of Parliament who agrees to these articles may, subject to the approval of both parties, be admitted to this alliance.

“JOINT PLATFORM.

“1. Conciliation and Arbitration Bill as nearly as possible in accordance with the original bill as introduced by the Deakin Government, but any member is at liberty to adhere to his votes already given.




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“2. White Australia legislation.—Maintain Acts in their integrity, and effectively support their intentions by faithful administration.

“3. Navigation Bill.—Report of Royal Commission to be expedited, and, subject to this, bill to provide for (a) the protection of Australian shipping from unfair competition; (b) registration of all coastal vessels engaged in the coastal trade; (c) efficient manning of vessels; (d) proper accommodation for passengers and seamen; (e) proper loading gear and inspection of same.

“4. Trades Marks Bill.

“5. Fraudulent Marks Bill.

“6. High Commissioner Bill. The selection of the Commissioner to be subject to prior consent of Parliament; full utilisation of Federal staff for the benefit of all the States.

“7. Electoral Bill (amendment).

“8. Papua Bill.

“9. Anti-trust legislation.

“10. Tobacco monopoly; appointment of the present Select Committee as a royal commission, with addition of members from both Houses of Parliament.

“11. Iron Bonus Bill.—Every member to have freedom of action as to method of control.

“12. Standing Committee on Trade, Commerce, and Agriculture.

“13. Preferential trade to be discussed by both parties at an early date.




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“14. Legislation (including tariff legislation) shown to be necessary—(1) To develop Australian resources; (2) to preserve, encourage, and benefit Australian industries, primary and secondary; (3) to secure fair conditions of labor for all engaged in every form of industrial enterprise, and to advance their interests and well-being without distinction of class or social status; (4) as to any regulation arising under this paragraph only, any member of either party may as to any specific proposal—(a) Agree with the members of his own party to be bound by their joint determination or (b) decide for himself how far the particular circumstances prove necessity or the extent to which the proposal should be carried; (5) Royal Commission to be at once appointed to inquire as to the necessary tariff legislation—personnel to be approved by Parliament—Commission to report in sufficient time to enable any desired legislation to be introduced next session.

“15. Old Age Pensions on a basis fair and equitable to the several States and to individuals.

“16. Quarantine legislation.

“17. Either party may at any time submit to the other any other subjects for consideration with a view to joint action.”

Those who joined the Labor party in this were Messrs. Bonython, Chanter, Hume Cook, Crouch, Groom, Higgins, Isaacs, Kingston, Lyne, Mauger, and Storrer. These eleven, with twenty-five Laborites,


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made a party of thirty-six in the Representatives; and Messrs. Styles, Trenwith, and Playford, with fourteen Labor members, made seventeen in the Senate. There is no doubt that but for this alliance the Deakin party would not have got back to power. It prevented some of the eleven being nobbled by the Reid-McLean coalition, and secured the return of Deakin to his old party—shattered though it was by his own foolish junction with Reid.

The contrast between the Alliance of the Isaacs party and Labor, and that of Reid and Deakin, is most marked. In the latter case there was much of secret caucus and a little letter writing, but the object all through was not to do business in the interests of the country, but simply to crush the Labor Party. They were quarrelling about leadership and as to who were to be Ministers, but there was not a word about the kind of legislation to be carried out. On the other hand, with the Labor Alliance the whole question was how best to secure the passage of democratic legislation. Whatever was done was done in the light of day and given to the press immediately it was arrived at. When the country got the chance it expressed its disapproval of the Reid-Deakin tactics and negotiations by increasing the strength of the Labor Party at the expense of both the others.

The party nominally led by Reid, but really by Mr. Joseph Cook—years ago a rabid Labor man—shortly after the period under notice called themselves “Anti-Socialists.” They came out in their


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true colors when the Government introduced the Commerce Bill and the Trade Marks Bill. They deliberately stonewalled these measures for weeks. The Government had to suspend business and force through amended Standing Orders giving power to apply the closure ere they could get the two important bills passed. The fight nearly killed the Opposition Whip, Mr. Wilks, who had to take to his bed seriously ill owing to the strain of the stonewall. One can understand the strong objection of capitalists to any interference with their profit-making, however dishonest it may be; but it is seldom they come into the open and fight. They generally use hired tools. They invariably exert secret influence in order to retain any advantage they may possess.

The Commerce Act of the Commonwealth was the forerunner of the Pure Foods Acts since passed in several of the States and promised in all. It simply demanded that the goods imported should contain an honest statement on their labels as to contents, weight, etc. Medicines, drugs, apparel (including boots and shoes), seeds and plants, etc., should state what they were and be true to name. No honest trader could object to such a measure. Those who have been making fortunes by selling the public colored water as patent medicines, or shoes made of paper and sold at leather prices, naturally objected, and moved heaven and earth to stop the bill from passing. They had strong champions in the Anti-Socialists.

The other measure—the Trade Marks Bill—was fought still harder. It contained a clause, put in at


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the instance of the Labor Party, giving the same protection to a trade mark registered by an organization of workers as was provided for any ordinary business firm. The object was to protect Union Labels, though the term was not used in the Act. Days and nights the Anti-Socialist Opposition, led by the renegade Labor man, fought this by a stonewall. They had no objection to others than a body of working men having the protection of law for their trade mark. In fact, they desired it. It was to be made a crime to pirate such a trade mark, but it was not to be a crime—in fact, it would be a creditable thing—to pirate a workers' trade mark. This open declaration of one law for the classes and another for the masses characterises the Anti-Socialists all through. Anything that would secure improved conditions for the workers of the world must be prevented from happening, as it might take something from the unearned income of the employing and exploiting class.

The measure was passed, however, and though the best lawyers in the House—including two since made High Court Judges—declared the Act to be within the Constitution, the Anti-Socialists took a case to the High Court, which by a majority vote declared the clause ultra vires; so we now have the immoral doctrine laid down that what is a sin for one person is not a sin in another.

To return to the change of Government. When Mr. Deakin took office after Mr. Reid he was interviewed by Mr. Watson, who wanted to know what


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he proposed to do. Next day Mr. Watson received the following reply:—

“July 5, 1905.

“Dear Mr. Watson,—I am now able to inform you that the programme of business to be submitted to the present Parliament will include, in addition to the Budget and other ordinary requirements of that kind, any necessary legislation upon the matters and lines embraced in the Ballarat platform, 1903, or since arising out of the action of the House. I may mention among the subjects that we hope to deal with—some of them being already advanced more than one stage—are the following:—(1) White Australia; (2) Iron Bounty; (3) Preferential Trade; (4) Rural Development; (5) Navigation; (6) High Commissioner; (7) Tariff Commission Report; (8) Trade Marks; (9) Fraudulent Marks; (10) Papua; (11) Quarantine; (12) Electoral Requirements; (13) Population; (14) Old Age Pensions; (15) West Australian Railway Surveys; (16) Anti-trust Bill; (17) Defence; (18) State Debts. We cannot hope to dispose of all these great problems, but may be enabled to secure further consideration for those upon which legislative action is not yet desirable.

“Yours very truly,

“ALFRED DEAKIN.”

This letter was submitted to the party, and the following resolution carried—“That this party, having been informed through Mr. Watson of the


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measures proposed to be submitted by Mr. Deakin, agrees to give his Ministry a general support during this Parliament in the transaction of public business.” There was a clear understanding that each party maintained its independence. It was this understanding that enabled the Government to carry on, and to win through the stormy times of the stonewall already referred to. There is no doubt of the fact that Labor had an influence upon the business of Parliament, as can be seen from the programme agreed to in alliance with Mr. Isaacs, and later that just quoted from Mr. Deakin's letter, which itself was the outcome of Mr. Watson's interview with him.

It is not my purpose to give anything like a history of Federal legislation. Over 100 Acts have been passed, leaving out Appropriation Acts. Until quite recently Labor has held the balance of power, and has therefore more or less directly controlled legislation. Elsewhere I summarise this view. At present I am only touching on some of the more important incidents. No sooner had Mr. Reid been turned out of office than he began a systematic propaganda. He travelled over a large portion of all the States, warning the people against a Socialistic “tiger,” and denouncing a fearful and wonderful creation of his own which he called Socialism. The “tiger” was the Labor Party. Intelligent people laughed at him, and those who were ignorant of what Socialism meant began to read the subject up; hence Mr. Reid did a wonderful amount of good for Socialism.




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Since he went round on the warpath it is quite safe to announce oneself as a Socialist. He told the people it meant that every one was to get a billet under Government—in fact, all were to have bosses' billets. This idea did not strike the poor out-of-work as being at all a bad thing, and, if that was Socialism, he was a Socialist straight away. Mr. Reid did not enlighten his audiences as to where the money was coming from which paid for his propaganda. It was well known that he had thousands of pounds behind him, and as he is known to be a comparatively poor man it was clear somebody put up the cash. In one place in Queensland he struck the town on the same night as a travelling theatrical company, which had the only hall. He paid them £40 to give up their entertainment so that he could run his “circus” instead.

When the elections came, on December 12, 1906, cash was so plentiful that some candidates in the Anti-Socialistic interest not only had their expenses paid, but were allowed in one case £10 per week and in another £4 per week besides, so that fighting Labor became quite a paying job. When one remembers the fight put up in opposition to all the measures which were calculated to strike a blow at capitalists' profit-grabbing methods, such as light weight, food adulteration, sweating, etc., we can easily guess whose business it was to make it worth while for an able barrister to go round with a bogey trying to throw dust in the eyes of the people, hoping for a re-action which might give the Conservatives power once more. “New Protection” proposals carried in


  ― 399 ―
connection with the harvesters and the anti-trust legislation all struck at the huge profits hitherto obtained, and made it worth spending some money if by so doing they could undo the work of the Labor Party.

The Women's National League, a body of women who probably never earned a meal in their lives, and who knew nothing of the social problem except in so far as it gave them a chance to be insultingly patronising to the poor, got out leaflets which for barefaced lies outdid Munchausen. They even misrepresented the dead, and misquoted writers to bolster up a cry that the Labor Party wanted to destroy the home and the marriage tie. The leader, who claimed to be a titled lady, knew it was untrue, but said “it would be a good move” to spread such an idea, as it would damage Labor men's chances at the election. They also went from house to house spreading the lie that Labor was in favor of the abolition of religion, and also wanted to have the State take all children away from their parents. These women held conferences and meetings, and also seemed to have plenty of money to spend in the “good cause” of Anti-Socialism. It was a big advantage to them that they knew nothing of Socialism, because they were thus enabled to wax enthusiastic over the terrible monster which George Reid had conjured up from a nightmare.

Reid had calculated upon securing a dissolution, and had started early with his bogey, but as it was refused and the elections did not come off until Parliament had run its full term, the people had


  ― 400 ―
time to examine the features of his “tiger,” and found it was quite a harmless creature—in fact, they discovered that Reid did not know a tiger when he saw it. In spite of all his propaganda and the spending of thousands of pounds, the result of his work left him with a shattered party smaller than ever, whilst Labor gained considerably. A little knot of utter Tories got in as Protectionist Anti-Socialists in Victoria, but they would not join Reid, neither did they vote for Protection. Reid wanted only two parties, but he forced members into four sections, none united except Labor.

The elections came on December 12, 1906, and Labor came out as follows:—Representatives:—New South Wales—J. C. Watson, South Sydney; D. Watkins, Newcastle; W. G. Spence, Darling; W. M. Hughes, West Sydney; T. Brown, Calare; J. Thomas, Barrier; W. Webster, Gwydir; E. S. Carr, Macquarie; J. H. Catts, Cook; F. J. Foster, New England; D. R. Hall, Werriwa. Queensland—F. W. Bamford, Herbert; A. Fisher, Wide Bay; C. McDonald, Kennedy; J. Page, Maranoa. South Australia—E. L. Batchelor, Boothby; J. Hutchison, Hindmarsh; A. Poynton, Grey. Victoria—W. Maloney, Melbourne; J. Mathews, Melbourne Ports; J. K. McDougall, Wannon; F. G. Tudor, Yarra. West Australia— J. M. Fowler, Perth; C. E. Frazer, Kalgoorlie; II. Mahon, Coolgardie. Tasmania—King O'Malley, Darwin. The death of the Right Hon. C. C. Kingston on May 12, 1908, left a vacancy for Adelaide, which was filled by Mr. E. A. Roberts. This gave the party twenty-seven in the Representatives.




  ― 401 ―

After the elections the party's position in the Senate stood as follows:—Western Australia—G. F. Pearce, J. W. Croft, H. De Largie, G. Henderson, P. J. Lynch, E. Needham. South Australia—G. McGregor, R. S. Guthrie, W. Russell, W. H. Storey. Victoria—E. Findley, E. J. Russell. Queensland— T. Givens, J. C. Stewart, H. Turley. In South Australia Mr. Crosby, the Labor candidate, was actually elected, but died ere he could take his seat. Complications arose, and after a lengthy inquiry the election was declared void. On May 31 the State Parliament elected Mr. J. V. O'Loghlin to fill the vacancy. He belonged to the Liberal Party of the State, but joined Labor in the Federal Senate, thus making sixteen in that House. The question as to whether the election by the State Parliament was valid under the circumstances was referred to the High Court by the Senate, and the Court decided against it. An appeal to the people lost the seat to Labor. This left the party with fifteen in the Senate, making forty-two in the two Houses.

It will be seen that the greatest gains were in Reid's own State, and the losses in Queensland. The latter were due to the disunited condition of the organizations, and it is confidently expected are only temporary. The party lost an able man there in Senator Higgs, who, had he been elected, was named for the position of President of the Senate.

The other parties in the new House were— Government, fifteen; direct Opposition, twenty-one; with a nondescript lot in the Opposition corner


  ― 402 ―
numbering eleven. Sir John Forrest had left the Deakin Government in the previous Parliament, expecting to make a crisis, but no one troubled about him, hence he joined the corner eleven. Irvine, of Coercion Act fame, also belonged to the corner party. They were alleged Protectionists of the Anti-Socialist school. Labor had the biggest party, and the country had expressed more approval of it than of any other, yet it had no choice but to continue the arrangement of 1905, and therefore supported the Deakin Government. Not only had the Government fewer supporters, but the personnel of the Cabinet had weakened considerably. In 1906 Messrs. Higgins and Isaacs had been placed on the bench of the High Court, and with their acknowledged ability, their removal was a loss to the Government and the House generally.

The party and the movement suffered a great loss in October, 1907, owing to the resignation of the leadership by Mr. J. C. Watson. Not only had he displayed distinguished ability, but his fine personal qualities had endeared him to every member of the party. His reasons were entirely private and personal. During the period in which he held office as Prime Minister the strain had told upon his health, and shortly after, to relieve him somewhat, Mr. Andrew Fisher had been appointed deputy chairman, and was subsequently chosen as successor. There is every confidence that Mr. Fisher will do well. He is in the prime of life, and has been in the movement from boyhood. He has already had many years of Parliamentary life, first in the Queensland


  ― 403 ―
Parliament, and, since Federation, in the House of Representatives.

The year 1908 saw changes in the relationship of parties. Something of a crisis took place in April. Complaints as to the management of the Postal Department had been rife for a year or more. The Government had appointed a committee from the Cabinet to examine into the matter, but it was seen by members that it was unlikely that they would condemn a colleague. Mr. Webster had a motion for the appointment of a Royal Commission, and being afraid that he would not get another chance ere the session ended he wanted to press the matter to a division. The Government wanted the matter adjourned until they were satisfied that a Commission was absolutely necessary. A motion for the adjournment of the debate was defeated by 31 to 28, several Labor members voting with the Opposition, who saw a chance to get at the Government.

Mr. Deakin adjourned the House, and said he would have to consider his position. Considerable excitement ensued. Deakin announced that he would resign. Members of his Ministry pressed him very hard to continue in office. Negotiations were opened up with the Labor Party, and tempting offers of coalition were made. Mr. Deakin expressed himself as willing to personally support a Labor Government, but could not answer for his followers. Strong pressure was brought to bear from many outside sources, and eventually Mr. Deakin agreed to go on with business and to appoint a Royal Commission.




  ― 404 ―

Out of the crisis we secured the passage of an Invalid and Old Age Pension Act. It is the most advanced of its kind in the world. Labor had been urging the matter for eight years, and only secured it then by first pointing out to the Government how the necessary funds could be raised. On 24th June, 1903, Mr. King O'Malley asked Mr. Barton “Whether in view of the large surplus of the Commonwealth revenue, as shown by him yesterday, he will immediately bring it a bill to establish a system of national old age pensions.” Barton replied to the effect that the surplus went to the States, and to keep it would lead to the financial embarrassment of the States; and that there was not sufficient anyhow. At various times Labor members have made other suggestions. Senator Pearce suggested taking over the tobacco monopoly and letting the profits provide for old age pensions, and his motion embodying that idea was carried. At last Mr. Fisher revived the idea of setting apart and saving up the surplus revenue, and the Government agreed to it and introduced a bill accordingly, which went through the Parliament quickly. The Bill for Invalid and Old Age Pensions followed it and went through the House of Representatives on 3rd June, 1908, in one sitting, and passed the Senate next day without amendment.

Labor members generally are good fighters. They are also keen critics. Most of them are more comfortable in opposition than supporting a Government with much of whose work they are dissatisfied. The Deakin Ministers had not been as alert in enforcing the White Australia policy as was


  ― 405 ―
desired. The Postal Department had been starved for want of funds, whilst surplus moneys had been paid over to the States enabling them to have huge surpluses. There had been a great demand for telephone extension, but no funds in the department to meet it. These facts had been largely hidden until the Commission began its inquiry, though they were evidently known to every Postmaster-General and Treasurer.

It was a tired and weak Government which attempted to struggle along with the responsibilities of a great Commonwealth, and it became evident that a change was inevitable. It was only a question of when and how. The leader of the Anti-Socialists (Mr. Reid) noticed the unrest. He had been trying hard in a blundering sort of way to unite the direct Opposition and the corner nondescripts. Negotiations were still going on when he thought to force the matter to an issue and at the same time test the feeling of Labor. On 20th October, 1908, he moved, “That the financial proposals of the Government are unsatisfactory to this House.”

The Labor Party decided in caucus that they would all sit silent, but would vote for the Government. They could not defend the Government, but would choose their own time for putting it out. The Government was weak, but was better than the Anti-Socialists. Mr. Reid tried hard to draw Laborites, but failed.

Sir John Forrest, with whom Mr. Reid had been carrying on negotiations, but whom he had not consulted with regard to the censure motion,


  ― 406 ―
moved to amend it by striking out the words “are unsatisfactory to this House.” This was carried by 43 to 21. He then moved to insert the words “be considered in Committee on the Budget.” This was negatived by 60 votes to 7. Reid's henchman, Johnson, then moved to insert “ought to make better provision for the payment of old age pensions,” and 18 voted for this and 42 against, so the censure ended in a farce. The incident emphasised the fact that the Opposition was still divided, and Mr. Reid, realising that he could not secure a united party of Anti-Socialists, announced his retirement from the leadership, and the direct Opposition elected Mr. Joseph Cook in his place. Meantime, Labor was thinking over the situation.

Early in November the feeling of dissatisfaction came to a climax. It was felt that the policy of financial drift could no longer be tolerated. The party could not afford to keep a Government in power which made no provision for the large sums certain to be required in the near future for Old Age Pensions, for development of the Northern Territory, for Defence purposes, and for putting the Postal Department in a state of efficiency. It was clear that a difference must arise between the party and the Government next session over the proposals for amendment of the Constitution submitted by the Government, as they did not go far enough, and the party could not support them. This was in relation to carrying out “New Protection.”




  ― 407 ―

The only real difference of opinion in the party was as to whether they should take action at once or await the session of 1909. It was resolved to act at once, and the leader was authorised to convey the intimation to Mr. Deakin that the party could no longer support him. It was desired to avoid any recriminative debate, and it was thought that after the long and loyal support accorded the small party on the Treasury benches it was only reasonable to expect that they would give a Labor Government a fair chance. Mr. Deakin did not take kindly to the idea, and, when reminded of his previous statement that he would support a Labor Ministry, he said that he had since changed his mind.

On 6th November, 1908, Mr. Fisher made a statement in the House, simply and briefly that the Labor Party could no longer support the Government. Mr. Deakin seemed to expect that the statement would be followed by a motion. Within a day or two, however, the Government was willing to retire, and on the 10th, after making a statement to the House, Mr. Deakin moved formally an alteration in the hour of meeting next day. Mr. Reid objected to this, which meant that notice must be given and a day's delay would be secured; but to his surprise Mr. Deakin at once moved that the House at its rising adjourn until next day at three o'clock. Mr. Fisher quickly rose and moved to amend the motion by leaving out all the words after “that.” The division was taken immediately, and resulted in 13 for the Government and 49 against.

The Opposition leader seemed to be taken back and missed his opportunity. He could easily have


  ― 408 ―
prevented the Labor Party getting into office by voting against them and taking his chance of after developments. He complained of the Speaker not calling him in preference to Mr. Fisher, but the Speaker called the man who rose first. As it turned out, Labor had the unique distinction of being put into power by its opponents. In these peculiar circumstances the second Labor Ministry came into office. Mr. Fisher left the choice of his Ministers to the caucus, and the following members were selected by that body but appointed to their respective offices by Mr. Fisher:—

The Honorable Andrew Fisher to be Prime Minister and Treasurer;

The Honorable William Morris Hughes to be Attorney-General;

The Honorable Egerton Lee Batchelor to be Minister of State for External Affairs;

The Honorable Hugh Mahon to be Minister of State for Home Affairs;

The Honorable Josiah Thomas to be Postmaster-General;

The Honorable George Foster Pearce to be Minister of State for Defence;

The Honorable Frank Gwynne Tudor to be Minister of State for Trade and Customs;

The Honorable Gregor McGregor to be Vice-President of the Federal Executive Council;

James Hutchison, Esquire, to be an Executive Councillor and Honorary Minister.

The Honorable D. Watkins was elected Whip and Secretary in the Representatives, and Mr. H. De Largie Whip in the Senate.




  ― 409 ―

The new Ministry met the House on the 17th November, 1908, put through the Estimates and one or two minor matters, and then went into recess. Immediately upon doing so, the Labor Ministry began a vigorous policy of administration. The defence of Australia by Australians was provided for in accord with that self-reliant spirit taught in Labor's Objective. The building of the first ships for an Australian Navy was commenced; arrangements were made for the establishment of a factory for the manufacture of arms, etc., as well as for the starting of a Commonwealth Clothing Factory. Better administration of the White Australia policy was set up, and more undesirable aliens were sent back to their own country in a few months than previous Governments had discovered in years.

On March 30 the Prime Minister delivered his policy speech in Gympie. It was the first time a Labor Government had had a chance to frame a business policy for submission to Parliament, and it was admitted to be the boldest and most National Australian policy ever enunciated. Anti-Labor was struck dumb, and failed to find a flaw in it. Though they dare not openly attack the policy, the Conservatives secretly determined to defeat it, and so commenced an intrigue which finally brought together all the parties opposing Labor. Men who had for a lifetime advocated Freetrade as a great and sacred principle agreed to accept and support Protection. Members who had fought for Protection for years agreed to become one with the party which had for years fought against it, and who


  ― 410 ―
outnumbered them in both Houses. Thus the last of the Liberals sold themselves to the Conservatives in order to prevent Labor carrying into effect a programme to which they had no declared objection.

We have now reached the stage in Federal and in State political life when two parties face each other. On the one side there are the land monopolists, syndicators, money-grabbers, rings, trusts, combines, and the whole body of exploiters of society. They are led industrially and politically by the Federated Employers' Union. On the other side stands the people's party—those who work for the uplifting of the masses and the setting up of social justice. They are organised in Trades Unions and Labor Leagues. Conservatism has but a temporary victory, as Labor looks forward with confidence to the coming elections.

The House met on 26th May, 1909, for the fourth session of the third Parliament of the Commonwealth. A splendid programme of business was set forth in the Speech of the Governor-General. The first step towards striking a blow at land monopoly was taken by the introduction of a Bill for a graduated Land Tax. On the 27th the Address-in-Reply was moved and seconded. The new leader of the Opposition (Mr. Deakin) saw that the proposals of the Government as set out in the Speech were popular, and took steps at once to gag Parliament and prevent discussion. He put up Willie Kelly to do the dirty work. The latter moved the adjournment of the debate, and on division the combined Opposition won by 39 to 30, thus taking the business out of the hands of the


  ― 411 ―
Government. Sir Wm. Lyne, and Messrs. Chanter, Wise, and Storrer voted with the Labor Party, and declined to sell their principles by following their late leader, Deakin. In a full House the parties stand 43 against 31. On the motion for adjournment of the House some vigorous speeches were delivered in exposure of Deakin's tactics. Mr. Fisher asked for a dissolution, but was refused, and on 2nd June Mr. Deakin and his crew of remnants of discredited parties took office and Labor went into Opposition.

What is known as “New Protection” is a proposal which entirely originated with the Labor Party. Hitherto protective duties benefited only the manufacturer. New Protection on the lines attempted by Commonwealth legislation means that the people, through the power of Parliament, undertake to guarantee to Australian manufacturers the Australian market on the understanding that they pay fair and reasonable wages to their employees, and do not enter into combines or trusts, or overcharge consumers for their goods. Several Acts control this policy directly and indirectly, all more or less contributing to enforce the principle. These are the Australian Industries Preservation Act, Bounties Act, Customs Act, Customs Tariff Act, Excise Tariff Act (Agricultural Machinery), Secret Commissions Act, Commerce Act, and Trade Marks Act.

Power is taken to stop the dumping of foreign-made goods at prices under which they can be honestly manufactured. Local makers are prohibited from selling under cost, and if any


  ― 412 ―
manufacturer feels that a competitor is doing so he can hale him to Court and make him prove that he can produce the article at the price and pay fair and reasonable wages. In such a case the complainant cannot succeed if in his own case he has an out-of-date plant. Rebates and secret commissions are prohibited, and all goods imported must be of the correct weight and state the contents of the manufacture; and most of the States having passed similar laws applying locally, fair competition all round is assured so far as lawmaking can do it.

Under the Excise Act power was taken to compel the makers of agricultural machinery to pay excise as per the schedule of the Act. Taking harvesters as example, they had to pay £6 each as excise unless they secured exemption, which was at once granted so soon as they satisfied the proper authority that they paid fair and reasonable wages. Under the tariff they had a protective duty of £12 per machine, which enabled them to pay Australian wages. In that connection a limitation was placed on the selling price, but the intention is to provide for a Commission or Board of Trade which shall have power to ascertain the cost of manufacture of all kinds of locally-made articles and report to Parliament. If it is found that prices asked for the goods are over and above a fair profit, Parliament will reduce the tariff. If, on the other hand, it appears that foreign competition is preventing the industry from carrying on successfully under efficient management, Parliament will be expected to raise the duty on that particular line. Further, it is intended to have all articles made under fair


  ― 413 ―
wage conditions stamped with the Commonwealth stamp, so that purchasers can become aware of whether they are patronising a sweater or a fair employer.

The experience already gained of this entirely new and experimental legislation is highly interesting from more than one point of view. One of the grievances against the Deakin Government was their laxity and slowness in enforcing the Act. When they at last began to enforce it the attitude of the capitalist toward legislation giving fair conditions to working men soon became notably apparent. The firm which had made more noise than any other about the unfair competition of a foreign trust fought bitterly against fair play being conceded the workers employed by them. This was the firm of McKay Brothers, makers of the Sunshine Harvesters. To get outside the jurisdiction of the Wages Boards of Victoria they had removed from Ballarat to Braybrook Junction, just outside the metropolitan area. Though taking full advantage of the high tariff and the anti-trust legislation which stopped the dumping of foreign-made harvesters, they refused to comply with the Excise Act or pay fair wages. Other firms followed their example. At last action was taken and the firms were cited to the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration. The case was heard by Justice Higgins, and his award marks an era of advance in this kind of legislative interference with private enterprise. Not only did he order a rise in wages running from a shilling up to three shillings per day increase on


  ― 414 ―
rates previously paid, but, most important of all, he laid down a principle as a guide in fixing wages. On this point the learned Judge says in his award:—

“The provision for fair and reasonable remuneration is obviously designed for the benefit of the employees in the industry; and it must be meant to secure to them something which they cannot get by the ordinary system of individual bargaining with employers. If Parliament meant that the conditions shall be such as they can get by individual bargaining —if it meant that those conditions are to be fair and reasonable which employees will accept and employers will give in contracts of service —there would have been no need for this provision. The remuneration could safely have been left to the usual, but unequal, contest, the ‘higgling of the market’ for labor, with the pressure for bread on one side and the pressure for profits on the other. The standard of ‘fair and reasonable’ must therefore be something else; and I cannot think of any other standard appropriate than the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilised community. I have invited counsel and all concerned to suggest any other standard; and they have been unable to do so. If, instead of individual bargaining, one can conceive of a collective agreement—an agreement between all the employers in a given trade on the one side, and all the employees, on the other—it seems to me that the framers


  ― 415 ―
of the agreement would have to take, as the first and dominant factor, the cost of living as a civilised being. If A lets B have the use of his horses, on the terms that he give them fair and reasonable treatment, I have no doubt that it is B's duty to give them proper food and water, and such shelter and rest as they need; and, as wages are the means of obtaining commodities, surely the State, in stipulating for fair and reasonable remuneration for the employees, means that the wages shall be sufficient to provide these things, and clothing and a condition of frugal comfort estimated by current human standards. This, then, is the primary test, the test which I shall apply in ascertaining the minimum wage that can be treated as ‘fair and reasonable’ in the case of unskilled laborers.”

McKay Brothers' employees, with the exception of a few, were not organized, hence the conditions indicate what happens in such cases, and are a very complete exposition of “freedom of contract.” The Judge says:—

“It is absurd to pretend that any foreman, however discriminating, can assess values of work with such nicety as these wages indicate— one penny a day sometimes, or sixpence a week. Mr. McKay, who fixes the wages for the factory, says that he pays the men—nearly 500 in number, and of many different trades— according to their values. Of course, he means according to his opinion of their values. Yet


  ― 416 ―
when I asked what was the difference between an improver at 7s. 10d. a day and a journeyman at 8s. a day in the department of sheet-iron workers, Mr. McKay admitted that there was no appreciable recognisable difference between the men corresponding to the 1s. a week difference between their wages. One of the applicant's witnesses, Mr. Rigby, of the Austral Otis Company, complacently assured me, on the strength of a brief inspection of the factory, and of the list submitted by the applicant, and without knowing the qualifications of the individual men, that the wages paid are, in his opinion, fair and reasonable. He did not consider the quality of the men at all, but the class of work. I can only say that I am not going to accept as final the employer's unchecked opinion as to an employee's worth in wages, any more than I should accept the value of a horse on the word of an intending vendor. The one-sided nature of an employer's valuation of an employee is indicated clearly by the frank statements of Mr. Geo. McKay:—‘I pay the men what I consider them to be honestly worth. In fixing the wages I have endeavored to get labor at the cheapest price that I honestly could.’ ”

When dealing with the class termed “unskilled labor” and those termed “improvers” or partially trained, Justice Higgins remarks:—

“The existence of this class is a standing menace to industrial order and industrial peace,


  ― 417 ―
as well as a hindrance to industrial efficiency. As one witness has said:—‘Employers will take on the slightly inferior tradesmen if they ask for a little less than the standard wage, and the result is that the efficient tradesman has often to walk about.…Unless the efficient tradesman cuts his rates, the imperfectly-trained men are taken on.…We journeymen have to go without work months and months, because we cannot get a journeyman's wage.’ It is this body of half-trained men, hanging on to the skirts of a trade, that is used for the purpose of pulling down the wages of men fully trained. On this irregular force of industrial inefficients an employer can always, rely for temporary assistance in industrial crises.”

After a visit to McKay Brothers' factory he says:—

“The factory bears every sign of business-like management, of devices for economy in labor, of devices for keeping employees at high pressure. The work is minutely subdivided; the pace of the men is increased by ‘repetition’ work; and all the latest labor-saving appliances are adopted. All these economies are, of course, legitimate, so far as the Excise Tariff is concerned. The employer can displace men by introducing machinery as he chooses. He can make the work as monotonous and as mind-stupifying as he thinks to be for his advantage. He has an absolute power of choice of men and of dismissal. He is allowed—if my view of the Act is correct—to make any profits that he can,


  ― 418 ―
and they are not subject to investigation. But when he comes, in the course of his economies, to economise at the expense of human life, when his economy involves the withholding from his employees of reasonable remuneration, or reasonable conditions of human existence, then, as I understand the Act, Parliament insists on the payment of Excise duty. The applicant seems to me to have fallen, most naturally, into the practice of not spending more in the payment of his employees than is sufficient to induce them to work for him. Most naturally, as he buys his raw material, his iron, and his wood in the cheapest market, he in many cases pays no more to the workmen than the price at which they can be got. There is no evidence that he is a bad or an unfeeling employer. His mode of dealing with his employees is reasonable from an employer's point of view, as a purchaser of labor as a commodity.”

In the New South Wales Arbitration Court, Judge Heydon laid down the principle that no industry should be permitted to exist if it could not pay a “living wage” to its employees. Justice Higgins, under the more explicit terms of the Federal law, fixes a better standard—“the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilised community.” This declaration will live, and it is only a matter of a short time ere the Constitution of the Commonwealth will be altered so that the Court can enforce the Judge's decision.




  ― 419 ―

After exhaustive evidence, Justice Higgins hesitated between 7s. 6d. per day and 7s., eventually fixing the latter as the lowest rate to be paid to the most unskilled laborer, and in his opinion the lowest rate of wage upon which a workman could live decently in Victoria. In connection with the antitrust legislation and kindred laws, the Labor Party does not expect it to prove entirely successful. They are opposed to the continuance of the competitive system, and look forward to the setting up of a co-operative commonwealth; but as practical politicians, they are forced to recognise existing political thought. The great mass of the electors favor legislative restriction, and hence it has to be tried and found wanting ere the next step can be taken.

The Party strongly favors taking over a number of monopolies, but the Constitution is against it, and the public are hardly yet educated up to an amendment taking such wide powers—more especially as existing State Governments in almost every case fight against any extension of Federal powers. Mr. Thomas, the Labor Postmaster-General, secured the appointment of a Royal Commission, of which he was Chairman, which reported in favor of the Commonwealth running its own mail steamships between Australia and Great Britain. The people are beginning to realise the tremendous taxing power now used by the shipping ring which controls shipping on the Australian coast; hence on all these matters there is the pressure of evil conditions and unjust burdens on one side and the active propaganda of Labor men


  ― 420 ―
on the other, both of which are tending in the direction of securing Labor's ideal.

As to the composition of the Commonwealth Labor Party, it contains more than one member possessed of independent means, as well as a doctor, journalists, lawyers, artists, engineers, metallurgists, miners, and many tradesmen. They have all had a varied experience, and it is interesting to know that few if any of them have not at some time in their lives engaged in manual labor. All are more or less well acquainted with economic questions, and several are close students of science and philosophy. In the first two Parliaments the party also included a clergyman, but he deserted at last election. For varied knowledge of life, for intensity of purpose and whole-souled devotion to that purpose, no other party stands equal to Labor.

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