1920s >> 1929 >> no-296-april-1929

A Letter From An Australian Reader

Dear Comrades,

As we have just recently got over an election, it would be interesting to you to have a few words in connection with this important event in the lives of the Free Australian Workers.

The employing class won again or, rather, the workers here handed the political machinery over to the representatives of their masters to do with as they may. The Bruce Nationalist Government got a majority, but only with the aid of the Country Party, and although the so-called Labour Party is the largest individual party in the House, they have to take a back seat owing to the pact between the Country Party and the Nats.

As usual, during the campaign we had the old cries trotted out. The most emphasised was that of “Law and order,” which was trumpeted through all the agencies of the master class. The Nationalists accused the Labourites of wanting to subvert the constitution of the country to the “Communist-revolutionary-disloyal-bolshevik-moscovian-red” policy of the extremists, and the Labourites just as emphatically denied the charge. Just how revolutionary the Labour proposals were can be gauged by the fact that the Federal Treasurer accused the Labour Party of stealing the Nationalist’s Party’s policy, and the Labour leader, Mr. Scullin, threw the charge back in his teeth with the accusation that the Nats, had stolen Labour’s programme.

Comparing the two policies, one is hard put to it to find a great deal of difference. Of course, both are straight out for Capitalism, but each have certain little peculiarities which are probably inserted for the purpose of making a noticeable distinction for the benefit of the electors. Both parties contained the following proposals in their programmes:—

  • Retention of the White Australian Policy.
  • Loyalty to the British Empire.
  • Industrial Peace.
  • Law and Order.
  • Interests of the Community.

While they are prating about the White Australian Policy, the Nationalist Federal Government is allowing Coolie Labour to discharge ships on which White Australians refused to work for reduced pay which a constitutional Arbitration Court has forced upon them. And the Coolie Labour is being protected by State Police under a Labour Government. This is the same State Government (Queensland) which dismissed 11,000 railway men because they refused to blackleg last year on the sugar workers. They also stopped the unemployment dole during the strike on the excuse that there was plenty of work on the wharves.

As far as the British Empire goes, when Bruce (Nat.) accused Scullin (Lab.) of not being loyal because he never mentioned the Empire in his political speech, Scullin replied that as he thought that everybody knew how unswerving his loyalty was, he did not think it necessary to stress the point.

As for industrial peace, what they are going to do in this regard is almost beyond comprehension. Mond will be jealous. Havelock Wilson will jump with joy when he hears how his gospel of Industrial Peace is permeating the intellectual pates of our Capitalist apologists. The Labour Party say that Bruce (Nat.) has had his chance for six years to bring about Industrial Peace but he has failed. Consequently, they ought to be given an opportunity to show just how they can do the job. All the Labour politicians gave it out that “Labour” is the only party that can usher in this Peaceful Industrial Era. And they are right, too. If they cannot quieten the workers, then nobody can. Has not Premier McCormack fought against the workers on every opportunity? He has allowed seamen to be jailed for refusing to sail in ships loaded by blacklegs. He has allowed the police to be used to protect Italian workers who, owing to their ignorance of local affairs, have been used to break strikes, and to reduce the standard of living.

During the recent water-front strike, the Victorian State so-called Labour Government allowed the police to shoot down wharf-labourers (dockers) who were kicking against reductions in wages and worsening of conditions.

Just prior to the dissolution of the last Parliament, the Nationalist Government passed an Amended Arbitration Bill. All the Labour Pollies designated the Bill as a Union-smashing medium, attacked the Government for introducing it, and held public meetings telling the workers not to submit to this dastardly piece of iniquitous legislation, etc., etc., and yet when the Waterside Workers repudiated an award given under this very Bill, they were told to get back to work by the most loud-mouthed denunciators of the Bill. But then, it is not expedient for the workers to strike at election times, as it reacts on the Labour Party or, at least, the Labourites say it does. The most flagrant betrayals of the workers of this country have taken place during election times when the slaves are told that if they do anything “It will jeopardise the Labour Party at the elections.” To this political dirge the conditions of the workers are allowed to be broken down almost without protest in many cases.

Another sop the Labour Party dished up for the workers was the Leg-puller for the Ladies, namely, Child-Endowment. This has been a great election cry for Labour for a long time now. But a few years ago the Labour Party got into Power in New South Wales, and Mr. Lang introduced this wonderful “humane” legislation. This is what their own supporters said about it in the “Australian Worker” (Sydney, 28/10/27):—

. . . . As a matter of fact, the Family Endowment Act—for which, in its present form, the Nationalist Members in the N.S.W. Upper House are entirely responsible—is “manna from Heaven” for the employers.
It is now common knowledge that if the N.S.W. basic wage had been increased, in accordance with the increase in the cost of living, the increase would have been 12s. per week, or approximately an addition to the wages bill of the State of something like £13,000,000. Under the Family Endowment Act the employers’ contributions amount to £3,000,000 per annum—equal, as Industrial Commissioner Piddington pointed out, to an increase of 3s. per week in the basic wage.
It is plain that, because of the adoption of Child Endowment, the employers in New South Wales have been made a present of something like £10,000,000 per annum, which they would have had to pay if the basic wage had been computed on the old basis. Industry in New South Wales can hardly be said to be unduly penalised when, as a matter of fact, the employers are actually saving £10,000,000 per annum because of the change in the method of computing wages . . .

The excuse that the Nationalist Members of the Upper House are responsible for the Bill “in its present form” is a sly get out. Prior to this, Labour Premier Lang had flooded the Upper House with Labour Members with a view to abolishing that Chamber. Unfortunately, the appointed ones were so true to Labour that they could not forsake its old policy of twist and turn, with the result that when they were appointed, they ratted on the Party and the Chamber is still in existence.

The election result has rather a “Gilbertian” touch about it. Although the Nationalists lost several seats, and Labour did not get the Governmental Benches, both parties expressed the greatest of pleasure when the number went up.

Several commercial papers were counting on Labour getting in; in fact, were hoping that Labour would do the trick with a view to getting Theodore, ex-Premier of Queensland, in a position where he would be able to use his “administrative ability” in the interests of the Australian manufacturers. Knowing his record in Queensland, they had the greatest faith in him to look after the welfare of the “community.” However, they slipped, and they will have to wait another three years for Ted unless he goes the way of all (Labour) flesh, that is, into the ranks of the Nationalists.