Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

requirements, or machinery, been taxed. A heavy duty on sugar failed to make the continent self-sufficing, and hit hard the development of a big export trade in confectionery, jam, etc. The making of light woollen garments was burdened by the heavy duty on piece goods, which are not made here; the duties on machinery-machinery which is big, complex, expensive, and protected by patents--made it difficult for local manufacturers to afford the most up-to-date plant. In short, there was in the 1908 tariff very little attempt to say "First things first." A tariff was imposed on practically everything in the hope that out of it some industries might grow up. Of the clash of interests, of the fact that a duty on one article cancelled the benefit of a duty on another, little account was taken. The Interstate Commission made some attempt to remedy this defect by pointing out where the tariff should be increased or relaxed. At the same time it indicated that in certain directions a tariff was undesirable, but that the offer of a bounty might give the necessary stimulus to new enterprises.

Of other factors affecting the progress of industry, the chief is the attention given to up-to-date methods of production.'. The Commission found that in many instances factories were badly situated or arranged, obsolete machinery and accountancy methods in use; the utilization of by-products was ignored, and the relation between science and industry disregarded. The tariff had buttressed up conservatism in production, and allowed manufacturers to neglect the need for keeping abreast of the times in their methods and management. Heavy interstate freights and the prejudice against the local product were also obstacles to industrial development, while the descent of some manufacturers to the production of "shoddy” boots, and of retailers to the labelling of mixed cotton and woollen fabrics as "colonial flannel” did not increase the popularity of the home-made article.

The growth of manufactures since Federation has been to some extent at the expense of rural industries. The increase in the cost of commodities has reacted on the country worker, and the attraction of high wages and social conveniences in the capitals has drawn men and women from rural occupations. Hence, while the population of the continent rose between 1901 and 1911 by 18 per cent, and the number employed in factories by 58 per cent., the number of persons engaged in primary production grew only 10 per cent. The number of women in secondary industries rose 97 per cent., but that of women in primary industries fell 59 per cent.

Since 1914. Soon after the outbreak of war the tariff was increased on most items, largely in order to get additional revenue. The years which followed saw Australian industries enjoy an uneven balance of advantages and disadvantages. The disappearance of German goods and the diminished supplies of British wares gave the Australian manufacturer a natural protection such as he had never before enjoyed. Japanese and American products came in large quantities, but on these the freights were so high and, in the case of Japanese goods, the quality was so bad that the local manufacturer was able to capture the market in several new directions—e.g., foodstuffs, confectionery, iron, etc. On the other hand, the establisāment of new industries was rendered difficult because it was impossible to get plant or important subsidiary products from overseas. Ne rtheles there was expansion in such industries as the building of motor bodies, the manufacture of chemicals, and the treatment of metals, especially iron and steel. A long story of unsuccessful small-scale efforts to treat Australian iron ore

[ocr errors]

came to an end with the opening of the Newcastle steel works in 1915. The Broken Hill Proprietary Company faced the problem boldly, and laid down a large, well-equipped plant. By 1920 over £3,000,000 had been invested in plant and machinery; over 5,000 men were employed, and the annual output had risen to nearly 200,000 tons of steel. Around these works the manufacture of galvanized iron, wire, and nails grew up, and Newcastle promised to become the Sheffield of Australia. Second only to the steel industry was the rise of ship-building. The lack of tonnage during the war compelled the Federal Government to make determined efforts to build ships; great difficulties were encountered, but by the end of 1920 about 70,000 tons of shipping had been constructed.

When peace came and the prospect of increased imports revived, the industrial interests of the continent clamoured for a further increase in the tariff. They succeeded, and the revised tariff of March, 1920, gave slightly increased rates on some commodities and greatly increased rates on others. The arguments put forward in support of this revision are familiar; the need for self-sufficiency in view of a possible next great war, the folly of exporting or of leaving unutilized our raw materials, the stupidity of "sending money out of Australia to furnish employment for people in other lands and develop the resources of other countries,” the need for protecting industries which had grown up during the war and for inducing capitalists to establish new industries; all these considerations were advanced. At the same time there was a tacit recognition that more revenue must be obtained, and the tariff seemed to be an easy means to that end.

The 1920 tariff contains many interesting features. The protection afforded to the iron and steel industry is considerable, as is also that given to chemical manufactures. Rates on clothing imports are advanced in many cases; many articles required by the mining and agricultural industries show increases which may add to the cost of primary production. Preference to the United Kingdom is accentuated, for on most items the rate on British imports is at least 10 per cent. (and in some cases 20 per cent.) below the general tariff figure. Provision is made by which other dominions an:) certain foreign countries can be given a rate lower than that in the general list. The tariff is a “three-decker tariff,” with British, intermediate, and general lists; those countries which would ordinarily come under the general list may by reciprocal agreement be allowed to import under the intermediate list. The immediate effect of the new tariff has been almost solely an enormous increase in customs revenue. The establishment of some new factories is already well under way, but it is still too early to see to what extent capital and labour will come into the country to take advantage of the higher protection offered. Meanwhile, 1920 saw a phenomenal increase in imports, and the customs receipts rose to over £3,000,000 a month, a fact which is not without its influence on the high cost of living.

Books Recommended. Syme, D., “Principles of an Industrial Science”); Pratt, A., “David Syme, Father of Protection in Australia''; Parkes, H., “Speeches’’; Chomley, C. H., “Protection in Canada and Australasia”); Turner, G. H., “The First Decade of the Australian Commonwealth”; Wise, B. R., “The Commonwealth of Australia''; Interstate Commission Report on Tariff, 1915; Australian Tariff Handbook, 1919.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

CHAPTER XII.

PRINCIPLES AND HISTORY OF INDUSTRIAL

LEGISLATION.

MODERN politics. is marked by the ever-growing interest of the state in the regulation of industrial conditions. This interest is by no means new, for during, almost every age the local or national authority has been compelled to intervene in industrial life, and prescribe certain minimum or maximum conditions for the control of economic activity. The mediaeval guilds and towns had their rules concerning wages and hours of labour. Then, as towns and guilds declined in importance, the state took up the work and provided machinery for the control of wages, hours of labour, apprenticeship, etc. The Industrial Revolution upset the old economic order, and created new conditions of employment. Simultaneously with this change, individualism converted statesmen to the belief that the state should not interfere in industrial affairs. Under the influence of this theory governments for many years kept their hands off the economic machine, or when compelled by the revelation of some industrial horror to intervene, kept the interference down to a minimum. But facts are stubborn things, and, as the unpleasant results of the Industrial Revolution became apparent, the sphere of state regulation had of necessity to be widened. Even before 1850 a considerable structure of industrial laws had been built up, and during the next half-century the regulation of industrial conditions came to be recognized once more as an integral part of the duties of statesmen. Once this had been admitted, the scope of such regulation became almost unlimited, and certain broad principles were laid down. Let us examine these principles.

Principles of Industrial Regulation. The state, in the interests of the nation as a whole, must concern itself with the conditions of industrial life. The aim of industry is the production of wealth for those who provide the necessary capital. In order to get his work done, the employer makes a contract with his employee. The latter is quite free to seek what employment he likes, and to accept or refuse any job which may be offered him. In theory, if he accepts a position, it is because the terms are satisfactory to him. In practice, however, he has little choice, and must accept the best he can get. Hence the conditions of employment may be very bad, and detrimental to the health, safety, or happiness of those employed. But the state cannot allow wealth to be made regardless of the effect on the wage-earner; it cannot allow industry to be carried on at the expense of the nation's flesh and blood. Therefore it must regulate industry by fixing certain safeguards; it must limit to some extent the employer's right to buy his labour in the cheapest market. If the employer is seeking to exploit labour to the utmost, the state must put a belt round the wage-earner, below which the employer must not hit. At first this belt. was fixed near the employee's ankles; it was then gradually raised until, in the opinion of some people, it threatens to become a halo.

Having admitted these principles, the question then arises, Which workers are to be protected? At first the state intervened only on behalf of those who were unable to fight for themselves—i.e., children, and then women. Men were supposed to be strong enough to look after their own interests, either in their capacity as citizens or as members of trade unions. But gradually the sphere of regulation was extended to men also; the Plimsoll Line, wages laws, the legal eight-hour day, workmen's compensation, and insurance legislation, all dealt with male labour. To-day little or no distinction of sex is made in the framing of industrial enactments.

The next question to be answered was, What sort of protection is needed? Three aspects of modern industry called for attention. (1) At what age should persons be allowed to begin work? The state must decree some, minimum age. At first this age was very low, but has gradually been raised and promises to be taken even higher. Should females be allowed to: begin work at the same age as males? Further, should women be forbidden entry into some occupations—e.g., mining? (2) For what hours and under what conditions should wage-earners be allowed to work? This question raised the whole problem of maximum hours for young persons, women, and men, the regulation of overtime, and the provision of a statutory number of holidays. It also compelled the state to prescribe minimum conditions of sanitation, ventilation, the fencing of machinery, the control of dangerousand poisonous trades, and the general safeguarding of the health, strength, and safety of workpeople. As part of this regulation, the state had also to deal with provision for compensating employees for accidents, sickness, unemployment, and old age.

For many years industrial regulation confined its attention to these aspects of industry--minimum age, maximum hours, and industrial conditions; but sooner or later another question had to be answered. (3) Could the state regulate the payment for labour? At first this was done by forbidding payment in truck-i.e., in goods—and by limiting the extent to which employees could be fined. But since the discovery of sweating, the rise of political labour parties, and the turning of trade unions from industrial to political action, the wage contract has received great' attention, until to-day in many countries statutory machinery exists for the fixing of minimum rates. of payment.

The movement towards industrial legislation began in Great Britain, for there the results of the Industrial Revolution first became evident. Britain pioneered in the work, dealing with minimum age, maximum hours, and industrial conditions, but other countries led in making provisions in other directions. Germany, for instance, was the first country to deal with industrial insurance; Belgium set an example in dealing with unemployment; Australia pioneered in the field of wage legislation. Most other countries have been content to adopt the enactments of these lands; Japan, in 1917, copied some American factory laws, which in turn were largely based upon those of England. England has attempted to stamp out sweating by imitat. ing the Australian wages board system, and took its idea of industrial insurance from Germany. Japan and America have still much leeway to make up---the former because she stuck to individualism longer than other countries; the latter because her industries are only about 30 years old, and were built up regardless of the condition of the wage-earner.

It is worthy of note that the general aim of this legislation often is to make universal the conditions which prevail under the best employers. Some firms provide better conditions for their workpeople than those whose sole aim is to get rich quickly, although such action may possibly handicap them in selling their goods in a competitive market. Therefore, quite frequently the state has taken the best conditions prevailing as its model, and has compelled the laggards to come up to the standard laid down by the best employers. This is not always the case, however, for when a new principle is at stake it may be necessary to impose new conditions upon all employers. Finally, this policy of bringing backward employers up to the standard already prevailing in the best factories has been applied, to a limited extent, international affairs, and in recent years international conventions on industrial legislation have done a little to produce uniform conditions in different countries.

The First Factory Act. The effects of the Industrial Revolution were first seen in the cotton industry of Lancashire, where, the new textile machinery was speedily adopted. The new factories required large numbers of children, but the local supply was inadequate. The mill-owner therefore took pauper children off the hands of the pocr-law authorities in every part of England, and some children were brought as much as 200 miles to work in the factories. Sir Robert Peel's father used to employ 1,000 of these pauper children, and the demand generally was great. Theoretically, these boys and girls were apprenticed to their new masters; in practice, they became their property, and when one mill-owner became insolvent his apprentices were put up for sale as part of his stock. The employment of these children opened the way for frightful abuses, and although some men treated their apprentices humanely many exploited them in a most heartless manner. The hours of labour were unlimited, and children six years old might be working 12 to 16 hours a day in busy seasons; . often the worker received nothing in return but board and lodging, and usually both were bad. Heavy punishments were inflicted by some foremen for the most trivial offences, and the incessant work in filthy surroundings, relieved only by meals and sleep in equally filthy quarters, made the spread of fevers and other serious diseases inevitable.

This child slavery soon roused any humanitarian sympathy which might exist, and medical men pointed out the menace to public health. Manchester especially suffered from frequent pestilences, and eventually, under the pressure of hard facts, the state was compelled to intervene with an Act (1802) “For the preservation of the health and morals of apprentices employed in cotton factories." This first factory act is interesting, because, although it remained virtually inoperative, it contained most of the principles subsequently developed by the state. The provisions were as follow:-(1) Sanitation. All walls and ceilings must be whitewashed twice a year, and adequate ventilation and lighting provided. Further, each apprentice was to be given two suits of clothes, with a new one each year. (2) Maximum hours. Children were not to work more than 12 hours a day, and night work was gradually to be abolished. (3) Education. Instruction in the three R’s must be given to all apprentices during the first four years of their employment, the time being taken out of their 12-hour day. (4) Inspection. Two visitors were to be appointed each year-one by the Anglican clergy-to inspect and report on the observance of the Act, and fines were to be imposed on offending employers.

This Act was passed almost noticed, and remained a dead-letter. It applied only to cotton factories and to apprentices. Other textile mills, therefore, went on as before, and cotton masters evaded the law by employing children without apprenticing them. The inspectors neglected their work,

« AnteriorContinuar »