2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. LEE presented a petition from the Women’s Christian Temperance Union of New South Wales, praying the House to prohibit the introduction, sale, and manufacture of intoxicating liquors in British New Guinea.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been directed to a paragraph which appears in this morning’s Argus, and is to the effect that yesterday the Legislative. Council of Victoria held a caucus meeting ? Can the honorable gentleman inform the House if there is any difference between the procedure reported to have been adopted by the Legislative Council of Victoria, and that followed by the Labour Party and other parties?
– I have not seen the paragraph referred to, but, no doubt, the system of holding caucus meetings has- proceeded in every case from the one generic source, and is worked in the same fashion by every party.
– It is spreading.
– May not that be due to the example afforded by the party to which the honorable member belongs? The Labour Party has not been in existence sufficiently long to influence the other parties in this matter. The caucus is no new invention in Victoria, and I understand that it was recently used in connexion with the choosing of the presiding officer of the more representative branch of the Victorian Parliament
– Is . it true that the Commonwealth military representative at the Russo-Japanese war is still at Tokio? If so, do Ministers expect that he will gain much military information there?
– Colonel Hoad was for some time at Tokio, and the Government were’ considering the advisability of asking, through the proper channels, that he might be allowed to proceed to the front. In the alternative, we intended to direct him to return home. Since then, however, and more than a week ago, he obtained permission to proceed to the front, and he is there now, for anything we know to the contrary.
– It is stated in to-day’s Age that I entered the House yesterday after the first ballot was taken. That is incorrect, because I was in the Chamber when the ballot-papers were distributed, previous to the ballot being taken; but as
I had paired with the honorable member for Barrier, I did not vote. I think it is only fair to myself that I should refute the statement I have referred to.
Motion (by Mr. Hume Cook) agreed to: -
That a return be laid upon the table of the House showing -
The number of British subjects resident in the New Hebrides.
The description and value of their surplus products for export.
The total amount of a full rebate of duties for one year on the products entering Australia.
The estimated amount of such rebates on a ten years’ concession after providing for a reasonable increase in the volume of trade.
The total area of land held in 1903 and 1904 by British subjects, and the conditions upon which such land was held.
Motion (by Mr. Batchelor) agreed to-
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the Bill to pass through its remaining stages without delay.
Bill read a third time.
.- I move -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Committee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 4, 37, 38, 39, 46, 48, 52, 67, 68, 90, schedule B ; and the consideration of proposed new clauses 52A and 95A.
I do not propose to offer at this stage any observations on the amendments which the Government intend to move if the recommittal be granted, since the proposed amendments have been circulated, and honorable members, therefore, have had an opportunity to make themselves acquainted with our intentions. I shall, however, give detailed reasons for the proposed amendments when we get into Committee.
– Although the Government have given notice of the amendments to which they propose to ask the Committee to agree, I would remind the Prime Minister that other amendments were suggested which appear not to have commended themselves to <the Cabinet.
– We shall not oppose the recommittal of such other clauses as we agreed to reconsider.
– If we were informed why the Government did not think it necessary to make certain amendments, the recommittal of those clauses might not be necessary. For instance, the first point that occurs to me, without reference to my copy of the Bill, is that to which I directed the attention of the Attorney-General, namely, the appointment of a Judge of the High Court. I do not notice that it has been thought necessary to make an amendment there.
– The Attorney-General considered the point, and he thought we had power, under all the circumstances. Of course, that is only his opinion.
– And the Government could not have a higher opinion. My point was not merely, in one sense, whether the Government had the power. I raised the question whether the provision of the Constitution, as to the office of Justice of the High Court, would permit of the appointment being made in that way, at all events, without the consent of the Justices. If the Prime Minister says that the AttorneyGeneral has considered the matter, and is satisfied, I have nothing further to say. When the Prime Minister moves recommittal for the purposes of these amendments, do I understand that in each case he moves the recommittal of the whole clause?
– Because that” will enable me to ask for the justification for retaining the words “ subject to the Constitution,” to which attention was called in clauses which provide that no awards of the Court shall be capable of being reconsidered by any other tribunal - questioned in any Court whatever. I think attention was drawn to the fact that the words were unnecessary. They were introduced originally, not for any legal effect, but to satisfy the minds of laymen who might suppose the clause to over-ride the Constitution. The words are unnecessary for that purpose, but I do not notice that the Government propose to omit them. I understand, however, that the Prime Minister will afford us an opportunity to consider all these matters.
– I notice that amongst the ten or eleven clauses which it is proposed to recommit there is clause 48 ; and I also observe an amendment in respect of that clause. The proposal is to omit the proviso inserted at my instance some weeks ago, and to insert in its place another proviso which has been circulated, and to the terms of which I shall refer in a minute or two. We all know that certain declarations have been made by the Government in connexion with this amendment. The Government seem to consider this amendment of more importance than most of the other matters referred to in the motion for recommittal ; and it seems to me - as I agree with them in regarding it as a matter of very great importance - that nothing would be lost,- while much would be gained, by getting the determination of the House at the earliest possible moment. There will be, as I understand, as full freedom to discuss the clause and the alternative amendment in the House as there would be in Committee.
– Not now. The honorable member has apparently closed my mouth ; I cannot speak again.
– The Prime Minister can speak on the amendment.
– The Prime Minister may speak with the unanimous concurrence of honorable members.
– The Prime Minister may in any case speak on the amendment.
– Why not go into Committee in the proper way ?
– We might as well have the question tested now as at any time.
– I suppose the Prime Minister has been expecting this for a long time?
– It would show a little more courage to do it in a direct fashion.
– I do not understand this unusual heat.
– I do not understand this change of tactics.
– So far as I am concerned there has been no change of tactics. From first to last, I have expressed very definitely and emphatically my opinion about the amendment_that was carried, and I should think the Prime Minister might easily realize that the substitute he proposes does not meet, at any rate, with my approval.
– - The matter was not debated.
– There is another stage at which what the honorable and learned member proposes is usually done.
– The matter was debated for three or four days ; and my amendment was fully within the cognizance of all honorable members who were noticing the course of the debate. To return to what I was saying when the interruption occurred, there will be, as I understand, as full an opportunity to debate in the House as there would be in Committee, the alternative amendments, with the limitation, of course, that the forms of the House do not permit honorable members to re-address themselves to the subject. So far as I am concerned, I shall not feel those forms of the House any hindrance. I wish to speak only once, and I do not suppose that other honorable members desire to speak oftener. I do think, however, that it is not only reasonable but proper to bring this matter under the notice of the House at the earliest possible moment, in order that we may determine how this very important question of limiting the giving of preference to organizations is to be decided. I propose, therefore, before I resume my seat, to move that the figures “ 48 “ be omitted from the notice for recommittal.
– A despicable trick !
– I ask you, sir, whether the honorable member for Hume is in order in using the words “despicable trick” ?
– I never heard of such a thing before.
– I ask the honorable member for Hume to withdraw the expression to which attention has been called.
– I withdraw it.
– I cannot understand the heat of the honorable member for Hume.
– The honorable and learned member is working very hard, and I congratulate him.
– The honorable and learned member wants to be in the team.
– The honorable member for Hume evidently wants to be in something.
– All I can say is that it is owing to nothing that I am doing, or asking, that the Government have taken up their present attitude in the matter.
– All the same, it is usually considered most discourteous to refuse reconsideration.
– I would point out to the Prime Minister that no reconsideration is being refused, because the whole matter can be fully debated on the amendment I am about to move.
– No, it cannot.
– If the amendment could’ not be debated, I should not submit it.’
– The honorable and learned member knows that no amendment can’ be moved, at this stage, on his proposal, or upon that of the Government.
– I do not know how many amendments the Prime Minister wants to move.
– I do not want to move any amendment.
– I know there was an amendment in the clause carried by a majority of the Committee, and I know that the Government propose to insert another amendment which they have circulated in, I presume, the exact words which they wish to have inserted. We have two alternative proposals before us, and nothing more ; and, having those proposals before us, we can as easily decide the matter now as later on in Committee.
– That applies to every one of the clauses it is proposed to recommit.
– Hear, hear !
– We will not do it.
– The honorable member for Hume says, “ We will not do it “ ; but that is a maher for the House to determine.
– The sense of fair play of the House will not permit anything of the kind.
– I can see no unfair play. Sir William Lyne. - I can.
– The honorable member for ‘Hume may be a good judge of what is fair or what is unfair play ; but, so far as I am concerned, I can see nothing unfair in my proposal. It seems to me that the House is as fully competent as the Committee would be to decide this question. It is not as though there were a variety of different proposals submitted.
– Then why go into Committee at all?
– Why propose a departure in regard to this clause, and not in regard to the others?
– Because on this particular clause the Government ha ve. taken up the position that they will not accept my amendment.
– How does that apply?
– The Government are determined to have their own amendment ; and I venture to. take up the position that I shall adhere to my amendment, and will not support that of the Government. I am prepared to back my opinion by moving accordingly ; that is all.
– Why not move in Committee ?
– Why should I not move in the House? What injury can the Government suffer by having this matter debated in the House instead of in Committee? It is not a question of settling verbiage, or of drafting, but of choosing between two very important alternatives, one of which seeks to achieve a particular end, whilst the other has an object which I must confess is not quite clear.
– How does the present proposal differ from any other for the recommittal of a Bill? Why should not the honorable and learned member oppose all recommittals ?
– I have known recommittals to be objected to. I can remember cases in which Governments have objected to recommittals. Take the case of the tea duty. I have also known a Government to receive a warning that the recommittal of a tea duty would not be permitted. Even in connexion with the present Bill, I heard the Prime Minister say that he would not agree to a recommittal for the purpose of considering the principles contained in one or two clauses.
– The Government did not propose to recommit the tea duty.
– It was announced beforehand that the Labour Party would oppose it. The Prime Minister announced, when he was asked if he would agree to an unconditional recommittal, that he would not consent in regard to one or two clauses in which certain principles were involved ; that he would agree to a recommittal with the object of dealing with the verbiage, but for no other purpose. If the Government are entitled to refuse to recommit a clause because they hold certain views, I fail to see why any honorable member, however humble may be his position, should not be entitled to adopt the same attitude, especially when, as is the case here, the whole question can be as definitely decided in the House as in Committee - with the exception, as I said before, that honorable members will not be able to speak so frequently in the House. That is not an unmixed evil, although it possibly may be an evil of some kind. The amendment which was carried after fair consideration 1 wish the honorable member for Hume would not interrupt.
– I am not interrupting the honorable and learned member.
– I object to any honorable member indulging in a constant stream of interjections that I can hear, but which Mr. Speaker cannot hear.
– The honorable and learned member ought to behave himself.
– If the honorable member wants to interject, he might at least do me the courtesy of not sitting immediately behind me, because it is difficult to speak-when one is subjected to a stream of interjections from behind. I do not wish to introduce any heat into this discussion, or to strike sparks from the anvil of the honorable member’s feelings.
– The honorable and learned member wants to strike below the belt.
– I do not know why the honorable member is so worried about this matter.
– Why is the honorable and learned member worried about it?
– I am not in the least worried. I have fought and lost, and I have fought and won, in connexion with this Bill. I have borne my beatings as cheerfully as I have taken my successes, and I have not quarrelled with other honorable members because I have been beaten.
– The honorable and learned member is very much afraid of the Committee.
– I am not afraid of the Committee. I cannot understand the extraordinary zeal on the part of some honorable members to get to the Committee.
– The honorable and learned member changes his views very quickly.
– I do not think the honorable member can point to any instance in which I have changed my views.
– What about the contribution towards the maintenance of the Australian Auxiliary Squadron?
– I never changed my opinion, upon that subject - not so far as my memory serves me.
– Does not the honorable and learned member remember the conversation we had ?
– The honorable member is referring to a casual conversation over the billiard-table?
– I must ask honorable members not to interject so as to interrupt an honorable member who is addressing the House. I would especially ask them to refrain from introducing matters that are absolutely irrelevant, and to which the speaker who is in possession’ of the Chair cannot in the course of his speech reply. If honorable members will quietly listen to the honorable and learned member they will have an opportunity of replying to him later on.
– To return to the subject, and to leave the digression into which I was drawn by the somewhat surprising statement of the honorable member for Kennedy, I would point out that the proviso in clause 48 reads as follows : -
And provided further that no such preference . shall be directed to be’ given unless the application for such preference is, in the opinion of the Court, approved by a majority of those affected by the award who have interests in common with the applicants.
The key-note of the proposal is that, in the opinion of the Court, the majority of the workmen who are asking for preference shall be favorable to it. The Government proposal is that the following proviso should be substituted : -
The Court, before directing that preference shall be given to the members of an organization, shall be satisfied that the organization substantially represents the industry affected in point of the numbers and competence of its members.
The operative words are “ substantially represents,” and I shall have a few words to say in regard to their meaning. I must say that when I first saw the amendment circulated as an alternative to mine-
– Was not the honorable and learned member’s amendment adopted by the Committee?
– Then it has become the work of the Committee.
– Yes, it was adopted by a majority of seven votes.
– Without proper discussion.
– I do not agree with the honorable member. We had four days’ discussion.
– Not upon that point.
– I gave notice of my intention to withdraw my original amendment, and substitute another, certainly not in the form in which the proviso was finally adopted, but one embodying the same principle. Every honorable member had ample opportunity to consider it before it was adopted, and- certainly has had ample opportunity to consider it -since, and I do not suppose that any honorable member will contend that he has not so con- sidered it. When I first saw the Government proposal, and noticed that it once more made a concession, at any rate to the views of myself and others, I wondered what kind of reception the Government amendment would have had if it had been proposed by me in the first place. If I had suggested that a preference should be allowed to an organization substantially representing an industry in point of numbers and competence, I question whether I should not have been told to trust the Court. I remember that when an earlier amendment of mine regarding the political character of unions was under consideration, it. was pointed out at one moment to those who were inclined to agree with me that after all the Government proposal was very much the same as mine, and that they might as well support it, and- the next moment it was pointed out that they could not support my proposal because it was so different. I dare say we shall hear something of the same kind on the present occasion. The Government propose that the Court shall be at liberty to give preference to an organization, when satisfied that it substantially represents an industry. I do not quite understand what “ substantially represents “ means. I take it that the whole question would be left to the discretion of the Court. The expression means very little more than that. It means, once more, “ trust the Court.” If it means that, until a majority of the workmen support or approve, preference shall not be given by the Court, then the Government proposal says, in less definite words and in vaguer language, the same thing as my amendment. I do not suppose that the Government would for a “ moment accept that view, nor do I suppose that the Government mean that. Their amendment must mean something substantially less than my amendment as it appears in the Bill. It means, apparently, that the Court will be called upon to decide what constitutes “ substantial representation in numbers and competence.” That is to say, the numbers of the organization must substantially represent the’ industry affected, and the competence of its members must also substantially represent it.
– What more, does the honorable and learned member want?
– If the Government proposal means as much as does my amendment, . I desire no more. But it does not mean as much, otherwise the Ministry would not propose it.
– We say that the amendment of the honorable and learned member is unworkable.
– In other words, the Government affirm that unionists can never secure the approval of a majority of those interested in any industry. If that be so, I hold that they should not be granted a preference. Rightly or wrongly, I am very definitely of opinion that it should be essential to the granting of a preference to unionists, that at least the Court should believe that a majority of those concerned in the industry affected desire such a preference.
– How would the honorable and learned member secure the opinion of the majority ?
– I shall deal with that matter at a later stage. At present, I am discussing the proposal of the Government. I would remind the House that in New Zealand, the Court has always proceeded upon the principle that it was necessary ‘ that a majority of the employes interested in any industry should ask for a preference to be extended to them before any such preference was granted. If in New Zealand the Court finds it possible to determine when the employes who desire that a preference shall be extended to them constitute a majority of those engaged in an industry, I must confess that I am unable to understand why the same result- cannot be achieved in Australia. I shall point out the reasons for my belief in a minute or two.” What does “ substantial “ representation mean ? I do not for a moment suppose that it means as little as is conveyed in some comments by the right honorable member for East Sydney, which appear in the Argus of to-day, and in which he points out that it has been held by a Court that a house was in “ substantial “ repair, notwithstanding that its walls were in very poor condition. But let us take a specific instance. Does the Prime Minister think that Mr. McGarry substantially represents the electorate of the Mumimbidgee in the Parliament of New South Wales?
– I think so.
– The Prime Minister asserts that Mr. McGarry substantially represents the electors of the Mumimbidgee ?
– I do.
- Mr. McGarry polled 1,538 votes out of 8,111 electors upon the roll, and out of a total of 5,171 votes recorded.
In other words, he received 30 per cent, of the votes that were polled and 19 per cent, of the votes of the electors whose names appear upon the roll. In his case the number of voters upon the roll would correspond with the number of persons employed in an industry. Consequently, the Prime Minister argues that 19 per cent, of those engaged in an industry would substantially represent that industry. I say that it does not.
– It is not a question of what the Prime Minister thinks, but of what the President of the Arbitration Court would say.
– I was waiting for that admission. In other words, under the proposal of the Government we have got back to the position that we are required to trust the Court without imposing any limitation upon its action. If the Court were to declare that 19 per cent, of those engaged in an industry substantially represented that industry, I should not agree with it. The N words “ substantial “ and “ substantially “ are vague words, which we never employ in an Act of Parliament if we can avoid them. The effect of their insertion in this clause would be to vest the Court practically with a discretion to say that “ substantial representation “ exists in any industry, unless that representation was obviously trivial or frivolous. Under the Government proposal, almost anything might be upheld as “ substantial representation.” But I would point out that, should an appeal be made from the decision of the Arbitration Court to the High Court on the ground that “the former has held that certain representation was “ substantial,” whilst those immediately concerned, against whom such an award had been made, did not think so, the question involved would be one of fact, and not of law. I repeat that under the amendment foreshadowed by the Government it would be left absolutely to the Arbitration Court to declare what was “ SUDsantial representation,” and what was not. It is easy to conceive that a course of decisions might be given producing a result which would cause the Court to regard as substantial sets of circumstances which none of us would ever dream of describing by that term. I claim that a limitation which leaves the Court practically unfettered is no limitation at all. Honorable members are aware that the form of the Government proposal was decided upon some .weeks before it was circulated. I did not receive a copy of it, although some honorable members did. I do not wish to speak at any greater length. No doubt a number of honorable members will address themselves to the question, and the alternative proposals before the House will meet with full discussion. Each side will be sure to point out the errors of the other side, and my amendment will, doubtless, be subjected to severe criticism. I” trust, however, that it will not be subjected to destructive criticism, because I venture to think that, after all, it expresses as reasonably, fairly, and definitely as is possible in matters of this kind, the views held by the Committee at the time it was made, and the opinions which its supporters still entertain. I start by postulating that from my stand-point it . is essential to the exercise of the commonest fair-play that a majority should be in favour of the extension of a preference to them before any such preference is granted. I protest in the strongest terms at my command, and will protest by my action »as well as by my voice, against any system which will allow minorities to control the destinies of majorities, especially the industrial destiny of majorities, because that is more important than is the mere determination that majorities shall rule in political affairs. As a rule, political matters touch us only indirectly. They may affect us very vitally, but almost invariably they do so in an indirect manner. But we shall strike at the root of the livelihood of a very large number of the people of Australia if this preference is granted without a limitation to the effect that a majority of those concerned in the industry affected shall first declare themselves in favour of such a preference. At the very least, I claim that if we are to establish a rule of this kind, we should say to the Court, “ It shall be a majority rule, and not- under any circumstances a minority rule.” I am satisfied that the great bulk of the people of the Commonwealth believe that such a limitation is essential, and that it is only from a limited section that protests against it are forthcoming. We have been told that my amendment constitutes a menace to unionism - that it strikes a blow at its fundamental principles. I entirely dissent from that view. I quite agree with the right of unions to do their work in the way they think best, and to obtain, by proper constitutional means, everything that they can. If they can induce a majority of the elec- tors of Australia, in the expression. of their wishes at the ballot-box, to agree with their town views,and if, as a result, I am left in a minority, I shall not quarrel with majority rule, i am perfectly prepared to apply to myself the same rule that I wish to apply to others. But I will not agree to what is practically the establishment of minority rule under any circumstances whatever. It has been said that my amendment is not workable. The following are its exact words - and I must apologize to the House for repeating them, but apparently the Prime Minister suggests that the question involved is one of wording-
– I said that the amendment of the honorable and learned member is unworkable.
– Then it is not the wording of my amendment with which the Prime Minister quarrels, but its working possibilities. I suppose that he means that it would never be possible to secure such a state of affairs as would induce the Court to think that a majority of those affected by the award were in favour of a preference being given to the organization.
– He will not trust the Court in that case.
– No; he can trust the Court only in matters in which its operation can move in the direction of his own desires, and not against them.
– Will the honorable and learned member show how his proposal could be carried out?
– I shall give one or two cases in which it could not fail to ‘work. I shall take such authorities as the honorable member for Darling, and the- Minister of External Affairs.
– They represent only two instances.
– The honorable member asks me’ to show how my proposal could be carried out. and when I begin to quote cases in relation to which it would certainly operate he remarks-“ Those are only two instances.” He anticipates my being able to answer his questions, and that being so I have done something towards proving that which it was prognosticated I should not be able to prove. The honorable member for Darling tells us that the vast majority of those connected with sheep shearing are members of the Australian Workers’ Union. That being so, when that union goes to the Court and asks for a preference to members of the organization it will not have the least difficulty in satisfying the Court that it represents a majority of those concerned, and that the preference may safely be given.
– How would it prove that?
– I have not said that it has to be proved by such evidence as is required in an ordinary Court of law. The Bill provides that the Court may inform itself in practically any manner whatever. If the union produced the statistics which the honorable member says it is able to produce - if it showed that it had five-sixths of the shearers of Australia within its ranks, it would have no difficulty whatever in satisfying that impartial Judge whom the honorable member is so willing to trust in all other matters, that there was a majority of those concerned in favour of the application.
– It would have to prove how many did not belong to the union.
– The evidence I have mentioned would satisfy any Court. Those who desired tq dispute the conclusions which the Court was asked to draw from the statements submitted by the union, would have to bring forward remarkably strong evidence, and prove up to the hilt that the statement was not true, before the Court would disregard it.
– On whom would the onus be thrown?
– Upon those who applied for the preference. The honorable and learned gentleman, as a lawyer, knows well enough that the burden of proof may be shifted from time to time during the hearing of a case, and that the prima facie evidence to which I have referred would forthwith shift the burden of proof on to those who objected. The Court will not be bound by the ordinary rules of evidence.
– I venture to say that even if the honorable and learned member had nothing else to do for twelve months he could not tell us how many shearers there are in Australia.
– Perhaps I should not be able to state the exact number, but I should be able to give it within, at all events, a few hundreds.
– We will give the honorable and learned member a margin of 500.
– A margin’ of 500 or of even 1,000 would not be sufficient to affect the question.
– It might affect a majority.
– In the case under notice the number of the members of the organization is so overwhelming that such a margin would not in any way cause injury to the majority. The honorable, member for Grey speaks of the necessity there would be to prove the number of shearers in Australia. Does he think that there would have to be a muster of the shearers, as well as of the sheep, in order that a count might be made to satisfy the Court?
– One could prove a majority although he had no knowledge of the total.
– Exactly. Let me refer now to the Federated Seamen’s Union. The Minister of External Affairs told us that, with the exception of the waterside workers at a few small ports, practically every one concerned in Australia was a member of that union. IT that be so, there would be no difficulty in proving that the application for a preference was supported in that case by a majority of those con- cerned. Let us take another case in which the members of a union do not represent a majority of the workers in the industry to which it applies. Let us’ take a case in which it is doubtful whether the organization, although a large one, represents a majority of those affected. To begin with, I would point out that it is more difficult to ascertain the exact number of persons concerned in the pastoral industry, and that relating to transportation by land and sea, than it is to discover the number engaged in any other calling, because both occupations are more nomadic than is any other. But in those cases the difficulty has already been obviated by the praiseworthy efforts of those who have been concerned in forming unions relating to them. Let us deal with other industries in which the occupation is more localized. I take it that there would be no difficulty in ascertaining, for example, the majority of railway employes or of those engaged in the coal -mining industry. The coal mines of Australia are situated in a limited number of localities, and it would be the easiest thing in the world to ascertain the majority in the case of those employed in them. I come now to the position of gold miners. We have a certain unascertained percentage of men engaged in that industry who are working on their own account. When I say that the percentage is unascertained, I mean that it is not quite accurately ascertained. Speaking from experience gained by a life-time spent on the gold-fields, I venture to say that it would be possible to ascertain with comparative ease the majority-
– It would not; and I know as much about the gold-fields as does the honorable and learned member.
– I dare say; but I am merely speaking of what has been my own experience. I cannot say what are the results of the honorable member’s experience in this direction ; but my experience is, first of all, that the number of men working on their own account is small, as compared with the number employed on wages. There would be practically no substantial difficulty in ascertaining the number of gold miners employed by others, and those who were working for themselves would not be concerned by an award, because they would be neither employers nor employes. We should find that in every industry there would be no substantial difficulty in carrying out my amendment. The clause does not say that a majority of those concerned in the industry in Australia must approve before an award may be given, it simply’ says that the application shall be “approved by a majority of those affected by the award.” Some ingenious individual may possibly say that a man in Western Australia might be affected by an award applying to Victoria and New South Wales, and that therefore he would have to be included in the total before the majority could be ascertained. I venture, with very little hesitation, to differ from that view of the position. On matters relating to the construction and the interpretation of the English language no one can speak with absolute certainty, because it lends itself, to a very great extent, to the ingenuity of those who love puzzles.
– What about the common rule ; it affects the honorable and learned member’s argument ?
– I shall come to that point presently ; but, to parody Sir Boyle Roche’s statement that a man cannot be in two places at once unless he is a bird, I would point out that I cannot deal at once with two aspects of the case. I assert, with” practically no hesitation, that a man in Western Australia would not be affected by an award which applied, say, to Victoria and New South Wales. He might be subsequently affected by the award, but the clause does not require that there shall be a majority of those who “may” be affected, but a majority of those who “are” affected by the award. The widest inter- pretation which the Court could give to my amendment would be one saying in effect, “ We want a majority of those within the area over which the award “is to extend.” If the award extends over Australia - assuming that the Constitution will allow it to so extend ; and that, of course, is another matter - we need the consent of a majority of those employed in the industryaffected throughout Australia. If the award extends over only two States, we want the approval of a majority of those concerned in the two States. If it can be limited to only one State, as is conceivable, though I do not think it will be, we want a majority of those concerned in that State; and if it be limited to specified localities, we want .a majority of those concerned in the localities specified.
– The honorable and learned member is asking for more than is asked under the Electoral Act in connexion with the election of members of Parliament. Hardly one member of the House was returned by an actual majority of his constituents.
– I think that there are one or two exceptions; but it must be remembered that the Bill asks for a great deal more in other respects than is asked for by the Electoral Act. The Electoral Act does not directly affect any man’s living, nor do most of the laws passed by this Parliament affect the public in the way in which this Bill will affect them.
– Why ask impossibilities?
– I am not asking impossibilities. I have pointed to a number of cases in which I think it is obviously possible, and some in which the result has been actually achieved. All that is necessary is to place before the Court the facts already ascertained. My own view of my amendment is that where a common rule is not asked for, the proviso will apply on lv to employes and employers who are parties to the claim. It will practically apply only to the workshops or industries in which are engaged the actual parties to the dispute, and those concerned in it. It is possible to take the other and wider view which I have mentioned, but the locality to which the award extends is the maximum area to which the amendment will apply, and the area within which the consent of the majority will be required. My own view is that where a common rule is not asked for, it will apply practically only to the shops, factories, and so on, that are concerned, and the persons connected with them as employers or employes. If my view be wrong, the wider view still leaves the provision practically feasible, and by no means difficult of achievement. We do not desire to make preferences obtainable in a particularly free, easy, and accessible manner - to quote a phrase well known in Victoria a few years ago. We desire to have proper safeguards, though there are some safeguards now. If a common rule be applied for and granted, it will extend over a given area, and undoubtedly the preference granted in that award and over that area should not be allowed unless the majority of those concerned are, in the opinion of the Court, in favour of it. That provision will prevent the giving of a preference to an organization which is in a minority, and has opposed to it an outside majority. That is a case in which a preference should not be given. I have no fear but that the amendment will be found to operate with comparative ease, with reasonable efficacy, and certainly with no more difficulty than the importance of the subject makes inevitable. We have had before occurrences similar to the present state of affairs in connexion with this Bill. I would remind the House that when the common rule was under consideration, I proposed to limit its application to the cases in which I thought the real reason for a common rule exists, the cases in which there is competition. The Government would not accept my amendment, and passed a modification of it. Then there was a further amendment with reference to the political character of unions and organizations. The Government would not accept that, but proposed a modification of it. They had to accept the modification in exactly the words of my proposal, except that they altered the point at which, the operation of the sub-section began, and they, did that only so that they might carry the Bill in something like its present form. I would also remind the House of the circumstances under which this recommittal is a’sked for, and of the circumstances which have arisen since- the amendment was carried to limit preferences to cases in which a majority of those affected approve. When my amendment was proposed, the Government simply announced that they could not accept it, and said no more ; but it was carried by a majority of five votes. Two honorable members were absent, who, so far as I can judge, would, had they been present, have supported the amendment. The Government then reported progress, and said that they would consider their position. Two or three days later - I think on the following Tuesday - the Prime Minister informed the House that he would ask leave to recommit the clause, in order to permit honorable members to reconsider their determination. Not a word was then said about an alternative proposal. Later came the amendment relating to the political character of unions, which the Government carried in the form they desired by a majority of one vote, with the kind assistance of the “bridge-builders” in this corner of the Chamber. The Prime Minister warned the Committee that that amendment was vital, not only to the Bill, but to the Government; that the Government would resign if it were carried. In answer to the honorable and learned member for Corio, he stated in so many words that if the amendment were carried in the form proposed by me, and not in the form proposed by himself, the Government would resign. That threat had its effect. There was an undoubted cracking of the. whip. In my limited parliamentary experience I have never heard the whip cracked more loudly under similar circumstances than it was cracked on that occasion. But the cracking was effective.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that this has anything to do with the question ?
– Perhaps I may refer to the matter to fix the date of the occurrence. The Prime Minister then, and not until then, announced that this proposal also was vital to the Government. That was announced, I think, on a Saturday, but I do not know the day of the week. At any rate, it was after the division on’ the clause relating to the political character of unions that the Prime Minister announced this issue to be vital to the existence of the Government.
– The Prime Minister made an announcement at the’ table in answer to my remarks, when the amendment of the honorable member for Darling Downs was inserted. _
– That is so, but it was afterwards that, for the first time, we heard that this particular issue was vital to. the existence of the Government. What does that mean under “the circumstances? It means that the amendment, which was carried on its merits, apart from all other considerations, is now to be levered through by means of other issues. It may be that these are issues of importance; I do not know. It is always a matter of considerable importance as to who shall control the administration of a great country like Australia; but that is not a matter qf importance, as compared with the much greater interests which I think are involved in such a question as that now before us, in relation to the people of Australia.
– The whole thing is only being used for Opposition purposes.
– I beg, with the utmost respect, to absolutely contradict the Minister of Home Affairs.
– The opposition to- the Bill right through has been on that ground.
– It was the Government who threw out the challenge, and I never from first to last, throughout the whole of the debates, have said a single word or done a single thing, except in relation to the Bill itself.
– They have been very careful on the other side.
– I have never discussed these matters, except in relation to their merits and their effect on the Bill and on the community. It was the Government, on the da’te I have mentioned, who forced this issue upon us, so that we had to take it up. Must I, because the Government chose to take up that attitude, be debarred from exercising my judgment as to what I think ought to be done with this measure? The Government have thrown down the glove.
– Poor little lamb !
– The honorable and learned member for Corinella is coming out in his true colours.
– I do not know what the honorable member for Darling means by saying that I am “ coming out in my true colours.” If the honorable member means that I shall support the clause regardless of what the Government propose to do, he is correct. I do not care what attitude the Government take .on the matter. I am going to vote for the clause as it stands, as against the amendment of the Government ; I believe the clause to be right, and the amendment now proposed to be wrong.
– The honorable and learned member is going to vote against allowing us to go into Committee to consider the Bill.
– I am not going to do anything of the kind. The honorable member for Hume has made that assertion about six times, but it does not gather force by repetition.
– I think it does.
– There, again, I differ from the honorable member ; I have had to differ from him before, and may have to do so again. I trust, however, that in all our differences of opinion, I, at any rate, shall never be any crosser than he is, or appears to be, on the present occasion.
– The honorable and learned member is always “ on the cross.”
– I do not in the least degree understand what the honorable member for Hume means. I suppose the honorable member is endeavouring to cast some reflection on me, but what it is I do not understand. However, from some people reflections are more like compliments than injuries.
– I always feel like that when reflections are made on me by the honorable and learned member.
– I do not recollect that I have ever passed reflections on the honorable member since I have been in this House.
– Only on three or four occasions.
– All I have done is to protest against his interjections. I do not believe that before to-day I have said one word about him personally in this House, and, Mr. Speaker, if I can manage to exercise good sense, I purpose never to say a word about him again. My single sin will, I hope, to some extent be atoned for by my previous comparatively good conduct, and by my subsequent absolutely good conduct. If I have said anything to hurt the feelings of the honorable member for Hume, I am very sorry. The Government, after deliberation, actuated by I do not know what motives - though I have no doubt they were very proper motives - announced through the Prime Minister, outside the House, that they proposed to make this issue vital. The »nly object I could see for such an announcement was that of influencing the votes of some honorable members who had supported me on a previous occasion. The only object I could see was that of inducing those honorable members to vote against me on the present occasion; there could be no other object to be gained. I have seen it stated in the press that that object has been achieved; that the Government are now assured of a majority against my amendment, of anything from two upwards. As to that I know nothing ; I do not profess to be a master of figures in that particular aspect, or indeed in any aspect. But I do say that the Government, having reported progress and taken four ‘days to consider their attitude, and having deliberately told the House that they would give the Committee an opportunity to reconsider the proposal, without . any announcement as to making this matter vital, they have no right now to turn round and take their present stand. We, on ibis side of the House, whether we belong to the Free-trade or the Protectionist Party, are taunted with using this clause as an engine for attacking the Government. But that taunt comes with the worst, of grace from those people who, on second fh-jnght, and not on first consideration, make this a vital matter, and who now say, “ We will try to force this proposal through by the power and prestige of the Government.” What could we do except what we have done? We believed in’ the clause, as amended, and we do so still. The Government never suggested, in the first place, that they were going to make the carrying of the amendment vital-; but now that, on second thoughts, they have done so, what can we do but adhere to the opinion we formed in the first place, and have held all along, namely, that this clause should remain as it is, and not be altered in the direction asked by the Government. If the Government choose to make the issue viral it will be an unfortunate incident.
– The Prime Minister . did announce, according to the report in Hansard, that they regarded the issue as vital.
– The Prime Minister never said that he regarded the issue as vital to the existence of the Government.
– The Prime Minister said, according to Hansard, that the amendment cut right to the heart of the provision.
– The Government said that the amendment would mean a great change in the Bill, but it was never s;:id that it affected the existence of the Government. That is the point I have endeavoured to make clear all along.
– Why not allow the Bill to be recommitted?
– What difference would that make? Is not the honorable member, with myself, able to speak with as much freedom now’ as we should on recommittal ? What object can there be in a recommittal ?
– What is the object of the honorable and learned member ?
– My object is to settle the matter as promptly as possible.
– That is “too thin.”
– The honorable and learned member for Corinella is going fishing, and he thinks that a big fish will snap at this bait, whereas it could not be caught by any other.
– The familiarity of the Minister of External Affairs with seafaring matters enables him to indulge in metaphors which we land-lubbers cannot understand. According to Hansard, the Prime Minister, before the amendment was put, said -
The Government consider that on agreeing to the amendment suggested by the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, we have gone quite as far as, those who favour this clause can be expected to go, and I, therefore, earnestly ask honorable members to reject this amendment.
That is the whole of the Prime Minister’s statement, prior to the division.
– The honorable and learned member for Corinella asked the Prime Minister not to make a speech on that occasion.
– I ‘did; and that was because I made no speech myself.
– Yet the honorable and learned member claims that this issue has been well discussed.
– So it has been.
– Not this amendment.
– It has never been discussed at all.
– The principle involved has been discussed.
– The principle of preference only.
– No; the principle of the majority rule.
– The honorable and learned member is now burking discussion.
– I do not seem to be burking either discussion or interjections.
– The honorable and learned member, moved his amendment without speaking himself. .
– I know I did, because my amendment was submitted immediately after a division had been taken. I gave notice of two amendments. The Government accepted one, and we discussed the
Other, but as soon as one was agreed to by the Government-
– Because the honorable member slipped it through, he is now frightened to have it discussed again.
– I am not in the least degree frightened. Nothing can be slipped through in the House, any more than in Committee. Undoubtedly there will be a full attendance of honorable members in the House to vote one way or the other. We can decide now, just as well as at any other time, whether majority rule is to be provided for in the Bill. I do not understand the desire that is being evinced by the Government for delay. I always understood that Governments were anxious to get on with the business and not to delay it. What I have previously mentioned was all that the Prime Minister said before the division took place. After the division, he moved that progress be reported, and said -
The Government regard the amendment that has just been carried as of very serious import indeed. I feel that it cuts right into the heart of this provision, and, therefore, it is only proper that the Government should have an opportunity to consider how far it affects the general purposes of the measure
He did not say how far it cut into the principles of the measure - and how far they may ask honorable members to reconsider the decision just given.
– Now they are asking honorable members to reconsider their decision.
– Yes; and, I say, reconsider the decision, by all means, as we are doing at the present moment. Then on the following Tuesday the Prime Minister said -
When the Committee, on the occasion of its last sitting, decided in favour of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, I asked that you, sir, should report progress, and thus give the Government an opportunity of considering the effect of the alteration that had just been made in the clause. I stated then that in my opinion - hurriedly arrived at - the proposal cut into the heart of the clause, and affected materially the general . purpose of the measure. The Government still hold that view.
They had considered it. He continued -
We think that the clause in its present shape absolutely fails to meet the desires of those who are anxious to see this Bill passed into law in an effective shape. We propose to ask the Committee to reconsider that position so soon as we arrive at the recommittal stage.
Well, we have now arrived at the recommittal stage. The Prime Minister then went on to say that he did not think that the question of majority rule had been argued, although preference to unionists had been discussed. He concluded -
We shall certainly give honorable members an opportunity when the recommittal stage is reached, of reconsidering the position at which they arrived on Friday last.
There was not one word about the matter being vital to the Government. That is my complaint. Upon further consideration, weeks after the amendment was carried, and after they had made something else vital, and had won in consequence, the Government announce, not to the House, but to tha country, that they are going to make this a vital question. Then they turn round and accuse honorable members of using as an engine to defeat the Government, the very thing which they admit must be an engine of destruction if they are defeated upon it. I cannot understand such an attitude on their part.
– The honorable and learned member does not want to understand it.
– The honorable member is welcome to his opinion. He is endeavouring with some considerable lack of success to act the part of the thought reader.
– The amendment of the honorable member was never discussed by honorable members-
– It is being discussed now.
– It will be discussed by the public outside.
– I trust that it will be, and the more it is discussed outside, the better I shall be pleased. The more the public realize the meaning of this clause without- my amendment, the more I shall be satisfied as to the result. The suggestion, “You look out for what is going to happen when you get outside “-
– The honorable member will be in a minority then.
– Perhaps the honorable member may find himself in a minority. We sometimes think that the views of our constituents are the same as our own, when they are not. It is very unfortunate for the member concerned in such a case, but no one should be induced to change his carefully formed opinions because he thinks that the majority of his constituents may not approve of his conduct, in a matter regarding which he has given no pledge to his electors, or to his caucus, if there is one, but with respect to which he has been left to use his own judgment. I have expressed “over and over again my adhesion to the principles of conciliation and arbitration, and I have acted up to that profession. I have, however, left myself quite free to deal with these important matters of detail to the best of my own judgment. If my constituents do not agree with me, I must bow to the will of the majority ; but I am now objecting to bow to -the will of the minority.
– The honorable member has with him all those who are opposed to the Bill.
– I cannot help that.
– It has been so on almost every occasion.
– I have voted for the Government on some occasions. I have voted against them on other occasions, because, according to my view, they have sought to go too far. It may be unfortunate that I cannot always see eye to eye with “them ; but just as I do not quarrel with them for adhering to their views, they should not quarrel with me for standing to my own. Surely, if they are justified in supporting with all their power the proposals which they have put forward, I am as fully justified in opposing with all the force in my power those with which I cannot agree. If the Government are justified in making this a vital matter, surely I, as a private member, am at least justified in continuing to oppose their proposal, notwithstanding the condition which they add to it. I regard this matter as of far more importance than the consideration whether the Govern-, ment shall remain in or go out of office. I am not under any tie of allegiance to the Government. I crossed to this side of the House when the Deakin Government were beaten upon a matter in which I voted with them, and in which I think they were right. I crossed to this side because I thought that the members of the Labour Party, who now -sit on the Government side, were wrong.
– And the honorable and learned member has. voted against them ever since.
– I have voted against them whenever I thought they were wrong, and I shall continue to do so. In the same way I shall vote with them whenever I think they are right, in regard to any measure they choose to bring forward.
– The honorable and learned member voted against many of the provisions introduced in the Bill by the Deakin Government.
– Yes, no doubt ; but I have not voted against anything which I had previously supported. I was more concerned about this Bill than about the fate of the Government. It happened that I agreed with the Deakin Government on the question of including railway servants within the scope of the Bill. Just as others voted against them because they did not agree with them, so I voted with them because, for reasons I then gave, I thought they were right. I am much more concerned as to the effect upon Australia of this Bil) than as to the effect upon the House of Representatives of the adoption of any particular amendment. The Government think that certain proposals are vital to the Bill, and those who oppose these provisions are charged with being opponents of the measure. This is one of those occasions when the Government are proposing something which should be opposed on principle by honorable members who do not agree with it. Perhaps they hope that the Court will whittle it away to nothing. Some of the friends of the Government are only supporting the proposal as a substitute for my amendment, because they think that it will present a way out of the difficulty in which they find themselves. This is apparently another bridge. I do not know upon what foundations it is built. I am not aware whether political bridges require engineers to build them, just as do bridges of the work-a-day world, nor do I know - if they do require them - whether such engineers are in existence.
– Is not the honorable and learned member building a bridge himself ?
– Yes. He is building a bridge to get into office.
– Even from his limited experience of politics, the honorable member must know that even if he thought such a thing, it is not usual to say it. I may add, however, that his assumption is not correct. . The honorable member for Hume laughs. I am certainly not as anxious to get into office as some honorable members were reluctant to leave it. My Ministerial - experience was not such a happy one that I desire to rush into office. Certainly it would not induce me to accept office at the sacrifice of any principle. To taunt me in that way, especially as the Government have thrown out the challenge, is very extraordinary. Am I expected to support the proposal of the Government merely because they choose to make it vital to their existence? Even if they withdrew the statement that they regard it as vital, I should still vote against it.
– Why all this trouble?
– Because I cannot proceed whilst honorable members persistently interject, and invite me to express my opinion upon subjects which are more or less relevant to the question before the House - chiefly less.
– Who put the honorable and learned member up to this procedure?
– I thought of it all by myself. I actually possess sufficient intelligence to induce me to conclude that the present is as good a time to decide this question as is any other.
– Did not the honorable and learned member consult anybody else?
– No; but I told some honorable members that I intended to adopt the course which I am now following. , I did not even consult the honorable member who has interjected. I think I have said all that I desire to say upon this question. Summarizing my views, I regard this matter as one of very grave importance. I look upon the substitute offered to us by the Government for the proviso contained in the clause as it now stands as a ridiculously inefficient one.
– It is a very practical substitute nevertheless.
– It is practical provided that it means nothing. If the Government proposal means anything substantial, it would be just as difficult for an industrial union to comply with it as it would be to comply with my amendment. But, inasmuch as it has no definite meaning, it might as well be eliminated. It is no limitation at all.
– It is as definite as is the phrase “ equity and good conscience.”
– Exactly. The proposal offered to us represents a mere husk or shell, whereas my amendment is definite and workable, and should, therefore, be adhered to. I venture to hold that opinion notwithstanding the cracking of any number of whips, and notwithstanding any subsequent announcement which may be made by the Government concerning their attitude towards the amendment I am about to put before the House. I move -
That clause 48 be omitted from the clauses proposed to be recommitted.
Mr. WATSON (Bland- Treasurer).- It seems to me that the honorable and learned member has adopted a rather unusual course in this instance. During the whole of my parliamentary experience I do not recollect a single case in which a proposal on the part of any Government to have a clause of any measure reconsidered in Committee has been resisted. I do not remember one instance in which an attempt has been made to burke the discussion which must ensue in Committee, and to prevent any possibility of a settlement being arrived at.’ The honorable and learned member has declared that there are two distinct alternatives before the House, . and that, therefore, no injury can result from taking a vote upon the Government proposal to recommit the Bill. But he is perfectly aware that those who stand apart from the interests of the Government, and from the interests of honorable members occupying the front Opposition benches, are actuated by a still higher consideration, if they believe in this Bill, namely, a desire to get it out of hand at the earliest possible moment, in a shape which will give effect to its purposes. I know that a number of honorable members opposite do not sympathize with those objects. On every occasion upon which the honorable and learned member for Corinella has submitted amendments he has had behind him the declared and emphatic opponents of the measure. Of course he has received a whole-souled support from those gentlemen, and in some instances to the detriment of the Bill he has succeeded in obtaining a majority in favour of his proposals.
– What is to prevent the matter from being discussed upon the amendment now before the House?
– With his usual innocence, the honorable and learned member asks, “What is to prevent the question from being discussed?” Of course it can be discussed. But the honorable and learned member knows that there is no possibility of putting forward any further amendment unless we get into Committee. I ay, not in the interests of the Government, but of the measure itself, that more anxiety might have been exhibited to afford every honorable member an opportnity oof stating his views, and of giving effect to them in a practical way. I repeat that the procedure adopted by the honorable and learned member is a most unusual one. It is true that occasionally Governments, from what they conceive to be the interests of public business, have refused to vote for ‘recommittals. But I reiterate that I do not remember an instance - certainly there has not been one in this Parliament, and I have no recollection of any in the New South Wales Legislature - in which an attempt on the part of the Government to obtain the reconsideration of a proposal in Committee has been resisted in the House. The honorable and learned member spoke of the cracking of the whip. He seemed very much exercised in mind because the Ministry have dared to state that they would regard the carrying of a certain amendment as vital to their existence. I admit that the honorable member was probably disappointed with the attitude of another Ministry which he supported, and which did not regard certain matters as vital to them. One of the criticisms most frequently levelled against the Ministry which he recently supported was that they regarded no proposal as vital until the last moment. Personally, I do not believe in making every question which arises vital to the existence of the Government. But, nevertheless, it must rest with those who are charged with the responsibility of carrying a measure through Parliament to say whether or not they will continue in office if it be altered to such an extent that it does not give effect to the purposes which the electors had in view. If Ministers did not exercise that right they would be unworthy of retaining the positions which they at present hold. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has declared that it was only upon second thoughts that the Government affirmed that his amendment was vital to their existence. In this connexion, I think that the language which I used upon the occasion when that amendment was carried was fairly emphatic. It is true that I did not use the exact phraseology which I afterwards employed. I did not say in so many words that the amendment was a vital one; but I said quite sufficient to indicate how seriously the Government regarded it. I said -
The Government regard the amendment that has just been carried as of very serious import indeed. I feel that it cuts right into the heart of this provision, and therefore it is only proper that the Government should have an opportunity of considering how far it affects the general purposes of the measure, and how far they may ask honorable members to reconsider the decision just given.
Surely those words were serious enough. So far as the cracking of the whip generally is concerned, I desire to say that it has not been cracked by the Government with a view to influencing the votes of honorable members, so much as with a desire to give a distinct intimation that, if we are to take the responsibility of this Bill, it must be passed in something like the shape that we desire. I now say distinctly that I am not prepared to remain in office and take the responsibility for a measure which, according to my conception, will npt be effective, especially if this provision, which, I contend, would be absolutely unworkable, be agreed to. The honorable and learned member for Corinella claimed that a discussion took place on his amendment ; but my reply is that the Committee did not discuss it. In a debate extending over three or four days we discussed the general principle of granting preference to unionists, but in hurriedly glancing over the pages of Hansard I have failed to find one reference in that debate to the detailed proposition which the honorable and learned member subsequently moved. Considerable argument took place on the question whether we should be justified in giving the Court power to grant preference to unionists; but there was absolutely no discussion on the point whether, if we gave the Court that power, we should insist on compliance with the terms set forth in the amendment.
– Was the amendment in print when the division took place?
– It was not; and so far as I have been able to ascertain it was not discussed.
– Whose fault was that?
– The fault of honorable members themselves.
– The fault of the Government who were in charge of - the business of the Committee.
– We were no more to blame than were other honorable members. The debate had occupied several days, the amendment was submitted at a late .hour on the last day of sitting for the week, and there was a general desire to come to a decision. Had I thought that there was the slightest probability of the amendment being carried I should have asked that the matter be further considered, but I gave honorable members credit for possessing a clearer insight into the probable working of such a provision. I do not know whether the honorable member for Corangamite was referring to the printing of the amendment, but the fact that it was not printed was not due to any neglect on the part of the Government. The printing of proposed amendments is a matter to which the Clerk attends on behalf of honorable members generally.
– No ; that is not the point which I had in mind.
– I contend that the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s amendment would be absolutely unworkable. I do not say that it would be unworkable in the sense which the honorable and learned member assumed - that it would be impossible to find a union having in its ranks a majority of the men engaged in the industry to which it related. In the great majority of cases, a majority of the men employed in a given trade or calling are within the ranks of unions relating to it; but the ground on which I urge that this provision would be unworkable, is that, in many instances, it would be impossible to prove with mathematical precision that which the amendment demands. It would be impossible to prove, in many instances, that the majority of the men engaged in a particular industry were members of a union. Take the case of the Australian Workers’ Union, to which the honorable and learned member has referred. So far as we have been able to ascertain, in a rough and ready way, a very large majority of those usually engaged in shearing belong to that union, but who would be able to say how many were engaged in shearing, or might be employed in the industry on any given occasion?
– That is the difficulty.
– The honorable member for Maranoa has followed, among other callings, that of shearing, and might desire at any time to resume that occupation. The honorable member for Moira has also been a shearer, and he, too, might desire to take a trip into the ‘back country, and to follow once more his old calling. Are we to say that, in ascertaining the number of persons engaged in an industry for purposes of this kind, every man who may have been engaged in shearing at any time, and who, if the fancy seizes him, may ask a squatter for an opportunity to earn a few pounds at his old calling, shall be included in the count? The practical difficulty in the way of carrying out this provision would be such as to render it absolutely unworkable. Take the case of the wharf labourers. A fluctuation often occurs in the number of men working as wharf labourers, which is dependent not only on the number of ships that come into port and the quantity of cargo which they carry, but on the state of other trades and industries in and around the various ports. For instance, when I spent more time in Sydney than I do now, men used to flock to the water-side for employment when, business was slack in the trade which they usually followed. When there was no work obtainable at their ordinary avocations, quarrymen and other manual labourers used to accept employmen on. the wharfs, and thus supplement their scanty earnings. How would it be possible under the honorable and learned member’s provision to compute whether or not the Wharf Labourers’ Union actually represented a majority, not of those engaged in the industry, but of those who would be affected by the proposed award? Ill would be almost impracticable. Another instance may be cited. In many callings children as well as adults would he affected by an award. Boys and girls - apprentices, in some instances, and in others improvers, or boys and girls casually employed in factories - would be affected, and under the honorable member’s amendment the Court would have to be satisfied that the majority df those affected approved of the application. It would be possible for an award to affect children by limiting the number of apprentices to be employed in’ a particular industry. A limitation of the number of apprentices is one of the usual conditions embodied in the awards of the States Courts. It is therefore quite possible that the interests of all children employed in an industry might be affected by an award, and the Court would have to be satisfied, under the honorable and learned member’s amendment, that the application for a preference was approved by a majority of the children as well as of the adults concerned. I take it that “satisfied” means that the Court shall be satisfied in the clearest and most unmistakable way that themajority of those affected have approved of the demand for preference.
– The honorable member does not object to the provision for a majority ?
– No; the practice in nearly every case, in all the Arbitration Courts, has been to grant a preference only when the majority, reasonably ascertained, is in favour of such a preference. I am not so foolish as to anticipate that the practice laid down by the Arbitration Courts of New Zealand and New South Wales will be departed from by the Judge appointed to the Federal tribunal. Any one who imagines that the Judge in the Federal Court would lay down a new line of procedure - that he would grant preferences to unions which manifestly represented only a minority of those employed in the industry or in the district in respect of which the preference was asked - cannot have paid any attention to the general procedure under legislation of this kind. I contend that the objection to the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s amendment, as a detail of preference - not as affecting preference as a principle - is that ‘it would be absolutely impossible in a great number of. cases to prove that the majority of the industry concerned approved of the application. It does not mean only that a union asks for a preference. It will have to be proved that, allowing for any minority that there may be in the union, a majority of those affected by the award are asking for the preference.
– A majority of both employers and employes.
– Yes, a majority of the persons affected by the award.
– The words used are the same as those used elsewhere in the Bill to signify a side.
– The honorable and learned member’s proposal goes further than those engaged in the industry, because there may be others having interests in common.
– That is a phrase of limitation, not of extension.
– I do not know that it is bound to be so interpreted.
– It cannot be interpreted otherwise.
– The intention of the honorable and learned member may bt: strictly honorable, but we have to consider the phraseology, apart from his intention.
– The same phrase occurs elsewhere in the Bill to describe one of two sides.
– Yes; but in quite a different relation. I think that that increases the possibility of the provision proving unworkable. Even assuming that the interpretation of the honorable and learned member is correct, and that the Judges, who occasionally differ, will take the view that he does, we cannot expect the measure to work if, in every case where a preference is applied tor, a census of those engaged in the industry must bc taken before it can be granted. We might as well take the preference provision out of the Bill altogether, and make that a condition. The Government do not desire that preferences shall be granted to minorities. We have put forward an amendment as an alternative to the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, in which we ask that, before preference is granted, the Court shall be satisfied that the organization substantially represents the industry affected, in point of the numbers and competence of its members.
– What is the meaning of “substantially”?
– We have been told by the leader of one of the Oppositions, whose opinion is backed up by the statement of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that the word “ substantially ‘ ‘ is vague, and conveys nothing to the legal mind. The right honorable member for East Sydney, in an interview which is published this morning, speaks of the word “substantially” as if it were an innovation, and had not been heard of before in legal circles. My honorable colleague, the Attorney-General, however, Has been good enough to put into my hands two or three instances in which the word “substantially” is used in reference to matters concerning, not merely property, but life and death. Section 470 of the New South Wales Crimes Act of 1900 provides that questions of law may, at the instance of the counsel of an accused person, be reserved for the consideration of the Court of Appeal -
Provided that no conviction or judgment thereon shall be reversed, arrested, or avoided on any case so stated, unless for some substantial wrong or other miscarriage of justice.
There the matter is leftto the Court, in the belief that the Judges will exercise reasonably common sense in interpreting the Statutes of the country. The interest at stake may be enormous, because where the Judge does not consider that the wrong done to the accused is substantial, the latter may have to suffer death. Apparently no other course was open to the Legislature than to leave it to the personal discretion of the Court to decide whether a merely technical error had been committed, or whether a substantial wrong had’been done to the accused. There is a similar proviso in section 471 of the same Act. Before a writ of error can be ruled out, it is provided that -
No judgment shall be reversed or avoided for any error unless some substantial wrong appears to have been done, or some other miscarriage of justice occasioned, by reason of such error.
In the rules of the Supreme Court in England there is another use of the word “substantial.” Those rules are drafted and promulgated by the Judges, but, as the legal members of the House know, have the force of law. Regarding motions for new trial, the Annual Practice for 1904 says -
A new trial shall not be granted on the ground of misdirection, or of the improper admission or rejection of evidence, or because the verdict of the jury was not taken upon a question which the Judge at the trial was not asked to leave to them, unless in the opinion of the Court to which the application is made some substantial wrong or miscarriage has been thereby occasioned in the trial.
– Is there not a wide distinction between substantial wrong and substantial number?
– The Courts interpret the word “ substantial “ very liberally. They do not require a great deal.
– We propose that the Court must be satisfied that the persons applying substantially represent those engaged in the industry. One member of a union cannot be taken to substantially represent the whole body, nor could a dozen men be regarded as substantially representing those employed in a large industry. But if anything approaching a majority apply for a preference, the Judge may reasonably hold that they substantially represent all engaged in the industry.
– The amendment contains the words “substantially in numbers.”
– In numbers and competence - not numbers or competence. Both requirements are insisted on. The Court, if it followed the precedents which have been created in New South Wales and New Zealand, would be bound to interpret the words as implying a majority. In New Zealand it has been insisted that a. majority, so far as that can be reasonably ascertained, shall be shown to be in favour of the granting of a preference before it can be given. The difference between our proposal and that of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is that, in the one case, the Court might waive the mathematical demonstration of the existence of a majority, while, in the other, it would- be bound to insist on it. Under the proposal of the honorable and learned member, the Court could not dispense with rigid proof of the existence of a majority in favour of the granting of a preference, while, under our proposal, if they were reasonably assured of the fact, it would not have to be mathematically demonstrated to them. That is the only difference between the two proposals; but it is of great importance, so far as the practical working of the measure is concerned. The New Zealand Court, early in its existence, was asked, in the case of the Christchurch engineers, to grant a preference to a small union. In delivering judgment the President asked how far the union really represented the great body of men in the trade affected, and, as it was found that the members of the union constituted a minority of those employed in the trade, the preference was refused. I am reminded that the word “really” is practically the same as the word “substantially.” The President, in making known the decision of the Court, laid down what, in my opinion, is a very proper rule. He said that -each case must stand upon its own merits, and that a claim must, in every case, be carefully scrutinized. He went on further to refer to other conditions which were necessary to safeguard a preference. He said that the union which sought such an advantage must be practically open to every person employed in the trade who desired to join it. That safeguard we have provided for at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Bendigo, and of the honorable and learned members for Ballarat and Indi. We have amplified the safeguards which exist under the New Zealand and New South Wales legislation. The principle proceeded upon in New South Wales in regard to the granting .of preferences has been exactly similar to that adopted in New Zealand. So far as I have been able to ascertain, the New South Wales Court has never granted preference to a union which did not appear to have a majority within the district to which it was to apply.
– I will quote instances to the contrary.
– The case of the saddlers has been quoted, but that was afterwards extended by means of the common rule. In the first instance the preference was granted, so far as my memory serves me, for a smaller district. It must be remembered, too, that in New South Wales and New Zealand there is no limitation on -the power of the Court to grant preferences. Preference to unionists was, on appeal, held by the Supreme Court of New Zealand not to require any specific wording in the Act, but to be the natural corollary of the main purpose of the measure as originally drafted by Mr. Reeves. It was said by Sir Robert Stout that -
In construing this Act, the aim of the Statute cannot be ignored. It does not, as I have said, propose to provide a means of settling disputes between employers and non-associated workmen. It has created a board in every district, and a Court, to settle disputes between associated workmen on the one side, and associated or single employers on the other.
He went on to say -
I am of opinion that the Court, having power to determine the “ status of workmen,” and the “ class of persons “ to be employed, has power to declare that trade unionists shall have a preference over workmen not belonging to a trade union.
It seems to me that Sir Robert Stout there recognised the true principle upon which measures of the kind are based. That is, they seek to. insure collective bargaining. That was the beginning of the possibility of effective compulsory arbitration - collective bargaining, and some responsible entity in the shape of a union to assist in the enforcement of the award. Preference has existed for years without arbitration laws amongst those trades, or in those callings where the unions were strong enough to enforce it. In my own trade - wherever I have worked, anyhow - the employes have insisted upon preference to unionists, and have always succeeded in obtaining it. I do not say that that state of affairs has existed in the disorganized country districts, but amongst the men employed in the large centres preference has always been insisted upon. In New South Wales at the present time about fifteen agreements giving preference have been arrived at between employers and employes, without the inter - Ivention of the Arbitration Court, except so
I far as their approval is concerned. Some j of these agreements have not yet been approved, because they have not reached that stage, but under these agreements between employer and employé preference has been voluntarily arrived at between the two parties.
– There was a very important case in England recently.
– Exactly. In all the voluntary Conciliation Courts set up in England preference to unionists is a sine qua non. Without that, it is impossible to even approach collective bargaining.
– That has been achieved without an Arbitration Court.
– Of course, it has. It is no new principle. All we ask is that the Court shall be permitted to grant preference; not that it shall be compelled to allow unionists to debar others from obtaining employment, but that it shall have power, if the circumstances warrant, ito grant preference. Now, in New South Wales there is an agreement between the Pastoralists’ Union and Machine Shearers’ Union.
– Is preference granted in that case?
– Yes, and that is a case in which ‘the amendment proposed by the Government wo’uld have a very beneficial application.
– That agreement not only gives the preference, but is compulsory.
– The other agreements, under which preference is given, are those entered into between the Master Hairdressers and their employes, the Master Coopers and their journeymen, the Coastal Steam-ship Owners’ Association and the Seamen’s Union, the Laundrymen and their employes, the Pastrycooks and their employes, the Inter-State Steam-ship Owners’ Association and the seamen, the Monumental Masons and their employes, Mort’s Dock and Engineering Company and their workmen, the Fresh Food and Ice Company and their employés, some cigar makers and their employes, the Steam Collier Owners’ Association and their seamen, the Tug-boat Owners and their employes, and some of the grocers and their assistants. In each of these cases the agreement, granting preference to unionists, has been voluntarily arrived at. I do not wish, at this stage, to say a great deal further upon this matter. As L have said all along, I regard the power of the Court to grant preference to unionists as essential to the successful working of the Bill. I contend that compulsory arbitration will be impossible unless unions are recognised, and they cannot be recognised effectively unless preference is allowable, and is, in most cases, granted. I contend that, without encouraging the unions to register and render themselves amenable to the Act, there is no possibility of bringing the measure to a successful issue. We might as well pass a measure with a view to running a railway to the moon, or something of that description, as expect to successfully work an Arbitration Bill without preference to unionists. Unless the unions have this encouragement they certainly will not give up their right to strike. This measure proposes to deny them the right to use the weapons they now possess, and it offers them nothing in exchange.
– Does it not offer them something, even better than the power to strike - the power to compel preference?
– The power to compel preference is not in itself better than the power to strike; but I say that without preference it is impossible to expect the unions to take any interest in compelling the observance of the awards. The honorable member must not run away with the idea, as no doubt his unpractical mind leads him to do, that this Bill will always mean help for the employes. It will not. In many cases in New South Wales a reference to arbitration has resulted in a reduction of wages.
– And a certain percentage of strikes in connexion with such reductions.
– I do not catch the honorable member’s allusion. In some cases in New South Wales arbitration has not worked to the immediate advantage of the unionists, so far as the awards are concerned. I admit that even from the workmen’s stand-point, it may be better to work, although under conditions involving some injustice, than to go on strike and lose a great deal more. I admit that from that point of view, and especially from the stand-point of the general community, it is better to have an Arbitration Act in force than to run the risk of repeated disturbances of trade. Those honorable members who refuse to intrust the Court with the power with which we are seeking to invest it are straining at a gnat and swallowing the proverbial camel. They would allow the Judge of the ArbitrationCourt to possibly injure the industries of Australia to such an extent that they would be absolutely crippled. The . Court, if it liked. under the power the Bill confers, could impose conditions of employment that would cause every employer to shut up his premises and result in every man now employed walking the streets. The Court could do all that, but it is not likely to do it. We do not hear honorable members trying to arouse the country bygeneral references to the excesses which tha judge might commit, by giving decisions which it would be impossible to carry out, but when they think that they can arouse class feeling, when they want to enter upon a class fight, some honorable members are seized with horror and fear at the idea of the enormities that might be perpetrated by a Judge placed in this position. I say, again, that the Judge will have the power, if he is foolish enough to exercise it, to cripple or suspend all the industries of Australia, and yet honorable members strain at giving him the power to grant a preference to unionists where they substantially represent the trade or calling in regard to which a dispute has arisen. That kind of reasoning does not appeal to me, and, as one who has some practical knowledge of the conditions that govern industry, at any rate, in New South Wales, I unhesitatingly say that if the clause is maintained in its present shape, the Bill will prove to be unworkable, and might as well be thrown into the waste-paper basket.
– I had expected, from the attitude which, the Prime Minister first took up in regard to the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that when honorable members were asked to reconsider their decision, they would be urged to strike out all limitations upon the power of the Court to grant preference. Judging from the statement the Prime Minister made on 24th June, I certainly anticipated that the principle of preference would be regarded as so vital, that any limitation upon it would be resisted.
– I did not say that.
– I know that the Prime Minister did not say that”; but I think that it might have been fairly inferred, from what he did say, that any limitation, except with regard to the notice to be given to those affected, would be opposed. If the Government had come forward with a straight-out declaration that the principle of preference was essential to the Bill, and that they must have it in an undiluted form, those who are opposed to the Bill would have been moved to admiration. We are not, however, met with any proposal of that kind, but with another of those wishywashy back:down amendments which are designed to get the Government out of a difficulty. I am not willing to water down the amendment which honorable members adopted after the fullest and freest discussion upon the whole principle of preference. According to Hansard .a debate upon that point was commenced on the 21st June, and was continued on the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th of that month.
– Never a word was uttered with regard to the amendment ultimately adopted during the whole of that time.
– Honorable members who took the trouble to attend the sittingsof the Committee and to listen to the debate, must know full well that an amendment of this nature was foreshadowed, and that it was circulated two days before it was moved.
– Not the amendment that was adopted.
– I say that the amendment was circulated before it was submitted to the Committee.
– That is absolutely incorrect so far as the amendment ultimately adopted was concerned.
– If the Government had declared that they would not have any limitation placed- upon the power of the Court to grant preference, and that they would insist upon having the tribunal left as free as in the case of the Courts of New Zealand and New South Wales, their attitude would have been a courageous one. but I think that the present proposal shows a great want of backbone. The suggestion made by the Government is one which will largely increase the difficulties of the Arbitration Court. What is the meaning of “ substantially represent ?” The Prime Minister has been good enough to quote a number of text-books in order to show us the difference between his amendment and that adopted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. He states that under the proviso, as it now stands, it will be necessary to demonstrate to the Court with mathematical accuracy the number of employes affected before preference can be obtained, and he states further that that difficulty will be overcome if the Government suggestion is adopted. I do not consider that the proviso in the Bill demands mathematical demonstration on the part of applicants for preference. It allows the Judge a considerable amount of latitude in arriving at a decision as to whether the applicants represent the majority of those affected. The proviso reads as follows : -
No preference shall be directed to be given unless the application for such preference is in the opinion of the Court approved by a majority of those affected by the award.
That means - if it means anything - that a mathematical ‘ demonstration is not required. -The Court has merely to be satisfied that the union applying for a preference practically represents a majority of the employes engaged in the industry affected. We have been told that an Arbitration Act will not work satisfactorily in the ‘absence of a provision relating to the granting of a preference. How is it that in the first State in the Commonwealth which adoped legislation of this character - I refer to Western Australia - an Arbitration Act has been operating successfully for a number of years, although it does not contain any such provision ?
– They are continually agitating for the granting of a preference there.
– That may be .so. The fact remains that in Western Australia the .Act has been operating for five years longer than has kindred legislation in any other State of the Union, without any friction having been engendered.
– I am aware that a considerable amount of friction arises when after an award has been given against a union, its members commence to abuse the Court.
– That is what occurred in the case of the Australian Workers’ Union.
– The Prime Minister asserted that it was the practice of the New South Wales Court before granting a preference to unionists to insist that the union asking for preference comprises a majority of those engaged in the industry affected. I think that I shall be able to prove that his statement is inaccurate. Let me point to the case of the Broken Hill miners as an example. I used the same argument upon a previous occasion, but in view of the declaration of the Prime Minister, I think I am justified in repeating it. In the case to which I refer, a record of which appears in volume 2- of the Reports of the New South Wales Arbitration Court, page 456, I find that the fol lowing statement was made by Mr. Cruickshank, and in another part of the same volume Mr. Justice Cohen reiterates it -
There are about 6,000 men employed in or about the Broken Hill mines; 4,000 are non-unionists, and 2,000 are members of the union.
– But they were not all miners ?
– Two thousand miners asked for a preference, which was granted to them by the Court.
– That is not an instance in which a minority were granted a preference. There are not 6,000 miners at Broken Hill.
– The Prime Minister has the report before him, and he can verify my statements for himself.
– The Amalgamated Miners’ Association asked for a preference on behalf of the miners, and not on behalf of all the employes.
– The. statement was made by Mr. Cruickshank, and repeated by Mr. Justice Cohen, that out of a total of 6,000 employes at the Broken Hill mines, 2,000 asked for a preference, and obtained it.
– Does that preference cover the whole of the 6,000 employes? That is the point.
– No. ‘
– If the Prime Minister will peruse the report in question, he will come- to the same conclusion that I have. The next instance to which I would refer the honorable gentleman is that of the Saddlers’ Union. In that case, the New South Wales Saddlers’ and Harness Makers’ Society were the claimants, and the Wholesale Saddlers’ and Harness Manufacturing Association the respondents. It came on for hearing upon 3rd March, 1903. The Saddlers’ Union claimed that a certain award should be made a common rule throughout the whole of New South Wales. The number of employes engaged in that industry has been variously estimated. The secretary of the Saddlers’ Union thought that there were about 1,200 saddlers and harness employes in New South Wales, but added that he would not be surprised if they numbered 1,800. On the other hand, the secretary of the Employers’ Association affirmed that the employes numbered about 2,000. For the sake of argument, we may fairly adopt the mean between the two estimates, and set down the number of those engaged in the industry at 1,600. This particular union, I repeat, asked that a preference should be extended to its members. The secretary of the Employes Union was questioned asl to how many men constituted it. Under cross-examination by Mr. Garland, he said -
He could not say how many members had paid their weekly subscriptions. There were very few. He had the information in his books. There were 213 altogether, including collar-makers. About 170 had not paid their dues.
In other words, 2.13 employes asked that a preference should be extended to them in a trade employing 1,600 workers, and of that 213, only about 40 were genuine financial members of the union. This particular union contained only five members outside the metropolitan area, and under the terms of the award, these men received a preference over other workers in that trade in New South Wales. That is an instance of an insignificant minority - a minority comprising only 15 or 16 per cent, of those engaged in the trade - obtaining a preference over the bulk of the workers affected. The amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is designed to correct that state of affairs. Doubtless, the members of the organization to which I have referred were competent, reliable, and trustworthy in every way. Nevertheless, it cannot be denied that a minority obtained a distinct preference over a majority. In the case of the Bread Carters’ Union, it was never claimed that its members constituted a majority of those employed in the trade. It was urged that they represented about half of the total number of employes. I have now given three instances - collected at a moment’s notice - which serve to show that it is not a fact that a preference has been granted by the New South Wales Arbitration Court only in cases where the industrial organization concerned contained a majority, or about a majority, of those engaged in the particular trade affected. In actual practice, a similar provision has operated in the direction of a preference being granted to organizations demanding it. The reason for that was made very clear by the Prime Minister himself. The New South Wales Arbitration Act was designed to accomplish a number of objects. One of these was to facilitate and encourage the organization of representative bodies of employers’ and employes. If the provision in that Act, which relates to the granting of a preference to unionists, is not limited in some specific way it must be read in conjunction with section 2. . In that State the Court has decided that the provision means that a preference must be granted to organizations demanding it, unless there is some urgent reason why it should not be granted. In the cases to which I have referred, the employes, who represented only a small minority of the trades affected, obtained the preference which they desired. The Prime Minister’s statement that the New South Wales Arbitration Court has not extended a preference to unionists, except in trades in which -their members constituted a majority, or very nearly a majority, of the employes, is, therefore, not in accord with the reports of the cases heard before that tribunal.
– Does the honorable and learned member say that that is so in the majority of cases?
– I do not.. I wish to guard against injustice being done to a minority as well as to a majority. The Minister of External Affairs is familiar with the old saying that “ hard cases make bad law.” I do’ not wish hard cases to exist. For these reasons I think that the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella should not be departed from, and that there shall be no preference, unless the union which desires that it shall be granted to its members can show that they constitute a majority of# those who will be affected by any award of’ the Court.
– A majority of the persons affected by the award ? What does affected mean?
– The honorable and learned member for Corinella merely supports the principle of majority rule/ which honorable members opposite are supposed to favour. He wishes to insure that, when a preference is granted to a particular union, the members of that organization shall constitute a majority of those engaged in the trade affected. He desires to prevent a minority having the power to demand a preference over a majority in any industrial calling. We were told in one breath that if the Bill does not contain a provision conferring preference upon unionists it will be practically useless. In the next breath we were assured that awards are frequently made in which a preference is not granted. To my mind, those two statements are entirely contradictory. If the Bill is valueless in the absence of a preference clause, how is it that a similar Act has operated successfully in Western Australia? It has also been argued that under this Bill the employes will surrender the only effective weapon which they ‘have hitherto retained, namely, the power to strike. I do not think that statement is altogether accurate. So far as I am able to judge from the cases decided by the New South Wales Arbitration Court, this legislation will merely involve the surrender, on the part of members of industrial organizations, of the power to cease work without giving their employers notice. Upon giving due notice they will be at perfect liberty to. discontinue work. The Teralba case proved that up to the hilt. All that is taken from the workers under this Bill is the power to leave their employment without giving their employers due notice. They will still have the power to refuse to work. Under no enactment can we compel men to work against their will.
– Notice is not required in connexion with a number of industries.
– All that the Bill provides is that unionists cannot discontinue their work without giving notice of their intention to do so.
– They cannot leave at all collectively.
– But they can leave individually, and they can all leave upon the same day.
– In the Teralba case did not the New South Wales Arbitration Court decide that it was powerless to interfere with the strikers,- because under the award which had been given no provision had been made that notice should be given by the men before they were at liberty to quit their employment?
– That was an omission upon the part of the employers.
– It might have been. That decision shows conclusively that the power of the employes to discontinue work is not in the slightest degree infringed bv the provisions of this Bill. Consequently unionists have not had struck out of their hands an effective weapon for hampering their employers. They can still , refuse to work.
– The honorable and learned member knows that they cannot do anything of the sort, because under the Bill the funds of their unions would be liable.
– Does the Minister contend that the individual members of a union cannot cease work after giving their employers due notice?
– I mean to say that where a preference has been granted they must continue to supply the requisite labour.
– I am not dealing with that point, but with the question whether the power to strike has been taken away from the workers. The Government say that if we pass this Bill without making provision for a preference to unionists the privilege to strike will be taken away from the workers, without their being given any quid pro quo. That which will be taken away from unionists will be practically the power to leave their’ employment without notice. This Bill does not pretend - and no Parliament could pretend - to force any man to work if he did not desire to do so.
– A union may not take any action calculated to deprive an employer of his labour.
– No; but exactly the same result might be secured without the passing of any formal resolution by the union. The honorable and learned member knows that in the case of a lock-out by an employer the position would be totally different. If he closed His factory, or part of his factory, or if he shut down his mine, he would be guilty of an offence.
-Would he not be able to give no.tice?
– He would; but byshutting down his factory he would at once wreck his industry. An employer cannot carry his mine or his factory from place to place, just as a worker is able to remove his labour from one district to another. The cry that unionists will be robbed of something which they now possess unless they are given the right to apply for a preference has therefore no force. The Government have shown that it has not, because they have proved that in some cases a preference is not granted, and admit that it should not be granted unless the union claiming it substantially represents the trade affected, whilst we also see that it has no foundation in fact. I trust that the House will abide by the decision of the Committee, which was arrived at after one of the most vigorous debates to which I have ever listened. Every phase of the preference question was then threshed out. If the Government have decided to make this question a vital one, it is to be regretted that they do not stand up for their principles in a more courageous way, instead of attempting by another wishy-washy amendment, to erect a bridge over which weak-kneed members may slide from this side of the House to the other.
– Although I listened to the Prime Minister’s explanation with that attention which I always give to his utterances, I fail to understand what is meant by the term “ substantially represents.” The Prime Minister of a democratic country should surely be prepared to regard a majority as the one substantial representation in such a community. If “substantially represents “ means practically the same as that which the honorable and learned member for Corinella desires, why should not that honorable and learned member have the credit - if any credit be due - of having put before the House such an acceptable amendment as was carried by a very fair majority about a month ago? If on the other hand, “ substantally represents “ does not mean representation by majority, it is about time that the Prime Minister of Democratic Australia told Parliament and the country that he desires, in delegating the powers of the Legislature - because we are proposing to delegate our legislative power in regard to industrial matters to an outside tribunal - to take care that the industrial affairs of Australia shall be controlled by a minority of those engaged in each industry. The Government are either seeking, to avoid the very awkward fix in which they find themselves, as the result of the statement which they made that they would resign office rather than accept what is already in the Bill - they did not think the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella would be carried, and therefore considered that they would be safe in making a bold declaration of that kind - or else they are endeavouring to secure the government of the industrial affairs of Australia by minorities. I do not think that the people of Australia are quite prepared for anything of the kind. I trust that the House will bear with me while I briefly deal with the reasons underlying the ‘principle of one adult one vote. It is held that the liberty of every person in the community is equally precious to him ; and for the reason that a minority might otherwise interfere with the individual liberty of the people, it is considered that every adult should have a vote, or, in other words, a voice in the selection of men to make the laws which are to govern him. In industrial matters we are delegating our authority to the Con ciliation and Arbitration Court. We are proposing to place the industrial forces of Australia under the control of a new tribunal; we are proposing to place powers which this House has not attempted, and could not attempt, to exercise, in the hands of an omniscient Court. We are engaged at the same time in framing certain regulations for the guidance of that Court ; and in dealing with them we should, as democrats, be very careful to safeguard the individual liberty of persons engaged in all the industrial enterprises of Australia. What is the exact position ? We find that the Court will have power to interfere with the liberty of a man employed in a trade by compelling him to join a union of which he has no inclination to become a member. The Court will be able to compel that man, at the peril of his livelihood, under the preference clause, to contribute to the benefit funds of that union, to the upkeep of its secretary and other officers, and to the maintenance of all its machinery. In so far as the Court will have power to interfere with the individual liberty of every worker in Australia, we should for that reason be very careful to see that it shall not be able to impose such a condition, except where those applying for a preference are prepared to show that they represent an absolute majority of the persons who will be affected by the award. That is the position. Either, then, the Government, seeking to avoid an awkward position are asking the House on this slight pretext of an immaterially altered phraseology to, so to speak, “ let them off,” or they are seeking to impose minority rule in the regulation of all the industrial affairs of the Commonwealth.
– How can the honorable member say that ? In what way will minority rule come in ?
– I think that it is fairly clear. The proviso to the clause, as it now stands, reads -
And provided further that no such preference shall be directed to be given unless the application for such preference is in the opinion of the Court approved by a majority of those affected by the award who have interests in common with the applicants.
In other words, in framing rules for the guidance of the Court, we have provided that it shall take care, before acceding an application by an organization for a preference, to ascertain that it represents a majority of those who will be “ affected by the award.” Let me cite as an illustration the union of domestic servants, which is yet in prospect, and in which the honorable member for Darling will most likely be interested. The honorable member has told us of the power which he holds over that section of society. He has told us that if a union of domestic servants were formed he would be able to work up such an alarming domestic squabble in Melbourne that it would soon become a most serious matter for all Australia, and even develop into an Inter-State dispute. If the honorable member had his choice, that union would be very soon in process of formation. It would commence, I presume, with a membership consisting of the honorable member, and perhaps four or five others.
– Is the honorable member a domestic servant?
– No; but his philanthropic spirit would naturally lead him to see that they secured the great benefits of this measure. I hope that I am not hurting the honorable member’s feelings.
– I have none.
– I had often suspected that the honorable member had none, but was not certain about the matter until I received his assurance The union of domestic servants, consisting, perhaps, of ten or twelve persons, might apply to the Court for a preference.
– It could not be registered unless it had at least 100 members.
– Then, say that it had a membership of 100. I am sure that the honorable member’s personal charms would quickly induce 100 domestic servants to join the union.
– The honorable member does not say much for the intelligence of the Court, when he suggests that an application for a preference by a union of domestics, consisting of only 100 members, would be granted.
– I am arguing the question simply ad absurdum. The honorable member will have an opportunity later on to deal with it, and will perhaps argue in the same. way.
– I wish to know on what ground the honorable member urges that the Government are attempting to secure minority control.
– I am endeavouring to put before the honorable member my reasons for that belief. I am pointing out that if he were at the head of a union of domestic servants, consisting of 100 members, he would probably go to the Court, and urge that it substantially represented those engaged in the industry, because there was no one else to represent them. Who better could represent the industry than the honorable member himself? Who could say that the union did not substantially represent it, when there was no one else to speak on its behalf, but those with whom the honorable member was associated? He would be able to apply on behalf of the union for a preference.
– But the Judge would not be bound to grant the application, merely because of what the applicant said.
– I should be very sorry to hear of a Judge doing so; but I am merely putting a supposititious case before the Committee. If under this Bill a union might go before the Court, and urge that it substantially represented the industry affected, because it was the only representative of it, that would be a very dangerous step towards minority rule.
– But a Judge would not be compelled to grant the application.
– When we come to other unions, having greater power than that which the domestic servants’ union, which the honorable member is going to form, would have, we find that we are trading on very dangerous ground. A union, consisting of 4,000 out of 10,000 persons employed in a particular industry, might apply to the Court, and say, through its representatives, “We are the only union in this industry, and desire a preference.” In that case, the Court might grant the request, with the result that 6,000 persons - a majority of the persons employed in the industry - who had no wish to become members of that union, or thev would long since have done so, would be compelled to join its ranks, to subscribe to its funds, to keep its benevolent account out of the Bankruptcy Court, and to keep its machinery well greased, and in good working order.
– In what way would they be compelled to join the union?
– I think that I. have put my view clearly before the Committee, and although I have no desire to be discourteous, I do not wish to answer the honorable member again and again.
– There would be no power to compel them to join the union.
– The honorable member says that we should trust the Court. If he desires to trust the Court, let him do so. But let him first enact that the Court, when it finds that there is a majority of those connected with an industry in favour of the granting of a preference, shall then, but not until then, grant preference. Honorable members opposite seem to think that it would be almost impossible to carry into effect that proposal.
– There is no doubt that it would. I have had over twenty years’ experience in organizing, so ‘I ought to know something about the matter.
– In my opinion, the proposal is not unworkable. All that the honorable and learned member for Corinella requires is that no preference shall be directed to be given unless its application is approved by a majority of those “ affected by the award.” It is not a majority of those engaged in the industry that is required. That, I concede, would be a very different matter.
– Is not the whole community affected by any award ?
– Surely the honorable member can “ trust the Court “ to exercise a certain degree of common sense in a matter of this kind?
– Cannot the honorable member for Wentworth trust the Court?
– I believe in trusting the Court throughout, after we have framed rules for its guidance, but my honorable friends opposite will not back me up. I come now to the main objection to the granting of an indiscriminate preference to unionists. In my opinion, trades unions will best achieve the noble objects which they have in view as purely voluntary associations. A trades union which is formed to maintain and increase the standard of efficiency in the trade to which its members belong, to give sick pay and other benefits to its members, and to secure the best exercise of its powers for good, must be purely voluntary. At the present time they are voluntary. No one joins them unless he wishes to do so; and they have grown in strength and usefulness on the voluntary basis. But the moment that that basis is taken from them, they will cease to have as much power for good as they have now, because a union can maintain its standard of efficiency only so long as its members are desirous of assisting in the maintenance of that standard, and can carry out its beneficial projects to advantage only so long as its members desire to make use of them. If men are compelled to join unions, however, they will not have at heart their standards of efficiency, nor will they care about their beneficial projects. In short, if unionism - I speak of trades unionism as opposed to militant unionism - is to remain efficient, and of benefit to the community, as it has been in the past, it should not seek to use the Legislature as a recruiting agency. It seems to me that when it does that, it strikes at the root of its usefulness. It may gain temporary strength thereby, but in the end it must, suffer. Quite apart from the question of minority legislation in industrial matters, I hold that compulsory preference to trades unions will strike at the very root of their usefulness.
– The honorable member has asserted that unions are voluntary concerns ; but the decision in the Taff Vale case brought them under the law.
– If the honorable member asks me to express an opinion on that case, I would remind him that I cannot do so without breaking the Standing Order requiring relevance in debate. I hope that some honorable member will follow me who will inform us what “ substantially represents “ really means. We have yet had no clue to the purpose of the Government in asking us to recommit this particular clause. We have been told that what the Government propose to substitute for it is practically of the same effect. Mr. Wilks. - If so, I am opposed to it.
– On the other hand, we are told that what the Government propose is something quite different, and that the effect of it would be to initiate minority rule in industrial legislation. I should like to know which contention is right.
– The honorable member and others will not allow the matter to be discussed.
– We are discussing it now. Honorable members opposite would have allowed the recommittal of the clause to go by default.
– In supporting the amendment, honorable members are trying to prevent any change being made in the phraseology of the provision.
– We are trying to compel the Government to show cause for the recommittal of ‘the clause. I do not think that they should be allowed to recommit it, if they propose to substitute for it vague expressions which might mean anything. What does the phrase “ substantially represents “ mean ?
– The Government say that their proposal is “ substantially “ the same as that of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
– Yes. Therefore, we wish to know why they are so desirous of recommitting the clause. I hold that it is our duty to prevent them from wasting time by a recommittal, unless they can show good reason for asking us to reconsider the clause. There must be some motive underlying their proposal to recommit beyond the desire to substitute for the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella one that is substantially the same. Indeed, I cannot conceive that all they wish to do is to filch from him the credit of it. Until the Government tell us conclusively what they intend to propose, and put before us phraseology which is clear and distinct, we should prevent them from wasting time by the reconsideration of this clause in Committee.
– I do not know whether the action of the honorable and learned member for Corinella and others is approved of by the two leaders of the Opposition; but, in reference to the complaint that the recommittal of the clause would lead to a waste of time, I would say that the real waste of time is being committed in discussing twice over a question which need be discussed only once. It must be admitted that every honorable member can, in Committee, address himself to the question which is now being debated, and, if the amendment is rejected, as I think it should be, the present discussion will have to be repeated in Committee. It must not be forgotten that the proposed Court will be very different from the ordinary Courts, and that its methods must be more elastic. The President of the Court will be practically the arbitrator in all industrial disputes which can constitutionally be brought before the tribunal over which he presides. What we have therefore to do is to equip him with ample power, and then to trust him to exercise it properly. The constant changes and evolution in all industrial enterprises are such as no Parliament could effectively deal with. Parliament has not the necessary machinery to overtake these changes, nor the material evidence necessary to provide for them. What’ is now being proposed is to lay down a hard and fast rule limiting the power of the Judge in regard to a particular set of details. Those who would impose this limitation do not contend that the President of the
Court will be destitute of common sense, but, on the other hand, profess to believe that he will do justice, as far as possible.
– But all Acts of Parliament limit the powers of the Judges.
– Arguments based upon the experience gained in ordinary Courts are of little avail in this connexion, because the limitation of the power of the Judge presiding over the Arbitration Court would be contrary to the principle upon which legislation of .this kind must be based. The fullest power must be given to settle all disputes, and to deal with all matters of detail. The Judge may very well be left to decide as to whether preference should be granted to those who are applying for it. The Government have practically adopted the Bill brought down by their predecessors. That was generally admitted to be a welldrafted measure, but it contained no such provision as that introduced at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The Government now make a proposal which is intended to clear up the matter dealt with in the amendment referred to. The principle of their proposal is similar to that of the present proviso. I am surprised that honorable members do not recognise the utter impracticability of the proviso as it stands. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has had no experience of the working of trades organizations, and he may not be able to foresee the effects of his proposal. That is one of the difficulties with which we have had to deal throughout this measure. Honorable members who have had no experience of the working of trades organizations have proposed amendments which many of us have at once recognised as utterly impracticable. There is no dispute as to the principle embodied in the proviso; the Government proposal is intended solely to render it workable, and I see no reason why the motion to recommit the clause should be objected to. I am altogether opposed to the proviso as it stands, and I also regard the proposal which the Government propose to submit to the Committee as unnecessary. I take it that the amendment is being brought forward in deference to the opinion expressed by the Committee, and by way of compromise. I hold, however, that such a provision is unnecessary. This is proved by the experience gained in every Arbitration Court of which we have had experience. No such limitation as that suggested has been placed . upon the States’ Courts, which have to deal with a very much larger number of organizations than will come within the purview of the Federal tribunal. The federated organizations may be larger than those whose affairs come within the jurisdiction of the States’ Courts, but they will be fewer. No limitation, so far as preference is concerned, is placed upon the power of the Judges in the States’ Courts. Honorable members have frequently urged that we should be guided by experience in all these matters, and I confidently refer them to the records of the States’ Arbitration Courts for proof that no evil has arisen from vesting those tribunals with full power to give preference to unionists. I defy honorable members to quote a case in which harm has resulted from vesting the Court with untramelled authority.
– The amendment proposed by the Government would limit the power of the Judge very materially.
– The Government have recognised, as all Governments must, the feeling of the Committee, and they are attempting to put into working form a provision which the Committee passed hastily “and without fully understanding it. The proposal was not discussed by the mover or any one else. I should not have allowed such a proposal to pass without debate if I had for one moment supposld that it would be adopted. I thought that it would have been rejected. If it had been discussed, its weakness would have been recognised. Now, the Government desire that we should recommit the Bill, in order that we may insert a workable provision in lieu of the impracticable proviso contained in the Bill. It would be impossible to satisfy the Court that the request for preference was approved by the majority of those who would be affected by the award. The honorable and learned member for Corinella, and other honorable members, have had a great deal to say with regard to the difficulty of interpreting the words “ substantially represent,” but they have been silent as to the difficulty of deciding as’ to the number of persons who would be affected by an award. I contend that the words “affected by” are capable of a very wide interpretation. The meaning of the word “ substantial “ is clear, whereas it will be difficult to interpret the phrase used in the clause as it now stands. Many of the objections raised by honorable members have been based upon the assumption that the awards of the Court will have a very far-reaching effect - that they will affect not only those who are immediately engaged in a dispute, but the community generally. It is possible, therefore, that the Judge may place a very wide interpretation upon the words “ affected’ by.” It will be necessary for the unionists who are applying for preference to show the Judge that the majority of those affected are in favour of their claim being granted. If, however.. I were asked to present a case for the union, of which I happen to be President, I should not be able to prove that we had the approval of the majority of those affected.
– We might believe that we had the approval of a majority, but be unable to prove it.
– We might be able to satisfy the Judge that we represented the majority of those engaged in the industry; but how could we prove that we represented the majority ‘ of those affected ? Shearing work is intermittent in character. The majority of the men work only for about three months of every season ; for the rest of the year they are engaged in other occupations. They do not go out shearing every season, and no complete list of those who follow that calling is available. It would be necessary to take a census and to ask every man whether or not he could be classed as a shearer.
– How long does a shearer remain a shearer?
– No one can say. As has been pointed out, the honorable member for Maranoa is a shearer, although probably he has not followed that occupation for many years. I describe myself as a miner, but I have not followed that calling for many years past. The honorable member for Grey is a shearer.
– I am a member of the Shearers’ Union,, and I suppose that I should be classified as a shearer.
– It would be’ utterly impracticable to prove that the applicants for preference represented the majority of those affected by the award, because the majority could only be arrived at after the total of those affected had been ascertained. No one could say- how many wharf labourers, or how many shearers, there were, and the same thing would apply to many other callings.
– It would be necessary to have a roll, and to hold a revision court.
– Exactly. We should require to compile, a list somewhat similar to an electoral roll, and we can understand what trouble would be involved in such a case. It is extraordinary that the honorable and learned member for Corinella should have failed to recognise that his proviso is utterly impracticable. It . may be that he knows what the effect would be, namely, that it would be impossible to comply with the condition he has imposed, and that the Court would thus be prevented fromgiving preference to unionists. The sooner honorable members realize this, and vote straight out against any preference being given to unionists, the better. I should -have no hesitation in telling the Judge that the organization to which I belong represented the majority of those who work at shearing, but I could not say that it represented the majority of those who would be affected by his award. When men go out shearing, they pay their union fees for the season during which, they are engaged at that class of work, but when they do not go out they become unfinancial, and no further record of them is kept. Similarly, miners pay their union fees when they are working, but not when they are unemployed. If . a miner goes away, and engages in some other occupation, he ceases, to be a financial member of his union. If the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and those who support him, wish the Court to be prohibited from giving preference, let them say so. I dislike underhand methods of achieving an object. Let honorable members say straight out what they mean. As I still had a certain degree of faith in. the honorable and learned member for Corinella, I fully expected that he would have accepted the proposal of the Government, and I am surprised that he . should persist in retaining a proviso which would render the Bill entirely inoperative. I think that I can claim to speak with some knowledge of trades unions. I can assure honorable members that a perfect storm of indignation has been aroused by some of the amendments which have already been made in the Bill, and particularly by that which was inserted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Although the unionwith which I am associated has not yet dealt with the matter officially, I know that the feeling which is generally expressed by prominent officers of that and other organizations is opposed to registering under this Bill, and on the ground that. in. its present form it is utterly useless. Honorable members who have supported these amendments must accept the responsibility for their handiwork. Those who honestly desire to obtain a workable measure must attach some weight to the opinions of experts, who can speak from personal knowledge, and who do not treat the Bill in the flippant manner adopted by the honorable member for Wentworth and those who occupy a different station in life. That is a very serious matter to the working man.
– It will be a serious matter to the working man who will find himself unable to obtain employment, because unionists have been awarded preference.
– Some honorable members who have had no experience of trades unions claim to represent the working man. How can they sustain their claim? They may represent individuals, but they cannot speak for collective bodies of workmen. In a matter of this kind, I hold that the opinions of those connected with unions should carry some weight. I know that the question of granting a preference to unionists means a very great deal to many thousands of em’ployes who are connected with one industry alone.
– Does not the party to which the honorable member«belongs, represent thousands of workers ‘who are not members of trades unions?
– Most certainly it does, simply because the non-members of unions tacitly consent to the proposals of their fellows who can speak collectively. Those who carelessly hold aloof from trades unions are in reality consenting parties to their own class organizations. In this connexion I- need scarely remind honorable members that a very large number of those who do’ not belong to trades organizations are not necessarily non-unionists. There is one other point which I desire to impress upon honorable members. The granting of a preference to unionists is not only necessary because it is essential to the working of this measure - a most important consideration in itself - but also because it is desirable to give to the” workers something like an equality of opportunity in the matter of earning their livelihood. So far I have not heard any honorable member object to trades unions as such. It is most extraordinary that the opponents of the preference proposal should attempt to justify their attitude upon the ground that the adoption of that provision would operate unfairly in the case of those who do not choose to join trades unions. We ask that a preference shall be extended to unionists in order that they may be given an equal opportunity to obtain work. In the absence of such a preference they have not an equal opportunity with the nonmembers of unions of securing employment.
-If . the honorable member holds that view, how can he support the proposal of the Government?
– I can only discuss one question at a time. The proposal of the Government is not before us. The opportunity to discuss it has been denied to us by . honorable members opposite. 1 would point out that a considerable percentage of employers prefer to engage unionists to any other workmen. A large percentage merely seek to obtain the services of men who are able to perform the work for which they are engaged. They do not concern themselves with the question of whether their employes are unionists or otherwise. There is, however, a still larger percentage of employers who will not engage a unionist if they can secure the services of a non-unionist,, and who are prepared to offer the latter improved conditions to prevent him from joining a. trades organization. Upon the whole, therefore, I maintain that the non-member of a union has an advantage over the unionist in the matter of obtaining employment. The honorable member for Parramatta knows that what I am saying is correct. It is the practice of a number of employers to boycott unionists. To defeat that practice we must offer a preference to them. I need scarcely point out that the non-member of a union makes no sacrifice for the maintenance of fair conditions under which he may earn his livelihood. He leaves the entire burden to be borne by the unionists. The latter not only have to risk their employment, to contribute to the maintenance of trades organizations, which secure for them improved conditions, but, as a matter of fact, they have less chance of obtaining work than have non-members of unions. Consequently, I say that if collective bargaining is to be the basis of this Bill it is necessary that we should extend a preference to unionists. I take it that this legislation has been introduced to provide a remedy for industrial disputes, and to maintain fair conditions between employers and employes. Nothing can be done in the absence of collective bargaining. It is only through industrial organizations that we can promote industrial peace. To my mind the honorable and learned member for Wannon made a most extraordinary statement this afternoon. Seeing that it emanated from a legal luminary, it fairly staggered me. He declared that this Bill contains no provision which will prevent men from leaving their employment, despite the fact that we have all along been assured that under it employes cannot collectively discontinue work. I think that if, under its operation, the honorable and learned member advised a body of men to quit their employment without giving due notice to their employers he would find that he had made a mistake
– Any person can break a law, but the point is that he is liable to punishment for so doing.
– There is no doubt in my mind that this Bill will prevent strikes by depriving the workmen of power tp leave their employment collectively.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Every authority upon the subject entertains a different view from that expressed by the honorable member. As a matter of fact, several of the clauses in this measure declare that when an industrial dispute occurs, the work in the particular industry affected must continue. The men cannot discontinue their employment as a body, because that is a punishable offence. If . a dispute arises, they are compelled under the provisions of this Bill to carry on the industry affected until that dispute has been settled.
– When it has been settled, cannot a man leave his employment after having given due notice?
– I am dealing with the statement of the honorable andlearned member for Wannon, who declared that the employes could leave their work in a body. That statement is pure nonsense. In support of his contention he quoted the Teralba case, which has been previously mentioned. I hold that it is nscessary to extend a preference to unionists, for the reasons which I have advanced. The amendment which was carried at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, provides that before any such preference shall be granted the consent of a majority of the employes affected by the award of the Court shall be obtained. What does that mean? The furniture trade in Melbourne is practically monopolized by the Chinese. Under the amendment of the honorable and learned member, before a preference could be granted to unionists, it would be necessary to obtain the consent of a large number of the Chinese engaged in that industry, because the European employes constitute a minority. I do not know whether the honorable and learned member for Corinella desires to place the furniture trade exclusively in the hands of Chinese, but that would be the effect of his amendment.
– The Chinese engaged in that trade out-number the Europeans by six to one.
– I believe it is a fact that they immensely out-number the European furniture makers.
– How could a dispute affecting Melbourne alone, be brought under the operation of this Bill?
– I am surprised that the honorable member for Parramatta should favour such a proposal. He is an old trades unionist, who received his training amongst the staunchest unionists in the world - I refer to the coal miners. He understands something about this matter, and I did not include him in the category of those who voted upon the amendment in ignorance of what its effect would be. Unions relating to the furniture trade are, like most other bodies of a similar kind, rapidly federating, and as soon as that work has been completed Inter-State disputes may readily arise. In that event, if an organization applied to the Court to grant a preference to unionists, it would have to show that it represented a majority of all persons likely to be affected by the award, including the Chinese cabinet-makers of Melbourne and other cities. Then, again, let us consider for a moment what would be the position in regard to seamen. It is admitted that the rejection of certain clauses may render it impossible for certain seamen to come under this Bill ; but, upon the passing of the Navigation Bill, vessels on which lascars are employed will be brought under the control of the Court. Consequently, under the clause as it stands, it would he necessary for the Federated Seamen’s Union, in applying for a preference, to show that it represented a majority of those to be affected by the award, including Iascar sfamen. Every one knows that one European sailor can do as much work as can two, or even three, lascars, yet the latter would have equal voting power. Although they receive only 15s. per month, as against j£6 and j[j a month paid to European sailors* they would have equal voting powers under the honorable and learned member’s amendment.
– As a matter of fact, the physical weakness of the Iascar would lead to an increase in his voting strength, because three lascars are employed to do the work of one ordinary European seaman.
– Exactly. How would it be possible to obtain their consent to such an application? There is no machinery provided in the Bill, nor is any proposed, to enable effect to be given to the honorable and learned member’s amendment. We expect much from the lawyers ; but not one legal member of the House has framed any proposal that would enable the opinion of Iascar seamen to be ascertained, although such machinery would be necessary to make the provision workable. It would be necessary to prepare a list of the seamen, and to put before the Court something which might reasonably be regarded as evidence that the union had the approval of these men. What evidence would the Court require in regard to the position taken up by Chinese .cabinet-workers on an application by the furniture trades unions for a preference ? The Chinese are most astute, and evade the law to a greater extent than does any other section of the community. And so with the lascars. The Court would not be justified in accepting a mere statement on the part of an officer or an organization, that the lascars had consented to an application for, a preference to unionist seamen. He would have to present a statement, compiled from ships’ books, showing that a certain number of these men were employed, and that a vote had been taken to ascertain their opinions on the subject. The amendment, which was carried on the- motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, was an attempt to introduce something entirely foreign to the main principle of the Bill. It would be absolutely unworkable. If honorable members desire to wreck the Bill, they will do well to vote for the retention of the clause as it stands ; but if, on the other hand, they are honest in their protestation, that they favour the principle of conciliation and arbitration, they will support the Government proposal. If we provide that an organization, applying for a preference, shall show that it substantially represents the majority of persons likely to be affected by the award, the Judge will have a discretionary power. There is a limit to the length to which we, as a party, may go, and I contend that it would be positively wicked for us to accept an amendment which is calculated to seriously impair the working of a clause of the greatest importance to unionists. It is obvious that the Government are endeavouring to meet the wishes of those who say that some limitation to the power to grant a preference is necessary. They have prepared an amendment) providing that an organization when applying for a preference shall show that it substantially represents a majority of those to be affected by the award, because they recognise that it would be exceedingly difficult to obtain proof that an application was supported by an absolute majority. They have gone as far as they can be reasonably expected to go, and it is remarkable that honorable members are not prepared at once to accept their proposal. The Government proposition would really carry out the object which the honorable and learned member for Corinella and those who support his amendment have in view. It would go a step further than the arbitration laws of Australia and New Zealand. How much further are we to go? I think (hat I shall be justified in referring at this stage to incidents associated with an industry in which I am interested, even if it be only to show the need for a measure of this kind. An organization which was characterized by the right honorable member for East Sydney as one that is run in the interests of the employers - I refer to the Machine Shearers’ Union - has lately been rather conspicuous. A man whom I know was recently engaged in Melbourne, and was .given a list of places in which he would be able to secure employment as a shearer. He was told, however, that before that employment would be forthcoming it would be necessary for him to pay a subscription of 7s. 6d. to the Machine Shearers’ Union, and also to lodge a deposit of £1. He complied with these conditions, but after being kept waiting for some time, was told that he could not be given work. At first his demand for a refund of his money was refused, and it was only when he threatened to take legal proceedings that he secured the return of his deposit. The subscription fee of 7s. 6d. has not yet been refunded. This shows that men are- compelled to join a certain union, in the interests of employers, in order to obtain employment, and that they are requested to pay a membership fee even before work is obtained for them. The Workers’ Union does not lay down any such stipulation. A man is invited to join the Union, but is not asked to at once pay his contribution to it. He is allowed practically to work his shed out before being called on to pay his subscriptions, the desire of the Union being that he shall first have an opportunity to send some money to his family. In the case of the Machine Shearers’ Union, however, a man is required to pay his subscription even before work is found for him. The incident to which I have referred shows the necessity for some such Bill as this. By resorting to such a system, the employers may create intolerable conditions. Under the Bill, as it stands, .nen will be prohibited from organizing a strike; they will be placed in an almost helpless position, and compelled, it may be, to live practically under conditions of slavery. The situation is a very serious one, and no consideration should intervene to prevent us from passing a law which is so urgently required. The Bill is not as perfect as I should like it to be ; but, so far ns the question of preference is concerned, 1 am prepared to strain a point, and to accept the Government amendment, because I think it will be workable. It is in keeping with what has been the general practice. On a previous occasion I mentioned that, in granting preferences to unionists, the New Zealand Conciliation and Arbitration Court was guided by the membership of the applicant unions, and that in most cases the unions fairly represented a majority of those engaged in the industry. The honorable and learned member for Wannon was able to cite only three cases dealt with by the New South Wales Arbitration Court in which that was not the position. Much has been said about the case of the Broken Hill miners. One may be easily misled by the figures, however, because the Broken Hill mines employ a number of men who are not actually working underground. I have not before me the details of the application for an award, but I know that the underground miners always play a prominent part in such matters, and when we separate the number actually concerned in the award from those who were not, we find that the union represented a very large proportion of those employed in the mines. I hope that the proposal to limit the discussion of this measure to the House will be rejected. We have reached the final stages, and should have regard to the fact that many thousands of men having families dependent upon them are hoping to secure by the passing of this Bill a certain degree of social justice. That fact should over-ride all other considerations. Whatever may be our view as to who is best fitted to carry on the Government of the Commonwealth, I hold that we should not sacrifice this measure merely because of any party feeling.
– Why make a party question of this amendment?
– Because we have reached a certain stage at which it is necessary to do so. It appears to me that the honorable and learned member for Corinella has made out no case against the Government proposal; he has certainly failed to show that we should refrain from recommitting the clause. It can be better discussed in Committee.
– Why ?
– Because in Committee we can make such alterations as may be necessary. When we are in Committee an honorable member is at liberty to bring forward any proposal that specially commends itself to him, and to move that it be carried into effect; but in the House he can make only one speech.
– That is quite enough.
– It may be too much for some honorable members, but the practice of dealing with a Bill in Committee is a time-honoured one, which we have copied from the mother of Parliaments. We are able to thresh out all the details of a Bill much more readily in Committee than in the House. The objection has been, taken to the provision which the Government wish to substitute for that of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that its language is not clear; but that defect might be remedied in Committee. I am losing my faith in the honorable and learned member. At the start, I thought he was a friend of the Bill, and I hope that he is not even now entirely an enemy to the measure; but if the clause as amended by him is passed into law, it will ruin the Bill.
– That is a matter of opinion.
– Honorable members opposite know that it will do so, and I hope that the country will know it, too.
– The Government have been charged with desiring to retain office, but if that charge were true, would they declare this to be a vital’ issue, supposing that they did not firmly believe that the provision would make the measure inoperative? Can a Labour Ministry agree to place upon the statute-book a measure which they know would be unworkable, from the fact that the unions would decline to register under it? The Government are really going further, in suggesting the compromise which has been put forward, than I should feel inclined to go if I were in power. They are trying to meet the contention of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, that evidence should be placed before the Court which would guide it as to the real facts of the case. I know that over and over again unions have come to terms with employers, under which it has been arranged that preference shall be given to their members. I was once secretary to a’ union which had an arrangement with the employers in a district that no one who was not a member of the union, and had not paid his fees, should be allowed to work in it; and similar arrangements are quite common in American agreements. No one can show that this has caused any harm. The Government are going a long way to meet honorable members opposite in agreeing that a majority of those concerned must ask for a preference before it can be granted by the Court; but whereas they are of opinion that the Judge should be satisfied that those applying for the preference substantially represent the majority - and evidence could be given to sustain that position - honorable members opposite wish the existence of the majority to be absolutely proved. I could show that the Australian Workers’ Union substantially represents those connected with the shearing and pastoral industry of New South Wales, but I could not mathematically prove that it represents a majority of the persons connected with that industry. I appeal to those who wish to see this Bill passed to accept the offer of the Government, and to vote against the amendment to the motion to go into Committee. We cannot hide from ourselves the fact that the Government came into power because of a stand made on one of the clauses of this Bill. A majority supported the position which the members of the Labour Party then took up. Since then, we have navigated the Bill through its Committee stages. Will honorable mem-, bers, therefore, be honest in voting against the proposed recommittal ? If they do so, will they not be actuated by the desire to place some other party in power?
– Who threw out the challenge ?
– No challenge has been thrown out; but the Government would be recreant to their duty, and unworthy of support, if they agreed to . the passing of a measure which they knew would be worthless. It may be a new feature in the administration of the affairs of the Commonwealth to have a Government which has the courage to take this stand. The Government are prepared to go further than their supporters would like to go, and further than those outside who take an active interest in these matters wish to go. Under the circumstances, it looks as if honorable members opposite were trying to put the Government out of office because they think they will gain popularity for opposing the giving of preference to unionists. Those who honestly desire to make the clause perfect will not vote against the motion for a recommittal. The honorable and learned member for Corinella and others know that the clause could be discussed more freely in Committee than in the House. Does he take up the position that its drafting is absolutely perfect, so that not a letter or word in it should be altered? Either the honorable and learned member and those who support him are afraid of the result of going into Committee, or there is something behind his amendment. It has already been insinuated that the object in view is not that which is ostensible. If so, let it be stated. The Government are open and aboveboard, and the party which supports them say what they want. Will honorable members opposite sacrifice the interests of the masses outside merely to obtain possession of the Treasury benches? Those who are taking advantage of this opportunity to displace the Government are the enemies of the unions.
– The party to which the honorable member belongs did not hesitate to oust the Deakin Government under similar circumstances.
– I do not know how many leaders of the Opposition there may be now ; but it is a somewhat suspicious circumstance that neither of the two principal leaders have yet spoken on the amendment. Do honorable gentlemen oppose the motion to go into Committee because they think that they can obtain an extra vote if the division is taken with Mr. Speaker in the chair ? That has been suggested. It will be a discredit to the Parliament if a measure of this kind, which means so much to thousands of persons outside, is defeated merely to secure the downfall of the Government. I am certain that the present Administration are not afraid to take the chances of defeat, but surely the Bill should not be used as a weapon against them. If we are to have a party fight, let it be an open one. Does the right honorable member for East Sydney think that he can obtain possession of the Treasury benches without moving a motion of censure?
– The honorable member is not now in order.
– Perhaps I am not, but I think it best to speak plainly, and I cannot help saying that the position is very peculiar. I beseech honorable members w allow this Bill to be got out of the way before the decks are cleared for action. The amendment carried bv the honorable and learned member for Corinella was moved immediately after a division had- been taken, and very few honorable members really understood it. I believe that copies of it had not been distributed.
– Yes; it was printed and distributed.
– I, for one, would certainly have opposed it, for the reason which I have urged against it this afternoon, that it would make the Bill ineffective, had I had an opportunity to do so.
– The honorable member said . that he would accept it.
– I am willing to go a long way to arrive at a compromise in this matter; but the honorable and learned member appears not to recognise that the Government are trying to make an unworkable and impossible provision capable of application. If he were sincere in his desire to improve the Bill, he would accept the compromise they offer, instead of stirring up a fight under very suspicious circumstances. I challenge the leaders df the Opposition and their lieutenants to say what is meant by their action. The Government have been outspoken. Let us first of all get rid of this Bill, which will give relief to thousands who are in difficulties which are daily becoming worse. Do not let us have a fight over what is merely a paltry lawyers’ quibble about words. The clause, as it stand, is unworkable, and the unions would decline to register under it, and thus the securing of industrial peace would be impossible. Let us first pass this measure, and then, if we are to have a fight, let it be on a plain issue.
– The honorable member for Darling has made a rather unfair charge against the honorable and learned member for Corinella - one which, I think, any honorable member should be very slow to make. He has also stated that ‘those who are voting against the proposal to go into Committee have some ulterior object.
– Is there any doubt about that?
– Let us consider the exact position.
– The object is either to wreck the Bill or to wreck the Government.
– It is to do both.
– The honorable member for Bourke voted for one of the amendments of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
– I shall vote to keep out of office the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– It is only necessary for us to cast our minds back to another stage in the history of this Bill, when the Deakin Government took a stand upon a principle which they regarded as vital, and told - the House that if they were defeated they would resign. Did honorable members opposite then sav to the Deakin Government, “You should not make this a vital question.”
– Yes, certainly we did.
– Which did they put first, the fate of the Government, or their own principles?
– There is no principle involved in the present case.
– There is a great principle.
An Honorable Member. - The principle of killing the Arbitration Bill is all the honorable member sees in it.
– There is the principle that we, the true representatives of majority rule -
– Who are the true representatives of majority rule? The honorable member was returned by a smaller vote than any representative in this House.
An Honorable Member. - The honorable member only got in bv accident.
– I am quite prepared to face the electors at any time, and
I think my chances would be quite as good as those of honorable members who are now making such a great fuss, and who are much more afraid than I am toface their constituents.
– The honorable member will see.
– The late Government took their stand upon one of the principles of the Bill, and regarded it as vital, and the members of the Labour Party voted for their principles and left the Government to take their chance. That is exactly the position which I take up on the present occasion.
– There is no principle involved as between’ the Government proposal and the proviso now in the Bill.
– Yes, there is. We say that there should be no preference given to unionists unless they represent the majority of those interested in the particular calling affepted.
– So do we.
– It has been stated that the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella was not printed and distributed. That is not correct, because it was printed and was in the hands of honorable members two days before the vote was taken. I have a copy of the amendment, which is dated 23rd June.
– The matter was not discussed.
– The whole matter was discussed for nearly a week.
– Not the amendment that was adopted.
– What is the use of our quibbling over this small point? The debate ranged over the question as to whether preference should be given absolutely, or only when the applicants represented a majority of those engaged in the industry affected. We are now called upon to consider first the proper method of procedure to be adopted, and, secondly, the conditions under which preference should be given to unionists. It has been urged that we should go into Committee to reconsider clause 48, but I think that all the arguments which have been adduced point to the desirability of our fighting the matter out in the House. The proviso inserted in the Bill was discussed for nearly a week - not perhaps exactly in its present form.
– Not even the principle of it.
– The principle discussed was whether preference should be given to unionists, unless they represented the majority of those affected by the award.
– Not a word was said with regard to that during the debate. The honorable, member is utterly mistaken.
– The question we discussed was whether preference should be given to unionists.
– The debate took place upon the question whether or not any preference should be given.
– The Prime Minister was present, and agreed to the procedure adopted when the proviso was inserted. The House was thoroughly tired out by the discussion that had taken place, and honorable members deliberately agreed to go to a division upon the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Now a straight issue is before the House.
– To take the business out of the hands of the Government - that is the only issue there is.
– Who made this a vital issue? Honorable members on this side of the chamber did not do so.
– Then why should they seek to take the business out of the hands of the Government?
– As i have already pointed out, an exactly similar set of circumstances was presented to us when the Deakin Ministry stated that they would resign if a certain amendment were carried against them. That amendment was moved by an honorable member who is now a member of the Ministry. Now the Prime Minister takes up a precisely similar attitude, and has made a vital question of the matter now before us. Is that any reason why those who supported the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella should now change their attitude?
– We can discuss that in Committee.
– But why should we go into Committee ?
– Why not?
– Ministers know as well as any one else that when a Government make a matter one of vital importance it is infinitely better that the issue should be fought out in the House, rather than in Committee. What is the object of going into Committee? The honorable member for Darling has stated that some of us do not desire to hear other honorable members speak. I am always giad to hear the honorable member for Darling speak on the subject of trades unionism, because that is a subject with which he is thoroughly acquainted. On questions of principle we may differ from the honorable member, but upon matters which can be thoroughly understood only by those who have had practical experience, we must attach great weight to his views.
– The honorable member takes good care not to follow him.
– I shall certainly not follow him on this occasion. If the honorable member votes as he speaks he cannot support the amendment suggested by the Government. There is no necessity to go into Committee, . because it will be perfectly in order for honorable members, to discuss, upon the motion now before us, the merits of the alternative proposals of the Government and of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
– But we cannot vary either proposal. We cannot even debate the amendment of the Government.
– I may inform honorable members that the question now before the House is whether clause 48 should be recommitted, in order that the proviso which it now contains may be replaced by another which is to be proposed by the Government. Therefore, the two matters may be debated.
– No fairer issue could be placed before honorable members, and there is no reason why a full discussion should not take place at this stage. If the majority of honorable members are in favour of the Government proposal, they can show their preference by voting for the motion for the recommittal of the Bill.
– It would be better to go to the country and have it out at once.
– I agree with the honorable member. The threat of a dissolution frightens ‘me no more than it does my honorable friend. A full discussion at this stage, instead of in Committee, will probably result in a saving of time. We have been here for upwards of five months, and during nearly the whole of that time we have been occupied with this Bill. Therefore, it cannot be said that the measure has not received sufficient consideration, or that any attempt has been made to restrict discussion. If we went into Committee the debate would become very much more irregular than would be possible if it were conducted in the House. Surely there is no honorable member whc desires to speak three times upon the subject, or who wishes to listen to others speaking three times upon it ! It is idle to affirm that we should deal with the proposal of the Government in Committee on the ground that we may wish to amend it. The issue before us is, whether we shall deliberately reverse the vote which was previously arrived at in Committee by substituting the Government proposal for the amendment which was then carried at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. No clearer cut issue could be placed before the House. Ministers have declared that there is another object behind our action - that we wish to defeat the Government.
– The honorable member does not believe that, does he?
– If a straight-out division had been taken upon this matter I think that the majority of honorable members know how my vote would have been cast. If Ministers had not made it a test question I should still have voted precisely as I intend to do. I am sure that it is not for the Minister of Trade and Customs to say that we should alter our decision because the Government have chosen to make the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella vital to their existence, seeing that it was upon his initiative that the Deakin Government were defeated, under precisely similar conditions. Upon the question of procedure, therefore, no stable complaint can be made that we are taking up a position which is either unfair or untenable. If this is to be regarded as a vital question by the Ministry - if they stake their existence upon the proposal which they have framed-
– I should think that we ought to stake our existence upon a matter which involves taking the business of the House out of our hands.
– In reality the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is responsible for the fate of the Government being in the balance. When that amendment was carried it was generally understood that Ministers could not accept it in its present form. Nobody can blame them for that determination. I think that they have adopted a very proper and straightforward course. Nevertheless, they have no right to ask any honorable member who supported that amendment to reverse his vote for no other reason than that they have chosen to stake their Ministerial existence upon it.
– The honorable member has overlooked the fact that on the previous occasion there was no time to discuss the matter.
– I remarked just now, in the absence of the Minister of Trade and Customs, that, with the consent of the Government, a division was taken upon that amendment because every honorable member was heartily sick of the subject which we had been so long debating. The real question which is involved is whether a preference should be granted to unionists unless it can be shown that they represent a majority of those interested in the particular trade affected by any award of the Court. In this matter I claim that honorable members upon this side of the House represent majority rule to a greater extent than do those who support the watered amendment that has been drafted by the Government. Even if that proposal had been contained in the Bill as it was originally introduced, it should not have been accepted. There are few words in the English language which have a more indefinite meaning than the word “ substantial.” During the course of this debate we have heard various constructions placed upon it by honorable members. What does it mean in the way in which it is proposed to apply it ?
– What does the honorable member think that it means ?
– I believe that it is a ladder which has been placed against a tree for the purpose of allowing Ministers to gracefully climb down.
– Fancy that.
– I am prepared to admit that Ministers believe that a very material difference exists between their proposal and the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. If the two proposals were placed side by side the difference between them would be found to consist in the substitution of the word “ majority “ for the words “ substantially represents.” Is the House prepared to grant la preference to unionists where the latter do not constitute a majority of those interested in the particular trade affected by the award’ of the Court ? I gathered from the Prime Minister’s speech, and from an interjection which he made, that he does not desire a preference to be extended to unionists if a majority of those engaged in the industry affected are not in favour of such a preference. If that be so, what is his objection to the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella? It has been argued that it will be impossible to prove to the Court that a union represents a majority of those interested in any industry affected by an award of the Court. To my mind, the onus of proof should rest upon those who claim this preference, and not upon those against whom it is to be used. The Prime Minister declared that the word “ substantial “ is used in more important measures than this. Upon the present occasion there are two issues at stake, which are of far greater importance than that to which the word “ substantial “ is intended to be applied. Under existing conditions, to the man who has no money, no influence, and very few friends, the ‘question of whether or not every door of industry shall be open to him may be one not only of importance to himself, but may even involve the necessaries of life, in the case of his wife and his children.
– Nobody wishes to close the door of industry against him.
– Then, why do the supporters of the Government wish to compel men to join trades unions?
– That is what honorable members upon the Opposition side of the House proposed.
– I am not in favour of compelling any man to join a trades union, or to’ relinquish his connexion with one. I claim that thequestionof whether or not a man should belong to any particular church or political party should be one for himself to determine, and the same consideration should apply to trades unions. I have no sympathy whatever with the new radicalism which seeks to coerce men. The honorable member for Darling assured us this afternoon that the provisions of this Bill would prevent men from leaving their employment after an award had been made, bv the Court.
– I said that it would prevent them from collectively leaving their employment.
– I think that the honorable member is in error, because I do not believe that a majority of this House or of any British Parliament would sanction a proposal to reduce the workers to a condition of slavery. If we say to a man, “ Un less you join a trades union you may or may not be able to obtain work, but if you join one you must comply with the conditions which are laid down by the Arbitration Court, even to the extent of accepting the rate of wages awarded by it, although you may be worth more,” I claim that we are reducing him to a condition of absolute slavery.
– In the district which is represented by the honorable member there are no unions, and the workers there receive the lowest wages paid in any part of Austrafia. I had a letter upon the subject no later than vesterday.
– I can quite understand that the right honorable member may receive a number of letters from any part of Australia. When he declares that the wages paid in the district which I have the honour to represent, are the lowest received in any part of Australia, he is making a statement” which is absolutely unwarrantable, and which lacks even the slightest foundation. It is, indeed, extraordinary that certain, honorable members are never so emphatic as when they are speaking upon a matter of which they know absolutely nothing. If the honorable member for Kennedy would visit the district which I represent, he would discover that a great number of the residents there - a majority, indeed - own their little homes, which they have purchased out of their savings.
– What wages are paid in the printing trade there?
-I do not know.
– What do they pay in the apple trade?
– I have not the slightest idea of what they would pay the honorable member, but, really good men can earn really good wages. I repeat that if the new Radicalism means that men before being at liberty to work, shall join unions, and that, having joined them, they shall absolutely accept the rate fixed by an Arbitration Court; and abstain from leaving their employ, it is really nothing but absolute slavery.
– Then, why does the honorable member support anything of the kind ?
– I have done my utmost to oppose the Bill, by voting against it on every division.
– Hear, hear; that is an honest position to take up.
– Whatever others may have done, I have never hidden my views from the House, and i claim that the attitude which I take up in regard to the question of granting a preference to unionists represents the truest democratic principle that has ever been applied - the principle of majority rule. What is the effect of the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella? It says to unionists applying for a preference, “ If you can show that the majority approve of your application, your request will be complied with.” I clearly put my position before the House, and should like some of those who have been interjecting, and particularly the honorable member for Kennedy, and the honorable member for Hindmarsh, to say whether they desire that a preference shall be granted to unionists, whether they represent a majority of those engaged in an industry or not.
– We shall put our views before the House in due time.
– There is a very straight issue before us. Honorable members opposite may hide it as they like ; they may flog the dissolution horse as long as they please, and Ministers make stake their existence on the proposition which they put before us, but the real issue before the House is whether a preference shall be granted, independently of whether the trades union concerned is able to show that the majority of those to be affected by the award are in favour of the granting of that preference.
– Does the honorable member contend that the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s amendment provides a practical scheme to ascertain whether an application is supported by a majority?
– Can any one seriously say that the Government proposal is a practical scheme ?
– The Government are delegating the power of this Parliament to make certain laws to a Judge of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. What would be the definition of “ substantially represents “ ? Three Judges of equal intelligence might place a different interpretation upon the term.
– The same may be said of provisions in various Acts of Parliament.
– On questions of absolute law we may get Judges to agree; but the word “ substantially “ is one of the vaguest to be found in the English language. I gather from the Prime Minister’s speech that he considers that the term “ substantially represents” means that the applicants must show that they represent a majority. The honorable member for Darling, on the other hand, said that five-sixths of the cabinet-makers of Australia are Chinese, and that as they would out-vote the remaining one-sixth it would be wrong to insist upon a majority vote. He referred to the position in regard to Chinese cabinetmakers and to Iascar seamen as showing how unwise it would be to insist upon the consent of an absolute majority being obtained.
– For which class of cabinet-makers is the honorable gentleman fighting ?
– I am not fighting for either cabinet-makers or Capital site breakers. I am fighting in the interests of the whole community. The honorable member for Darling instanced the case of the Chinese furniture makers, and said it would be impossible to induce them to vote for the granting of a preference.
– He said that we should not be able to ascertain their number.
– The honorable member for Darling is now present, and I feel satisfied that he will bear out my statement. He also pointed out that Iascar seamen would be able to out-vote their white competitors, and that it would be not only unfair, but impossible, to take their vote on the question of preference as against that of their white competitors.
– Would the honorable member take it?
Mr.Mcwilliams.- No; i should not give them the right to vote. If i had my way not one of them would be in the country. We have had as many definitions of the words “substantially represents” as there have been speakers in support . of the Government amendment. The Prime Minister claims that they mean that there shall be a majority, and says that he would not allow the provision to apply to a union which had not a majority of those employed in the industry; while other speakers, who support the Government amendment, have pointed out that it would be unfair to compel an organization to endeavour to secure a majority. i, therefore, think that nothing has been adduced that would warrant the House in deliberately altering the vote at which we arrived some days ago. i think i have fairly shown that it is very much better for us to fight the straight-out issue before us - one amendment as against another - in the House itself. There can be no suggestion of the application of the gag, because it is open to every honorable member to carefully compare the two amendments, and for the House to determine the question, after we have thoroughly discussed the subject. If we go into Committee, I shall take it that honorable members are prepared to accept the Government amendment. If honorable members are prepared to support the amendment carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, I take it that they will vote that the Bill be not recommitted. The issue is so clear that honorable members opposite have certainly no right to complain that we propose to vote against the motion merely because we desire to put them out of office.
– We say that honorable members opposite are adopting a course that must prevent the proper discussion, of our proposal.
– The honorable member will be at liberty to discuss it in the House for two or three hours, and I shall have much pleasure in listening to him. But that is not the point. We have had the Bill under consideration for something like five months, and I think that it has been sufficiently discussed. The Government have now m’ade this question a vital one. They were beaten on a fairandsquare fight.
– I trust that honorable members opposite will not say that there was anything unfair associated with their defeat.
– Honorable members did not understand the true purport of the amendment moved by the honorable and learned ‘member for Corinella.
– If the Minister of Customs thought that the Committee did not understand it, I fail to see why he should have consented to a division being taken before the matter had been thoroughly discussed. I think, however, that the House now thoroughly understands that amendment, as well as the Government proposal, and that no good purpose would be served by allowing the Bill to be once more considered in Committee, where the debate would necessarily be more protracted, and where the issue would not be so clearly defined as it would in the House itself.
– It is useless to beat about the bush. The honor able and learned member for Corinella is plainly averse to the granting of a preference to unionists, but. feels that he dare not openly say so. He would not have moved the amendment which is now under discussion if . that were not the case. Being afraid to vote against granting a preference to unionists, what did he do? He said - “I shall move an amendment which will have the effect of rendering it impossible for a preference to be given to unionists.” The fact of the matter is, that the honorable, member’s desire is to give a preference to the right honorable member for East Sydney in regard to the Treasury benches. I do not like the Government amendment, and I feel sure that the shearers of Australia will not regard it favorably.
– If the honorable member were on this side he would vote against it.
– No. While I do not care for the Government proposal, I certainly care very much less for the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s amendment. The Government proposal is an endeavour to induce the House to arrive at a decision that will enable a preference to be given in certain circumstances to unionists. It would be open to the Court to grant a preference, even if there were no reference to the matter in the Bill. The Conciliation and Arbitraton Court of - New Zealand granted a preference to unionists, although that matter at first was not dealt with in the Act on which it is based, and it required nothing but very ordinary data to satisfy it that applicants for a preference represented a substantial majority of those to whom the award would apply. Unless a majority were substantially represented by the organization making the application for a preference, I am sure that the Judge would not grant it, and that the House does not desire that he should have power to do so, in the absence of that condition. The honorable member for Franklin says that if we do not agree to the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s amendment - if we do not agree to the clause as it stands - nonunionists will not be able to obtain work. Has a more ridiculous suggestion ever been made? The passing of this Bill will not lead to one individual being employed in excess of the number at present at work. But the honorable member for Franklin and those who think with him are asking the unionists to give up the only power they possess to secure fair wages and fair conditions, in order that non-unionists may in future have a preference.
– I have never asked for that.
– But it is that for which the honorable member intends to vote. The shearers, as well as the waterside workers and seamen, would not, I am sure, be favorable to an amendment such as that which was recently carried. It was only another means to destroy the Bill. Let the Bill be destroyed, and we shall know at once that the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s amendment was designed to turn out the Government, and to wreck the measure at the same time. The right honorable member for East Sydney says that he would not destroy the Bill. Of course he would not. He wishes to hoodwink the public by making them believe that he is in favour of the principle of arbitration. That is the attitude which has always been taken up by those opposed to industrial legislation, whether in this House or in the States Parliaments. They are always anxious to make the - public believe that they are in favour of something with which they really have no sympathy. What care they for the conditions of the workers as long as they can have the Government of the country in their own hands? What earnestness of purpose is shown by honorable members who merely seek to secure seats on the Treasury benches? The right honorable member for East Sydney, who is anxious to become the leader of this House, held office as Premier of New South Wales for five or six years, but I am not aware of even one industrial measure that was passed by him during that period.
– That remark shows how fair the honorable member is.
– I ask the honorable member to mention one industrial measure that was passed by the New South Wales Parliament while the right honorable member for East Svdney was Premier of that State.
– I would not pretend to enlighten the honorable member’s absolute ignorance.
– I challenge the honorable member, who was a member of the right honorable member for East Sydney’s Ministry, to name a single industrial measure which was carried by it.
– Members r f the honorable member’s party have enumerated them time after time.
– I shall ask honorable members to look at the amendment which was submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The honorable and learned member for Corinella has pretended that he is in favour of giving preference to unionists, and yet he has carried an amendment which will prevent the giving of effect to that principle. Why did he not tell us how the views of all those engaged in an industry could be obtained? I have been a member and an officer of the Shearers’ Union for many years, though I am not a shearer by occupation. I should like to know how I would be classed under the honorable and learned member’s provision. Should I be allowed to vote? Will the question have to go before the Court, and be thrashed out there, before it can be ascertained who should and who should not vote? At the present time it takes many months to get a ballot of the members of the union.
– The honorable member would feel aggrieved if his vote did not count.
– Yes ; but I would feel more aggrieved if a unionist did not get a preference against a non-unionist who was sacrificing nothing. The Bill was introduced, not because non-unionists have stood up for fair conditions and good wages, and have been the cause of strikes, but because the unionists have demanded what they believe to be just and reasonable. It is the unionists to whom preference should be given, because it is they alone who are making concessions. There has been no greater opponent of strikes than I have been. I had something to do with the prevention of a strike in the shearing industry two years ago. That strike was settled voluntarily, but the result was that next year a dispute was inevitable, through the refusal of the pastoralists to negotiate, and then we won all along the line. Do honorable members think that I would counsel the unionists to give up the only weapon they possess, in the power to strike, if they are to get nothing in return ?
– Does the honorable member suggest that the non-unionists should starve ?
– No one who is not now starving will starve under the Bill. If the Bill is amended, as the Government wish to amend it, some of those who’ are being badly treated now will receive what a properly constituted Court will decide are fair conditions and fair wages. Every one who opposes the Bill opposes the granting of fair conditions to a large number of workers. The unionists have never asked for advantages in which the non-unionists have not shared. I, myself, have been boycotted for standing up for my just rights. It is the unionists who suffer in every case ; but hundreds and thousands of non-unionists have benefited by their action in standing up for their rights. Throughout the world the worst paid labour is that of the unorganized workers. This is not a Bill for them. Who are fighting for the unorganized workers?Is it those who are opposing the Bill? No. What are they doing for them ? The unionists however, are working as hard in the interests of the non-unionists as in their own interests. The honorable member for Franklin asked what is the object of going into Committee. It has been said that we can discuss the matter in the House; but what is the use of discussing it if a majority is ready to prevent the clause from being recommitted, an’d a vote taken on the Government’s amendment ? The issue is not the improvement of the clause, but the wrecking of the measure. Free-traders and protectionists are combined to defeat the Labour Party.
– And other free-traders and protectionists are combined in the Labour Party.
– We are not afraid to face the country under present conditions. It is always recognised that the Government in power have the right to conduct the business of the country, and I have never seen a more shameful attempt to take the business out of the hands of Ministers than that which is being made to-night. If honorable members think that they have a majority against a reasonable amendment - an amendment with which I have very little sympathy - why do not they consent to the recommittal, and vote against it in Committee? The Government are going as far as they can in order that the Bill may have a trial. They are prepared to allow the Court to decide what is a substantial number. Why should it be necessary to have the consent of a majority of all concerned ? If the majority of workers in a trade are suffering from bad conditions, why should a minority be debarred from going to the Court, and asking for -what is fair and just, both for themselves and for every other member of their industry? That is the question which we could discuss if honorable members would allow the Bill to be recommitted. Those who oppose the motion for recommittal are not considering the workers at all.
– The unionists only represent one out of everv seven of the workers.
– The honorable and learned member is quite wrong. But even if the unionists did represent only one out of every seven of the workers, the Court would not give a unionist . anything which would not benefit the six non-unionists. The honorable member for Franklin either did not know, or was afraid to quote, the wages paid in many trades in Tasmania. He spoke of the clause as an attempt to reduce the workers to slavery ; but does he know how some of them live? If he does not. let him read ‘such works as the People of the Abyss, by Jack London, or Charles Booth’s work on London, and Rowntree’s work on York. The statements therein contained are unchallengeable, and, unfortunately, they are fast becoming applicable to the Commonwealth. Two years ago it was found necessary in Adelaide for the unionists to collect funds for distribution, not only amongst those out of employment, but amongst those in employment, who were being sweated. That sweating still continues.
– The question before the Chair is whether particular clauses should be recommitted.
– I am trying to give general reasons for the recommittal. There, is intense suffering among the. workers in every State which does not possess arbitration laws. It has never been shown that preference has done harm. In this connexion I would like to read an opinion expressed by Mr. Justice Cohen, of the New South Wales Arbitration Court, who has had experience on the subject which we have not had, and is, therefore, able to speak with authority in regard to it. No one will question his impartiality. He is reported to have said -
He had no leaning one way or the other, but in the public interest it would be far better, if the preference clause was being unduly used as a means of oppressing or harassing employers, that the Court should be assisted by evidence of that. From the general statements he saw in the press this preference clause was stated to be a means of harassing the employer and placing him in an unfair position of working his business. It would be much better if the Court were enlightened by evidence of these things they read of. General assertions were made with regard to what the Court had done which would not bear any test. They were absolutely without any foundation.
Mr. Justice Cohen has had more experience of legislation of this kind than any one else in the Commonwealth has had.
– If his remarks had been directed against the Bill the honorable gentleman would have called him a political Judge.
– I should have said that he was lacking in experience, or was prejudiced. No Judge who had had experience of the working of legislation of this kind would be guilty of such statements.
– No doubt the honorable member thinks that he would cease to be a Judge if he made such statements.
– He would cease to be a Judge, and would have become a partisan. I am sorry to say that one of the Judges in the Commonwealth has shown himself to be a partisan in this matter. The honorable member for Franklin says that we are trying to reduce the workers to a condition of slavery, by compelling them to join unions. I have belonged to more than one union, but no one has been compelled to join those unions. Men join unions only when they choose to do so, and all the Bill says is that a man must join a union if he wishes to take advantage of the provisions of the measure. Honorable members opposite profess to agree to that. The honorable member for North Sydney said that he would compel every worker to join a union for the special purposes of this Bill. That is more than we on this side of the Chamber asked for. The workers cannot be reduced to a worse state of slavery than that in which some of the non-unionists exist. Those who know anything about the clothing trade will support that statement.
– Is it just to compel a man to join a union, whether he wishes to do so or not?
– I object to compelling men to “join unions whether they wish to do so or not. But it is quite fair for the unionists to say that the man who will not join a union should be above taking the advantages which are gained by the exertions of unionists. The hollowness of the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is shown by the fact that it would be impossible to ascertain under it who are the members of an industry.
Under the conditions he proposes it would be impossible to find out who followed any particular calling, and no one knows better than does the honorable and learned member that his proposal is merely a subterfuge.
– Some men would have to belong to a dozen unions in order to obtain work.
– It is not necessary to belong to a union in order to obtain work at present, but if there were no unions the workmen of the Commonwealth would be very much dissatisfied with the pay they were receiving. The most intelligent workmen connected with every trade are banded together in unions. Is it to be supposed that these men do not know what operates to their advantage? I should leave my union to-morrow if I did not think it conferred benefit upon those associated with It. The unionists are now called upon to surrender all their present rights of resistance to oppression, and to place it in the power of the Judge to determine how their means of livelihood shall be regulated. Therefore, they should get something in return for that which they are giving up. In conclusion, I would point out that not only honorable members on this side of the Chamber, but the electors of the Commonwealth generally, will see what is behind the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and will support the Labour Party when an appeal is made to the country.
– Another critical stage has been reached in connexion with this Bill. It has produced a series of crises. One Minister resigned his position in the Cabinet because he could not agree with his colleagues upon a matter of principle, the Deakin Ministry was defeated because it would not depart from a certain principle, and now another Ministry is threatened with ejection from office because of its want of principle. I have given the strongest support to many of the most radical features of the Bill. The honorable member for Darling and the honorable member for Hindmarsh have expressed their objection to the Government proposal, and - 1 do not believe that one honorable member sitting on the Government benches could take a Bill embracing the amendment proposed by the Government and present it to his constituents as a perfect measure.
– We shall obtain something better after the elections.
– I am prepared to take my stand now, and do not propose to wait until the next elections. The AttorneyGeneral’s statement that we shall get something better after a general election is tantamount to an admission that the measure is far from perfect. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh and the honorable member for Darling had been speaking from this side of the House they would probably not only have objected to the Government proposal, but would have resisted it.
– We should certainly have tried to obtain something better.
– The honorable member will soon be in peculiar company.
– That is my concern, and not that of the honorable member. It must be conceded that I fought as hard as any one for the preference to unionists, but I now regard the measure as having been emasculated beyond usefulness. It’ would have been far better if the Government had either abandoned it, or resigned their positions.
– The honorable and learned member for Corinella says that his proviso will not prevent the Court from giving preference to unionists.
– I differ from the honorable and learned member.
– The honorable member should look at those who are ranged behind him.
– I am not concerned about them. I have to consider whether the measure realizes my ideal, and whether I can take the responsibility of recommending it to my constituents. I find that I cannot go that length. I have gained nothing politically from my ardent support of this measure, because it has not strengthened my claims upon my principal political supporters. I have acted rather in the interests of the party which would oppose and defeat me to-morrow if it could. I do not belong to the Labour Party, and do not intend to be dragged at its heels. I am prepared even now to support the Government if they will attempt to restore the Bill to its original form and do away with the limitations now imposed with regard to preference to unionists. The Government proposal has been referred to by the honorable member for Darling as a compromise.
– It proposes to adopt the practice which has been inaugurated and carried out in New South Wales. . For some months past no union has received a preference unless it has substantially fulfilled these conditions.
– I fought for the clause which distinctly and unreservedly gave preference to unionists, and that is the provision by which Ministers should have stood. I regard the Bill in its present form with disfavour because of the amendments made in clause 48 and in clause 62. The Minister of Home Affairs knows that when the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs was accepted I felt that I could no longer give the Bill my support. I regarded it as having been so emasculated that it had better be abandoned. I am not proposing to vote against the Government to-night because of any advantage that may accrue to the party to which I belong.
– Does the honorable member think that we have gone too far in making concessions to meet the other side ?
– Why should the Government have gone as far as they have done? Have we not a right to look to a democratic Ministry to furnish us with measures which shall be perfected in accordance with democratic ideas? I thought that we should do away with the old system when the newMinistry came into power, that instead of deferring time and time again to the wishes of the House, and proving, disregardful of their principles, the Government would carry out their principles or retire from office.
– That is what we propose to do, and the honorable member is proposing to stand behind those who desire to bring about our defeat. He is playing their game.
– I do not care what game other honorable members are playing.
– Does the honorable member expect to obtain a better Bill from the next Government?
– It will be my duty, and that of the honorable member, to attempt to obtain a better Bill.
– If we go into Committee it will be open for the honorable member to move to strike out even the proviso that the Government propose.
– It is not necessary “to tell me that. I am thoroughly disgusted with the way this Bill has been treated. I am heartily tired of ingenious devices, such as those adopted by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, acting under
– Does not the honorable member admit that it is the duty of the Government’ to try to pass the Bill ?
– No; I think it is their duty to abandon the Bill, because it has been emasculated.
– By the honorable member’s friends.
– The Prime Minister would have been in a much stronger position if he had gone to the country, and advocated the preference to unionists provided for in the original clause. Although the clause originated with the Deakin Government, many members of that Ministry are opposing it now. Even the Prime Minister is opposing the original proposal.
– But not our own Bill.
– The Prime Minister has admitted that the words “substantially represents “ are equivalent to the word “ majority,” and therefore there is no more difference between the Government proposal and that of the honorable and learned member for Corinella than between tweedle-dum and tweedle-dee. Both provisions trifle with the question, and deal with it in a haphazard manner. Under the Government amendment the Judge would have the power of interpretation, whereas under the provision adopted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, the conditions would be prescribed by statute law. I do not like the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, but at least any one can easily see what it means.
– Quite so. It means the destruction of the measure.
– The Government proposal would have the same effect, because the Judge would be left to interpret the law.
– That must be so in all arbitration cases.
– It would be impossible to predict what view the Judge would take with regard to the interpretation of the words “substantially represents,” and therefore I think that we should .not be upon safe ground, so far as unionists are concerned. If the Bill be carried in its present form, the large unions will not register under it. They will not surrender
– The proposal of the Government to which the honorable member refers, defines in so many words the attitude which” has been taken up by the New South Wales Arbitration Court- an attitude which has the approval of this Ministry and of the unions throughout the mother State.
– That is another interpretation of it by the Minister of External Affairs. This afternoon the Prime Minister informed us that the Government proposal would practically achieve the same result as would the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. . Then, I claim that there are other provisions which should have been recommitted by the Ministry - notably, clause 62, in which they consented to rob the trades unions of all their political power. In that instance they were content to accept an amendment the effect of which was that though the unions could register under the provisions of the Bill they could not under1 certain conditions ask for a preference award. If that is the sort of measure which they desire to give to their friends I can raise no enthusiasm in regard to it. My views of trades unions are the result of a life-long experience of them. I do not belong to any of these organizations, but if I followed a ‘trade I should certainly join one of them. I think that. the existence of trades unions - notwithstanding all their abuses- - has been to the social advantage of Australia. In this Bill the provision relating to the extension of a preference to unionists represents only so much blank paper. I am astonished that the Prime Minister and the Minister of External Affairs, who have been connected with trades unions for so long, should offer us a clause which they admit to be almost equivalent to the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
– There is nothing wrong with our proposal, so far as the unions of Australia are concerned.
– No sane man can appreciate the difference which exists between the amendment submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, in reference to registration and preference awards, and that which was proposed by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. It may be news to some honorable members to learn that the unionists of New South Wales are not very much enamoured of the Arbitration Act which is operative in that State. As a matter of fact, some of the most powerful unions there had to be coaxed into registering under its provisions. I hold that all. the coaxing in the world will not induce a trades union to register under this Bill if its members are to be deprived of preference awards. Three weeks ago when the Government were defeated upon vital portions of this measure, they should either have abandoned it or resigned their positions. We should then have had a democratic Ministry occupying the same position as that of the right honorable member for Adelaide. He stands in the cold just now, but, nevertheless, he appears before Australia as a man who surrendered the emoluments of office in defence of a principle. I believe that honorable members opposite occupy a very uncomfortable position in regard to this matter. If they were not supporters of the Government, ‘ I venture to say that they would condemn this Bill more severely than I am doing. Their caustic language would be employed to riddle the argumentsof those who are seeking to fasten such a measure upon the country.
– We shall do that.
– But honorable members will do it when it is too late. The honorable member for Darling has declared that the adoption of the Government proposal will solve a difficulty. To my mind, it will simply cover up an industrial sore, and sooner or later the people of Australia will demand that a more democratic’ measure shall be brought into operation. Under that Bill, in its present form, the Shearers’ and the Seamen’s Unions will be compelled to abandon their political objects and political rules. To say to a body of men that politics shall be tabooed from their association, is tantamount to slavery of the worst description. It is almost impossible to have a union without political objects. To suggest that employes, who incur no risk whatever, should participate in an award of the Court, which has been obtained by personal sacrifice on the part of members of trades unions, is absolutely unjust. If the opponents of the proposal to grant a preference to unionists were engaged in ordinary litigation, and obtained a judgment in their favour, would they not take prompt steps to enforce it ? The real reason why we should extend a preference to unionists is to prevent them from being black-listed. They are well aware that if they were to bring their employer before the Arbitration Court, in the absence of some such provision, they would inevitably be blacklisted. They might gain their case, but they would lose their employment. I know of one establishment in Sydney which has employed fully 2,500 hands. Its unionist employes have always successfully resisted any attempt to decrease their wages or to alter their conditions, but every endeavour to decrease the wages of that section of its employes which does not belong to these organizations has been successful. I believe it is indispensable that preference should be granted to unionists. It is asserted by those who are opposed to the principle that it is a proposal to prevent non-unionists from obtaining employment. It is nothing of the kind. The object which we have in view in seeking’ a preference to unionists is that those who have fought, on behalf of unionists and nonunionists alike, the battle for better- conditions, and who have exposed the funds of their unions to serious risk in their efforts to improve the lot of the workers, shall not be black-listed. The_ Prime Minister’s own experience teaches him that the school of unionists who believe that a union should be a close corporation is a very small one, and it is provided in the Bill itself that a man who desires to join a union shall not be prevented from doing so. I know that there are some men who honestly object, on conscientious grounds, to join a union, but in the majority of cases a refusal to become a unionist is generally due to a regard for ‘the purse. We are now confronted with a mangled Bill which I cannot accept. If I were to agree to the Bill as it stands, I should clearly show that I was a straight-out supporter of the Government. But I am not, and it is not for me to take a certificate of exemption from opposition. If I decided to support the Government, it would be my duty not to accept such a certificate, but to resign my seat in this House and to go before the electors as a labour candidate.
– Is this a motion of censure ?
– Honorable members opposite say that it is.
– The honorable member knows that it is.
– Then I welcome it. I cannot defend the Bill.
– Is this another “Yes-no” speech,
– It is “ Yes “ for the Bill and “No” for the Government. It’ is not like some of the “ Yes-no “ speeches that I have known the honorable member to make. As a matter of fact, not one honorable member opposite is able to say “Yes” to the Bill from first to last.
– Another House, and a better one, has yet to deal with it.
– Did the honorable member say “Yes” to the Land Tax Bill, introduced in the New South Wales Parliament by the right honorable member for East Sydney?-
– I did not. The honorable member is referring to matters which took place in the New South Wales Parliament six or seven years ago, and I am sure that he then did many things which he’ now regrets.
– I am sorry that I supported the right honorable member for East Sydney’s Government for five or six years. .
– He is as good a man as is the honorable member.
– I do not say that he is not.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that if the Ministry were displaced, the right honorable member for East Sydney would become Prime Minister.
– I must ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I wish to refer to it, sir, only in defence of the right honorable member.
– It is just as well that the House should thoroughly understand that an irrelevant interjection in no wise justifies an irrelevant speech. Honorable members must recognise that if it were to be held that it did, it would be an easy matter to secure the making of an irrelevant interjection at any time to justify any number of irrelevant speeches. I ask honorable members not to make irrelevant interjections, but even if such interjections be made, I cannot permit irrelevant speeches.
– I shall merely ask the honorable member for Hindmarsh to read the report of a speech made, not by a Reidite, but by Mr. McGowan, the leader of the Labour Party in New South Wales. I do not intend to make an elaborate defence of the action of the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– I must again ask the honorable member not to discuss that matter.
– I bow to your ruling, sir. I do not favour the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s amendment, nor do I approve of that which the Prime Minister desires to submit. If clause 48 were to be restored to its original form the position would be different. If, as the result of the amendment of this motion, the Government be displaced, it will be purely a matter of their own concern.
– But the honorable member should vote for the motion in order that the clause may be recommitted.
– If the honorable member votes against the motion he will really vote for the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s , amendment.
– I shall do so, in one sense; but the Government proposal is substantially the same.
– Substantially is “very ambiguous.”
– And yet the honorable and learned gentleman asks me to support an amendment which contains that word.
– I am referring to what Artemus Ward says.
– 1 am asked to vote for an ambiguous amendment which has substantially the same object in view as that which the honorable and learned member for Corinella has sought to achieve. I voted in favour of’ the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, and I think it is just as well to read to the House an extract from a speech which I delivered on the 6th ult., in which I clearly stated the attitude that I took up. I then said -
The members of one Ministry have already resigned over this Bill, and the present Ministry, if they value the opinions of the workers and of the masses of the community, will adhere firmly to its provisions, and even resign rather than accept undue interference. I am pleased that the Prime Minister has intimated that he will do that. If he resigns, he will have to stand before those to whom alone he can look for support. I care not for the mouthings we trave heard about the beauties of trades unionism and its elevating influence. Now is the occasion to test belief in trades unionism. Those who believe in it will vote to give preference to unionists, while those who fear that this new force will put down the class to which they belong, and destroy their political power, will vote against it. I am prepared to take my stand with the unionists, though it would be easier and simpler for me to fight with my party against them, because I expect no advantage from supporting the Labour Party. I have fought that party for years, and will continue to do so, because I am a strong individualist, and they have in their platfrom planks to which I cannot subscribe.
That was my position then, and it indicates the position which I still take up. I told one of the members of the Ministry on the day following that on which the amendment, moved by the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs, was carried that the Bill was so mangled that I could not approve of it. No honorable member opposite could honestly tell his constituents that the principle of preference to unionists is preserved in the Bill as it stands, or that it would be secured if the Government proposal were carried. The honorable member for Hindmarsh said that he objected to the Government proposal.
– I did not say that I objected to it ; but that I did not like it.
– The honorable member, although a Government supporter, does not like it ; if he were on this side of the House he would hate. it. I strongly object to it, and’ consider that it is really a sham and a delusion.
– Yet the honorable member proposes to vote for something worse.
– The Government will not accept the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella with the result that the Bill will be destroyed, and they will be displaced. If the Government were on this side of the House, and were fighting for preference to unionists, .they would not have a stronger supporter than they would find in me.
– If a new Government comes in, and submits a Bill that does not provide for preference to unionists, will’ the honorable member support them?
– If honorable members opposite, as members of the Opposition, fought for preference for unionists, I should support them in that fight.
– The honorable member knows that the next Government will not bring in a Bill providing for preference to unionists. He is prepared to vote for the creation of a Government that will not bring in such a Bill. The members of the future Government sit opposite with faces like the rising sun.
– I am concerned only with the Bill itself. It has already been destroyed, and unless the attractions of office have very great charms for them - and I do not believe that they have - the Government should welcome this easy way out of the difficulty. The Government which succeeds them will have to bring in another Bill, and if they do not the members of the Opposition will be in a position to attack th’em. The failure of the Government to submit a motion for the recommittal of clause 62 is in itself almost worthy of a vote of -censure.
– Why does not the honorable member move to recommit that clause?
– If I did, what support should I receive from the honorable member and other honorable members opposite?
– I should support the honorable member.
– Of course the honorable member would. He said at the time that he did not approve of clause 48 as amended, while the honorable member for Grey said that the Bill was “no good.”
– The Government are now seeking to amend it.
– The amendment which they propose is so well watered that it will not obtain my support. I shall be pleased if, as the result of the amendment of this motion, the right honorable member for East Sydney gains a seat on the Treasury benches. I have been a member of his party for many years, and, although I have recently been dissociated from it, so far as the question of preference is concerned I intend to adopt that course which commends itself to my judgment, and to vote against the proposal of the Government.
– I have listened very attentively to the remarks of the honorable member for Dalley, who has made what is practically an electioneering speech. It seems to me that the workers to whom he is appealing as the only man who desires to secure, a measure that will really give the benefits which we are seeking to confer upon them, may well cry, “ Save us from our friends.” The honorable member maintains that, because this Bill does not provide for absolute preference to unionists quite irrespective of other considerations, it should be rejected. But, having regard to the foundation upon which this legislation is built, he is asking for something that is really impracticable. He knows that in order that the clause in question may be effective, unionism must be organized. Unless we draw some line between unionists and non-unionists we cannot achieve the end which we have in view in passing a Bill of this character. The honorable member for Dalley says that without the clause as it stood before it was amended on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, the Bill will be a failure, because it will “practically offer a stone to those who are crying for bread. He said that if the Government had stood by the original clause he would have been with them, because he believes that without preference no encouragement can be given to men to become unionists. But no one knows better than he does that the Government did stand by that clause, and that the Committee would not allow it to remain as originally drafted. No Government can get its legislation through exactly as it introduces it. The Government in New South Wales which the honorable member supported for many years had to submit to the amendment of its legislation, and he did not fall out with it when a certain Bill was thrown under the table. Now, however, he takes the stand that the attempt of the Government to improve the impracticable’ provision inserted by the hon orable and learned member for Corinella is merely substituting for it a provision which is substantially the same. It would be ridiculous to require preference to be given without regard to the circumstances of every case. The Court will hear the evidence of witnesses, and will adjudicate according to the testimony put before it. What the Government propose is that preference shall be given where it is clear that a substantial majority is represented by the applicants for it. But can the honorable member for Dalley tell us how the provision of the honorable and learned member for Corinella could be worked? He added to the clause the following provision -
And provided further that no such preference shall be directed to be given unless the application for such preference is in the opinion of the Court approved by a majority of those who are affected by the award who have interests in common with the applicant.
None of those who are opposing the proposal to recommit the clause have shown how that absolute majority can be made known. Five hundred men enrolled in a union might apply to the Court for an award, but in addition to them there might be 1,000 others engaged in the same industry scattered all over -the two States to which the dispute had extended, or, perhaps, all over the Commonwealth. As they would not be organized, their names would not be on any roll, and there would be no source from which any information could be obtained respecting them. Honorable members opposite are trying to impose upon the intelligence of the House when they support an amendment which requires the existence of such a majority to be ascertained before the granting of a preference by the Court. The proposal is palpably absurd. But where are those who, when the matter was before the Committee, made such talented addresses on the subject, and so ably championed the cause of the non-unionists? Why are they absent from the Chamber now ? The amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is absolutely impracticable, and the Government wish to substitute for it a reasonable and practical alternative. Without organization the measure cannot be put into operation. Only organizations of roo men or more could bring a case before the Arbitration Court. Those who support the provision which requires that before granting a preference the Court shall ascertain that a majority of the persons employed in the industry concerned are in favour of it are the absolute enemies of compulsory industrial arbitration. There, are two ways of killing a Bill - by absolutely voting against it, and by rendering it impracticable and ineffective by subtly-worded amendments. Honorable members opposite are adopting the latter course. But never before in the history of the Commonwealth has the step been taken which is being taken by the Opposition to-night. Honorable members opposite will not fight on the direct issue. They cannot defeat the Government by a general criticism of their actions, so they stand behind a hedge and fire their little gun. Instead of moving a direct vote of censure, they refuse to allow the Government to recommit the Bill to make the clause effective and acceptable to the people. Where are the friends of arbitration now ? I know by the beaming face of the honorable member for Macquarie that he thinks that things are looking well for his party. Whenever the lion is away, we find his substitute here.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the question before the Chair.
– I repeat what I may have to repeat a hundred times more within the. next three months, that those who are trying to bring about the defeat of the Government indirectly by voting against the recommittal of the clause, are stabbing in the back legislation which they have professed to support. Can either of the leaders of the Opposition show that they are acting in good faith on this occasion?
– The honorable member tried to prevent the leader of the Opposition from making an explanation on one occasion.
– With regard to that incident, I can say-
– The honorable member will not be in order in referring to an irrelevant matter.
– The proposal which the Government wish to substitute for the amendment carried by the honorable and learned member for Corinella reads as follows : -
The Court, before directing that preference shall be given to the members of an organization, shall be satisfied that the organization substantially represents the industry affected in point of the numbers and competence of its members.
The amendment would be a perfectly workable one. The condition which it is sought to impose is suggested by the experience gained in New South Wales, and the honorable member . for Dalley is practically refusing to extend to the workers, under the Federal
Bill, the advantages which they enjoy andrecognise as such under the State law. It is all very well for honorable members to shelter themselves behind the fact that the Bill does not entirely meet with their approval, and, on that ground, to refuse to give to their constituents the relief which they seek. I am perfectly sure that the unionists in the electorate represented by the honorable member for Dalley will not regard his conduct in a favorable light. He is prepared to throw on one side a measure which they would be glad to have even in an imperfect form. It was pointed out when the Bill was previously under discussion, that, if preference were not given to unionists, no incentive would be offered to workmen to join the. unions. If the non-unionists are to share in the benefits which have been obtained through the exertions of the unionists in the past, without being called upon to pay anything for them, the unions will gradually dwindle away for want of support. The honorable member for North Sydney proposed that the present unions should be done away with, and that organizations should be formed which would embrace all workers. In other words, the aim of that member and those associated with him is to entirely destroy the present unions, and at the same time to break down the Bill. If they had their way they would give the members of the unions the benefit of the provisions of the Bill only at the sacrifice of their political rights. The attitude assumed by honorable members opposite in connexion with this matter is most cowardly. The tactics adopted do not reflect credit upon those who have engaged in them, and I am sure that in the end they will operate to their disadvantage. I believe that some honorable members opposite have a high appreciation of justice and honour, and that they would prefer to see a straight-out fight rather than an insidious attempt such as is now being made to eject the Ministry from office. Those who are opposing the recommittal of the Bill are practically depriving the Government of the power to defend themselves. I regard the absence of the leaders of the Opposition as verv significant. If I were on the opposite side of the House I should scorn to sit behind leaders who had not the courage to come forward and openly attack the Ministry. What is to be thought of those gallant fighters for liberty who are not bold enough to face the situation openly, and declare their real object. They are practically attacking the Government from behind a hedge. They are sheltering themselves behind the proviso inserted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and are content in this way to bring about results which they are not prepared to secure by more legitimate means. The right honorable member for Swan has always been prepared to engage in a straight-out fight, and surely he cannot approve of the questionable methods now being adopted. He would cover himself with glory if he were to put to shame the leaders of the Opposition, who are taking up so unworthy a position. The honorable member for Dalley and other honorable members, who are opposing the proposal of the Government, will find it very difficult to justify their actions to their constituents. I say, without hesitation, that the workers of Australia, who are particularly interested in this Bill, would be pleased in six months’ time to have the Bill even with the condition suggested by the Government. Honorable members seem to think that the Government have no supporters in the Senate. They appear to forget that the Ministry are represented very strongly elsewhere, and that the representatives of the people in the other Chamber have a right to express their opinions, and to put their stamp upon this measure. Are not honorable members opposite rather afraid to afford honorable members of the Senate that opportunity, and is not their present action due to that fear? If so. they are adopting a cowardly attitude, and also an unpatriotic one. Those who are taking the leading part in the present attack upon the Government are pursuing a most unusual course, a course unparalleled in our political history.
An Honorable Member. - It is sandbagging.
-Undoubtedly it is sandbagging. They are attempting to sandbag the Government from behind a hedge. When I look into this matter closely, I cannot repress a feeling bordering upon contempt for the methods which are being adopted by honorable members opposite. This is the most cowardly attack that I have ever witnessed during my political experience.
– Take it quietly.
– Does not the honorable member know that I am here to lepresent the people, that they expect me to do my duty towards them, that I am anxious to discharge that duty, and that it is impossible for a man who is earnest in his work to witness without protest what is being perpetrated by honorable members opposite ?
– Apparently they have the numbers. That is why thev do not “ yabber.”
– Judging by the laugh of the honorable member for Macquarie, 1 fancy that the numbers are up or that there is a likelihood of them going up.
– The numbers will be upon our side before it is all over.
– Why do not honorable members opposite allow this Bill to get into Committee? Why do you object to the adoption of the ordinary Parliamentary procedure? Why do you take such a cowardly course upon the present occasion ?
– I can assure the honorable member that I am taking no such course. The honorable member must address the Chair.
– I did not say that you, sir, were adopting a cowardly course of action. I am satisfied that you would not do so. If I had to deal with gentlemen of your status I should have no reason to complain.
– It is disorderly to address the House in the second person, and again and again the honorable member has said “ you !” If he will address the House in the third person, or address the Chair he will be in order.
– I shall endeavour to do so. The present, however, is an exceptional occasion, and if I do not comply with the rules of parliamentary procedure it is a fault of the head and not of the heart. I again ask honorable members opposite why they will not allow this Bill to go into Committee? The answer is that they are afraid of doing so lest the workers should obtain an Arbitration Act to remedy their wrongs. The members of the J ate Government, who supported this Bill, professed to favour the principle of compulsory arbitration, but only one interpretation can be placed upon their action tonight. They are evidently determined to prevent the workers of Australia from securing a measure of this kind. Where is the right honorable member for Swan, the father of this character of legislation in Western Australia?
– The Western Australian Act did not contain a clause granting a preference to unionists.
– It would have worked more effectively had it contained such a provision. I am satisfied that if the supporters of the Government occupied the Opposition benches they would refuse to take refuge behind a hedge. They would fight fairly. Is it not a fact that todaycertain industrial unions are anxiouslyawaiting the passing of this measure? If it does not become law within the next twelve months, is it not probable that we shall experience a repetition of a terrible industrial struggle? The honorable member for Dalley has referred to this Bill as a “ mangled” Bill. I maintain that it is nothing of the kind. It is a measure which we desire to make as workable as possible, without any sacrifice of principle. Honorable members opposite have not the courage to submit a direct no-confidence motion. They seek to attain their end by means which are neither honorable nor just. The honorable member for Wentworth has had a good deal to say upon the question of majority rule, but I would point out that the proposal to grant a preference to unionists does not involve considerations of majority rule. The individual who glibly declares that the non-unionist has an equal right to be considered with the unionist understands little about unionism. The honorable member for Dalley has announced that he will oppose the Government because of their action in allowing trades unions to be divested of their political rights. It appears to me that because he cannot obtain a Bill which he deems to be perfect - a result which is practically impossible - he is prepared to oppose this measure. He affirms that we have refused to extend a preference to unionists.’ We have done nothing of the kind. The fact is that honorable members opposite seek to prevent us from granting to unionists that preference which the experience of the New South Wales Act has proved to be desirable. Those who are opposing this motion are really seeking to defeat the Bill as a whole. Honorable members of the Opposition are seeking, as the Prime Minister has said, to tear the very heart out of the Bill. If we accepted what they wish us to agree to, we should have but a mere skeleton of a Bill. In the absence of such a provision as the Government de sire to insert, this measure would be of no practical value in solving the difficulties which it is designed to remove. If we strike out a vital principle underlying the Bill, it can be of no use to those whom we are anxious to benefit. I am proud to think that the leader of the Labour Party - the Prime Minister of Australia - has sufficient backbone to say that- he will not accept that which would be a mere delusion. I am glad to think that he has the courage to stand up boldly for that which he believes to be right, and that those who support him are prepared to throw upon the opponents of this motion the responsibility ibr the loss of the Bill. I realize that the Prime Minister and those associated with him will be in a position to go before the workers for whose benefit this measure is designed, and to point out that those who voted against this motion voted really to defeat the Bill. We shall be able to appeal to the electors in New South Wales, Western Australia, and Victoria who have just been appealed to by members of the’ States Parliaments, as well as to those to whom an appeal is now being made in Queensland. The people of Victoria have shown that they have confidence in a party which is prepared to take up a certain stand, and why should we be afraid to face the electors, after the experiences of the last twelve months, as long as we fight for that which must be of advantage to the people, and give security to the industrial workers of the Commonwealth? I emphatically assert that the hostility to this motion is not creditable to those who pose as leading members of the Opposition. They are certainly not taking a courageous course, or one that would have commended itself to any Premier or leader of the Opposition who figures in the history of Australian Parliaments. It is now proposed in the Parliament of Australia to create the precedent of taking advantage of the procedure of the House to achieve an object which can be honorably secured only by the manly course of proposing a direct motion of want of confidence. It seems to be a case of “ win, tie, or wrangle “ with the Opposition. They are determined to win by unfair means if they cannot succeed by fair, methods ; but, come what may, we should prefer to leave the Treasury benches rather than resort to such tactics. We shall meet those who have been guilty of these tactics by-and-by, and I have no doubt that when we consult those’ who sent them here, they will find themselves in a far worse position than that which they occupy to-day.
– I had no intention to speak to this motion, but feel constrained to reply to some of the remarks made by the honorable member for Gwydir, who has urged that a fair and manly course should be adopted to secure the defeat of the Ministry. Personally it matters not to me which party occupies the Treasury benches. Even if the Government be defeated, I am not likely to secure office in the new Ministry. In speaking of the honorable way in which the present Government obtained office, the honorable member apparently overlooked the fact that the late Government introduced this Bill, and that they, were defeated because of the stand they took up when a certain amendment was proposed. He has apparently forgotten that when the present Government took office they failed to stand by the proposal which was responsible for their gaining the Treasury benches.
– That is not correct.
– It is well known that they did not stand by that amendment.
– That is not the question which is before the House.
– Honorable members opposite are strongly in favour of the Government proposal, but it seems to me that it practically differs but slightly from the amendment which was carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. If the Prime Minister were seeking to recommit the Bill, in order to propose that a straight-out preference to unionists should be given, one could admire his courage, but he is not doing anything of the kind. He simply wishes to give his supporters an opportunity to back down, and to be able to say to the worker. “ We tried to get the Bill recommitted, and did all we could to secure what you desired.” He would give the Court power to say whether an organization applying for a preference substantially represents a majority of those affected by the award.
– If the Government proposal is practically the same as the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, why is nol the honorable member prepared to support it?
– The Government proposal is simply that the Court shall be satisfied that a majority of those engaged in the industry ask for a preference.
– That is not the Government proposal.
– The proviso insetted on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, is as follows : -
And provided further, that no such preference shall be directed to be given unless the application for such preference is in the opinion of the Court approved by a majority of those affected by the award who have interests in common with the applicants..
The Prime Minister’s amendment is very similar. I am opposed to an injustice being done by law, and I am opposed to the recommittal of the Bill, because there is so very little difference between the two proposals.
– The honorable member is supporting the amendment, because he knows that if the matter be dealt with in the House the Opposition will have one more vote.
– The honorable member knows what is my attitude on this question. I am opposed to the granting of a preference to unionists. When unions devote their funds - as we have known them to do - to political purposes, men should not be compelled to join them. If the Labour Party had agreed that the provision as to the granting of preference should apply solely to an organization such as we proposed, free from all political influence, very little objection could have been taken to it. But what right have we to compel a man to join a union in order that he may be able to earn a livelihood ?
– No such provision is in the Bill.
– The honorable member calls himself a democrat, and yet he desires to give special privileges to a certain section of workers. That is rank Toryism, and honorable members opposite, who pose as democrats, are really the Tories of the day. The Government do not now propose that a preference shall be given free of any restrictions. If they did they would take up a manly course; but they simply wish to boast of their actions to their supporters, in whose eyes they have been from the first throwing dust. I have the interests of the workers at heart just as much as have honorable members opposite, and have always- shown my sympathy with them. I am not here to take certain rights away from one set of workers and to give them to another. From the outset I have been a consistent opponent of the Bill, and am determined to maintain that attitude. I am quite prepared to take the responsibility of voting for the amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Poynton) proposed -
That the debate be adjourned.
– How is it that we are to adjourn so early?
– If the honorable member desires to speak hecan do so.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Batchelor) read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I wish to draw the attention of the Government to some extraordinary work that is being done at the present time in the Post Office in connexion with a publication which is called a newspaper. I am told that the men are being kept at work for an extra period, for which they receive no pay, in order to put through some 150,000 copies of a publication called The Grip, or The Grit, or some such name as that. It is nothing but a bundle of advertisements, but it has been registered under the provisions of the Post and Telegraph Act as a newspaper. I wish the Government to look into the matter first of all, to see whether unfair advantage is not being taken of the Act ; and next, as to whether the men, when engaged at work for a longer period than would otherwise be the case, should not receive extra remuneration for it.
– I will bring the matter under the notice of my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and request him to look into it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 August 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040810_reps_2_21/>.