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life of the average working-man in the Commonwealth is on the level of the lower middle-class in England, while the proportion of people who enjoy a middle-class standard is overwhelmingly greater than in England. On the other hand, the percentage of persons of leisure is far less in Australia than in the Mother country.
The Australian Labour movement is undoubtedly responsible for the major part of the better conditions enjoyed by the people at large. Its success is mainly due to its having rightly interpreted and voiced the spirit of progressive nationalism of the Australian people. Without the votes of a large number of the non-industrial classes it could never have come to political power. Whether its change of complexion during the war* has lost to it this body of supporters remains to be seen. But the increasing political and industrial solidarity of Labour cannot be gainsaid, and it seems certain that it will regain the powers of government in the Commonwealth and some States at no distant date.
On the purely industrial side, the strength of Trade Unionism is clearly proved by the appended figures. They show that Australian trade Unionism is relatively far stronger than that of other countries. The interlocking of the political and industrial organisations of Labour is largely responsible for the success of both, though industrial arbitration, education and better conditions must be counted in.
* See page 21. The result of the elections of December, 1919, indicates that the Nationalists have regained political power with a somewhat reduced majority. This may be safely interpreted as a repudiation of Bolshevism, but a hint to the Government to expedite social reforms. † See Commonwealth Census Office Labour Report, No. 7.
" The following table shows the membership of trade unions in various countries for the year 1914. The number of trade unionists per 1000 inhabitants in each country is also shown:
The comparative table of wages, hours of labour, and purchasing power in certain countries shown below is taken from the Report of the Economic
Trade Unions.- Total Membership and Number of Members
per 1000 Inhabitants. 1914.
No. of Mem- Popu- Membership lation bers per
in in 1000 thous-thous- Inhal)
4,466 166 7,758 156 2,860
$28 3,140 $1,499 39,660 $4,841 65,426
228 9,114 $112 21,135 $972 35,238 74 1,090
7,230 *8 4,548 +80 19,550 *123 5,604 *127 3,781 3,960 46,936 $2,605 95,411
5 28 68 26 1 2 4 22 34 86 27
* 1912 Figures. † 1911 Figures. # At the end of the year 1916 the total membership was 546,556. § 1913 Figures.
From the foregoing table it will be seen that as regards actual numbers of trade unionists Germany comes first, followed in the order named by the United Kingdom, the United States, and France. As regards relative numbers (per 1000 inhabitants) Australia has by far the largest proportion.
Commission of South Africa issued in January, 1914. It sets forth the conclusions in the form of index numbers. It will be observed that the hours of labour were less in 1914 in Australia than in other countries, and that real or effective wages were higher than in any other country considered, except Canada, the United States of America, and South Africa.
80 104 92-101
100 100 100-110 England and Wales
98 The war period has probably placed Australia easily first, since the rise in the cost of living in other countries has been far greater than in the Commonwealth-generally three times as great, while nominal wages have much more nearly kept pace with the rise. The effective wage index number for 1918 is precisely the same as that for 1914
-no small achievement during a great war. The average working week at the end of 1918 was 47.88 hours for males, and 48.42 for females. It should also be remembered that shorter hours have been enjoyed by Australian workers for many years past. Factory conditions are similarly favourable.* The health and well-being of the workers are carefully protected and promoted. Children and women are specially safeguarded. The ordinary age of admission to a factory is 14 years, except in South Australia, where it is 13. Boys under 16 and all females in factories are prohibited by law from working more than 48 hours per week. The hours of shop assistants are remarkably short.
* For a conspectus of the factories Acts of the various States, see Commonwealth Year Book, No. 7, pp. 1994-997.
The provisions for Old Age and Invalid Pensions and Maternity Bonus are the most liberal in the world. In 1917, 93,672 persons were receiving oldage pensions, and 26,781 enjoyed invalid pensions, representing a total expenditure of £3,573,380. The average fortnightly pension was then £1 4s. 3d. In the same year, 132,407 claims for the maternity bonus of £5 per child were paid, the total amount being £662,035.
All industrial workers in Australia have access, through their organisations, to Wages Boards or Industrial Arbitration Courts established by the States, or to the Commonwealth Industrial Arbitration Court for inter-state disputes. In no other country have conciliation and arbitration between employers and their workers been developed to such an extent as in Australia. In the United States they are practically unknown. In Great Britain, before the war, Wages Boards were confined to a few industries in which sweating was notorious—though some industries had devised conciliation machinery out of their practice of collective bargaining. The position in Germany was similar. The extent to which the various Boards and Courts, provided under Commonwealth and States legislation, are availed of is very great.*
The number of persons working under State awards alone in 1918 was 569,000, while the number of agreements filed in Australia was 349.
While there are fairly frequent eruptions of dissatisfaction with the system of arbitration amongst the workers-sometimes issuing in strikes, sometimes in doctrinaire criticism-it can hardly be doubted that the majority greatly appreciate the material benefits which the system has conferred upon them. This is shown by the large majorities recorded in trade union ballots on the question, and the persistence with which the workers turn froz
* See “ Commonwealth Labour Report,” No, 9, pp. 108 and 113.
the new love of “ direct action” to the old love of arbitration. Sociologically examined, however, the case for the system does not seem so favourable.*
The nationalisation of industries and services has made more progress in many directions in Australia than in other countries. Though the standard of efficiency and the cost of State enterprises come in for very severe and largely merited criticism, it is likely that they will be steadily extended in the future, particularly in routine and less speculative industries. The railways are owned by the State, while in some States other branches of transportation are owned and controlled by the Government. The Commonwealth line of steamers, acquired by the Federal Government as a war measure, at a cost of about £15,000,000, is being steadily augmented by purchase and direct construction. Western Australia and Queensland, under Labour Governments, have extended State ownership in many new directions. In Queensland the Government has added insurance, butchers' shops, fish shops, and other side lines, to its activities. The Nationalist Government of New South Wales is not far behind-with its State trawlers and fish shops, brickworks, bakery, timber mills, and so on. In most cases the Governments compete with private enterprise. On a pure profit and loss basis, State undertakings in Australia cannot be adjudged a success, though that is not the fairest test to apply to them. Their bugbear is the casualness and consequent inefficiency with which many of them are run. The General Post Office of the Commonwealth is probably the most inefficient and expensive of all Government services in Australia. Australians have yet to effect ille transition from social welfare to social efficiency. In their lack of capacity for big organisation, the wastefulness of their State enterprises, their want of punctiliousness and responsibility in serving the public, and their disregard for up-to-date methods
* See below, p. 24,