OUR SYDNEY LETTER
COMMANDEERING THE WHEAT. I Tho Government scheme for commandeering tho wheat ha.vest of tho State is entanglcc in a veritable labyrinth of complications The Bill itself, at tho time of writing, it hanging, like Mohammed’s coffin, between earth and sky. It lias been read a first Hint in the Assembly, but has still to pass its ; second reading and committee stages. Coil; ■ sideralions of legality, constitutionality, anc expediency are hopelessly and inextricably intermixed, and Ministers apparently can discern no clue of sound principle by which to_ extricate themselves from the maze. Principle, indeed, seems to have been openly cashiered. Mon plead for their pecuniary ot political interests, as if gcod government and personal liberty were unworthy of a second ; bought in comparison. A number !, f dcal-rs. who before the war had incautiously contracted to supply millc-s with u w wh ;r at V p,| p-j r Luslir-I. wtiled on (he Premier yesterday to ask that their contracts should bo cancelled, because they would lose money on them! They were followed by a deputation of millers, who, for precisely the same reason, asked that nil contracts shnu'd remain valid. Even in the House members openly figure on such contingencies as the manner in which the Bill , will affect the hank balances of their coni stituems. If ever tie ship of S'ate pitsi litre! appearance of a derelict, hopelessly ad"if L , wi-.hou: rurhl'r or compass, it is in connection with this astounding proposal. It will pass the Assembly all right. The pledge-bound irvijorhy wII nrov ic for that. If the Council <;ro ns invctcrately opnosed to the Labor Government as they arc believed to be, the Bill will pass (he Council too, for the worst oneinv of the Mimst-v i could hardly wish it a’worse fate than to be : saddled with the responsibilities and difficultics which will ansa ur.der its operation. UP AGAINST A SNAG. One vf * Iter most formidah’o dangers is that the Mill, when or if passed, mav be declared unzoustitu' ional One of ‘tho" oar.bral principle.-, of the Fcde-al Union is that "trade, ccmmerce. and intorc;ui-s-> between the States” is to be “absolutely free.’’ Now, on the binders, espec’alty in Hivcriua. j a good deal of business is done with buyers !of wheat from other States. If our Government buy, or take, at their own price. the_ whole of the c-np, these people w'll find their occupation gone. It will be idle to maintain that there is any longer free trade as between Slates, for ns regards wheat all f'cedoni of t-.ul<- will have been absolutelv destroyed. If. fo- the protection of the people of the Commonwealth, any steps for controlling the movement of the wheat crop are really necessary—which is vehemently disputed—then it seems clear that such notion should bo taken by the Federal Government a-'d not by nnv single State “on its own.” No State can take sUps to specially protect its own people without at the same time and by the same act erecting a barrier against the people of oilier Stales. The Atto-npy-G'-noral, 'vbo is responsible for the Till. did not seem to have given any consideration to this v°ry ohvionc view of the matter till his attention was called to it by Air Colquhoun, the member for Mosman. on the floor of the House. Unless the Commonwealth had e-ccted an a'toertbe-r gratuitous harrier against tho importation of grain, in fhe shape of a heavy duty, there wcu'd bo very little to trouble about. Wo could get as much wheat as might ho needed, on pavmenl of f eight and sh prong chneges. Tf snrenlulo-s were over-sold, they, and not tho S'ate, would have to pay for their imprudence. NO FURTHER JUST, YET!
Judge Heydon lias just dehvered a d'e’iun which is interesting ns showing the jml'cial view of the industrial situation. Ho recommends Hut "for the present" wages 'boards shall not consider apphen' : on« for ; increases of wages, except in special cases. ; His Honor, in Iris capacity of Judge of the Industrial Court, recommends the boards to bo content with maintaining the “shuns quo” until the outlook brightens and unemployment diminishes There are. of course, industries which are doing specially well because of the war. But in this case the principle laid down by the Necessary Commodities Commission spi-ms to apnlv—namely, that ‘ in time of war no section of tho community should be allowed to make larger p-oflts because of the existence of war.” 111-natured people say that this is only a c.ko of the frantic non on the brink of tbo pool screaming to her ducklings to como in out of the wet. When I demand is active, those who no r d poods arc. willing to pay more than usual to g'U them, and tho Commission have neglected to say how this increased price is to he prevented fiom taking tho fotm of “profit." However. the Court has evidently avrec wiim'iint for giving a decision on one side or the other, ns it may think fit. Meanwhile, the unions must wait -till the clouds roll by before they urge claims for further :n.-vi a-rs. THE SEAMEN'S COMPENSATION ACT. ■A very important decision lias been rivui bv the High Court. Its effect is te validate the Seamen's Compensatiau Act. Under the Act Airs Alaleohn, widow of Hie c (.concl mate of the steamo- Burwah. had rciw.-rctl from the owners £SOO as eomp-n-i: ion for the death uf her husband, ft was ebieelcd that tnc Commonwealth Pnrliam’nt had no power to pass the Act. The High Court was rnpealed to and the ease was regarded ,as a tu-t Sir Samuel G-iffith. tin Chi-f .Inu-ce was of opinion that tho Act is “ultra vires.” I’ailiament is authorised !>v the Constitution to make laws to regulate "trade and commerce with other countries, and between the States.” Does that power in-p-ide newer to legislate as to compensation wr accidents? S.V Samuel was of ophiiou that it does not. and that the appeal of the company on legal grounds ought to he allowed, and the verdict quashed. Air Justice Barron was also of opinion that the power bail been applied to a purpose for which, I y the Constitution, it was not int'ndi-d Air JusI tfoo Isaacs, Air Justice Duffy, mid Air Justice Power, however, were of opinion that the decision was amply coven d by the powers conferred by the Cons'i'ulion Act. Tho verdict, therefore, will stand, and tho Act is ratified. But it was a very narrow squeak. A LIBEL ACTION. The libel action which is being brought by Air D R. Ha'l, tho Attorney-General, against the A.W.U., as owner, and Hector Lament, ns publisher, of the ‘Worker’ newspaper, is now b-fore 'bo Court. The case arose out of a difficulty existing botween certain farmers and chnffrutters in I the Wagga district. One LT’-trangn, a Labor organiser, took part in this, in the ! I interests of peace, which Alinisters desired ; to restore. His action was not approved by other union officials. An information was laid against L’Estrange for wilfully making a false statement in a d r elara‘ien. and 1m was committed for trial. The AttorneyGeneral, however, declined to file a bill. Then the ‘Worker’ published the a’ticlo complained of. The care is fid! of interest. But, obviously at this stage nothing can be i said by way of comment. I UNEASY. The Employers’ Federation of the Stale are uneasy about the “lumndiug" Bill, which is now before the Federal Parliament. Employers believe that it is intended to make access to the Federal tribunal so easy that State awards will be virtually worthless. The Constitution limits the prove-- of tho Commonwealth Court to “an industrial j dispute extending beyond the limits of any : ona Sta'c.” The Bill proposes to interpret this as meaning a dispute which “exists, or is threatened, or impending, or probable.” The intention of the framers of the measure seems pretty plain. It is to multiply “interstate” disputes; to ignore State industrial legislation and awards; and to deny the right of appeal from tho Judge of the Commonwealth Court to the High Court as to the constitutional aspect of the industrial mafler-i dealt with. Tiiciden*atly. it will make it almost impossible to discharge a unionist without courting litigation. However, Labor is so strong in both Chambers of tho Legislature that it can do what it pleases. The more extravagant its enactments, tho sootier it will get to the end of its tether. SIB GEORGE REID. Tito opinion that Sir George Reid has been ■shabbily treated by being reappointed for ■mo year is very general. He is almost universally regarded as “ the right man in the ight place,” and tin action of the Governnent in reinstating him for so short a term s ascribed to a hankering after “ the loaves i md fishes.” Air Cook, the Leader of the j Ipposition, declared that if tho late Go■ermnent had known that the appointment i-ould be dealt with in this manner it would ave reappointed Sir George before the elecons. However, it’s uo use ciying over pilt milk, and the action taken will have to stand. EXTORTIONATE DEMANDS. Extortionate demands on the part of workrs naturally lead to employers having nohing to do with them. It is usual to as:ribe prevalent unemployment to “ the war." But a great deal of it is due to tho inreasonablo demands and expectations of the men for whom a claim it -Wilde for Sympathy and assistance. One man writes to .he papers: “ Members of my family are , entirely dependent on the proceeds of a ■ mine. Instead of tho usual dividend they | get a notice from the manager—‘Tho’mino j has been closed since May owing to tho
strike.”,’ The union “log,” ho cays, specified “ 16s a day and found for nll_ men engaged in and about wheat.” This is - for the first eight hours, and the claim is that the men shall go to and from work and have two “ tmoke-ohs'” in tho employer’s time. Farmers work nine hours, and the overtime rate is to be 3s per hour. Is it surprising that men who are confronted with demands of ibis character decline to engage any men at all? Before very long this threatens to be a burning question. It is not merely a matter of difficulty in obtaining employment, though that is serious enough. In tho opinion of men who are well informed, it cannot bo long before there will bo a serious shortage of the foodstuffs which the labor ought to produce. It is not merely at Cockatoo Island, but all over the State, that tho short-sightedness of the unions is infciposing formidable, if not altogether insuperable, obstacles to the general welfare. The legislation which, under very plausible pretexts,. gave judicial sanction to Ihe oxto-lions of unscrupulous combinations has n great deal io answer for, and the men who arc responsible for it must have very s-rioas doubts ua to their own prescience and wisdom. December 2.
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OUR SYDNEY LETTER, Evening Star, Issue 15674, 12 December 1914