2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from nth August (vide page 4197), on motion by Mr. Watson -
That the Bill be now recommitted to a Com.mittee of the whole House for the reconsideration of clauses 4, 37, 38, 39, 46, 48, 52, 67, 68, and 90 and schedule B and the consideration of proposed new clauses 52A and 95A -
Upon which Mr. McCay had moved by way. of amendment -
That clause 48 be omitted from the clauses proposed to be recommitted.
– There is no reason why I should detain the House at any length by my contribution to this debate; but I feel that it is desirable that I should avail myself of the opportunity which now presents itself for explaining my position. That position, I might say, I stated to a very prominent member of the Opposition more than a week ago. I told him that I could riot vote against the proposed recommittal of clause 48. I was paired, as honorable members know, in favour of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
– -How did the honorable member get to know that the Opposition were going to do this?
– Yes. That is a very interesting question.
– At any rate, I did know it. I am now prepared to re-affirm the vote which I gave when clause 48 was under consideration in Committee. I cannot, however, vote with the honorable and learned member against the recommittal of the Bill for the reconsideration of the clause, because I feel that to do so would be unfair. I - admit that the action which has been taken by the Opposition is good party tactics; but I think that the Government are entitled to more consideration, and, personally, I shall do what I can to extend that consideration to them. There was nothing dishonorable in the way in which they obtained possession of the Treasury benches. Indeed, their action in the matter was distinctly honorable, and since they have occupied those benches they have, I think, done credit, not only to the party of which all except the Attorney-General are members, but to the Commonwealth as well. Although I am prepared to vote against the Government on this clause in Committee, I cannot give a vote against the recommittal of the Bill for the reconsideration of the clause, because I feel that to do so would be to act contrary to my instincts of fair play.
– I shall not detain the House very long, because I understand that it is desired to finish the debate to-day ; but if, as one of the steerage members of the Chamber, I may be permitted to make a few remarks on the question at issue, without being accused of speaking merely to give the Government an extra day’s pay - an imputation which has been made by some honorable members opposite - I desire to do so.
– That was not stated.
– They judge us by their own standard of action.
– It was stated by the supposed leader of the Opposition.
– The honorable member knows that there is not a member here who thinks it.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney stated- it, and be apologized last night for having done so.
– Does the honorable member expect me to make another apology? This is most ungenerous.
– All I said was that I hope that I shall not have the imputation cast against me if I make a few remarks, even though I may be in the steerage.
– There is no reproach in being in the steerage.
– No; but it has been spoken of as a reproach.
– It does not affect one’s moral character.
– There, is no need to review the whole history of this measure. The trend of industrial development in Australia, and in other parts of the world, for years past has caused industrial organizations to recognise that a better method for the settling of disputes than the barbarous method of striking is to refer them to courts of conciliation and arbitration; and to enable this to be done, the Bill which we have under consideration has been framed, having as its foundation the recognition of industrial organizations. It will be only organizations which can bring disputes before the proposed Arbitration Court, and coming to the particular clause about which so much has been said; it will be only to organizations that preference can be given. Whether the Act recognises the existing unions, or requires the formation of other, and, perhaps, bogus organizations, whatever preference may be given by the Court must be given to organizations. It is useless to deny that the proviso which has been so much discussed during the past day or two was inserted in clause 48 only to kill the Bill. I do not think any intelligent man who knows the circumstances would deny that. A number of honorable members, indeed, have said openly that they would give all the opposition they could to the measure in order to. wreck it.
– Not many honorable members have said that.
– The honorable members I speak of are sufficiently numerous to enable the Opposition to carry the amendment now before the House. Without their assistance it could not be carried. I am not, however,finding fault with those honorable members, nor do I find fault with the members of the Opposition who are now taking a certain course in order to defeat the Bill, and to throw out the Government. They are acting within their rights under the Standing Orders, and I hope that when those on this side are in opposition, and are fighting against honorable members opposite, exception will not be taken ‘to our tactics.
– They are not in our places yet.
– No ; but I am speaking of the time when they will be here. If they think that the course which they are now taking is a better way to defeat the Government than to carry a direct vote of censure, they have a perfect right to take it. At the same time, I admit that those who have declared themselves to be opposed to the Bill are justified in attempting to wreck it. But while I admire the conduct of those who are openly opposed to the measure, my feelings are “different with reregard to those who profess to be in favour of it, but who have voted to try to kill it. The Government desire that preference shall be given to the labour organizations, because those organizations are giving up their most powerful weapon against oppression - the right to strike. The organizations are willing to give up that weapon in order to secure the benefits which they think they will receive from the judicial settlement of industrial disputes, and I think that in return for the surrender I speak of, they should be given the fullest preference asked for in the Bill. It has been said that, if preference is given to unionists, nonunionists will starve; and we have been told that only one man in seven is a unionist. But how will it affect the non-unionists to give preference to unionists? Let us suppose that there are 700,000 workers in the Commonwealth, of whom only 100,000 are unionists. ‘ If the Court gave preference to the 100,000, would the other 600,000 be thereby thrown out of work ? To say so would be ridiculous. I do notthink any honorable member would make such a statement. It is true that the majority of the workers of Australia are not organized ; but they are fast becoming so.
– In New South Wales more than half of the members of the trades in which unions exist are members of the unions.
– Yes. Then, too, the great bulk of the shearers, the seamen, and the wharf labourers of Australia, are organized. The members of those three classes could obtain preference under the clause as it stands now. But my point is that, although the majority of the workers of Australia are not members of industrial organizations, the experience of the last ten years shows that they are drifting in that, direction. It seems to me that the proviso was inserted in the clause in order to hinder this tendency to organize, because it is seen that the organizations are realizing that political as well as industrial action is necessary for their salvation. It is because it is realized that we are prepared to fight politically as well as industrially, that an attempt is being made to prevent the further growth and extension of our organizations. In spite, however, of all the opposition that is now being directed to the labour movement, it will gather strength. The political organization, to which I belong has been subjected to the very strongest antagonism, and the most despicable methods have been adopted to break it down, but its growth has been stimulated by oppression. One of the results is that seven out of the nine representatives of Queensland in this House belong to the Labour Party. One other member - I refer to the honorable and learned member’ for Darling Downs - is a strong sympathizer with many of our aims and objects; and the only representative of Queensland who is opposed to the political aspirations of the Labour Party is the honorable member for Oxley. What was the result of the anti-Socialist laws passed in Germany under Bismarck? At the time that legislation was adopted, only 800,000 Socialist votes were recorded, but within ten years the number had increased to 4,000,000.
– What caused the increase ?
– The oppressive laws directed against the Socialists.
– Was it not the excessive military expenditure?
– No. I am surprised that the representatives of New South Wales should take up an attitude of opposition to the Bill. In Victoria, the Wages Boards, control only a very small number of industries, whilst in Queensland, where manufacturing and other industries are being developed to a very large extent under the Tariff,- there are no restrictions upon employers, who can sweat their workmen as much as they please. A similar condition of affairs obtains in South Australia and Tasmania. In New South Wales, the Arbitration Act compels employers and employes to submit their case to the Arbitration Court, and in most instances the former are required to pay much higher wages than those prevailing under the ordinary competitive system. The result is, that the New South Wales employers are being placed at a great disadvantage, as compared with manufacturers in other States who are subject to no restriction as to the terms and conditions of employment. Honorable members must know that the effect of clause 48, as it now stands, will be to render it impossible to give preference to unionists, and that it will practically kill the Bill. The object of some of those honorable members who are supporting the proviso introduced at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, is to weaken the unions; but if the Bill is passed in an ineffective form, the opposite result will be brought about. If this Parliament refuses to afford the workers the means of redress that would be given by a good arbitration law, they will organize their unions more strongly than ever, in order that they may be able to attain their ends by means of strikes. If honorable members believe that the methods of the strike are to be preferred to those that are provided for under the Bill, I can quite understand the position they take up, but, otherwise, it is difficult to conceive how they expect to accomplish any good purpose by rendering the Bill ineffective. If the Government are defeated on the present occasion, they will have no recourse but to resign-. As I have previously stated, I do not blame honorable members opposite for trying to defeat the Government. They are quite within their rights, although I think they might have adopted fairer methods of accomplishing their object. I am very pleased that a Labour Government has been able to retain the’ Treasury benches for even such a short time as they have done, because I believe that their administration has reflected credit upon ‘ the labour movement, and has established the party in the public confidence; They have taken an honorable and straightforward course in connexion with this matter, and I hope that their successors will follow an equally commendable line of conduct.
Mr. RONALD (Southern Melbourne).In dealing with this amendment, honorable members are required to keep rigidly to the question before the Chair, and I think we may congratulate ourselves upon the fact that you, sir, whilst allowing a certain amount of latitude, have displayed appropriate firmness in exacting respect for the rules of debate. Still, whilst forms of procedure and rules of debate have to be recognised, we have to pay some regard to the laws of reason, logic, and ethics, and we are entitled to examine the motives which underlie any action that may be taken upon an occasion of this kind. The proviso introduced at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella has for its avowed object not the amending of the Bill, but the ending of the Bill. Members of the Opposition, after having voted for the second reading of the Bill, and having affirmed its general principles, are now seeking, by’ stealth and stratagem, to make it null and void, and the politest phrase I can use to describe their conduct is that of unmitigated political hypocrisy. Their conduct reminds me of the practice which used to be followed by ship-owners who had obsolete and useless ships. After insuring them, they sent them to sea with explosives in the hold, so placed that when fired they would knock the bottom out of the ships and sink them. Some honorable members opposite have been guilty of unparalleled hypocrisy. Whilst professing to approve of the principle of the Bill, they assisted to eject the Deakin Ministry and put the present Government in their place, and they are now seeking to retain in the measure a provision which will make it utterly useless. Such conduct is anything but fair, straightforward, or manly, and I would urge honorable members not to further degrade the traditions of Parliament. If any honorable members are opposed to the principle of conciliation and arbitration, let them, as men, stand up and say so. Without a provision for preference to unionists the Bill would be utterly useless. Why should not preference be allowed? As an illustration of the position in which the Opposition would place all unionists, I would remind the House of a short but beautiful story told of Beethoven, who, after he had composed . his great choral cantata, became stone deaf. When that cantata was produced in Berlin, he acted as conductor, and as the vast audience rose to cheer to the echo his magnificent production, some one turned him round to see the effect of his handiwork. But, although he had composed the music, he never heard a note of it. And so with trades unions. They have brought conciliation and arbitration within the sphere of practical politics, and now, forsooth, the
Opposition propose that they shall not participate in the fruits of their years and years of self-denial. Trades unionists who have brought about such a state of affairs that men have become rational in politics, and desire to settle industrial disputes by rational means - men who have fought far more than we have done, although we represent them, to achieve this result - are not to participate in the fruit of centuries of toil, of thought, and of travail towards peace and prosperity.
– They have already secured the fruit of their toil.
– They are to have the privilege of striking, and of endeavouring to stand up for their rights just as any other disorganized section of the community might do.
– And the privilege of being half-starved.
– The privilege of being half-starved in the process. The condition of affairs which the Opposition seek to bring about would be confusion worse confounded. Why should we be a party to such hypocrisy ? If we are opposed to conciliation and arbitration, let us say so in a straightforward way ; let us have no hypocrisy in such matters. Let us rather have that honesty, sincerity, and earnestness, which is acknowledged to be an ornament to men in any sphere of activity. If honorable members opposite are opposed to the principle of conciliation and arbitration, let them have the decency and honesty to frankly fight against it. As a matter of fact, however, they voted for the second reading of the Bill, and by so doing committed themselves to an affirmation of the general principle. That being so, what must the world think of these honorable members who, giving with the one hand, wish to take back with the other? I was the first to use the .scriptural quotation in this debate, “ If a son ask bread of any of you that is a father will he give him a stone ? Or if he ask a fish will he for a fish give him a serpent “ ? I said that the workers asked for bread, and it was proposed to give them a stone ; that they asked for a fish and the Opposition would give them a serpent. That has been repeated again and again.- The workers ask for bread, and the Opposition are offering them a stone, but, instead of giving it to them, are throwing it at their heads.
– What are the nonunionists receiving?
– All that the unionists have gained for them.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh has anticipated my reply. The non-unionists would have participated in the good results that we hoped to secure from the passing of this measure. They have toiled not, neither have they spun for these things. They hope to reap where they have not sown, and to gather where they have not strawed. It is permissible that they should share with others the fruits of what has been the work of centuries ; but it is not reasonable that they alone should reap and enjoy those fruits. It is right that at this stage, in speaking of trades unions, . we should consider what they have done. Those . who know anything of sociology, and especially those who have a knowledge of the causes responsible for that amelioration of the lot of man which has taken place during the last century, must admire the splendid work that has been done by trades unions. When one recalls the position of the workers in the earlier years of the nineteenth century, and remembers that the average working day was then one of fourteen hours, while to-day it is only one of nine or ten hours - when one remembers that something like 90 per cent, of the workers were toiling seven days in the week, and had no time to attend to the sacred duties of domestic life, no time to devote to culture, education, or recreation - what must he say of trades unionism? The workers of those days were as much galley slaves as if they had been chained to their oars or their work. I have lived in the great shipbuilding centres of the old world, and have witnessed the effect of piece-work and other abominations in cities where there was no limitation of working hours. I worked among these men on Saturday afternoons, and know that when Sunday came round they were prostrated by their labours, and unfit for anything but the mere animal repose that their systems demanded.
– Clause 48.
– This state of affairs has ceased because of unionism. The connexion between it and clause 48 is that those who wish to prevent the reconsideration of that clause are seeking to shut out unions from the benefits of the Bill,- and would deny that they have been one of the biggest factors for the amelioration of the lot of man that the world has ever known. Greater than our churches, our Parliaments, our press, or any other institution, has been the combination on the part of men to lighten the load of life, to brighten its conditions, and to make it worth living. Under the conditions which the Opposition would impose life would not be worth living.
– Unionists now wish to spoil their career, by seeking to stand on velvet.
– The honorable member for Robertson would spoil their career by feeding them on stones.
– That is so. A great naturalist has said that the very essence of existence is the struggle and the fight. That is true. If we could bring about such a state of affairs that there would be nothing for which to fight, the world would be a poor, monotonous place. The struggle and the fight are the very essence of life. But there are higher aspirations than even the betterment of the working classes for which we may fight, and we should endeavour to rise higher and higher ; “ Excelsior ! “ being our motto. If the Opposition have their way, however, unionists will be shut out from the benefits of this Bill. The cry on which we shall go to the country, and which will cause us to come back with an increase in our numbers, is that, if the Opposition have their way, those who have wrought, fought, and struggled for such a condition of affairs that there will be no strife, no war, and no animosity, are not to participate in the realization of the great industrial ideal which has been kept before them for at least a century. We can be no party to anything of that kind. I sincerely trust that honorable members of the Opposition will throw aside their rags of hypocrisy, and say straightforwardly that they do not like this measure, that they do not believe in Conciliation and Arbitration, and that they will adopt the direct and open course of voting against the principle rather than the subtle devious methods to which they are now resorting - giving with .one hand and taking back with the other.
– T’“e are seeking to amend the Bill.
– On the contrary, the Opposition refuse to permit it to be amended.
– We are told that the Opposition wish to preserve the amendment which has been made. We have to remember; however, that a Bill is only a means to an end. The Bill is not in itself the end. It may be possible to improve the measure, but will it be the better for the amendment which has been carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella ? Will it be followed by better fruits? Will it, in fact, be of any service whatever ?
– It will give bread instead of a stone to the non-unionists.
– The honorable member will surely allow that the working-men know what is bread, and what is a stone. Surely he would not dictate to them the difference between the two. What might be a stone from the honorable member’s point of view, would be bread from the point of view of the workers, and vice versa. The workers are the best judges of that which is for their good.
– They ought to be proud to have as their champion the honorable member for Robertson.
– Quite so. The people know what is best for themselves. In all matters of life and death, we appeal to the common sense of men. The late William Ewart Gladstone, who was one of the greatest students of mankind the world has ever seen and a better judge of human nature than any other man of whom I have read, or with whom I have come in contact, laid down the rule that a true verdict on any question of fact or policy is more likely to be obtained from among the masses than from among the classes. He pointed out that as we ascend in the social scale, we generally find a greater percentage of faddists, and that that fact is recognised in our jury system. We do not choose men - specialists - from the classes to deal with a matter of life or death ; we select our juries from the masses. In such cases ordinary common-sense men are availed of, because it is from such men rather than from those among the classes that it is possible to obtain a verdict on matters involving the exercise of common sense. That great principle applies to the matter now under consideration. The workers know what they require. They desire Conciliation and Arbitration, and know that union is absolutely indispensable, not only to secure the passing of this measure, but to enable it to work satisfactorily. Those who are averse to granting preference to unionists also know very well what object they have in view in opposing the Government proposal. They know that this Bill will be rendered nugatory if the clause be passed as it stands. Preference to unionists is to be denied in order that men may despair of the purpose of union. If the object of the amendment now before the House were to secure a reasonable amendment of the Bill we should gladly entertain it. We are exceedingly anxious to conserve the rights of non-unionists, but to conserve those rights at the cost of the destruction of unionism would surely be a new method of reform. If non-unionists have rights, and we do not deny that they have, have not unionists also rights? The right of the nonunionist is to join a union. That is the one right which every man possesses. He cannot remain isolated ; no man can live to himself in this world. Unionism is in ievery matter the very essence of progress. If one desires to obtain any ideal, even if it be a conservative ideal, he has to form a union, and we are aware that even the conservative party have unions. We know what the result will be if we discourage the formation of unions. So long as we encourage unions, and encourage those unions to put their trust in the law, so long as we show men that they may organize and agitate, and reason one with another for the betterment of their conditions, so long shall we take away the motive that has bred anarchists and others who have despaired of gaining any reform by law. The day will come when Governments will thank God that men thought of entering into union, and will recognise that unions have more or less a high purpose in view. What we have to do is not to set ourselves against unions, but to endeavour to guide them. But honorable members opposite wish to destroy trades unions. They seek by stealth and subtlety to compel the working men of Australia to lose all faith in unions, to embrace anarchy, and to appeal to the exercise of brute force. They do not believe in government by ordinary progression. These are some of my objections to the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I think that the alternative proposal of the Government is all that is needed to preserve the admitted and undoubted rights of non-unionists.
– But it goes too far.
– My only objection to it is that it goes too far. No one will deny that we have exhausted the resources of compromise in our endeavours to meet our friends opposite. Now, I desire them to answer this question - “ Are they in favour of the application of the principle of conciliation and arbitration to industrial disputes?” As I have said again and again, the general principle, the cosmothetic ideal of arbitration, is to substitute a rational legal and sane way of settling disputes for the old time-dishonoured method of deciding them by force and strife. We desire to bring about that better time depicted by the late poet laureate, when he sang -
That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.
That divine event is represented by the peace which will exist between man and man, class and class, and nation and nation, when strikes are spoken of as amongst the things of the past, and when in the archives of an ancient people, future generations will read of industrial animosity and strife, of which the world knows naught. This Bill marks the beginning of that era. Our gospel is one of peace, progress, and rational development. Those’ who believe in the old time-dishonored method of settling industrial disputes by brute force are endeavouring to nullify our efforts to give to the people a machine which shall render strikes and industrial strife for ever impossible.
– The principle of compulsory arbitration will continue to be upon its trial in New South Wales until 1906.
– I am often assured that legislation of this character is yet upon its trial. Let me remind the House that it has been tried and not found wanting. My indictment against the alternative policy, is that it has been tried in all ages, and amongst all people, and has been found utterly wanting. The alternative must lie between the old laissez faire method of allowing things to right themselves, and the new method of interference by the Government for the good of the whole community. It is true that no good can be conferred upon the community without cost. Incidental evils accompany every reform. But we ought not to be discouraged upon that account. Undoubted hardships were imposed upon fhe aged workers of Victoria in connexion with the Factories Act in which the Legislature made provision for the payment of a minimum wage. No sane man would ever dream of looking for a perfect instrument which was framed by human hands. There is nothing perfect in this world. I freely admit that there are incidental evils connected with the adoption of legislation of this character. But T hold that the general trend of such legislation is for good. That fact has been established by experience. I trust that honorable members will discard the sham and hypocrisy of pretending to give this Bill a fair trial, whilst inserting in it a provision which will destroy its whole intention and purpose. Not long ago, I read a very fascinating story, ir c! c one which was quite worthy of the imagination of a French sensationalist. It related how a courtesan in Paris had sent to heir rival a beautiful bouquet, in which a miasmatic poison was so concealed that, when the string of the bouquet was broken, the fumes escaped and killed the recipient. That is what the opponents of this measure seek to do. They pretend that they are giving to the workers of Australia a beautiful bouquet, in the shape of this Bill, knowing full well that the means of its own destruction are contained within it. The Government propose to induce nonmembers of unions - not to compel them - to join organizations where there will be a rational development of their aims and ideals. The very essence of unionism is progress, order, and good government. Honorable members are the living representatives of unionism in one phase or another. Without unionism, we should have no State. Without unionism, those engaged in industry would be merely a mob. The final intention and purpose of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is to destroy that in which the workman glories.
– Organization of the workers is the basic principle of the Bill.
– The basic principle of the- Bill is the organization of the workers.
– But not necessarily trades unions.
– Yes it is, necessarily.
– That brings me to a point which otherwise I might have forgotten. No difficulty would be experienced in circumventing the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, if it were inserted in the Bill. Every Victorian representative knows that in connexion with the Trades Hall there is a political labour league and the trades unions proper. There is a distinction between the two organizations.
– A distinction without a difference.
– Exactly. Honorable members opposite wish us to perpetuate that hypocrisy by compelling men to draw a technical distinction between the political labour league and the trades union. If men were organized for the purposes of this Bill only-
– The party to which the honorable member belongs refused to insert such a provision in the Bill.
– We did not. We say that, however reasonable the provision may appear from some points of view, it would constitute a piece of hypocrisy. We have no desire to perpetuate shams of that sort. Nevertheless, such a distinction could be drawn without seriously inconveniencing us. We wish the world to know that we are inspired by high, noble, and patriotic motives - that we wish to benefit all mankind. Whilst men declare in their programme the rules and objects of their organizations, and the methods by which they seek to attain their ends, those who disagree with them have nothing to fear. But when we drive them into secret political combinations there is danger. We do not wish to be obliged to carry on a dual organization merely for the satisfaction of those who believe that there ought to be a technical distinction between trades unions and .organizations which are constituted solely, for the purposes of this Bill. I sincerely hope that the proposal of the Government will appeal to the rational and moderate members of this House, to those who are prepared to confirm their consistency, who after professing to be favorable to the principle of compulsory arbitration, and wishing the ship bon voyage, are not prepared to send her away with a dangerous explosive concealed on board for the purpose of wrecking her. Away with such contemptible, sinister methods in politics. Let the opponents of this Bill declare themselves. They had an opportunity of voting against it upon the motion for the second reading of the measure. Immediately after its general principle has been affirmed, honorable members opposite seek by a hypocritical arid sinister amendment to destroy the benefits which would accrue from its operation. I trust that we, shall never again descend to such base tactics in politics. I hope that in the future we shall be called upon to face men who are prepared to nail their colours to the mast - that we shall know them by their second-reading speeches. I trust that if they are opposed to the principle which is contained in any measure, they will honestly declare themselves, but that they will not, by indirect methods, seek to insert within its four corners a provision which is calculated to destroy its efficacy, and to render it of less value than the paper upon which it is printed. The fate of the Ministry hangs upon the decision of the House in this matter. I takeit that in discussing the act of any man or body of men we are at liberty to take motives into consideration. I cannot see how otherwise we can logically discuss any action. I am perfectly satisfied that the action of honorable members opposite is directed not against the Ministry particularly, but rather against the Bill itself. If conciliation and arbitration legislation is inevitable, honorable members opposite are determined to delay it as long as possible ; and such a motive for their present action is base and contemptible, lacking, as it does, honesty and” courage. I can admire that heroic toryism which declares boldly against all innovation ; but I find no response in my heart for a toryism which seeks to retard legislation of this kind by hypocritical professions of friendship. I have no sympathy with those whose only object is to render this Bill absolutely useless. Their sole idea is to ridicule legislative methods of dealing with industrial strife. They profess to make concessions, but take precious good care to load the measure with amendments which can lead to only circumlocution and legal technicalities. The amendment shows the mark of the cloven foot.
– Does the honorable member refer to the Government proposal ?
– I am not condemning the Government proposal.
– I thought all the honorable member’s remarks applied to the Government proposal, and I regarded them as very apt.
– I cannot supply the honorable member with ordinary intelligence if nature has failed to do so. For the last twenty minutes- 1 have been speaking in condemnation of -the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and yet the honorable member for Robertson does not seem to be aware of the fact. If the cumbersome amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella has any final purpose in the mover’s mind, it is to make work for lawyers; but I hope that simplicity and directness will always characterize our measures. Sir George Grey once said that an Act of Parliament should be so drafted that he who Tuns might read; our whole aim should be simplicity and perspicuity. We ought to say on the face of a Bill what we mean, .and nothing but what we do mean ; there should be no provision which an ordinary artisan juryman is not as well able as the most skilled and learned lawyer, to construe and apply. This amendment, which emanates from the legal profession, is evidently intended to give work to the lawyers by causing endless disputes and delays. If that should be the result of this legislation, workmen will despair of the law, and fall back on the old direct method of strikes. If we wish to make the measure useless - if we wish to disgust workingmen with legislative remedies for their grievances - there is no better way than by raising intricate, complex questions, such as are foreshadowed by the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The Government, in their proposal, have hit upon the proper phrase when they provide that an organization shall “ substantially represent the industry affected in point of number and competency of its members.” I am perfectly well aware that lawyers will argue and make trouble - and exact fees - no matter how clear and plain a law may be. I can quite see that even the proposal of ,the Government may lead to days of expensive argument as to the meaning of “substantially represent.” That, however, is part of the price we must pay for the evil of having lawyers, rather than the result of endeavouring to say exactly what we mean. The proposal of the Government satisfies all that is openly demanded by honorable members opposite, and, in every respect, is infinitely superior to that of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. At the same time, whether intentionally or not, the clause drafted by the Government places certain obligations oh trades unions, by the use of the words “ competency of its members.” My great belief in trades unions in the past has been based on an idea that there should be some such obligation - that a trades union, properly organized and properly worked, ought to take care that those who become members have properly served their apprenticeship and learnt their trade. This is a highly important matter to which great prominence ought to be given. An onus is thrown upon trades unions of seeing that all the members are first-class tradesmen- competency as well as numerical strength ought to enter into consideration. The Government proposal is an amendment in the literal sense of the word, while the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella does not amend, but seeks to end - to make null and void the whole measure. Under the circumstances one would have been glad to see a little political heroism. We should have liked to see honorable members opposite come boldly to the front and declare themselves against conciliation and arbitration root and branch.
Give me th’ avowed, th’ erect, the manly foe,
Bold I can meet, perhaps may turn his blow ;
But, of all plagues, good Heaven, thy wrath can send,
Save, save, oh, save me from the candid friend !
Those who are now relaying the candid friend seek to insert an amendment which will sap the very vitals of the measure; and my voice shall always be raised in protest against the hypocrisy of those who in public life have not the courage oi” their convictions. But the tide of public opinion is against honorable members opposite, while it is flowing with those who advocate this legislation. When the day comes, there will be heard a rising murmur like that of distant wind, gathering in volume and strength; and the oftener the people are appealed to. the greater, and the more sure and certain will be the sound, until it bursts upon us with a roar like that of the ocean on the beach. The people desire a rational method of settling industrial disputes ; they are tired of the animosity and strife of social war. The people believe that the reign of peace is at hand ; that this measure is an augury of a better age, when we shall regard industrial strife as a quaint relic of barbarism and fossilized toryism. I trust that the well-worded proposal of the Government will receive the unbiased consideration of this House. I confidently leave the decision in the hands of all fair and unprejudiced members, whatever opinions they may entertain in regard to the- existing Government. In taking my present attitude, I have no personal end to serve. I neither have, nor expect, pension, post, or pay, from one party or the other. My only desire is to pass a Bill that will redound to the credit of the Commonwealth Parliament. I hope that in ages yet to come, measures such as these will be a worthy monument of our patriotism, and that, on their being read by our descendants, it will be admitted that . we did what we’ could to avoid unnatural and disastrous struggles between the classes and the masses. I trust that it may then be said that we brought into existence a moral political force which tended to the settlement of disputes for all time, so that Australia may justify its appellation of Australia Felix, the land where there is no industrial war and, God grant, no national war.
– Is the honorable member opposed to war?
– The honorable member ought to know my feelings on that subject. I am a servant of the Prince of Peace, and wear His garb ; and, therefore, I am against all strife and war. I ask honorable members to bring their best powers to bear upon the. consideration of. the relative merits of the two proposals. I leave the question to be settled by men. who are not tied body and soul to party - I leave it to those men to decide which proposal will commend itself to posterity as being in harmony with the tenor of the Bill. My only object is to have a measure which, characterized bypolitical consistency and moral intent, will promote the greatest happiness of the greatest number of the citizens of the Commonweal th .
– I have not a word to say against honorable members who have openly declared themselves as opposed to compulsory arbitration, but I am bound to say that some honorable members, who have from time to time in this Chamber told us that they favoured trade unionism and compulsory arbitration, are now taking a course which is not honorable to themselves as politicians, and which is not fair to trades unionism in Australia.
– They are coming out in their true colours now.
– As the honorable member says, certain honorable members are coming out now in their true colours, and they will find that they have failed to convince the workmen of Australia that they any longer believe in the principle of compulsory arbitration.
– It is just as well to have them placed.
– About two years ago declared protectionists in this Chamber claimed that a preference, in many cases of forty per. cent., should be given to Australian industries. They believed in preference for the Australian producer as against the foreign producer. They then contended that that preference should be given without any qualification whatever. It did not occur to them to ask that those who did not believe in their protectionist policy should be consulted before that preference was given. When the same honorable members are now asked to accord a preference to those whose duty it is to toil in the industries which they have protected, we find that they are prepared to cross the bridge and to follow the arch enemy of their whole political faith in an endeavour to destroy the very Bill which grants the preference. What does the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella mean? It entirely destroys the Arbitration Bill as a compulsory measure. It has been admitted by every honorable member that this legislation, to be successful, must be based upon compulsion and trade unionism. Of what use can we expect this measure to be when we render it impossible for the Arbitration Court to enforce its awards? The amendment will operate over the whole of the Commonwealth, and if an award is asked for involving a preference to unionists, it will be impossible for the Court to discover the opinions of all the people throughout Australia who may be concerned in the matter until the Question raised will have been forgotten. That is not merely my opinion, but it is the opinion which has been expressed by the present leader of the Opposition, the right honorable member for East Sydney. When the preference clause was last before the Committee, and the Government accepted the first part of the amendment submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, the right honorable member for East Sydney said that he was glad the Government had accepted the amendment, because it was something definite.- Yet he doubted whether it would not destroy the clause as it stood. I shall do thei right honorable gentleman no injustice, because I propose to quote exactly the words he used. At page 2689 of Hansard, I find that the right honorable gentleman said :
I am thoroughly in favour of the amendment, and am glad that the Government have accepted it. But I wish to point out that it would practically have the effect of hampering the operation of the whole of the clause.
– Who said that ?
– The leader of the Opposition.
– Which one?
– The right honorable, member for East Sydney.
– I am not surprised at an v thing he says.
– The right honorable gentleman further said :
It will involve a harvest for our literary friends that I do not grudge, but the time which the Court would have to allow, in order to permit any one living at the Gulf of Carpentaria, or in the pearl fishery settlements, or other remote parts, to come in, would lead to so much delay that when it expired the whole matter would probably have been forgotten.
Yet to-day the right honorable gentleman leads a party who are prepared to prevent the Government from having a reconsideration of this amendment, which he admits will nullify the whole effect of the clause. Honorable members are prepared to refuse to the present Government the right to have the amendment reconsidered in order that it may be put into some practical shape. The right honorable member for East Sydney and his party are evidently determined to wreck the Bill. Has not the right honorable gentleman on many occasions, as Premier of New South Wales, found it necessary to recommit clauses which, in his opinion, required further consideration and remodelling; and was he ever refused an opportunity to reconsider a clause which he believed required amendment? To prevent a reconsideration of this amendment in the way proposed, is to prevent a discussion upon its merits or demerits. Apart from the honorable and learned member who moved the amendment, not one honorable member has attempted in any way to justify the position taken up in this regard. I repeat that if the preference clause, as amended, is adhered to it will render the Bill inoperative. Honorable members who have had any experience of the working of arbitration laws will know well that if a preference is not given to trades unionists, it will be possible, on the one hand, for any employer to supplant every man in his employ who has stood up for what he believes to- be his rights in connexion with a particular dispute, by engaging other labour to take his place; and, on the other hand, it will permit of equal injustice being done to an employer. Let me say, in reply to those who have stated that the trade unionists; of Australia do not represent the majority of the workers, that that is only because in many parts of the Commonwealth workmen have had no opportunity to organize. Although a great many are not absolutely within, the ranks of trade unions, the very great majority of working people believe in the essence and principle of trade unionism. I am satisfied that not 10 per cent, of the working people of Australia would openly declare themselves against trades union principles. Honorable members who, from time to time, have admitted freely that trades unionism has done much, not only for those within its ranks, but for workmen generally over the civilized globe, are now prepared to deny to trades unionists a fair meed of justice under this Bill, though the workers are prepared to give up every weapon that they have hitherto exercised to secure their due. Where it is popular to do so, they say that they believe in trades unionism, but they are nevertheless prepared by legislation to do everything they can to prevent its success in ameliorating the conditions of the workers. We know what struggling there has * been in the past for the rights of trades unionists. Men have had to secure those rights by the only weapon in their power. They have, by strikes from time to time, been successful in improving the condition of the masses ; but because of the turmoil and distress necessarily occasioned by the use of the methods which they were forced to adopt to secure their just rights they have been told time and” again that they should go to Parliament to obtain a legitimate means of ameliorating their condition through the laws of (heir country. Now, when they are following the advice given them, and are endeavouring to secure necessary reforms by legislation, they are blocked in. every direction. They are blocked here, not in connexion with a measure which provides direct reform for the benefit of the working people in Australia, but a measure which goes only so far as to set up a Court of Justice to hear their claims, and to which they can appeal for just conditions. The Court, it is admitted, will be absolutely unbiased, and it is expected to put an end to industrial struggles. With regard, again, to the question of preference, honorable members are aware that it can only be given where organization has taken place, and men have registered their unions. How can we give preference to those who will not take the trouble to organize and combine? The object of the amendment against which I protest is simply to provide, when trades unionists, who have taxed themselves to defray the expenses connected with their organization, have secured an award, that, before any pre- ference in employment can be given to them, every man throughout Australia who has not taken the trouble to organize, in order to secure an amelioration of his conditions, is to be allowed to say whether or not only unionists shall be employed. If honorable members insist upon carrying the Bill without any modification of the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, we may as well throw it under the table at once. The present position has,’ in my opinion, been reached because the Government, in order to meet the views of the so-called friends of compulsory arbitration, have yielded too much. On three important principles in connexion with this legislation they have accepted two amendments. They have yielded to these so-called friends of compulsory arbitration only to be stabbed in the back when the moment has arrived at which it is thought that that can be done effectively. We have had honorable members saying that, they believe in trades unionism so long as trades unionism can be carried on on the voluntary basis. In my experience of trades unionism, whilst it is a voluntary matter for a man to join a trades union, once he has become a member of it his voluntary action ceases absolutely, and he yields up his individuality for the benefit of his union. There is no voluntary principle in trades unionism in the full sense of the term. Let us consider the history of voluntary arbitration in these States. It has been tried time and again, and has succeeded so long as the awards given have suited the employer, but it has failed when the award has been given in favour of the workers. Reviewing the legislative history of the subject we find that the right honorable leader of the Opposition introduced legislation providing for voluntary arbitration in New South Wales, and that after three years’ experience of that legislation, such was the ineffectiveness of the Arbitration Court provided, that the State Parliament absolutely refused to vote the money necessary to carry it on. Iri view of the results of past experience, we have come now to ask the Federal Parliament to give us a measure providing for compulsory arbitration. As. men of common sense, we have come to the conclusion that this legislation can only be successful with the- enforcement of awards and preference to trades unionists. Just as no effect can be obtained from other legislation unless it applies compulsion, or gives preference, to some section or to the whole community, so it is with this legislation. To give preference to a- trades unionist without hampering him in any way is to do only that which is fair and reasonable. The present Ministry attempted to carry into law a measure which was fathered by the last Government, and I ask whether honorable members opposite would have attempted to defeat that Government by tactics such as they are now adopting. The Bill, as introduced by the late Government, did not confain the proviso which was inserted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella; but if that proviso had been inserted while the measure was under the control of that Government, would honorable members opposite have tried to prevent them from securing the recommittal of the measure in order that the clause might be reconsidered? I say that they would not. In my opinion, it would be far better for honorable members to come out into the open, and to meet the Government with a clear, vote of censure. Why do they not challenge the Government upon their politics, or upon their administration? They know that they are not able to do so. The only fault which . can be found with the present Administration is that they have yielded too much to their opponents, and in order to secure the passage of this particular measure, have accepted amendment after amendment in the endeavour to meet those whom they thought were prepared to proceed some distance along the road of reform with them. Honorable members opposite cannot challenge any act of administration by this Government, nor can they be taunted with having gained possession of the Treasury benches by unfair means. The late Government announced that they would accept defeat upon a straight out vote in regard to the Bill, and they made no attempt to get honorable members to reconsider the position. I do not think that the vote would have been reversed if they had done so, but I feel certain that no attempt would have been made to prevent a reconsideration. The Labour Party would’ not have met the last Government with an amendment such as that now before the House. The intention of honorable members opposite is clear! They wish to destroy the Bill, and to defeat the application of the principle of compulsory arbitration. Those who vote for the amendment range themselves as men who are opposed to the peace ful solution of industrial troubles by a judicial tribunal.
-I wish to say a few words on this question, and I trust that I shall not wander from clause 48 in doing so. The honorable and learned member for Corinella, whilst professing to be in favour of the Bill, has moved an amendment, the effect of which will be practically to kill it, and I believe that he has done so with that intention. If he alone were concerned, of course his action would not be important; but, as a matter of fact, his action was instigated by . those supporters of the late Government, and the members of the Opposition generally, who wish to kill the Bill. I believe that all those who vote against the recommittal of the measure will be actuated by that motive. Whein the late Prime Minister introduced the Bill a year or so ago, he made a statement as to his policy in regard to it, and that statement should stand good now. He said -
Any changes that I have proposed will be few, will be small, and will relate only to drafting.
But, notwithstanding that statement, a proviso was inserted in clause 48, on the motion of one of his- followers, the only purpose of which was to kill the Bill. Is it not an astounding change of front for the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to be now attempting to choke discussion, by refusing to allow the Government to recommit the measure? In his present action he shows himself to be worse than the Chinese, who kill their superfluous female children, because he is killing the most virile progeny that he has yet fathered. The right honorable member for East Sydney, when the Bill was introduced, said that he hoped that we would cheerfully pass it; but he also is now attempting to kill it. Honorable members are, of course, used to the right honorable gentleman’s ways, and are not surprised at anything he may do in this direction. The honorable member for Ballarat also promised to give fair play to the present Government; but he has not given them any more fair play than he has given to the Bill which he fathered. The proviso requires that applicants for preference must prove that they represent “ a majority of those affected by the award who have interests in common with the applicants,” while the Government wish to substitute for that provision an amendment requiring them to “ substantially represent the industry affected in point of the numbers and competence of its members.” The method of electing Members of Parliament may be referred to to illustrate the difference between the two propositions. If honorable members could take their seats in this chamber only when they had been elected by a majority of the whole of their constituents, in such case that requirement would be similar to the requirement of the proviso inserted in clause 48 by the honorable and learned member for Corinella; whereas the Government wish to provide that a majority of those who take sufficient interest in the subject to vote upon it shall decide the question. That is the present system of voting. If the Bill is to be effective, it must safeguard the liberties of those connected with the industrial organizations. The men who require protection are not those who are content to be trodden down, and who only squirm and sink lower, but those who have the manliness to fight for higher wages and better conditions. The unions are to be deprived of the weapon of striking which they now possess, and preference is therefore a necessary protection to them. Honorable members who are opposed to the granting of preference to unionists, show themselves in their true colours as those who are in favour of making the Bill a measure for the suppression of strikes only. While they wish to take from the unionists the power to strike, they still leave to the employers the power to lock out. If the proviso were left in the clause, an employer could always refuse to employ unionists who had acted against him. The honorable member for Lang has honestly said that his object is to kill the Bill altogether. We can give him credit for being a straight-out opponent of the measure; but other honorable members do not avow that that is their position. Unless preference is given to . unionists, those who complain of the treatment they are receiving may be refused employment, and will have no redress.
– It would be well for honorable members, before voting on the amendment before the House, to consider what is involved, and to recall to mind the policy underlying the measure as it was enunciated at Ballarat by the late Prime Minister. The principle which the proviso inserted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella would undermine was undoubtedly championed by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. In the minds of some honorable members there is an impression that what is desired is to invariably give preference to unionists. That is a wrong impression^ which I hope will not be conveyed to the people of the country. What we wish to secure is, not the’ giving of preference to unionists in all cases, but the giving of power to the Court to grant preference to unionists when it considers it desirable to do so. That is an important difference, and one which should be clearly defined. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat gave particular emphasis to the clause which is being discussed. He urged that in New Zealand the power to grant preference had been used by the Court with great advantage, and was part of the necessary machinery of the Bill. He urged that in New South Wales no evil results had followed, and that in New Zealand the Court had exercised its powers so wisely that the number of trades unionists had decreased instead of having increased under its regime. In view of these facts is it not remarkable that the honorable and learned member and some of his prominent supporters should, at this juncture, not only seek to undermine the principle of the clause, but endeavour to prevent honorable members from arriving at some means of framing a provision which would meet with the wishes of the majority. If honorable members opposite sincerely desire that this measure should be effective they should allow it to be recommitted.
– Is not the honorable member satisfied with the amendment proposed by the Government?
– I am satisfied that it will be made clear to the country that honorable members opposite- wish to render it impossible to properly consider the matter. The honorable member for Robertson complains that the provision for preference is too exacting, too far-reaching, and too dangerous.
– Hear, hear; so it is.
– And yet we find associated with him the honorable member for Dalley, who says he feels compelled to vote against the recommittal of the Bill, because it is so emasculated as to be .rendered useless.
– I said so three weeks ago.
– There is a very wide divergence between the views taken by the two honorable members, and yet we find them voting on the same side in this matter.
– Not a single union will register under the Bill.
– I quite agree with the honorable member.
– Then why vote for it?
– Because I do not wish to eject the present Government from office or to associate myself with those with whom I have no sympathy. The honorable member will be judged by the company which he keeps, and his position will be regarded as a remarkably illogical one. There is something more than the recommittal of the Bill involved in the present attitude of the Opposition.
– There is bread for the workers.
– May I ask who made honorable members* on the Government benches the champions of the workers?
– The people.
– Did the people give the same charge to honorable members opposite ?
– We are in the majority.
– The honorable member is now indulging in silly interjections, and I cannot afford to take any further notice of him.
– This is a fight for preference on the Treasury benches.
– I am afraid it is. The action of honorable members opposite is prompted by a desire to unseat the Government. The honorable member for Southern Melbourne said that he owed nothing to the Government, that they had given, him nothing, and that he expected nothing from them. I can say the same thing. In some respects, particularly in connexion with the fiscal question, the Government have disappointed me, but I do not intend to assist to eject them from office, and put in their places a free-trade Government. So far as the policy with which I am particularlyassociated is concerned, I can gain nothing bv voting for the proposal to recommit the Bill.
– Would the honorable member alter his views if he could gain anything?
– No, certainly not; but I have nothing in common with those honorable members who are now anxious to occupy the Treasury benches. Not only would’ they not give me the natural corollary of legislation of this kind, namely, effective protection at the Custom House, but it is patent to every one that they are anxious to destroy the principle underlying the Bill, which is protection to the workers. It is the clear duty of honorable members, who are anxious to see a workable measure passed, to afford every opportunity for the framing of a clause which would prove effective. I rejoice to think that, whatever may be the result of the vote on this occasion, the Treasury benches have been occupied for three months by men who have risen from the ranks, and who have erected a milestone alongside the path of social evolution. Their administration has been as pure, their capacity as great, and their behaviour as gentlemanly as that of any other body of men occupying similar positions, and I have no hesitation in saying that the methods which are now being employed to displace them are unfair and unwarranted.
– If he wishes the clause to be made effective, why does not the honorable member induce the Government to accept the proviso of the honorable and learned member for Corinella?
– Why does not the honorable member consent to allow the Bill to go into Committee, so that a proposal may be framed which would be acceptable to both sides? Honorable members opposite evidently fear to allow the clause to be reconsidered. I am not an apologist for the mistakes of trades unions. I have been closely associated with them all my life, and I am now a member of a union. I know the aspirations of their members, and the great good that the unions have accomplished. While I am acquainted with their limitations, and the mistakes which they have made, I know, at the same time, that the highest principles ever enunciated have been associated with the greatest of those mistakes. Even with the dissemination of the principles of Christianity there may have been associated mistakes, as well as shams and humbugs, but that is no reason why ‘we should disregard such principles. I recognise that the underlying principle of trades unions is industrial peace and progress, and therefore I do my best to encourage such organizations. I believe that the honorable and learned member for Corinella is perfectly sincere in this matter, but I am convinced that his proposal is impracticable, and that it will make the Bill a dead letter. I believe, further, that he is misrepresenting and misunderstanding the very men whom he is supposed to he championing. I have been associated with non-unionists, as well as with unionists, and I am sure that the honorable member for Dalley will agree with me that, whilst the unionists may, in some instances, be in the minority, the vast majority of the industrial workers are in sympathy with the trade unions, and support their aims. The attempt which is being made to champion the cause of the non-unionists is unwarranted and uncalled for. No demonstration has been made in support of the attitude now assumed by the Opposition. Have honorable members been called upon by any section of workers to oppose the preference clause? Do they know of any organization outside of the Employers’ Union that has opposed it? I should like to know in what way they have received any mandate or instruction to oppose the principle.
– The sacred principle of justice alone demands that no man should receive a preference over his fellows at the hands of Parliament.
– We had a mandate from the electors at the general election.
– That is not the case.
– I was returned as an opponent of the principle of preference to unionists.
– The honorable member was not called upon to contest his seat.
– But I explained my views on this very principle.
– I grant that the honorable member has been consistent throughout, and that he is thoroughly sincere.
– The honorable member knows that, although I was not opposed at the last election, I spoke a number of times in connexion with this Bill, and fully explained my views.
– When the honorable and learned member went to Bendigo to support the honorable and learned member for that constituency, he did not say that he would smash the unions.
– I have not said it yet.
– The honorable and learned member is doing his best in that direction.
– A number of honorable members are posing as champions of the non-unionists, and it is remarkable that in many cases they should also be champions of the employers’ unions, which are opposed to the principles of the Bill, lock, stock, and barrel. Associated with those who are now so anxious to preserve the rights of non-unionists, are the very men who are opposed to the Bill outright. It was just the same in connexion with the discussion which took place upon the shops and factories legislation in Victoria. The honorable member for Gippsland knows very well that the poor widow was trotted out, and that great concern was professed for the poorest of the working classes. I should like to know what honorable members who now assume the role of champions of the non-unionists have ever done to assist the working classes? “By their fruits shall ye know them.”
– Is it the policy of Christ to decree inequality by law?
– Have their voices ever been raised in the interests of the downtrodden trades unionists? No. Underlying the main features of this measure is the principle of collective bargaining, which can be applied only under a system of effective trades unionism. Unless this is recognised by giving the Court power, apart from any such trammels as are proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, to grant preference, the Bill will be destroyed, root and branch.
– The honorable member claims that preference should be granted to unionists, and we say “ No.”
– I contend that power should be given to the Court to grant preference.
– Is not this a higher Court than that which it is proposed to create?
– It may be ; but it may not prove to be a wiser one. In connexion with the working of the Shops and Factories Act in Victoria, it has come to my knowledge that, in many instances, men who have been foremost in agitating for the establishment of the Wages Boards - who have in some cases been members of such boards - have been discharged, because they dared to organize their fellow-workers.
– A very cruel thing.
– Can the honorable member suggest any remedy for such a state of affairs, beyond giving the Court power to grant preference to unionists? That is really the position. Three men who represented the employes on a Wages Board, relating to a certain industry, were discharged and were eventually compelled to beg for bread for themselves and their families, as the result of the action they had taken to secure the creation of that board. Had there been a law in force in this State, to say to the employers, “ Preference must be given to unionists,” their position would have been different; they would have been rewarded instead of punished for their praiseworthy action. That is only one of many illustrations that might be given. Unless we give the Court power to protect the men who may be, and are’ the victims of unscrupulous employers, the result will be disastrous. I do not suggest that the practice to which I have referred is universal. The majority of the employers in Victoria are excellent men; but the mere fact that a man is liable to be discharged for assisting in the formation of an organization to uplift his fellows should be sufficient to induce us to erect a Court which will have power to direct that fair play shall be conceded to all. I am convinced that the Government have given way to a very material extent. I invite the Opposition to compare the measure, as originally introduced by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, with the Bill of to-day.
– The Bill, as it stands, is better than it was.
– It may be, from, the honorable member’s point of view, and the very fact that he holds that opinion impels me to consider that it is worse. My honorable friend champions the cause of what he describes as “ liberty “ - liberty to sweat and’ to die and licence to be discharged by employers. Under the guise of championing the cause of non-unionists - the cause of the widow, the old, and the slow worker - we have often heard such cries.
– The poor and needy are represented in this House.
– The very fact that the honorable member considers that the Bill has been improved convinces me that it has been, mutilated. If honorable members turn to the Bill as originally introduced - if they glance at the clauses relating to trades unions, to the granting of preference to unionists, and to the powers of the Court - they will see at once that its beneficent provisions have been whittled away, line by line, so that even its author would scarcely know it.
– Comparatively speaking, there is nothing left that is worth mentioning.
– Exactly. Notwithstanding the fact that various provisions to which objection was taken have been removed from the Bill - that unions will be compelled to throw open their doors to practically every one who can with the slightest reason claim admission ; that their books will be open to inspection by the Court ; that the Court will have an opportunity to ascertain for itself the kind of men who form them, and to take care before granting an application for preference that the majority of those engaged in the industry are in the organization concerned, or in touch with it - the Opposition still refuse to allow clause 48 to be recommitted even for the purpose of removing a difficulty.
– There is no difficulty. We had a majority on the last occasion, and have it still.
– The Opposition have a majority to secure the defeat of the Government. They are -availing themselves of the present crisis to secure the advancement of their own particular theories. _ I am convinced that underlying this motion there is not only the defeat of the Government, but the parting of the ways, so far as many honorable members are concerned. I am sorry that it should be so. I regret very much that I shall have to part politically from men beside whom I have worked and fought for many years. But the division to be taken on this amendment undoubtedly means the parting of the ways. On the one side will be the men who are fighting for evolutionary, not revolutionary, progress, and who are determined that there shall be industrial as well as political emancipation. Political emancipation’ was only the commencement of a great movement of which industrial emancipation is the apex. Until absolute industrial emancipation has been secured, our political evolution and all our political privileges will be of no avail. On the one side we shall have the men who will fight in the interests of conservatism, and in the interests of laissez faire, under the guise of desiring to protect the widow and the old and slow worker, while, on the other side, will be those who are determined to conserve those interests which make for the social health and progress of the community, and to do their best for those who have sent them here to represent them.
– This debate has been marked by some very extraordinary features. The attitude taken up by the Opposition in. refusing the Government the right to recommit a clause which they conceive to be so framed that it would not work in harmony with the objects of the Bill, is in itself remarkable; but I wish to direct attention not so much to that phase of the situation as to the curious fact that whilst this is undoubtedly a no-confidence motion, not one leading member of the Opposition has, so far, seen fit to take part in the debate. Where are the leaders of the Opposition ? I am inclined to think that this is the first time in the history of Australian Parliaments that a leader of an Opposition has declined to address himself to what is avowedly a no-confidence motion. The leaders of the Opposition have scarcely dared to show themselves. Occasionally they have put in an appearance, but finding, apparently, the criticism of their actions too warm for their peace of mind, have immediately taken their departure. I do not think that this is altogether fair. We might reasonably have assumed that those who intended to secure the defeat of the Government-
– Did the honorable gentleman expect anything better?
– I certainly did.
– The honorable gentleman is altogether too sanguine.
– I at least expected that the treatment usually meted out to Governments would be extended to even . a Labour Ministry. It seems, however, that we are to be submitted, not to ordinary, but to extraordinary treatment, which, in my opinion, and I am sure, in the opinion of the people, reflects but little credit on those who are engineering our overthrow. What is the object of this Bill? That is a consideration to which we may well devote a few moments’ attention. Is it designed to benefit honorable members on this side of the House? Certainly not. It was brought forward with a view to put an end to strikes, not in the interests of unionists, but for the public good. If this Bill be not in the public interest it should have no p]ace in our deliberations. If it be a measure not solely to benefit unionists - although it has been treated by the Opposition as if it were - if it be designed to prevent strikes, in the public interest, because it is recognised that industrial disputes involve tremendous loss to the whole community, should it not be worthy of our serious consideration ? The Bill is not primarily framed in the interests of unionists; as a matter of fact they will lose a great deal more than they will gain by submitting to the principle of compulsory conciliation, and arbitration. During the debate on the Bill it was suggested that the Government and their supporters had failed while on the hustings to tell the unionists “that this measure would probably work, in many cases, to their disadvantage. That assertion is incorrect. During the last election campaign I announced from every public platform on which I spoke that if the people imagined for one moment that compulsory conciliation and arbitration would invariably work for the benefit of unionists and the workers generally, they made a great mistake; I clearly told the workers that it would benefit them only as members of the community.
– The less the workers resort to it the better it will be for them.
– Undoubtedly. The only benefit which trades unionists or other workers can hope to derive from the Bill is simply that which it will confer upon them as members of the community. It is desired that they should be peacefully employed in carrying on their industry, in stead of employers and employes being, as they too frequently have been, at arms’ length. When employers and employe’s are constantly fighting with each other, a very large section of the community pro- duces no wealth. It is solely to increase the production of wealth that we ask for a measure of this kind. We ask for this measure, not to improve the status of unionists, but solely in the interests of the public. Every member of the community from the largest capitalist in the Commonwealth, to the humblest labourer, is concerned in the bringing about of a state of affairs in which, instead of having a large percentage living on the labours of others, we shall find all persons producing to the fullest extent of their power. On these grounds, and on these alone, can this Bill be defended. I have been a trades unionist ever since I served my apprenticeship to engineering, and as such I have always recognised that nearly all that has been gained by the workers has been the result of agitation and of strikes, and that for them to sacrifice the right to strike would be to part with a very great power. In order that trades unionists might be protected - in order that they might not be left entirely without organization - it was considered that provision for preference to them was an indispensable part of the Bill - that it was essential to its proper working. That was the view adopted by the author of the Bill, and the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who originally introduced it, recognised that the principle of preference to unionists was absolutely vital. After he had had an opportunity to carefully consider the question during a recess, extending over several months, and after it had passed through the furnace of criticism associated with a general election the honorable and learned member again moved the second reading of the Bill last session, when, as the honorable member for Brisbane has pointed out, he announced that he merely proposed to make some slight verbal alterations in the measure. He still thought that preference to unionists, without any qualification whatever, as originally provided for in the Bill, was essential,, and it must therefore be taken that the late Government was in accord with the principle. I do not mean to suggest that every individual member of the Cabinet agreed to every detail of the Bill, but we may fairly assume that the Cabinet as a whole were favorable to the granting of preference without any qualification, because we are confronted by the fact that the Bill as brought down by them on two occasions provided for the undiluted application of that principle. Up to the time that the present Governmnent took office preference to unionists was recognised as a necessary part of the measure. There was no proposal from any quarter to whittle away the provision in any respect, but from the “date on which the present Administration took up the reins of Government the whittling down process began. There was an effort, apparently, on, the part of the Opposition to damage the prestige of organizations and trades unions. And what was the reason? Was it because trades unionists are among the Government supporters that it was proposed that unions should be crippled for political purposes? Apparently so. At any rate, I am at a loss to understand the move of the Opposition upon any other hypothesis.
– The Government accepted quite a number of amendments.
– I admit that freely. The Government were naturally desirous to obtain from the. House the best
Bill possible, in order that it might be of some service to the workers ; but I certainly do not think that in its present form the measure will be operative in the slightest degree. Upon this question my opinion has been sought by leading members of trade unions - by members of the organization with which I am associated, and by others - and I have advised them that unless a very substantial alteration is effected in the Bill before it becomes law, those organizations ought not to register under it. I am convinced that they will not register under it. Have . we not urged that honorable members ought not always to aim at an ideal of freedom? Why? Because we have recognised that it .is incompatible with the working of a Bill of this character. We have taken this course, not in the interests of unionists, but in the interests of the public, and to prevent the Bill from being whittled down to such an extent as to render it inoperative. In its present form no trade union will register under its provisions, notwithstanding that we have been engaged in discussing it for some months. Why have the vital principles of the Bill been thus whittled away? Simply to spite the present Government. There is no other explanation of the extraordinary action of honorable members opposite.
– Is it not a fact that, with the exception of this amendment, every other alteration effected in the Bill has been accepted by the Government?
– As I have previously stated, the Government desired to obtain from this House the most effective measure possible. We could not make every amendment vital to our existence. We had to accept the best Bill that we could secure. But naturally there is a limit to compromise - a point at which we recognise it is useless to further proceed with the measure. To do so would be a perfect farce. I am not prepared to tell the unionists of South Australia that I assisted to pass a worthless Bill. I do not wish to gain kudos for having passed a measure relating to arbitration if it is of no real value. Having pleaded with unionists to subscribe to legislation of this character, having induced them to sacrifice their right to strike, can I tell them that we have enacted a law which will be ineffective? The honorable and learned member for Corinella has twitted the Government with having accepted other amendments.
– I did not twit the Government with having done so.
– The honorable and learned member certainly did.
– I did not intend to twit them.
– We fought against any whittling away of the vital provisions of this Bill. But modification after modification has been proposed merely for the purpose of creating an appetite for more.
– The proposal of the Government would only feed that appetite.
– At any rate that proposal possesses the virtue of being a workable one, and it would achieve the result which the honorable and learned member for Corinella desires.
– I am as opposed to his amendment as is the Minister himself.
– I do not think that our proposal is a necessary one, but, never-‘ theless, it is workable. A proposal which requires that any union before being granted a preference shall satisfy the Court that it substantially represents the workers engaged in the particular industry affected, is not one which I can characterize as highly objectionable, or as likely to impair the efficient working of the measure.
– It is a very astute proposal.
– If it be astute, it is certainly straightforward. The honorable member is at liberty to rise in his place, if he dares, and to explain in what way it is astute and not straightforward. The terms employed in it are those which are generally adopted by Courts charged with the administration of kindred legislation. In making their awards they have frequently required that a majority of the employes interested in any particular industry must be represented before any preference is granted to unionists. I do not intend to labour this question. The refusal of honorable members opposite to allow the Bill to be recommitted - an act which is unparalleled in party warfare - is thoroughly consonant with the treatment which this Government have received from the very moment of their advent to power. I care nothing for Ministerial office - I do not think that I can be accused of having exhibited any desire to grasp it.
– The leader of the Opposition accused the Government last night of hanging on to office.
– I know that the spiteful remarks which were made upon that occasion were not meant. It is rather a pity, I think, that the first Labour Ministry in the Commonwealth should have been denied that fair treatment which is ordinarily accorded to Governments. It is regrettable, because of the appreciation by the public of that spirit of fair play which usually distinguishes Britishers. Not a single accusation has been urged against the administration of the Government, or against the policy which we have put forward. I did not_ expect that we should be defeated by a union of the forces of honorable members who are opposed to this legislation, and of that section of the House which opposes the Government merely for party purposes. I did not anticipate that a procedure would be adopted which would have the effect of preventing the Ministry and their supporters from fully and fairly expressing their opinions upon other matters. There has been a conspiracy of silence on the part of honorable members opposite. One or two of them have been anxious to address the House, but they have been held down by other honorable members.
– The Minister cannot apply that remark to all.
– I admit that the honorable member is an exception. I do not complain of the treatment which he has meted out to the Government. Generally speaking, he has been very fair.
– He has. not sunk the fiscal issue.
– I do not know whether he has done so, or not. It is a singular circumstance that the widest differences of opinion between honorable members of this House have been bridged over with the sole object of displacing the present Ministry at all costs. Even the honorable member for North Sydney must admit that the present Ministry is a cohesive body with one policy. We do not possess as many policies upon every conceivable subject under the sun, as there are members in this House. The combination of honorable members opposite is a peculiar one, which we may well allow the public to appraise at its true value. In conclusion, I am satisfied, that if the Government are defeated upon the amendment submitted, its members have not brought discredit upon the positions which they have held. They vacate office without one accusation of administrative failure having been levelled against them. They will relinquish the reins of Government - if they do so - owing to the action of a unique political combination, and simply because they happen to be members of the Labour Party. Under no other conceivable circumstances could such a remarkable union of forces have been effected.
– The amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella on the proposal of the Government to recommit certain clauses has the peculiar merit of being, so far as I know, and, apparently, so far as can be gathered from honorable members, unique in the history of parliamentary government - unique, at any rate, in this country and in Great Britain. Under certain circumstances very little could be urged against his action, but the present circumstances are peculiar. The Government, as the honorable and learned member, and every other honorable member in the House knows very well, have declared that they regard the amendment as vital, both to the measure and to their own existence as an administration. The action of the honorable and learned member, therefore, amounts to an attempt to prevent the Government, whose administration, whose policy, and whose very existence are challenged, from saying one word in their own defence. The honorable and learned member, in advancing some reasons why this clause 48 should not be recommitted, spoke in comparatively brief fashion. When we recall the other occasions on which the House and< the Committee have been privileged to hear the honorable and learned member, we can only wonder why he should have been so brief at the present juncture, when, under circumstances of less importance, he has entertained us at great length. There is about big battalions a virtue which curtails even the oratorical efforts of the honorable and learned member. Why, indeed, should the honorable and learned member speak longer than was necessary to declare, in so many set terms, the intentions of that body whose mouth-piece for the time he is, especially since he had to set an example which Has been admirably followed by the gentlemen who now sit alongside him, and who have wrapped their sentiments and their ideas in sepulchral silence? The House is asked to decline to recommit this clause. What is this measure ? What is its purport? I think we are entitled to ask ourselves so much. Obviously, it is a “Bill to prevent industrial disputes, and it can only take effect provided industrial unions give their allegiance to the main principles of it. The honorable and learned member who has moved this amendment knows that fact well. He and those who support him have, during the passage of this Bill through Committee - a passage of . almost unparalleled vicissitude - moved a number of amendments, ostensibly for the good of the measure. Of these, some stand in the Bill to-day ; others, happily, have been relegated to the waste paper basket. All alike, however, afford irrefragable evidence of the insincerity of the honorable and learned member and those who supported him. In his present amendment he proposes preventing the Government from having that opportunity which the honorable and learned member, in common with a number of others, solicited, when certain other clauses of the Bill were decided against them, to recommit certain clauses for the purpose of enabling honorable- members to once more consider them. The honorable and learned member is denying to the Government that very right which he, and those who sit with him, asked on so very many occasions in reference to numerous clauses. The position, perhaps, is not quite clear to citizens outside the chamber, though it is abundantly clear to every man inside. It is perfectly useless -for any man here to attempt to deceive himself ; nor ought it to be possible for him to deceive others as to the true position. Those honorable members who vote against the proposed recommittal will stand condemned for having taken a course of action which does effectually prevent the Government from defending itself, and which does most effectually prevent honorable members from setting forth categorically the objections they have to the present ‘Administration - from setting forth in clear, round terms, so that the whole country may know, and if necessary approve, or disapprove, the reasons why they wish to oust the present Administration. The leader of the Opposition, or the leader of one wing of the Opposition, in the beginning of the present regime, treated us to a number of reasons why the present Government should not be allowed to live a day without challenge. Now, however, we have a challenge put forward in ah indirect and underhand way, and upon this indirect, circuitous, and contemptible proposal, the right honorable gentleman has not taken the opportunity to say’ one word in condemnation of an Administration which he has continuously denounced, because of its lack of capacity and experience, its policy, its programme, and because, in his opinion, it stands for minority government. The right honorable gentleman condemned the Government, in short, on the ground that it imperils representative and good government. Yet, he does not now dare to say one word. The right honorable member is joined on this occasion by his colleague, who was lately his’ opponent, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. To that honorable and learned gentleman, who has, during the progress of this discussion, visited the chamber but fitfully, I give credit for this much - that he is unable’ to be present, and to hear and to feel the full extent of his inconsistency. Lately the honorable and learned member had garlands placed upon his brow for the chivalrous and almost unique heroism which he exhibited in electing to go out of office rather than agree to a certain amendment. The honorable and learned member went out of office, not with our wish.
– That is all nonsense; we do not believe that.
– It is perfectly true.
– Ask the honorable arid learned member for Ballarat himself.
– I say that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat did not go out of office with the wish of the Labour Party. To-day we ask the honorable and learned member to come into the chamber and give honorable members, and the Government, the reasons; - some reasons, or any reasons - why he is supporting the honorable and learned member for Corinella on this occasion. Is the honorable and learned member for Ballarat supporting the honorable and learned member for Corinella ? I do not think there can be any doubt upon that point. ‘ Those pleasant smiles which honorable members on the front opposition benches are endeavouring to hide, with more or less success, would not be seen if they were not quite sure that the honorable and learned member - the chivalrous member - for Ballarat had decided to allow the honorable and learned member for Corinella to fire this gun, while he stands firmly and securely enough behind the hedge. He still retains that mask of fair’ play towards us, though he does not even grace the chamber with his presence, and remains ominously silent. This is a Bill to prevent industrial disputes, and clause 48 cuts right into its very heart. The Bill will be either a success or a failure, according to whether unions take advantage of its provisions or otherwise. I do not know whether honorable members recall some of those glowing phrases with which the honorable and learned member for Ballarat invested his speech on the motion that the measure be read a second time. I cannot imitate them; I have not that fatal gift of fluency which distinguishes, and sometimes mars, the matter of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. But those phrases are embalmed in Hansard, and any man who cares may read them. The glorious picture of the promised land which was held before the Israelites during their forty years of wandering, is but dull and drab by comparison with that sketched to this country by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat in his forecast of the result of this measure. A land flowing with milk and honey was opened out to our gaze. The honorable and learned member said that this was a measure which he had received from his colleague, the right honorable and learned member for Adelaide, and that so heartily did he approve of it that he had not found it necessary or desirable to make any amendment other than a few verbal and trifling alterations. Yet Here the honorable and learned member for Ballarat stands, to-day, absolutely voting against the principle upon the insertion of which the success of the measure entirely depends. I shall deal more categorically with the honorable and learned member in a moment. In the meantime I wish to quote one or two phrases which the honorable and learned member used in reference to this phase of the matter. He said it was not necessary to make any amendment. He so heartily approved of the measure as framed by his right honorable colleague, upon whose legislation all the Acts dealing with industrial conciliation and arbitration throughout Australasia had been framed, that he did not find it necessary to make any amendments at all. I ask whether the very heart of the measure, as framed by the right honorable member for Adelaide, was not the principle of preference to unionists? If it was not, if this is an immaterial, a trifling matter, let the honorable and learned gentleman say so now. Let him say so after all this thundering which has been delivered from the opposition benches against preference to unionists, in declaiming that it would infringe the rights of a free people, that it would take away the privilege of nonunionists to have a share in the bounteous harvest - the salvation - which was to follow this remarkable measure. Let the honorable and learned gentleman say now that although in the opinion of honorable members opposite preference to unionists was’ going to do all this, it is but a trifling thing, not the kernel of the measure, but a mere tassel on its very fringe. I challenge the honorable and learned gentleman to deny that there are two essential principles in the measure, and that one is compulsion and the other preference to unionists. Without compulsion the measure fails’, without preference it equally fails. The honorable and learned gentleman, after declaring that the drafting of this measure, founded as it is upon; legislation upon which the Arbitration Acts of Australasia have been based, was such that he could find no room for improvement and no necessity for it, now sits behind the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and intends to vote to prevent a re-discussion of this most vital point in the Bill. This is the honorable and learned gentleman’s chivalry, his heroism, his inauguration of a new era in politics in which a man shall retire gracefully and welcome his successors as gentlemen who have not sought office. This is his idea of fair play. I say that since this measure was introduced we have not had a semblance of fair play from the Opposition, or from the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. Some honorable members have opposed preference to unionists openly, others have done so in an underhand and covert fashion. Some honorable members have always been opposed to this principle, and we cannot object ito their opposition to it now. But there are other honorable members who have pretended to see in this measure the promise of a regenerated Australia, who have professed to believe that it would make this country a promised land. They, too, stated that they would give to this Administration the fairest of fair play ; and yet now when we look, not for generous treatment, but merely for that fair play which is extended even to a person in the dock being tried for a criminal offence, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat slaps us across the face. He has not the courage to. gag us himself, but he gets some other person to do it, and he says nothing. That is fair play ! I declare emphatically that clause 48 is one of the essential parts of the measure. If compulsion is the heart of the measure, preference to unionists is the lungs which oxidize the blood. Without it the measure must become stagnant and useless, and inevitably fall into decrepitude and decay. And the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who has said that the measure of the right honorable member for Adelaide required no amendment, now votes against the principle without which the whole thing must fall info decay. The honorable and learned gentleman sits there and not one word have we heard from him to justify this most amazing, this unexampled, this treacherous change of front. He says very little now. There is a wisdom in silence which, had the honorable and learned gentleman learnt it earlier, would have served his purpose admirably to-day. Had he been silent when he spoke, or had he spoken when he remained silent, he would have commended himself more to the people of Australia than he has done. But his eloquence and his inconsistency have been his undoing. The honorable and learned gentleman has promised much, and he has done nothing. He said -
Speaking for those whom I have had the honour of consulting to-day, and who, I should inform you, sir, have paid me the honour of electing me their leader, I am charged to extend to the Government the assurance that the Opposition propose to extend to them the utmost fair play. We feel that the tasks which they have shouldered merit forbearance, and we hope ‘ that they will receive it. “ We hope that they will receive it.”
– There was too much generosity that time.
– We expected that from the right honorable member.
– There is the expression of a hope which has borne dead sea fruit. We have had more fair play from honorable members who have opposed us openly than we have had from the honorable and learned gentleman. The country is now asked to believe that these gentlemen are sincere, and earnestly desire to improve the Bill - and may believe it if it does not know the truth - and honorable members opposite are relying upon this, knowing that the press will not give publicity to the facts-
– Hear, hear. No reports. Despicable journalism.
– Here, for the first time in the history of the world, the Labour
Party have had an opportunity to administer the public Departments. For three months we have been in office, and, as the honorable and learned gentleman said, we have shouldered its responsibilities. Let the honorable and learned gentleman say whether we have failed in carrying out any one of those responsibilities. But let any honorable member say so fairly, and not in this contemptible back-handed fashion. If we were accused openly, we might fight our opponents fairly, but we have not the chance to do so. The House is asked to believe that honorable members opposite are actuated in this matter by the most patriotic and honorable motives. I wish to deal with those who profess to believe that the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill now before the House is in no danger in the hands of the honorable members opposite. Let us see who sit opposite. Amongst them are one or two honorable members who have committed themselves to the principle of compulsory conciliation and arbitration; some by words, others by actions, and others by hustings pledges, which, unfortunately for them, they cannot go back upon. They are committed to stand by this great principle. I- propose- to deal with those honorable members. There is my friend the honorable member for Robertson. He believes in this principle.
– In what principle?
– -In the principle of compulsory arbitration. Does the honorable member wish to withdraw that?
– I have never said so.
– The honorable member has never said so! All I have to say to that is that the honorable member supported the principle on the second reading of the Bill, and he has never raised his voice against it. He has voted consistently in favour of it, and I recollect that he voted for the inclusion of the railway servants.
– That is the only thing I did. I said that I would do so, and I kept my promise.
– Quite so. Here is an extraordinary situation. The honorable member has had many hours and many days in which to explain his position, butuntil I make this remark, he does not think it worth while to break through the fetters by which he has been bound in common with other honorable members sitting opposite, not by a decision given in a caucus in which all men are free to speak, and are bound only by the decision of the majority, but where one man’s voice and one man’s eye swamps all their names. Now the honorable member wishes under cover of an interjection to get in a speech which there is yet ample opportunity for him to deliver.
– I kept a promise which I gave.
– I will deal with the honorable member. He claims that he has never said that he was in favour of compulsory conciliation and arbitration. He voted to include the railway men. Does the honorable member mean to say that he voted to include the railway men in a principle and in a measure in which he does not believe?
– I assisted to amend the Bill that was carried on the second reading.
– Why the honorable member signed the railway men’s platform.
– I made a pledge, and I kept it.
– The honorable and learned member, or I should say the honorable and unfortunate member, signed the pledge of the railway men’s platform.
– Let the honorable and learned member produce it.
– We can produce it.
– Does the honorable member deny it?
– Let the honorable and learned member produce the signed pledge. I say he cannot produce it.
– I must ask the. honorable member for Robertson not to interrupt. He will be at liberty to speak, if he pleases, later, but he is not at liberty, to interrupt the Minister of External Affairs.
– Produce the signed pledge.
– I rise to a point of order. Are we discussing clause 48 of the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, or the question whether certain honorable members have signed a pledge concerning a clause not under discussion at the present time?
– I understand the argument of the Minister of External Affairs to be that the measure under discussion depends upon two principles, its being compulsory and its containing preference to unionists, and that these two principles are inseparable. The honorable and learned gentleman is, therefore,- well within his rights in discussing those principles in connexion with an amendment which deals with one of them.
– It is an admirable illustration, if one were needed, of the truth of all I have been saying, and of the anxiety of honorable members opposite not to hear the truth, and not to face the issue, when even though I say something which is within the narrow limits of the motion now before the House, we have an honorable member who desires to further restrict debate. I ask the House to say what is the position of the honorable member for Robertson in connexion with clause 48, he having written his name at the foot of a document like that which I hold in my hand, or having given his solemn and emphatic promise, at a public meeting or elsewhere, to vote for it?
– I did not sign the document to which the honorable and learned member refers, nor did I say at a public meeting that I would sign it. I wrote a letter, which the honorable and learned member cannot produce.
– What ‘ about the caucus pledge now?
– I have to deal with a number of honorable members, of whom the honorable member for Robertson is one of the least offenders, and therefore, as time is fleeting, I hope that I may be permitted to continue without interruption. When he was asked if he was in favour of a Federal Conciliation and Arbitration Bill which would apply to public servants, and when he said in a letter, or in some other way–
– The honorable and learned member does not know what, I did.
– We have the letter; so the honorable member cannot deny it.
– Did the honorable member make a’ promise, either in writing, or in any other way ?
– I voted for the measure.
– At the time the honorable member made the promise to support the measure, was there not in it clause 48, as it stood before the proviso of the honorable and learned member for Corinella was added to it? The honorable member therefore committed himself by a definite promise to support that clause. The honorable member’s face proves that he has a Conscience, and it is pricking him now, so that he cannot sit quiet any longer. He will not allow his leader to any longer bind his tongue. And when I have finished, he will have his opportunity. Having voted to include the railway servants in the Bill, which provided for giving them preference if they were unionists, he is now about to vote against a motion to allow of the rediscussion of this clause. The party with whom he will vote cannot have a greater majority than two, and to secure that majority, the honorable and learned member for Angas, the honorable and learned member for Wannon, the honorable member for North Sydney, the honorable member for Kooyong, the honorable member for Flinders, the honorable member for Wilmot, the “honorable member for Grampians, the honorable member for Gippsland, the honorable member for Oxley, and other honorable gentlemen, all of whom are opposed to the principles of the Bill, have to be reckoned. After having solemnly promised to include the railway servants in a Bill which gave them preference, under clause 48, the honorable member for Robertson is now about to deliberately prevent them from getting that preference, and to cast a vote to slay the measure which he promised to support.
– If the honorable and learned gentleman says that I am an opponent of compulsory arbitration, his statement is not true; and he knows it.
– Honorable members are again distinctly disregarding the Standing Orders. I have to ask the honorable member for Gippsland to withdraw the remark that something said by the Minister of Home Affairs was untrue.
– I withdraw, in deference to your ruling, Mr. Speaker; but every one in this Chamber knows that I have supported the principle of compulsory arbitration, both in this House and before my constituents.
– I am very glad to hear it. All I can say is that there are various ways of supporting a measure, and the honorable member has been unfortunate in the method which he has selected. I withdraw his name, and substitute for it the name of the honorable member for New England, and that of the honorable and learned member for Parkes.
– And that of the honorable member for Lang.
– The alteration will salve the honorable member’s feelings, and will suit my purpose very well, since 1 exchange one for three. At the same time, if the honorable member for Robertson will read the speeches of the honorable member for Gippsland to the council of the railway men in his electorate, he will know whether they will believe that in trusting the measure to the hands of so stalwart a supporter he was doing what he promised to do.
– The railway men do not run Australia.
– If they do believe that, the honorable member for Robertson will still have to explain why he voted with men like the honorable member for New England and the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who have openly declared that they are opposed to the measure, root and branch. My honorable friend is voting with others to displace a Government whose members are pledged to carry out this principle, and who could not remain in office for twentyfour hours if they dared to do one of the things which honorable members opposite are doing every day. The honorable member for Robertson could not have got the votes of the railway men in his electorate if he had not pretended that he was in favour of bringing them within the scope of the Bill. I ask him, then, if he is voting as he said he would vote? Is he voting as his constituents, whom he is deceiving and abandoning, whom he is sacrificing on the altar of party and self-seeking, thought he would vote? Self-seeking is a characteristic which marks, with one exception, those who sit on the front Opposition bench; and as it required more than one righteous man to save the cities of old, so I think it will take more than one to leaven such a lump as I now see before me. I come now to the honorable member for South Sydney, who is most appropriately sitting next to the honorable member for Robertson. He is in favour of the measure. He has voted for it, and believes in its principles. He got the support of the railway men, and cast a vote to allow them to be included in the measure. Unless he gets their votes at the next elections, he cannot be returned to this Parliament. No man knows better than he does that what I say is perfectly true; that he must justify his conduct to those whom he promised to include in a measure which provides for preference to unionists. He never. ventured to raise his voice against that principle when before his constituents. He must justify to them the fact that he is voting with a party having only a majority of two, and composed of at least thirteen members who are against the measure, root and branch. The honorable and learned member for Wannon has had the political consistency and pluck to say that he is opposed to it. He did not creep and crawl for the votes of the unionists, and he told the House that he was opposed to the measure, lock, stock, and barrel. There will be thirteen of these amiable individuals’ in the majority against the Government, and the honorable member for South Sydney proposes to vote with them, in order to turn the Government out of office, and to prevent the railway men from getting what he promised to secure for them. Yet we do not hear a word from him and other honorable members in explanation of this amazing change of front. In some eastern countries, those who are suspected of crime are required to walk before the detectives, and are given a mouthful of rice. The guilty parties, whose lips are parched with fear, caused by the consciousness of guilt, cannot secrete sufficient saliva to chew the grain, and thereby stand condemned. So honorable members opposite are unable to raise their voices to explain why they have thus changed their plans. They either cannot or dare not speak..
– I could speak for hours in defence of my attitude ; but do the Government wish to be kept here for another week?
– The honorable member may be able to speak for hours ; but if he could speak for years he could not explain away his present conduct. He has in another place a colleague who once spoke for several hours at a stretch, and it would probably be difficult for the honorable member to beat him ; but if the honorable member were gifted with ten times that power of speech, he could not explain away the simple fact that he now proposes to vote with thirteen opponents of the measure to secure a majority of two against the Government.
– Thirteen is the devil’s number.
– The honorable and learned gentleman is not the absolute judge of other honorable members. There is another tribunal.
– I am his accuser, not his judge. His constituents are his judges.
– Why does not the honorable and learned gentleman speak to his constituents ?
– We shall do so.
– Honorable- members need not be afraid that the Government will shirk an appeal to the judges of all. We shall not appeal to men who have first tied our hands, and then, abashed and ashamed of their tactics, keep their own mouths closed. We shall not appeal to them, but to the people outside, who, in spite of everything, have that sense of fair play which always brings home to those who violate its principles the consequences of their wrong-doing.
– I have violated no principle.
– The honorable member has broken his pledge; he has abandoned his trust. He proposes to betray those upon whose credulous belief he got into Parliament.
– I do not.
– From such a galaxy as is presented by honorable members opposite, one hesitates whom to select. Take the honorable’ member for Parramatta, who during the whole of this discussion has said nothing. There is wisdom, the wisdom of the serpent, of Satan himself ; because whatever he had said would have exposed him to the inevitable consequences of his inconsistency. The honorable member is opposed to preference to unionists. He is incidentally in favour of excluding trade unions from the discussion of politics. He deliberately, without any provocation at all, elected to vote against the modification which the Government accepted from the right honorable and learned member for Darling Downs. He is against allowing unions even to register under clause 62. And yet everything that that honorable member has ever achieved in public life,theposition he holds in public rife to-day, he owes to unionism. If there is in this Parliament one who should vote against the attempt of the honorable and learned member for Corinella to prevent the discussion of this measure, it is the honorable member for Parramatta, who, by virtue of his past history,’ by virtue of the faithful and unswerving allegiance that has been given him by those whom he now proposes to throw over, should support the principles of the Bill.
– The Minister is a good judge of loyalty.
– Was not the honorable member for Parramatta once the leader of the Labour Party in New South Wales ?
– The honorable member was in the New South Wales Parliament at the time when the Industrial Conciliation and Arbitration Bill was under discussion. That Bill contained a clause which gave preference to unionists without qualification of any kind. The honorable member then had an opportunity to express his opinion with regard to that principle. Did he then vote against preference to unionists, or say one word against it ? No, he covered the Bill with’ eulogy, and said it was an admirable measure.
– He was then dependent upon the miners of Lithgow.
– He depends on them now, and will get their support. The honorable member need make no mistake about that.
– No doubt the honorable member will obtain a lot of support from them; but there is one thing he can never do. He can never rid himself of the fact that he proposes now to throw over those very people upon whose shoulders he has climbed up. Why, the honorable member who now has nothing but contempt to pour upon the Labour Party climbed into political life on their shoulders. He was the leader of the first Labour Party in the New South Wales Parliament, and stood by the principle of compulsory arbitration thirteen years ago.
– The Minister is quite wrong.
– I am quite right, and no mere word of the honorable member will make me quite wrong.
– Then why did the Labour Party rub me out ten years ago? Because I would not sign the party pledge.
– If that be an answer to what I have said, the Deity Himself might stand condemned, because He has not destroyed Satan. The honorable member, with his wiles, and his turns, and his tricks, and his subterfuges, and his appeals for votes-
– I must ask the Minister to withdraw his last remarks. They are quite unparliamentary as applied to the conduct of an honorable member.
– Very well, I withdraw them. The honorable member, by those methods which are known to him and to those like him, has managed to temporarily evade the consequences of his sins. There stands behind him a press, without whose aid he could never for a moment hope to come into Parliament again. What did he say in the New South Wales Parliament in 1899 with regard to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill? -
The Bill was intended to recognise trade unions - its basis was the recognition of trade unions - therefore, it seemed to him we would not depart from the spirit of the measure by making it penal for an employer to discharge any employ^ simply because he was a trade unionist.
He moved an amendment to clause 26, which was intended to encourage trade unionism’, and that was agreed to. He said -
The introduction of the Bill indicates a distinct step away from the regions of prejudice, of irritation, and of bad feeling, and towards those ideals of justice and reason, which we hope will eventually dominate our economical life. May I say, too, that it seems to me that this proposal means for labour (organized labour particularly) a more honorable place and recognition than it has hitherto received. . . . The Bill seems to me to make distinctly in the direction of peace - not of peace at any price- but of peace with honour to both sides. . . . The Bill will lay the foundation of a steady, busy, and prosperous future for all those engaged in our industrial occupations.
The honorable member will wish before very long, that it is merely my finger, and not the ballot-paper, that is being pointed against him.
– I absolutely do not care about the honorable and learned member, or anything he can do.
– In the honorable member’s district a union recently appealed to ihe New South Wales Arbitration Court, and obtained preference. That preference was secured undercircumstances which the honorable member is now proposing to render impossible under this Bill. The honorable member assented to this measure during the last Parliament, and to the principles underlying it in the 1899 Parliament of New South Wales, and yet he now proposes to vote against the Bill, and even against giving honorable members an opportunity to discuss it, because his leader has decided that he must do so. Some honorable members speak about the tyranny of the caucus. What caucus? The honorable member for Parramatta, when he was in our caucus, at any rate-
– I never was in the Minister’s caucus.
– The honorable member was in a caucus.
– That is untrue.
– It is quite true. If the honorable member had not been offered the position of Postmaster-General in New South Wales he would have been a member of the Labour Party to-day.
– Order. The honorable member for Parramatta has stated that a remark made by the Minister is untrue, and I must ask him to withdraw the expression. At the same time, I admit that there was some provocation offered, and I think the Minister will do well to avoid any reference to caucuses.
– I absolutely withdraw my remark, Mr. Speaker, and simply wish to say that no one knows better than the Minister that what he is saying is absolutely incorrect.
– All I know is that the honorable member was the leader of the Labour Party in New South Wales in the 1890 Parliament, and that the party was then governed by caucus, as it ever has been.
– The honorable ‘ member was offered, the position of PostmasterGeneral in the New South Wales Government
– Did he get the billet ?
– Yes ; and he- would have been with us to-day but for that.
– It is very extraordinary that the honorable member for Parramatta, who has always been recognised by his fellow unionists as a man to be relied on in matters of trade unionism, and from whose speeches in the New South .Wales Parliament when the measure upon which this Bill is founded was under discussion, I have read extracts, should now propose to vote against the very principles of the measure, and to vote against .even affording- honorable members an Opportunity to discuss it, and should, at the same time, not think it worth while to get up here and explain why he has changed his opinion, why he has abandoned his principles. Very likely honorable members opposite will yet see that it is advisable to say a few words, in order to explain, or to excuse, if they cannot explain, their very extraordinary attitude. They have set us an admirable example of silence, and they would have been very glad if we had closed our mouths as well as they have closed their own. -But we are not to be denied some opportunity of pointing out to the people of this country exactly the position occupied by those honorable members. I accuse die honorable member for Parramatta, who, as I say, has been a trade union official - if I have done him wrong, I apologize-
– I do not want the Minister’s apologies.
– He has been a mem ber of the Labour Party - if I ‘have done him an injustice I apologize. He has led the Labour Party of New South Wales, and has always been in favour of the principle of compulsory arbitration.
– I was connected with a Labour Party in which the Minister did not believe at all.
– The honorable member is wrong. I did believe in the Labour Party, but I did not believe in the honorable member. I stood upon the sam= platform as the Labour Party, and the difference between myself and the honorable member is that I have adhered to it, whilst he has abandoned it. If the honorable member will consider where he stood in 1890, and where he stands to-day, he will see that between the two positions there is a . chasm as wide as hell, a chasm that cannot be bridged by the paltry excuses he now seeks to make. Let him justify to the deluded men in his district his vote in support of a party which embraces thirteen honorable members who are opposed tooth and nail to the whole principle of the Bill. Let him explain that if he can.
– Terrible !
– It is terrible for the honorable member.
– I believe that the honorable member for Lang is against the principle of the Bill. I include him as an addendum, and that brings the number of the opponents of the measure up to fourteen. The number is none the less unlucky because it is fourteen instead of thirteen. There are fourteen men who are opposed to this measure, lock, stock, and barrel, and yet the honorable member for Parramatta proposes to bring them into power. Al the same time, he will try to persuade those credulous and unhappy men in his district that he is still in favour of compulsory arbitration, and that he would give them preference. If he succeeds, he will achieve a great victory. If he stood alone and had not the advantages of a ticket and the press behind him, he would never do it. The right honorable gentleman at the head of one of the sections cf the Opposition says that, if he comes into power, he will take up the Bill where it was dropped, and will go on with it. I think
we may well accept that statement without qualification. The right honorable gentleman, would go on with anything. I want to put a question to the honorable member for Dalley, the only representative of New South Wales in the Opposition who had sufficient courage to emancipate himself even temporarily from the shackles of that caucus, of that party discipline, which is iron in its nature, rigid and unyielding, and which seems to deaden and paralyze even the brightest and most virile of the members of that party. The honorable member has told us that he intends to vote against the Government, because we are not prepared to restore the clause to its original form, but propose rather to insert an amendment, which we consider will have the effect that we desire. Although he candidly admits that the amendment carried on the motion of the honorable member for Corinella really destroys the Bill, he intends to vote against the motion for the recommittal of the clause. In these circumstances I wish to know whether, if the right honorable member for East Sydney comes into power, and, takes up this measure, and we move the recommittal of the clause, the honorable member will vote for us or against us? Will he vote to recommit the clause or not ? That is a conundrum. I leave him to think over the question. The honorable member who believes in compulsory arbitration, who hat, given us a generous support, and .has been the only member of the Opposition to give us that fair play which we were promised’,, is now pledged to support a party comprising fourteen persons, who are opposed to this principle, and would not have it at any price. Incidentally, I may add that that party is opposed to every plank in the platform on which he stood at the last election, and on which, indeed, he has stood during the whole of his parliamentary career. How is he to explain his inconsistency to .his electors? I have nothing more to say to the honorable member. Up to the present he has given us good support ; but now, at the eleventh hour, he finds himself, I suppose, like the one solitary animal upon whom the clanging doors of the ark were about to close, anxious to get inside with the indescribables. He proposes to go with them, and to abandon that line of consistent conduct which he has hitherto courageously pursued. I shall now deal with the other members of the Opposition, but shall except from my criticism the honorable member for Moira, who is the only one in the party in favour of the principle of compulsory arbitration, whose attitude on this clause I can understand. He has explained it, and I am perfectly satisfied with his explanation.
– He was man enough to speak.
– He is, apparently, the only man who has the courage to say anything on the point. Others who are in favour of the principle, but are going -to kill it, have not had the courage to utter one solitary word on this motion. The honorable member for Moira, however, has never professed to regard this measure from our stand-point. Compared with the tumultuous eloquence of the honorable member for South Sydney, the honorable member for Parramatta, and the honorable member for Robertson, his speeches have never suggested that he is so enthusiastic a supporter of the principle as we are ; yet, he has mustered up enough courage to explain why he proposes to take a certain course. The explanation is this : that he is the only man who is not dragged at the chariot wheels of the party. He has taken up his present attitude because of principle, and of principle alone. I, of course, exclude from my criticism of the Opposition those who are opposed to the principle of the Bill. I can understand their attitude, and have no objection to the course which they propose to take. My objection is to those who are in favour of the principle, but yet propose to kill it, although they have not the courage to openly do so. Let us consider the Government proposition. We propose that before preference shall be granted to the members of an organization, it shall be shown that the organization substantially represents the industry affected. The honorable member for Dalley said that he could not regard such a provision as satisfactory, and that the introduction of the words “ substantially represents,” would have the effect of limiting, if not of destroying altogether the usefulness of the Bill. I wish to emphasize the point that the proviso which we seek to insert in place of that carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella embodies the practice which has been adopted in the New South Wales Arbitration Court, and which has been found there to work admirably. Further, it has secured the indorsement of the late Attorney-General of New South Wales,
Mr. B. R. Wise, in whom the honorable and learned member for Ballarat professed a little while ago to fully believe. Mr. Wise, who framed the New South Wales Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and in whose judgment and knowledge of this matter the late Prime Minister professed to have the greatest confidence, is in favour of the proviso which we seek to insert. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat, in moving the second reading of the Bill, on 22nd March last, said -
I am perfectly certain .that the quotation of the right honorable member for Adelaide from the Acting Premier of New- South Wales was accurate, and I venture to take the latter as the best authority in New South Wales. . . -.
– We do not think that he is the best authority in New South Wales.
– If my honorable friends were more impartial they would. In New Zealand and New South Wales, where Arbitration Courts have been employed, we have not found any diminution of capital or employment. On the contrary, we have found in both countries a gratifying advance.
– With preference.
– Yes. The honorable and learned member continued -
The experience is short, I admit - it is not final - but so far as it goes it is entirely in our favour.
After eulogizing the principle of preference which Mr. B. R. Wise introduced in the New South Wales Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and which he asked this House, through the Government, to adopt, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, the advocate of fair play, the believer in the principle, the new Messiah who was going to lead us into the land of Canaan, is now against it. He favours the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s amendment, which, in nine cases out of ten, would, prevent a preference being granted, and, at the same time, he would hopelessly strangle any opportunity to discuss it. What is the meaning of the words “ substantially represents,” and in what respect do they differ from the words “a majority,” which are embodied in the clause as amended? A majority is a definite fixed quantity, and in very many cases is practically incapable of proof. It leaves no discretion to the Court, whereas the words “ substantially represents “ would give a discretion to it. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat says that we are. to trust the Court. It was he who originated that phrase, yet he now proposes to hedge about the action of the Court with this iron bond of restriction, and says that this is an evidence of his giving the Government and the Bill fair play. It has been asserted that our proposal would be insufficient from the point of view of the unions, and the right honorable member for East Sydney has said that we have sold the unions. Such an accusation, coming from the leader of such a party, is at any rate robbed of any significance which it might otherwise have. The members of that party have sold their souls and abandoned all their principles, and yet ask that the unionists should rely upon them. I shall content myself by reading some remarks made on this question by Mr. Justice Cohen, who, I assert most emphatically, is an impartial expert, and an authority on whom we may place every reliance. In dealing with a complaint made by the Hotel Club Caterers’ and Restaurant Employers’ Union against one W. J. Adams, he said -
J have no leaning one way or the other, but in the public interests it would be far better, if the preference clause is being unduly used as a means of oppressing or harassing employers, that the Court should be assisted by evidence of that. I am not saying in this particular case, because I do not know ; but from general statements I see in the press that this preference clause is the means of harassing the employer and placing him in an unfair position of working his business, I say it would be much better if the Court were enlightened by evidence of these things. . . . I know from my own knowledge what I rea’d, time after time, of actions attributed to this Court which the Court has never performed. … I will not be guided by what I see in the public press. These general statements are made, and if you put the statements to the proof, in almost all cases they will fail. I do not expect any clause we lay down will work with perfect harmony and satisfaction to every one. All the wisdom of the Legislature has not formulated a law to which some objection could not be taken.
The facts are these: that in New South Wales, preference to unionists, without qualification, other than that which the Court has imposed, has worked satisfactorily ; and that the qualification which the Court has imposed is that which we seek to provide for in this Bill, namely, that preference shall be given when a union substantially represents an industry. I come now to the question whether unionists do substantially represent those trades in which unionism can operate, and propose to quote some figures, taken from Coghlan’s Statistical Register, which, I think, effectually dispose of the statement that in New South Wales the unionists are in a minority. They show that the total number of workers in New South Wales in 1903 was 423,592, and that in callings 7 f 2 where no unions are to be found there are 301,660 persons engaged. That leaves a balance of 121,932 persons who can come within the operation of this clause. The registered unions under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act of New South Wales represent 62,384, leaving 59,548 persons outside unions in callings where unions exist. These figures conclusively show that the unionists substantially represent those persons engaged in callings in which unionism exists in New South Wales.
– If the unions have a majority in New South Wales, there can be no objection to the clause as it stands.
– How could the possession of a majority be proved?
– The honorable and learned member has just proved it.
– But how could it be proved to the satisfaction of the Court ?
– Some unions may contain not only a majority of the employes who are engaged in a particular industry, but the whole of them, whilst others may comprise only a minority. By no twist of imagination can it be said that a minority of employes “ substantially represents “ any industry, except where it operates within a district. For example, a number of workmen in a particular industry may constitute a majority of those so engaged within a district, but they will constitute a minority within a State. That is what occurred in the case of the Saddlers’ Union, which was cited by the honorable and learned member for Wannon. He declared that the Union in question represented only a minority of those engaged in the industry. As a matter of fact, the award of the Court was in favour of the saddlers who represented a majority of those engaged in the trade within, the district in which the award was made operative. These constituted a minority of the employes engaged in that industry within the State, but a majority within that particular district. The use of the words “substantially represents” would vest the Court with some discretion,’ whereas the employment of the. words “ a majority “ would confer upon it no discretion. Further, it would be practically impossible to demonstrate that even within a small area an organization represented a majority of the employes in any particular industry, but within the extended area, which would be covered by a Federal Arbitration Act, it would be doubly so. I do not know that I need say any more. I am satisfied to have placed before this House and the country the position taken up by. a number of honorable members who support the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Those who declare that they are in favour of this Bill, and who are yet committed to a course of action which is diametrically opposed to their professions - In many cases to their actions - will sooner or later have to answer to the electors, whom they have deceived. Those honorable members who are determined not to give this Government an opportunity to defend itself, and to justify its existence by permitting a discussion upon the merits of its policy or administration, will sooner or later reap the reward of their own narrow-minded and underhanded methods. I venture to think that before many weeks have passed those who adopt such a course of action will bitterly regret that they did not face this question fairly and as men. The blow which they strike to-day will - if it be effective-^ prove their undoing. They propose to strike with the stiletto of the bravo, instead of coming out and fighting with the broadsword of the soldier. They intend to do something which they are incapable and undesirous of justifying. I venture to assert that when they are sitting upon the Ministerial side of the House they will bitterly regret having introduced into this Parliament, where decent politics and decent behaviour have hitherto been the rule, methods which are unworthy of a parish vestry, unworthy of any body of public men in the Empire, and which have never been resorted to in the great mother of Parliaments. In spite of all the provocation, in spite of all the fury of animosity which has been lashed to the wildest heights in the House of Commons, that body has never descended to the contemptible depths to which honorable members opposite have resorted. They have inaugurated a new era. It is the singular fortune of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat that, after having covered himself with temporary glory by resigning his position as Prime Minister when defeated upon a detail of this Bill, he should have lent himself to a base, treacherous, and indefensible action.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The Minister of External Affairs stated that I have not respected the promises which I made to my constituents upon the Arbitration Bill. I wish to say that all through my recent campaign I never once referred to the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, nor was I asked a single question within my electorate in regard to it, so little was the interest evinced in that measure. I may mention however, that I did receive a copy of the platform of the Railway League, which I was asked to sign. I was informed that if I did not sign it its members would conclude that I was not in favour of the inclusion of railway servants within the scope of the Bill. I did not sign that platform. Since the present Government assumed office, I received a further communication asking me if I would support their proposal. I acknowledged the letter, but made no promise. I should like to add that some time ago I wrote a letter to Mr. Hollis-
– Was that before the last election or after it?
– It was just before the election took place. I informed him that I was in favour of making this Bill applicable to railway servants, and I voted in that direction. When I was asked by the leader of the Opposition if I would support a coalition Government, I stated that I would vote in favour of bringing railway servants within the scope of this measure if such a Ministry brought forward an Arbitration Bill. I think that my course of conduct has been very consistent, and I claim that I have never once deceived my constituents.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).Honorable members opposite need have no apprehension whatever that they have drawn the badger. I am not to be baited into making explanations regarding my position. I merely wish to refer to one or two personal matters which come within the purview of this debate. I .crave the permission of the House to refer to an interjection by the honorable member for Barrier, which has been’ repeated several times, and which has caused some honorable members to labour under an entire misconception as to my position. I complain that the honorable member who last repeated that interjection is familiar with the whole facts of the case, and is therefore aware that it should never have been made.
– Explain who made it. The honorable member has accused everybody.
– COOK.- Honorable members have accused me of seceding from the Labour Party to jump the position of Postmaster-General in the Reid Ministry. A more scandalous statement has never been uttered, and I will show why. For some six months I .was the leader of the Labour Party in the New South Wales Parliament. I was not the first leader of that party, as the. Minister of External Affairs has told the House. Mr. McGowan was the first leader. After that party broke up, we formed another party, which adopted a programme consisting of only two planks, both of which have long since been passed into law. I led that party for some time. Then certain individuals outside of Parliament came forward with what is known as the “ solidarity “ pledge. The present Prime Minister, and the Minister of External Affairs, with others, repeatedly came to the members of our party, and requested us to sign the solidarity pledge. I declined to do so, or to be any party to it, chiefly on the ground that it would destroy- my representative character. Thereupon they formed another party outside of Parliament, and declared that the Labour Party inside the Legislature was of a bogus character. They opposed its members at the ensuing election six months later. They endeavoured to drive us out of public life be cause we refused to join the party with the solidarity pledge. Months after these occurrences, and after I had been elected, in the face of their opposition, I was offered a position in the Reid Government. At that time I was unattached to any party, and was entirely free to accept the portfolio of Postmaster-General, or any other Ministerial office. The honorable member for Barrier is familiar with all these facts, and I complain that he has wilfully sought to misguide the House as to the actual position of affairs. The Minister of External Affairs ‘also stated that he was a member of the Labour Party with me. That is quite beside the mark. He was never associated with me in a party. I never signed the pledge of that party, and, therefore, had nothing whatever to do with it.
– Will the honorable member explain how he left the Protectionist Party ?
– In reply to the interjection of the honorable member, I wish to say that I never belonged to the Protectionist Party. But in my young days, before I knew anything about politics or economics, I was foolish enough to write a letter. At every election that letter is. trotted out by a certain newspaper, and -headed, “ An eloquent tribute to protection,” although, according to that same newspaper, everything that I have since written is “Tommy Rot. ‘ ‘ This afternoon the Minister of External Affairs made a characteristically bitter personal attack. With all kinds of contortions and circus tricks, of which he is such a complete master, he gasconaded round the table, as he has done many times of yore, hurling the most bitter accusations against honorable members upon this side of the House, including myself. All I have to say in reply to the honorable member’s threats is that I do not value them at a snap of my fingers. He has made similar accusations before. Rather than resort to the tactics which he adopts for political purposes at election times, I should leave public life for ever. He talks about conscience and straightforward conduct. Why, he does not know the meaning of the terms. He does not keep anything of that kind on the premises. It is not part of his stock-in-trade.
– The honorable member has never kept a solitary pledge made by him during his life.
– The Minister might just as well say that as anything else. Those people who know him will expect him to make statements of that character without having any concern as to whether they are true. The honorable and learned member simply disports himself on the platform, mountebank that he is, and no one questions anything that he says.
– Is that remark not unparliamentary ?
– I ask the honorable member for Parramatta to withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw the remark, if it is considered unparliamentary.
– If it is considered unparliamentary ! There is no doubt about that.
– That interjection comes well from a colleague of a Minister who has been disporting himself as has the Minister of External Affairs.
– The honorable member for Parramatta ought to apologize for what he has said.
– The Minister of External Affairs is, perhaps, a bit disappointed with my attitude in this debate. After his bitter personal attack, I consider myself absolved from secrecy concerning anything that took place between us over this Bill. The Minister of External Affairs is disappointed because I did not vote with him, though he tried hard to get me to do so, and sent wires to me in New South Wales containing requests to that effect.
– I suppose the Minister of External Affairs took it for granted that the honorable member for Parramatta would support unionists.
– All I have to say is that I know of nothing in the present situation contrary to the spirit and purpose of a genuine trade union. I am as much in sympathy with trade unionism to-day and, perhaps, more so than are a great many honorable members who are so bitterly railing at me from the other side of the House.
– Does the honorable member believe in the principle of gagging the House? Does he believe in preventing this Bill being recommitted?
– I tell the honorable member for Grey thai I am not to be baited into making a speech on the merits of the question.
– Why should there not be a speech on the merits of the question?
– The “badger” has been “ drawn.”
– The “ badger “ has not been “ drawn “ ; the honorable member has raised that shout of exultation too soon.
– Has there been a caucus on the question of silence ? It looks like it.
– I know nothing of any caucus.
– Perhaps it is an order, and not a caucus decision.
– I hope honorable members will believe me when I say that the first I heard of the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, was when it was submitted on the floor of the House. I did not know that it was going to be proposed.
– One- honorable member has said that a fortnight ago he was asked to take a similar course, and he would not do’ it.
– I hope honorable members will take my solemn assurance that the first I heard of the motion was when it was submitted on the floor of the House, though I will say that, perhaps, we ought to have known of the intention.
– I have “ drawn “ something after all.
– I do not intend to say anything more in reply to the speech of the Minister of External Affairs, except that whatever I have done I shall answer for to my constituents. ‘ I shall have not the slightest fear in facing the electors. All that will be necessary, when I appear before them, will be to point to what the Government have done in connexion with the preference clause; and it will be for the Government to justify that miserable botch.
– It was the Opposition who botched it.
– Did the honorable member for Parramatta endeavour to help to make the clause a better one ?
– That is not in the bargain.
– The honorable member for Barrier does not wish to make the clause a better one. After looking at the two proposals very closely, with all the capacity I can bring to bear, I cannot see that the amendment which the Government desire to move will make the provision any better, but very much worse. I have only now to say that I fear the threats of the Minister of External Affairs as much as I have always feared them. The honorable gentleman has been making threats ever since he came into public life ; but, if he will look after his own constituents, he will have quite enough to do, without giving his attention to the constituents of other honorable members.
– I desire to make a personal explanation, and not a speech. I had no desire to interrupt the Minister of External Affairs when he was speaking, and that is the reason 1 take the present opportunity to refer to a statement which he then made. The Minister accused me of having all along been absolutely opposed to this Bill, lock, stock, and barrel. I have frequently denied that imputation before, and explained very clearly that while I am not opposed to the general principle of arbitration and conciliation, I am opposed to this particular clause, because I consider it a denial of the equal rights of all - a denial of the right of some men to live. I simply wish to make that explanation, so that any misapprehension on the point may be .removed. My attitude at the present time is perfectly consistent with the position I have taken all along.
– I should also like to say a word -or two, by way of personal explanation. If I have done the honorable member for Parramatta an injustice, I shall be glad of an opportunity to withdraw the statement I made. What I said was that I believed that if the honorable member for Parramatta had not been appointed Postmaster-General by the .right honorable member for East Sydney, when the latter was Premier of New South Wales, in 1894, the honorable member would have been with the Labour Party to-day.
– That is not what the honorable member said.
– What I said was that, in my opinion, if the honorable member for Parramatta had not been offered the office of Postmaster-General in New South Wales, he would have been with the Labour Party to-day.
– Is such value placed on a Ministerial position ?
– It seems there are some who would do anything to become Prime Minister of Australia, at any rate. I may say that the reason I came to the conclusion I did was-
– I really cannot see what something which happened in eighteen hundred something or other has to do with this debate. If I had heard the interjection of the honorable member for Barrier, which has been referred to, I should certainly have required its withdrawal, on an objection being raised by the honorable member for Parramatta. Unfortunately, I did not hear any objection to the interjection, and the latter was not withdrawn. In any case, the matter to which the honorable member for Barrier is referring is entirely irrelevant to the question before us. The honorable member is entitled to make a personal explanation, which he may complete, if he has not already done so; but I ask him not to occupy the time of the House by retailing the history of old events beyond what is absolutely necessary to a personal explanation.
– I do not intend to occupy more than two minutes, and my remarks are practically a personal explanation. I should be very sorry, indeed, to make any personal references to the honorable member for Parramatta that are uncalled for; and I only wish to place before honorable members the reasons why I interjected. In 189 1, the honorable member for Parramatta was member for Lithgow in the New South
Wales Parliament, and was supposed to be a member of the Labour Party. I did not enter the New South Wales Parliament until 1894. A certain number of the members of the Labour Party, including the member for Parramatta, Mr. Alfred Edden, Mr. Gardiner, Mr. J. B. Nicholson, and several others, disagreed in reference to a pledge.
– All but two.
– Practically all of those members are now back with the Labour Party. The honorable member for Parramatta, who was at that time offered the office of Postmaster-General, is practically the only one who has remained away from that party.
– That is not so.
– What the honorable member for Barrier says is not true.
– The honorable member for New England knows that the remark he has made is unparliamentary, and I ask him to withdraw it.
– I withdraw the remark, and will say that what the honorable member for Barrier asserts is not correct.
– As I say, all those members of the Labour Party have since returned to their allegiance; and some of us have thought, from that time to the present, that there was a strong probability that, if the honorable member for Parramatta had not been made PostmasterGeneral, he. would have been found with the Labour Party to-day. However, if it be true that that appointment made no difference to the honorable member, and that there were other reasons for his withdrawal from the Labour Party, I am prepared to accept his denial ; and I can only regret that for a number of years I have misunderstood him to that extent. As regards the matter under discussion at the present moment, I am rather .surprised at the action of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat.
– I understood the honorable member for Barrier to rise to make a personal explanation. If that be so, he cannot continue from that explanation into a speech on the question before us. Had 1 known the honorable member desired to make a speech, I should have been obliged to see the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, who rose first. Do I understand that the honorable member for Barrier desires now to make a speech?
– If I sit down now, have. I lost my right to speak afterwards?
– The honorable member has certainly not lost his right to speak later.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat).- The speech last night of the Attorney-General, one of the members of the Government whom I respect, decided me to offer a few remarks in reply to the observations which he then addressed to this Chamber in a fashion worthy of its traditions. The Minister, who has just resumed his seat, told us truthfully at the close of his remarks that a new era is being introduced to which our past of decent behaviour and decent debate, is to give place. And he has, himself, inaugurated the new era. I regret to find the Federal Parliament, its Ministry, and this debate lowered by a tissue of accusations, half of them malevolent and the other half false.
– I am sure that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat recognises that he has said what is unparliamentary, and must be withdrawn.
– I ask with all respect, sir, that you should further define to me in what 1 have erred. I said that half the charges made against honorable members were malevolent and the other half were false; some of those charges have already been rebutted by honorable members on this side.
– I must ask the honorable and learned member for Ballarat to withdraw the statement. I am sure the parliamentary experience of the honorable and -learned member teaches him that to say a speech is malevolent, and, -more, to say that a speech, or part of it, is false, is a gross breach of the orders of Parliament ; and I think he will see his way to with-“ draw.
– Certainly, sir, if you so direct, though I thought that what I said was in order. To the speech of the Minister for External Affairs I do not propose to make any more than an indirect reply. It happens sometimes to all of us, that as we pass along the streets of the city, we meet men engaged filling drays with dirt and garbage, and unless one is discreet some of that dust and refuse may drift upon him.
– They might ask the honorable and learned .member to get in.
– I have not yet taken my seat beside the honorable member.
– The honorable and learned member tried to do so.
– When it does happen that the dust reaches us, we brush it off and pass on; that is the proper treatment for a speech of the character to which we have just listened. The statement was made last night by the honorable the AttorneyGeneral, that the question before us, relating to preferences, had not been discussed. In that his memory erred. The question of the granting of preferences to the members of organizations was discussed several times, and at great length.
– This aspect was not.
– Various aspects were often discussed together, because there was one body of members who maintained that no preferences should be granted, and there was another body of members who maintained that they should be granted, with conditions. Those aspects were discussed by a number of honorable members in connexion with certain clauses before clause 48 was reached.
– There was not a word said about a majority being insisted upon.
– When the honorable and learned member for Corinella moved his amendment, he not only read it to the Committee, but defended it. It was discussed, and was borne in the minds of honorable members from . that time forward to the close of that debate.
– He spoke for about two minutes only.
– He spoke for nearly three-quarters of an hour when he submitted his amendment. He explained it elaborately. I have looked it up during the last hour, and have read his speech. When the honorable and learned member actually moved his amendment, he rose immediately after the division which we took upon the question of preferences. He then moved it in a speech occupying about fifteen lines of Hansard. That is perfectly true. But, as he said, his amendment had not been altered, except verbally. The absolute feature of it - the majority requirement - remained, as he had merely changed a few words affecting its application. In passing, I may say that I am not sure that by his alteration he improved it. But there was no real alteration in the proposal which he made, which was that a majority guarantee should be required before preference was granted. That question had been genera-, ally discussed. To make the course of events quite clear, I may point out again that there were two sections of opinion in the Committee - those opposed to all preferences, and those who favoured preference with a condition. We went to two divisions. If there be strangers in the gallery who have heard this debate to-night, and who listened to the speech of the Minister of External Affairs, there is not one of them who can suppose that when we went to a division on the question of granting preference to members of organizations, I voted for the granting of that preference. On the contrary, the House has been told, directly and by insinuation - I should say a dozen times - that, in common with other members I opposed the principle of preference which was necessary for the completion of this scheme.
– The honorable and learned member is certainly doing that now.
– That is another wriggle - and an unjustifiable one. We went to the first division. Those who believed in the granting of preferences sat on one side of the chamber, and I sat with them. Those who were opposed to the granting of preferences sat on the other side, and I voted against them. Then came the question of the granting of the preference with a condition. I voted for that condition. I have, never altered mv opinion that the imposition of that condition was wise. We are told that the value of the condition proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, as compared with that proposed by the Government, has not been properly discussed. What have we been occupied three days in doing? It is true that the Minister who has just resumed his seat, and the Minister of Home Affairs, have occupied only a portion of their time with the discussion of the amendment to clause 48. But that question we have had, and still have, ample time to discuss in all its phases. The Government have launched their own proposal, to which they have committed themselves. We have also the proposal for which we previously voted upon which we are asked to reverse our votes. Nothing could be more distinct and plain than the question now before us, and nothing could be more ample than the opportunity that has been offered us to consider it.
– Nothing could be more unfair.
– We have had debates on this Bill in Committee, on a series of important questions, perhaps half a score of times at least; and I fail to recall an instance in which any honorable member has chosen to speak ,’twice, unless, perhaps, to make a trifling correction. So that the apparent limitation involved in debating the question in the House instead of in Committee is a technical and not a real limitation. It is not a limitation at all according to the usual practice of Parliament. The House has had an opportunity to thresh out this question as searchingly, as fully, as thoroughly, and as satisfactorily, as it could be even if we went into Committee. The AttorneyGeneral urged that the clause proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella was open to objection, because it imposed difficulties upon the Court in the way of interpretation. I admit that it does. But I say deliberately, without any hesitation, that it imposes on the Court a smaller burden than would be imposed by the clause which the Government have asked to substitute for it. I see that the Honorable the Minister of External Affairs admits that.
– The amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella imposes a burden on some one else, though.
– It imposes a less burden on the Court, because it indicates the line which, in the opinion of Parliament, the Court should pursue in the granting of preferences.
– It states it - not indicates it.
– It indicates it plainly. It states it, if the honorable member prefers that term.
– It would take twelve months for an organization to put itself in line with the rest.
– Even if that were true, the fact that it would take twelve months for a particular organization to put itself in line with the rest is no effectual objection in a measure of this kind. We are dealing with a scheme which, as I have discovered in the course of these debates, is not fairly to be judged - as at first I thought it might be - from the experience gained in individual States. As I have said its drafting strained to the utmost our constitutional powers, and there are now continual efforts to overstrain them. The only direction in which, so far as my consciousness tells me, I have altered the attitude I took up when first introducing this measure, has been in consequence of the knowledge gained in listening to these debates and in considering the Bill in detail. It was then I came to perceive immense difficulties - and I indicated them to the Committee several times - in applying common rules and preferences to, it may be, the whole of Australia, or to two or three of its great States, as compared with the difficulties involved in applying those principles in a single State.
– It is a pity the honorable and learned member did not discover those difficulties before the elections.
– I discovered everything that, with the knowledge available. it was possible for me to discover. But in connexion with a Bill of this kind, dealing with a subject having the immense complexity which I have often dwelt upon - and. bearing in mind the circumstances, with which the House is perfectly familiar, under which I first took charge of it - I venture to say that it is little wonder that the full gravity and seriousness of all the difficulties of applying State experiences, were not appreciated by me in the beginning. Besides, this is the first, though not the last measure of the kind which the Federal Parliament will deal with. We must proceed circumspectly. The granting of preference to unionists is one of the main features of the Bill. The power to grant it remains. That power, according to the AttorneyGeneral last night, was, under the Bill, unconditional. Since then he himself and a number of his colleagues have admitted that, even in the Bill as we proposed it, that grant would not be unconditional, since, as in New South Wales and New Zealand, conditions would be imposed by the Court itself. Consequently the choice is not, as the Attorney-General submitted last night, between an unconditional grant in the original Bill and a conditional grant now. It is simply the difference between conditions to be imposed by the Court, or similar conditions stated plainly on the face of the Bill. Consequently the difference has simply to be measured between the two conditions before us. My Government never asked for, and this Government never stated that they were asking for, the granting of an unconditional power of preference. This Government elsewhere in this Bill - as the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs last night claimed in connexion with this clause - made concessions. But the honorable and learned member for Darling Downs for the moment overlooked the fact that the Prime Minister had distinctly stated in re- gard to these that he had made no concessions, because he simply consented to allow the practice - the necessary practice - of the Courts to be put in plain language upon the face of the clause, instead of it being left to be added afterwards by the Courts. In connexion with the giving of sufficient notice to allow those who wish to oppose a rule or preference, the Prime Minister defended himself against the charge that he was surrendering anything to Opposition criticism, by pointing out that these requirements were already implicitly contained in the Bill, and that he was merely making them explicit.
– It was a mere unreasonable fear of the Court on the part of honorable members opposite that led to these safeguards being asked for.
– It was simply a desire that Parliament should distinctly and definitely indicate its view, so that it might be incorporated in the Bill. Consequently the question now before’ us is surrounded by no obscurity whatever, and by no difficulty. The condition which the honorable and learned member for Corinella advocates is that the principle of majority ruleshall be applied to industrial affairs, when preference is asked for. It does not say that the principle is to be applied by means of a referendum, as some honorable members have intimated, though if it did I do not know that opposition to it should come from honorable members opposite.
– Except for the delay. A strike might be going on.
– It could not go on.
– It would go on. The honorable and learned member knows that no trade unionists will submit to this Bill if, under it, they cannot get justice at the hands of the Court.
– The honorable gentleman’s colleagues have already shown that the greatest Federal industrial organizations that we know of practically include a majority of the workers. Consequently in those cases - which are the first and greatest cases - this question cannot arise. They have their majority..
– They could not prove that.
– How is it going to be proved? Not by statistics from the Government Statist’s office, but by the opinion of the Court. -Whatever satisfies the judgment of the President of the Court in the matter is to be accepted. Whatever evidence contents him is to be sufficient. There will’ be no requirement except such evidence as satisfies the Court. It might be satisfied with the evidence of one person or two, or more. That is all that will be required. “ In the opinion of the Court “ is quite sufficient. This is not a requirement that there shall be a majority determined by calculation. It is left to the opinion of the Court.
– Those words were put in advisedly.
– No doubt to kill the Bill.
– Nonsense. The Prime Minister says, as imany others have said, that this proposal kills the Bill. We have heard the same statement made with regard to many important measures by those who objected to amendments being made in them. This is the first, the most familiar, and the readiest of the objections which are taken to alterations in Bills. We all know that, as a rule, they are made by men who believe what they say. But it. has been our experience scores of times that when the mists and the heat of conflict have cleared away, and we can look at matters coolly, the amendments thus made are found to have few or none of the consequences prophesied by those who opposed them.
– Take the first Conciliation Bill that was introduced in South Australia.
– It has been inoperative ever since it was passed.
– But does the honorable gentleman forget that that was a measure for voluntary conciliation, whereas this is a Bill for compulsory conciliation?
– The same remark applies to the original Bill in New South Wales.
– The issue, being perfectly distinct, is, after all, a very narrow one. ‘ The Prime Minister and his colleagues have admitted that in a great number of instances the Court, liven if the proviso of the honorable and learned member for Corinella were not inserted in the Bill, would, in practice, apply its principle just the same. Before granting a preference it would desire to be satisfied that a majority asked for it. In all these cases, the one provision is as good as the other.
– Except that under the Government proposal the fact would not have to be mathematically demonstrated.
– Neither must it be mathematically demonstrated under the proviso of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. If we leave out of consideration the cases in which the Court itself would require the proof of numbers, and those in which there is already a clear majority in the unions concerned, we see that the greater number of the cases likely to come before the Court will not be affected by the proviso. There remain an uncertain number in which it is said that the applicants for preference may substantially represent the industry affected, and yet not be an absolute majority. So far as I can predict without much ‘ intimate knowledge of the subject, those cases are likely to be few.
– They will be many.
– Even if they are many, the honorable member must admit that it will require very little to be done to enable an union or organization, which already substantially represents an industrv, to gain the extra support required to make it representative of the majority concerned.
– What is that?
– All that will be necessary will be to satisfy enough of those who are not member’s of the union or organization - they will not necessarily have to join an existing union - that it is to their common interest to obtain a preference, and to get them to join, in order to receive the desired benefit. That is all that will have to be done to create a majority sufficient to satisfy the Court, where no majority now exists.
– The employers of the non-unionists appealed to will hold over their heads the threat that if they join a union they will be dismissed.
– As the honorable and learned member knows, the employers could only dismiss their men in that way before they joined an organization; and how would the employers know that they were going to join until they were enrolled ? The Bill prohibits interference with them once they are members of an organization. On the other hand, under the proposed amendment of the Government, how would a union prove that it substantially represented an industry? The question would still be left to the determination of the Court, and if the Court were not satisfied, the same steps must be followed to secure proof of its majority as would be necessary under the proviso now in the clause. The two conditions are really the same.
– In one case, absolute proof is not required, but in the other, it is. That is the main point of our contention.
– I disagree with the Prime Minister there. I say that our proviso does not require absolute proof. It passes the comprehension of the ordinary student of this question, why the Government, the proviso for majority representation having been inserted, have thought it worth while to take the, serious step they have taken when the difference between substantial representation and the obtaining of an absolute majority is so slight. I noted their action with surprise, and, at first, almost with incredulity. Having listened to many speeches, I am still in doubt as to the reason why they took that step. Until Wednesday evening last, when the amendment now before the House was moved, I believed, and had been informed, that the Government had a majority for the reversal of the previous vote. The honorable and learned member for Corinella about a fortnight ago-
– No, early last week.
– I am not sure of the date. The honorable and learned member told me that he thought of taking a vote on the question of going into Committee to reconsider the clause, instead of in Committee. I asked him why, and he said, “ Because in the clause we have now all that we can get, expressed as we wish to express it. The vote will be the same in either case.”
– He wanted to secure the vote of the Chairman of Committees.
– He did not mention the Chairman of Committees, and I do not suppose he thought about him.
– If he did not think about him, others did.
– He gave the sufficient reason that we had already got the principle of majority representation expressed, .and he asked, “ What more can we get? Why not fake a vote on the question at the first opportunity?” Subsequently it occurred to me that in taking a vote in the House the honorable and learned member would place himself at some disadvantage, because he would virtually say to those who disagreed with him, but who may not have agreed with the Government proposal, “ You must vote either for or against my amendment.”
– He was quite safe, having the solid support of those who are opposed to the Bill.
– Two honorable members have intimated that had the matter been discussed in Committee, they would have voted to retain the proviso as it stands.
– Only one honorable member has stated that.
– I heard one honorable member say it, and understood that another honorable member had also said so. The proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, to which I agreed, did not appear to me in the least likely to become the turning point in the fate of the Government, especially after they were satisfied with an amendment of their own so closely resembling it.
– Had the honorable and learned member any hand in drafting the original proviso?
– Yes, I was consulted in the House during the debate. It was altered two or three times.
– Did not the honorable and learned member say that the proviso was a matter of no moment ?
– No. Directly it was put forward I said that it solved the difficulty, and appeared to me infinitely preferable to any other suggestion which had been mentioned. It really crystallized the usual practice of the State Courts in a distinct form. Who could object to that ? There was a great deal in the proposal of the honorable member for North Sydney, but it would have required considerable time to elaborate it, and would have necessitated such an alteration of the machinery of the Bill that I thought it could riot be adopted. Several alternatives were circulated, and that of the honorable and learned member for Corinella seemed to me the best. The Attorney-General last night quoted me as saying that I had voted for every line and letter of the Bill, and pointed out that I had voted for two important additions. He forgot, however, that the statement which he quoted was made to contrast my position with that of the Government, who had circulated four pages of printed amendments of the Bill which they challenged me for not supporting.
– The original Bill was not ours.
– It was mine by adoption.
– The honorable and learned member did adopt it?
– So did the present Government.
– As contrasting my position with that of the Government, the passage quoted by the Attorney-General is in no sense misleading. Then I stated that I had voted for two important additions or alterations.
– The Minister can call them restrictions if he chooses. I have no objection to that term. One of the amendments forbade the organizations to have a political character, and the other conditioned the granting of preferences.
– The honorable and learned member opposed us whenever an amendment was vital.
– No, that is not correct. The preference question would have been vital to the Government, but for the votes of myself and some of my friends who went over and voted with them. In reply to the Minister of External Affairs. I would point out that, but for myself and others, whom he taunts with having failed to exhibit fair play, the Ministry would not have lived for one day after being sworn in, nor for a week after their recess, nor at later times when crises occurred.
– If the honorable and learned member thought that the Ministry should have been turned out at that stage, he should have taken action accordingly-
– So I would have done.
– Then, there is no obligation.
– I am speaking on the question of fair play. Neither I nor the great majority of honorable members on this side - I do not know that any honorable member did - adopted the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella with the idea that it would become one upon which the fate of the Government would depend. When we voted for the amendment, we did so because we believed it imposed a wise and necessary condition. When we were asked to reverse our votes, we desired to be shown why that which was wise and necessary in our opinion, should not be retained. We are not responsible for the fact that the Government chose to make the amendment a vital question. That choice rested absolutely with them; and having regard to all they are prepared to concede now, it remains inexplicable to me why they should have made so narrow a difference a vital question.
– Is it inexplicable that we should support the Bill as introduced by the honorable and learned member?
– The Prime Minister is a man with whom I should be unwilling to exchange any harsh words ; but I believe that this debate, and especially the speech of his honorable colleague, the Minister of External Affairs, has done more to impair the reputation of the Government than anything which has hitherto occurred.
– That is the view of an opponent.
– I do not say that because we are opponents, but because there has been manifested once again that spirit which will be displayed to the desperate cost of my honorable friends in the two corners when they face the electors. Those most closely allied with the Labour Party, those who make the greatest sacrifices for them, who stand closest to them, and who most wish to help them, are always the first to be sacrificed by them. One may help the Labour Party for one month, two months, three months, or four months ; but the moment that one stops or makes a single independent step he is treated as a bitter enemy. After having been apparently trusted, he will be treated as if suspected from the first moment ; he will be condemned as if he had attacked them from the outset. That is the treatment which follows alliances with political machines. One can ally himself with men ; one could ally oneself with honorable members like the Prime Minister.
– With whom is the honorable and learned member now allying himself? He will yet be thrown aside like a sucked orange.
– The honorable and learned member sought an alliance with the Labour Party.
– It is perfectly true that I was prepared to ally myself with the Labour Party, and it is also true that I often suggested an honorable alliance. At those times, however. I always said, “Make your machine such that all those men who stand by you shall be treated as equal in every respect to members who subscribe to the labour pledge; divide your programme, separate the prophetic and impossible from the practical and useful, and then we can enter into a useful alliance with you.” One could make such an alliance with men like the Prime Minister. It is not his men in the House I fear, but the machine. Most members are properly governed by a sense of loyalty, bred by alliance and action together - you can appeal to their conscience and judgment. But when you come to the machine, you are dealing with something which has no loyalty, no conscience, and no judgment.
– What about the machine which the honorable and learned member recently inaugurated ?
– On the occasion of the inauguration to which the Prime Minister refers, I said from the platform that if the proposal of the organization was to create such a machine as I had been criticising I should be against it, as much as against that of the Labour Party. I do not wish to fight machine with machine, but to fight machine politics with the full freedom and independence of a representative of the people.
– The silence of honorable members opposite is the result of the operation of a machine.
– Yes, they are all wound up and dare not go off.
– I had no intention to detain the House at any greater length than might have been necessary to reply to the remarks of the Attorney-General last night. Having occupied some little time, and having allowed my blood to cool, I feel that I have replied perhaps too much in kind to the remarks of the Minister of External Affairs. If so, I have departed from my rule. The best way to meet angry attacks is to answer in another manner. If anything has been uttered below our high parliamentary level, I regret it. Up to now, we have, as a Parliament, established a standard of which we need not be ashamed, and I hope that we shall always be able to maintain it.
.- It ought not to fall to me to reply to the speech which has just been delivered by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. His statement should have been made much earlier in this debate. As the leader of the Opposition the honorable and learned member should, before this have informed honorable members and the country of the reasons for the attitude which he has adopted on this question. I should like to direct attention to one remark of the honorable and learned member with regard to the sacrifices which the operation of machine politics entail on every person who submits himself to their influences He) stated! that every person who had allied himself with the Labour Party had been ultimately sacrificed, but I would point out that he was speaking without a knowledge of his own country. In Queensland, every member who had supported the Morgan Government and the Labour Party was returned unopposed so far as that party was concerned. The statement of the honorable and learned member, therefore, conveyed quite a wrong impression.
– I believe that, so far as Queensland is concerned, up to the present time, what the honorable member states is perfectly correct. Of course we have to see how matters will eventually work out there.
– In the same way we have to see how the millenium will work out when it comes. No attempt was made to oppose the honorable member for Darling Downs, and rightly so, nor was any attempt made by the Labour Party to oppose the honorable member for Moreton. Why should an honorable member occupying such’ a position as that held by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat make such an accusation, even in the heat of debate.
– All the seats which we lost at the last election were lost -to members of the Labour Party.
– In South Australia we did not oppose one Liberal.
– In New South Wales the Labour Party put up candidates against members of our party who really were favorable to their principles.
– If that be the charge made against our party, I accept it. The evidence before our own eyes justifies the action which Ave took. The Opposition comprises honorable members holding the most extreme views, and, as honest believers in certain principles, we were bound to tell the people of the country that we differed from these men. That being so, we should have taken up an unworthy position had we not sought to secure the return of others in their stead.
– A nominee of the right honorable member for East Sydney opposed me.
– Why should so much unnecessary heat be displayed at the last moment, when it is known that I am the only member of the Ministry who has not spoken? Why this throwing down of the gauntlet, when the Government have practically no further opportunity to reply to the challenge?
– The Postmaster-General has not yet spoken.
– I had overlooked that fact. In any event, why should the suggestion have been made tHat the proceedings of the House have been degraded? If the honorable and learned member, feels that Parliament has been degraded by reason of tactics which have recently Been pursued, I am entirely with him. Until the Labour Party took possession of the Treasury benches no fault could be found with the conduct of the proceedings, but shortly after we took office there was a noticeable falling away from the high level which had been reached. That falling away, however, was not due to any fault on the part of the Government, or of their supporters. As the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has been permitted to refer to one. or two personal matters, I Trust that I shall not be denied the opportunity to reply to a statement regarding the office which I hold. The honorable and learned member for Parkes, in discussing the Ministerial statement some weeks ago, made a most unworthy insinuation, hinting in the broadest possible way that it was not wise, in the public interests, to intrust a Department, like that of Trade and Customs, to a member of the Labour Party.
– The. right honorable member for East Sydney said that it was a matter, not of a penny, but of many pennies, with us.
– He also remarked that we were anxious to remain another day in office.
– He withdrew that remark.
– Certainly he did, and I therefore do not propose to refer to it. But I have never had an opportunity to reply to the contemptible insinuation made by the honorable and learned member for Parkes, which has been recorded on the pages of Hansard, and I therefore trust that I shall be permitted to briefly refer to it.
– I would point out to the honorable gentleman that, when the honorable and learned member for Ballarat mentioned a certain question a few moments, ago, I prevented him from proceeding to discuss it, because I considered it to be beyond the scope of the debate, and unless the honorable the Minister can connect the matter to which he refers, with clause 48, I am afraid that I cannot hear him.
– The statement made by the honorable and learned member for Parkes certainly touches the question of preference, because it clearly shows that he has no preference for members of the Labour Party. He asserted that, as we represented a class, it was unsafe to allow any member of the party to give decisions in matters relating to the Customs Department, inasmuch as he would favour a certain side. Could a more contemptible statement be made? It is to charges such as this that we are to submit without reply.
– Did not the honorable and learned member for Parkes say that he wished to see the Labour Party come into power?
– I do not think he did. He told the House that it was the duty of his leader to call upon honorable members to remove the present Administration from power at the earliest possible moment, and that direct action must shortly be taken, with that object in view. Where are those honorable members who advocated the taking of direct action against the Government? Their attitude shows that they are wanting in that statesmanlike conduct which might reasonably be expected from those occupying high positions. It has been hinted by .the honorable and learned member for Ballarat that the Government are endeavouring to obtain for unions more than they are entitled to, and that we are not taking care to safeguard the interests of non-unionists and the public generally. That statement has been suggested by conservative minds in every age, since the struggles and trials of unionists began. It was said, at one time, that the leaders of unionists were blackguards, who were interfering with law and order, and endeavouring to prevent masters from carrying on their industries in the way they ought to do. Trade unionists were reviled, and even suffered imprisonment; but ultimately they were recognised by law, and succeeded in accomplishing a great work. Mr. Herbert Paul, in A History of Modern England, states that trade unionists did more to uplift the masses of Great Britain during the last century than all that had ever been done at Westminster; that all the laws passed by the British Parliament, with a view to this end, sink into significance as compared with the good achieved by trade unions. That is the statement, not of a partisan, but of an historian, who has taken some interest in the question, and he is able to verify it by statistics and historical records. Is it not strange that there should be a fear that the leaders in these movements for reform will get too much ? Is it not singular that nearly every one is to be left to lag behind, and more particularly those who have suffered in their efforts to improve the lot of their fellows? When I was but a lad, in my teens, I had to take part in a strike in which the workers were worsted, with the result that I was not allowed to return to my former place of employment. My tools were removed-
– -It was the tide which led to fortune.
– I was first led to think of coming to Australia by the feeling that as a youth I had been treated unfairly in my native country. Is there anything wrong in that. My experience is that no man who is not competent can occupy a leading position in a trade union. The leading officers of those organizations are called upon to submit to a great deal of abuse, and unless we can offer them something in return for their self-sacrifice, where is the virtue in passing a Bill of this description? We are not asked to enact legislation which willi confer no benefit upon unionists. Seeing that these men undertake to protect the rights of all engaged in their own particular calling, it is only fair that a preference should be extended to them, in order to prevent them being made the victims of injustice. At this stage I have no desire to make a lengthy speech, because I am aware that honorable members wish to take a vote upon this question. I should like to say, however, that I should have been very much better pleased if the right honorable member for East Sydney had more carefully chosen his language last evening, and if he had been more considerate of the feelings of others. The one taunt level lc against the Government in this House has been that we were clinging to this Bill, not that we might secure a workable measure of arbitration, but that we might remain in office for a few days longer. I say that there is not an honest man in the country who believes that charge. The desire to oust the Ministry does not arise from an honest difference of opinion as to whether a preference should be extended to unionists, but springs rather from the fact that we were allowed to accept office as a matter of grace, that we have done a great deal better than our opponents anticipated, that the country is beginning to realize that others are capable of carrying on the Government of the Commonwealth, and that those who have been accustomed to regard themselves as the only persons able to administer its affairs are’ in fear and trembling as to the result.
– The honorable gentleman, who has just resumed his seat, has referred to the charge which has been levelled against the Opposition that its members have been “gagged” because they do not choose to enter, into a more or less useless discussion upon this much debated question. So far from there having been a caucus meeting held to bring about any such result, no caucus has been held during the past two months. Moreover, no opinion has been expressed by the leader of the Opposition to the effect that honorable members upon this side of the House should abstain from addressing themselves to this question.
– I saw four honorable members opposite holding another honorable member down.
– Our silence has been prompted simply by a desire to return to our homes at the end of the week, instead of being engaged in discussing a motion, the result of which is a foregone conclusion. Personally, I should have preferred that the Government had been subjected to a direct challenge, or that this issue had been fought out in Committee. In any case, the result would have been the same. It is well known that the Ministry have not a majority in this House. I say, further, that many honorable members upon this side of the chamber are twice as anxious as are half the members upon the other side to secure a workable measure of arbitration. They wish to see some of the provisions of this Bill amended in order that it may be made operative. They do not desire it to break down by reason of its own rigidity. The Ministry have chosen to make this question vital to their existence. I claim that the amendment to clause 48, which they have circulated, has been framed with a desire to escape from an awkward position. Their object was to make use of Pontifex Maximus and his deputy to amend the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella in some way which would enable them to again climb down, and thus secure the retention of office. Such tactics show that there is no more desire on the part of honorable members opposite to obtain a compulsory Conciliation and Arbitration Act than there is on the part of many honorable members upon this side of the House. It is perfectly true that seven or eight members of the Opposition are absolutely opposed to this class of legislation, but it is equally true that seven or eight Ministerial supporters would proceed to such extremes as would render the Bill quite inoperative. It is idle for them to accuse us of insincerity. We have repeatedly shown that we are honestly determined to obtain a measure of conciliation and arbitration irrespective of what Government may be in office. We shall see that some such legislation is enacted. The Minister of External Affairs has attacked several honorable members of the Opposition who are just as honest in their advocacy of a Bill of this character as he is. The honorable and learned member chose to accuse me of an utter abnegation of principle in voting for the motion now before the House - to accuse me of breaking my promises to the electors, and of so far disgracing myself politically that it will be utterly impossible for me to be again returned by the electors of South Sydney. The Minister may be excused to the extent that he was like a rat caught in a trap, where all he could do was to squeak, and, as it were, howl for mercy. But nothing in the Minister’s position justifies him in turning on honorable members who, on this side of the House, have worked’ most in accord with him - there is nothing to justify his selecting those honorable members as objects of his vituperation. I have here the - first speech I made when the second reading of this measure was proposed. Though I do not wish to occupy the time of the House by reading any lengthy extracts, I may be allowed to show that, on the 25th August, 1903, I expressed myself very strongly in favour of compulsory conciliation, and arbitration.
– Men cannot be judged by their speeches so well as by their votes.
– I shall also refer to the votes which I gave. On that occasion, I said -
The principle of determining industrial warfare by industrial arbitration is one to which I have long ago committed myself. I have fur ther committed myself to vote for the adoption of some such principle in relation to Federal legislation, and I find that I am compelled to vote for the second reading of this Bill. After a careful perusal of its provisions, however, I am forced to the conclusion that there is a great deal in it, which, when we go into Committee, I shall have to oppose very strongly in order that this measure may be brought within what, T think, are the only justifiable limits for us to adopt under the Constitution.
– The honorable member desired to make the Bill unworkable.
– I shall show by my votes that the honorable member is quite wrong in his assumption. What I desired was a workable Federal measure, and to that end I voted for the inclusion of the railway operatives. I expressed myself strongly in favour of that course; but I told the House plainly that there were many proposals which, in Committee, I should have to oppose. That was before the last election, during which I dealt with this question more fully in detail. While I agreed to support the measure, I did not agree in any way to give preference to unionists. Where is the abnegation of principle? The Minister of External Affairs, flourishing a paper as though it contained my signature, exclaimed. The honorable member has broken his pledges in supporting this amendment.” That paper did not bear my signature ; and such is the contemptible political trickery adopted by the Minister of External Affairs ! These are the facts ; and I never wish to hide any of my political promises or actions : Mr. Robert Hollis, who .is the organizing secretary of the Railway Servants’ Association in Sydney, sent to me a circular during the election, with a request that I would say whether I- would support the Bill or not. By some accident, however, that circular went to the wrong address, and did not reach me until after the election. Another gentleman, who, I think, is the organizing secretary of the Railway Servants’ Association in Victoria, wrote to me after, the election, asking whether I would be in my place in the House to support the inclusion of railway servants within the operation of this Bill ; and the reply I sent was that I had supported that policy before, and would continue to support it. I never gave a pledge to any individual, or any body or organization, that I .ould support preference to unionists; because I believe that by adopting that preference to its fullest extent, we would make this measure anything but a boon to the whole working-class population of the Commonwealth. This is a measure for settling disputes between workmen and their employers, but there has been a systematic attempt all through to make it. a measure in the interests of unionism; and that is what I object to. We ought to adopt any principle we can to get all disputes between the great body of the working classes, and the powerful body of employers, settled by peaceable means; and I have gone as far as any honorable member, and a good deal further than some, in endeavouring to make this Bill more operative on its conciliation side. Yet, because I. choose to think that the Bill can be made all the more operative by limiting the preference given to unionists, I am subjected to those charges of breaking my political promises and pledges - charges made by a man whose political ideal has more in. common with my own than it has, perhaps, with the ideal of any other honorable member. What the honorable and learned member for Ballarat said this afternoon - and it has been said before - is very true, namely, that these caucus-bound, league-tied bodies, are more bitterly opposed to any one who is somewhat in sympathy with them, and yet remains outside their iron ring, than they are to the most bigoted conservative in the country. I have the greatest respect for most of the members of the Labour Party. I do -not know that there is any man in the public life of the Commonwealth for whom I have greater respect than I have for the Prime Minister; and I did hope that when he took office, he would break down this caucus rule, and open the doors of the Labour Party more widely and freely for the admission of other democrats, so as to make a workable party, which might survive and govern. But the party takes up a clause like this, without reference to their own individual opinions; simply because the strings are pulled in the leagues and unions. They say, “We must have this clause, or otherwise we cannot control the political machinery and organizations behind us, and must be bound to lose.” The members on this side of the House, who are supporting this measure from a clear conviction of its usefulness, have nothing to gain. What does ‘it matter to most of us whether we sit on the green seats on the Ministerial side, or the green seats on the Opposition side? We are doing what we think is best in the interests, not of unionism, but of labour and industrial peace. Legislation of this kind ought to have been the death-knell of the old unionism. We hear talk about the men having given up the power to strike, but the employers are giving up freedom of contract, so that there are concessions on both sides. But if it is sought to preserve the unions, with all their political organizations and ramifications, and give them complete preference, then the measure, instead of being one to assist the working classes, will prove the most powerful engine for oppression and tyranny that could be conceived. It is in the interests of the great body of the working classes that I am striving, by my vote to-night, to retain the clause already inserted in the Bill.
– So as to kill the Bill ?
– The charge may be hurled back that those who desire to go to extremes are the very men who will kill the Bill and prevent its being operative - who will prevent the attainment of that industrial peace which is the aim’ of this legislation.
– Can the honorable member get what he desires from the deadly enemies of the Bill on the Opposition side ?
– I cannot answer the honorable member ; his interjections are too much for me, and, generally speaking, have nothing in them to answer. I believe in my heart that some such legislation as this is necessary. I am not much interested in it personally. I have never been a member of any employers’ organization. But I am an employer myself, and I desire to see that commercial prosperity which I believe springs from peace. But I maintain that we cannot secure industrial peace so long as the members of unions have a preference to which they are not entitled by any principle of justice or by any honest action of the Legislature of this country. . My belief is that if this legislation is passed* unions of the old kind can pass away, and the new organizations which this Bill contemplates - simple organizations of those employed in any industry - take their place. Why does any employer at the present time employ nonunionists? Because in some instances he finds it cheaper to do so. In other instances employers find it more remunerative to employ union workmen. But under this Bill an employer must pay the same wages to one class of men in the same trade and for the same services as to another class.
Consequently the desire to employ nonunionists will disappear, and the distinction between unionists and non-unionists will disappear also. I am pleading for freedom for all the workers of this country, and I am prepared to fight this battle in South Sydney, if need be. I have no doubt that I shall come back victorious.
– Considering the warmth of the debate which has taken place, it is interesting to know what it is all about. We are here not to represent any particular party, but to represent Australia. At the present time I am attached to no party. Therefore, I can speak with perfect freedom upon this question. But when I find that a new departure has been made, and that a new method has been inaugurated in dealing with the legislation of the Commonwealth, I am driven to the conclusion that there must be some reason for it. It has been stated to-day that much of what has taken place has been done in order to catch the vote of the Chairman of Committees. I do not think it reasonable to suppose that an honorable member occupying the important and honorable position of Chairman of Committees would lend himself to stifle discussion. Because really the amendment which is now before the- House involves the stifling of discussion. 1 always understood that the aim of the Chairman of Committees when he gave a vote should be to give it in such a way as to afford an opportunity for the further consideration of the question. Therefore, I do not think it probable that the Chairman Of Committees will be found voting to stifle debate in reference to a matter which is of vast importance to members of trade unions, and to others who are interested in the’ industrial questions affected by this Bill. We are asked to determine that the majority shall rule. The honorable and learned member for Corinella states that there is no difficulty in proving what is a majority. I should like to know how- he would propose to ascertain the opinion of the majority of those engaged in any particular trade? I venture to .-ay that it is impossible to ascertain the number of people employed in any industry in the Commonwealth. We have had a little experience lately of the difficulty of ascertaining how many electors there are in various districts of Australia. It seems to be even impossible to find out the number of men and women in a particular district. It is still more difficult to find out how many persons are affected by a particular trade dispute. I am not at all afraid of the threat which has been thrown out by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, that those honorable members who sit in the corner where I occupy a seat will find it a disadvantage when they go before the electors if they vote against the amendment. I am one of those who intend to vote for what he considers to be right, irrespective of whether that vote commends itself to the electors of any particular district or not. I am here to do my duty, and intend to do it. If the electors do not like it they can place me at the bottom of the poll. But I should not like to go back to them and have to admit that, having been elected as a democrat and protectionist, I had joined the Free-trade Party. I am aware that that point is outside the limits of the present discussion, and as I wish to confine my remarks within proper lines I will proceed no further with it. I repeat that I believe that it is impossible to find out the number of persons engaged in the industries of this country. Take, for instance, the boot trade. How would honorable members opposite propose to find out how many persons in “Victoria alone are interested in the boot trade? How would they propose to ascertain how many shearers or wharf labourers there are, or how many workmen are interested in other occupations? People in this country vary their occupations frequently. Sometimes they are doing one thing, sometimes another. Statistics are unreliable, because the occupations of the people change so much. A man may be engaged in mining this week; in a few weeks’ time he may be engaged in quite another occupation. It is only fair and reasonable, seeing that the Bill has been under discussion for a considerable time, that amendments have been made .in it, and that the Prime Minister intimated that he intended to ask the House to recommit the measure, that the majority of honorable members should allow that reconsideration to take place. I cannot understand why the closure should be exercised. Some question has been raised with regard to the circumstances under which the vote upon the question under discussion was formerly taken. It was a hurried vote. Many .honorable members had left the chamber in order to get ready to go to other States. After the division bell had been ringing for some time an honorable member came to me and asked me to request Mr. Speaker to repeat the question, because he feared that I was making a mistake. I was in the chamber during the whole of the discussion, because I had no train to catch. But many honorable members came in at the last moment. One honorable member told me on the following day that he knew that he had made a mistake. He had intended to vote the other way. But because some honorable members have a desire to find seats on the Ministerial side of the chamber they are prepared to throw in their weight against the Government, with the hope of taking their places. It matters not to me which side of the House I sit upon, so long as I can secure the legislation which I think is in the’ interests of the Commonwealth. But I do like every one to be straightforward and honorable in his methods, and I do not consider that it is straightforward and honorable to prevent the House from going into Committee in order to reconsider a question of this kind. Therefore I intend to vote with the Government. I shall do so, not because they are a Labour Ministry, nor because certain gentlemen at present occupy the Opposition benches ; but because I believe in fair play, and in being straightforward and above board.
– I shall not detain the House very long; but I wish to say a few words before the division is taken. I desire, in the first place, to ask the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who is responsible for the proviso in regard to which there has been so much debate, what he really means by it? The honorable and learned member for Indi pointed out last night how little effect it would have if carried in its present form, and no attempt has been made to answer his arguments. There are one or two members of the legal fraternity at present on the Opposition benches, and I ask them to say what the position really means ? What is meant by the words “ a majority of those affected by the award who have interests in common with the applicants “ ? In some districts would not almost every person residing there be so affected? Take the coal-mining district of Korumburra, in Gippsland, for example. Would not almost every person residing in that district be affected, either directly or indirectly, by an award? I would also ask, how is the opinion of the majority affected to be obtained, when a question concerning the seamen, the wharf labourers, the coal miners, and other large bodies of employe’s, arises? Every member of the industry would have to be individually consulted in order to obtain the opinion of the majority, and it would be utterly impossible to follow such a course as that.
– I think that the honorable member misapprehends the meaning of the words which he has quoted.
– Possibly I do; but members of the legal fraternity so twist and alter every phrase that they set themselves to explain, that finally not even they themselves know what it means. What would the honorable and learned member do if he were engaged to oppose an application for preference, made by an industrial union? Would he not ask who were the people affected, and whether the union represented a majority of them ? Would he not make the most of the difficulties I have suggested? To my mind, the phraseology of the proviso is very loose indeed, and if we had the opportunity for the reconsideration which is so unhappily being refused us, I would move to amend the proviso, so as to make it read -
A majority of those affected by the award who have industrial interests in common with the applicants.
That would considerably limit its application, and make it easier to obtain an award than it would be under the proviso as it stands.
– Honorable members opposite would not agree to that.
– Honorable members do not wish to give an opportunity for the reconsideration of the clause. All they desire is to cross over to these benches, which we have graced for such a brief period. The honorable member for South Sydney gave the whole case away when he said that, by the operation of a common rule, the same wages would be paid to unionists and nonunionists alike. As has been pointed out on many occasions; that is what we desire to avoid. We wish to give preference to unionists. If a non-unionist can compel an employer to pay the same wages as are paid to a unionist, how .can men be induced to join the unions? If, under those circumstances, a man was asked to become a member of an industrial organization, he Would say, “ What benefit will it do me to join a union? What benefit is it to be a member of a union unless one can thereby get a preference ? “ Referring to the attitude of the
Opposition generally in this matter, I cannot help wondering that they have stooped so low as they have done. The standard of political morality raised by the Labour Party is so high that a man can stand upright beneath it; but the standard of political morality of honorable members opposite has been so lowered that to get underneath it one must stoop or crawl. One of the first speeches made in this Chamber after the meeting of the Federal Parliament here must have delighted every man who listened to or read it ; I refer to the speech of the honorable and learned member for Parkes, who spoke about the rarer atmosphere of Federal politics, and, in castigating a fellow member, said that he was sorry that he has stooped so low. But how have the mighty fallen ! The honorable and learned member who spoke of the rarer atmosphere in Federal politics is now sitting with those who are content to move in an impure and much lower atmospheric stratum. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat has agreed to allow the right honorable member for East Sydney to lead the attack on the Government benches; but has the right honorable member the confidence of the people of the Commonwealth ? I say that he has not.
– He has certainly not the confidence of the people of Victoria.
– The right honorable member may have the confidence of the electors of East Sydney, but he has not the confidence of the people of New South Wales. The right honorable gentleman does not command the confidence of the people of the State in which he was Premier for many years, and he was afraid to stake his reputation at the last election, notwithstanding all that had been said in this House as to his popularity. He challenged the honorable member for Hume on the floor of this House, and threatened him with pains and penalties at election time ; but when the time came to put his threats into execution he had not the courage of his opinions, but allowed one of his lieutenants to be sacrificed on the altar of freetrade. I dare say that honorable members are anxious to come to a division^ I have been willing that Ave should settle the question one way or the other ‘for some time past. The results of the approaching vote may be fairly well forecasted, and I regret exceedingly that those honorable members who seam to have the numbers on “their side should have declined to allow the Bill to be recommitted. The proviso adopted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella was carried by a snatch vote, and if the honorable and learned member had been possessed of those gentlemanly instincts to which he has laid claim, he would never have sprung a surprise of this nature upon the House.
– I deprecate exceedingly the very personal tone adopted by the Minister of External Affairs. His attack upon the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was absolutely undeserved. If honorable members were asked by their vote to show the respect and honour in which they hold the honorable and learned member for his sincerity and consistency in this matter, I am sure they would heartily respond, and that the Minister of External Affairs would stand alone. We should do everything Ave can to preserve the dignity and honour of Parliament, and all’ personal bitterness should be avoided in discussions of this kind. After careful consideration, I have decided to maintain the attitude which I assumed on a previous occasion. In the first instance, I voted against preference to unionists altogether. I then said that I would support preference to unionists, only so long ‘as the organizations had no political objects, and refrained from devoting their funds to political purposes. I consequently voted against the original clause, and I supported the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, because I Avas only too glad, at that time, to defeat the object of the clause. I thoroughly agree Avith the attitude taken up by the Government in assuming that the clause, in its present shape, would entirely fail to achieve its original object, and that the provision as to the granting of preference would become a mere farce. According to Hansard, I spoke on 29th June as follows : -
I am in favour of the principle of the amendment, however, because, while I do not think it necessary that the organizations registered under the Bill should have been formed solely to carry out its purposes, I think that they should exist solely for that object. If existing organizations purge themselves of their political and philanthropic characteristics, and become organizations existing solely to carry out the purposes of the Bill, I would have no objection to men being compelled to join them, and my objection to the principle of preference to unionists would at once be removed….. If the unions turn their attention to industrial matters, apart from any political objects, there will be no desire to prevent unionists from securing preferential treatment.
My statement was cheered by a number of honorable members, and I remember distinctly that the honorable member for New England stated that he perfectly agreed with me, and that he was prepared to accept the principle of preference to unionists if the unions were purged of their political features. Since then the conditions have been entirely changed, because the Government have accepted amendments which will prevent a preference being given to the members of an organization with political objects, or whose funds are devoted to political purposes. Therefore, my objection to the granting of preference has been removed. I should prefer to see the present Government carry the Bill through, because I believe that they honestly intend to give effect to it. I could have no sympathy with a Government whose supporters embraced from eleven to thirteen honorable members who desired to destroy the Bill. Such honorable members would wield an influence which would be sufficiently strong to paralyze the arm of the leader of any new Government, and I think that all those honorable members who advocate conciliation and arbitration should support the motion for the recommittal of the Bill. We should remember what was done at the caucus meeting of the party to which I belong. The following resolution was adopted: -
That this party is not prepared to consider proposals for a coalition, except on condition that the Prime Ministership of any coalition be accorded to the present leader of this party.
That decision was arrived at at a meeting of the Liberal Party, and yet we find the honorable and learned member for Ballarat no longer occupying the position of Leader of the Opposition, and refusing to take office. The right honorable member for East Sydney would probably be at the head of the new Government”.
– The honorable member is not in order in discussing that question.
– It is just as well that this matter should be settled. If I am not to be permitted to discuss it, it will be useless for me to proceed any further. The amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella is not an attack upon clause 48, but an attempt to take the business of the House out of the hands of the Government. It is equivalent to a vote of want of confiddence, and I contend that I should be permitted to discuss” the whole of the policy of the present Ministry, and also to refer to the probable consequences of the vote about to be given.
– I have’ already ruled more than once that the question before the Chair is, so far as I know, not one of confidence, or want of confidence, in the Government, but whether certain words shall or shall not be omitted from the motion which has been moved by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has moved the recommittal of certain clauses, and the honorable and learned member for Corinella has moved that the figures “ 48 “ should be struck out of the motion. The effect of adopting his amendment would be to prevent the recommittal of clause 48. I know nothing more than that, and I must, as far as practicable, confine the debate to the question which I have stated.
– You say, sir, that you know nothing more than that which you have stated, and I therefore propose to place some further information before you. It would be most unfortunate if you were to remain in ignorance of the statement made by the Prime Minister in this House, and in your presence, that if the amendment were carried the Government would resign.
– The honorable and learned member will recognise that no such information as that can alter the facts before me. The facts set out in the noticepaper, and which have just been read by me, are the only ones on which I may proceed. Throughout the. debate I have heard frequent complaints as to the discussion being confined within narrow limits, but that would not be the case if the honorable and learned member’s contention were correct. The fact that the fate of the Government depends on this issue is not one which can be debated, except incidentally. That it can be incidentally referred to is evident, because the honorable and learned member has dealt with it in that way, and while he so treated it, I did not stop him. When, however, he proceeded to debate the general question, and to discuss the relative merits of the present Government and its possible successors, I was bound to prevent him from proceeding further in that direction, because that is entirely beyond the question before the Chair.
– Let me put before you, sir, some of the facts which have been mentioned during the debate. The Prime
Minister has stated that if the amendment be carried, he will resign, and the honorable and learned member for Corinella has also informed the House that he is aware from certain statements made outside by the honorable gentleman that he will take the course indicated. I have likewise heard the matter discussed by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, but, unfortunately, the right honorable member for East Sydney, although leader of the Opposition, does not desire to take part in the debate. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat said that, he knew he was discussing a motion on which the fate of the Government depended, and every member of the Ministry, save the PostmasterGeneral, has said that that is so. I propose to show why those statements, deliberately made, are incorrect. I think that the House will have too much good sense to allow them to be fulfilled.
– I am sure that the honorable and learned member desires to keep within the limits of debate, and having stated those facts, I ask him now to proceed to discuss clause 48.
– If the closure be once applied in this way it will give rise to a state of affairs similar to that following the application of the closure in the House of Commons. There it afterwards applied most severely towards those who caused its adoption. If the leader of the Opposition and the honorable and learned mem-‘ ber for Ballarat allow your ruling, Mr. Speaker, to pass without criticism, a dangerous precedent will be created. I appeal to the leaders of parties to see that the rights of honorable members are not unduly restricted ; but if I do not receive the support which I expect from them, I must proceed with the consideration of the clause. I propose to discuss the fiscal side of this question. I have to recognise in the first place that the amendment is being supported by a majority of the members of the free-trade party, and that it is also receiving the silent support of a large number of protectionists, who are apparently going to allow themselves to be absorbed by the free-trade Opposition. I desire to show .what will happen to the industries of Australia if we permit the leader of the f ree-trade Opposition to take possession of the Treasury benches. I fail to see why the protectionists who are fighting with the free-traders-
– During the debate I have repeatedly prevented honorable members from discussing the fiscal issue, and if I were now to permit the honorable and learned member to deal with it I should be guilty of a distinct injustice to those honorable members. I must therefore apply to the honorable and learned member the same rule that I have done to others.
– That would be the position, sir, unless a new view were presented to your mind. Unlike the right honorable member for East Sydney, I shall not deal with the general question, and then find in the end that I am unable to connect it with the matter immediately before the Chair. It is admitted that we cannot have protection for the manufacturer without protection for the worker, and that we cannot have preference for unionists unless we have preference for manufacturers. I have alreadypointed out, Mr. Speaker, that you allowed the Minister of External Affairs to diverge from the ordinary channel of debate, and I desire to present a new View of the position to you. I wish to show that the fiscal issue and the question of preference are cognate subjects. I find it absolutely impossible to deal with unionism and preference without showing that the manufacturer and the capitalist are entitled to a similar preference when opposed to outside competitors.
– I cannot adopt the honorable and learned member’s view of the position. It seems to me that, while casual reference to these matters has undoubtedly been permitted, I cannot, in pursuance of my duties, allow the honorable and learned member to discuss the fiscal issue in any form whatever. There is a certain course open to the honorable and learned member, and I must ask him to observe the rule I have already laid down, or move that the House disagree with my ruling; in which case he will be able to take the sense of honorable members on the point.
– As a junior member of the House, Mr. Speaker, I am too indebted to you for your courtesy and guidance to attempt to contest your ruling; but I desire to say, with all respect, that I think my contention is correct. I shall not, however, take any such step as I think I might justifiably take, but shall accept your ruling. I wish to refer to the position of the present Treasurer leaving office and being succeeded by an extravagant Treasurer, in the person of the right honorable member for East Sydney.
– He has the most economical record of any Treasurer of New South Wales.
– I desire to show that if the leader of the Opposition becomes Prime Minister a large amount of loan money will almost certainly be expended. When he was Treasurer of New South Wales he spent very considerable sums of Savings Bank money.
– I have already asked the honorable and learned member to do one of two things - either to take the proper course of moving dissent from my ruling, or to discuss clause 48. I must ask him not to continue in his endeavour to introduce distinctly irrelevant matter.
– I should like to be permitted to show that unionists deposit their money chiefly with the Savings Banks, and that consequently the honorable and learned member for East Sydney showed preference for unionists’ money.
– If the honorable and learned member will . not take one of the two courses I have indicated, I shall have to ask him to conclude his speech, and to call upon some other honorable member.
– I am exceedingly sorry that the area covered by this debate is of such a limited character. If I am able to show that the proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella has had the effect of absolutely “gagging” this House, the Ministry, and its supporters-
– I rise to a point of order. I desire to know whether the honorable and learned member is in order in attributing to another honorable member the “ gagging “ of the House, seeing that the procedure which has been adopted is in accordance with the Standing Orders?
– I would ask the honorable and learned member to withdraw the statement to which objection has been taken.
– I withdraw it. I repeat that the House is prevented from clearly expressing its’ opinion upon this question. ‘ I am satisfied with being stopped from speaking, as it will show that owing to the unprecedented procedure which has been adopted, the Ministry and their supporters are denied an opportunity of justifying themselves before the country. I am not a member of the Labour Party, but I am strongly opposed to the Free-trade part/ in every direction, and I therefore intend to vote with the Government.
– I do not propose to discuss this question exhaustively as I should have done had the forms of the House permitted me. One of the poets says, “ Things are not what they seem.” The truth underlying that statement is abundantly exemplified upon the present occasion. Honorable members are invited to debate the question of whether the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill shall be recommitted with a view to reconsidering clause 48. That is the seeming purport of the amendment which has engaged the attention of this House for the past three days. Although you, sir, have no official knowledge of the fact, we are all aware that that is not the real question which is exercising the minds of honorable members. The real issue .is, “ Shall the present Government continue to occupy the Treasury benches, or shall they give place to certain honorable members who now sit upon the Opposition side of the House?” When the present Ministry assumed office, the cry was raised that if they were given a few weeks’ trial - in other words, if they were allowed rope enough, they would hang themselves. Evidently that prediction has been falsified, otherwise the Opposition would scarcely adopt the roundabout method of bludgeoning Ministers upon a proposal to recommit clause 48 instead of engaging them in a straight-out fight. A similar attempt to bludgeon them was made in Committee, but honorable members opposite were defeated by a majority of one. Now they hope to accomplish in. the House what they failed to achieve in Committee. It has been urged that the Government ought not to have made this question a vital one. What is the meaning of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella? It means taking the business of the House out of the hands of the Government. I trust that those members of the Opposition -who may soon occupy the Treasury benches, will not be so completely lost to what is right and proper as to retain Ministerial office if they are defeated under similar circumstances. It is not creditable to those who are responsible for the present position that they refused to submit a direct no-confidence motion, under cover of which the merits or demerits of the present Administration could have been discussed. The real question involved in this debate is not one of granting a preference to unionists, but of extending a preference to honorable members upon the Opposition side of the House, who have grown tired of sitting there. I confess that clause 48, in the form which the Government proposed to amend it, does not meet with my approval. I regret very much that in their desire to meet the views of some honorable members, whom they credited with a sincere desire to secure a measure relating to compulsory arbitration, they have already conceded more than they should have done. They have now awakened to the fact that the real issue before the House is not one of preference to unionists, but of preference to certain honorable members.
– We went to the last extremity to save the Bill.
– Under the circumstances I shall give my vote on this issue with the Government, although I do not know that the proposal as submitted is one I should like to fight before my constituents.
– I regret very much that the action of the honorable member for Corinella prevents my asking honorable members to consider in Committee a matter which is altogether new, and which, in my opinion, is of the very highest importance. If we could have got into Committee, and I could have had an opportunity to ask honorable members to consider the question to which I refer, I am quite sure they would sympathize with me in my regret. The position arises from the tactics instituted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, either at the instigation of other honorable members or on his own initiative. I feel sure that the matter which I propose to discuss is one which even those on the other side, who are opposed to compulsory arbitration, will regard as, at least, of some importance. In the first place, however, I wish to say a few words in regard to the remarks made by the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I must express my surprise at the unwonted heat which the honorable and learned member imparted to the debate. Such warmth is very unusual with him. So far as I am aware, I do not know that the honorable and learned member has ever gone so far in showing his feelings, and in bringing himself into conflict with the forms of the House as he has this afternoon.
An Honorable Member. - The honorable and learned member was “ hard hit.”
– If to be told the truth is to be “ hard hit,” I can understand the remarks of the Minister of External Affairs having such an effect on the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. I wish to discuss the matter before us with as little heat as possible, but at the same time to express my opinion in a very straightforward way, without mincing my words in the least degree. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat, pointing his finger somewhat dramatically at honorable members who sit on the Government cross benches, affected to warn them of something that would happen as a consequence of their support being given to Ministers on this question. The reason given by the honorable and learned member for the warning was that the Labour Party are always most bitterly opposed to those who are most closely allied to them, and who desire- to help that party to carry out their measures.
– The honorable and learned member could speak with some experience in that respect.
– I do not know what the honorable and learned member’s experience has been. I am only concerned in expressing my own views. Whether it be a question of preference to unionists, the qualifications necessary to obtain preference, or any other matter affecting the interests of workers, the latter take a keen interest to-day - an interest keener, perhaps, than in days gone by - in what goes on in this and, other Parliaments. They take note of members who, on the platform, express on broad general principles all sorts of sympathy with the labour movement, but who, when they are elected, a’t once begin to water down their principles, with the result, again and again, of emasculating measures to such an extent as to render them of no benefit to those who hoped so much.
– The Government accepted a clause which struck politics out of the Bill.
– The Government went to the last extremity to save the Bill ; and the honorable member for Dalley knows it.
– Why is it that the Labour Party have to oppose men who work and fight with us in nine battles out of ten? The fact is, that- there always comes a time when we have to deal with a crucial question. When we come to the last ditch our false friends desert us ; and it is of those false friends of whom the outside electors take note, and whom we shall have to fight when the elections come round. We do not light such men because they are our friends, but because they profess to be our friends, and, when the test is applied, desert us, and fight against us with our bitter opponents. I am glad to be able to say that, so far as I know, the personal relations of members on either side of the House are as good as they could be, and I hope that will always be so, in spite of our great political differences. But ‘outside the House we have to deal with those who have been referred to as “our masters.” Those are the people who make our politics for us, and who say who shall be opposed and who supported ; and the choice then rests not on personal like or dislike, but simply on the distinction inevitably made between friends and foes. When the honorable and learned member for Ballarat warns honorable members, I reply that so long as he has been true to the people, who sent him to this or any other Parliament, they have been true to him. If, in the case of that honorable and learned member, and of any other honorable members, there is now a breaking away, it is not because the people are less true to them, but simply because the people suspect them of- falling away from political grace. I hope that before we have to go to the electors on this or any other question, those honorable members to whom I refer will give some signs of repentance, and that there will be no necessity whatever to oppose candidates’ whom we should like to have with us fighting in the interests of the people. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat sought to show that there was really no difference between the amendment which was carried on a snatch vote in Committee and the amendment which the Government desire to propose. I am aware that legal gentlemen have a great deal of subtlety, and can associate different ideas with the same words ; but when the honorable and learned member seeks to tell us that it is only necessary to satisfy the Court that a majority connected with the trade are represented in order to have preference granted,
I say he is not correctly interpreting the proviso inserted at the instance of the honorable and learned member for Corinella.
II it were simply a question of satisfying the Court that there was a majority connected with that industry, I could understand the objection to making any alteration. But I would point out that the amendment goes very much further than that. The proposal of the honorable and learned member for Corinella 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.
Who is going to determine how many people have interests in common with the applicants, and who those people are?
– The Court will decide that.
– Who is going to decide whether the majority is in favour of the application for preference? If the legal members opposite are so willing to leave it to the Court, why do they not accept the proposal of the Government, which simply says to the Court, “ If you are satisfied that the applicants substantially represent the industry, you can give preference.”
– What is the difference?
– If the honorable member cannot see the difference he cannot see much. Here is a direct statement that there has to be proof that a majority have approved of the application being made. Not only that, but a majority of those affected by the award, and of those who have interests in common with the applicants must also approve of the application. The objection seems to me to be so plain that I wonder how -any honorable member opposite can give his adherence to the proposal, and expect that anything workable will come out of it. Take my own trade. We have in Western Australia a Boilermakers’ Association, in which I make bold to say all the competent men in the trade are enrolled. Outside that association there is a floating number of men who have a smattering of knowledge of the trade, and who go away to the north and north-west portions of the country engaging themselves casually in certain of the simpler branches of the trade. Those men cannot belong to the union, because they are not tradesmen. Probably they would not join it if they were, because the work in the part of the country where they live is so intermittent that they have to get a day’s work here and there, and then turn their hands to other occupations.
– What is the qualification for membership of the union?
– The usual qualification is having served an apprenticeship to the trade.
– Cannot a man be a member otherwise?
– No ; having served apprenticeship to the trade is a very necessary qualification. These men who are not tradesmen at all, and who merely do a day’s work at the trade now and then, would, under this provision, claim to be connected with the industry, and to be affected by the award. How would it be possible for the Association to give the Court any evidence as to whether these men approved or did not approve of the application? They could not possibly do it.
– The amendment of the Government requires that the members of the trade shall be substantially represented.
– No. one would dispute that an Association, covering the chief workshops of the State, substantially represented the industry. In a case of this kind, same attention should be paid to those who have had practical experience of what they are talking about. If the question under discussion were an agricultural one, I should be willing at all times to listen to the agricultural members, and. to take advice from them, believing that they knew more about it than I did. It would be folly for me, who have merely a theoretical knowledge of the subject, to pit that knowledge against their practical experience. In this case, I claim that honorable members on this side of the House have some practical knowledge of what we are dealing with. Nevertheless, honorable members opposite refuse to pay any attention t6 what we say. There is no pretence that the question is being considered on its merits. There is simply a combination of parties, who take up the stand of refusing to allow any fresh information to be forced upon their minds. I congratulate the Ministry upon having taken up the stand they have done, and refusing to hold office if the vote is cast against them. We have been taunted again and again because the Government have accepted certain amendments, and have been prepared to meet the Opposition half way. We have been taunted with backing down, and with sacrificing everything for the purpose of retaining office. The answer is that here is a question upon which there is going to be no backing down. Wherever there has been a reasonable prospect of improving the Bill we have been prepared to meet the Opposition half way. But honorable members opposite are now insisting upon an amendment which would take all the vitality out of the Bill, and make it unworkable. I am proud to sit behind a Government which says that rather than put through a make-belief Bill they will resign office, and allow others to take their places. I am sure that the great public of Australia will approve of their action.
– If we agreed to this amendment honorable members opposite would immediately propose something else.
– There is no satisfying those who oppose, simply because they sit in Opposition, and who have no desire to pass legislation unless they have the sole direction of it. It has been claimed that, in the present instance, honorable members opposite are simply doing what was done in connexion with another part of the Bill some three months ago, when the previous occupants of the Treasury benches took a similar stand. There is no parallel’ whatever. I think I can speak for every honorable member in the party behind the Government, when I say that it was with very much regret that we heard that the ex-Prime Minister intended to take the stand that he did in connexion with the amendment relating to the railway servants. I should have preferred him to remain in office, and would have given him a loyal assistance in perfecting the measure.
– He made a mistake.
– I am inclined to think that the honorable and learned gentleman has now come to that conclusion himself.
– He is more convinced than ever that he was right.
– If the ex-Prime Minister thinks that he was right, I am very sorry indeed for the position, in which he finds himself to-day. I believe that the honorable and learned member, who has moved this amendment, is acting on his own initiative. But his conduct resembles that of the cat in the fable. Honorable members will remember that the monkey made use of the cat’s paw to pull the chestnut out of the fire. It has been said by some honorable members that that is not so, and I accept the disclaimer. But I should like the leader of the Opposition to attend in the chamber, and give us some reason for what is being done. The people of Australia have a right to be suspicious of a leader who, at a time like this, is conspicuous by his absence. If those who are following him have confidence in him, they are very easily pleased. The people outside are watching what is being done here. They are following the actions of honorable members who have pledged themselves to pass a workable Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. In the report of the general secretary to the Victorian Amalgamated Miners’ Association, just published, I find these words -
Almost every one admits the necessity of unions, and that all workers should be members of same, yet Mr. McCay is endeavouring to put a sprag in the wheel of the unionistic coach, and prevent its progress. The opponents of the measure will again support him, but I trust those members who pose as workers’ friends will now see their way clear to vote in favour of the excision of Mr. McCay’s amendment, and then there is no doubt that the Bill will speedily become law.
The miners of Maldon, Talbot, Maryborough, and other Victorian mining centres, are looking for the passing of this measure, and are hoping that their representatives will stand by it. They are watching very keenly the action of honorable members who are supporting those who are referred to as the opponents of indus-‘ trial arbitration.
– The Government did not expect me to support them. Over three weeks ago a member of the Government asked the miners in my district to put a labour man in my place.
– Is that why the honorable member is now opposed to arbitration ?
– I mention the matter merely to show that the Government did not expect to get my vote.
– I did not wish to refer to the honorable member personally ; he has projected himself into the debate ; but the remarks which I have read deal with those who have been with us hitherto, and are now turning their backs on the measure. I will not discuss what may take place between the honorable member and his constituents.
– The honorable member was discussing my position. The places he mentioned are in my electorate.
– In discussing questions affecting the workers, we have heard those who attack the Labour Party say that they are as good as labour men.
– Who has said that ?
– If the honorable and learned member has not said it, I am sure that he thinks it. But while I have heard both Conservatives and Liberals claim to be as good as labour men, I -have never heard any one claim to be as good as a Conservative or as good as a Liberal.
– Is the honorable member now discussing clause 48 ?
– I am replying to the honorable member for Laanecoorie. I do not, however, wish to refer to anything which is not strictly relevant. At the commencement of my remarks, I spoke of a matter which I do not think had been mentioned before, though I. have discussed it with one or two honorable members, and hope to bring it forward in Committee. It is of the utmost importance, and may have considerable effect on the future of the Bill. Western Australia has been particularly referred to while the measure has been under discussion. We have been told that, in that State, an Act, which does not give preference to unionists, has worked well. But there has been continuous agitation for such an amendment of the Act as will give preference to unionists, and that agitation will not stop until the desired end is achieved. There are always a few amongst the working classes, as amongst other classes, who are prepared to take all the benefits they can get from the exertions of others, but will do nothing to help themselves. The men I speak of are willing to join unions to obtain awards from the Court, but an award having been obtained, they say, “ Why should we continue to subscribe to the union ? The Arbitration Court will keep up our wages.” That is a short-sighted view to take, because if it had not been for the creation of the union, they could not have applied to the Arbitration Court in the first instance. It is necessary to give preference to unionists to meet the objections of men of that stamp. If there were many such men, of course, there would be no such thing as industrial arbitration. But’ the more important matter to which I wish to refer is this : We have in the Western Australian Act a provision similar to that in the clause which has been so much discussed, and, I believe, purports to be a copy of it - I refer to the sub-clause which allows the Court to fix the minimum wage in an industry. I suppose that most honorable members understand the meaning of those words. We are accustomed to the term on account of the minimum wage which is fixed generally by our trades unions. When we fix a minimum wage we intend that no man - taking men on the average - shall work for less than that wage; but the employer can, if he likes, pay more. It was on the basis of that idea that the words were inserted in the Western Australian Act ; but, when an award was made some time after the Act had been in operation, an interpretation that was entirely unexpected was placed upon them. I do not believe that even the right honorable member for Swan, who had a good deal to do with the passing of the measure, ever supposed that such - an interpretation would be adopted. This is what the Judge said : -
With regard to the wages which have been fixed in various awards, I desire to point out that they are the minimum rate only. The Act under which we are empowered to fix these rates by section 89 enacts that the Court, in its award, may prescribe a minimum rate of wage, or other remuneration, with special provisions for a lower rate.
That is, a lower rate for those who, through physical incapacity, are not capable of doing an average day’s work. .
A minimum rate is what we are authorized to prescribe. It will be observed that the Legislature did not direct or authorize the Court to fix a fair average wage, but “ to prescribe a minimum rate of wages or other remuneration “ (section 89). Now, I take it that the meaning of these words is that the Court is to fix what is the least rate of wage that shall be paid to the worker in the particular trade possessing the least skill and experience.
Would any honorable member expect such an interpretation to be placed upon the words in clause 48 ? The words there are. intended to convey what is understood by trades unionists, namely, that an average shall be struck, and that every man who is considered worthy to be employed shall receive not less than the rate fixed- The interpretation placed upon the term “ minimum wage “ in Western Australia was such that the Court fixed the minimum wage for the least competent worker in an industry, and then left it to the employer to grade up his workmen from that. The Judge expressed the hope that the employers, whilst they might pay the lowest wage to the least competent of their workmen, would grade their employes in such a way that they would pay more to average men than the minimum rate. In almost every case, however, in which the minimum rate was fixed for the least competent workmen, the employer brought down the average to the minimum rate. As a consequence, there has been continual friction, and only last week a deputation waited upon tlie Premier of Western Australia, and asked that the Act might be amended in order to correct the effects of the inter pretation now placed upon the term “minimum wage.” I had intended to ask honorable members to insert in clause 48 some words which would make it plain that the term was to be interpreted in the way in which it was understood by trades unionists. Unless that is done, we shall probably have the same experience in connexion with this Bill that has been passed through in Western Australia. The action of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and those who are associated with him, will prevent me from adopting this course, and I fear that, even if the Bill is passed eventually, it will fall very much short of what we desire. Honorable members know how precedents are followed in the law courts, and that on occasions they have been almost the sole basis of very extraordinary decisions. Only recently a lady applied for admission to the Bar in Western Australia, and the only reason given for refusing to accede to her request was that there was no precedent to justify it. Although the attitude assumed by the members of the Opposition may lead to the resignation of the Government, and delay the passage of this measure, it will not prevent the workers of Australia from eventually securing a satisfactory Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I have never known of. any case in which the action of a minority, or of a combination of minorities, has prevented the people- from working their will. The very fact that nearly every honorable member in this House was pledged, to a greater or less extent, to support this Bill, affords proof that the people of Australia are determined to have such a measure, and, although the struggle may be long and bitter, and may cause Governments other than the present one to lose their seats, I believe, we shall win eventually. It will not be long before we have such a combination of forces in this House as will relegate to the background the Tory minority which has allied itself temporarily with other honorable members holding more liberal views, and which, by an unhappy combination of circumstances, has been enabled to disappoint one of the fondest hopes of the people of Australia.
– I do not intend at this late hour to delay the House at any great length. I do not think that I should have risen had it not been that, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat went out of his way to cast a slur on the
Government by suggesting that the AttorneyGeneral was the only member of the Ministry for whom he had respect.
– I admit that he subsequently endeavoured to tone down his statement, just as he has sought to whittle down other statements that he has made. He tried to wriggle .out of the position in which he found himself involved.
– The words used by him were : “ The Attorney-General, for whom I have respect.”
– The honorable and learned member said that the AttorneyGeneral was a member of the Ministry for whom he had respect, thereby suggesting to the mind of any reasonable man the inference that other Ministers, because they happened to be members of the Labour Party, were not worthy of the respect of the House.
– The honorable and learned member did not say that the Attorney-General was the only member of the Ministry for whom he had respect.
– Later on the honorable and learned member pointed to the Opposition corner, in a melodramatic style, and suggested that the association of certain honorable members with the Labour Party would mean that the latter would either destroy or swallow them. Perhaps he was thinking at the time of the way in which he had been swallowed, metaphorically speaking, by the Free-trade Party. The right honorable member for East Sydney recently made some reference to an “ untamed tiger,” seeking whom it might devour, but it seems to me that he has practically swallowed nearly the whole of the party with which the honorable and learned member for Ballarat has hitherto been associated. With one exception those honorable members have not had the courage to discuss the motion now before the Chair, the exception being the honorable member for Moira. ‘ It is, to say the least, somewhat singular that the honorable and learned member for Corinella should have moved an amendment to prevent the recommittal of clause 48, in order that honorable members on this side of the House might be gagged, and prevented from dealing with the situation as fully as they would have been able had a direct motion of want of confidence been submitted. Many of the amendments proposed by the honorable and learned member while the Bill was in Committee were of such a character that they reminded me of the story that when the Commandments were brought.down from the Mount they were submitted to Satan, who, when asked to express an opinino upon them, said, “ I desire to make only a slight alteration in each ; let me take out’ the ‘ nots ‘ “. It seems to me that the honorable and learned member for Corinella is acting in a somewhat similar way, and would like to deal with various clauses as his Satanic majesty would have done with the Commandments. I shall apologise to Satan, if necessary, for having compared him with the honorable and learned member for Corinella; but at all events I apologize to the House if my illustration be unparliamentary. The honorable and learned member for Ballarat asserted that the seats that were lost by the late Government at the last general election were lost through the action of the Labour Party, and that ‘it was owing to the action of that party that they suffered defeat in certain constituencies. I would remind him, however, that the only seat which the Deakin party lost in this State was that of Corangamite, and that it was not contested by a Labour candidate. Not one of the seats previously filled by supporters of the late Government was. lost to the Labour Party at the last general election. I might go further, and say that the Ministry of which the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was the leader, did me the honour to bring out a candidate to oppose me, while the Melbourne daily newspaper which supported them did its utmost for my opponent, and gave me only one very short report. Notwithstanding this opposition, as well as the opposition of the other paper, which, of course, I expected, I succeeded in securing a victory by a small majority.
– 1A majority of something like 10,000.
– I polled a larger vote than did any other honorable member representing a constituency in this State, and also obtained the largest majority. The honorable and learned member said that the Labour Party opposed every Liberal. I would remind him, however, that we gave him a walk-over at the last election, although we might have made a good fight against him.
– At the next election he will probably find that we shall be able to make a very fair fight against him. And so with the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who was not opposed by the
Labour Party at the last election. I think it is fairly well known-
– Clause 48.
– If the honorable and learned member desires to discuss clause 48 Jet him do so. When he dared to rise last night, with a view, apparently, to address the House the arms of one of his party were thrown about him, and he was induced to resume his seat.
– The honorable member is out of order in discussing that matter.
– I am simply waiting for something to answer.
– The honorable and learned member is held down by the machine.
– I do not wish to detain the House, for I am anxious that a vote shall be taken without further delay. I would say, however, that the honorable and learned member for Corinella has done his utmost to render the Bill ineffective by moving various amendments. By moving the insertion of various provisos, such as that which he succeeded in adding to clause 48, he has sought ‘to make the Bill absolutely useless. He knows very well as a lawyer-
– What about the-
– If the honorable member desires to speak,’ why does he not do so. I suppose that he, too, has submitted himself to the will of the caucus. There has been a conspiracy of silence on the part of honorable members opposite, and it is quite possible that when we take possession of the Opposition benches we shall be able to play the game as well as they have done.
– The Labour Party will not have the numbers.
– The incoming Government will find that we are not so unscrupulous as some of their number have shown themselves to be. Surprise has been expressed that the Opposition should have resorted to this method to secure the defeat of the Government. I, foi one, am not at all surprised. Over’ a fortnight ago I informed the Prime Minister that it was my belief that the Opposition would endeavour to prevent the recommittal of clause 48, but my honorable leader replied that he did not think they would lower themselves by resorting to such tactics merely in order to prevent legitimate discussion. We were told this morning by the honorable member for Barker that more than a week ago-
– A fortnight ago.
– The honorable member said that more than a week ago he was questioned as to whether he would vote for or against the recommittal of the clause, so that this plot, including the determination to gag the Opposition, was hatched some time since. We had an example of this conspiracy of silence last night, when the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, after rising to speak, was prevented from doing so. Such an incident has never been witnessed, so far as I know, in any other Parliament.
– The statement is not true.
– I call upon the honorable member to withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, sir, and will say that the statement is incorrect. I . explained last night to the honorable member what really took place.
– The honorable and learned member will admit that he was muzzled.
– I know that the honorable and learned member rose to speak, but that as the honorable member for Moira desired to make a personal explanation, he was given precedence. At the close of that explanation, you, Mr. Speaker, called on the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, but when he rose various honorable members of his party displayed a desire to prevent him from speaking. The right honorable member for Swan shook a bundle of notes at him. I do not know whether it was a bundle of notes of a speech which he was going to deliver, or a bundle of bank notes to be used for some other purpose.
– I think the honorable member will see that he certainly owes it to the House to withdraw that remark,- and to apologize to the right honorable member.
– I certainly withdraw it I only made it by way of a joke. The right honorable member probably produced the notes to satisfy the honorable and learned member for Werriwa that he had intended to speak upon this particular question. I trust that I shall always play the game of politics with more fairness than has been exhibited by the Opposition on this occasion.
– I desire to make a few remarks upon this question, which I regard as one of very great importance. This event will be recorded in history. As far as I can ascertain, it has no parallel in the history of British Parliaments. We are about to establish a precedent for which, from my stand-point, there is no justification. At this stage, I may be permitted to remark that the honorable member for Yarra misunderstood the observations of the honorable and learned member for Ballarat, otherwise he would scarcely have credited him with an intention to cast any reflection upon the Ministry as a. whole. I followed the remarks of the honorable and learned member very closely, and I understood him to say that he had been very much influenced by the statements of the AttorneyGeneral, for whom he entertained the very highest respect. I am thoroughly satisfied that the honorable and learned member had no intention whatever of casting a slur upon the Attorney-General’s Ministerial colleagues. Concerning the Bill under discussion, I regret that we are not permitted to debate it in detail. As one who was recently before the electors, ‘ I desire to say that I fully explained to them the objects of the Arbitration Bill introduced by the Deakin Government, and to which the present Ministry have sought to give effect. That Bill had my approval. I was prepared to support it when it was submitted by the Deakin Administration, and I am equally prepared to support it now. Upon the hustings, I pledged myself to the principle of compulsory conciliation and arbitration. I regard it as a cure f or a very grave evil. Various matters connected with this Bill have been dealt with in Committee and otherwise, but the particular question now engaging our attention has never received consideration, either in Committee or in the House. I have a very distinct recollection of the circumstances under which the amendment of the honorable and learned member, for Corinella was agreed to. A number of honorable members were anxiously watching the clock as the time approached for the departure of their trains to the capitals of New South Wales and South Australia. The amendment referred to was read from the Chair, so that honorable members did not have an opportunity of carefully considering it. I voted for that proposal, because I thought that it aimed at making a majority of the employes engaged in any industry privy to an application to the Court for the grant- ing of a preference to unionists. When I came to analyze it subsequently, I realized that it was absolutely impracticable, because it applied not only to those directly interested in an industrial dispute, but to all having interests in common, and to all affected by it. In other words, it applied to the whole community. I claim that it would be absolutely impossible to satisfy any Court that a majority of those employed in a particular industry desired that a preference should be granted to unionists.
– Does the honorable member mean to suggest that the Committee, did not understand what it was doing?
– I know that frequently words are inserted in Acts of Parliament with a deliberate intention, but when those words are interpreted by the Courts a very different construction is placed upon them. That fact has taught me that, as lawmakers, we should be extremely careful to employ in the Statutes of the country language which 5s so clear that its real meaning cannot be questioned. We have been assured by honorable members upon the Opposition side of the House that there is practically no difference whatever between the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella and the proposal of the Government.
– The Prime Minister has admitted that.
– Then, I ask, “ What justification have honorable members opposite for refusing to extend to the Government an opportunity to remedy a defect when it has made itself manifest”? This clause can be amended only in Committee. Every honorable member who has had any political experience is aware of that. In this debate we a re bound by the Standing Orders to confine our remarks to the question that is immediately before the Chair, though I am aware, sir, that, in discussing it, you have very generously permitted honorable members unusual latitude, because of the peculiar circumstances in which we are placed. I desire to know whether it is the intention df those! who are pressing this amendment to a division to defeat any Arbitration Act, or whether, by adopting a procedure which is absolutely without precedent, they wish to prevent honorable members who voted upon this matter rather hurriedly on a previous occasion, from reconsidering their position in the light of the further evidence that has been adduced ?
– They have had six weeks to reconsider the matter.
– The honorable member made a similar remark previously. I take it that we have not had six moments in which to reconsider it. Clause 48 cannot be reconsidered in the House. It is only in Committee that honorable members have an opportunity of remodelling it. I have no feeling whatever in this matter. I assisted the honorable and learned member for Corinella to carry his amendment ; but at the same time I desire to maintain the high ideals which have been set up in connexion with this Parliament. I have to answer to those who sent me here; and I pledged myself to do all I could to assist the passing of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, in order to prevent industrial strikes, with all their dis-, astrous results, sometimes involving dire poverty, and even ruin, to so many innocent persons. It is my desire to see a measure of the kind placed on the statute-book as early as possible. I have not only to look at- the mere amendment, and consider how far it involves the existence of the Government; I have to look at the effect which the passing of -such an amendment will have on the prospects of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. I have allied myself with honorable members who, every one, are pledged to do their utmost to promote legislation of the kind, and I hope to continue in that alliance. Certain honorable members, whom I need not indicate, but who are going to support the amendment, have declared themselves in the House as opposed to compulsory conciliation and arbitration, and I cannot therefore look to them to assist in promoting such a measure. On this occasion I regret to find myself severed from friends with whom I have been associated for many years ; but it appears to me that the consequences of the vote to-night are likely to be much more disastrous to the great Commonwealth of Australia than is at present realized. We have an object lesson in the United States, where, in the absence of remedial legislation of the kind, 100,000 workers have been locked out by the employers. It is an old saying that history repeats itself ; and in view of these events, we cannot be too careful what course we take. It is only in some of the
States of the Commonwealth that Conciliation and Arbitration Acts are in operation, . and unless the Commonwealth Parliament steps in apd fills the gap, there is nothing to prevent strikes of the most ruinous character. The absence of legislation of the kind may be a great temptation to both employers and employed to resort to the barbarous system of strikes or locks-out.
– Can the States Parliaments not pass Conciliation and Arbitration Acts if they think fit?
– We have no power to compel the States Parliaments to pass laws of the kind. We are here as members of the Commonwealth Parliament, to promote the common weal -of Australia; and it is our duty, where necessary, to fill up gaps in necessary legislation. Can we hope that a Parliament, whether it be long-lived or short-lived, composed of and supported by those who are to-night opposing the present Government, will succeed in passing a Concilia-
I tion and Arbitration Bill? I am one who had the honour, pride, and privilege to follow the late Prime Minister, the honorable and learned member for Ballarat. Although there was a time when circumstances prevented my taking my seat in this House, I kept myself well acquainted with what was taking place; and when I read what the late Prime Minister and his party had done, I felt that we were about to realize a higher ideal in our Federal parliamentary life. With others: of the party who followed the late Prime Minister, I pledged myself to give the present Government fair play, and, notwithstanding that I voted for the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella to include the present clause 48 in the Bill, I cannot in conscience now give what appears to me to be one of the foulest blows which one party in Parliament could give to another. To deny the right of the humblest member of the Chamber to recommit a clause of a Bill would in itself to a straining of parliamentary practice; but to deny that right to a Government, who are in charge not of their own Bill, but of the Bill of another Government - a right which it is sought to exercise to meet the Avishes, not only of Government supporters, but of members on this side of the House - appears to me to be straining the rules to breaking point, and establishing a precedent which may in the future render legislative progress almost impracticable. When we meet iri this House each day our opening prayer asks that we may not resort to petty and tricky political warfare, but may legislate for the benefit of the whole community. It is not for me to consider what the effect of the division may be; on that point I know nothing, except from general rumour. My duty is only to remember that the result may cause a stoppage of parliamentary work for a time; and, in my opinion, we ought to take a more honorable and dignified position, and assist the Government in transacting the business of the country. The moment we feel that the Government does not retain the confidence of the House, or of the country, let us challenge them in a straightforward, open way. This is a motion of want of confidence, without the privileges which honorable members ought to enjoy in connexion with such a proposal. After a political experience of twenty years, I can say that I never before saw an attempt of this kind; and I have been used to the political life of a State where a great many political tricks were indulged in. I never knew an occasion in that State where this method was resorted to in order to defeat a Government.
– Methods twenty thousand times worse were resorted to.
– The honorable member’s Ministerial experience was greater than mine. My Ministerial life was short. But I was allied in New South Wales with a very honorable gentleman, recently deceased, Sir George Dibbs, who would never resort to tricks in order to obtain his political ends. He was always open and straightforward in whatever he did. Whenever he had to attack a Government he always did it in a straightforward and honorable manner. Why should I be denied the privilege which could be exercised only in Committee of explaining the reason why, on a former occasion, voting in haste, I supported the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella?
– The honorable member can do that now.
– I cannot do it now without trespassing upon the generosity of Mr. Speaker, who, I may remark, has been exceedingly generous throughout this debate in allowing honorable members to enter into what were really second reading speeches, and to deal with all the ramifications of the question of preference. But the matter before us now is not that of preference. That- has already 1.,oen decided. This proposal is a direction to the Court. It is an attempt to tie the hands of the Court as to when it shall or shall not grant preference to members of organizations. I was perfectly prepared to leave that to the discretion of the Court. But we have got beyond that stage. It is now proposed to shackle the members of the Court. Who could be in a better position to deal with the granting of preference than the members of the tribunal to whom disputes are referred ? I can see serious danger from the amendment if carried in its present form. While I do not side with employers on the one side or employes on the other, still I must say that I have known cases where employers have deliberately engaged non-union men in order to create a dispute. That may happen again. If it should happen, is it not equitable and just that the Court, which is seized of all the circumstances of the case, should have the power to say to the employer - “You have done wrong, and have improperly discharged those .men, and we will give them preference as against others”? The matter is surrounded with so many difficulties that it behoves every honorable member to put on one side party feelings and to recognise, before it is too late to rectify it. that a mistake is being made. If we allow the Government to take the Bill into Committee, and if afterwards wo. find that they are conducting the proceedings improperly, it will be perfectly competent for the House to remove them from the Treasury benches. But this is not the proper method to adopt. I ask the Prime Minister to consider certain comments which have been made very widely in the press. We are asked whether it is not time we retired from the present position, in which the majority of the members of this House are dominated by six or seven members who happen to be Ministers of the day, with respect to amendments in legislation? Has not the House the right to say to Ministers - “We represent tlie Commonwealth of Australia, and whatever your views upon this matter may happen to be, we ask you to go on with the Bill, and to accept’ the wish of the House in regard to amendments” ? That position is upheld by some of the “ greatest jurists of the day. I urge the Government to consider that point, because at present we are absolutely shackled by the position in which we find ourselves.
– Surely the honorable member would not wish the Government to inflict that disappointment upon, honor - able members opposite.
– I am afraid that the Prime Minister misapprehends what I have said.
– The Prime Minister is sarcastic.
– No, he is not sarcastic. I have had the privilege of knowing the Prime Minister for many years, not only as a Minister, but in other capacities. I have always looked upon him as one of the most earnest and sincere of our public men. This House is not the place for the mere display of sarcasm and wit. I know that some honorable members indulge themselves in that respect occasionally, but I am perfectly satisfied that any honorable member who stood on the platform, and told his constituents that he wished to get into the Commonwealth Parliament for the purpose of being sarcastic, would be told by them that they wished to send to Parliament serious men, who would attend to the business” of the country. It is in that light that I have always regarded legislation. I do not impute improper motives to those who are supporting the amendment. I believe that the honorable and learned member for Corinella, having carried the amendment which has been made in the Bill, is naturally anxious to see it maintained. I do not think that he is actuated by unworthy motives. But I must point out to him that the precedent which he has set on this occasion will be fraught with very great danger to Parliament in the future. It will be used against other Governments. It may be used to destroy Government after Government. Surely the reputation of the honorable and learned member in the politics of this country is too important for him to allow himself to be used by other honorable members for their own ends. I believe that he honestly and conscientiously desires to see passed into law a proper Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. But he ought to consider his present associates. Personally, I have no like or dislikes in politics, so long as I am satisfied that the political convictions of my associates are in accordance with mine. I urge the honorable and learned member to consider whether those who are supporting him are doing so to further the ends which he has in view. I voted for his amendment when he originally moved it. On this occasion I intend to vote in the contrary direction, in the in- 7 g 2 terests of justice, and in the interests of fair play to a Government who ought not to be condemned in this manner. I trust that honorable members will give them that fairplay to which they are entitled.
-I am not going to say that I am surprised at the attitude taken up by the Opposition with regard to this question. Having for some years studied the political conduct of the right honorable member for East Sydney, I am not at all surprised at his attitude, nor at that of those honorable members who sit behind him. But I am surprised that the honorable and learned member for Corinella should allow himself to be used as a tool in a matter of this kind. The attempt that is now being made to dislodge the Government is not one that has been sprung upon the House. It is a well thought-out scheme to “ down “ the Government on the first opportunity. For a considerable time past the New South Wales newspapers have been urging the right honorable member to challenge the Labour administration; but he has not been game to move a straight-out motion of want of confidence, because he knew that he had no chance of carrying it. The Government have conducted the business of this House too well for that. Now, however, he finds them in a tight place. He knows that the Prime Minister is a man of his word, and that when he said that he would recommit clause 48 he would stick to his statement. There is no “ yes-no “ attitude for him. The sweets of office are as nothing in comparison with the passing of a good Arbitration measure. He knew that the Bill as amended would be of no use. to the unionists of Australia, and that they would refuse to register under it. No union would register unless its members could obtain a preference.
– The unions register under other Acts which do not allow them to obtain preferences.
– They would not register under this measure, because they know that it would take probably six months before they could prove to the Court, when applying for a preference, that they represented a majority of those employed in an industry. Fancy trying to obtain the opinions of a majority of the Australian Workers’ Union !
– It could not be done in six years.
– The right honorable member for East Sydney himself has recognised that it would take a considerable time to find out what were the opinions of a majority of those connected with a large industry like the shearing industry. I hold that it is enough to require that the applicants shall represent a substantial majority of those employed in any industry. If there were 1.00 men on the books of a union, it would not follow that that number of men was at any given time engaged in the industry to which they properly belonged. Seventy-five of them might be working at their proper trades, but the other twenty-five might be engaged in other occupations. Therefore, forty would represent a substantial majority of those connected with the industry. It would probably be impossible to obtain an actual majority. In 1890 I had something to do with a strike in a coal-mining district, and I remember how, after the funds of the unions were exhausted, the wives and families of the bread-winners who were out of employment were practically starving, although the blacklegs were getting from 12s. to 15s. per day. I do not wish to see a repetition of that kind of thing. The honorable and learned member for Werriwa has repeated time after time that six out of- every seven workers are not unionists. I dare say that not twenty people in every 100 attend the churches of the land; but it could not be contended that all who do not go to church are not Christians. In the same way, it cannot be said that all who do not belong to unions are non-unionists. In my district 2,000 or 3,000 men are working in” the Mount Morgan mine who are not members of a union, because they are not organized ; but they, like almost every working man in Central Queensland, sympathize with the unionists of Australia. In the early seventies I was connected with a Strike, but those engaged in it were not unionists, although we were battling for ourselves and for our fellow workers. There are men at work all over the country who, although for some reason or other they are not members of unions, are, nevertheless, in sympathy with unionism. Although six out cf seven may not be unionists, every working man is in sympathy with unionism. The only exceptions are those who hang around street corners, and will never accept a job unless they can get a high wage for doing practically nothing. The honorable member for Moira is probably the only man on the Opposition side of the Chamber who knows anything about bush work. I am surprised that one who has had experience of such work, and is aware of the privations and hardships which those who undertake it have to suffer, should vote against preference to unionists, and should talk as he has against unionists.
– I have not spoken against unionists, though I spoke against the coercion of majorities by minorities.
– How could those who have to hump their swag from place to place looking for work coerce any one ?
– I have done as much for the workers as the honorable member has done for them.
– No doubt the honorable member has. I have not done much manual work myself for a number of years past ; but my sympathies are with the workers. I have kept in touch with them. Perhaps the honorable member has managed to keep a few shillings, and is now independent. The honorable and learned member for Corinella aims at emasculating the Bill, which is intended to benefit the workers, who are trying to earn a living for themselves and their families. What does the honorable member care as to how they fare? Through his profession, he can live upon the life blood of the workers. The members of his union have a preference, but he is not prepared to extend the same privilege to manual workers. No wonder we have to direct our serious attention to the declining birth rate, when honorable members display so much indifference with regard to matters affecting the interests of the working classes. The right honorable member for East Sydney says that he intends to go on with the’ Bill’, but how does he expect to succeed in passing a workable measure when sixteen of his strongest supporters are absolutely opposed to its principles? Are those ‘honorable gentlemen going to stifle their consciences ?
An Honorable Member. - They have no consciences.
– Probably their consciences are so seared that they are of no further use. I have been working with my hands since I was fourteen years of age, and I cannot help expressing my indignation when I see a lot of boodlebludgers trying to kill this Bill. They have been gagged. Our caucus is nothing to theirs. We could not silence the members of our party by means of the caucus. I did not think it possible for any one to gag the honorable and learned member for Werriwa, but apparently he has been hypnotized. The members of the Opposition know that they have the numbers, and that the Government will resign. They are perfectly well aware that the Prime Minister is not a “yes-no” man, but that he means what he says. I can assure honorable members opposite that when we cross to the opposition benches we shall give them the liveliest time they ever had. Some years ago the honorable member for Parramatta was a leader of the Labour Party in the New South Wales Parliament, and I assisted to put him in that position. Now we find him yoting against the preference clause. He is the kind of man who is endeavouring to drag down the workers and to rob them of their liberties and to destroy their privileges. Directly the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella was proposed the broad smiles which illumed the faces of honorable members made them look as bright as a spring morning. I could see that there was something Behind the amendment. After matters got well under way, the two leaders of the Opposition, or whatever they are, were conspicuous by their absence. They were content that the ends which they desired to attain should be achieved through the instrumentality of others, and they have stood aside whilst unfair methods have been used to oust the Government from office. It is a pity that honorable members will not allow the Bill to be recommitted and considered upon its merits. Like brigands, they are harassing the Government and holding them to ransom ; but the case is hopeless, and the lives of the Government are forfeit.
– After the breezy speech delivered by the honorable member for Capricornia, I hope that honorable members opposite will extend some little consideration to me. In the first place I should like to know why there should be a conspiracy df silence among members of the Opposition. Every one of them “is eager to speak, but dare not say anything. The honorable member for Werriwa was pulled down last night.
– I do not think that that reference to the honorable and learned member for Werriwa is in order.
– I was endeavouring to connect the honorable arid learned member with clause 48. I want to give him that preference which he is refusing to unionists. He says that he is not in favour of unions in any shape or form, although, as a- matter of fact, he belongs to one of the most exclusive unions, the members of which enjoy distinct preference. Today’s Age contains a report of certain remarks made by the Honorable B. R. Wise, who introduced the New South Wales Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. Last night he said - “ It was pretty certain that there would be a dissolution of the Federal Parliament - “
I hope that his prognostication is correct. If so, some honorable members will soon get their walking tickets. He went on to say - if not immediately, at least before very long. It was equally certain that the issue of the elections would be whether there was or was not to be a Federal Arbitration Act. If they did not want a Federal Arbitration Act, then clearly it was their duty to vote against it ; but if they did want it, then let them see that they voted for it, and were not misled into voting for a Bill, including the amendment proposed by Mr. McCay, which, he said deliberately, would make arbitration a dead letter. If they wanted the Bill they should not support candidates who posed as friends of arbitration, and yet supported the clause which would make it inoperative. Any Arbitration Act which deprived the Court of power giving preference to unionists would be a dead letter.
– The honorable gentleman was not game to go to the poll.
– I do not know whether he was game or not. If he had a safe seat in the Legislative Council of New South Wales, he would be a fool to go to the poll. I do not think that the honorable member would leave his seat in this Chamber to> contest a seat in another House.
– The opponents of theHonorable B. R. Wise were not game to interfere with the Act which he was largely instrumental in placing upon the statutebook.
– So far as preference to unionists is concerned, I am rather pleased that the present situation has been brought about, because the Bill, in its present form, would have been of very little use to the Australian Workers’ Union, the body to which I belong, and which has put such a big bee into the bonnet of the honorable and learned member for Macquarie, Mr. Kelly.
An Honorable Member. - The honorable member for Wentworth.
– I beg the honorable mem- ‘ ber for Macquarie’ s pardon. Whatever may be his view in regard to this Bill, I know that he has nothing to say against the Australian Workers’ Union. It is useless to beat about the bush; and, therefore, I think it well to say that, had it not been for the Australian Workers’ Union, in Queensland, six of the nine honorable members who now represent that State, would not be here. Yet, the Opposition are asking us to give up our unions ; they are literally asking us to give up our seats to them. We took the advice which had been gratuitously tendered to us times out of number. It was said to the workers again and again, “ Do not strike, but seek redress at the ballotbox. Send men into the Parliaments of the States, who will represent your grievances, and in that way alone will you secure the means of redress.” We have adopted that course, and now many honorable members opposite have the assurance to tell us that we have no business here.
Honorable Members. - No.
– That cry has repeatedly been raised by them, and they complain because we were returned on the labour ticket. Machine politics were invented by honorable members opposite, in order to secure our defeat, and now that we resort to the same weapon, but use it much more effectively than they have been able to do, they decry us, and seek to render it impossible for our organizations to be continued.
– We are here.
– And we are going to remain here. We are like a porous plaster, which takes a lot of pulling off.- It is said that unionists exact a pledge from every labour candidate, and that statement is correct. They exacted one from me, and I was delighted and proud to give it. As a matter of fact, I would give them twenty pledges if they asked for them. Honorable members may wish to know the reason. In the olden days ‘the workers of Queensland voted again and again for men who promised us everything, the Kingdom of Heaven included, provided that they were returned. The consequence was that we secured their election; but as soon as they reached Brisbane they forgot all about the poor back-blockers, and we- never heard of or saw them again until the next election came round. Then they served up the same old dish, dressed un with a little greenstuff.
– Is the honorable member discussing the clause?
– I am referring to that which led up to the demand that preference should be granted to unionists. I signed the pledge required by the unionists. We had been tricked so often that we thought it well to endeavour to secure the’ return of men from our own ranks. We felt that no one could better voice our grievances in Parliament than men who had been through the mill - unionists who had suffered for the cause. That is why we are here to-day. And yet honorable members opposite blame us for advocating the claims of those who send us here. Unionists are not the only supporters of the Labour Party. As a matter of fact, I receive support from all classes, squatters included. The latter know very well that they will get a “ square go” all the time, and I expect a “ square go “ from other representatives. I am pleased to say that our expectations are usually realized. On this occasion, however, such is not the case. Members of the Opposition are a lot of sand-baggers and political highwaymen.
– The honorable member is distinctly out of order. He is not discussing the clause under consideration, and it is not in order to speak of honorable members generally, or in particular, as sand-baggers.
– I applied that term in a political sense. I do not mean to say that the Opposition are sand-baggers, but that their tactics are worthy of such men-. If honorable members opposite object to be so designated, I shall apologize for calling them such a bad name, but I do not know a worse one to apply to them. Those who have had experience in other Parliaments assert that the course of action adopted oy the Opposition on this occasion is unprecedented, and that being so, there must be “ something rotten in the State of Denmark.” The Opposition did not relish the. statement made to-day that they had applied the gag. When the opportunity .offers we may give them a dose of their own physic.
– Do not follow a bd example.
– When the Opposition teach us such tricks they cannot blame us if we resort to them. They have been pleading the cause of the non-unionists, and the honorable member for New England appears to be very much afraid that such men would not be fairly treated if the clause were amended as the Government propose. I wish to show him that fie is raising a mere bogy. He need have no fear as to the position of non-unionists in Queensland, at all events ; for there, under freedom of contract, they fare far better than do the unionists. It is the unionists who suffer in that State. I wish to read a paragraph which appeared in the Argus of 6th inst, under the heading, “ Gippsland Mining Trouble - Free Labourers and Strikers.” How nicely the Argus puts it. The strikers in question were unionists. They struck for what they conceived to be their rights, and they starved rather than submit to an injustice. They were not alone in their suffering, for their wives and families were pinched for food, and during the cold weather which we have been experiencing, have even lacked sufficient clothing. Times out of number these men applied to the mine-owners for a conference, but their request was refused. Had such a clause as we desire been in force, this unhappy state of affairs would have been impossible, and I contend that the Opposition, in refusing to accept a clause on the lines which the Government propose, are virtually acquiescing in the action of the directors of the Outtrim mine.
– I repeat that they are. The Opposition seek to take away the only weapon which the workers have hitherto been able to employ in their defence, and would give them nothing in return. So far as I am concerned, I prefer the good old method of striking. I do not desire any such Conciliation and Arbitration Bill as the House is prepared to give us. I would say to the workers, “ Let us resort to the good old-fashioned strikes, and let the best man win.” If that course were adopted, we should know where we were. While we have control of the public affairs of the Commonwealth, the Military Forces and their guns are ours, and we “shall see that men on strike are justly treated. The report to which I have referred is as follows : -
KORUMBURRA, Friday.- Notwithstanding that the Coal Miners’ Union has been dissolved, the trouble in connexion with the mines is not yet over. The manager of the Coal Creek mine put on two men concerned in the recent strike this morning. These men were selected because, though strikers, they were well conducted throughout the trouble, in this respect differing greatly from many of their fellow unionists, who took a more active part in the strike. It appears that the present employes - free labourers - on discovering that two strikers were going down the pit to work a shift, held a meeting, and decided unanimously that they would not work with the strikers. As the manager, Mr. P. McDonald, was not then at the mine - he is just recovering from an exceptionally severe attack of influenza - the free labourers decided to, work the shift, and see the manager afterwards, and the two strikers worked also. Arrangements had been made for two more strikers to go on the afternoon shift, and at the change of shifts the free labourers held a mass meeting, and resolved, without a dissentient, that if the strikers were ‘kept on they would cease work in a body. They- interviewed the manager en masse, and put their demands before him in writing. They said that for over twelve months their lives had been made miserable by the insults and gibes of the strikers, and that opprobrious epithets had been applied _to them whenever the opportunity offered. They stated that their decision was unalterable, and asked for an immediate answer, as if the strikers were not put off they would not go down to work that shift. The strikers had refused to work with them, and the positions were now reversed. The manager, in the circumstances, did not care to have the mine idle, and decided, pending full consideration, to put off the four strikers at once.
What has the honorable member for New England to say to that state of things? He would not give the wives and children of these men who had stood by their union an opportunity to live.
– Yes, I would.
– The report goes on to say -
Two other unionists are employed at the new shaft, but as they are entirely separated from the other miners no objection has been made to them.
Arc these men lepers that they should be ostracized in this manner? Are they to be so treated merely because they are unionists and men of principle? It makes my blood boil to think that they should be subjected to such treatment.
It is stated that several unionists formerly employed at Coal Creek have obtained work at the Jumbunna mine under assumed names, they being unknown to the free labourers there. No further steps will be taken in connexion with the Coal Creek trouble for a day or two. About sixty men are employed at the mine now.
I would ask honorable members opposite whether they favour the state of things described in that report.
– It is useless for honorable members opposite to say that they do nor mean this, that, or the other. Does not the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella practically deny a preference to unionists? The honorable and learned member for Bendigo represents one of the great labouring constituencies in. Victoria, and I cannot understand his action upon the present occasion. I cannot understand the action of a man who represents a mining constituency in opposing the extension of a preference to unionists. Every honorable member must admit that unionism is good for everybody. Why were trades unions established? For the benefit of the workers. Employe’s have organized for the purposes of mutual benefit. The moral of their action is appropriately represented upon many of our industrial banners by a bundle of sticks, with the inscription beneath, “ United we stand, divided we fall.”I believe in unionism in every shape and form. If a man is not a member of a union he ought to be. No man has a right to live upon the earnings of another. If there are a hundred men employed in the carpentering’ and bricklaying trades, and if ninety of them are members of a trades union, I claim that the remainder are parasites, because the ninety are responsible for the maintenance of fair conditions, in the benefits of which the others participate. What happens to a body of men who have no union? They cut into one another’s- wages every week. If a rush takes place for the work, even if the men have wives and families to maintain, those who can do the job cheapest always secure it. That is the cursed feature of the contract system, which the pastoralists arenow attempting to introduce into the shearing industry. If the Shearers’, the Seamen’s, and the Waterside Workers’ Unions registered under this Act, there would be no mote strikes. Those honorable members who have had experience of these disastrous industrial upheavals know perfectly well that it is not the men who chiefly suffer by them, but the women and the children. They suffer from lack of food ‘ and clothing. During the shearers’ strike of 1891 there were women in Queensland who actually sent their wedding rings to the nearest town to be pawned, rather than allow their husbands to “scab” upon their mates. Those are the true unionists, and those are the men to whom I want to give preference, in this Bill.. I feel that while I am fighting their battle, I am fighting one of the noblest battles on this earth. The manhood and womanhood in the back-blocks of Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and the other States, are the bone and sinew of the Commonwealth; and it is their battle we are fighting. We are fighting not only for the workers in the different metropolitan cities, but for the workers throughout the length and breadth of the land ; and how honorable members opposite, who have been through the mill, and know what I am talking about, can give, a vote which will “ down “ those men, is beyond my comprehension.
Question - That the figures proposed to be left out stand part of the motion - put.
The House divided.
Majority … … 2
Question so resolved in the negative.
Amendment agreed to.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Watson) adjourned.
In view of the importance of the vote which has just been given, it is necessary that the Government should have an opportunity to ‘ consider its position. I therefore move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until Wednesday next.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. MAHON laid upon the table the following paper : -
Precis of the claim of Mr.E. Palmer against Mr. P. L. Withers, telephone inspector, Brisbane.
Mr. WATSON (Bland- Treasurer).In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I think I may take the opportunity to congratulate honorable members upon the good feeling that has been displayed during the debate which has just closed. The fact that we were not able to elicit any information from honorable members opposite as to their intentions, in view of certain contingencies, is perhaps, from our point of view, rather a pity. But, nevertheless, I am sure that all honorable members have manifested an anxiety to have the debate brought to a conclusion with the least possible degree of friction, andI have pleasure on behalf of the Government in acknowledging that fact.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 8.51 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 August 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19040812_reps_2_21/>.