― 426 ―

27. Chapter XXVII. Eighteen Years of Social Evolution.

THE influence of the Labor Movement on the political thought of the Australian people is not to be measured by the number of members returned to Parliament. A solid, united, compact body acting together, even though numerically few, can exert a wonderful influence upon other parties less united. For about five years in each case the party held the balance of power and supported a Government. This was the situation in South Australia with Kingston as Premier; in New South Wales with Reid, and after that with Lyne; and in Victoria with Turner and Peacock. The most democratic measures hitherto passed were put through under those circumstances. It also accounts for the fact that until Federation came the Party did not grow in numbers as one would have expected. When the party entered into the active political life of each colony it was sneered at and looked upon as but a passing phase arising out of a temporary excitement. The intense earnestness of members of the party, their close attendance to duty, their habit of asking ugly questions and probing into matters which needed to have daylight let in on them, soon caused Governments and their followers to look upon Labor as a factor to be reckoned with.

Labor members took politics as a serious business, and forced the House to look upon law-making

  ― 427 ―
as something of serious importance to the people. By persistent pressure they forced questions of a humanitarian character to the front, until of late years the most prominent political question is that of the social problem, and no political platform is without a proposal dealing with some phase of it. Taking the membership of the Labor Party from its inception as found in the Legislative Assembly of each State and for both Houses of the Commonwealth Parliament, the numbers present the following barometer:—

Year.  Total Members. 
1891...........  36 
1892...........  57 
1893...........  69 
1894...........  69 
1895...........  61 
1896...........  66 
1897...........  64 
1898...........  65 
1899...........  70 
1900...........  67 
1901...........  98 
1902...........  94 
1903...........  111 
1904...........  147 
1905...........  147 
1906...........  158 
1907...........  148 
1908...........  165 
1909...........  171 

I have included the Senate with the above because both Houses are elected by the same franchise, whereas in four States the Legislative Council is elected on a property qualification, and in the other two it is a nominee Chamber.

Australia is lacking in statistics connected with the problems in which Labor is interested, and it would take immense research to get at the results of the voting at each election, but taking the

  ― 428 ―
number of members elected it will be seen that the greatest advance has been made since Federation. The gain is greater than it appears, as there has been an increase of 62 Labor members in the several States, whilst at the same time there has been a decrease of 81 in the total membership of the Assemblies. In 1900 we totalled 67 out of 428; in 1909 we have 129 out of 347. Labor has also 13 members in the Legislative Councils, which gives a total of 184 Labor members for Commonwealth and State Parliaments. Gauged by membership, the first ten years showed a struggle, Labor just holding its own apparently; whilst it has had a continuous increase during the last eight years. Tested by the work done, however, we find that in the States Labor secured more beneficial legislation during that ten-year period. In the Commonwealth Parliament it has held the balance of power and secured legislation, while steadily gaining in numbers.

The evolution has been from (1) supporting a Government which would pass Labor measures; to (2) becoming the direct Opposition; (3) becoming the Government. Coming in as a third party they naturally supported those who would take up any of the Labor Platform, and when those whom they supported joined the Conservatives—as they invariably have done in every State—Labor became the Opposition. When clear of other parties they steadily increase at every election, and cannot fail to capture the position of Government very soon in all the States. Labor has been much criticised because it refuses to enter into a coalition with the so-called Liberal parties. Labor men are students

  ― 429 ―
of political and social science and know that in a coalition conservatism invariably wins. The mere superficial observer imagines that, because he finds a similarity between the political proposals of other parties and those of Labor, it would therefore be wise for Labor to unite with them. As a matter of fact, there is nothing in common between Labor and any other party. They can and do work together when forced to do so, as we have seen, but they are wide as the poles when we come to consider them as political parties outside the House.

The Labor Party does not control or govern the movement. The platform is not framed by the party inside, but emanates from the people. A Labor member cannot fool the people, even if he wanted to. Members of other political parties can and do fool the people. Their constituencies are selected for them by other politicians, and, at the best, electors have but little say as to who shall represent them. In the case of Labor, the electors frame the policy, and select the man they want to carry their banner to the polls. Every Labor member has to submit himself to the leagues and unions in his electorate for selection prior to every contest; no other politician similarly submits himself. It is a people's movement, controlled by the people; and so long as it remains true to that principle, so long will continue to grow. Coalitions of any kind are an invasion of that principle and antagonistic to it. Coalitions necessarily involve the question of immunity at election time, and this is an interference with the rights of the electors of each constituency concerned. It would be simply going

  ― 430 ―
back to the old parties' methods of the politicians running things instead of the people concerned doing so. The Labor Movement is based upon a recognition of the right of the people to govern themselves in their own way and according to their own ideas.

Critics who think that a discussion is settled by the mere use of catchwords have charged Labor members with being subject to the control of a “machine.” By this they infer that the leagues and unions directing the Labor Movement are akin to the “machine” run by American Bosses. He must be a stupid man indeed who can see any analogy between the two. Bossism is simply the Boss and his friends controlling a limited organization for their own ends. The Labor Movement has no Bosses, and no personal ends to gain. In the past a few men have come into it to try to make it a stepping stone by which to attain political position, but one has only to look at its rules to see that there is but little if any chance for that sort of person to do so now. The Australian Trades Union and Political Labor Movement has been absolutely without a suspicion of anything of the kind known as “graft” in America. Such an evil as bribery is unknown. Members of the organizations are a suspicious and alert body of men, and selfish schemers are soon seen through and get short shrift.'

The greatest difference of all between Labor and other parties lies in the fact that Labor has an ideal. It realises that there never can be social justice under a capitalistic system of production, distribution, and exchange. It aims at a gradual

  ― 431 ―
but nevertheless complete and permanent change. Capitalism, commercialism, competition and its concomitant, wage slavery, must go. Co-operation and production for use must come. Every other political party in Australia is opposed to those ideas. Every one of them wants to retain the present awful, wicked system, wasting time and trying to hide glaring evils by putting patches on them to cover them up until after next election. They are all parties of expediency. It is come-day-go-day and hold on to office by dodging everything which demands a firm stand and involves risk to their political skins.

Labor's opponents admit that it has high ideals. They admit that Labor has done good work and has a clean record. They admit that its members are as able as other politicians, and yet they have resorted to every artifice in order to prevent Labor getting into power. This is only what must be expected of them. The social problem is the line of demarcation between other parties and Labor. There are but two parties—those who want to abolish injustice and wage slavery, with all that comes of poverty and unemployment; and those who think that the present system is right enough with just a little touching up here and there. The Conservatives have no policy, and adopted an honest label when they declared themselves Anti-Socialists. They are antisocial. They care not for the masses, except in so far as they are useful to maintain the rich in unearned luxury. Economically ignorant, they cannot conceive it possible that the present social system can be improved. Their hopelessness is

  ― 432 ―
declared by their leader, Mr. G. H. Reid. In his “Essays on Freetrade,” page 66, published in 1875, he said:

“Will it not be time enough to manufacture everything for ourselves when we can save, instead of now when we would lose, by the operation? Will it not be well to reap the advantage of the pauper labor of other countries until we are so great a nation that we have pauper labor of our own?”

On October 31, 1901, in the Commonwealth Parliament, he said:

“How are we going to compete with these underpaid, sweated countries until our own labor is underpaid and sweated too?…It seems to me that the prospect of growing these noxious weeds of sweated industries on this bright continent should cause a man associated with the interests of Labor to shudder. In the plenitude of time, when our millions become tens of millions, we shall have a crop of misery which will solve the difficulty in regard to cheap manufactures.”

Apparently Reid has no hope that we can escape from the misery of old lands. Labor not only hopes, but can see the way to bring about highly improved conditions of life long before there are tens of millions in Australia. Labor has confidence in the Australian people. It has patience to work for and await results. Labor looks ahead, lays its plans, and works along well-thought-out lines. No other party

  ― 433 ―
ever showed that it trusted the people. With very few exceptions Governments always arranged the elections in such a way that thousands of electors have been disfranchised. In every State, though nominally the suffrage demanded had been granted, a certain class of electors was always disfranchised by various devices. It was invariably the workers. The Labor Party in every State has been fighting for electoral reform and administration so that this evil could be abolished. In order to defeat Labor men the Governments select the most unsuitable day for elections, so that electors cannot get to vote. Plural voting is still permitted to the rich.

Photograph facing p.432. First Commonwealth Labor Ministry, 1904. Standing: E.L.Batchelor, A.Dawson, A.Fisher, H.Mahon, W.M.Hughes. Sitting: G.McGregor, J.C.Watson, H.B.Higgins

The people are at last awaking to the fact that men professing democracy will not trust the democracy, and are the worst kind of conservatives. In choosing between the two old parties it was only a question of degree. Labor has forced them into one camp, and the country can now see that they were really one crowd all the time. Some of my friends of other parties will feel annoyed at this, and will claim that their motives are just as pure as Labor's, and that they are equally sympathetic. I do not deny that some of them are unconscious of evil motive. Their intentions may be alright, but the road to a certain warm place is said to be paved with good intentions. However, I am writing of the effects of the actions and teachings of politicians, not of what they may conceive their motives to be.

Political questions are now economic questions, and require that those who understand economics shall handle them. The days of slipshod expediency

  ― 434 ―
have gone by. The pressure of life is keener and the influence of law greater and more distinctly felt. Labor members have been termed professional politicians, and they do not object to the term. They are proud to be called professional law makers. The country has been governed by quacks long enough. Labor members have long since diagnosed social diseases, and know what remedy to apply when the country calls them in.

It has been distinctly good for Australia that Labor took a hand in law making and in the management of public affairs. Compared with previous experience, employers have enjoyed a period of industrial peace. This was not because the workers were more justly treated, but because they had set up courts to deal with such disputes on the one hand, and because, on the other, they had their energies and funds directed towards securing political control, and were willing to put up with a good deal until the more lasting changes came by constitutional methods.

Employers have themselves also turned their attention to the political field. They have spent much money and put up a very united effort to try to prevent the Labor advance. Their efforts have of course delayed the inevitable, but have only caused delay. The more clearly they appear in the fight the better for Labor, as it opens the eyes of the sleepy worker who has been falsely taught that the interests of capital and Labor are one, and, while rubbing his eyes, he begins to think. The farmer's son, now grown up and wanting land, as well as the

  ― 435 ―
man who wants to start farming, is finding out that to the bad government of old parties is due the land monopoly which exists to-day, and which shuts them off from a chance of making a home. They begin to see that the Labor Party is the only one fighting the monopolist, whether of land or anything else. They realise that Labor members want to get the workers out of the wage market; hence they want him to get a chance to go on the land, where he need call no man master.

The Labor Party does far more platform propaganda than the other party, and every new member is an additional propagandist. The Conservatives depend on the half-heartedness of hired brains in the press, but the press itself is carrying less weight than it did eighteen years ago. People realise that it is but a commercial concern, which stands by those who pay it best. Time was when no man could win a Liberal seat in Victoria if the Melbourne “Age” was against him; now it is quite common for men to win in spite of it. At the last election, Labor secured 21 seats in that State in spite of the press. The Labor Party is the only Australian Party. The organizations are all united throughout the continent. A Labor member visiting any State or the Federal House walks right into the Labor Party's room, and is welcomed as a comrade and brother. He takes part as opportunity offers in elections for any State. All have one common aim— one grand ideal.

This unity of thought and purpose must tell with increasing force and power as time rolls on. The

  ― 436 ―
safety and the success of the party depend on recognition of the organization. There is the same human tendency amongst Labor politicians as amongst all others to want to “run the show.” In Queensland, Kidston kicked against the democratic method, and has gone “scab” on the movement; and, like all such, has become a worse man than his conservative opponents. Non-interference by the organizations with the Party in the House between elections, but full control of the movement outside as hitherto, is the only successful method. Each must do its own work.

Whilst it is admitted that the Labor Party was not alone in its advocacy of a White Australia, there is one phase of that question in which it specially led the way. A few years ago it was a common cry that the tropical portion of Australia was not a white man's country. It was held that women and children could not live in North Queensland, for instance, or in the Northern Territory. Outside of the ranks of the Labor Party this idea was generally accepted. It was asserted that sugar could not be grown if the growers had to depend upon white labor. It was not merely a question of wages; it was claimed that he could not stand the work in that climate. Labor was the only political party in the States which held an opposite view. Federally, it had the help of the Barton-Deakin party, but time has proved that the Labor Party's foresight and knowledge were correct. Sugar is successfully produced by white labor, and the figures of Mr. Knibbs, the Commonwealth Statistician, prove Queensland to be the healthiest place in the world for women and

  ― 437 ―
children, as the increase of population by excess of births over deaths is 1720 per 100,000, whereas the average for the Commonwealth is 1694.

The Anti-Socialist is invariably the most unpatriotic person to be found. He belongs to the “stinking fish” party. If he cannot get his own stupid way he denounces the country in which he has done so well. The bedrock of the cry for a color line across the continent, so that Anti-Socialists could boss niggers and yellow men, is found in the Anti-Socialist's nature. He is a born tyrant, and as the white Australian will not stand his tyranny he must have a nigger to order about. There is no patriotism in the Anti-Socialist press, hence it barracks for anything the capitalist crowd asks for.

Whilst giving due credit to many public men of other political parties who individually spoke up for a White Australia, I have no hesitation in asserting that but for Labor there would have been a compromise, and Australia would not have been a white man's country to-day. Labor admittedly forced the drawing of the color line on the mail-boats running to England. The Anti-Socialists would alter that to-morrow if they had the power. The public have been educated, and now see that Labor was right. Success tells. The policy of the party as applied to sugar growing has resulted as follows:—In 1902 12,254 tons were grown by white labor, and 65,581 by black; in 1907 157,000 tons were produced by white labor, and only 16,870 by black. The total production increased from 77,000 tons in 1902 to 173,000 tons in 1907, and the area under

  ― 438 ―
sugar from 95,697 acres in 1902 to 133,148 acres in 1907.

But for the Labor Party the Commonwealth would have started its life in debt. The borrowing policy has had such a grip of Australian Governments that it amounts to a craze, and is enough to make one wonder whether they are not really agents for the British money-lender. I deal with this elsewhere, but it is important to record here that the first Treasurer actually proposed that the Commonwealth should borrow half a million for public works. The Labor Party stopped it, and thus laid the foundation for the system of constructing all public works from revenue. Since the setting up of the Commonwealth, over £2,000,000 have been expended on public works out of revenue, and not only has this been done, but over six millions more have been paid to the States than they had any claim to under the Constitution. The Barton Government might be called the pick of past Governments, yet no stronger evidence could be adduced of the incapacity of such men to manage public financial affairs than this attempt to perpetuate the mad borrowing craze, and Labor had to show a better way.

One of the most noticeable effects of Labor's advent and increased strength in all the States is that it has demonstrated to the people the fact that there was no real difference between the two old parties of so-called Liberals and Conservatives. There are no “Conservatives” now. They have all become “Liberals” since Labor took a hand. In their desperate efforts to retain power and office

  ― 439 ―
they are forced to take the Labor Party's planks one after another, and to pass laws supposed to carry the ideas of Labor into effect. These laws, however, contain little more than the name, as the Second Chamber still fulfils its mission of retarding every effort calculated to abolish privilege. They cannot fool the people all the time; and as Labor is now the direct Opposition, and as all other Governments are more or less disappointing, it will not be long ere the people will give the party its chance in every State.

The party has had a modifying influence upon the Conservative party in every Parliament. Acts passed with many imperfections would have been much worse but for the work put in when the measures were in committee. The Labor members' point of view has always been so different that when it was put it made an impression. Even the Houses of Privilege are not quite so extreme as they were, though they still stand in the way of real progress in every State. The grumbler who sneeringly asks: “What has the Labor Party done?” has no conception of the hundred and one times in which the party has prevented worse things happening to the people than have come about from imperfect legislation. The party's mere presence counts. Their solidarity has made them a power to be reckoned with, and Ministers, when drafting a measure, take that disturbing fact into consideration.

The tone of Parliament has changed. The presence of the party and its constant note of humanitarianism have forced the social problem to the front. Parliamentarians have been obliged to

  ― 440 ―
state definitely their attitude towards the great problems involved. They have been forced to go either into one camp or the other. The welfare of the masses is now the dominant idea, much as politicians may differ in detail as to how that welfare may best be secured. Since the advent of Labor-in-politics it has been admitted by their political opponents that the character of the several Parliaments has been raised. The men who looked upon the House as a sort of club, to be dropped into at their leisure, where they might casually take a hand by occasionally delivering an ill-prepared speech, are finding that they are out of place, and that the people demand serious and active work from them.

Then there is the highly important, though unrecorded and unseen influence upon administration—the check upon the scheming of private enterprise to get advantages at the expense of the general community, and the enforcement of a more sympathetic examination of grievances or cases of injustice in connection with the public service. The members of the Labor Party devote their whole time to the work of the country, and hence they have stirred up departmental officials in a way very much needed, and the public are steadily finding out that the “professional politicians,” as some have termed members of the Labor Party, are the best kind to have. Law-making and administration are daily becoming of more importance to the people, and they are not going to be satisfied as of yore with those who gave their best energy to their own personal interests and the fag end of their tired

  ― 441 ―
brains to the work which the country paid them to perform.

Turning to the industrial side, the change has been almost a revolution. From “freedom of contract” to compulsory collective bargaining is a far cry, yet it has been realised. The Employers' Union in its blindness set out in 1890 to crush trade unionism. It was going to manage its several businesses as seemed best to the employer. The latter was to dictate his terms, and the seeker for work had the freedom to take the job at the boss's rate or to go elsewhere. The employer was to be free to carry on his undertaking as he liked. He was an individualist. He objected to the State, a trade union, or any other collective power interfering with him. When the Employers' Union won the fight of 1890—which, as I have elsewhere shown, should be known as a lock-out—they held banquets and congratulated themselves on their success. They followed it up with the attack on the Queensland bushmen in 1891 and the Broken Hill miners in 1892, winning, as they thought, in each case. They fell on each other's necks with joy.

They were as ignorant as mere children of history and of human nature. They overlooked the fact that the best workmen are in the unions, though they are invariably selected by them for employment. The unionists are the most intelligent of the workers. The employers prefer the workman who is vigorous. The vigorous person has energy, is broad in the head, and is combative. The silly fellows who had charge in the Employers' Union never dreamt of these facts when they took on the job planned in

  ― 442 ―
1890. They touched the combative brain centre, and aroused the latent energy of the worker. The latter listened to the advice of his own leaders, and was also impressed with the advice of the capitalist press, which as usual counselled peaceful, constitutional methods of doing everything.

The unionists read the old gag in a new light, and began to reach out on new lines. With evolution of thought given expression in action, the unionist applied trade union methods to politics, and we can now look back on the result. The employer thought that he had secured “freedom of contract,” but now he realises that he has lost most of the freedom he then enjoyed. Unionism has not been crushed, but has grown stronger than ever. Not only is this so, but it has extended into new fields. Even the clerks, who used to think themselves superior to the average trade unionist, have become organised, and actually fraternise with “ordinary tradesmen” and “common laborers.”

The domestic servant has her Domestic Workers' Union, which in its office keeps a register of the mistresses and how they behave towards those who now condescend to work for them. Their union secretary keeps a black list, and on it are found the names of all those who are “bad pays,” those who starve girls—and they are many—those who lock up the food, those who give way to temper and throw things at the maid—in short, all the shortcomings of the superior persons who form so-called Society, with a big “S.” Many others, such as undertakers' assistants, cabmen, white workers, etc., have organized into unions. Then, think of what these

  ― 443 ―
common working people are doing in their behavior towards the employers, “don't-you-know.” Why, instead of the employer dictating terms he will soon have no say in the matter at all.

There are Wages Boards by the score in Victoria, and a similar system in Queensland and South Australia; whilst we have had the Arbitration Court method in New South Wales and West Australia. There is also the Commonwealth Court, before which the great wool kings and others have had to appear. Thus, instead of freedom of contract, there are courts and boards before which the employer can be haled, and in which the workers whom he employs stand on the same footing as himself, and he has to justify before a judge or a chairman any wage rate he asks should be accepted. He is no longer allowed to dictate terms; no longer can he sweat his workers or pay this man one rate and that another. He is practically forced to recognise unionism and enter into a collective bargain. Further, he finds that he cannot break his word just as he likes, as in the good old days. If he does not carry out the order of the court or board he is treated as an ordinary common law breaker and is fined. Recently one was fined £50 and another £25 for paying less than award rates of wages.

As a matter of fact, we have quite a new class of crimes now. In the police court cases reported in the morning newspaper the longest list of offences is for breaches of the latest Acts protecting the community against those incipient murderers, the food adulterers. The most frequent is the case of

  ― 444 ―
the Christian brother who brings around the milk. His freedom to sell much water with a little milk has been done away with. He is no longer permitted to dispense water at fourpence per quart, as in the days of freedom of contract. All sellers of food become criminals if they do not act with moderate honesty.

There is also some attention paid to health and sanitation. Until Labor takes more control in municipal government we shall not get the full benefit, as the old style of councillor does not like these innovations, and it takes a deal of prodding to make him enforce the law.

Then we have the Early Closing Act. Just think of having to close the shop at six o'clock, and, worse still, to give half a day a week as a holiday. In connection with this I remember one scene with pleasure. I was a member of the New South Wales Parliament when Labor and Sir William Lyne passed the Act. On the night of the first half-holiday under it I chanced to visit the Theatre Royal, and found on getting inside that the family circle had been almost entirely filled by an early-door crowd. That in itself was nothing, but I soon observed that they all seemed to know one another, and were remarkably jolly and happy. Upon inquiry I found that they were all employees of one of the big firms which had always fought against early closing, and which previously used to work its shop-hands up till nine o'clock at night. This was the first opportunity they ever had enjoyed of attending a theatre, hence their excitement and pleasure.

  ― 445 ―

Not only is the employer compelled to close at a reasonable hour, but he must provide seats for his shop girls. In the factory he is kept up to certain regulations in regard to hours, safety of machinery, sanitation, etc., all of which he neglected under the freedom-of-contract days of 1890.

There has naturally been an upward evolution in social status. The worker is becoming quite a respectable member of society. Since he asserted himself he has gained in self-respect, and also has raised himself in the estimation of his fellow man. The employer, being forced to meet him on an equality in the eye of the law, can no longer treat him as an inferior being. He kicked at first, but now, when unionists have him prosecuted for ignoring an award, or for not doing what inspectors have ordered to be done, he discovers that even his old friends the magistrates treat him as an ordinary law-breaker. He quickly finds his level, and is beginning to look upon the worker as a human being and a man, who has as much say in the management of public affairs as he has—in fact, is having more and more say.

Freedom of contract, indeed! Few of them like to hear about it now at all, and not many of them whine for the right to manage their business in their own way without interference. They are glad to go hat in hand to a Labor Premier, it may be, to ask for modification of certain enactments. They never speak of repeal, and neither do conservative politicians. The fact is, the more intelligent of the employing class are finding out

  ― 446 ―
that the legislation has been beneficial rather than harmful, and the honest trader frankly admits it.

There are other restrictions also under the anti-trust law and “New Protection” which touch the profit-making side of manufacturing—two important principles that have been well established by Labor influence in politics. There is no longer any question of the right, as well as of the power, of the State to interfere in affairs previously held to be private. To take over private enterprise concerns is but another step, and already the public mind is prepared for compulsory land resumption on the lines laid down in an early Federal Act. It has also been established that the State or Federal authority, as the case may be, can successfully carry on business enterprises—can run them much more economically and efficiently than private enterprise.

As already remarked, the work of the Anti-Socialist in the political field has caused people to be less alarmed about Socialism, and when they learn that the successful enterprises, such as Newport Workshops, are really Socialism in our own time they ask for more of it; hence we are nearly ready for the next big step—that of taking over every monopoly. Socialism is here. The measure we already have, so far from destroying the marriage tie, has improved the marriage rate and made the tie more secure, because it has provided more wages with which to make home more agreeable, and consequently more happy. The originator of that silly story—the Women's National League—has begun to read up Socialism and to

  ― 447 ―
try its hand at constructive politics, so it will soon lose its enthusiasm; and, instead of cursing Labor, may turn to bless its work.

Eighteen years ago we had no Australian literature, and no Labor press. Now we have Labor organs in every big city, a union-owned daily newspaper in Broken Hill, and many friends and open supporters amongst country newspapers. It is so long since some societies had a strike that they have nearly forgotten what a terrible thing it is. Good unionists never sought strikes and never will, but they will never cease working for better conditions, and the forward movement will never stop until social justice is done and every child born has equal opportunity.