2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS (South Sydney). - I desire to move the adjournment of the House to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance, viz, “ The proposed arrangement for silver coinage.”
Five honorable members having risen in their places,
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS.- Last week the notice appeared in the press that Ministers had made an arrangement with the Imperial authorities for the coinage of silver for the Commonwealth, in return for which the Commonwealth would undertake to restore all the worn gold coined by the Australian mints. The honorable member for Herbert anticipated me by asking the Prime Minister whether this statement expressed precisely the terms of the arrangement, and if he could impart other information to the House with respect to the question generally. The Prime Minister, I believe, does not pretend to thoroughly understand the details of this matter, and in the absence of the Treasurer, which we must the more regret because of his perfect acquaintance with them, was unable to reply to the question with the precision which its importance requires. He seemed to be under the impression that the arrangement proposed is that we should rehabilitate the whole of the worn sovereigns coined in Australia, which would mean an expense of £150,000 or£200,000 a year, whereas the correspondence plainly shows that what: the Imperial authorities ask us to do is to make good that portion of the British gold coinage current within the Commonwealth - which is valued at something like ^20,000,000 - at a cost of something like ,£4,000 or £5,000 a year. This latter undertaking should not be of much concern to us, in view of the fact that we Should have, to set against it, the total profits arising from the coinage of silver, which would amount to about ^30,000 a year. But what I wish to bring before honorable members is, not so much the details of this arrangement, as the fact that, in my view, Ministers will be making a mistake if they commit the Commonwealth to a policy which will determine!, for many years to come, the kind of currency which we shall adopt. Therefore, I felt justified, even in the present state of public business, in bringing the matter forward, in order to, if possible, induce Ministers to produce the correspondence, and to give us a promise to stay their hands until they can - probably in the early part of next session - obtain a legislative decision upon the principle involved, before proceeding further in the negotiations with Great Britain. I should like to remind honorable members of the recommendations of the Select Committee of this House which investigated the matter, because it is to defend the findings of that Committee that I am now taking action. The Committee were of opinion that over ^30,000 per annum could be made by the Commonwealth as a legitimate profit on the coinage of silver. That finding was rather doubted at the time, but it has since been fully established by the inquiries which Ministers have made. The Committee discovered, however, that if the Commonwealth coined its own silver, its coinage would have to be different from the British silver coinage, because otherwise Great Britain would run the risk of the exportation of Commonwealth silver coins to other parts of the Empire, whereby at her expense we should make a large profit over and’ above the legitimate profit to which I have just referred, because we should be getting face value for coins whose real value would be 130 per cent, less. The correspondence reveals the fact that, as the members of the Select Committee anticipated, the Imperial authorities have insisted that this should be done. They ask, not as the Treasurer suggested during the discussion of the Committee’s report that a mere mint mark shall be placed on our coinage, but that it shall be totally distinct from the British coinage, so that it will not be possible to change it for such coinage in other parts of the British dominions. The Select Committee recommended that if the Commonwealth coined its own silver, it should adopt the decimal system of coinage. The report of the Committee was presented during the lifetime of the first Parliament, and adopted by the House of Representatives. I have since then, during the lifetime of the present Parliament, brought the matter again before this House, and the recommendations of the Committee have been adopted a second time. Thus it would amount almost to an invasion of our legislative rights if the Executive of the day decided to adopt any other system of coinage than that which we have resolved upon. lj therefore, ask the Government to stay their hand in this matter. Parliament will probably reassemble within six months, ‘’ and Ministers can then put a definite proposal before us. If we agreed to it, they could proceed with their negotiations with Great Britain. It would make no difference to the amount of profit derived from the coining of silver whether we adopted the decimal system or retained the present system. But if the present system is retained, useless expense and’ trouble will be incurred should we a few years later adopt the decimal system, and I am afraid that, the retention of the present system would defer for a very long period - perhaps for a century - the adoption of the decimal system. If we are going to adopt the decimal system, there is no time so opportune for the change as a time when we are forced to coin tokens different from those’ at present in use. I do not wish to weary the House by reading lengthy extracts from the correspondence with the Home Government. The most important letter which it contains is a despatch from Mr. Lyttelton, replying to a communication from this Government, which shows that the Home authorities are under the impression that this Parliament intends to carry into effect the Committee’s report, and to adopt a decimal system. But notwithstanding all that was said when the report of the Committee was before this House, about the difficulties which would arise in our relations with the Imperial authorities, and the obstacles which they would be likely to throw in our way, if we attempted to adopt a decimal system, we are met at the very outset with a very generous and sympathetic response to our application. The Treasurer thought that the Imperial authorities had not yielded all that we required on minor points, but the mistake was rather in the mind of the reader than in the mind of the writer. One of the right honorable gentleman’s objections was that the Imperial authorities do not undertake to receive back at face value all our worn silver coin. In discussing the matter, both openly in debate, and with me privately, the right honorable gentleman has expressed the fear that if the Commonwealth adopts a new system of coinage, it will be difficult to get rid of our silver coins. He seemed to think that the Imperial authorities would not take them back. My point was that it would not be necessary that we should ship all our old silver coins to the Royal Mint, and there exchange them for gold, but that all that we should require to do * would be to arrange with other parts of the British dominions which are continuing to use the silver sterling tokens of the realm to take their normal annual supplies from Australia. That is the manner in which the Imperial authorities suggest that we should proceed if we adopt a decimal system. They make the reasonable request, however, that we shall not pour an avalanche of £2,000,000 worth of silver coinage into any part of the British dominions at one time, and thus dislocate the finances of that country. They suggest that, our exportation of old silver should be limited to ,£100,000 worth a year. The Treasurer regards a limitation as desirable and necessary, but he thinks that it should be fixed at £200,000 per annum, which would enable us to get rid of the present silver coinage in about ten years. To my mind, an exportation of £200,000 worth of silver coinage a year would be ample, though perhaps a limitation of £100,000 would be too small.
Mr. Watson. - Does the honorable member contemplate the use of two denominations of silver coin side by side?
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS. - Yes. The coins which would be in use under the decimal system proposed by the Committee would be of the same value, though with different names, as our present florins, shillings, and sixpences, so that we might first get rid of our present half-crowns and threepenny pieces, and introduce new decimal coins to replace them. Thus we could commence the decimal system by using the existing florins, shillings, and sixpenny pieces, which constitute the bulk of the coinage in use in either system. We could get rid of our half-crowns and threepenny pieces by arranging with the Imperial authorities to supply New Zealand with the coin which that Colony will require from year to year, or by sending them through the banks to other parts of the world. The Imperial authorities suggest that this coinage should be exported through the ordinary commercial channels. The Treasurer, in his reply to Mr. Lyttleton, did not appear to understand what the Treasury officials in Great Britain meant by the “ ordinary commercial channels.” I think, however, that the meaning is clear. The banks,, from time to time, to meet their requirements which are not satisfied by the public authorities, export silver from one place to another, and the Treasury officials take it for granted that the Commonwealth Government would be able to arrange with the banks to export a certain proportion of silver, and send it to their branches to take the place of the coin which they would otherwise have to specially import from Great Britain. The main despatch shows that the Imperial Government were not only ready to grant us all that we required, but indeed were anxious to meet us, and’ the only matters of detail that required to be disposed of were effectively dealt with in the later despatch relating to the exchange of silver. The Imperial authorities, whilst prepared to remove all worn silver, were not ready to meet an emergency such as would be created if they were called upon, owing, to the adoption of the decimal system, to remove £2,000,000 worth of silver coins of the present currency from the Commonwealth and dump them down in some other portion of the Empire. We are not an unreasonable people, and no doubt all the necessary exchanges could be made if negotiations were entered into with other portions of the Empire. The final letter in the correspondence reveals the fact that the Treasurer replied to Mr. Lyttelton’s letter, practically thanking the Imperial authorities, and intimating that the Government were going to take advantage of it. Inferentially the Treasurer said that the Government did no”t intend to adopt the decimal system at present, as it would probably take too long to obtain parliamentary sanction, but that they proposed to adopt a coinage of their own, which could be altered upon the adoption of the decimal system at a later stage. They would then .ask the
Imperial Government to remove whatever old coins might still be in circulation. If we adopt the proposals of the Government, as set forth in that correspondence, we shall institute a new system of our own, in no respect, except in form of coin, different from the existing British silver currency. Having adopted such a system, and having placed large numbers of new coins in circulation, it would be almost impossible for many years to come to persuade the Government to introduce the decimal system. I desire that the Government shall stay its hand for the time being, and invite Parliament to arrive at a decision upon the subject of decimal coinage. I contend that this decision could be obtained without much delay, if a proposal were submitted early next session. This House has twice expressed its approval of the decimal system of coinage, and, although the matter has not been formally introduced into the Senate, I understand that a majority of honorable members in that Chamber are favorable to the proposal. In discussing the metric system of weights and measures, honorable senators expressed themselves most favorably to the adoption of the decimal system of coinage. Therefore, the Government would have no difficulty whatever in passing a measure through Parliament in the early days of next session. If the Prime Minister will only add this subject to the rather long list, with which he is filling his memorandum book, of the subjects which are to be considered during the recess, I think that the Government will avoid committing a grave blunder. If we decided to adopt a decimal system of currency, Ave should at once derive profit from the silver coinage. Instead of coining shillings, we should issue half -florins, or half-dollars, which would be of the same value as a shilling. Then we could have a dollar or florin, and a quarter dollar, or sixpence. We should thus introduce the decimal coins at once, and should not require to effect any change at a later period. These coins could all circulate under the present system, and during the period necessary to enable the public to familiarize themselves with the new currency before its use was made absolutely compulsory, and the Commonwealth could derive the whole of the profits of the coinage from the outset. If, on the other hand, Ministers determine to go on with a coinage of their own, that is not tq be associated with the decimal system, they will ultimately have to remelt the whole of their coin issue, in the event of our deciding - as I believe we shall - to adopt the decimal system. I regard it as my duty to bring this matter under the notice of the House, with a view to obtaining a promise from the Prime Minister that the Government will delay final action until they have had an opportunity to invite Parliament to express its definite opinion as to the best system of coinage to adopt. I think that, in the meantime, the Government will do well to print the despatch received from Mr. Lyttelton, to which I have referred, and also the very valuable memorandum written by the Treasurer. I hope also, that the Prime Minister will carry out his promise to print the replies which have been received from the various commercial associations and trading organizations, which have been asked to state for the information of the Government, their opinions with regard to the proposed decimal system. It seems ridiculous for the Government to write to these various bodies, and ask them to express their opinions, and at the same time to proceed to adopt another system which will entail a large expenditure of money.
Mr. Watson. - No large expenditure would be involved in carrying out the scheme advocated by the honorable member.
Mr. G. B. EDWARDS. - No. I am pointing out that we should probably save considerable expense if we adopted the decimal system of coinage from the outset. I contend that Parliament should decide what system should be adopted; that we should obtain the decision of the Legislature, and not of the Executive, upon that point. I think that I have full warrant for bringing this matter forward.. I do not desire to provoke a discussion, but I think that the Prime Minister might very well promise to hold his hand in this matter, and also agree to the printing of the documents to which I have referred, which will enable honorable members to become more cognisant of the facts.
Mr. REID (East Sydney- Minister of External Affairs). - I think I can make a statement on this question which will render it unnecessary to devote much time to its discussion. I entirely recognise the valuable nature of the action which mv honorable friend has taken on the present occasion, and I am happy to state that T am in a position to make to him, and tothose who sympathize with his views, a satisfactory announcement. In the first place, the Government, in their negotiations with the Imperial authorities, made.it distinctly understood that all their arrangements were contingent upon the possible establishment of the decimal system. That was the first action the Government took. In the next place, I entirely agree with my honorable friend that the subject is one in regard to which we should endeavour to enter upon some interchange of views with the Premiers of the States. Although, under the Constitution, this is a Commonwealth question, all matters which affect the business interests of our Australian communities must be subjects of concern also to the heads of the different States Governments, and I think that it will be perfectly proper to lay the whole of the facts before the Premiers’ Conference, in order that we may have the advantage of their views. In the meantime, we shall stay our hands. We are not committed to the proposed arrangements until the House has had an opportunity to consider the results of the labours of the Select Committee on Decimal Coinage, and, also, I think, thereplies which were sent in response to circulars addressed to various bodies representing the business communities. I think it would be well if these replies were published, and I see no objection to the publication of the despatch received from Mr. Lyttelton, and the minute of the Treasurer, to which the honorable member has referred. The despatch does not appear to be of a confidential nature, and I see no objection to laying it and the other papers before the Premiers’ Conference. I shall also give my honorable friend an opportunity to test the feeling of honorable members early next session. I do not know whether the Coinage Committee has discharged all its functions. If not, I should like to see it meet again to consider the replies received from the representatives of the business public. It seems , to me that they contain matter which might well come before the Committee, and which might, perhaps, induce it to modify its views.
Mr. Watson. - The Committee would have to be re-appointed.
Mr. REID: - I am afraid that we shall have to appoint the Committee over again, and I will consider whether we could not take that step even at this late stage of the session, in order to permit of the consideration of the communications referred to.
Mr. G.B. Edwards. -The Minister for Home Affairs and the Treasurer would be fully competent to deal with them.
Mr. REID.- I know that the Treasurer has taken a great interest in this matter.
Mr. G. B. Edwards. - So has the Minister for Home Affairs.
Mr. REID.- I did not recollect at the moment that my honorable colleague, the Minister for Home Affairs, was a member of the Select Committee on Coinage. Of course he must have taken a great interest in the matter, and I am sure that that has been continued since he has been in office. I think that the statement I have made will be satisfactory to my honorable friend.
Mr. G. B. Edwards. - The Prime Minister might lay all the papers uponthe. table.
Mr. REID. - It might be inconvenient to allow all the papers to remain upon the table, but I shall make a selection which will represent the pith of the whole transaction, and place them on the table.
Mr. FOWLER (Perth).- This is a matter in which I feel a sufficient interest to impel me to say a few words. I think that the honorable member for South Sydney has done very well indeed to bring this matter before the House this morning. I think that those honorable members who are interested in the question of decimal coinage have some reason to be disappointed at the replies given by the Prime Minister to the questions recently addressed to him. I think that these meagre replies indicated that the cargo of accurate knowledge which he denies to honorable members upon this side of the House is in evidence in his own case. It seems to me that in some respects the answer which he gave to-day is indicative of a lack of knowledge upon this question.
Mr. Reid. - I admit that.
Mr. FOWLER. - Apparently the matter has not yet come before the Cabinet, and I am of opinion that a change of the character indicated is one which ought to have been considered by that body before it was allowed to reach the present stage.
Mr. Dugald Thomson. - Action was taken by the previous Cabinet.
Mr. FOWLER.- But I do not think that the matter progressed to the . present stage under the late Government. Despite the reply given by the Prime Minister, it appears to me that the Treasurer has entirely lost sight of the recommendations of the Select Committee which investigated the coinage ques- tion, and also of the resolution of this House. He has evidently assumed that he might make a change in our silver coinage without very much bother, and without reference to the views expressed by this House in regard to decimal coinage. There was no need for the Treasurer to proceed so far in regard to this matter until the Cabinet had had an opportunity to deal with it. Had the Government dealt with it, the Minister of Home affairs, as a member of the Committee on Decimal Coinage, would probably have been able to throw considerable light on the subject - even to the advantage of the Prime Minister himself. I wish to emphasize the point raised by the honorable member for South Sydney that the change which is now proposed will cause very little less disturbance of monetary values than that which is recommended by the Select Committee which investigated the question of decimal coinage. The recommendations of that body could be carried out without causing any perceptible friction amongst the general public. When the question of the coinage of silver is being dealt with by the Government, I think that they might very well take into consideration the desirableness of making the minting of silver coins a part of the decimal system, which was approved by this House. I take exception to the proposal of the Prime Minister that this change cannot be proceeded with until the Premiers of the States have been consulted. In my judgment, it would be very unfortunate, indeed, if the Government committed themselves to the practice of acting upon principles indorsed by this House only when the Premiers of the States signified their willingness to adoptthem.
Mr. Reid. - I have not made any such statement.
Mr. FOWLER. - Practically, the statement of the right honorable gent remain amounts to that. It cannot be denied that the question of coinage is one upon which we are expressly empowered to legislate under the Constitution. There is no suggestion contained in that instrument of government that we should first consult the States Premiers upon such a matter. I admit that the latter represent commercial mer ; but surely it will be acknowledged - even by the Prime Minister himself - that we represent the same class.- Indeed, I am of opinion that the people, as a whole, are better represented in this Parliament than they are in any of the States Legis latures. The adoption of a decimal system of coinage would primarily affect the whole community, and would confer a distinct benefit upon every individual member of it. Seeing that Parliament has indorsed the recommendations of the Select Committee which investigated this question, I think the Government would be acting wisely if they adopted these recommendations at the present juncture.
Mr. SPENCE (Darling).- Whilst a . portion of the statement which was made by the Prime Minister to-day may be regarded as satisfactory, I wish to enter my protest against the introduction of a system under which we shall be influenced by the opinions of the States Premiers upon matters over which we have distinct legislative control. We have no right to tolerate a Government which takes up that position. Had the States Premiers been in possession of any information bearing upon this question, they were at perfect liberty to tender it to the Select Committee which investigated it. In the initial stages of Federation, it is not desirable that we should lay down the principle to which I have referred. We have no right to be influenced by the views of the States Premiers. The honorable member for South Sydney has acted wisely in endeavouring to secure some delay in the casting of the dies for the new silver coins which it is proposed to issue. I feel convinced that Parliament will decide in favour of the adoption of the decimal system, and I regard the action of the Government as indicative of a desire to oppose the declared will of this House.
Question resolved in the negative.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
Do the provisions of the Public Service Act (section 21, sub-section 7) entitle officers of the Clerical Division who are in receipt of £110 a year to an increment of ;£io after twelve months’ service at the salary named. If so, why has the increment not been paid ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
No ; sub-section 7 of section 21 must be read in conjunction with the other sub-sections of the section. The regulations provide that no officer of the Clerical Division whose salary has been advanced to ^110 per annum shall be entitled to a further increase until such time a’s he would have received the amount in the ordinary course of progression through the subdivisions of his class.
Mr. REID (East Sydney- Minister of
External Affairs). - I move -
That, unless otherwise ordered, the hour of meeting on each Wednesday and Thursday shall be half-past ten o’clock in the morning, Government business to take precedence.
I imagine that in consenting to morning sittings honorable members will be quite agreeable that those sittings should be devoted to Government business. When the Appropriation Bill has reached another place, I intend - if I possibly can - to set apart some portion of the time which would otherwise be occupied by Government business to a discussion of any matters which may be specially selected as matters which we ought to settle before the prorogation. I shall be very glad to co-operate with the leader of the Opposition in doing what I can in that direction.
– I see no objection to the proposal of the Prime Minister. When a session is approaching its close, it is usual to allow Government business to take precedence of private members’ business. I can see no objection to meeting in the mornings for a few days to expedite the transaction of the business which remains to be dealt with.
– It seems to me that considerable uncertainty exists in regard to the work with which it is intended to deal before the prorogation of Parliament. I understood from the Prime Minister’s statement yesterday that it is proposed to discuss the question of preferential trade. That will occupy some time, and, as a number of honorable members wish to make arrangements for leaving Melbourne, I think that we should be given some indication of the Government intentions in regard to the business with which it is intended to deal.
– In regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Darling, I think that I take up the correct position. I would remind honorable members that I am not merely the head of the Government, but that I occupy a wider position as leader of the House, and, in that capacity, I naturally desire to study the views of honorable members in a matter of this character. In one sense
I represent the Opposition as well as those on my own side of the House. I shall take an opportunity to consult my honorable friends opposite in reference to the closing of the session, for I wish to ascertain what is the desire of honorable members generally with reference to it. I believe that a large number are in earnest in the desire to bring the session to a close next week.
– We are also in earnest’ in desiring to pass certain legislation.
– I am aware of that; but I wish to ascertain the opinion of honorable members in regard to this matter. I know that I cannot please every one, but I shall do my best to arrive at a decision which will be generally acceptable. I think that the convenience of all parties may well be considered in dealing with the question of closing the session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments resumed from1st December, vide page 7773) :
Clause 40 -
The Court, by its award, or by order made on the application of any party to the proceedings before it, at any time in the period during which the award is binding, may -
direct that as between members of organizations of employers or employees and other persons offering or desiring service or employment at the same time, preference shall be given to such members, other things being equal.
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 ofthose affected by the award who have interests in common with the applicants.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out “ 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.”
Upon which Mr. Reid had moved -
That the amendment be disagreed to. .
And upon which motion Mr. Watson had moved, by way of amendment -
That the following words be added - “ but that the word ‘ unless,’ line 12, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word’ if,’ and the word ‘ approved,’ line 14., be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word ‘ opposed.’ “
– The Prime Minister, in moving this motion last night, made a speech extending over an hour, which I do not think was justifiable under the circumstances. He professed earlier in the sitting a most pathetic desire to put this measure on the Statute-book, and to bring the session to a close. Almost immediately afterwards he wasted an hour of our most valuable time in dealing with matters certainly not within the narrow scope of the amendment made by the Senate, which he asks us to reject. By various diatribes directed against unionists, nonunionists, and the people generally, he managed to work himself, and the whole House into a very lively frame of mind, and then sat down hoping, I suppose, that the session would be brought to a speedy close. I desire to protest against the course adopted by the right honorable gentleman, and to deal with the matter immediately before the Committee. That will be a pleasing change.
– For the honorable and learned member.
– It will be a pleasing change for the honorable and learned gentleman if I omit to mention his share in this business, because, although it has served his purpose admirably, he does not care to be reminded too frequently of it. I wish to state the position of the Opposition. What we desire is to provide for untrammeled preference, and are prepared to leave the matter entirely to the discretion of the Court. In taking up this position, we are justified by the experience of the Arbitration Courts of New Zealand and New South Wales. An attempt has been made to show that an injustice has been done to certain persons in New South Wales by reason of preference being granted by the State Court; but it has not been shown, either here . or elsewhere, that any such injustice has been inflicted. It was sought to be shown the other day that the Court had- established a new rule in respect to the granting of preference. In only one particular case, so far as I am aware, has the Court departed from the general rule of granting preference whenever asked. I understand that it did not grant it in the case of the laundry workers, but there were particular reasons for its decision. I do not agree with those reasons, but the circumstances are such as are hardly likely to recur. In the latest award made by the Court preference of the most complete character was granted. In a number of other cases the New South Wales Court granted preference, because it was not opposed. If a party asks that preference to unionists should be embodied in a certain award, and the other persons interested’ do not oppose the application, how can an injustice be done in granting it?
– They have no chance of opposing it under the New South Wales Act.
– They have.
– If a person is asked to ‘attend, but does not appear before the Court to oppose an application, we must assume that he acquiesces in the application, or is indifferent to the maintenance of his rights or privileges. That is our position. We ask for preference, untrammeled by any order or direction to the Court by Parliament, but we are ready to accept as a compromise the principle laid down by the Government, upon which it stands, or ought to stand1, and upon which it ought to be ready to fall. Obviously, however, it is not ready to do anything of the sort. The principle to which I refer is that upon which the Government came into power - the right of the majority to decide whether or not preference should be granted. We only ask that the parties who are to prove the existence of a majority should be those opposed to the granting of preference. It will be difficult for the Minister of Defence to show that this compromise is either impossible or unjust. The Prime Minister was certainly unable to do so. If, as the leader of the Opposition very aptly pointed out, the Prime Minister proves it to be impossible in the one case, he must admit it to be impossible in the other, and, therefore, he materially strengthens the arguments which were advanced bv us at considerable length against the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella before the present Government came into power. We said then, and we say now, that it is practically impossible to establish, to the satisfaction of the Court, that there is a majority in favour of preference. The Prime Minister last night declared himself the champion of the non-unionists, and we are not to forget that on the night upon which the Watson Government were defeated he declared himself to be the champion of those who were opposed to those principles which we believe are essentia] to this *measure. He was the lion in the path of the Labour Party ; he was the person who was going to do, I do not know what. It is true he has not done very much, but he certainly declared at the time that he was going to. do a great deal. Above all things, he declared then, and he repeated it last evening, that he was in favour of safeguarding the interests of non-unionists. He said that the British halls of justice had never been polluted with the tar-smeared hoof of the politician. There, everything was bright, and fair, and alluring. There was the one place, he declared, where no one had ever dared to introduce political influence. There, our Judges, unaffected by political influence, undeterred by threats or by fear of nonelection by any party to whom they might make themselves obnoxious, reigned supreme. I am very glad that it is so. And how could we better affirm our belief in the integrity of our Courts of justice than by showing our readiness to trust them unreservedly - by showing our readiness to give up those rights and privileges which we as unionists have with such difficulty obtained, but which, by. the way, we have never exercised without the continuous denunciation of the right honorable gentleman, and those who support him? We have never dared to put in force any of the powers Ave possess as unionists without the right honorable gentleman denouncing us, and using every engine at the disposal of the law to defeat us. When the Prime Minister says that if he were a working man he would join a union, he forgets that unions have not secured at least one thing which they possess to-day, except at very great sacrifice, risk, expense, and pain. The unions to-day are a power in the land, and the right honorable gentleman particularly does not dare to openly flout them. We therefore find in one part of his speech remarks which he may quote on the public platform, saying’, “ See what I said in favour of the unions,” and in another a sentence to which he might point as showing that he was in’ favour of nonunionists. Any one who is not delighted with such a speech must be very hard to please. The Prime Minister said last night, “I know what I should do if I were in the position of a worker. I should join a union. I do not care what the unionist gets so long as he does not obtain it with legal sanction.” We are told that we may coerce, we may oppress the nonunionists, provided’ only we do not do so under legal sanction. The right honorable member stands here as an industrial- anar- chist. He wishes us to emulate that fearful condition of affairs which prevails in Illinois and Colorado. We read that the unionists there endeavour to persuade the non-unionist of the benefits of unionism by the very effective method of drawing a bee-line on him with a Winchester rifle, whilst the non-unionist and that amiable philanthropist, the employer, reply with a Gatling gun. That is a most effective argument. According to the Prime Minister, if we do this it is all right, and if we do not, it cannot be helped. But directly we say that we desire to abandon the methods of the. barbarian, and the anarchist, and to appeal to law for satisfaction, he says, “Do not do that.” Yet, as a lawyer, he stands behind the treble-barred gate of legal privilege. Imagine such a man saying that he does not believe in the protection of the law ! What is there to keep competition from him as a member of the legal profession? Nothing but the law. the law decides that’ his profession, and mine, may not be rudely intruded upon by persons who have only intelligence, and intellect, and right motives to serve them. They are to be cruelly deprived of an opportunity to obtain a livelihood. Their little children are to be hungry, and to suffer because their poor “ unfortunate parents cannot be permitted to practise at the Bar. Do these pathetic wails about injustice to the non-unionist come well from the right honorable gentleman? For my part, I have nothing to complain of in this matter. I am now, so far as the legal profession is concerned, in a position in which I should like every unionist in the country to stand, protected by law. Is there a strike among the non-unionists in consequence of the protection given to the legal profession? Do they cover the ample proportions of the Prime Minister with Winchester repeating rifles? Do they threaten him? Not at all. They know the law, and as lawabiding citizens, though they may at odd moments rail against it, they respect it, as every British citizen does. The right honorable gentleman says that all a unionist gets by other ways than by sanction of the law is right. So the 1890 strike, when we were almost on the brink of revolution, riot; and bloodshed, was right, because the unionists had not legal sanction behind them, and were only exercising privileges and rights which they- and their forefathers’ had obtained with so much difficulty with- out legal sanction. Now that the unionists are ready to abandon those great powers which they obtained with so much difficulty, and are ready to obey the decisions of the Courts, the right honorable gentleman says, “ No ; that would be a cruel injustice to the non-unionists.” Yet in the next breath he says, “ No matter. The unionists may be able to compel the nonunionists to join them, or go hungry, and leave their wives and children to face all the pangs of hunger.” If the majority of the workers are in the unions, they may coerce, and they may threaten the nonunionists. They may compel them to join the unions, whether they like it or not. So long as they do that without the sanction of law, they will have the approval of the right honorable gentleman. Therefore, in an industry employing 500 persons, if 251 were unionists, the 249 non-unionists might be coerced, black-listed, and ostracised by them ; but if the non-unionists obtain three recruits, they could coerce the unionists. All these things may be done, provided that there is a majority. The non-unionists Will be able to appreciate, at its true value, the friendship of such a man. They will know that, so long as they have a majority, he will be their friend. So long as they have a majority, all such men will be their friends. But when they cease to have a majority, they will cease to interest the right honorable gentleman. Here and elsewhere, it is majorities that interest him. A majority of one is of supreme interest to him. A majority of two throws him into a paroxysm of delight. A majority of three raises him to the seventh heaven, while if he had a majority of four, we should be in recess tomorrow, and the Bill would be under the table. Therefore, I. can understand his frenzied enthusiasm for majorities in this matter. But there are other rights besides those of majorities. The rights of majorities are to be considered only fhen there is no other .method of determining the rights of the whole nation. The rights of minorities, as well as of majorities, should be considered. TEe right honorable gentleman, we have been told, stands as the champion of privilege, and of the plutocratic minority in this country. . He seems now to have forgotten those whose mouthpiece he lately was. But he is followed by men of such diverse opinions, that he must at one time pose as the champion of the majority, and at another as the champion of the minority. I do not know how he reconciles these contrary positions to himself, while to reconcile them to his supporters must be a still more difficult matter. With him, a majority is nothing but a fetish. Provided that a union represents a majority, it ma)’ do as it likes. Our position is very different. We declare that the Bill is based upon preference to unionists’, and that without such preference it would be useless. There are, however, many cases in which it cannot be shown that a union contains a majority of those employed in a trade. In “ many cases, it is difficult, and, in most cases impossible, to prove that it does. The honorable and learned member for Wannon last night referred to the action of Mr. Justice Cohen in giving preference to the New South Wales Trolley, Draymen, and Carters’ Union. I am president of that union, and appeared in the Arbitration Court as counsel on their behalf. We stated that the union had a membership of about 1,200, and that of the employes of the Master Carriers’ Union, to whom we were opposed, a majority belonged to our union. We should have been unable to show, however,; that our union contained a majority of the persons affected by the award. The Trolley, Draymen, and Carters’ Union of Sydney does not contain anything like a majority of the persons in the carrying trade of the county, of Cumberland. There are, in the first instance, those who drive .their own vehicles. They are affected by any award regulating the wages of those who drive for other persons. Then there are those who drive for warehouses, for retail shopkeepers, such as greengrocers, and fruitsellers, butchers, and grocers, and there are also tip-carters, milkcarters, and so on. In the city of Sydney, there are more than 3,000 carters. Therefore, the Trolley, Draymen, and Carters’ Union, which has a membership of about 1,200, does not contain a majority of those engaged in the carrying and driving trade of Sydney. We were able to show, however, that it substantially represents those persons. An army substantially represents the nation to which it belongs, but it does not necessarily contain a majority of that nation. The head of the Government has at various times stated that the trade unionists of New South Wales do not constitute a majority of the workers of that State, nor do they ; but. I believe that they constitute a majority of the workers who can conveniently join unions, and in this connexion I should like to put on record some figures which’ have been given in a letter appearing in the Sydney Daily Telegraph of 5th July last, under the signature of Mr. Andy B. Spence. Pie shows that in New South Wales, in 1903, there were 754,632 males, of whom 310,321 were under the age of seventeen and a half years, while 20,719 were between the ages of sixty-five and 113, leaving 423,592 adult workers. Of these, 30 r, 660 persons were engaged in such occupations as did not permit of their joining unions. We were told the other day that persons following agricultural pursuits had not joined unions. There are 75,000 such persons in New South Wales; then doctors, ministers of religion, persons engaged in education, art, and other pursuits, number 16,000. Relatives and others not stated- to be domestic servants number 99,000. Students and scholars over the age of seventeen and a half years number 10,000. Persons engaged in dairy farming, 15,000 - a grand total of 301,660. If that number be subtracted from the total number of available males, it gives the number of persons eligible to join unions as 121,932. Mr. Spence, however, declares that there are 70,000 unionists in New South Wales, leaving a minority of about 51,000, amongst whom are such persons as hotelkeepers, watchmakers, jewellers, cabmen, market gardeners, orchardists, nightmen, Chinamen, chemists, and others too numerous to mention. Therefore, in New South Wales, although the unionists are in a majority amongst those who are in a position to join unions, one of the strongest unions was unable to prove that it contained a majority of those affected by an award.
– Can the honorable and learned member conceive of an InterState trolley and draymen’s dispute?
– Yes, though I am not obliged to furnish particulars. Even the honorable member does not propose to exclude such persons from the benefits of the measure. I admit that it is difficult to conceive that Inter-State disputes will arise, except among seamen, wharf labourers, and shearers, in the iron trade, and in one or two other industries. But one is never to know what will cause an Inter-State dispute. In 1890, from an insignificant spark sprang a gigantic conflagration, and we are not to say that such an occurrence might not come again. I have shown that a great union in New South Wales would have been unable to prove that it contained a majority of those affected by an award. Therefore, to ask the unions applying to the Court to prove that they represent a majority of all affected is to ask them to do what is always extremely difficult, and very often impossible. If this were not so, why should the Prime Minister object to the amendment of the leader of the Opposition placing the burden of proof upon the opposing side ? We are not to forget that the majority mentioned in the proviso means the majority of the “ persons affected,’-‘ and not the majority of the persons “engaged “ in an industry. If the Court were at all hostile it might very readily construe it in its widest acceptation. Take the case of the union which I have mentioned. The question would arise as to who would be affected by a strike of drivers. It might be held that the persons engaged in warehouses, or even shearers upon stations, were affected by such a dispute. Even the wharf labourers might be held to be affected.
– I do not agree with that view of it, as the honorable and learned member knows.
– I do not know that it is proposed to appoint -the Minister as a member of. the Arbitration Court.
– Nor do I know that it is intended to appoint the honorable and learned member.
– If I were appointed I have no hesitation in saying that I should interpret this phraseology very narrowly. If the Minister were appointed, I should have very little faith that he would take a similar course. As we are called upon to trust the Court, we must adopt such language as would enable any Judge to read into it the ordinary English meaning. I have pointed out that the word “affected” may mean anything. I should like to know why those who are opposed to preference should hot have the onus cast upon them of showing that they represent a majority of the persons affected? The whole basis of this Bill is organization. It recognises organizations and nothing else. If then, an organization appears before the Court and claims preference, those who desire to deny it that privilege should be required to prove that they have a right to do so. Unless organizations go to the Court how can disputes be prevented ? If we impose such conditions as will prevent organizations from going to the Court, how can we make the Bill effective? Speaking for one of the largest bodies of unionists in this country - the Waterside Workers’ Federation, which embraces over 10,000 members - I may say at once that I do not think we shall appeal to the Court. We shall not incur the clanger of losing the privileges which we now enjoy by appealing for preference under such conditions as are laid down in the Bill. Why should we do so, when we are told by the Prime Minister that we can get all that we require without the assistance of the Court? Why should we incur the expense of appealing, unless we are to obtain some return for our trouble and outlay, and for the risk we. run. I am quite certain that the honorable member for Darling, who can speak with authority on behalf of the Australian Workers’ Union, will tell the Committee that that organization will not appeal to the Court, and run the risk of having to give up those privileges which it has with such difficulty won.
– It has already been decided not to register under the Bill.
– Then there is the case of the Federated Seamen’s Union. Why should .they be asked to prove that they have a majority in favour of preference? Why should the employers not be called upon to prove that there is a majority against it? Would it not be easier- for thirty or forty employers to prove that there was a majority against preference than for 10,000 unionists to prove that there was a majority in favour of it? Last night, the Prime Minister endeavoured to prove that it would be very difficult for the non-unionists - the scattered’ units - to go to the Court and individually say - “We are against the granting of preference.” That is reducing the whole thing .to an absurdity. How is the unionist to prove that the non-unionist is in favour of preference, except by canvassing each individual ? In the case of the Trolleymen and Draymen’s Union, we should have had to go round to every driver who was not in the union and ask him - “Are you opposed to preference being granted? If not, mav we say that you are not opposed to it?” How else are we to ascertain- the facts? If we are to adopt some easier and more effective way, cannot the employer follow, the. same course ? One employer could say - “ Here is a list of my employe’s, numbering 500, who are opposed to preference being granted.” Another one could say - “ I have 100 employes, the majority of whom are against the granting of preference “ The employers would Thus be able, if -they had a case, to establish it with very little difficulty. Honorable members opposite know that if not practically impossible, it is extremely difficult to prove a majority, and they are not prepared to drink that medicine with which they propose to drench us. I wish to point out that the very essence of this Bill is that it deals with organizations, and not with individuals. It is a Bill to prevent industrial disputes. Industrial disputes can only take place between organizations of workers and employers. We do not fear the scattered individual disputes, with which the nation is not concerned, but gigantic disputes with which” the whole community would be very much concerned. The danger is so great that I verity believe that honorable members who hesitate to -approve of State interference yet wish to prevent a recurrence of those industrial upheavals which have proved so disastrous in the past. How fatuous it is, then, for them to approve of provisions which will discourage the unions from coming before the Court. Unless the unions can obtain preference they will not appeal to the Arbitration tribunal. I venture to believe that the refusal of the Arbitration Court in New South Wales to grant preference to the laundry workers in Sydney will deter’ a number of small unions from seeking the assistance of the Court. Only those unions which embrace the large majority of the workers in any industry will think of appearing before it. I desire now to show how effective the New South Wales Act has been, and how ‘ readily the unions have obeyed the law. They have obeyed the law, when, if they had chosen to break it, the authorities would have been powerless to check them. The Newcastle Miners’ Federation, which embraces practically the whole of the miners in the northern coalmining district, compelled the miners at Teralba to resume work, because the Arbitration Court decided that they should do so. The coal trimmers of Newcastle recently resumed work because the Court, when appealed to bv the employers, decided that they should go back. We do not see anything about these things in the press, but, nevertheless, the law was sufficiently powerful to compel these turbulent bodies of men to resume work. The Coal Lumpers’ Union of Sydney - a body of men who have on a dozen occasions shown their powers and their ability to compel non-unionists to fall into line, were recently, upon an appeal being made to the Court, induced to resume work at once. The wharf labourers of Sydney have also been more than once called upon by the Court to resume work, and have obeyed the decrees, although, I venture to say, there are not twenty persons following that occupation, in addition to constant hands, who are outside the ranks of the union. The members of that body were sufficiently lawabiding to do as the law directed. These are but a few instances of the effectiveness of the New South Wales Act, which provides for untrammeled preference to unionists. In the face of this, should we not refrain from doing anything that will have the effect of deterring the trades organizations from placing themselves under the control of such beneficial legislation? But this legislation is not so beneficial for the unions as for the country at large, because those unions that embrace practically the whole of the persons engaged in certain occupations, have nothing at all to gain by appealing to the Court, except that they can obtain by peaceful methods that which would otherwise have to be achieved by recourse to strikes; whereas the gain to the community at large is the substitution of peace for war, of law and order for anarchy. The principle of preference has been affirmed by Sir Robert Stout in New Zealand, and by Judge Cohen in New South Wales, to be the essence of compulsory arbitration, even though it may not be specifically provided for in the legislation. There is no necessity even to mention it, because, according to both Judges, unless preference can be given, compulsory arbitration is nothing but a sham. Honorable members opposite now propose to make this measure a sham, not in a direct and open way by means of a specific declaration that no preference shall be granted, but by surrounding the preference with such restrictions that the unions will not register under the Bill. Under these circumstances, I most emphatically declare that those honorable members who propose to take away from this measure the only element which would render it in the slightest degree useful are enemies of the Bill. If it is not to prevent industrial disputes, it will be of no service, and it cannot effect that object if the unions are not induced to register under it. They will not register unless they can obtain preference, and, therefore, the Bill will become a dead letter. I do not wish to say much more. I have pointed out, first of all, that the position taken up by the Prime Minister is an illogical one. We are here to safeguard the interests, not of majorities only, but of minorities, and of the whole nation. The Bill is designed primarily for the benefit of the nation rather than of the unions. It is intended to bring the unions, in relation to industrial disputes, into that line of submission to the law which has been demanded by civilization in reference to other disputes for centuries past. The measure depends for its utility, if not for its very existence, upon preference being granted to unionists. The provision for preference has been emasculated by the proviso. We asked for preference untrammeled by restrictions, save only those which the Court itself would impose; but we now have in the Bill something very different from that. In conclusion, I must remind Ministers that the welfare of the non-unionists is safeguarded in the most effective way by this Bill. For example, when a union comes into the Arbitration Court, that tribunal must be satisfied before any preference is granted, that the circumstances demand and permit of it, that the rules of the union are not harsh, and that they do not restrict membership; also that the numerical strength or representative character of the applicants is such as to warrant a preference being granted, and that the interests of non-unionists will be safeguarded when preference has been granted. In the case of the trolley and draymen which was recently contested in Sydney a preference to unionists was granted, subject to certain restrictions. For instance, those persons who were in employment were not compelled to join a union.
– That was very generous.
– It seems to me that it was only common decency.
– In New South Wales the common practice is that those who are in employment may remain non-unionists if they choose to do so.
– Even the unions would not ask for more than that.
– It is well that the Committee should understand that preference cannot be granted to unionists without these restrictions, and, since the majority of persons engaged in any trade are always employed, it is obvious that the majority never tyrannically compel them to join a union. As a matter of fact, the interests of non-unionists are safeguarded under this amendment.
– What was the stipulation in the case of the Trolleymen, Draymen, and Carters’ Union in regard to the men who are in employment?
– One of the stipulations was that those who were in employment - whether they were non-unionists or unionists - should not be compelled to join a union.
– But what was their position when they ceased to be in employment ?
– When they seek fresh employment, preference is to be granted - other things being equal - to the unionists. Whilst we wish to secure untrammeled preference, we are prepared to accept the preference which is outlined in the amendment of the leader of the Opposition if the onus of proof be thrown upon the parties opposing it, rather than upon those who ask for it. That is not an unusual procedure, seeing that the same principle is laid down in section 144 of the Excise Act, and also in the Customs Act, with the exception that in the case of an indictable offence or fraud the onus of proof rests upon those who seek to prove it.
– I think we may fairly assume that honorable members like the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, and the honorable member for Darling, who have spoken not only with the . authority to which their position in this House entitles them, but with the added authority vested in them by the great industrial unions which they represent, have presented to the Committee the ultimatum of the organizations which will possibly be affected by the operation of this Bill. Meanwhile, we must recollect that under the constitutional powers conferred upon us in respect of conciliation and arbitration, the operation of this measure will be very much more restricted than is generally supposed. At any rate, we have now been presented very definitely with the ultimatum of the main unions concerned, especially in view of the interjection by the honorable member for Darling, to the effect that the Australian Workers’ Union have already decided not to register under the Bill if it be passed in its present form.
– That is true of all the unions in Australia.
– The honorable member declares that all the unions in the Commonwealth occupy the same position. Do honorable members opposite affirm in their consciences that this clause is the cause of the trouble ?
– It is one of the causes, and it is quite a sufficient cause.
– It is only one of the causes, according to the honorable member for Gwydir. The late Government did not fight the question of the inclusion in this Bill of agricultural labourers or of domestic servants very vigorously, and neither of the amendments relating to those matters can affect the acceptance or rejection of the measure by trade unions. Apart from those amendments, there is not an amendment included in those submitted by the Senate which the late Government did not indorse and back.
– That is not so.
– I interjected only four times whilst the honorable member for West Sydney was speaking. I am sorry that I did not interject more frequently, because some of his statements might have been challenged with better effect at the moment they were made. It is quite true that the late Government accepted an amendment in regard to unions having political purposes only under pressure.
– They thought that what was agreed to was better than something worse.
– Yes, or vpat they regarded as something worse. May I ask, “ Is a Government to be absolved from responsibility in accepting legislative proposals simply because they are not the proposals to which it is wedded?”
– According to the right honorable member for Swan, “ Yes.”
– Then I would .ask the honorable and learned member for West Sydney to accept the right honorable member for Swan as his guide upon other matters connected with this Bill.’ I say, “ Trust me all in all, or not at all,” in connexion with matters of this character. We have been told by the unions that the preference provision is the price of their acceptance of this legislation. I maintain that no body of citizens has a right to hold any such suggestion as that in terrorem over the heads of the National Legislature.
– Has not the Government received a petition from the Employers’ Federation?
– If honorable members opposite will pay as much attention to the threat which is implied in that petition as do the Government, I need say no more upon the subject.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I claimed- and I think that I obtained - for the honorable and learned member for West Sydney that attention to his remarks which they deserved, and I ask honorable members to extend the same courtesy to the Minister of Defence. If they fail to do so, I shall be compelled to take steps for which provision is made in our Standing Orders.
– There is a vast distinction between the speeches of the honorable members concerned. One of them limited his remarks to the subject under discussion.
– From the observation of the honorable member for Boothby, it appears that he is under the impression that the Chairman has allowed irrelevant remarks to be made.
– I do not suggest that for a moment.
– I would remind honorable members that the leader of the late Government specifically stated that with certain exceptions this Bill was his measure.
– He yielded to the Opposition.
– The honorable and learned member for West Sydney blamed the Prime Minister for occupying an hour in the discussion of this matter, and yet he himself occupied fifty minutes. Consequently he is a less sinner by only 16 per cent.
– But he said something.
– In that case he did what the honorable member for Hindmarsh is always doing - even when it is nothis turn to do so. It struck me as very curious that throughout this debate honorable members opposite should seem to take it for granted that the principle of preference requires no justification. They appear to think that it is one of the “of courses” of the situation. It is, however, an invasion of the fundamental principles of citizenship, as understood in any English-speaking community, which requires to be justified by the special circumstances of the case. I should say that we lay down the rule that, as far as possible, equality of opportunity should be put into legal effect. But equality of opportunity is undoubtedly interfered with by any judicial direction, giving preference to members of organizations over non-members ; and, therefore, there must be some special circumstances to justify that invasion, just as there were special facts in the case under the Customs Act, to which reference has been made by the leader of the Opposition and the honorable and learned member for West Sydney. While frankly, admitting that it seems to me to be prima facie repugnant to the principles on which we carry on the Government of the country to grant preference, I, for one, have recognised from the first that there are circumstances which justify the insertion in this measure of clauses allowing preference to be granted, provided that dangerous invasion - dangerous as being a contravention of our fundamental rules - has some reasonable safeguard attached to it. It seems to me that the least safeguard we can provide is that of attaching to the grant of preference the same condition that we attach to all matters of Government which have to be finally decided - the principle of majority rule. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney says that the Government assert that once majority rule is established, the majority can do what it pleases. We do not say anything of the kind. There is the safeguard of the rights of the minority in the Court. In that we have to trust the Court. If it were possible to point out to the Court the circumstances under which it should grant preference, and those in which it should not do so, I should be prepared to support the insertion of provisions to that end. But there are limitations to our powers of expression, just as there are limitations to our power to foresee the contingencies of the future, and, consequently, there must be some omission from our legislation of the complete expression of our desires. We are compelled to say to the Court, “ We cannot tell you what direction you ought to give as to the granting of preference or no preference in any particular set of circumstances. We, therefore, leave it to you, indealing with a case that comes before you, to see that the rights of minorities are protected.” This legislation can, at least, provide, however, that, when the whole of the physical force of the community is to be expressed through the decision of a judicial tribunal, the Court shall apply that which we have found the best, although not the ideal, rule of Government. We can, at least, provide that it shall see that it shall be majorities which coerce minorities, and not minorities which coerce majorities. That is the position of the Government and those who think with them in regard to this particular question. We must trust the Court to guard the rights of minorities. We say that in this as in other matters majority rule shall not be the condition from which preference shall flow as a matter of course, but that it shall be a condition precedent to the possibility of granting preference. It has been said by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney that the preference question is the basic principle of this measure. That statement ‘has been made from time to time during the last four or five months ; but no one heard of it before. Before the elections, when the Barton Government introduced the measure, after the elections, when it was taken up by the Deakin Government, and later on when the Watson Government came into office, it was declared again and again that the basic principle of the Bill was the patriotic motive of insuring the welfare of the community by preventing the pecuniary and moral injuries which result from strikes, and which affect, not only those concerned,, but many other innocent members of the community. That was the basic principle of the Bill which was announced from time to time, until the preference clause actually came under our consideration. I assert that it is still the fundamental principle of this measure. Its basic principle is industrial peace, as compared with war; but now one of the combatants says “If you will not insert in the treaty of peace the conditions which we stipulate for, we shall carry on war.” Is that the way in which peace is to be maintained as a substitute for war? These are the facts as we find them to-day. One of the great parties concerned says, “ Unless you concede our terms, you shall not have peace.”
– We have not said so.
– Did not the honorable member state, by way of interjection, that the Australian Workers’ Union had decided that it would not come under this measure unless this concession were made? In other words, that is a declaration that it will not accept this protocol of peace.
– They do not say that it is a concession.
– It has always been a mystery to me that unionists have never yet realized that the granting of preference is a concession - that it is a departure from first principles, which can be justified only by the special circumstances of the case. I admit that the circumstances are such as to justify a departure, provided that the concession be reasonably safeguarded. I desire _ now to say a word or two in reference to the exact form of the amendment inserted on my motion when the Bill was before us on a previous occasion, and which has been the subject of much discussion during the last four or five months. It has been alleged by many honorable members of the Opposition that that amendment fails in two respects. They assert, in the first place, that it does not express what it is intended to express ; and, secondly, that it expresses that which it is not intended to express. I should like to remind honorable members opposite, that, although the amendment was made -as far back as June last, no one who has quarrelled with it has suggested an alteration that would lead to its expressing exactly that which we desire.
– We are altogether opposed to it.
– And yet the honorable member’s leader is proposing to accept it, with an amendment which he says would simply transfer .the burden of proof. He accepts the principle. I cannot understand the attitude of these honorable members who swallow the oyster and then say its taste is not pleasing.
– We cannot help ourselves.
– Honorable members of the Opposition certainly can. The Senate helped itself; it rejected the proviso altogether. That is a comprehensible attitude. I should like to remind honorable members that when the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Bland appeared in the Senate-
– Was not the Opposition asked to meet with a view to settlement, and now–
– Will the honorable member allow me to proceed ?
– I shall do so, as long as the honorable and learned gentleman is fair.
– When interrupted, I was merely saying that this amendment had appeared in the Senate, and I do not know that it can be said that such an assertion is unfair. Soon after the amendment saw the light of day in another place, it disappeared. I am not concerned with motives, but I certainly am concerned with facts.
– It has been resurrected here.
– And the corpse is not nice to look upon.
– The honorable and learned gentleman’s amendment would mean destruction.
– I do not hope to induce the honorable member to agree with me in this respect, but I wish to emphasize the point that the amendment which has been moved by the honorable member for Bland disappeared very quickly from the Senate. As soon as those who had spoken in support of it realized what it really meant, I imagine that they felt that they could not in political decency give it any further support. It now reappears in this House. What does it ask us to do? It asks us to say that whereas one man may go to the Court for a favour - and I use the word “favour” designedly - over another man, the latter shall be called upon to prove that the person who asks for that advantage over him- is not entitled to receive it. An organization will go to the. Court against an employer and say, “ This employer is not giving us proper terms. Will you please order him to do so ? Will you please order him to employ us, and no one else, until we all are “in work ; and then the crumbs that remain may be given to those who do not belong to us?” The proposal embodied in this amendment is that those who are to get only the crumbs - and they may be large or small - may not even be parties to the dispute. Notice is to be given them that they may go to the Court if they choose. We are aware of the joy with which citizens- go into a Court of law. We know the inexpressible eagerness they show to enter a Court of law, in anyother capacity than that of casual spectators. Those who are not members of an organization, are to be told, “You are not even to be parties to a dispute, but are merely to have notice that it is before the -Court. You may go to the Court and show that a certain state of affairs exists, or else the other side are to obtain their preference as a matter of course.” That seems to me to be a departure from another fundamental principle of fair play, which there are no circumstances to justify.
– The honorable and learned member is not stating the case fairly.
– I am endeavouring to do so, and if I fail the honorable member must put it down to my lack of capacity, and not to my lack of desire. The fun damental rule to which I was referring is that he who seeks a benefit should prove his right to it, and that he who opposes the granting of it should be permitted to retain the advantage of the situation, which consists in being able to sit still until the claimant has proved his case. That is the principle followed in every Court of law, in every community in the civilized world, and is one of the principles which has helped to make our Courts of Justice the unassailed and unassailable fount of honour and respect which they are at the present day. Honorable members opposite have quoted a certain provision of the Customs and Excise Act as a justification for their proposal. That one particular quality of audacity which, is essential to success is not lacking when such a claim is made. Do honorable members recollect the circumstances under which the provision which subverts the ordinary principles of British law was placed in the Customs Act? Where it applies, there is a -prima facie case of wrong-doing on the part of the defendant, who has something to explain, and is the person best able to explain it. * We therefore say to him, “ Seeing that you have put yourself into a position in which it is reasonable to demand an explanation from you, we ask you to make it, instead of sitting silent until the prosecution has proved its case.” It is because the circumstances call upon the defendant to explain the position, if he is innocent, and because experience has shown “ that it would be impossible to otherwise sheet home an offence, that we have in that case subverted a principle of British law. But that man is under suspicion. Is the non-unionist or the employer under suspicion?
– Many of the nonunionists are decidedly under suspicion.
– Are non-unionists and employers generally under suspicion because a dispute to which they are not parties is taken to the Arbitration Court? Are they in a position analogous to that of those who are called upon under the Customs Act to justify their conduct? Will honorable members say that they are?
– I will say so.
– The honorable member will say anything when he does not stop to think.
– I say it emphatically.
– I say, with equal emphasis, that the analogy is utterly false. The man who is, apparently, an offender against certain laws, and whose offence it is, in the nature of things, hard to prove, is not in the same position as a non-unionist who is no party to a dispute, but who is, nevertheless, to be called upon to prove that the unionists who are asking for a favour are not entitled to it because they are’ in a minority.
– Is not the fact of nonunionists being employed very often the cause of a dispute?
– That does not make the non-unionist a wrong-doer - a moral offender such as the defendant under the Customs Act. The reversal of a principle of our Courts is permitted by the Customs and Excise Acts only when pecuniary penalties are involved, not when indictable offences, or offences punishable directly by imprisonment, are involved. The provision does not apply where intent to defraud the revenue is charged, that is, where the offence is more than the committal of an error, or a slight breach of the lair. All that is provided is that where pecuniary penalties have been fixed for comparatively minor offences, the burden of proof shall be on the defendent, and then only because he has put himself into a suspicious position. But where a defendant’s liberty is concerned’, where it is a question of his remaining a free man or becoming a prisoner, the old rule applies, that a man is to be presumed’ innocent until he is found to be guilty. Yet some honorable members say that there is an analogy between that case and the position of non-unionists’. Is nor the livelihood of any member of the working classes his next most precious possession after his liberty? Is1 it not more to him than the question whether he shall be subjected to a pecuniary penalty ? If a chain be no stronger than its weakest link, I have no great opinion of the chain of argument which has been forged to support the amendment of the honorable member for Bland. Surely there, must be the strongest, the most cogent, and the most overwhelming reasons to justify in this case the reversal of the rule of British law, and the shifting of the onus of proof from the parties claiming a benefit to those who are not parties to the dispute, but who are compelled to watch it for fear ti. at permanent wrong may be done to them, and perhaps their livelihood be taken away. The Honorable B. R. Wise, speaking in 1900, said that there was nothing in the New South Wales Act which would force a non-unionist to join a union, and no doubt he believed his statement ; but will any one deny that he was a false prophet? I venture to say that no one can fairly deny, except in the strictly technical sense, that physical or legal force is applied to nonunionists to make them become unionists. The statement has proved incorrect. The force of circumstances, which is stronger than either physical or legal force, must inevitably drive men into unions if the principle of preference be carried out to the extent suggested by Mr. Wise. According to an extract read by the honorable member for Gwydir the other day, Mr. Wise, in a letter written to the Sydney Worker, contends that the weaker the union the more reason for giving it preference, because there will not be. so many obtaining a preference over the balance of the trade. That reasoning reminds one of the excuse of the young woman, “ Please, sir, it is only a little one.”
– It is the only way of saving the Act.
– Honorable members opposite have accepted the principle of majority rule. They are quarrelling with us only as to how it can be applied. It is of no use for them to say that they are accepting it in default of something better. The fact is that they are accepting it. If they are not, they are taking up this position, and it is a disingenuous one: The amendment is unworkable, they say. Transfer the onus of proof to the nonunionists, and it will be unworkable by them, just as it would be unworkable by the unionists. If they take up that position, I say that they are not straightforward. They are pretending to accept a principle which they say cannot be put into practice. If their view of the amend-‘ ment be correct, that it is impossible to’ put it into operation, they are pretending to accept the principle of majority rule, and are at the same time doing what is equivalent to knocking it out altogether.
– The honorable and’ learned member says that it is not impossible.
– What I say cannot relieve any other honorable member from the obligation to reconcile his actions with his statements. Honorable members opposite have said, over and over again, that the amendment will not work.
– Quite true.
– Yet thev are deliberately trying to place on trie non-unionists the duty of proving that the unionists have not a majority, while they say that the unionists could not prove the converse. On their own showing, they are giving the nonunionists an absolutely illusory benefit. I do not agree with the view which they take upon the amendment. I say that it will work, though I shall not discuss its verbiage again. When the Watson Administration wished to have it recommitted, the proposal was not to amend it to express the principle more clearly. What that Government wished to do was to knock out the amendment, and to substitute for it one which would not embody the same principle. It was then a war between two principles, not about the expression of one principle. When the Bill went to the Senate, the friends of honorable members opposite omitted the provision, and since the measure has come back to us, they have been quarrelling as to the terms of the amendment. But, although they know exactly what it is intended to effect, they do not make a single suggestion as to how it is to be done. On the contrary, they say that the amendment is useless ; and they propose to place the burden of doing that which they regard as impossible on the non-unionists. I take the view that the amendment is operative, and that the Court will place upon it the reasonable construction which I have explained over and over again, and which I shall not detain honorable members by repeating. I say that it is operative, andmore easily operative by the unionists than by the non-unionists. The unionists have machinery which the non-unionists have not. The unions have their executives and their branches. They have representatives all over the Continent, in communication with head-quarters who can ascertain and collect facts and communicate with those who are administering the affairs of the unions. The non-unionists have none of these things. It is far easier for the unionists than for the non-unionists to prove a majority. That would be quite a sufficient reason for objecting to the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland. If that were not sufficient, there is the additional reason, which is founded upon sound principles, that those who are asking for a benefit should prove their right to it. Suppose that the Senate’s amendment were accepted, and the Act did not provide for any restriction as to preference, and the Court itself, as it would be bound to do, commenced to lay down rules upon which it would grant preference. Could the human imagination conceive that the Court would lay down a rule that it would grant preference without regard to numbers, unless the opponents of preference proved that the applicants were in a minority? Would any Court say any less than that, so far as numbers were concerned, those who asked for the benefit should prove that they represented a majority? No Judge in the world would lay down such a rule as that which appears to be contemplated by honorable members opposite. I put that to the country as a fair test, and if any honorable member opposite ventures to assert that I am wrong, I shall leave those most concerned to judge between him and me. If the Court could conceivably adopt any such proposition as that put forward by the honorable member for Bland, there might be some reason for supporting it; but the very fact that when one asks himself the question, whether the Court would do such a thing, he unhesitatingly answers with an indignant “ No,” enables us to at once realize that the proposal of the Opposition is one that no community could reasonably accept in the circumstances to which it is sought to be applied
– That settles it.
– That is my opinion, and I await with great eagerness the assertion ofany honorable member to the contrary. There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. I apologize to honorable members for speaking at greater length than I had anticipated, but as I have not spoken for some considerable time, and as the proviso which was inserted at my instigation has been the subject of constant reference, perhaps I may be pardoned for extending my remarks. .
– The Minister was quite satisfied that the proviso had served his purpose.
– Yes, I was quite satisfied that it served my purpose. My purpose was to protect the principles upon which British government is carried on. The proviso has served that purpose, and I hope that it will continue to do so. If any verbal alteration is suggested that will make the intention clearer, and at the same time preserve the principle of the proviso, I am not so enamoured of my own choice of terms as to refuse to accept it. But I will not surrender the principle. Anything which would obscure the meaning of the proviso, or have the effect of endangering the principle which lies at the bottom of it, will not meet with my acceptance. On that principle I shall stand or fall when I face those to whom I am responsible. There is one other matter to which I should like to refer. Do honorable members opposite realize the practical effect of the amendment which they propose in connexion with the working of the Bill? The honorable member for West Sydney has told us that the employers can look after the interests of the non-unionists.
– They always do.
– The honorable member who interjects is specially interested in a case in which certain methods have been adopted by the employers, or are alleged to have been adopted by them - I do not pretend to know the facts - by which the machinery of an Arbitration Act has been availed of in order to defeat the objects of the bond fide unions. They are alleged to have instigated the formation of a bogus union. Do honorable members opposite realize that the passing of the amendment would afford the most direct incentive that could be conceived for the creation of such unions? If it were agreed to. we should see bogus unions springing up like mushrooms all over the country. Then the representatives of the bogus unions would come into the Court and say that they represented the majority, and were opposed to preference being granted to the members of the other and the real unions.
– Bogus unions could not be registered under this Bill.
– I think the honorable member is mistaken. I venture to say that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland would, if embodied in the Bill, afford a greater incentive to practices of that kind than anything else that could be conceived.
– We are prepared to risk that.
– I do not know what the friends of the honorable member outside would say if they knew that he had ploughed the ground for the planning of a crop of bogus unions. However, I leave honorable members to arrange that matter with those whom they are professing to assist. The honorable member for West Sydney analyzed the figures relating to employment in New South Wales, and tame to the conclusion that 120,000 workers were eligible to join unions, and that 70,000 of them, or, in other words, a majority, were already embraced by the unions.
This was held to disprove the assertion made by the Prime Minister, but it establishes, up to the hilt, the allegations that we are always making to the effect that the unions would have no difficulty in proving that they represented majorities of the workers. A gentleman writes to the newspapers, and his statements are accepted without question by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney. Surely the Arbitration Court will not be less amenable to reason than is the honorable and learned member.
– Then why should the proviso be inserted?
– Because otherwise we should have no guarantee that the Court will require that certain conditions shall be complied with. If we adopt the amendment proposed by the honorable” member for Bland, we shall direct the Court that it is not to regard numbers unless the opponents of preference come along, and prove that they have a majority. That would be worse than leaving the matter quite open to the Court. It would be equivalent .to telling the Court that numbers must not count unless the opponents of the applicants proved that they were in a majority. A few months ago, even .the honorable member for Bland desired that numbers should be considered, but, under his amendment, ,he would direct the Court not to consider numbers, unless others, who had not the same opportunities for representation .that were possessed by the unions, came into Court for the special purpose of showing that which they had no right to be called upon to show, namely, that they were in a majority. No Court would do that if it could help it, but under the amendment it could not help it. Is that the way in which honorable members opposite desire to .treat those who do not belong to the unions? I am not quarrelling with the unions or their work. The mere knowledge of the good qualities of honorable members opposite who are identified with the unions would, apart from other reasons, be sufficient to deter me from taking any other than a favorable view of their organizations.
– Does not the Minister see that a majority would have to be indorsed upon the applications for preference?
– No; the majority would not have to be indorsed upon the applications. The Court can inform its mind in any manner that it thinks fit. It might accept, a letter such as that recently published in the press as affording sufficient evidence that the applicants represented a majority. It might, as we do, take up Coghlan’s Seven Colonies of Australasia, and adopt the figures in that publication, if it thought fit. Suppose, for instance, the Court ascertained that .5,000 men were concerned in their award, and that the union applying for .preference embraced 3,000 members. The Court would undoubtedly hold that as sufficient proof that the applicants for preference represented a majority. The officials of the union would presumably be able to give definite information as. to the number of members they represented.
– Yes ; but we could not tell how many persons might be affected by the award.
– Honorable members are unduly straining the meaning of the words contained in the proviso. However, I do not propose to go back and discuss details which I should be quite willing to again consider if honorable members had given me any reason to do so. They have not, however, suggested a single thing. They have stated that my amendment is of a most terrible character, both in. form and in principle. They have now abandoned their fight on the principle, and say that its form is bad. They have gone further, and have said in effect, “ We leave you to your own miseries.” They have not suggested any amendment which would improve the proviso without destroying its principle. I have been waiting for months, like “ Patience on a monument,” .for suggestions from honorable members opposite, and I am still willing and ready to consider any proposal they may make. In conclusion, I wish to say that I believe the principle of majority rule is the least we can insist upon to safeguard us in connexion with the departure from ordinary rules involved in our giving one man preference over another by Act of Parliament. We are restoring status. We have been for many years substituting contract for status. Now we are proposing to restore status, and, in fact, to revert to mediaevalism to some extent. It appears to me that we should make some concession, but that in making it ‘we should surround it by all the reasonable safeguards we can think of, and I know of none that is fairer or more necessary than that of majority rule. To that principle I adhere now, as I adhered to it in the beginning, believing that it is the least that we can insist upon in order to make this a fair measure to place upon the Statute-book of the Commonwealth.
– I have no desire to traverse the statements of the Prime Minister, who has attempted to’ give one of those clever turns to this debate which would prevent the arguments of the leader of the Opposition from having due weight. With that acuteness which distinguishes him, the right honorable gentleman has endeavoured to drag a red herring across the trail. As a result, we have had many fine heroics which have no bearing upon the question under consideration, although they may cause the Employers’ Federation to feel happy in the reflection that its members are represented in this Committee. As one who has made a close study of the history of the labour movement in Australia, I was surprised to hear the term “ British justice “ so highly lauded by the Prime Minister, especially in view of the fact that he must be acquainted with the struggles and martyrdom which have bean experienced in connexion with the trade union movement. To declare that justice is meted out in British Courts of law is to assume something which is not based upon fact. Years ago, the unionist practically occupied the position of a wrongdoer. He was supposed to be a wicked man. If he were an agitator - that is, one who was willing to incur the risks involved in an attempt to uplift his fellow man - he received a less measure of justice than he would otherwise have received. In view of the strong bias which we have seen exhibited, even in the case of our own Judges - for whom I entertain the greatest respect - I say that it is the non-unionist who receives consideration, and not the unionist. What measure of justice has been meted out to unionists by Courts where the presiding justices of the peace were squatters? The term “British justice,” in my, opinion, had better be entirely discarded. We should establish a Court which is charged with the responsibility of giving decisions according to equity and good conscience. I have known cases in which employers have compelled men to work in a particular locality, irrespective of whether or not they liked the conditions. In Creswick, which covers a radius of fifteen miles, no man was permitted to work in the ‘ mines unless he was a member of a union, and had paid his subscriptions. That was the tacit understanding between em- plovers and employes. The Prime Minister declares that such an arrangement is all right. But, I would ask, how came it to be enforced? Simply because the employes retained the power to strike. In my sixteen years’ experience there, I can recall only one occasion upon which that principle had to be enforced. I desire to show the Committee how it operates, and I venture to say that the Minister of Defence will presently see that he has an exaggerated idea of non-unionists. There is no occasion to legislate for them in the way that is proposed to-day. The original idea was that we should leave it entirely to the President of the Arbitration Court to say whether a preference should, or should not, be granted to unionists. The charge that the Watson Administration have gone back upon their principles comes with ill-grace from the Minister of Defence, especially in view of the fact that the present Government have swallowed the proposal to include railway servants within the scope of the Bill - a proposal which they declared they would not accept. Members of the Ministry have dared to twit the Labour Party with having been compelled to accept something with which they did not agree.
– I admitted that they were forced to accept that position, but I declare that, having accepted it, they must shoulder the responsibility.
– But the Minister carefully differentiated between the one situation and the other.
– But they are not forced into the present position.
– The Government hare so solid a following that all its members will be bound to vote if they wish to defeat us. Under the amendment an opportunity is given to those who believe in the principle of preference to record a vote in favour of something which is absolutely fair and feasible. The Minister of Defence has not shown that there is any need whatever for the proposal of the Government. It is not contained in New Zealand or New South Wales legislation, in regard to which there has not been a word of complaint. The Government simply refuse to trust the President of the Arbitration Court. The objection of the Australian Workers’ Union to this proposal is that it is not workable. No evidence has been brought forward to show that there is any necessity for it whatever, and I maintain that no harm will be done by vesting a discretion in the. Court. During the course of this debate, a great deal has been said in reference to non-unionists. I have urged many times that the term “ non-unionist “ is a misnomer, and the same remark is applicable to the term “ preference.” Nonunionists are men who, in time of industrial disputes, are prepared to accept the inducements offered by employers to fill the places of men on strike. They are the men whom I described on a previous occasion as being of a criminal type ; but they are not the men we have in mind when we refer to non -members of unions. The mission in life of the nonunionists will disappear with the establishment of the Arbitration Court, because employers will hot need their services.
– No one speaks in terms of enthusiasm of such persons.
– When we speak of “ scabs “ and “ black-legs,” we have in mind men of that class, and not the nonmembers of unions, for whom the Prime Minister, the honorable member for New> England, and others have displayed so much anxiety. Unionists are admittedly the best workers. In engaging hands, an employer naturally selects the most competent, and therefore it will always be to his advantage to employ unionists. The grievances which lead men to organize are generally the accumulation of many years of employment, and therefore trade unions are formed, not by those who are idle, but by those who are working. It is only reasonable to assume that those who are kept in steady employment are more competent than those who are not, and as unions are for the most part formed by the first-named class, the unionists must be the more competent workers. It will therefore be seen that in asking that unionists shall be given a preference, we do not demand something that may inflict an injustice on employers. I do not argue that men who have the misfortune .to be out of work are necessarily incompetent. I merely say that unionists, because of the fact that they are employed, must be good workers, and .that it is reasonable to assume that they are more competent than those who remain idle. As a rule, a man joins a union as soon as he obtains work. When the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill: of New South Wales was passed, unions and unionists were not nearly so numerous’ as they are to-day. With the passing of that Act, however, there was a great revival. A large number of organizations voluntarily sprang into existence, and were readily joined by the workers. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney has quoted some figures relating to the number of unionists in New South Wales, but I would point out that they merely represent the number who are financial members of registered unions. Mr. A. Spence secured them from the registrar, but they do not by any means represent the total number of unionists in the State. The subscription to the union of which I am a member is paid annually, but many men engaged as shearers during one season, and who join the union, may not be employed in that calling in the following year, and therefore do not contribute to its funds. But although they are unfinancial, they are at heart true unionists. There are many thousands of these men, so that the Minister of Defence will recognise that the figures quoted by the honorable member for West Sydney must be largely increased in this way.
– If that be so - and the honorable member ought to know - what great objection can there be to the Government proposal?
– I shall tell the honorable member. The Prime Minister admits that in certain trades the unionists have a majority. Our best men make unionism a matter of religion. They regard it as a most sacred principle. They have suffered for it over and over again, and have endured poverty and almost starvation for the sake of the principle. It is a slander to describe such men who do not actually belong to a union as non-unionists. Many who have been unionists for years, but have become unfinancial, are not included in the list which Mr. Spence secured. With the passing of the New South Wales Act, the men employed in a number of industries organized because they knew that they would be able to appeal to the Court to redress grievances which they were not courageous enough to deal with according to the old-fashioned method. In these circumstances, why should the Government insist upon the clause being passed as it left this Chamber?
– It seems to me that the answer is that it can do no harm.
– That is not an answer. The Government have spoken of the principle for which they contend as being most important, and they seem to be almost prepared to stake their political existence upon our acceptance of it. When, as practical men, we assert that the Government proposal cannot foe carried into effect - when we assure the Government that practical unionists behind us who know their business express the opinion that the clause would be of no service unless amended as proposed by the Senate - we may be pardoned for assuming that there must be some motive, which has not yet been brought to light, for their refusal to agree to any amendment. Why do the Government stand by the exact wording of the amendment carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella? That honorable and learned gentleman has said that be has been waiting for over a month for some one to suggest a way out of the difficulty. The leader of the Opposition has provided one.
– He would simply reverse the Government proposal.
– The Government are rallying their forces to secure the rejection of the Senate’s amendment, and in view of all the circumstances of the case we have some reason for being suspicious. It goes without saying that no evidence has been adduced showing that there is any necessity for such a provision as that carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Although the Arbitration Court of New Zealand has had the right for some years to grant preference to unionists, no complaints of the injustice of a preference award have been brought under the notice of the Court. Mr. Justice Cohen, President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court of New South Wales, has also stated publicly that no complaint as to its work has been brought before that tribunal. The Prime Minister has correctly asserted that the unions relating to those industries which are likely to be brought under an award of the Court have a majority. Then why all these _ heroics ?
– The Government wish to destroy the Bill.
– Why should they desire to prevent the passing of a workable measure? I appeal to the Committee to accept the Senate’s amendment, and to leave the Court free to exercise its discretion in the matter of preference. I wish to emphasize the point that the occupation of the non-unionist, who can be hired in time of industrial trouble, will disappear with the passing of this Bill, inasmuch as it is designed to do away with strikes. If an employer feels that he can manage his business better when untrammeled by an award of the Court, he may readily avail himself of means to render himself immune in this respect. It is only necessary for him to let it be known amongst his employes that it will not be to their interests to join a union. If employers had adopted that course when the New South Wales Act came into operation, there might not have been so great a revival of unionism. The fact that in numerous cases the men did not organize before the passing of the Act, is evidence that they had not sufficient courage to resort to the old-fashioned methods of standing out against what they considered to be unfair treatment. The fear of loss of employment would have deterred them from organizing. In America the workers are compelled to sign an agreement’ that they will not join a union before they are engaged, and that system is in operation in all the States.
– The Melbourne Tramway Company make their men sign an agreement to that effect.
– Men are often forced to sign such agreements at the risk of losing their bread and butter. I wish to show that without preference to unionists, the employers can not only defeat the purposes of the measure, but also oppress unionists. That is being done in Australia at the present time, and is common in America, where the late Jay Gould had what was called an ironclad oath, which he compelled all his employes to take. How is the Bill to prevent the blacklisting of unionists unless preference is given ? It is the low-priced labourer and the sweating employer who have brought about the social evils against which we are now legislating. Such persons will not stick at anything. Without an organization it would be impossible to go to the Court for an award, and the present friction and trouble would remain. But if, when an organization has obtained an award, employers can give preference to non-unionists, the unionists will be penalized. The clause which prevents an employer from dismissing them because they are unionists is valueless, since an employer who held his tongue could easily evade its provisions. Without preference, nor only will individual unionists have no security, but the organizations themselves will have no security. To my mind, the term “ preference “ is a misnomer, and the word “ security “ should have been used in place of it. Under present circumstances, if the unionist is not safeguarded, preference is likely to be given to nonunionists, to those who have been so strongly denounced by the Prime Minister, who, in his next breath, championed their cause. The reason for giving preference to unionists is to make them secure, to give them a chance to earn their living, instead of being supplanted by nonunionists. The fact that in New South Wales men are joining unions without any coercion shows that the workers generally do not object to organization. They recognise the advantages which come from it. Is it necessary to consider the few selfish individuals who will not join unions, but who are ready to take the advantages which flow from unionism? It is foolish to say that it is wrong to compel a man to pay his share for the benefits which he has received, though I agree that no one should be coerced into doing what is inimical to his interests. Do we allow any section of the property-owners in a municipality to escape the payment of rates ? ft propertyowners refuse to pay rates, the municipal authorities at once sue them, and they have to show that they have good ground for refusing to pay.
– The municipality has to prove their liability.
– Yes, but those who refuse to pay have to prove justification for their action. Similarly, any non-unionist who refuses to join a union, should be asked to state his objections to doing so. The Court is open for him to do that. The Bill provides ‘that no union shall have rules which are unequal in their incidence. The door must be left open to nonunionists, and all objectionable features must be removed before there can be registration. The non-unionist gets as much benefit from unionism as do the unionists who for years have given their money and time, have sacrificed their interests, and have suffered as no men have suffered on the battle-field, for the advantage, not of themselves, but of their fellow-men. A non-unionist, however, who is a competent workman, has a better average chance of obtaining employment than has a unionist, because many employers make it a condition of employment that their men shall not be unionists, and shall not join unions. I interjected when the Minister was speaking that the employers claim to represent and to act for the non-unionists, that is, for those who have stood by them in time of trouble. The members of the Pastoralists’ Union not only have worked a system of boycott, but .have established a system of references which has been explained to honorable members. Non-unionists who stood by their employers during the shearing strikes, and declined to join the union, receive references from the stations on which they were employed, which have since become so valuable that in some instances they have been sold for as much as £5 each. A- rather amusing incident occurred in connexion with the purchase of one of these references, which had been granted to a man named Cohen. The man who had bought it went to the manager of the station, and asked for a job. He had assumed the name of Cohen, but he forgot that the man to whom the reference was given was a German Jew, who spoke broken English, whereas he himself was an Irishman. Consequently, the imposition was detected, and the reference was taken from him, so that he lost both it and the money which he paid for it. The President of the Pastoralists’ Union in New South Wales, Mr. W. E. Abbott, is always careful to say that the union represents and acts for nonunionist employes. The disputes which occur are not between employers and nonunionists, but between the employers and organized labourers, and when a case comes before the Court, they are the parties to it. The unionists look after the interests of the workers as a whole, whereas the employers look after their own interests and the interests of that particular section of employes whom they feel are of value to them. Therefore it cannot be said that these employe’s are not represented. They are represented by the employers. Are we wrong in asking that the employers shall be compelled to show that the claims of the unionists are not just?
– Did not Mr. Abbott give the shearers everything they asked for, and yet they would not accept his terms ?
– He would never meet us. In eight years the pastoralists refused on four or five occasions to meet us. That is why we need compulsory arbitration.
– What was the use of meeting when the honorable member could not control his union ?
– The pastoralists offered everything that was asked for.
– That is absolutely incorrect. When the two parties to a dispute go before a Court, every one interested is, as I have shown, represented. It has been admitted that the unions which are likely to go to the Court comprise a majority of those in the trade. That being so, what need have the Government to take this stand about non-unionists? The employer acts for the non-unionists, and looks after them because they may become useful to him. He may utilize them to prevent an award from being secured. Bogus unions cannot be represented before the Court, but the employers can bring forward witnesses whose evidence might have great weight. All those interested could be represented, and there is no need for any special provision to afford protection to non-unionists. We have found it necessary to bring forward the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland, because we recognise that in view of the attitude assumed by honorable members opposite, it is useless to expect them to agree to the Senate’s proposal. We are now suggesting the amendment as an alternative, in the hope that a sufficient number of honorable members may be disposed - irrespective of party considerations - to make the measure workable. It has been argued by the Minister of Defence that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland would be unworkable. It is extraordinary that the old axiom that if a rule is good it should work both ways should not apply on this occasion.
– I said that if the amendment were inserted the clause would be less workable than as it stands.
– It is claimed that the proviso is workable ; and that the amendment is less so. I propose to show that it is more practicable. Four organizations have been mentioned as the most likely tq appear before the Federal Arbitration Court. They are the Australian Workers’ Union, the Federated Seamen’s Union, the Marine Engineers’ Institution, and the Waterside Workers’ Federation ; but I can assure honorable members that, so far as they are concerned, the clause in its present shape would prove absolutely unworkable. We are willing to accept the clause without the proviso, but we cannot go further than that.
– Will the honorable member agree to abandon preference altogether ?
– Certainly not. We regard preference to unionists as the very essence of compulsory arbitration. We say that it is not in reality preference, but security, and that it affords a guarantee for the proper observance of the law. We say that no preference would be given to unionists, beyond that they would enjoy as superior workers. Only two classes of employers will be concerned in the disputes which will probably come before the Court, namely, the ship-owners and the pastoralists. The ship-owners would be parties to any disputes which might affect the marine engineers, the waterside workers, or the seamen, whilst the pastoralists would be concerned in any dispute affecting the Australian Workers’ Union. Iunderstand that about twenty ship-owners practically control the whole of the coastal shipping trade of the Commonwealth, and I contend that it would be very easy for them to produce evidence against the granting of preference to, say, the members of the Seamen’s Union. It would be more convenient for them to show that there was a majority against preference, than for the representatives of the 10,000 seamen to prove that their application was supported by a majority.
– Surely the statement of the officials of the Seamen’s Union that that organization embraced 10,000 members would be accepted by the Court ?
– Not under the proviso. They would be required to show that they represented a majority of the wholeof those who would be affected by the award. The ship-owners have records of every man in their employment, and they know exactly how to communicate with them. They might, with the greatest of ease, take a referendum in order to ascertain the views of the men upon the subject of preference. We have frequently been told by employers that their workmen do not believe in unions, and that, as a matter of fact, the majority would be content if there were no such organizations. If that be the case, it should be easy for the employers to prove that the applicants for preference did not represent a majority. The pastoralists would be able to produce similar evidence, although in their case the difficulty would be greater. It has been admitted that so far as the Australian Workers’ Union is concerned, there would be more difficulty in proving that a majority was in favour of preference, because the men are not employed continuously, but only for a few months every season, and do not work for the same employer every year. The pastoralists are organized, and have lists of their workmen, and could easily ascertain their views. They are, infact, the only persons who could ascertain the opinions held by those who are not in the unions. We know that our union represents a majority of the men engaged in shearing and other bush work ; but it would be very difficult for us to establish that fact before the Court. So far as reason and common sense are concerned, we might satisfy all requirements ; but the Judge could not ignore the provision in the Bill that preference must be supported by a majority of those affected by the award.
– If the representatives of a union went into Court, and asked for preference, it is inconceivable to me that the Court would not regard the whole of the members of the union as being in favour of the application.
– The Judge would be unable to ignore the terms of the proviso, which, as the honorable and learned member for Indi so forcibly pointed out, require that the application for preference must be approved by a majority of those affected by the award. It is not sufficient that a majority of the workers should be embraced by the union.
– I think it is.
– Take the case of the shearers. Suppose that they had a dispute as to rates of pay, and went into the Court and asked for preference. Even though they might be able to satisfy the Court that they represented the majority of the shearers, they could not establish the fact that they represented the majority of those who would be affected by the award. The persons affected might be held to include all the bush- workers whose occupation might be interfered with by a strike of shearers ; all the wool-carters from the shearing sheds to the railway stations, all the carters from the railway station at Darling Harbor to the ship’s side in Sydney, and the wharf labourers who are paid so much per bale for stowing the wool in the ships’ holds. It is impossible for us to know what view the Court would take in such a case. We cannot say positively who would or would not be affected by the award, and we should have to take our chance of any view which the Judge might entertain upon that point. I have the greatest faith in the fairness of the Judges ; but I recognise the power and influence that would probably be exerted by the legal gentlemen employed by the employers, and the extent to which the Court would be required to adhere to the provisions of the Bill. The case which I, as President of the Australian Workers’ Union, could put before the Court, would not be sufficient to satisfy me if I were on the bench. The Pastoralists’ Unions hold their meetings just about the beginning of the year. They then issue their manifestoes, setting forth the rates of pay and conditions of work for shearers for the coming season. At that time of the year, it is utterly impossible for us to reach the whole of our members. Many of them are nomadic, and have no settled place of residence. No one can determine the exact whereabouts of the members of such a great nomadic class. The Australian Workers’ Union could not secure a vote of its own members, if it desired to do so, upon any particular date. I claim that the unionists should always be granted a preference. The proposal of the Government is that no preference shall be granted, unless the application is approved by a majority of those affected by the award.
– The President of the Court has to inform his mind upon the question in such manner as he thinks fit.
– The proposal of the Government does not express that.
– Will the honorable member look at clause 25 ?
– The Bill specifically states that before any preference is granted to unionists, the application for such preference must be approved by a majority of those who would be affected by the award of the Court.
– But the Court will follow the methods prescribed by clause 25.
– The point which I am raising has been emphasized by the Court in New South Wales. Our executive is the recognised authority of the Australian Workers’ Union.
– Would the honorable member be satisfied if we made it clear that all the unionists were to be regarded as supporting the application for preference?
– That depends upon other considerations. We have had legal experience of this difficulty. It occurred in connexion with the alteration of our rules, and the registration thereof. That alteration was effected by taking a plebiscite of as many members as we could reach by advertisement, and by an appeal through our Executive. Nevertheless the registrar held that that was not in keeping with the rules of our organization, and’ consequently our application was refused. Is it not reasonable to assume that the registrar of the Arbitration Court will entertain a similar view? Some honorable members have declared that the amendment has been prompted by a desire to prevent consideration being extended to employes who are not organized. I deny that allegation. In fact, it is a bugbear. It is impossible to know who will be affected by any award of the Arbitration Court. In the Australian Workers’ Union, the difference in its membership has totalled 8,000 within two years. That fact is entirely due to the destruction . of sheep through the drought. I would further point out that a certain class of individuals engage in shearing 1 only when they cannot obtain other work, so that the number who would be affected by the Government proposal would be very large indeed. Honorable members are aware that Judges are required to deal with the cases which come before them upon the evidence which is presented. Do we not know that a decision is given upon the evidence that is submitted? Although a majority of shearers are members of the Australian Workers’ Union, I would point out that the majority of those who would be affected by an award of the Court are not members of that organization. The employers recognise that fact. The Government proposal is the most ridiculous one that has ever been put before Parliament. On the other hand, nobody would suffer by the passing of the Bill in the form in which it has been agreed to by the Senate. We should be perfectly safe in accepting the decision of that House. The Opposition found it necessary to move an amendment, with a view, if possible, of arriving at a compromise, and, I think, that our proposal is a fair one. The Minister of Defence asserts .that if we passed the clause as it left this Chamber, it would be a workable one. I do not agree with him. The granting of preference to unionists is absolutely essential to the proper “ policeing “ and working of the measure. It cannot injure any one. It will not prevent any man obtaining employment. When a man is asked to join a union, he should recognise that it is to his benefit to do so. We have to submit to many things, of which we may personally disapprove, for the good of the whole community, and I think that it would be a good thing if men could be forced to join unions. The Opposition, however, do not ask for anything of the kind. We do not even say .that the granting of preference shall be manda- tory. Mr. B. R. Wise has pointed out that preference is absolutely essential to the proper working of the State Act, and. in view of certain quotations which have been read from statements made by that gentleman, I think it is well to emphasize this point. Those who join a union voluntarily, do so because they know that it will be to their advantage. Men have rarely been coerced to join unions, but where’ that has occurred, it has proved a good thing for the persons concerned. I am in a position to say that many men are thankful for the fact that they were compelled to join a union. Many who have become managers and foremen in various trades, date their start in life from the time when they were compelled ,to join a trade union. Yet we have had the Prime Minister roaring about a class of men who Object to join a union, although it is to their benefit to become unionists. Such men do not exist. The extraordinary assertion has been made by the Minister of Defence, that because we have voiced the opinions of unions who think that without this amendment the Bill will be unworkable, we are holding out a threat. When the Employers’ Federation circulated j a very long screed among honorable members, urging them to reject this measure, no one suggested that they were threatening us in any way. It is our duty to see that the workers, in agreeing to come under a measure of this kind, and to forego all their old privileges, shall obtain something in return ; we must see that they are not placed in a worse position. All that unionists haw said is, that they think they would be far better without such a measure as this would be if the Senate’s amendment were rejected, and that unless reasonable provision be made for preference, they will not take advantage of it. I trust that an effort will be made tq pass a workable Bill, and .that the Government will consent to a ‘ reasonable amendment of the preference clause, even if they are “not prepared to withdraw their opposition to the proposal made by another place.
– I have had a fairly extensive experience of strikes, and have taken part in some of them. I can say, however, that I have never counselled one, but, on the contrary, have done my best to avert such disputes. I was very glad when I found that we were likely to pass legislation for the set- 12 o tlement of disputes by means of conciliation and arbitration ; but, so far as I can see, the Government now propose to force upon the unions a Bill which, if carried in the form they desire, will serve only to intensify industrial warfare. My experience as a trade unionist convinces me that that will be the only result. The Prime Minister told us that the amendment moved by the leader of the Opposition was repugnant to him; but I venture to say that the Bill, if passed in the form proposed by the Government, would be wholly distasteful to nineteen-twentieths of the unionists and non-unionists of Australia. The question of preference has been exhaustively discussed, and I have asked the Minister of Defence time after time to tell us how a union would be able to satisfy the Court that its application for preference was approved bv a majority of those affected in the industry to which it related. It is one of the simplest things in the world for a lawyer to stand in this House, and say to the unions, “You have the machinery, and can easily ascertain whether you represent a majority.” If we are to have such a clause as the Government wish to force upon us, how is the machinery of the unions to be put into operation? As a member of the executive of the Shearers’ Union in South Australia, which comprises nearly 3,000 members, I have had some experience of that machinery. I have acted for years as returning officer for the union, and know that it is exceedingly difficult to take a ballot of the members. If I were asked to issue circulars to ascertain the opinion of shearers who were not in the union, how should I be able to find them? That is one question which I submit to the Minister of Defence. Then, how should I be able to ascertain whether this man, or that, was interested in the industry? It would be impossible for me to do so. I would also ask the honorable and learned gentleman to .tell me who would be “ affected “ by an award, so that I might ascertain, their opinions. Having settled that question how should I be able to reach these men? The Minister knows that his scheme is impossible, ind yet he says that the Government are prepared to accept the principle of majority rule. The Bill will have to be greatly improved if the Government expect that the unions will abide by what may be demanded of them. Under the guise of giving us an industrial measure, the Ministry are attempting to interfere with the political freedom which unions at present enjoy. This is not a Bill to settle industrial disputes. I listened last night to the Prime Minister as, swelling with indignation, he declaimed in the most eloquent language against those who desired to take away the bread and butter of the non-unionists. But, as the honorable and learned member for West Sydney has pointed out, the right honorable gentleman and his following are prepared to take away the bread and butter of the non-unionists, for whose welfare they profess to be so solicitous, if a union applying for preference has a majority of only one of the number of persons engaged in the industry. Is that the way they are going to humbug and deceive the non-unionists, in the hope that they will vote for them at the next election ? It seems to me that they could not make a more serious mistake. Who has prevented us from doing something for the benefit of non-unionists? For years past I have been endeavouring to secure the passing of factory legislation, the creation of wages boards, and better sanitary laws, not merely for unionists, but for the poor women who are wholly unorganized. And who has prevented our securing such legislation? Honorable members sitting opposite. The honorable member for Dalley told us that the reason why he voted against the late Government was that he considered that the Bill was not good enough. Is he going to vote for the measure as now proposed by the Government, or is he going to say that it is unsatisfactory, and that he will vote with the Opposition ? We are doing our utmost to see that the position of the workers shall not be made worse than it is, and rather than allow the Bill to pass in the form proposed by the Government, I shall vote against it.
– The honorable member said that before.
– The honorable member and his colleagues were afraid to call for a division on that occasion. Had they done so. the result might have occasioned them surprise. I care for no Ministry when principles are at stake. I am here to stand by my principles, and I shall do so, regardless of what Ministry stands or falls. I certainly shall not say, as the honorable member for Dalley said, “This Bill is not good enough,” and then be found voting for it. The Government, by means of a sham and a humbug, hope to deceive the non-unionists ; but I am glad to say that the bulk of them are on our side. No one can point to any body of non-unionists who have said, “ We want the Bill now offered to us.” The Minister of Defence says that no difficulty will be experienced in determining the question of majority, and that the” Court will not require an organization applying for preference to do more than make the bald assertion that it represents a majority of those affected. If I were a Victorian employer, and opposed to preference, the first thing I should do on becoming a party to a dispute, would be to retain the services of the honorable and learned gentleman. I am sure that he would gladly argue before the Court that the word “affected” appearing in this clause, means that an applicant for preference should first prove who would be affected by the award. We were told by the Prime Minister that we would leave the non-unionists to the tender mercy of their employers. I wish the right honorable gentleman would tell us what he and his followers have done in the way of legislation for non-unionists. I have mentioned some of the means by which we have sought to improve their condition, and I might say that I have done nearly as much for nonunionists as for unionists. If nonunionists could only recognise that which is in their own interests, they would1 be glad to be forced, by reason of this or any other measure, to join an organization. What is the respective position of a plaintiff and defendant in a law suit? The Minister of Defence knows that if .he paid a bill, and did not obtain a receipt, and were sued for the amount, he would be called upon to prove whether or not he had settled the account. The onus of proof would rest, not upon the plaintiff, but upon the defendant. The latter would be asked for his receipt, and if he could not produce it, he would have to pay.
– But the plaintiff would have to swear that I had incurred the debt, and had not paid.
– At the same time, the Minister would have to prove that he had paid it ; the onus of proof would be thrown upon him. That is the position we take up in regard to the question of proof of majority. When unionists demand that provision shall be made for preference, they do not ask for a concession. They ask for something which was to be given them if they threw away their only means to secure redress - the weapon of the strike. Unless the Bill be amended as we propose, I shall be disposed to say to the unions, “ Stick to the power to strike.You are not in a very good position, but you are better off than you would be under such a measure.”
– Most of the unions will not avail themselves of the principle of arbitration under this measure.
– I am not altogether enamoured of the principle of arbitration. As the Prime Minister remarked last night, our Bench up to the present has been pure; but he added that he was not going to say that it would be always so. What has been our experience in the old country ? Whenever a quibble is raised in a Court of law there, the unionists get the worst of it. One has only to look at the decision in the Taff Vale case, to see that.
– The experience in New South Wales is different.
– I admire the Judge who is administering the New South Wales Act ; but I would not trust a man like the Chief Justice of that State, after his public utterances in regard to the measure, to do justice to the workers. Mr. Justice Cohen has stated that the giving of preference to unionists has not, and will not, injure any one. Why is it, if the principle is such a bad one, that when the last general elections were held in New South Wales the Conservative Party did not stump the country from end to end for its* repeal ? The fact is, that it is a good principle, and that all parties recognise that. Under this Bill, however, we shall have bogus unions registered ; and the Prime Minister himself has not spoken in very respectful terms of the Machine Shearers’ Union. I cannot deal with the amendment now before the Committee, without incidentally referring to the next amendment, which provides that unionists are not to get preference if they take political action. The Prime Minister yesterday showed what the real trouble is. Honorable members opposite see that the unions have become strong political bodies, and they wish to strike a blow at them. But the members of the unions are different from what I take them to be, if they are going to give up their political freedom in order to obtain preference.
– This is more than an incidental reference to the nextamendment.
– What is the honorable member fighting about?
– We are fighting for what had the right honorable member’s approval a few weeks ago.
– Both Houses have agreed about the political matter.
– Both Houses have not agreed about it. If they had-
– The amendment before the Committee is that which deals with preference to unionists.
– Yes, but we are discussing whether we shall agree with the other House.
– The honorable member knows that that is a matter which is affected by the next amendment, which I ask him not to debate now.
– Am I not at liberty to say that both Houses have not agreed?
– I am not preventing the honorable member from saving that.
– I am glad that the two Houses are not in agreement, and I hope that they will not agree on this subject. If I thought that by prolonging the debate, I could bring honorable members into a better frame of mind, I should be only too glad to prolong it. The Prime Minister told us last night that the object of the Senate’s amendment was to force men into unions for political purposes. I deny that. Men are going to be forced into unions by the Bill, but it does not say that they shall be political organizations. What honorable members wish to do is to use the Bill to prevent organizations from having political purposes.
– The honorable member must not discuss the Bill as a whole.
– I submit that the honorable member is referring to the next amendment as a reason why the present amendment should not be passed as it stands. The two are so interlaced that he finds it impossible to distinguish between them.
– I am not objecting to incidental references to the next amendment, but the honorable member must not continually allude to the Bill and its purposes. He must confine his remarks to the amendment before the Committee.
– I have not said a word in regard to other clauses of the Bill than that which we are now discussing. If the Chairman rules that I must not mention the Bill, I would point out that every previous speaker has mentioned it a dozen times. Surely I may refer to the clauses being in the Bill?
– I have not objected to that.
– I have no desire to infringe the rules of debate, but it is impossible to discuss the amendment without incidentally referring to the next one, which provides that unions are not to get preference if their rules allow them to take part in politics. The effect of that would be that the Australian Workers’ Union - of whose executive committee I am a member - would have to hold a meeting, not in Adelaide, but in Sydney, to alter its rules, in order to register, and before that could be done, a bogus union, such as has been spoken of in the strongest terms of disparagement by the Prime Minister, might register, ‘and obtain preference. We seriously object to placing ourselves under a Bill which allows that to be done, and I shall not vote for the’ measure if it contains these objectionable provisions. It has been said that the ex-Prime Minister accepted these provisions. I did not do so, however, neither did the majority of the Labour Party. I am sorry that the ex-Prime Minister accepted them, but he did so because he knows the anxiety of the unions, of the public, and of some of the employers to obtain a Commonwealth Arbitration Bill, and, therefore, he conceded as much as He could. He would strike them out tomorrow if he could do so, but he has not a sufficient number of followers behind him. The honorable member for Dalley, who objects to these provisions, will not come to this side and help to make the Bill better. The Minister of Defence has complained that we say that preference requires no justification. Why should it? Does he think that the unions should give up all that they oossess - and, Heaven knows, that isvery little-
– I said that there was justification for it, if it were properly safeguarded.
– The honorable and learned gentleman wishes to safeguard it in the interests of the non-unionists. But if there were 2,000 men in an industry, of whom 1,001 were members of a union, there would be no security for the other 999.
– Wouldthe honorable member give preference to a minority ?
– Unless the Bill provides for preference being given to unionists, members of unions will be dismissed all over the Commonwealth. We do not wish to coerce any one to join unions. That is not done at the present time ; but it is the object of the Bill. In my opinion, the measure will do the greatest injury and injustice to the trade unionists who, as the Prime Minister has admitted, have, done such a great work for their fellows. We have been accused of having accepted some of these provisions, but we have accepted only what we could not help accepting. Honorable members must not think that I am satisfied because I am prepared to accept the amendment now proposed by the leader of the Opposition. That will not induce me to vote for the Bill. There is another provision of more importance ; than this. On the Government side there are over a dozen members who are entirely opposed to arbitration, and they are now trying to thrust upon us a Bill which we do not want. If they were true to ‘their pledges, however, they would help usto throw the Bill under the table, rather than pass it as it stands. The Minister of Defence has said that the effect of the New South Wales arbitration legislation has been to force employes into the unions, and he fears that under this Bill, if employes areforced into unions, they will be used for political purposes.
– I did not say that. I said that the figures showed that a majority of the available menwere members of unions.
– Itook a note of the Minister’s words, which were to the effect that the New South Wales Act had been instrumental in forcing the men into unions.
– I do not think I said that.
– I am satisfied as to the correctness of my notes taken at the time. If the Minister’s statement be correct, I should like to know how it is that many thousands of workers are still nonunionists. I am sure that there is nothing in the contention of the Minister. Those who desire to take advantage of the Bill must join the existing unions orform others, yet the Minister is unwilling to grant preference to unionists. He says that bogus unions will spring up like mushrooms if the amendment of the honorable member for Bland is adopted. We donot think so. If, however, the Minister thinks that the Bill will afford encouragement to bogus unions, he should do everything he possibly can to assist us to prevent that result from being brought about.
– That is one reason why we oppose the amendment.
– The Minister says, further, that the honorable member for Darling Downs has shown that in New South Wales the unionists are in the majority. If so, I should like to know what all the fuss is about? I predict that in every case which comes before the Court, the employers will seek to show that the applicants for preference are in a minority, and, in many cases, the proof to the contrary will not be forthcoming. The experience which has been gained in connexion with the Shearers’ Union in South Australia should be sufficient to demonstrate that it is difficult to say who are or are not engaged in that occupation. Unless some radical amendment is introduced into the Bill the unions will refrain from registration under it. If serious industrial warfare occurs - and that is what I fear, because I am proud to say that the men of Australia have realized the advantage of standing up for their rights - honorable members opposite will be to blame. Our working men have the same spirit that induced our forefathers in the old country to fight for their rights, even at the cost of being shot down in the streets or transported for life. The time is rapidly approaching when, if the labouring classes of Australia cannot obtain just treatment, by peaceable means, they will adopt some other method to attain their ends.
– Is the honorable member uttering that threat as the mouth-piece of his party ?
– Threat ! I would utter any threat against those who seek to take away my political liberty. I am prepared to adopt any course that may be necessary to maintain my rights and my freedom. Many of my forefathers died in the cause of liberty, and I am glad to say that we have men in Australia who are preparedto uphold their privileges at all costs. The executive officers of the unions would be the last to push matters to extremes except under sheer compulsion. They recognise that an injury inflicted upon the employers must reactupon themselves, and they desire to arrange matters amicably. If any serious industrial trouble comes upon the Commonwealth - worse than any we have had in the past - the blame will be upon the heads of honorable members opposite. I
Fire Brigade Telephones : Destruction of Trees by the Telegraph Department.
Motion (by Mr. McLean) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral a matter of considerable importance. It is reported in to-day’s newspapers that the Post and Telegraph Department proposes to take some very drastic steps in connexion with the fire brigade telephone and fire alarms. After years of toil, expenditure, and experiment, we have established a fairly complete fire brigades system, but if the proposals of the Department are carried out a most important institution will receive a serious set-back. I suggest that the Postmaster-General- should call a conference of the Superintendents of Fire Brigades in each of the States, to discuss matters with him before he takes any definite step, and, further, that in the event of his determining to make any change in regard to the fire alarms, he should give the House an opportunity, to consider his proposals.
– I wish to bring under the notice of the Postmaster-General the circumstances under which trees are being destroyed by the officers of his Department in some of the country towns in New South Wales. In some of these places the telegraph lines are carried over small country parks or along roads close to such parks, and the officers of the Department are upon, the pretext that they are interfering with the wires, cutting some of the trees to such an extent as to disfigure them. It seems to me that the Department are treating the residents of these towns most inconsiderately in asking them to pay for the removal of the telegraph posts . if they wish to save the trees. We should do everything we can to encourage tree-planting, and should show every reasonable consideration for those who incur expense in beautifying the streets. In the town of Candelo, in my electorate, several of the residents have subscribed £7 10s. towards the removal of certain telegraph posts which the Department say cannot be shifted at a smaller outlay than £14 or £15. I am not making any complaint against the Minister, but I merely ask him to exercise that common sense and courage which distinguish him. I trust that, even though he may have to release himself from the trammels of red-tape and establish a new precedent, he will insist that justice and fair treatment shall be meted out to the persons concerned. It is sheer vandalism to cut down trees which have been planted at such great cost, and which combine so much utility with ornamentation. I am sure that if the Minister took the course I suggest he would be cordially supported by honorable members.
– I notice that in some cases handsome trees have been destroyed or disfigured merely because the telegraph officials wished to avoid the trouble entailed in shifting a telegraph post or two for a few yards. Arboriculture is not encouraged in New South Wales to the same extent as in some parts of Victoria, and those townspeople who have been sufficiently public-spirited to plant trees in their streets should be protected against such acts of vandalism as those which are often committed by the officers of the Department. I hope the Minister will give the matter his most serious attention.
– I was one of those members who objected to the provision in the Post and Telegraph Act authorizing the Department to lop trees which interfered with telegraph lines. The Committee was divided upon the question, but the provision was agreed to by an overwhelming majority, of whom the honorable member for Robertson formed one.
– I did not vote in favour of vandalism.
– If I remember rightly, the honorable member for Robertson was in favour of that provision. I think that the honorable and learned member for Ballarat was in charge of the Bill at the time. Sir Malcolm McEacharn fomented opposition to it, but I find that honorable members who wished to alter the Act-
– We wish common sense to be applied to the matter.
– The Minister has no more right to infringe the law than has any other member of the community.
– The position taken up by the Government is ridiculous.
– When the Bill was under consideration, the right honorable member for Swan was one of the ablest supporters of vandalism. Sir Malcolm McEacharn foretold what would happen. I appeal to honorable members to be consistent in this matter.
– I wish to add a few words to the appeal of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro. I do not propose to review the action of the last Parliament, or to comment upon that of the present Parliament. I contend that the law to which reference has been made by the honorable member for Maranoa is working harshly in the case of country districts. Inone town in my own constituency, I am aware that the people have incurred considerable expense in planting the main street with good shady trees; Nevertheless, those trees have been made an eyesore to the residents, and confer no benefit upon them whatever. Had the telegraph poles been erected a little earlier the lopping of the trees would have been avoided. This is a serious matter to persons who have to put their hands into their pockets to improve the town in which they live, and I trust that the Government will pay some attention tort.
– I desire to indorse the remarks of the previous speakers. It seems to me that there is a general complaint in regard to this matter. This House expects that in the administration of any Act regard will be paid to the local circumstances which obtain. In districts where the summer temperature ranges from 80 to> 100 degrees in the shade, persons appreciate the advantage of shady trees. But after these trees have attained the growth of many years, the Department is in a position to say to the particular locality interested, “ You must pay us somuch, otherwise the trees will be destroyed.” In my own district I am aware that a demand was made for the payment of £17 or £18 for removing telegraph poles. In this connexion, I trust that the common sense of the Minister will prevail, and that before any such action is taken in the future a fair understanding will be arrived at with the local residents.
– I wish to impress upon the Postmaster- General1 that this vandalism should be stopped’. Innearrly every town in Australia some expenditure has been incurred in connexion with the planting of trees. In many of these towns the trees are being disfigured, if not killed, by the Post and TelegraphDepartment. I should like the PostmasterGeneral to issue instructions that trees planted by municipalities shall not be touched without the consent of the local governing body.
– The complaint of the right honorable member for Swan and other honorable members has my strongest sympathy. I have no desire to see the trees In any of our public parks destroyed.
– The Minister can rise superior to the law.
– There are two sections of the Post and Telegraph Act which deal with this question.
– The law- is not compulsory.
– The Post and Telegraph Act provides, in subsection 2 of section 85, that -
Where, subsequent to the erection upon any footpath, road, or highway, of any telegraph line, it becomes necessary to remove the same owing to any alteration of alignment or other action on the part of a municipal council or local authority, the cost; pf sudh Temoval shall be borne by the municipal council or local authority concerned.
Section 87 provides -
Such trees or underwood as obstruct, or,, in <he opinion of the Postmaster-General, or other officer duly authorised by him, are likely to interfere with the proper working of any telegraph line, if growing upon Crown lands, or upon any road, street, or highway, may, after notice to the local or other authority having the care and management thereof, be cut down or lopped, as may bc deemed necessary, by the said PostmasterGeneral or such officer, after consultation with such authority, and if growing upon private lands within twenty feet of any such line, then the proprietor or occupier of such private lands shall cut down or lop the same as and when required so to do by the said PostmasterGeneral or such officer, and upon default the said Postmaster-General or such officer may enter upon the said private lands and cause such trees and underwood to be cut or lopped as may be -deemed necessary.
That is the law which has been acted upon.
– The Department has used no intelligence.
– Will the Minister introduce a Bill to repeal those provisions of the Act before the prorogation?
– I am afraid that I cannot entertain any such proposal.. Concerning the statements of the honorable member for Melbourne Forts, I can only -say that I. am desirous of bringing about uniformity in connexion with the regulations which are applicable to fire brigades.
It has been agreed that a 25 per cent, reduction shall be made upon telephone lines for fire brigade purposes. But before anything is done in that direction, I have instructed my secretary, and the electrical engineer, to confer with a couple of representatives of the Fire Brigades Board for the purpose of inquiring into the dispute which has occurred.
Question resolved in the affirmative. House adjourned at 4.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 2 December 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041202_reps_2_24/>.