2nd Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. REID laid upon the table the following paper : -
Precis of replies received from various institutions and persons with regard to the expediency of decimalizing the coinage of the Commonwealth on the basis suggested by the Select Committee appointed by the House of Representatives.
Orderedto be printed.
The Clerk laid upon the table the following paper : -
Return to an Order of the House, dated 34th November, 1904, as to the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic business at certain Queensland post offices.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will inform the House as to the opinion of the Attorney-General on the question of increases to Commonwealth public servants claimed under State enactments?
– In reply to thehonorable me mber’s question, I have to state -
An opinion has not been received from the Attorney-General yet In view of the importance of the question involved, the far-reaching effects on the Commonwealth Public Service, and the conflict of legal opinion, it is probable the matter may have to be decided by the High Court,in which eventuality it may not be desirable to furnish the opinions of the Crown Law officers.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice - 1.In view of the fact that honorable members of this House have almost unanimously expressed the opinion that the cadet movement should be placed upon a comprehensive and permanent basis, will he inform the House what steps he proposes to take to give effect to that opinion ?
– The Government fully recognise that a strong desire exists both inside and outside the House for the placing of our cadet movement upon a permanent basis. I have been making full inquiries as to how that can best be brought about, and am ready to submit certain proposals to the Cabinet for discussion at the Premiers’ Conference in February next, because it will be necessary to secure the co-operation of the States, in order to obtain a reasonable degree of economy, and to take advantage of the existing organizations in their public and private schools. I have no reason to suppose that we shall not be able to cometo a satisfactory arrangement. The difficulty, of course, is largely want of funds, and we must not stint necessary expenditure in the present to provide for future development. I assure the honorable member that personally I am heartily in sympathy with the cadet movement, as are the Government as a whole. We hope to be able to submit, on the next Estimates, proposals which will provide for the beginnings of a comprehensive scheme. My reply to question No. 2 is that I have looked carefully through the scheme recently formulated. It is open to several criticisms, the chief of them being that it provides for the establishment of a miniature army rather than a system of training introductory to the assumption of the duties of manhood, but there are some excellent ideas in it, of which advantage will be taken in due course.
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Whether it is proposed to amend, and in what direction, the statutoryrule by which militia officers may be transferred to the Permanent Forces ?
– It is not proposed to amend the statutory rules.
In Committee (Consideration of Senate’s amendments resumedfrom 2nd December, vide page 7837):
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 -
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.
Senate’s Amendment. - Leave out - “ And provided further that no such preference shall be directed to be given unless the application forsuch 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 2, be left out, with a view’ to insert in lieu thereof the word ‘ if,’ and that the word ‘ approved,’ line 14, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word opposed.’ “
– In considering the amendment of the Senate, we are dealing with the basic principle of the Bill. I wish, first of all, to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that when the proviso on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella was inserted in this Chamber, there was practically no discussion upon it. Furthermore, the only reference made to it by the Prime Minister was one in which he pointed out the impracticability of carrying it into effect. He showed that it was impossible for any Court to obtain an expression of the opinion of an absolute majority of those engaged in any industry whose operations extended over the whole Commonwealth. If that was true when the proviso was inserted, it is true to-day. But, while the Prime Minister spoke of the possibility of an industrial dispute occurring which might extend throughout the length and breadth of Australia- and he even included the pearl-shelling industry - he tried to support his proposal that the Committee should disagree to the amendment of the Senate by saying that only those engaged in three or four industries, the majority of the employes in which belong to trade unions, are likely to come within the scope of the Bill. I admit that it may be fairly argued that the intention of the Constitution was that a Federal Arbitration Bill should cover only a few of the large industries whose operations extend throughout the Commonwealth, but the provisions of the Bill apply, with the one or two exceptions to which we agreed last week, to every industry in Australia. That being so. the position of the Prime Minister, that the disputes with which the Court will deal will be restricted to one or two, is untenable. The bakers’ employes, for instance, have a federated union, and it is quite possible that a dispute between them and their employers might, by extending beyond the borders of any one State, come within the provisions of the measure. Will not any of the labour organizations which extend’ beyond any one State be in a position to bring cases before the Court for settlement? Yet we are asked to provide that the trade unions involved must prove that they represent the majority of those who will be affected by the award.
– What difference would that make to any of the big industries? - take the coal mining industry, for instance.
– I grant at once that it will not apply to the coal miners ; nor will it apply to the seamen. It may, however, apply to the wharf labourers, to the shearers, or almost every other industry that can be mentioned. The coal mining and shipping industries are perhaps the only two in which there would be no difficulty on the part of the unions in proving that they represented a majority of those who would be affected by the award. In any case, however, why should a trade union be called upon to prove that it represents a majority ? I think that the term “ preference ‘ ‘ is wrongly applied, because all that is asked for is that a man should be enabled to obtain the employment to which he is entitled. Why should the unions, in that case, be called upon to prove, by the votes of those outside their organizations, that they are entitled to preference? In ‘my experience, which, I think, has been shared bv every man who has been intimately connected with the industrial life of Australia, those who take the most prominent positions in connexion with trade disputes, require special protection in times of trouble. It is necessary that employment shall be secured for them. That principle was recognised in New South Wales in con nexion with the very first dispute that came before the Arbitration Court, when it was decided that every man who had taken the place of a striker should be discharged, and that the members of the union should be employed up to the full strength of their membership before others were taken on. Legislation of this character cannot be carried out without trade organizations. These cannot be dispensed with on the side either of the workmen or of the employers. If that be conceded, why should those who do not expend any money in maintaining the organizations necessary to insure the effectiveness of the measure, be consulted in a matter of vital importance? If, as is contended by the Prime Minister, the organizations most likely to resort to the Court will embrace 90 per cent, of those engaged in the industries they represent, why should he be so anxious to embody in the Bill the proviso to which such strong objection is taken by honorable members on this side of the Chamber? If the proviso is to be of no avail, why does not the Prime Minister give way? I believe that the persistence of honorable members opposite is due, not to any special sympathy with the nonunionists, but to the knowledge that if the proviso be embodied in the Bill opportunities would be afforded the employers to ruin the trade unions.
– Cannot the employers do that now ?
– Not so well.
– How could they do it under the Bill?
– To-day the members of the trade unions have the power to stand together and refuse to work, but they are to be asked to give up that right, and honorable members opposite are seeking to clothe the employer with power to ruin the unions.
– Under the Bill the employers could not lock out their men.
– What is to prevent any employer, when once the unions have been deprived of the right to strike, from making all his hands sign individual agreements ? That could easily be done, and no man in his employment for the time being could refuse to work.
– Does not the honorable member think it is disgraceful to deprive a man ofthe right to refuse to work ?
– The honorable and learned member admits that it is a disgraceful thing to deprive a man of the rightto refuse to work, and yet, in order to retain the Government in office, he is supporting them in depriving the men of the right to strike, and in taking away from them liberty in other directions. I believe in compulsory arbitration, but only when it is fairly and justly applied to both sides. I am prepared to trust the Court without laying upon them any particular restrictions.
– I thought that the honorable member was opposed to trusting the Court in the matter of preference.
– No; but the amendment which the honorable and learned member is supporting shows that he is opposed to trusting t’he Court.
– I had nothing to do with the Bill. I do not approve of it.
– This measure ought to be called the “ Trust-the-Court-Bill.”
– Do I understand the honorable member to say that he would not trust the Court?
– No. I am quite prepared to trust the Court; but I wish to give it a few directions.
– I wonder whatthe Chief Justice of New South Wales would say if the honorable member were to write to him saying that he was quite prepared to trust the Court, but desired to give it a few directions.
– Are not all the Courts constituted to administer the law ?
– Admittedly ; but honorable members who desire to direct the Court that they shall do only one thing are not prepared to trust it.
– All Acts of Parliament give directions to the Court.
– You cannot trust the Court, and bind it down at the same time.
– Exactly. I do not think the honorable member for Wentworth can get away from that position.The unions in my own district have enjoyed preference all along the line. They have enjoyed a preference in most instances, with the good wishes of their employers. Much as honorable members opposite may think that they will gain the favour of employers by taking up the attitude which they are adopting, I may tell them that so far as the real industries of Australia are concerned, employers have long ago realized that it is more profitable and better for them to engage trade unionists than to bother themselves about engaging haphazard men who do not belong to unions. I say that so far as the coal-mining industry is concerned, I do not know that the preference clause with the limitation which has been inserted in it at the instance of the Government would trouble unionists very much. But is it to be suggested that I should vote to take away from that particular union any power which it may at present enjoy of enforcing a preference on behalf of its members? I decline to sanction the insertion of a provision in this Bill which will have the effect of depriving that union of any rights which it may already possess.
– What trouble would the Coal Miners’ Union experience in establishing the fact that its members constitute a majority of those’ engaged in that industry ?
– It would experience no difficulty.
– What unions would ?
– Upon the authority of one who knows - I refer to the honorable member for Darling - the Australian Workers’ Union would. Why should that organization be called upon to prove that its members constitute a majority of those engaged in the shearing industry ? Did the honorable member for Parramatta, when acting as secretary of a Coal Miners’ Union, the members of which always demanded a preference, ever bother to inform the manager of the particular mine in which they worked whether or not they comprised a majority ? He has had experience of a time when they did not constitute a majority.
– What experience does the honorable member refer to? There is no analogy between the two cases.
– As secretary of a Coal Miners’ Union the honorable member was a thorough believer in the principle of granting a preference to unionists, and he would fight for it to-morrow if he again occupied a similar position. In his capacity as a legislator, however, he is prepared to take away from that union the preference which its members enjoy, unless they can establish the fact that they comprise a majority of those engaged in the industry.
-It seems to me that nobody wishes to have this Bill now.
– If the extension of a preference to unionists is to be limited in the way that is proposed by the Government, so far asI am concerned the Bill may go by the board. If it is to be carried in its present form, I shall have no compunction whatever in voting against the adoption of the report of the Committee. The insertion of the proviso is tantamount to undermining trade unionism. It leaves the door open for unionism to be absolutely ruined if employers choose to take advantage of it. Moreover, it ties the hands of trade unionists whilst their throats are being cut.
– Where is the proof of that statement to be found?
– If the honorable member had been present a little while ago he would have known where the proof lay. Seeing that it is necessary to repeat my argument for his edification, may I ask what there is in this Bill to prevent any employer, or combination of employers, from agreeing to engage employes as individuals, with the knowledge chat they have no power to strike?
– How will the Bill prevent that?
– I am telling the honorable member. This measure is of no value in the absence of trade unions. It is absolutely useless without those organizations, seeing that effect can be given to its provisions only with their aid.
– Does the honorable member mean “existing” trade unions?
– I mean any trade union. Of course, if the honorable and learned member wishes to substitute for the union in his own district a similar organization to the Machine Shearers’ Union-
– That is a very unfair suggestion.
– What is unfair?
– The suggestion that the honorable and learned member for Illawarra wishes to form a bogus union.
– That has always been my candid opinion of the honorable and learned member. But it must be recollected that the insinuation came from his own lips.
– There was no insinuation.
– Then why did the honorable and learned member refer to the “existing” trade unions? What other organizations had he in his mind?
– The organizations under this Bill.
– What are they ? If those organizations are identical with the existing trade unions I fail to see the mo tive for his first interjection. I repeat that, under the Bill, it will be possible for any trade union to be ruined by employers engaging its members as individuals, and compelling them to sign a certain form of agreement. Of course, the men would require to have a reason for discontinuing work. It may be true that they could cease work as individuals - that they could give notice of their intention to relinquish their employment as such. But the members of a trade union would not be in a position to cease work simply because an employer discharged a unionist and engaged a non-unionist in his place. Under the amendment proposed there is nothing to prevent any employer from discharging individually every unionist in his employ, and thus taking away the power of keeping the unions together.
– I thought that we had settled the question of the preference of employers for unionists.
– What I said in regard to one or two particular industries was the result of my own experience. Does the honorable member imagine that those industries are the only industries which will come under the operation of this Bill? Does he not know that he, himself, has referred to one industry which will most probably be brought within its purview? The difficulties which will arise under its operation are, in my opinion, of a very different character from those which the honorable member seems to anticipate
– I have not expressed any opinion as to the organizations which will come under the operation of the Bill.
– I do not think that the honorable member ever had an opinion to express. He is the very last individual to whom we should look for information upon questions affecting industrial legislation.
– That is very “ rough.”
– I do not wish to be “ rough,” and the honorable member is aware of that. I have nothing further to add, because, upon this question my mind has been made up for some considerable time. If the proviso proposed by the Government be carried, the measure may be cast aside so far as I am concerned.
– Would the adoption of the amendment submitted by the leader of the Opposition save the position?
– That amendment is not at all to my own liking, and
I shall certainly vote against’ the Bill in the form in which it was sent up to another place.
– Does the honorable member say that he would vote against the Bill if the amendment moved by the leader of the Opposition were carried?
– Certainly not. I saythat .the amendment moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, when the preference clause was previously under consideration, would destroy the whole basis of the Bill, and cause its title to be a misnomer.
– In what way would the amendment moved by the leader of the Opposition modify that?
– I think it is a modification.
– For the better?
– Certainly, although I do not think that it goes far enough.
– Does not the Opposition proposal mean a compulsory preference?
– I hold that if we are to depend on organizations to render this legislation effective, their members have a right to preference, as against those who do not contribute to such organizations, or do anything to improve their own position. Non-members of organizations will not help in any way to carry out the objects of this measure, and I fail to see the justice of consulting persons who will be of no assistance to us in this respect. There is nothing in the Bill (that would prevent those men sharing in its benefits if they chose, like others, to organize. Every one admits that without organization, the Bill can be of no service. In the absence of organization, awards against the workmen could not be enforced. We expect members of organizations to carry out the . awards of the Court, yet Ave are asking them, in effect, to take a poll to determine whether those outside their own ranks represent a majority of the persons affected.
– The Bill does not say anything about a poll being taken.
– I am aware of that, but in what other way would applicants for an award be able to show to the satisfaction of the Court that they represented a majority of the persons affected ? The records of the number of persons engaged in our chief industries are largely compiled from the rolls of trade unions. Does not the honorable member recognise that an application for preference would not be questioned by a non-unionist if he were not induced to take action by some em> plover? Under the clause as it left this Chamber, any man might lodge an appeal against the decision of the Court, and claim that he represented a majority of the persons affected. How would it be possible in such circumstances to determine which side had the majority, unless such a poll as was suggested by the Prime. Minister were taken? By the time this had been done, the dispute in question might probably have been forgotten. Turning to New South Wales, we fund that the State Act has been enforced against workers by the aid of the very trade unions whose services honorable members opposite are so slow .to recognise. Where have we had a clearer instance of this than in connexion with the Teralba dispute in my own electorate? In that case, a few of the men did not desire to obey the award of the Court, but within a fortnight of the giving of the decision they had to return to their work, because they knew that they could not obtain any support from their own union. As a matter of fact, the union advised them to conform to the award. I know the circumstances of that case so well that I am sure that if an attempt had been made by the employers under any other circumstances, to impose such conditions the workers, not only in the two collieries in question, but in all the collieries in the district, would have laid down their tools within forty-eight hours. Yet we are told that trade unions that have spent their funds to the general good of their members and of the workers generally should not receive preference. We ought not to forget that everything they do to improve the position of their members benefits- the men outside their own ranks.
– And yet the miners of Newcastle are asking for a’ higher wage, although the price of coal ‘has gone down.
– The honorable member ought to know that these men can manage their own business as well as can any other body in the country, and that their case must be dealt with by the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. They are prepared to subscribe more liberally to the objects which they have in view than would the honorable member or any of his friends to any movement for their own benefit. The conditions operating in the industry are such that we can well leave it to those concerned on both sides to havethe matter decided by the Court without any interference on our part. The wages paid in the industry are, to a large extent, governed by the price of coal, but there are also other important conditions which bear upon the question, and the workers must certainly be given credit for knowing something whenever they take action.
– They can look after themselves.
– They can to a fair extent. I desire to say, inconclusion, that I reserve to myself the right to vote in any way I think best upon any amendment of this or the next clause, and to take any action which I think will be in the best inteiests of the Bill and of those whom it is designed to benefit.
– I gladly respond to the challenge of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat. I am pleased to have an opportunity to say one or two words in reply to some statements made by him, and by other Labour Party members, who have spoken during the debate. In the first place, I wish to say that “ Things are not what they seem “ in connexion with this matter. Honorable members opposite are really fighting the wrong clause. If they would only be frank, they would admit that it is not this clause that is giving them trouble, but clause 55. If we were on our proper ground we should not be fighting this clause, which is not vital:, but the clause which I have just mentioned.
– Will the honorable member vote for clause 55 when it is considered ?
– The point that constitutes the whole trouble with honorable members opposite is not now before the Committee to be voted upon. The chance of dealing with it has already gone, and it has gone at the initiation of the honorable members opposite, who are now kicking up all this fuss about it - gone in consequence of a provision in the Bill which they themselves framed, and induced the House to carry through for them.
– I do not take any responsibility for that.
– The honorable member’s leader accepted it.
– That is his business.
– The honorable member voted for it, and is bound to take his share of responsibility.
– Certainly not.
– He voted for it, and surely will take responsibility for his. vote. That is what I am asking him to do. It comes to this - that the late Government, in order to remain in office, submitted to amendments in which they did not believe. Is that what the honorable member would have us understand?
– Some members of the honorable member’s present party are voting for a whole Bill in which they do not believe.
– Isthat an answer? The late Government need not have voted for any part of the Bill, unless they believed in it. They could have done what they subsequently had to do - leave office ; and if they had left office over the clause to which I have referred, they would have resigned in connexion with the matter that is now giving them all this trobule.
– What is that?
– The political clause. The opinions of honorable members opposite - or, rather, not their opinions, but the opinions of the organized bodies which they represent - differ as widely upon this question as they can possibly differ upon anything. The opposition to the Bill has, I think, been initiated principally by the Australian Workers’ Union societies, which are political organizations. They always have been, and profess to be political organizations.
– And they are always going to be.
– That is as it may be. I am merely pointing out the facts. The honorable member for Southern Melbourne does not know them, and therefore he ought to listen. The union represented by my honorable friend, who has just resumed his seat - the Coal Miners’’ Union of Newcastle, which is, I think, the most powerful, and also, I think, the best organized association in Australia - has always persistently refused to identify itself as an organization with politics. The matter has been discussed time and again, and its members have always deliberately refused to identify themselves with the political labour movement in New South Wales. The members have their labour leagues outside their union, but they keep their industrial and their political affairs as widely apart as they possibly can be, and I think wisely so.
– But at the same time they vote thousands of pounds for political purposes, apart from electing members to Parliament.
– We are not now dealing with the political objects of unions.
– I will not pursue the matter further, except to point out that the debate, which has proceeded in opposition to this clause, has derived its force from the fact that there is another clause to which honorable members opposite object very much more strongly than to this one.
– That does not say that there are not legitimate objections to this clause.
– I do not say that for a moment. I know that honorable members do object to this clause. I am saying nothing against that. But I do say that they themselves know that the difference between the amendment of the Minister of Defence and the amendment which they themselves suggested should take its place, is farcical. I point out also that there is this divergence in the organizations represented by honorable members opposite - that some of them will not have anything to do with politics in their industrial organizations, while others are professedly and actively political. The honorable member for Newcastle referred to me as an old-time secretary of a trade union. The honorable member is quite right. When I was secretary to a union we always insisted on preference to unionists, and in a very summary fashion.
– What was the union?
– The Coal Miners’ Union. We had no difficulty in doing that, and I am free to tell the honorable member that if I were in the same position to-day I should do the same again.
– Many big strikes took place over this question.
– I am thankful to say that, during the whole time I was secretary, I never had a strike.
– How long was the honorable member secretary?
– For some years. If I were in that position again I should adopt the same attitude. I have no sort of sympathy with the manwho will work alongside another man, and see that other paying every week of his life into an organization to protect his rights, and to maintain his position, whilst he himself is skulking, and deriving the benefit for which the other is paying and working. I have no sort of sympathy with that kind of thing.
– Yet this provision is all in favour of it.
– That position is not affected by this clause.
– To keep on saying a thing does not prove it. I am going to show that the position of affairs which I have been describing has nothing whatever to do with the clause. There is no trouble with regard to preference. This Bill makes it obligatory on the Judge to grant preference when certain conditions are complied with. In any trade organization of which I am aware, there is no difficulty in getting a majority in favour of any course such as this clause proposes. Therefore I cannot see what the bogy is that is being raised so constantly and persistently. Take the Coal Miners’ Union, for instance. Is there any trouble in that organization about getting a decision by a majority of the union? Will the honor - able member for Newcastle tell me that there will be any trouble with regard to this measure in his district ?
– Ask the miners there whether they will accept this Bill.
– It is not on account of this clause that they will not accept it.
– It is on account of the other clause.
– It is not on account of the other clause, either. It is because they are following their leaders and their leaders have misrepresented this clause to them.
– Absolutely incorrect !
– I am not speaking of the honorable member personally, but of the propaganda which, as a party, honorable members opposite are pursuing in relation to this matter. They are telling their people that this means death to trade organizations.
– So it does.
– They are telling them that the fact that a majority is required before preference can be enforced endangers their whole position as trade organizations. After looking as carefully into the matter as I can I am unable to find a tittle of justification for any such statement. Take the union with which the honorable member for Newcastle is concerned. Will the honorable member contend that the members of that union would ever have any difficulty in securing a majority in favour of asking the Court for preference if there could be such a thing as an InterState coal miners’ strike? The honorable member knows very well to the contrary. He knows very well also that they would not go to the Court to begin with, unless on a resolution affirmed by a majority of those interested. They would not go to the Court until a majority sent them there, and the majority that sent them to the Court would enable them to ask the Court for preference, where that was thought desirable.
– Would the honorable member consult persons outside of the unions as to whether union men should be employed before them?
– Does the honorable member not see that there is no point in a remark of that sort, because such a state of affairs could not arise in his case?
– In his case, perhaps.
– I shall refer to some other cases. There have been two shocking examples quoted during the debate as showing the need for leaving the Court without any such direction. One was the example of the Trolley and Draymen’s Union, but when I asked the honorable member for West Sydney, who cited the case, whether he could conceive it possible that there would be an Inter-State trolley and draymen’s dispute, the honorable member had to admit that he could not. Why then heap up difficulties which cannot, by any possibility, arise in the practical working of this measure?
– They must arise.
– The honorable member says they must arise, but that is only a statement, and if they ever should arise, they can bemet. The president of the union admitted that it is almost inconceivable that an Inter-State trolley and draymen’s strike would ever take place. If we take the other case which has been cited, that of the shearers, the honorable member for Darling informs us that before they begin to shear it might not be possible to say that a majority of the workers employed in the industry are members of the union. It is well known that the work of shearing is intermittent. Shearers take out a union ticket every year, but until they take out their ticket it is not possible to have them placed on the list of union members for the year. Taking this case at its worst, I point out that if there were an Inter-State shearers’ dispute, probably the very first thing which any practical minded Judge - say Mr. Justice Cohen - would do would be to ask that proof should be furnished that there was a majority of those engaged in the industry in the union. The statement would be made in reply that, owing to the tickets not having been issued it would be impossible for them to say that they had a majority at a certain time, but the honorable member for Darling, as one of the leaders representing the union, would proceed to show Mr. Justice Cohen that last year there was a majority of shearers in the union, and he would be able to show that from correspondence he had with local secretaries, there was likely to be a majority of the workers in the industry on the books of the union this year. That in itself would be ample proof to enable the Judge to satisfy his mind in granting preference to the Shearers’ Union, on the ground that they had a solid majority to whom to grant it. Do not honorable members see that it is just as possible to convince the mind of the Court in the way I have suggested, as by actual proof? All the statements which have been made are but so many bogies. I repeat that this is not the clause which is giving all the trouble, but the other clause to which I have already referred.
– The Court might say, as the honorable member says, “ These are only assertions.”
– The Court would be in a position to ask the leaders making these assertions to produce their books. They would be able to show that last year there was a majority in the union. The Court would be able to ask the leaders to produce their correspondence from local secretaries, and would be able to satisfy itself beyond any mere assertion that it was likely that there would be a majority of the workers in the industry in the union thisyear.
– It might, and it might not.
– I am. endeavouring to point out to the honorable member that the Court would not need to take the word of the leaders, but would be able to take the facts of last year into consideration, and to infer from them that this year the same condition of things was likely to be repeated. There is, therefore, no point in the statements which are being made. This is the one union in connexion with which it can be contended that there is any actual difficulty, but, as I have pointed out, it would be easy for the Court to infer that, in granting preference to the Shearers’ Union, it was granting preference to an organization which had a majority of those engaged in the industry at the back of it. Honorable members opposite are constantly reiterating the statement that this Bill cannot be worked unless trade unions are maintained at their full strength. That is quite true, but where is all the trouble coming from ? The fact is that, wherever there are oldestablished and well-organized trade unions, the ideal trade unions which we desire so much to protect, there will always be an easily ascertainable majority. No case has been cited in connexion with any old-established trade organization in connexion with which there would be the slightest difficulty in convincing the Court upon a matter of this sort. Honorable members opposite have made many references during the debate to the Machine Shearers’ Union, but I am satisfied that if ever the amendment proposed by the leader of the Opposition should find a place in this clause, it would do more to bring into operation competing and oppositionist trade unions than anything else of which I can conceive. If, all over the country, we put upon such men as those who joined the Machine Shearers’ Union the obligation tp prove that the unionists should not have preference given to them, we shall compel them, in self-defence, to form competing unions.
– Does the honorable member believe that any one of them would ever bother his head about it, when they did not do it in the first instance?
– Honorable members opposite, including the leader of the Opposition, have said that they would. That honorable gentleman also said that the employers would take care of them too, and I accept his statement.
– The honorable gentleman did not use those words in that sense.
– I think that he did. At all events, that would certainly be the effect of it. If honorable members will but think for a moment they must see that it would be jost the chance for which employers are seeking, to set workmen against workmen. Any honorable member who has experience in these matters must be aware, as I am, that thousands of people outside trade unions to-day sympathize with their work, and back them in every possible way. But if we put upon them the duty imposed by the leader of the Opposition, I venture to say we shall very soon alienate outside workers from trade unionists, and shall drive them into competing organizations. I frankly confess that I can conoeive of no greater blow which could be struck at trade organizations than the insertion of such an amendment in this clause.
– Does not the honorable member think that the men to whom he refers would join the old organizations?
– Those who cared to do so would join; and if they joined the old organizations, there would be no trouble. But honorable members opposite assume that those men would not join the old organizations when an amendment is moved which throws on those who it is thought would not join the onus of proving that the majority have not asked for preference. Some question has been raised about preference and majority rule. I have never known a trade union which acted on any other than the principle of majority rule. How was it that we were able to enforce preference, in a voluntary sense, apart from any legislation, or apart from going to a Court, in the ordinary work of our organizations?
– By the threat of striking.
– Yes, but always by the power of the majority in the organization.
– Nothing could be done unless the majority so determined; and, therefore, there was no trouble. If a majority sent a case to the Court for investigation, the same majority could demonstrate to the Judge that preference ought to be given.
– But the power to strike is taken away, and, therefore, there can be no threat of striking.
– That has nothing to do with the point with which I am dealing. In every well-established trade union, there is a majority which is easily ascertainable - a majority of those engaged in the industry.
– But we must have regard to all those affected by an award.
– That is the same thing; it means those actively engaged in the industry.
– It may mean something very different - “affected” by the industry.
– That is a stretch of the term; if that was what was meant, it would be explicitly stated. This is a new point.
– It is a point which has been repeatedly put forward in the Chamtier.
– If I saw anything in the Bill which threatened the existence of trade unions, I should not be likely to give the measure my support. But I see nothing in the Bill but an attempt to carry out a proposal to give that preference which may be considered necessary for the preservation of trades organizations ; and if there is a trade organization to be protected, all that is necessary is to apply to this Court and its deliberations the same principle that is applied toall the minutiae of the every day affairs of the organization. It is the same thing; no new principle is being introduced. That is laid down in the Bill, so that if there is an organization which substantially represents a trade, the same principle which applies to its every day occupation can be made to apply to the question of granting preference. If there is any trouble about ascertaining the majority in a trade, this provision has been put in the Bill with the concurrence of those who are opposing it on the other side. Time and again, in the speeches which have been made by honorable members opposite, it has been said that they do not want preference for a minority.
– The leader of the Opposition said that.
– Nobody could have made that statement more plainly than did the leader of the Opposition, who time and again said that he did not want preference for minorities, but only for majorities. If that is all, there is every provision in the Bill ; indeed, the principle of majority rule is safeguarded, and I do not think there will be any trouble such as is suggested by honorable members opposite. All the cases that have been cited by those honorable members areentirely out of court, since it is shown to be almost impossible for such disputes to develop into Inter-State disputes. There would be abundance of material to demonstrate that there was an assured majority of those affected in favour of preference. All that would have to be done would be to convince the Judge by a reasonable method of pro cedure, not necessarily by mathematical certitude; the clause is expressly drafted to avoid anything of the nature of mathematical certitude being necessary. What has to be done is to convince the Judge, and there is ample material afforded to do this in the ramifications of the societies from year to year. In connexion with the Shearers’ Union, the very statement of the difficulties would be most convincing, having regard to the intermittent character of the employment. I cannot conceive of a case in which there would be the slightest trouble in proving that a majority desired to have preference; and that is really the one point the fight is over. The suggestion that the difference between the amendment drafted by honorable members opposite and the proposal in the Bill is sufficient to destroy the measure, is to me a growing wonder from day to day ; and I am amazed that such a point should be seriously insisted upon in a legislative body. In conclusion, I repeat that, in my opinion, this clause is not the trouble - the trouble is the other, the political, clause. And as regards that other clause, those who had charge of the Bill, when the late Government were in office, must take the responsibility for its insertion in the present measure.
– I should like to give the Committee some information regarding the two or three cases which I quoted when we discussed generallythe amendments made by the Senate.
– Are the numbers here ?
– I have the exact numbers.
– Is the honorable and learned member “ stone- walling “ his own Bill?
– In the general discussion, I mentioned two or three cases which have recently come before the Arbitration Court of New South Wales. One of the cases was the first in which that Court had refused to grant preference to unionists, and the reason for the refusal is shown in the judgment given on the 31st October, in the case of the laundry workers, and reported in the Sydney Morning Herald and the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Mr. Justice Cohen said -
By a majority, the Court declines to give preference to unionists in this case, and for these reasons : the number of employees in this industry is about 1,200, and the number of members of the union is about 250, so they stand in the proportion of four non-unionists and one unionist. Another reason is that, except so far as the small proportion of the employees are concerned, there is no constant employment.
The Court had previously granted preference, even when the claimant union represented a small proportion of the total employes. But I think it will be admitted that the’ public feeling created by the debates here must have influenced the Court’s mind to some extent, and shown the injustice of granting preference to minorities, especially when we recollect that in the last discussion on this clause both parties expressed themselves as antagonistic to the proposal. The honorable member for Bland stated distinctly that his Government did not desire that preference should be granted to minorities, and this statement was echoed by his supporters from every corner of the House in which they sat. It had apparently be- ‘ come a fixed conviction in the public mind that preference to a minority was improper and unjust. A very short time afterwards the Court gave a decision, in the case of the Trolley and Draymen’s Union, and in the case of the Brickmakers’ Union. In the former case Mr. Justice Cohen said -
I consider that where an industrial union fairly and practically represents an industry, so far as the employees are concerned, preference should be given to unionists.
That was the position which the Labour Party took up in the last discussion on this provision. They have “deliberately abandoned that position, and have totally reversed their attitude. The attitude they now seek to take up is that the union must get preference unless the disorganized non-unionists can show that they are in a majority. In giving the award in the case of the Brickmakers’ Union, reported in the Sydney press of the 22nd of November last, Mr. Justice Cohen said that a majority of the Court gave preference to unionists under certain conditions. This case, so far as numbers and competency were concerned, was practically the same as that of the trolley and draymen. The union had 918 members, and the industry employed about 1,200 men, so that the claimant union represented a substantial majority of those interested in the dispute. It is worthy of note that in those instances there was no difficulty in supplying the Court with the number of employes in the industry, and ,the number of men in the claimant union, and that a majority was proved to the satisfaction of the Court. In the laundry workers’ case preference was asked, and it was proved to the satisfaction of the Court that, out of 1,200 persons engaged in the trade, only 250 belonged co the union ; in other words, a minority asked for preference. In the case of the Saddlers’ Employes Union, the unionists represented a distinct minority. The total number of employes in that trade ranged from about 1,400 to 1,800, while the number of unionists did not exceed 405. There is a clear case in which the number of unionists and the number of employe’s in the trade were given. In the case of the Painters and Decorators’ Union, the total number of employes in ‘the trade, and the total number in the claimant union were given. In nearly every case in which preference has been asked for in New South Wales, the claimant union has been able to show what proportion of the total employes belonged to it. ‘ That being so, the objection raised by honorable members who belong to the Labour Party, that there is no possibility of proving whether the claimant union has a majority or not, is altogether unfounded. Therefore, for an explanation of their extraordinary attitude, we must be driven to some other conclusion. Those who listened with attention and interest, as I did’, to the speech of the honorable member for Newcastle could not but see that its natural outcome was that it should be compulsory on the part of the Court to grant preference to unionists. He argued that an employer could treat his employes harshly and unjustly, and that the only means of overcoming those acts was by preference being granted to unionists.
– The honorable and learned member knows that that has been dene.
– I admit that there are employers, as well as employes, who behave improperly. But the honorable member for Newcastle told us that the only means to check this practice on the part of employers was for the Court to grant preference to unionists. If that position be sound, it means that in every ease the Court should not only have the power, but ought to grant preference. There can be little doubt that the honorable member belongs to that section of the Labour Party which, in New Zealand, has raised its voice in favour of compulsory preference, and which, in New South Wales, to some extent, is making a similar demand. The principle of preference seems to me to be an absolute negation of every principle of fair dealing and justice between man and man. I have opposed it with all my power. I only agreed to the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella because it was a degree better than the proposal in the original Bill. No reason has been advanced why the House should reverse its vote deliberately come to after exhaustive debate. It has been stated by one honorable member that the decision was come to after a few minutes1 discussion. That is not quite the case. The amendment’ of the honorable and learned member was printed two days before the division took place, and it was circulated. After the honorable and learned member made his speech, no less than twelve honorable members discussed the question of preference, and the majority of them, as I have ascertained from a perusal of the reports, referred more’ or less to his amendment. Again, it must be recollected that a no-confidence debate dealt with the same question. On two occasions, the House has come to the same decision, and no sufficient justification has been urged for altering it. It is worthy of note that in the Senate, packed as it is with gentlemen pledged to the Labour Party, the present amendment was moved and scouted, and that that House fell back- upon the provision in the original Bill. We should be very chary before we accept an amendment which the Senate would not seriously consider. Some members of the Labour Party have said that unless we can meet the Senate in some direction, we are defying the authority of a constituent portion of the Parliament. It seems to me that we cannot defy its authority more pointedly than by putting in a provision which it deliberately considered and rejected. All things considered, lit seems to me that the best attitude to take up is that which the Committee has taken up on two previous occasions, limiting the granting of preference to those cases in which the claimant union can show that it represents a majority of the employes in the trade affected. I have shown, by reference to official records, that in each and every case coming before the New South Wales Arbitration Court sufficient evidence has been adduced to satisfy the Court as to the proportion of the total number of employe’s in the industry affected who were within the union ranks. That being so, I contend that the proviso inserted on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella does not contain any hidden dangers, but is a plain and straightforward declaration to the Court, and I hope that the Committee will insist upon its retention.
– I am one of those who have systematically abstained from speaking upon a number of questions concerning which the conclusion of the Committee or the House was a foregone one; but members of the Labour Party so frequently restate the claim of preference to trade unions that one is inclined to think either that they are deaf or that their understandings are intentionally closed against the arguments adduced by members on the other side. We have been told by them, over and over again, that they are fighting in the interests of majority rule ; but no one, who looks into this matter dispassionately, can fail to see that the action of that party in reference to this particular question is a direct “challenge to that principle. We have also been frequently told that the great purpose which the unionists have in view is to enable their members to enjoy the fruits of trade combination. It is intended that there shall be associations under this Bill for the purpose of securing a concentration of force on the part of unions; but there is no reason why the unions should be made so many nervecentres for the furtherance of the political views of the Labour Party, and to bring fresh recruits within the Socialist fold. Most of us remember the honorable and learned member for West Sydney speaking with great fervour in this chamber on the subject of trade union constitutions. In a lucid interval of individualism, he made the extraordinary confession that, while it costs a member of a union is. a week to defray the expenses of his membership, a simple organization for the purpose of securing the concentration of individuals necessary to facilitate the administration of the Bill could be worked with contributions of £d. per member a week, or 2s. 2d. per annum. It is now pro- posed, however, to compel non-unionists to contribute that 52 s. a year towards the upkeep of a Socialist newspaper and the maintenance of a political organization, of which they may be unwilling members, although al] that the Bill demands are organizations which could be administered, according to one of the best authorities on the subject in this country, for 2s. 2d. a year. I generally say what I think about unions and unionism, and I justify economically the formation of unions, and have done so for the last fifteen years, both in my speeches and in my writings, as I justify the formation of a ring by merchants, of a trust by large corporations, or the association of a number of banks, in order to keep up the cost of their- particular commodities. Economically, no argument can be advanced against legitimate trade unionism. I go further. I have no objection to trade unions acting for friendly purposes. I shall show directly, however, that, under the pretence of acting for friendly purposes, they, in some instances, act as trading corporations, which is foreign to their original intention, and jeopardizes the funds of those who have joined them in the hope of receiving consideration in the nature of that expected from friendly societies. But although I have always justified unionism, I draw the line at unionism being used as a sort of lever to force men to subscribe to certain political creeds, or certain political views, in order to earn a livelihood at their particular trades.
– That question is not involved at the present time.
– Is the honorable and learned member in order in referring as he is doing to the desirability or otherwise of unions taking political action ?
– The honorable and learned member may not make more than an incidental reference to the subject. The amendment which deals with the political action of unions is the next amendment on the list.
– I propose to make incidental reference only to the matter. Honorable members opposite have claimed repeatedly, until one is heartily sick of hearing an argument which has been so frequently answered, that all that preference is meant to do, and will do, is to bring men into combinations to facilitate the administration of this measure, but the discussion of the question both here, and in another place, and in the public press, has revealed to the people of Australia a huge political conspiracy, whereby preference has been used as a sort of political lever to compel non-unionists to join unions with which they have no sympathy, and to the cost of whose maintenance they should not be compelled to contribute.
– Does the honorable and learned member think that that is being done ?
– It has been done; but this discussion is_ likely to put an end to it, and I have no hesitation in saying that when once the political effect of preference to unionists is disposed of, unionists will lose all further interest in the Bill, because it will fail to serve the purpose for which it was intended by them, and for which similar measures have been used in the States. The political purpose of unions, however, is not, as I have said, their only one. In New South Wales, the United Labourers’ Society or Association, which contains more than 1,000 members-
– Its membership is rapidly growing less.
– For the purposes of my argument, that does not matter, i am referring to the union only by way of illustration. It was formed primarily to give its members the advantages of combination, while its constitution, which I have had the pleasure of seeing, also provides that its funds may be used to insure its members against accident and sickness. The balance-sheet of the union shows a sum of something like ^475 .to its credit, but the general public will be surprised to learn that the whole of that money has been jeopardized by the members of the council of the union entering into a contract with the New South Wales Metropolitan Board of Water Supply and Sewerage -to carry out certain work, which such an organization has no right to undertake. I am informed that the union tendered for the performance of certain work at a price nearly 30 per cent, below the schedule price. Here we have a society formed primarily for unionist purposes, and, secondly, for insurance purposes, whose council jeopardizes the fund to which its members have been contributing for perhaps years, in order to make money by undertaking contractors’ work. The union, being without the experience of an ordinary contractor, might lose the whole of the funds. Here is the position which has a bearing upon preference. If preference were given to a union of that kind, every one outside of it engaged in that particular industry would be compelled to join and to contribute to funds, ostensibly for insurance against accident and sickness, which might be devoted to unauthorized purposes and lost.
– To what union does the honorable member refer ?
– The Workers’ Union of New South Wales.
– That is not the name of it.
– I have had the balance-sheet, which I have shown tb two or three members, who have taken no exception to it. The name does not affect my argument.
– If we knew the name of the union we might make some inquiries.
– I shall hand to the honorable member the balance-sheet which I obtained from some of the members of the union. The logical outcome is clear. If preference had been given to that union, any non-unionist working outside might very well say - and ought, as a free man living in a free country, to be able to say - “ I want to belong to some institution in which I can insure myself against accident or sickness.” If he found that he could not earn his livelihood without entering the union, and he became a member of it, he might discover, after having contributed to it for years, that its funds were jeopardized by an unwarranted act of the council. Instead of being content that unionists and nonunionists alike should join an entirely new organization conforming in every way to the requirements of the Act, the advocates of preference wish to compel every, man, upon the pain or penalty of losing his means of livelihood, to join the existing unions, which have, as I have shown, all sorts of objects quite foreign to unionism in the strict sense of the word. Let me give another instance which occurred two or three years ago in New South Wales.
– The honorable and learned member has not yet touched upon . the question before the Chair. I was pulled up very quickly when I was speaking.
– I do not think that any of my remarks can be regarded as irrelevant.
– The honorable and learned member has not yet touched upon the question before the Chair. I was pulled up in a shocking manner, although I had not transgressed a bit.
– Order ! The honorable! member must cease his interruptions.
– Another illustration can be cited to show the unfairness, the inequity, of the abstract claim for preference to unionists.. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney admitted here upon one occasion that the Wharf Labourers’ Union of New South Wales were running a newspaper, and although I have not had the pleasure of reading that journal, I have very little doubt as to the character of its politics.
– 1 rise to a point of order. I did not trespass to the extent of mentioning a newspaper, but you, sir, informed me that I was exceeding the bounds of debate when I referred incidentally to the clause following that now under discussion. I submit that the honorable and learned member has been trespassing to an infinitely greater extent.
– I have been carefully following the honorable and learned member, who, up to the present, has been arguing that a certain amendment is not necessary. Whether the arguments of the honorable and learned member are effective, or otherwise, it is not lor me to say. I am now waiting .to see how the honorable and learned member proposes to connect his reference to a certain newspaper with the provision for preference.
– I think, sir, that the connexion will be borne in upon your mind almost immediately. The honorable and learned member for West Sydney admitted that the Wharf Labourers’ Union were running a newspaper, and we all know what that costs, with money which had to be taken from the union funds. Whatever may have been the opinions espoused by that journal, it is more than possible that scores of non-unionists disagreed with its principles. If the effect of preference were to compel non-unionists to enter the Wharf Labourers’ Union, they would necessarily be obliged to contribute to the funds of an organization which was spending its money in running a newspaper to advocate views to which the non-unionists would probably be diametrically opposed. Therefore, according to the admission of the honorable and learned member, the effect of preference in that case would be not only to compel non-unionists to join the union, but to subscribe 52s. instead of 2s. 2d. per annum, in order, amongst other things, to run a newspaper.
– I think the subscription is only 10s. per annum.
– I can only say that I understood the honorable and learned member for West Sydney to say that the contribution to the Wharf Labourers’ Union was is. per week, and that the entrance fee was 1 os. The total contribution for the first year would in such a case amount to 2s.
– The subscription is 10s. per annum.
– The honorable member does not know the history of that union, or he would be aware that it once increased its subscription to £5 per annum.
– That was fourteen years ago.
– I do not care how long ago it was - the union. acted in the way I described. It afterwards reduced its subscription to £2 per annum, and ultimately the power of the Arbitration Court had to be invoked to compel it to open its doors to non-unionists.
– No one denounced that action on the part of the union more than I did.
– I am not speaking against the honorable member for Bland. He is becoming educated. I have been watching him for some time past.
– I denounced similar action fourteen years ago, so that it happened that I was as much educated then as now.
– I have seen many indications that the honorable member is renouncing the rabid views he entertained some years ago.
– I entertained the view referred to fourteen years ago.
– Preference to unionists, if carried to its logical conclusion,, would compel every wharf labourer now outside the union to become a member of it. No one can doubt that. If, according to the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, all that is necessary in the way of subscription to constitute an organization for the purposes of this Bill is 2s. 2d. per year, then every penny beyond that amount that a wharf labourer is compelled to pay to qualify himself to earn his living is extorted from him by tyranny, in order to bring him into a new political field. Therefore, I say that preference in an unconditional form ought never to ‘be granted. The leader of the Opposition knows very well what the temper of the Committee is upon that matter. He heard it discussed upon amendments submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and the honorable and learned member for Angas. Every aspect of it was debated at the time, and to endeavour to foist that idea upon us in the teeth of all the arguments which have been used . against it-
– Arguments ?
– I am talking of the arguments which have been advanced by honorable members upon this side of the Chamber.
– Most of those so-called “ arguments “ were based upon false premises, as was the statement of the honorable and learned member a moment or two ago.
– There is another aspect of this question to which I desire to refer. It has. been urged thait the Government proposal is consistent with the principle of majority rule. In this Chamber we have heard enough of majority rule by way of profession. We hear that doctrine frequently advanced by honorable members opposite, when they think it will fit the particular circumstances. But I would point out to them that the effect of extending to unionists a preference of an unconditional character in the case of a trade in which a thousand men are employed, only 250 of whom are unionists, would be to force the remaining 750 not merely to join the union, but to contribute to its funds, to fall in with ilts political views, and to do a variety of other things which they mightnot wish to do. I submit that this, instead of being majority rule, is tyranny of the worst order. It is the sort of tyranny to which excessive democracy always leads. Despite the hours and hours which have been occupied in discussing this question, I have not heard a single argument advanced by honorable members opposite to show how the amendment of the leader of the Opposition can be reconciled with the principle of majority rule. I entertain the same opinion now that I did when this matter was first debated. If trade unions are sought to be used - when they need not necessarily be so used - as organizations for the purposes of this Bill, they ought to be prevented from using their fund’s for political or other foreign purposes.
– Order. I would remind the honorable and learned member that that question is not under discussion at the present moment.
– I will not persist in that line of argument. I shall have an opportunity to elaborate it when the next amendment is under consideration. The object of this Bill is to create organizations, under which we shall obtain that concentrated force which will enable the measure to be properly and efficiently administered.
– As this stage, I have no desire to inflict another speech upon the Committee, but I wish to say that the statement of the honorable and learned member for Parkes in reference to the subscription for admission to the Wharf Labourers’ Union is absolutely inaccurate.
– The honorable and learned member for West Sydney admitted it.
– I am sure that the honorable and learned member for West Sydney could not have made any such statement. The subscription to the Wharf Labourers’ Union is ros. per annum, and has been so-
– For how long?
– For four or five years, at any rate. Prior to that period, the organization in question was almost defunct. I cannot remember what the subscription to it was some fourteen or fifteen years ago, but since its re-organization, it has not been more than 10s. per annum, and sometimes it has been as low as 5s. Concerning the statement of the honorable and learned member for Parkesregarding the Workers’ Union, I may mention that there is no union of that name registered in Sy’dney other than the Australian Workers’ Union.
– I can show the honorable member the balance-sheet of the Workers’ Association.
– Whilst it is possible that some union has done what the honorable and learned member suggests, he has certainly not given its right title.
– I saw the balancesheet certified to by auditors.
– The honorable and learned member’s statement in reference to a charge of 52s. per annum in connexion with the Wharf Labourers’ Union is absolutely inaccurate. It is a pity that honorable members are not a little clearer upon matters of this character.
– I must express regret at the conspiracy of silence which exists upon the Opposition benches.
– The honorable member surely does not wish us to say any more?
– I shall have accomplished something if I can arouse honorable members opposite to exhibit some interest in this very important question. Whilst discussing the two proposals before the Committee, I should like to direct attention to the cause which led to the incorporation in this Bill of the amendment originally submitted by the honorable and learned member for Corinella. We find that in the form in which the Bill is at present before the Committee-
– Order ! The Bill is not before the Committee-
– I should like to take your ruling, sir, upon that point. In discussing an amendment of this character, may we not debate its relation to the measure of which it forms a part ?
– The honorable member may do that so long as he adheres to the terms of the amendment.
– That is what I propose to do.
– The honorable member has not yet transgressed, but I am afraid that he was about to do so, when he referred to the Bill as a whole.
– I was referring to the relation which these amendments bear to the measure as a whole.
– Only one amendment.
– The honorable member is not a good “ stone-waller.”
– I should like the honorable member for Melbourne Ports to withdraw that remark. It is a distinct reflection upon me.
– As the honorable member considers the remark a personal reflection upon himself, I must ask the honorable member to withdraw it.
– I withdraw it.
– In considering the proposal to grant a preference to unionists, we must recollect that this Bill delegates to an outside tribunal,over which we have no control, all the legislative and administrative functions which we have in the past endeavoured to exercise in regard to the industrial affairs of the Commonwealth. Hitherto individual liberty and freedom of action have been held to be of equal importance to every citizen. It was that principle which prompted the insertion of the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. Under the Bill, even as it now stands, the individual liberty of a non-unionist suffers considerably. We know that quite a number of workmen have joined certain benefit societies to insure themselves against loss of employment, irrespective of whether it arises from sickness or a strike, or from any other cause. These individuals have already insured themselves against such contingencies. But under the preference provision in this Bill, a man may be compelled to pay twice to acquire benefits which he, himself, considers ought to have, been insured to him by one payment. That is a clear indication that there is a possibility of the individual rights of the workers being interfered with by a measure of this character. Consequently I claim that, whilst delegating these powers to an outside tribunal, this Parliament, which is elected upon a democratic franchise, should endeavour to insure that the Court to which it surrenders its powers, should discharge its functions inthe same manner. That is the proposal which was carried by the Committee on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. We asked the Court to insure 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.
That made .the position absolutely clear. It showed exactly what were our views on this most important question. But the honorable member for Bland now asks the Committee to reverse its decision, not on the vital question at issue, that there should be a majority, but as to the means by which that majority shall be ascertained by the Court. It seems to me that in taking this step, my honorable friends of the Opposition show they are convinced that a limitation of preference is essential. If that be so, why should we make a vital issue of that which is, after all, only a question as to how the Court shall arrive at a certain decision ? What is the honorable member for Bland’s proposal? It is in effect that the onus of proof shall be thrown not on those who are hoping to derive some benefit from their action, but on those who are in the position of defendants. Defendants in such cases will not be in the position ordinarily occupied by a defendant. The non-unionists who will be interested in these cases, and
I consequently, to a certain extent, may be held to be parties to them, will not be, strictly speaking, parties to the cases before the Court. They will have no direct in-. teres,t in the disputes existing between the claimant unions and the defendant employers.
– But they will share in the spoils.
– I say that non-unionists will have no direct interest in the question at issue before the Court. It is quite true- that the moment a claimant union of employes asks for preference, all the nonunionists outside the Court must immediately bestir themselves to find out whether they can block that preference being granted if they wish to remain non-unionists. But what is the position? What is the use of asking vast numbers of men, scattered over the length and breadth of the Commonwealth, and wholly disorganized, to suddenly declare themselves on what is no particular man’s business, and to show the Court that the majority of those engaged in the industry are opposed to the application of the claimant employes’ union? The whole proposal is obviously absurd. How can we expect thousands of men, not one of whom is in an especial position to speak on behalf of all the non-unionists of Australia, to come forward suddenly - because it is only when a claim is suddenly made for preference that they will have any interest in a case - and prove that which they have no means of ascertaining: that a majority of those engaged in the industry are opposed to preference being granted? That is one phase, and the most impor tant phase, of the honorable member for Bland’s proposal - that the principle which he, in conjunction with honorable members on this sid’e of the House, is prepared to insert in the Bill, shall’ rely for its safety upon proof being adduced in a way that it is highly improbable that any number of such men would be . able to achieve. What is the proposal as it stands at present? We do not find that a claimant union would have any difficulty in proving its case, if it had one. A claimant union is able to declare itself through its own officials, who will be listened to bv the Court as speaking on behalf of the union. The unions have every opportunity to find out what their membership is, and having ascertained it, they have only, generally speaking, to satisfy the Court that they represent a majority of the persons in the industry. In coming before the Court and stating their case, they have not to prove with mathematical precision that they represent a majority of the persons affected; they have only to satisfy the Court that they do so. Cannot the Court be trusted in this regard? I have heard nearly every honorable member opposite say “ Trust the Court.”
– We wish to trust it, but honorable members opposite are not prepared to do so.
– I am quite prepared to trust the Court in this regard. If we put it to the Court whether they believe that the defendant or the claimant should have imposed upon it the onus of proof, I should be prepared to trust the Court to answer that the onus of proof should be thrown on the claimant.
– Would the honorable member vote to leave absolutely nothing in the Bill so far as the question of a brutal majority is concerned?
– I should prefer to see the provision for preference struck out, but, as there is to be some limitation, I think that it should be imposed in a direction in which it would be most easy to safeguard the principle. Under the proposal of my honorable friends opposite, it would be absolutely impossible to give effect to the limitation which they, by their actions, show that they deem necessary ; whereas, if the Government proposal be acoepted, the unions - who will have all the necessary machinery, and officials to speak for them - can prove to the satisfaction of a reasonable Court that they represent, or do not represent, a majority of the persons interested. That is the main difference between the two proposals put before the Committee. I would ask honorable members of the Opposition to make quite sure, when voting for the honorable member for Bland’s amendment, that they are giving the principle which they are advocating so strongly a chance of being properly carried out. If they do not agree with the principle, I would ask them to say so frankly and openly. What will be the use of their going before their constituents subsequently, and. saying that they do not believe in the limitation of preference, when they themselves desire to see the provision made in the measure for majority preference, the only difference between them and those on this side of the House being as to the way in which the question of whether a majority does or does not favour a claim for preference is to be determined? For my part, I have always held that the unions themselves should be the very last to ask for compulsory preference. When one considers the history of unionism, one finds that it has been built up by voluntary effort from its very inception. We find that persons originally banded themselves together to endeavour, by collective effort, to obtain a better state of affairs - to endeavour, by collective effort, to enhance the value of their work, and by so doing to insure to themselves an increased wage. We find, also, that these men banded themselves together to form a sort of benefit society which would make them payments out of its general funds while they Were out of work, or when, through sickness, they were incapacitated. These organizations had their inception in voluntary effort, and are dependent for their very existence upon it. If a man be compelled to join such an association, what is the advantage to him? What does he care, individually, whether all subscriptions are paid up, or as to the still more vital question whether the standard of work, upon which a union bases its whole claim to priority, is maintained? The moment we endeavour to use the Court which Parliament is bringing into existence as a recruiting agency for these unions, we shall be recruiting the unions with men who are out of sympathy with them. These men will be compelled to join them, not from any desire on their own part. They will have nothing in common with them. Their object will simply be to be allowed to pursue their mean’s of livelihood ; and, that accomplished, their one desire will be to get out of the unions as soon as possible. Consequently, the new recruits which the unions will gain, if we follow the. lead of honorable members opposite - or a small minority of them - will be a source of weakness to them ; and we shall be exposing unionism, which has done so much for the masses of the workers, to a serious risk of decay from within. For these reasons I am strongly opposed to the amendment of the honorable member for Bland.
– I have listened carefully to the honorable members from the Government side of the Chamber who have debated this question of preference and its application to the people whom it more particularly concerns. When I rose, the Prime Minister asked me, very respectfully, to let the matter go to a division. But if the right honorable gentleman understood the feelings of trade unionists, who are taking a keen interest in this debate, he would not ask any honorable member representing that section of the people to let the matter go. Feeling as I do upon the subject, I should be more inclined to follow the subject up until the Bill is absolutely defeated. In spite of what has been said by the honorable member for Parkesand other great authorities on individualism, I consider that if I were to occupy the time of the Committee until every honorable member opposite was worn out, I should do no more than my duty to the people whom the clause affects. It has been said that the clause enables the question of preference to be determined by the will of the majority in a trade. But none of the honorable members who have used that argument has yet proved - although many assertions have been made - that the proof of the existence of such a majority is practicable of attainment by the unions upon -which is thrust the duty of proving it. I do not intend to discuss the clause in connexion wish clause 55, because we shall have a further opportunity to debate the wisdom of the amendment which has been made in that provision by the Senate. It has been said that the clause under discussion was thoroughly debated while the late Government was in office. The honorable member for Wannon emphatically stated that such was the case. I have referred to Hansard, and I am in a position to say that not only was the clause not printed prior to its being moved, but it was never discussed in an adequate manner. I pointed out, during the previous de bate, that I was not aware of the form of the amendment which the Minister of Defence intended to move. Therefore, I say that the amendment stole into the Bill, practically by accident, and largely through an oversight on the part of the late Prime Minister. Although it was passed, many honorable members were prepared to reverse their votes, if they had had an opportunity to do so. But we never had an opportunity .to reconsider the matter. When the late Government proposed its reconsideration, with the view to substitute something which would meet the case in a better form, we were at once blocked by the action of the late Opposition, who refused to allow us to place our case before the House. So that when the Bill was taken up by the present Government, the subject had practically not been discussed. When this Government came into office, the Opposition desired to wash its hands of the Bill. They refused to take any responsibility for it, embodying as it did the amendment of the Minister of Defence. The efforts made in the Senate to amend this, and other clauses, indicate that although the objectionable amendment was carried in this House, a very large minority of the members of the Senate recognised the justice of the demand made by honorable members on this side in the interests of future unionism under a Federal Arbitration law. Listening to the honor- able member for Parramatta .this afternoon, one might imagine that the honorable member knew nothing of unions, and the principle of unionism in the Commonwealth. I give the honorable member credit for knowing a very great deal on the subject, but I maintain that his contention as to the ease with which the Court might ascertain whether a majority favoured preference, on the application of the unions to which he referred, does not affect the injustice of this provision. The question involved is not merely one of majority. The employes, who can approach the Court for a grant of preference, only as an organization, should be judged not only according to their numbers, but according to their skill in the trade, or calling in which they are engaged.
– There .should be no difficulty about that.
– The honorable and learned member for Parkes would never contend that the profession to which he belongs should be open to all men without regard to their fitness for the duties which members of that profession have usually to perform.
– I should not care if it were opened unconditionally to the whole world.
– I accept the honorable member’s statement, but the fact remains that persons desiring to join the union to which the honorable member belongs, must, by examination, prove their qualifications to discharge the duties imposed on them by the law, and in the manner expected of them by the union which they seek to enter. By passing certain examinations, they give a guarantee to the public that they will be capable of doing the work which they will be employed to do. I therefore contend that in this case, arguments based wholly on the necessity of showing that a majority connected with a particular industry are in favour of a grant of preference, are unworthy of cons’ deration. The honorable member for Darling, who speaks with authority, has shown conclusively that it will be almost impossible for the Shearers’ Union to prove to the Court that its financial members represent a majority of those engaged in their calling. The result is that a union whose interests are most deeply affected by this measure, is placed by this clause in such a position that it will be unable to secure the benefit which might be derived from such a Bill. Honorable members opposite have explained that they realize the value of trade unions. They have extolled unionism to the skies, and have said that it has done more to bring about the present improved condition of the British and Australian worker, than has any other force in our political and social life. But in supporting this provision, they are making use of a legislative sheath-knife to cut into the vital interests of - the very institutions which they have extolled. Honorable members are aware that men who occupy the position of units scattered throughout the Commonwealth, and who have not formed themselves into an organization, will be unable to avail themselves of the provisions of this measure. They must become associated in a union before they can procure any award or preference under this Bill. Some honorable members have argued that preference to unionists will have the effect of forcing men to join unions. “ Compulsion “ is a term which honorable members opposite are very fond of using in this connexion ; while there will be no compulsion, the effect of such a provision may be to induce men to join unions. If any large body of men who are outside a union find that a small number of men joined together for mutual benefit are able to appeal to the Court and secure the advantage of preference under this provision, they will be induced to join the ranks of the union, provided they are qualified to properly carry out the calling in which they are engaged. Why should honorable members opposite object to these men entering a union when they confess that unionism has done so much for civilization? If it were possible to strike a death-blow at unionism throughout the world to-day, I ask honorable members to say what we should have in its place. Honorable members must be aware that if such a thing took place the result would be a revolution which the forces of the law could not control. The members of the Shearers’ Union are of opinion that this Bill will be of no use to them if a grant of preference is to be given only on proof that a majority of those engaged in the industry support it. The honorable member for Bland has proposed an amendment to throw the onus of proof in the matter upon the defendants rather than upon the applicants. I maintain that if the applicants have to bear the cost of forming a union and maintaining it, and also’ the cost of appealing to the Court for decisions and awards, it should follow as a matter of equity, if not of law, that those outside the union and opposing a grant of preference to its members, should be required to prove that they constitute a majority of those engaged in the industry, and that their rights must therefore be considered as well as those of the members of the union. It is not a matter of dry law,, of which we hear so much from legal members, but a matter of equity and good conscience, which the Court has to administer. The Court should ‘have the right to decide when preference shall be granted, irrespective of whether there is a mere nominal majority in favour of preference. I contend that the proposal of honorable members opposite will be, to a great extent, a death-blow to trade unionism throughout Australia.
– Why should it be ?
– Because the proposal deprives men of the reward for the sacrifices which they are prepared to make in the interests of a civilized method of controlling the industrial affairs of the country.
– There is nothing in the Bill to stop trade unionism.
– The honorable and learned member proposes that there shall be some new organization.
– Yes ; specially for the purposes of this Bill.
– A nice idea that is ! The unions already in existence have proved their bona fides, and those unions are extolled by the honorable and learned member; and yet it is proposed that, in their place, there shall be some other organizations.
– Not in their place, but in addition.
– But the new organizations would be intended to take the place of the present trade unions, and the same set of circumstances would arise in connexion with them. The new organizations would become just as conservative and jealous of their rights and privileges as are the organizations which now exist, and the only result would be a disorganization of trade unionism throughout Australia. Of course, some honorable members say that preference to unionists is a pernicious principle, apart from the suggested method of applying it. Those men I can only regard as bitter opponents of any legislation of this character. Where a law of the kind has been in existence, and there is no special provision for preference - where, on appeal, the decisions of the Arbitration Court have been upheld by the Full Court - the law is administered on the basis of equity and good conscience, and it is difficult to see how industries can be regulated unless a distinction be made between bond fide men and bogus men.
– The Judges have refused preference in Western Australia.
– I only know that in New Sout’h Wales we have had the happy experience that preference has been granted in a vast number of cases.
– Not in all cases.
– I do not say that preference has been granted in all cases. Those awards have affected as many as 12,000 unionists up to the end of the year 1903. Numbers of men who have hitherto kept outside trade unions have benefited by those awards.
– They have to join the unions ?
– There is no compulsion in the matter. I contend that where a person sees that, owing to the passing of a certain law, he ought to join a certain organization, and he does so voluntarily, there is no compulsion, but merely an act that is commendable on his part.
– No compulsion ! If an Act of Parliament forces a man to join a union, is there no compulsion ?
– It suits the honorable and learned member’s purpose to assume that there is compulsion. In the case of the Saddlers’ Union in New South Wales, there were only 250 members in the union, but there were 1,500 other men employed in the industry. In that case an award was granted, and a common rule was established ; and, from all that I have heard, the award has in no way proved injurious to the non-unionists. It has not forced them to join a union, nor has it deprived them of any rights they had before the award was made; indeed, it has bestowed upon them advantages in the matter of hours of labour and the regulation of the number of apprentices. What I am now stating are facts, and not mere assumptions, such as those we hear put forward from time to time by those who argue against the efficacy of this particular provision.
– Does the honorable member say that the non-unionists are not compelled to join a union?
– Non-unionists are not compelled to join, where the union represents a minority of those employed. When those outside the trade union represent three or four times the number of those employed, the unorganized cannot appeal to the Court. It, therefore, becomes necessary, in order to have a common rule established, for the minority to seek an award from the Judge. If 1,500 to 1,600 men follow a trade in which there is employment, as there usually is, for 1,000 men at one time, and 250 men belong to the union, does the honorable and learned member for Parkes contend that while there was work for 1,000 men to do, 750 non-unionists would not be taken on ? The argument of honorable members will not hold water when it is analyzed from a practical stand-point. I cannot quote a better authority onthis subject than the Hon. B. R. Wise. I do not care what opinion honorable members may hold of him personally.
– The honorable member does not mind our coughing, I hope?
– I do not care what resentment honorable members may show towards Mr. Wise. Although they may sneer or laugh at his logic from a distance, yet on the floor of a House of Parliament, or at the bar, they have to respect his ability, and very often to succumb to it.
– The New South Wales Act is his own baby.
– Therefore Mr. Wise has given more attention to the subject than the honorable and learned member has done.
– Has he?
– The honorable and learned member said here to-day, “ I have not heard from members of the Opposition any argument which will enable me to come to any other conclusion than that they are for various reasons opposed to this proposal. He could hardly expect to hear the arguments advanced from this side, because when they were being adduced he was generally absent. Mr. Wise has been far more active in advocating this type of a Conciliation and Arbitration Act than have some honorable members who have stood here and talked on the subject, although they have had no experience generally, legislatively, or administratively, in this regard. The Prime Minister has quoted Mr. Wise, and to suit his own purpose he referred to a speech which that gentleman delivered in the Legislative Council of New South Wales, when he was introducing a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. By that quotation the right honorable member implied that Mr. Wise did not at that time hold the opinion which he has since published. I could cite a hundred quotations from the New South Wales Hansard, if I cared, to prove that the right honorable gentleman does not to-day hold the opinions which he then expressed. This attempt on his part to prove inconsistency on Mr. Wise’s part cannot be taken seriously for a moment. It is well known to honorable members generally that the honorable member for Bland, when he was leading a Government, accepted an amendment as a compromise, in order to get the Bill out of this House, and in the hope of getting the clause in question amended elsewhere in accordance with his wish, and probably affirmed here at a later stage. But that amendment is now referred to by them as one which he regarded as of paramount importance. The compromise was only accepted as a means of getting out of the difficulty which was raised by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, who framed his amendment with the distinct object of bringing about the defeat of the late Government. I happened to be in the State Parliament when Mr. Wise made the remarks on the preference clause to which the Prime Minister has referred. I was very deeply interested in the passing of a Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, and I wondered why Mr. Wise should make such remarks when he was advocating the passing of a Bill, which we felt sure would be of no use unless the principle of preference to unionists were established. I know that, owing to the conservative character of the Legislative Council, Mr. Wise had to adopt methods which were justified by the circumstances. He had to persuade his conservative fellow members that the Bill would not have a particular effect, even if it became law. I admit that that course was deliberately taken. , in order to secure the passing of the Bill through a Chamber from which, at one time, it was never thought that such legislation would emerge. Mr. Wise has observed the practical working of this legislation, but the Prime Minister and his friends take care to quote only those remarks which he uttered when he was merely conjecturing what would be the effect of granting preference to unionists. Not one honorable member on the other side has quoted the deliberate opinion of
Mr. Wise after he had observed the practical working of this legislation, and he is supported in his contention by the Judges of several Courts. No one here, I submit, is as well qualified as Mr. Wise to express an opinion on this subject. He holds that the amendment of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, if enacted, would undoubtedly bring confusion into the Court, and introduce practical difficulties into the administration of the law. Referring to the phrase, “ a majority of the persons affected,” he says, in the Worker of 29th October -
I have never yet met a lawyer who is able to tell me what these words mean, or how such a fact could be proved.
Not one of the legal members of the Government, from the Prime Minister downwards, has been able to give a satisfactory explanation or definition of the words “ persons affected.”
– They seem very simple.
– It is the simplest words which puzzle the legal mind most. I suppose it is because these words are so simple that we have had no interpretation of their meaning. I ask the honorable and learned member who are “ the persons affected “ ?
– Why not trust the Court to settle [the point?
– The honorable member may be prepared to trust the Court in this matter, but is he prepared to vote for the strikingout of the proviso, so that the authority of the Courtmay be unrestricted ?
– Surely the honorable member can trust the Court to determine on which side the majority is?
– Yes ; but the proviso is not required. Let us trust the Court altogether, both in regard to the determination asto whether a majority is applying for an award, and in regard to the granting of preference. The New South Wales and New Zealand legislation contains no restriction of this kind. Under those Acts the Court is trusted, and the Judges have pronounced it-he opinion that preference is essential to the proper working of the arbitration law. I have referred to Mr. B. R. Wise’s opinion of the proviso.
– We have all read that in the Worker.
– Then I hope that the honorable and learned member knows more about it than he does ofthe contribu- tion to the Wharf Labourers’ Union, which he so confidently assured us is 52s. per member per annum.
– The honorable and learned member for West Sydney has admitted to me that the contribution of the members of the Seamen’s Union is1s. a week.
– That is one particular union. Of course, if a man throws out a line to hook anything which may come along to strengthen his argument, he is sure to have some success. The members of that union, however, obtain for their contributions benefits in addition to the benefits of compulsory arbitration.
– Why should nonunionists be forced to pay for such benefits ?
– There is no compulsion. I have proved that in New South Wales, men are not compelled to join unions. If a man does not think it to his interest to join a union which by an award of the Court has obtained preference, he is not compelled to do so. ‘ Surely tne unions which have done all the organizing and fighting have a right to preference.
– All the political organizing.
– I am speaking of industrial, not of the political, organizing to which the honorable and learned member addressed his remarks. The trouble with honorable members opposite is that they are afraid of the political action of unions, and they endeavour to discuss on the motion now before the Committee a matter which is not related to it, and which can properly be discussed only when the next amendment of the Senate comes before us’. I do not intend to follow that example. The honorable and learned member for Wannon, in the effort to prove I do not know what, referred to the case of the New South Wales laundresses. He indicated that the refusal of the New South Wales Court to make a common rule with regard to laundry work, was a reason why preference should not be given to unions under the Bill. But, as every one knows, it would be unjust to apply a common rule in that industry. Laundry work is carried on by a large number of disunited individuals, some working in their own homes, and has no resemblance to the industries affected by the proviso. The decision of the Court in that case, however, showed that it could be trusted to administer the law with justice and equity, because it refused to make the award which’ was asked for. Honorable gentlemen opposite are not willing to strike out the proviso, and thus give the Court unrestricted power to say whether a union shall or shall not have preference. What they wish to do is to strike a blow at the liberties of the men who are the bone and sinew of this country. At the present time, a man who is dissatisfied with his wages, or his hours, or conditions of employment, has the right to strike. Honorable members, however, wish to take that right from him. They wish to penalize him, to prevent him from wielding the great power which he has possessed for many years past, while at the same time they deny him the right of preference, and the exercise of his political liberty. Many honorable members profess to be friends of the trade unionists. They speak highly of the members of such organizations, but their actions belie their words, because everything they! do is detrimental to trade unionists, and is intended to undermine their rights and liberties. Among those who are most anxious to rob the working men of their rights are honorable members who are protected by one of the strongest unions in the world, which secures preference to them. The members of the legal profession are extremely jealous of any inroad upon their own preserves. They require that every person who desires to enter their union shall pass a strict examination, and they attach no weight to any other consideration. Although they owe the fullest gratitude for the protection which has been afforded to them by the law, they are preparedto take away the liberties of men of whose history they know nothing, and with whom they cannot sympathize. All they know regarding them has been gathered from books written, probably, by biased authors. Many of them do not know what it is to work for their living, in the sense in which others have to work, or anything of the privations and sufferings endured by those who have had to strike in order to maintain their rights. They know nothing of the starvation and ruin which such men have had to face. If they had gone through such an experience, it would have done them a world of good. If the honorable member for Wentworth, like his father, had had to toil upon the wharfs in Sydney in order to earn money to keep those dependent upon him, he would have more sympathy with the working classes’, and he would not come here and put on the “ side “ that he does. If there is one man who should have little to say against legislation of this kind, and who should refrain from spurning the men who are now honestly assisting to build up this great Commonwealth, it is the honorable member for Wentworth, who owes his position to-day to the labour which his father underwent upon the wharfs of Sydney and elsewhere. It does not befit him to come here and speak sarcastically and bombastically in regard to the claims of unionists whose circumstances he does not understand. With regard to the proviso to this clause the Hon. B. R. Wise says -
One concrete instance will make the difference between the two amendments clear. No one, I suppose, will deny that the Amalgamated Engineers, if any preference is to be granted to a union, is pre-eminently entitled to demand it. Yet, if Mr. McCay’s amendment were law, and the Amalgamated Engineers were involved in a dispute with their employers, their demand for preference might be defeated if it were shown that there were outside their union a number of persons calling themselves engineers and possibly entitled to that name by reason of their capacity to manage an engine of some kind, who were not parties to the application. Once show that there were, scattered up and down Australia, more men running engines or working at odd jobs in the engineering trade tiran were included in the Amalgamated Engineers, and the union would be disentitled to preference.
There is an argument which shows the folly of opposing the granting of preference to unionists.
– Is that the same Mr. Wise whose statements were quoted by the other side a night or two ago?
– That statement cannot be refuted by any one on the Government side of the Chamber.
- Mr. Wise continues-
Under Mr. Watson’s amendment, however, the matter would not be decided merely by counting heads, but the Court would require to take into consideration the competence and standing of the members of the Amalgamated Engineers as compared with the engineers who were outside the unions.
Then he goes on to say -
It requires that character, ability, and skill when they exist in a trade union, shall be recognised by the Court, and have due weight given to them.
That is what honorable members opposite do not desire. They do not care what the majority may consist of ; they are prepared to recognise a majority composed of men who may be raked together from the four corners of the Commonwealth.
– Does not the honorable member believe in the equality of man ?
– If the profession to which the honorable member belongs were open to all and sundry, without any regard to legal qualification, I believe that many men without legal training would be more successful than many of the present members of the profession in arguing before a Judge of common-sense. If it were proposed, as in New Zealand lately, and in Victoria some time ago, to liberalize the conditions of admission to the Bar, a hue and cry would be raised by the members of the legal profession. Their sacred rights must not be attacked, they must be maintained in their stronghold ; but they are not prepared to extend similar protection to the man who has served his time at a trade, and knows his business, who is prepared to give good value for his wages, and to deal honestly with his employer. They are not prepared to differentiate between such a man and a make-believe of a tradesman, who spoils more work than he completes, and is really a nuisance to his employer. So far as majority rule is concerned, the clap-trap and political dodgery that has been indulged in in order to curry political favour now stands revealed as a hollow pretence. These are statements which may be refuted or corroborated by reference to the public records. In an article devoted to a defence of the preference principle, Mr. B. R. Wise, the Attorney-General of New South Wales, says -
The very specious argument is urged that to grant preference to a union which only represents a minority of the trade is an undemocratic interference with the rights of the majority. The fallacy of this contention lies in the fact that it overlooks the basic principle of the Act, namely, that the Court should recognise organized labour. For reasons which are well understood, only organized labour can set the Act in motion, and only organized labour becomes effectively liable to penalties, although no doubt penalties may also be imposed on individuals. It is only through the organization of labour that the employer has any guarantee that the award of the Court will be observed. Thus it is only right that those who bear the burden of the Act, namely, unionists, should* also be those who gain advantage from its benefits.
He continues -
But the argument in favour of preference’ is practical rather than theoretic. An award of preference is the unionist’s safeguard, because it secures him against the ill-will of an employer in consequence df his having to set the Act in motion.
That is a point which requires careful consideration.
– It is a great point.
– The idea seems to be entertained by two juveniles in this Committee that it is their special mission in life to exhibit themselves in the most ridiculous light possible. I am very pleased to say that their efforts in that direction succeed admirably. Mr. Wise continues -
Once this view of the situation is I perceived it becomes apparent that the weaker ‘the union the greater the necessity for preference. Weak unions are generally unions which have only been a short time in existence. Their numbers are few, because they are working in a new field and have not proved that they deserve support. If, however, a weak union successfully contests a case against employers, that is, in itself, a proof that the union deserves to be supported by the employees, and an award of preference in such a case will certainly cause its numbers to increase very rapidly. If, however, preference is not given in favour of a numerically weak union, there is always a danger lest in the gradual readjustment of the industry to its new conditions, members of the union will be quietlyput upon one side and non-unionists employed.
That is exactly the position. Here, Mr. Wise refers to the case to which I made incidental reference a little time ago - and in the case of the laundry employees did, guard against this risk by providing penalties against any employer who discharged an employee because he or she was- a unionist; but, as every workman knows, cases of this kind are difficult to prove; and it is in the power of employers, if they so desire, to keep within the limits of the award, and yet practically evade it by penalizing unionists. If this practice grew to any extent, a refusal to grant preference to members of a weak union would, in effect, be the granting of preference to non-unionists. I do not know whether this aspect of the case was put before the Court in argument, but it is certainly very desirable that it should be pressed upon the Court’ at the earliest opportunity.
To my mind, that argument is conclusive. It is the argument of a gentleman who has very closely watched the growth of arbitration legislation, and the practice adopted by the Courts. He is interested in the administration of the law, and is naturally anxious that it shall be made to benefit the classes for whom it was placed upon the Statute-book; Even the honorable and learned member for Parkes will admit that Mr. Wise is capable of analyzing any defects in legislation of that character-
– I admit his ability, but I question his impartiality. The honorable member never heard a woman admit that her own baby was ugly. 1
– I do not) think that there is any analogy between the two cases. When the honorable member declares that ‘
Mr. Wise is biased upon this question, he should recollect that others might reasonably lay a similar charge at his own door.
– The honorable member is charged, more frequently than is any other man in Australia, with entertaining bias upon matters of this character. He strongly resents those accusations, and yet he is the first to charge another man- whose arguments are unanswerable, with being biased.
– He is not impartial, because he is the framer of the law.
– Because Mr. Wise is the political god-father of the New South Wales Arbitration Act, it does not necessarily follow that he is biased in its favour, even .though the honorable and learned member may infer that. I would further urge that the members of trade unions have a right to be granted a preference. We know perfectly well .that any unionist who takes an active part in bringing a dispute in which his fellow-employes are interested before .the Arbitration Court, is frequently a “ marked “ man. Consequently, if preference be not granted to unionists, he will have no security of employment, and will not be disposed to assist in bringing the wants of his fellow-workers under the notice of that tribunal. On that score alone these men deserve to be protected; they are acting not merely for themselves, but for every one engaged in the trade in which they are interested. Non-unionists have reaped the benefit of all the work done by trade unions during the last half-century. We find that from the days of the guilds industrial organizations gradually passed from one stage to another, until the present system of trade unionism was evolved. The principle of trade unionism grew until it became a potent force in civilization, and unionists, by reason of their numerical strength, were able to demand the rights to which they considered themselves entitled. When those rights were refused, the only course open to them was to resort to the barbarous method of striking. What have the men been advised to do? After the great maritime strike of 1 89 1 those who now desire to cripple unions advised the workers not to engage in strikes, which meant ruination, degradation, privation, and starvation to themselves and their families, but to seek political assistance. They advised the workers to look to our legislative halls for salvation - to secure the passing of laws which would render it unnecessary to resort to injurious industrial warfare to secure redress. They told the trade unionists that they should seek to secure the establishment of Conciliation and Arbitration Courts, where all disputes between employers and employes could be amicably settled. It was said that, if this were done, we should have no more of those cruel locks-out and strikes that have done so much to undermine the health and prospects of many a unionist and his family. But what do those who took up that attitude say to-day? The honorable and learned member for Illawarra, judging by certain remarks which he has made, is fearful that if preference be conceded to unionists some great injustice will be done to those outside their ranks. He, like others, desires to undermine trade unionism. He thinks that other organizations should be established in order that this legislation may be effective. To create such organizations, however, would be to bring down unionism, and to erect something in its stead which would have far less to recommend it. Abundant evidence of the wisdom of the principle of preference to unionists is to be found in the New Zealand Law Reports. At page 878,’ Vol. 18 of the Law Reports of that Colony for 1900, honorable members will find the report of a judgment delivered by the Full Court of New Zealand, in an appeal against a preference award, in which the Bench clearly indicated that no arbitration law could be effective unless it provided for preference being granted at the discretion of the Court. The whole history of trade unionism shows that most industrial disputes have arisen from the employment of non-unionists. As one who has had nearly thirty years’ experience of trade unionism, during which I have seen many strikes, not only in Lancashire and North Wales, but in New South Wales, and other parts of the Commonwealth, I can honestly say that the bulk of these disputes have arisen from the employment of non-unionists against the will of the majority of those engaged in helping the employer to carry on his industry. All through the piece, we have had this trouble with non-unionists, and unless we give the Court power to grant preference in the way proposed by honorable members df the Opposition, we shall not remedy the present condition of affairs. If the Court be given power to grant preference to unionists, non-unionists will be induced to join their ranks, in order to participate in the advantages for which unions have fought on behalf of all engaged in the industries they represent. Unless we can have such a measure as that which has been in operation in New South Wales for the last year or two, we shall not secure the results at which we are aiming. The New South Wales Act has given security to both employers and employes, and, as the result of it, unions and unionists have doubled their numbers. In 1900 there were only thirty-four unions in New South Wales, whilst to-day there are seventy. Non-unionists have been induced to join the ranks of unionism, because of the advantages whichthey thus secure, and strikes are unknown in the State. Will honorable members say that the price which the Opposition asks is too much to pay for such a grand achievement as the abolition of strikes and locks-out, with all the loss and oppression which they entail? Knowing what this means to the future of unionism - knowing, as I do, that unions will not register under this measure if it be passed in the form proposed by the Government, but will prefer to remain outside and retain the power to exercise their present rights - I ask the Committee to pause before they agree to pass a Bill which will never be effective. By proposing practically to make preference to unionists impossible, honorable members opposite are striking a blow at unionism. Many of them profess to be the champions of unionism - they are never weary of saying what they have clone for the cause - and they should not now disgrace their record by placing upon the statute-book a law that is going to have the effect that this measure will have upon the large organizations. Do honorable members opposite know that the Shearers’ Union are waiting for this Bill to be passed in such a form that they nan avail themselves of it? As the seasons improve, the numbers of flocks and herds will grow inthe natural course of things, and in , a year or two at the latest this Bill will be absolutely essential to settle the relations between employers and em ployes in the pastoral industry. Yet honorable members opposite propose to shut out the Shearers’ Union by asking them to prove something which they cannot prove. The Prime Minister may argue as he likes about the interest and the rights of the poor non-unionist. But non-unionists have never fought for the advantages which the unionists have secured for them. The Prime
Minister champions their view, and says that it is not fair to give preference to unionists, because to do so would be to injure the poor non-unionist. The hollowness of that appeal will be shown when it is made clear that the unionists cannot take advantage of the measure. The men whom it is proposed to benefit would give honorable members all the credit if they passed such a Bill as would enable them to register, and under which they could gain the advantages that they ought to gain from such a beneficent piece of legislative work. Why should we not trust the Court in this matter of preference? If honorable members are not prepared to do that, they certainly ought not to impose upon the unions the duty of proving whether there are more persons outside, the unions affected b) preference than there are inside. We ought not to force upon the unions the onus of proof. Let the onus be thrown upon the non-unionists of proving that they are in a majority. Honor. able members are simply demanding from the unionists something which they have no right to demand. Let them consider the position of the New South Wales Arbitration Court /to-day. Look at the marvellous harvest that the members of the legal profession have reaped from it. Every doubtful point in this Bill will be of benefit to the lawyers. I pity the unions that have to work under .a law of this kind. How many arguments could be raised under it from which the legal gentlemen would obtain fees and refreshers day after day ! I know that the whole of the funds of some of the smaller unions in New South Wales have been taken from them, and they have been left practically penniless in the mere endeavour to place before the Court some question which it was necessary to have decided. I know of a case where £,doo of the funds of a union and ,£400 of the funds of the employers was absorbed in preparing a case to submit .Ito the Court. When twelve months had gone by, and, owing to the block of business before the Court, the case had not come on, and the relations between the parties were becoming strained, they met together - as they might have done in the first instance if the legal gentlemen nad not kept them apart - and settled their differences in an hour. What benefit would the unions derive from this Bill, if it were placed upon the statute-book? Its effect would simply be to burst them up. The Bill will simply rob them of their funds through its ill-digested provisions, and, at the same time, they will be robbed of their political rights. It is said it:hat the preference provision means increasing the number of unionists. What objection can those honorable members who speak of the advantages which unions have conferred upon the working classes, have to that increase ? What objection can any one have to unionists endeavouring in a legal way to improve the position of the class to which they belong? What objection can there be to their helping to better the condition of the workers? Non-unionists have never in the past shown any desire to attain that end. I have no wish to occupy more time than is necessary on this question, but if, as seems evident, a brutal majority may be willing to force this clause upon the Committee, I ask the Prime Minister, even at this late stage, to reconsider the .matter.
– I desire to know whether the honorable member is in order in referring to honorable members on this side as “ a brutal majority “ ?
– The words used, if applied to honorable members on either side, would be improper, but I point out that the honorable member for Gwydir is stating a supposititious case.
– I do not care how brutal it is if it is a majority. A brutal minority is what I object to.
– I can readily understand the right honorable gentleman’s general attitude on this question, in view of the position which he takes up now.
– I say that of the two I should prefer a brutal majority to a brutal minority.
– The right honorable gentleman, in saying that, induces me to remind him again that in this clause lie is advocating the domination of an unfair, if not a brutal, majority. . He is asking men who are organized, who can prove that they are tradesmen, who are known by their association with unionism, and ‘have worked for the union movement for years past, in their own interests, and in the interests of the community, to bow to a majority of persons who have no title to be considered unionists, who are not tradesmen, or who need not necessarily be tradesmen, and who may be gathered from the four corners of the earth. It matters not to the right honorable gentleman whether these persons form a brutal or ‘an unfair majority, or one that has no right to demand preference at the hands of the Court, so long as it is a majority prepared to down the trade unions of the Commonwealth. So long as these persons form a majority .hostile to trade unionism, as it exists in Australia to-day, and ready to defeat or hinder the growth of the union movement, that is all the right honorable gentleman cares about. I never thought that we should find the present Prime Minister advocating a policy of that kind at this hour of the day. I am satisfied that he does so because of the influence exercised upon him by the association in which he has lately found himself. What a very different type of politician we had in the right honorable gentleman when, supported by the Labour Party, he was induced to introduce liberal legislation in the New South Wales Parliament. I suppose that the right honorable gentleman is forced to adopt this course, and to place on the statute-book a law which will rob trade unionists of their existing rights and privileges, whilst it will give them nothing in return. This measure, if passed in its present form, will not only take away the incentive to men to become unionists, but will absolutely offer an inducement to members of unions to leave them. What incentive can there be to any man to join a trade union when non-unionists are given all the privileges of unionists without having to pay any contribution to a union, without incurring any expense, or being liable to penalties imposed by the Court, or to dismissal or boycotting by employers, as unionists have been in the past? Under these conditions, where will be the inducement to men who are already members of unions to remain in them? This is a subtle attempt on the part of the Government to undermine unionism in Australia. If the Prime Minister is willing to strike out the objectionable qualification of this provision, and trust the Court, on the merits of each case, to decide whether unionists are entitled to preference, he will expedite the passage of the Bill, for although it will not then be all that we desire, it will be a more liberal measure than it now is, and it will probably not be the inoperative Bill it certainly will be unless this course is adopted. The right honorable gentleman does not intimate that he is prepared to accept that suggestion. He has no intimation to make, because he believes that he will have a majority of one or two to support him. Many honorable members are anxious to get home, and it is a pity that they should be, under the t2 p 2 circumstances. For the sake of their own convenience, some honorable members would appear to be willing to sacrifice the interests of a very large body of men, but I say that I am prepared to stand here as long as I am physically able, rather than allow the Government to impose legislation of this character on the class to which I have belonged for .the last thirty years, and whose wants and aspirations I so thoroughly understand. One man, however, cannot pretend to combat the forces on the other side. They are not forces who rely on- logic and argument to convince those opposed to them. They are forces united for one object, and one only, and that is to strike a blow ‘at trade unionism throughout the Commonwealth. I have finished for the time being. There may be more to be said on the clause which has yet to be dealt with, and if .other points arise that I have not yet had an opportunity of discussing, I shall be very pleased to deal with them.
– What are the honorable member’s objections to this amendment?
– It is evident that I require something more than my tongue to penetrate the honorable member’s perception. In the circumstances, I regret that I can only offer the honorable member my sympathy. I shall not delay the Committee longer at this stage, but I shall consider later on whether there is anything further that I should add to the discussion of this subject.
– There is just a word or two I desire to say.
– Honorable members are having a good many words to say.
– And quite right, too !
– There seems to be a great deal of misapprehension as to the matter under discussion. Every honorable member on the other side has asked us to “ trust the Court.” But what are we to trust the Court to do? To administer the law or to make law ? Under the amendment proposed by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, we directed, practically, that the Judge must satisfy himself as’ to the majority. But what is the meaning of “ substantial number ‘ ‘ ? One Judge may decide one number to be a substantial number, and another Judge may fix upon another number; and, practically, the Judge will have the making of the law. In my opinion, there is no argument whatever in the cry, “ Trust the Court.”
– Why not have the law the same as in New South Wales and New Zealand ?
– I do not know what takes place in New South Wales and New Zealand. Another matter which we ought to settle is how the Judge is to arrive at a conclusion. The Prime Minister properly pointed out the other night that the unionists ought to be easily counted ; but there is no doubt that the other side will be required under the proposed amendment to show - and will have difficulty in showing - by statistics that there is a majority against preference. We on this side have the advantage that we know what we desire to trust the Court to do, whereas the other side apparently do not know.
– I know that the Committee are anxious to get to a division, and I shall not detain honorable members more than a few minutes. The greater part of the criticism which has been levelled against the amendment of the leader of the Opposition has been altogether irrelevant. The criticism may not be irrelevant from the point of view of parliamentary procedure, but it is really not consequent on the proposal before us. The question we have to decide is really a narrow one, and it appears to me that the criticism directed against the proposal of the leader of the Opposition applies ‘with equal force to the proposal of the Government. The Prime Minister has given us a tirade against preference generally, and, from his point of view, he made the most fervent appeal to the “ gallery.” If preference to unionists means the tyranny of the minority, the tyranny remains, whether it be exercised by a minority or a majority. In considering the question before us, we should have regard to the whole scope and object of the Bill, and that point of view has, I am afraid, been frequently lost sight of. A good many of the provisions of the Bill are necessarily drastic, and it is only when we realize that the object of t’he measure is to bring about industrial peace that we can bring ourselves to support some of the proposals. For the sake of industrial peace, the employes have to give up the right to strike, and employers have to give up the right to lock-out their workmen. The right of the employers to lock-out their employes applies not only to the latter en bloc, but also individually, because they are members of trade unions ; and hence it seems to me that, without preference, we cannot possibly have a compul sory Conciliation and Arbitration Bill. From that point of view, , it appears to me there is no solid argument against leaving it to the Court to decide whether in the particular case preference shall ot shall not be granted. Preference is at the bottom of the whole Bill - without preference the organizations could not be maintained. It is absolutely necessary that strikes and locksout shall be made impossible, and on that ground it appears to me imperative that preference must be maintained. As to the coercion of non-unionists which seems to be feared, it must be remembered that unionists are not only fighting for themselves, but for non-unionists as well, and that the door is open for them all to come in. That being so, there cannot be any kind of tyranny. All that non-unionists are asked to do is to come in and do their share towards maintaining organizations which are for the benefit of all. I do not intend to take up any more time, but, as this is. the one question arising out of the Bill which has caused more discussion than any other, I preferred not to give a silent vote.
– I am sorry the Government are not prepared to accept the amendment. The original proposal of thepresent Minister of Defence was inserted in the Bill at a late hour on a Friday afternoon. Some honorable members who had gone away, or had paired on the other proposal, were not aware that another amendment would be proposed. We know that when it was inserted, many honorable members on the other side were, quite willing to place a handicap upon the unionists, and make the Bill ineffective. To my mind, preference to unionists is the keystone of the measure. Unless the unions get preference, they will be very loath to register under the Act. Many unions have declared that sooner than have the Bill carried in its present form, they would prefer that it should be dropped. The Prime Minister has said that only three or four unions can be affected by this legislation ; but it is very hard to estimate how many unions are likely to be affected. Until a case has been taken to the High Court, we cannot know whether certain trades can be brought within the operation of the Bill. Many unions have been looking forward to the passing of this measure as a relief. The president of the Shearers’ Union said the other day that it would not register if the amendment of the honorable member for Bland were defeated. It has. been stated that .that organization could easily prove that it represented a majority of the shearers. It is very hard to say what organizations can furnish that evidence. Many persons follow a .trade occasionally, and it might be assumed by the Court that they were still following their trade, and that they would therefore have to be counted before it could be ascertained whether the claimant union represented a majority. The honorable member for Grampians asked the honorable .member for, Newcastle this afternoon if it were proposed to take a poll. Unless a register of all those engaged in a calling be kept, I do not see how it can be proved whether the unionists or the nonunionists constitute a majority. The proviso which was inserted at khe instance of the Minister of Defence covers more than those who are actually engaged in a trade, for it uses the words “ the majority of those affected by the award.” That phrase maycover not merely those engaged in a trade, but also those engaged in kindred trades. Suppose a trouble arose in the coal trade, and that, as a consequence, the price of coal went up. Immediately the woodcarters would become affected. It would be very hard for the Court to tell who were affected by the award, and who were not. In order to ascertain where the majority lay, the Court would have to take into consideration the kindred trades. Honorable members on the other side have urged that unless the proviso of the Minister of Defence be retained non-unionists will suffer. From their arguments one would assume that there would be a certain quantity of work taken away from them, that if the unionists got the work they would probably do more than the non-unionists. If the non-unionists are to suffer from the unionists getting preference, . it proves that the latter must possess a higher degree of skill since they are able to do more work than the former. I know that often when there has been a shortage of work the unionists have often resolved - and in the case of some unions, it operates a.11 the year round - that the work shall be divided tip as fairly as possible amongst those engaged in the trade or calling, but if the non-unionists get the preference, they could come along and take as much work as they could get. Certain honorable members desire to see unionists suffer.. _They are prepared to punish men for trying to improve their position. In opposing the amendment of the honorable member for Bland the other night, the Prime Minister said that non-unionists would suffer unless they were given an equal opportunity. I maintain that they will have an equal opportunity with the unionists, because every nonunionist will have a chance of joining a union. It has been provided in the Bill that non-unionists shall be admitted to the unions on payment of a moderate entrance fee. That is, I believe, a step in the right direction. 1 have never been in favour of a union being a close corporation for the benefit of a few persons. I admit that in some trades a degree of skill is necessary, and the unions have, I think,- rightly insisted that its members should possess that qualification. In that respect the unions have rendered a good service to the community. It was stated by honorable members sitting behind the Ministry the other day that agricultural labourers had never asked that they -should be brought within the operation of this measure, and that we could not cite one case where -the request had been made. I ask them to mention one case where nonunionists have asked that preference to unionists be done away with. I do not think that a dozen non-unionists could be found in Australia who would be prepared to ask the House to cripple unionists. The improved conditions under which non-unionists labour to-day are largely due to the work which has been performed by unionists. Last week honorable members opposite objected to the application of the provisions of the Bill to agricultural labourers on the ground that no agricultural labourer had asked to be brought within its scope, and, therefore, I ask them, do they know of a single non-unionist who has objected to giving preference to unionists ? To my mind, the principle of preference to unionists is the keystone of the Bill. We have been told that preference to unionists is not provided for by the Victorian Factories Act, but, as I have pointed out before, the omission of some such provision has caused the boycotting of unionists and others who have taken an active part in connexion with the operations of the Wages Boards. Most honorable members know that it is the trade unionist who has always fought for the improvement of the conditions of the workers, and yet they will not allow him to share in the advantages which he has gained for his class. The honorable member for New England said the other night that those who are opposed to the proviso would. allow the non-unionist to starve. That is not so. The giving of preference to unionists would not decrease the volume of work to be done. Whether the Bill is passed or not, the amount of work to be done will remain the same, but those who contend that the giving of preference to unionists would compel non-unionists to starve, must be prepared to give preference to nonunionists, and see the unionists starve. Although honorable members who support this proviso say that to do so would give effect to majority rule, they know that its insertion will cripple the Bill. Every opponent of arbitration in the Chamber voted for the proviso. Those who would have voted against the second reading of the Bill, had there been any chance to defeat it then, voted for the proviso.
– But some of those who are in favour of arbitration generally voted against giving preference.
– I admit that, though a number of others who only professed to be in favour of arbitration, and who were anxious to clip, the wings of the unions, voted against it. The unionists are learning lessons from the past, and are paying less attention to the old trade union methods.
– New functions are being added to the unions.
– They are organizing for political action, though, as I pointed out last week, when the honorable and learned member was absent, I have never known a trade union to issue instructions to its members as to how they should vote, and I could give dozens of instances in which union officials have voted against selected labour candidates. For instance, union officials were on the committee of the honorable and learnedmember for Bendigo prior to the last general election, notwithstanding the fact that a selected labour candidate was in the field.
– I suppose they got into ttouble over it.
– No. One of them was elected general secretary of the organization at the next conference, three or four months afterwards, without opposition. Some of the branches of the union objected to his action, and I believe it has since been realized by those who were content with the old trade union methods, that a mistake was made in not supporting the selected labour candidates in the past. I can speak with authority on this subject, because I have been connected with unions for a number of years, and have held official positions in England and America, as well as in Australia. The action of honorable members opposite in regard to this Bill will have the effect of solidifying unionists, and causing those who have hitherto been content to take their politics frorr. members who are not labour members to vote for labour candidates. I believe that the unionists are rapidly learning at present. The new division of political parties which now exists has taught them something. The Prime Minister the other night, in opposing the giving of preference to unionists, spoke of the Machine Shearers’ Union as bogus, although the honorable member for Wentworth has paraded the fact that its numbers are growing, while the membership of the Australian Workers’ Union, whose president is the honorable member for Darling, is decreasing.
– We have the evidence now.
– I believe that a decision was given yesterday in the High Court of Australia on that point.
– No, not on that point.
– I have not read the judgment, but the honorable and learned member for Northern Melbourne says that the decision of the High Court is practically in that direction.
– The Court decided that the union must give evidence.
– As to its official standing - to show whether it is genuine or bogus. ‘ That is all that is required. Honorable members know very well that if the members of the Machine Shearers’ Union were to give evidence before the Commission, it would be proved beyond the shadow of a doubt that the union was a bogus institution, and could not exist but for the assistance afforded by the Pastoralists’ Union of New South Wales, and possibly also of the Pastoralists’ Association of Queensland.
– The motion for the appointment of the Commission was moved by the secretary of the Australian Workers’ Union, and he became a member of the Commission.
– That is nothing.
– It is a public scandal.
– There was nothing wrong in. that. If we decided to appoint a Commission to inquire into the question of admitting Japanese into Australia, I could not conceive of a better chairman than the honorable and learned member for Parkes.
I have no objection whatever to honorable members coming out in their true colours as supporters, not so much of non-unionists as of the employers. We know that they have done everything they can to destroy the power of the trade unions, and I have no doubt that a majority of honorable members opposite would rejoice if the Trades Hall in this city were swept away.
– Hear, hear.
– The honorable member, who is no doubt a member of the Medical Association, and thinks it necessary to protect the interests of the members of his profession, is unwilling to grant to those who are engaged in industrial occupations the right to similarly safeguard themselves. Under the proviso, the trade unions would be absolutely crippled. Their right to strike will be taken away by the Bill.
– So also will the right of employers to lock out their men.
– Yes. But we know that the employers could resort to a hundred and one means of overcoming that difficulty. They could declare that work was slack, or that there were no orders, and they could absolutely close down their works. It would be impossible for the Court to prevent them from doing that.
– The honorable member will admit that it would be equally easy for a workman to say, “ I want to go to a more genial climate.”
– I did not catch the honorable and learned member’s interjection. The non-unionists have not expressed any objection to the granting of preference to unionists, and I do not see any reason why any special objection should be raised to the amendment of the honorable member for Bland. The Minister of Defence said that he thought he had conceded too much.
– That was in answer to a statement that, in conceding so much, I had conceded the whole position.
– I understood the Minister to mean that he had conceded too much in granting preference at all.
– I believe that a number of honorable members opposite object to preference in any shape or form. The honorable member for Parramatta, speaking as an old trade unionist, said he thought that the proviso would not work ill. As an old trade unionist myself, I think it will work ill. Unless the unionists have the right to claim preference, . the men who take an active part in trade unions will be deprived of the protection they will need to enable them to secure employment.
– The proviso will not prevent men from obtaining preference.
– No, but it hedges round the preference with conditions with which it will be impossible to comply. I believe as a trade unionist who has had a fair amount of experience, that it will be absolutely impossible for many unions to prove that they represent a majority of those who will be affected by an award.
– Not in the case of the Seamen’s Union?
– No doubt, in the case of some unions, where adults only are employed, it will be very easy to comply with the conditions. We are not, however, legislating for that particular union. If we were we should provide thatthe Bill should apply only to the Seamen’s Union.
– There are only two unions which have inter-state relations.
– I do not exactly understand the honorable and learned member, but I suppose he refers to unions in industries which overlap from State to State.
– I think that there are more than two such industries. It is impossible for us to tell what the Court would hold to be a dispute extending beyond the limits of any one State. If a dispute in the boot -making trade in Melbourne spread to Adelaide or to Brisbane, I have no doubt that many honorable and learned members would be prepared to argue that it extended beyond any one State, within the meaning of the Constitution, because the men in Adelaide, Melbourne, or Brisbane would be seeking to fix upon a common price-list, and to establish a common standard.
– If the operations of a union do not extend beyond one State into another, any dispute in which it may be concerned must be a matter for the State Court.
– That is a matter for argument before the Court, and no one in this Chamber, or out of it, could at present say definitely what would constitute a dispute extending beyond any one State. I hope that the amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland will be adopted. I admit that I should have preferred to leave everything absolutely to the Court - to leave it to judge upon the merits of each case, and todecide without restriction whether preference should be granted or not. The more we hedge the Court round with restrictions, the worse will be its decisions.
Mr. BRUCE SMITH (Parkes).- In the course of the few remarks I made at an earlier stage of the debate, I referred to a union in New South Wales, concerning the name of which I was uncertain. I find that the union in question was not the Workers’ Union of New South Wales, but the United Labourers’ Society.
– That is a different thing altogether.
– I was using the union merely as a peg upon which to hang an argument, and I was pointing out that it had entered into commercial operations with funds which were subscribed to provide insurance against accidents and sickness. I referred also to a statement made by the honorable and learned member for West Sydney, to the effect that an organization created solely for the purposes of this Bill, apart from the ordinary objects of trade unions, could be maintained at a cost of £d. per week per member, and I . said that he had stated, further, that the subscription to the Wharf Labourers’ Union in New South Wales was is. per week. I find from conversation which I have since had with the honorable member for West Sydney, that he admitted that organizations created for the purposes of this Bill would cost only Jd. per week. He also believes that it is the Seamen’s Union, and not the Wharf Labourers’ Union, to which the subscription is is. per week.
– So far as I am personally concerned, the charge made by the honorable member for Yarra, that honorable members upon this side of the Chamber are opposed to trade unionism does not hold good. I have always maintained that trade unions - provided they are voluntary organizations of men who have banded themselves together to protect their own interests - are perfectly legitimate and lawful organizations. So long as they do not seek to gain some advantage for themselves at the disadvantage of other members of the community, I see no possible objection to them. At the same time, I have always opposed the granting of preference to unionists, because such a principle is pernicious, and is a negation of that equal liberty which is t’he very foundation and base of true democracy. Indeed, it will be recollected that when this Bill was under consideration upon a former occasion I moved to excise the provisions relating to the principle of preference’. Unfortunately, from my stand-point, that proposal was defeated. Consequently I voted in favour of granting preference to unionists with certain safeguards .protecting the rights of majorities, as the next best alternative-. But I do not believe in the compromise which was effected. I claim that the machinery of the law ought never to Be called into operation for the purpose of differentiating between one set of men and another engaged in any lawful occupation. All citizens should be equal in the eyes of the Legislature, which should never depart from the recognition of that principle. We have departed from a recognition of that principle in this Bill, even in the form in which it left this Chamber. Personally, I am of opinion that the preference provision should be entirely eliminated. I have no doubt that in the absence of such a provision the Arbitration Court would, unless specifically instructed otherwise, use a wise discretion, and in cases where justice seemed to demand it, extend preference to unionists. But to enact that it shall give such preference is entirely a different matter. If it be true that the most skilled workmen are to be found in the various trade unions, there is no need to pass a law directing that preference shall be extended to them. If the best men are within the ranks of those organizations, employers will naturally endeavour to secure their services, and, in so doing, will be compelled, from the standpoint of self-interest, to extend preference to them. I claim that in this clause an attempt is being made to force all men to join trade unions. From that standpoint, it constitutes an infringement of the liberty of *the subject which I cannot tolerate. In this connexion I cannot refrain from expressing surprise at the action of the representatives of labour who have always declared in favour of equal rights being granted to all. Why they should demand a privilege, not merely for one class of the community, but for a section of a class, is beyond my comprehension. Their action is tantamount to a denial of the principle of equal justice, and is absolutely indefensible. Not the slightest justification has been offered for it. No equitable reason has been advanced in support of such a preposterous proposal.
– It is really opposed to the spirit of the Constitution.
– - Undoubtedly it is. If this question be judged from the standpoint of majority rule, there is no justifica tion for any such proposal. Indeed, if special consideration is to be given to any, it should be given to the non-unionists, seeing that they constitute a majority of the persons engaged in most industries. The machinery of the law should never be invoked to impose the will of a. minority upon a majority.
– The honorable member wishes to penalize unionists.
– I have no desire to do that. If the best men are unionists, they must obtain, a natural preference, and honorable members opposite have repeatedly urged that the most capable workmen are to be found within their ranks. If that be so, they will secure preference under the laws which govern supply and demand.
– =Why argue against preference, seeing that the principle is contained in the Bill ?
– 1 do not believe in any preference being granted to unionists, and I had the courage to express my convictions, as honorable members are aware. I claim to be as honest and sincere a friend of labour as is any honorable member opposite, but I do not pick out one section of workers and set up a claim on their behalf to the disadvantage of all other sections.
– The honorable member believes in granting preference to the best men?
– In the absence of this clause, the best men will, in the ordinary course, obtain preference. Of course, if an employer chooses to pay the highest wages to the most unskilled workman, that is his own affair; but I have not met many employers of that character. Most of them conduct their businesses upon commercial lines, and naturally they will not pay the highest wages to -the least skilled workman. During the course of this discussion, I have noticed a disposition not only to extend a preference to unionists,” but also to make trade unions partake of the character of close corporations by restricting their membership. When pressure has been brought to bear to compel unions to open their ranks to the admission of new members - and even the powers of the Arbitration Court of New South Wales have been invoked1 to prevent men being excluded - they have resorted to other practices to keep them out. We know that some unions have adopted what is called the “trying-out system.” Before an applicant is allowed to join he is set a certain task, which has to be performed to the satisfaction of the union to which he desires to gain admission. In a recent case in connexion with the Coopers’ Union-
– That has already been dealt with.
– But the point cannot be too strongly emphasized, especially in view of the arguments which have been addressed to us by honorable members opposite. I wish to briefly refer to the case, in ‘order to show that various practices are resorted to in order to make close corporations of trade unions. The members of these unions desire, not only to secure preference, but to obtain a monopoly of the work in their respective trades, and thus force many men to be non-unionists by placing barriers in the way of their joining their ranks. Mr. J ames Conway, a “non-unionist, who desired to enter the Coopers’ Union, was set a task outside the scope of his usual labour - a task which perhaps no member of the union could have accomplished. He had been a cooper for about six years, and was an expert in a special branch of the trade. Knowing this, the members of the union were not content to test his capacity in the branch of the trade with which he was most familiar, but set him a task relating to a wholly different section. As honorable members are familiar with the case, I need not deal with it more fully. I mention it merely as an indication of the practices which are resorted to in order to prevent men from joining a union. It is all very well for honorable members opposite to say that there is no attempt to coerce men into joining unions, and that preference to unionists would not prejudicially affect non-unionists. The fact remains that non-unionists would either have to join unions when the doors were open to them, and thus participate in the preference of employment, or accept the remaining alternative of starvation. On the one hand, we find honorable members opposite seeking to restrict opportunities of employment to members of unions, and thus by coercion forcing men to join unions or starve ; and on the other we see some unions trying to secure a monopoly of work for their present members only by blocking the admission of new members. That is a form of coercion which is absolutely opposed to the most cherished principles of British justice. For the reasons I have stated I have absolutely opposed the principle of preference, andi shall vote, as I did before, for the Bill as sent by us to another place.
– I wish to say a few words before the debate closes, because it seems to me that efforts have been made by the Prime Minister and his followers to lead the public to believe that the Government are not in favour of preference to unionists. I find, in travelling through the country, that a large number of conservatives are under the impression that the Prime Minister is fighting desperately against the extension of preference to unionists; although, as a matter of fact, that question is not really under consideration. The principle of preference is already provided in the Bill being pushed through by the Prime Minister. When the honorable and learned member for Corinella moved the amendment which resulted in the Watson Government leaving office, because the House would not consent to the recommittal of the clause, honorable members now sitting on the Opposition side of the Chamber protested that the clause, as. amended, practically rendered it impossible to ascertain whether or not applicants for preference represented the majority of those affected in their industry. The Government and their followers persist in asserting that the McCay amendment isin no wise detrimental to the principle, and would not be a serious obstacle in the way of the Court dealing with an application for a common rule. If I could accept that view of the position, I should have no objection to the clause as proposed by the Government, but my feeling, which is shared by the Opposition generally, is that it would lead to a great deal of trouble, and render it practically impossible for an organization to approach the Court. What I wish to emphasize is that if honorable members opposite say that the proviso inserted on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella is not an obstacle in the wav of the Court dealing with the question, they must admit that the Prime Minister and his followers are knowingly supporting a Bill which provides for preference to unionists. It is, therefore, impossible for the Government and their followers to hoodwink the public.
– Their supporters.
– Their followers. It is useless for them to seek to hoodwink the conservatives, as they are attempting to do, and to endeavour to lead them to believe that they are fighting their battles against preference to unionists. I freely admit that I dislike the amendment which has been submitted by the leader of the Opposition, just as I dislike the clause with the proviso carried on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. I shall merely vote for the amendment moved by the leader of the Opposition, because I object to the clause as it stands. I notice, in looking over the speech delivered last Thursday by the Prime Minister, that he said that it would be infinitely better for the persons who are not unionists to leave it to the Court absolutely, than to have the onus of proofput upon them. That is what the Opposition say in regard to the position of the unionists. If it is good for the one, it must be good for the other. I hold that it would be better to leave the Court free to decide in every case whether or not a majority of those employed in the industry desired to have preference granted. I shall vote for the amendment moved by the leader of the Opposition, only because I object to the proviso inserted on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella. The author of that proviso denies that it would render it necessary in some cases to take a poll of all persons engaged in an industry from the north to the south, and from the east to the west of Australia. But, take the case of sailors.
– All of them are members of unions.
– And the clause practically provides that a poll must be taken-
– In what other way would it be possible to ascertain the opinions of all the sailors employed round Port Darwin, along the western coast of Australia, round the south and east of Tasmania, and then up to North Queensland?. How is it practically possible to have a ballot of that kind? What expense and time would be involved if an application were to be made to the Court for a common rule, and if such a ballot had to be taken ?
– There is a census in each State, showing the persons engaged in everv industry.
– But it is necessary to show the desires of every individual in an industry in regard to this question.
– No, no.
– But I say, “ Yes, yes.” It is necessary to find out whether a majority are favorable to preference or not. That, in my humble opinion, is the practical effect of the Bill. It is all very well to say that there is a census, but the census does not show those who are in favour of a common rule being granted in a particular industry. Suppose five or ten thousand men engaged in a particular industry in Western Australia desired to appeal to the Court. Then, in some way or other, the Court must be shown whether a majority of the persons engaged in the industry affected are in favour of the application which is made.
– The Court will assume that every one in the census who does not claim preference, is against it.
– I think that the honorable and learned member is absolutely wrong. The Court will, by its regulations, compel any organization that applies under this provision, to show whether a majority in the industry is, or is not, favorable to the application. The Judge would not be doing his duty if he came to any haphazard decision. I hold that it would be better to leave it to the Court to decide, without dictating what should be done by the applicant. For these reasons, I think the Bill, as it stands, is absolutely wrong. I do not wish to cast imputations upon those who vote for this provision, but the honorable member who last spoke, said that he is against preference altogether. Nevertheless, he intends to vote for the Bill containing this provision. It appears to me that he must have a very strong conviction that the clause will practically destroy the principle of the Bill. There is no other logical conclusion. I must assume that those who are against the Bill, and who, nevertheless, vote for this clause, do so with the desire to destroy its provisions.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta).The speech of the honorable member for Hume was a most remarkable one, and about as good a specimen of “ yes-no “ as I have ever heard in this Chamber. He rose solemnly to warn the conservatives of Australia that the Government and their followers were conceding pref erence in this Bill, and, in almost the next sentence, he announced his intention to vote against the clause, because he said it would make the grant of preference practically impossible.
– I never said anything of the kind.
– I withdraw the word “ impossible,” and say “ impracticable.” The honorable member can take any change out of that.
– The Bill, as it stands, is impracticable.
– Because of this amendment ; yet, the honorable member reminds the conservatives that this same clause is going to give preference. The honorable member may very well be left to wriggle on the spike on which he has impaled himself.
– I also wish to make my position clear. I arn opposed both to the provision as it stands and to the amendment moved by the leader of the Opposition. The Bill has fallen almost into the position of an unfortunate child left on a workhouse doorstep. At first it was fondled by every one, but now no one seems to want it. In my opinion, the Bill, as it stands, is a farce.
– There is one candid man on the Government side.
– I am opposed to preference wholly and solely, and my regret’ is that a clear cut issue is not put before the Committee as to whether preference to unionists shall find a place in the Bill. As matters stand, I believe that it will be a matter of some difficulty to obtain a decision which will enable the Court to obtain a definite knowledge as to whether the unionists have a majority or otherwise. But I say still further, that it would be utterly impossible for the non-unionists to prove that they were in the majority. Take, in my own State, the district represented by the honorable member for Darwin. The great majority of the workmen in the mining district in that electorate are working miners. A small proportion of them are members of a trade union. While it would be possible for the unionists to show their numbers from their books, the honorable member for Darwin will bear me out in saying that there are scores of men there who are away in the wilds week after week, sometimes month aftermonth, and it would be impossible for any one to obtain a poll to show whether the non-unionists were in a majority or in a minority. Therefore, the leader of the Opposition is asking us to make the Bill an absolute farce by imposing conditions which every reasonable man must know are impossible. How would it be possible to take a poll of the working miners not represented in the unions ? How would it be possible to obtain their numbers? Would special delegates have to be appointed to go from field to field hunting up all the gully-rakers of the alluvial flats, and finding out all the prospectors, to discover whether they were in favour of preference to unionists or not ?
– We could take the statistics of the people engaged in the calling.
– I think there is some point in what the honorable member for Hume has said. Although the Government statistics will show the number of men engaged on the fields, and their books will show the number of unionists, neither of these statistics will show whether the men are in favour of preference to unionists. I admit at once that a considerable number of workers outside the unions would be prepared to vote for preference to unionists. But how would that be found out under the amendment proposed?
– How could it be found out under the amendment agreed to on the motion of the honorable member for Corin- ella ?
– By an organized vote.
– It will be impossible under this provision to get a poll of persons outside the unions.
– Then why vote for the amendment of the honorable member for Corinella?
– Because it deals with persons who are in the union.
– The honorable member is aware that all who will be affected will not be members of unions.
– Honorable members will credit me with making no attempt to hide my views on this question. I have voted steadily against preference to unionists, because I believe it to be unjust. I believe it wouldbe unjust, even though the members of unions were in a majority. The honorable member for West Sydney made a strong point, and one which has not yet been answered to my satisfaction, when he suggested that if preference were an evil it was equally so when the unionists had a majority. Take the case of 1,000 workers in a particular trade, and assume that 600 were in the union, and 400 outside of the union. I say that it would be cruel and tyrannical to deprive any man of the 400 of his means of existence, or to force him into a union, because he happened to be one of a minority. I go further: Majorities, as a rule, can protect themselves, and, speaking reasonably, the smaller the minority the greater the hardship if its members are to be saddled, not only wilh preference to unionists, where unionists are in a majority, but with the responsibility of devising some means by which they can take a poll of the workers in the industry to ascertain whether there is a majority in favour of preference, before they shall be allowed to work for their daily bread, without being forced into a union.
– How does the non-unionist get on at present when a strike occurs?
– About the same as at most other times. My experience is that very often a large proportion of nonunionists sympathize with unionists on strike, provided they have gone out for just and legitimate cause. If we accept the amendment, I should like to ask whether there is any provision in the Bill by which the scattered units of workers outside unions can make known whether there is a majority in favour of preference to unionists ?
– The onus of that lies on the Government, as they have fathered the provision now in the Bill.
– Presuming that we are taking this Bill seriously, though I have begun to doubt it, let us take the case of a shearers’ union applying for preference. Without speaking offensively, it is admitted that shearers are amongst the most nomadic class of workers in Australia, and if an application is made to the Court by the Shearers’ Union for preference is the decision of the Court to be hung up until the Government can devise some scheme by which a poll of non-unionist shearers scattered from one end of Australia to the other can be taken to ascertain whether there is a majority in favour of the application ? The thing is absurd on the face of it.
– Hear, hear; it is an absurd proposal right through.
– Yet honorable members who contend that it is an absurd proposal intend to vote for it.
– No, we intend to modify the absurdity of the clause as at present framed.
– I believe that honorable members opposite find themselves in the position in which I found myself when the clause was first before the Committee. I voted against the principle of preference, but I accepted the amendment proposed by the present Minister of Defence, because I saw that it would at least impose some check on the application of the principle.
– Because it would achieve the honorable member’s object by killing preference to unionists.
– Having to make a choice of two evils, I preferred to accept the lesser. The clause, as it now stands, is practicable, and might be put into operation, but the amendment, if agreed to, would render the whole thing a farce. By agreeing to the amendment, we should be deliberately placing upon the Statute-book a measure which every reasonable man must admit could never be brought into operation.
– That is what we told honorable members opposite a month ago.
– I am referring now to the amendment moved by the leader of the Opposition. By accepting that amendment we’ shall show to all taking an interest in such matters that, while this Parliament has spent practically ten months in dealing with the Conciliation and Arbitration Bill, it is content to pass a measure which it knows will be inoperative, in order, to quote the words of the honorable member for Hume, to hoodwink those who believe that some degree of preference will be given to unionists under this Bill.
– The Government should withdraw after that.
– I can recognise the attitude assumed by those who say that this Conciliation and Arbitration Bill will be useless unless we give absolute preference to unionists. That contention can be argued and fairly fought, as there is a clear, bold principle in the declaration that compulsory arbitration is impossible unless it is associated with direct preference to unionists. There are those who hold with me that preference to unionists is wrong, that it is wrong to create an aristocracy of labour, and wrong to say that men must enter unions and submit to them.
– The Bill provides for that.
– I am not referring to the Bill generally. I believe that the people of Australia, when they are given an , opportunity to express their opinions in a practicable and forcible way by decision at the ballot-box, will be against our going back 200 years to establish once more the old guilds of Great Britain. In those days men had to subscribe to a guild or starve; but I say that the new unionism which certain honorable members desire to advance in Australia to-day is infinitely worse, because we have here proposed, under the guise of democracy, the same thing which in the old days was the work of hide-bound toryism.
The new democracy proposes to say to a man, “ You must yield up your individual opinion and join a union, or you must be passed over, not because you are not competent, or because you are not a decent member of society, but simply because you have refused to be driven into a union against your will.” That is the clear-cut issue I wish to have placed before the electors of Australia when the time comes. The Bill, as it stands, is, to a certain extent, a “ shandy-gaff “ measure, and if we accept the amendment of the leader of the Opposition, we shall make it even a greater farce than it is at present. I shall vote against the amendment.
– With the majority of honorable members, I regard this Bill as one of the most urgent which could be considered by a legislative body. I disagree distinctly with honorable members on the other side in regard to this clause, which, in my opinion, makes the granting of preference impossible to those who are responsible for obtaining an award from the Court. I wish to state again, that without the trade unions, which it is anticipated will apply for preference, it would not have been possible to have this measure under our consideration tonight. We have heard a great deal from honorable members opposite about the consideration which must be extended to men who at present are outside the unions. But if we had all along considered only the interests of those men - who contribute nothing to the funds of the organizations, and who take part in no progressive movement for the amelioration of the conditions of the workers - we should be in the position of fifty years ago. We should be battling to settle industrial disputes by means of the old system of strikes - of brute force - with all its accompanying privation and misery. Honorable members opposite, who do not believe in industrial arbitration, are taking a consistent course when they oppose the granting of preference. Such honorable members approve of the old methods, and, if we do not agree with them, we can at least respect their consistency. But when we find honorable members declaring that they believe in measures of this kind, but refusing to afford any protection against unscrupulous employers, a different stand must be taken. Honorable members on this side have had a little more to do with industrial matters, than have honorable members opposite ; yet when we declare that the experience in those States, where there is no preference, is most unsatisfactory, we are not believed. I have already related an incident which came under my notice in Kalgoorlie. In that place the hotel and restaurant employes obtained an award which carried with it an increase in wages, but, when the officials of the unions sought to return to work, they found that their places had been filled by non-unionists, including some women. That is the reward which, in the absence of preference, unions are given for taking action with a view to preventing strikes.
– It is against the law to dismiss employes under such circumstances.
– It may or may not be against the law., but that is the sort of thing which the right honorable member is seeking to perpetuate by supporting the Government on the present occasion.
– Employers cannot dismiss men under the circumstances.
– But employers do dismiss men under the circumstances. It has already been pointed out that “ preference “ is not a proper ‘term to apply.
– That is the mistake of the whole discussion; preference is dealt with in another clause.
– The honorable member for Moira apparently assumes that he is the only one who knows what is under consideration at ‘the present time. What we are discussing now is preference, and how preference shall be applied - (he whole question is under review. The proposal should be regarded as one to provide security for unionists - to provide security for those w.ho desire, by means of measures for. industrial peace, to be protected against unscrupulous employers. The amendment of the Minister of Defence, introduced when this measure was before us on a previous occasion, made the granting of preference, in my opinion, impossible. If that amendment be adopted, it will be impossible for members of trade unions to satisfactorily prove that there is a .majority of ‘those affected by the award in favour of preference. The leader of the Opposition says he believes that it is unworkable, that it is impossible for it to be mathematically proved under present conditions in the cases in which preference will be desired, and he gives honorable members on ,the other side the alternative of showing whether or not they are sincere in their belief that it is workable, by offering them the chance to apply it to those for whom they profess to be speaking.
– By substituting somethingmore unworkable.
– No, by shifting the onus of responsibility from the unionists to the non-unionists. The least which we might expect, the least which even honorable members opposite might expect, is that those who have never attempted to make industrial peace possible, if they object to unionists being placed in a position of safety, should be called upon to make the sacrifice of proving to the Court that they are in a majority, and do not desire preference. I do not believe in hampering the Court in that way. I should prefer to vote against the whole clause, but I shall vote for the amendment of the leader of the Opposition, because it is the lesser of two evils, and places the responsibility upon the right shoulders. During, this debate we have heard the old cry about an endeavour on the part of the unionist representatives, as we on this side are’ dubbed, to starve the unfortunate non-unionist, with his wife and children, and to make it impossible for him to get a living. Such a statement carries with it its own refutation. Under existing conditions it is absolutely impossible for any man to state with any degree of certainty when we may be plunged into another great Inter-State struggle. If such a calamitybe brought upon the community, we can say .that the non-unionist is more responsible for its occurrence than the unionist, and his position will be more unsatisfactory than if industrial peace were assured, and he took his place alongside the unionist, and tried to secure the safe and sure working of the Act. I have entered my protest against this proposal, which, I believe, unfortunately, is going to be carried against us. I look upon this, and the next clause, as very vital to the Bill. Those who desire to wreck the Bill - and, peculiarlyenough, they are all to be found on the other side-clasp with open arms this proposal, and also the one to prohibit political action by trade unions. If I had no other reasons placed before me, and I were in favour of the Bill, I should have to think very seriously about being associated with honorable members who have stated openly and frankly that they will take every op- portunity to defeat it. I feel satisfied, however, that I have made it quite clear that they will have no opportunity of going before their constituents and saying that they believe in the granting of preference to unions when their votes belie their words.
– Preference to unionists is not the main issue we are now asked to consider ; that is a fundamental principle of the Bill. We are now asked to consider how it shall be applied. In their proposal, the Government say practically that a claimant union must satisfy the Court, not only that it represents its members, and that from their stand-point it is a fair thing to grant preference, but also that their application has the approval of a majority of the persons engaged in the industry, or likely to be affected by the award. Some honorable members who support the proposal have been perfectly frank. They say that they are against this kind of legislation, and whenever an opportunity has been offered, they have recorded their votes against the Bill, and against preference to unions. Now that they are asked to consider the issue raised by the Prime Minister, and the counter-issue raised by the leader of the Opposition, they say that they prefer the support of the Government. That is a very reasonable proof of the position taken up by the leader of the Opposition, that the conditions laid down by the Government are less workable than those which he proposes. Were I in opposition to this measure as a measure, or to this principle as a principle, then, having been defeated on the main issue, I, like certain honorable members, should be very strongly tempted to do what I could to nullify the effects of it. From their standpoint ‘they are perfectly consistent in their attitude. The honorable member for Lang and the honorable member for Wannon state that they are opposed to legislation of this character. They support the obligation which is thrown upon unions as against the proposal of the leader of the Opposition, and, no doubt, in doing that, they are endeavouring, as far as possible, to defeat the principle of preference to unions. But, whilst they can show reasonable ground for consistency, I fail to see how honorable members, who believe in this legislation, and recognise that it must be founded upon a recognition of preference to unions, can consistently support the proposal of the Government, as against the amendment of the leader of the Opposition.
In this connexion I am quite in accord with the honorable member for Kalgoorlie. It is unfortunate that the term “ preference to unions “ has to be used. It arose in connexion with the legislation first introduced into New Zealand, and subsequently enacted in New South Wales. What is really proposed to be done is to give a certain degree of security to unionists, that they shall not be victimized because of the stand which they took in support of the principles of their unions, and of their advocacy, not only amongst their fellow workers, but in the Courts provided by their State for the adjustment of labour disputes. This was left an open matter in the New Zealand Act, and a difficulty presented itself in its practical working, on the grounds of equity and justice, The lower Court, and then the Appeal Court, found it necessary, although it was not specified in the Act, to read in this principle in order to carry out the intention of the Legislature. Those who advocate the principle are supported by high legal authorities, such as the Chief Justice of New Zealand, Sir Robert Stout, Mr. Justice Williams, Mr. Justice Connell, and Mr. Justice Denniston, and also by high industrial authorities. Mr. Justice Cohen, of the New South Wales Arbitration Court, has stated that, interwoven with the fabric of legislation of this kind is the power of the Court to extend protection to those engaged in furthering the objects of unionism, and appealing for the settlement of disputes. Those who know the conditions of labour obtaining in country districts - which, I presume, do not differ in this respect from the conditions obtaining in the cities - are aware that men who make themselves prominent in connexion with union work, by endeavouring to increase the membership of their unions, or by standing out for shorter hours or better conditions, become marked men, and, although often the most competent in their trades, find their places filled by others. In short, they are boycotted and driven out. Whenever a strike is declared “off,” and work commences again as before, the leaders are punished in this way. It is to protect such persons that we, on this side, think that the Court should be empowered to grant preference. Those who support the proviso contend that, not only should the union applying for preference show that it is entitled to it, but that it should also show that a majority of those connected with the industry are in favour of preference being granted. The leader of the Opposition has urged that the difficulty of obtaining the views of those outside the union is so great that the proviso would be unworkable.
Those who support it say that it can be worked without trouble, and contains only a reasonable safeguard. To that the leader of the Opposition has replied that, if that be so, upon the non-unionists should rest the onus of proving that those who are opposed to the granting of preference represent a majority of the persons affected by the award. If we are to have a condition of this kind, that is not an unreasonable position. There is, however, no such provision in the legislation of New South Wales or New Zealand, and although large industrial bodies have been affected by the Arbitration Courts created under that legislation, no complaints have been made by the workers whose interests this proviso is designed to protect. It is true that objections have been published in the newspapers, but they have been dealt with by Mr. Justice Cohen in an address which I quoted in this Chamber some time ago, and which I need not now repeat. He then said that those who were complaining had an opportunity to come before the Court to state the grounds of their complaints, and if they did so their statements would be taken into consideration in the determination of an award. He went on to say, however, that a great many of the statements which had appeared in the newspapers were without foundation of fact. If the Committee agrees with the amendment of the Senate, it will be merely affirming a principle whose value must be determined by the practical working of the measure, but if the amendment be disagreed to, the organized workers of the Commonwealth will be given a concession with one hand which will be withdrawn with the other, because the unions applying to the Courts will be without protection. I shall be sorry to see the measure defeated, because, in my own opinion, it is required. I admit that it is largely experimental, and that defects may be disclosed by its administration, though those defects can afterwards be remedied by Parliament. We have seen, however, that similar legislation has prevented industrial trouble in New Zealand and in New South Wales, and the intention in introducing this Bill was to provide for the settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State. If we do not provide for the settlement of such disputes, we may have repeated the conditions which obtained during the great industrial disturbances of the early nineties, when, in all the avenues of industry, labour was arrayed against capital, and practically civil war existed throughout the Commonwealth. The only method of settling disputes in those days was by the barbarous means of strikes or locks-out. There was no legislation by which the strong arm of the law could be invoked to bring about an adjustment of the difficulty upon the lines of equity and justice. The whole of the” wheels of industry were stopped, and trade was lost to us which we have never been able to regain. Misery, suffering, and loss were involved, which might have been averted if more humane and scientific methods had been adopted. I hope some of my words will sink deep into the minds of honorable members who are unintentionally assisting the enemies of arbitration in their efforts to destroy or vitiate this mea.sure. If the Bill is made unworkable, we shall have to revert to the conditions of years ago. In New South Wales, feeling then ran very high, and since the days of the agitation to prevent that Slate from being any further used as a dumping-ground for British convicts, there has been no statesman to whom the citizens were more indebted than they were to the late Sir Henry Parkes for the action which he took on that occasion. He was then the head of the Administration, but was for a time laid aside by illness. Those who were temporarily in control, ordered out the military, and it needed but a spark to cause a disastrous explosion of public feeling. The grand old politician to whom I have referred, saw the danger, and ordered the military into their barracks again. New South Wales was thus saved from an experience of those more acute phases of industrial warfare through which many other countries have passed.
– The military were out.
– But they were ordered back again. A similar experience was being passed through at the same time in Melbourne. We have it on record that the military were ordered to get ready, and that Colonel Tom Price told his men-
– “To fire low, and lay ‘em out.”
– That has been denied time after time.
– I do not wish to repeat the exact words reported to have been used, but Colonel Price, in effect, told his soldiers that they must not consider the fact that some of their relations might be amongst the strikers, but must carry out their instructions. These were the conditions that obtained prior to the introduction of legislation of this character; and we shall revert to that state of affairs unless we pass a Bill which will provide for the settlement of industrial disputes by more humane methods. I do not believe that this Bill will offer a complete solution of the difficulty, but I regard it as travelling in the direction in which we shall have to proceed in order to arrive at a satisfactory means of adjusting our industrial differences. I believe that a complete system of industrial arbitration may be built up by means of combinations among the workers and employers, and that it will be within the power of the Court to afford security and protection to those who are engaged in industrial occupations. Although the proposal of the honorable member for Bland does not entirelymeet the case, it is at least an improvement upon the proviso which the Government desire us to adopt, and I shall, therefore, support the amendment in the belief that it will contribute to make the measure more effective.
Question - That the words proposed to be added be added - put. The Committee divided. .
Majority … … 3
Question so resolved in the negative.
Mr. WATSON (Bland).- I propose to submit a further amendment for the purpose of testing the feeling of the Committee upon this question, especially in view of the attitude which has been taken up by the honorable member for Franklin, and one Or two others upon the opposite side of the Chamber, who have confessed that the phraseology which the Government have adopted creates a farcical situation so far as the preference clause is concerned.
That the following words be added - “but that all the words after the word ‘ unless,’ line 12, be left out, with a view to insert in lieu thereof the words ‘the Court is satisfied that the organization applying for such preference substantially represents the industry affected in point of the number and competence of its members.’ “
This is the same amendment of which I gave notice a few months ago. I admit, that upon that occasion the House practically decided against it. It preferred to adopt the proposal of the present .Minister of Defence. I beg leave, however, to suggest to honorable members that upon the present occasion the circumstances are slightly different. In the first place, it is one thing for the House to declare - whilst free from any anxiety as to what members in another place would do - that it would prefer to give effect to a certain series of words or to a certain idea. But seeing that the other Chamber has taken up a distinct attitude upon this question, surely it is reasonable that honorable members of this Committee should again be afforded an opportunity of considering whether they cannot give way, so as to permit of the Bill being passed in a form which will be reasonably satisfactory to both branches of the Legislature. Whilst it is true that some months ago a majority of honorable members were opposed to the proposition which I am now putting forward, there is no reason why, under the present circumstances, they should not be disposed to accept it, thus making some effort Ito insure the passage of this measure. Without delaying the Committee any longer-
– I think it is only respectful to the leader of the Opposition that
I should make one or two remarks with regard to this matter. I do not at all complain of his action in proposing to test the opinion of the Committee in this way. When the House was dealing with an amendment refusing to recommit this clause, the then head of the Government, who is now the leader of the Opposition, offered the suggestion which he now makes as a compromise between the views of the Government of the day and the opinions advanced by those who supported the honorable and learned member for Corinella’s amendment. The House, however, was so strongly of opinion that there was a serious difference between the two proposals that it refused even to go into Committee to consider the honorable gentleman’s proposition. I have always felt that the word “ substantial “ involves a far more serious objection than any which attaches to the term “ majority.” That, however, is entirely a matter of opinion. We discussed this question for days and days, and I think that, being so familiar with the purport of these words, we might now fairly go to a division upon them.
– I am one of those who are not prepared to adopt the Prime Minister’s suggestion that we should proceed to a division without further debate. When a Government knows that the numbers’ are in their favour they are always ready to divide.
– But the debate has not affected our decision very much so far as the other amendments are concerned.
– I did not anticipate that it would, in view of the stand taken up by the Government. I regret that there is some evidence that the interests of many thousands of men who are members of unions,, as well as thousands of others who, although not good on the books, are true unionists at heart, are to be sacrificed by the Government and their supporters merely from considerations of party government. It seems that they are to be sacrificed in order that a certain party shall be kept out of power. I said last week that I could very well understand the position of honorable members supporting the Government in regard to some of the Senate’s amendments, inasmuch as, if they voted for them, they would have to reverse a previous decision. The leader of the Opposition showed them a way out of the difficulty, but they were not prepared to accept it. The present Government was brought into power as the result of a division on this clause; but, as there is now no issue involving the fate of a Ministry, I thought that honorable members opposite would toe prepared to accept a reasonable compromise. The Government, however, .have induced all their supporters, including all those who, ever since the establishment of the Parliament, have been mouthing their independence, to agree to adopt a certain course, and they are not prepared to accept any compromise, or even an amendment that would make the intention of the clause clearer. The deliberate refusal of :i majority of the House to allow the Watson Government to have this clause recommitted was due to their desire to bring about a certain result. That object has been accomplished, and the attitude now taken up by honorable members opposite shows that the Ministry have no desire to give any consideration to the views of another place. The leader of the Opposition is prepared to go so far as to recognise the principle claimed by the Government to underlie this clause, and has proposed an amendment which would, in short, place a limit on the power of the Court. But, in view of the attitude taken up by the Government, I have come to the conclusion that the conservative element in the House, which has always been opposed to the principle of compulsory arbitration, is controlling the Ministry, just as a third party was said to control a former Government. At the present time we have a third party in the House, which has always been opposed to legislation for the peaceful settlement of industrial disputes, and that party is evidently gaining its own way so far as this matter is concerned. They recognise that one way of discounting legislation of this kind is to secure the passing of clauses which must really defeat its purpose. I have challenged honorable members opposite to point to a case in which the action of a Parliament, in giving a Court discretion to deal with a matter of this kind, has been attended by any harmful result, and no one has been able to show anything of the kind. Honorable members opposite will be content with nothing but a clause that will prevent the Bill becoming an effective piece of legislation. Even at this eleventh hour, I urge those honorable members who are honestly desirous to see this Bill placed upon (the Statutebook to’ shake off the incubus that affects them - to shake off the influence of the little Conservative third party in the Government corner- and Ito show some fairness to the large body of trade unionists in this coun try. This is not a question affecting trade unionists only. It affects the welfare of the whole community, employers and employes alike. It is true that changes of Government have taken place upon this clause, but that ought to be forgotten for the time being. The question should be -dealt with fairly on its merits. This is a ne:w amendment, that has never been discussed in Committee previously. Those who are totally opposed to the Bill may be expected to vote against it, though they are prepared to swallow other provisions to which they are opposed. But I hope that those who believe in the Bill and are anxious to see it placed upon the Statute-book will give the question an impartial consideration. I do not desire to repeat arguments which have been previously used. But there is a great deal that is new to be said on this question. It covers a very wide field. I had hoped that the Prime Minister would show a readiness to compromise. But it seems to me that the source from which an amendment comes determines the attitude of the Government. If an amendment comes from the leader of the Opposition they regard it as absolutely bad. There may fairly be a party declaration of war on the question of who shall hold office. I am prepared to go to ! the country in opposition to the Government on a declaration of that kind. But it is not fair to make a party fight over a question which is likely to injure the community as a whole. The interest of the people should be considered entirely apart from the party which is to sit upon the Treasury bench. When a compromise is offered, the Government ought not to whip up their followers. Honorable members should “have a free hand to accept it if they think it reasonable. I am convinced that a number of honorable members opposite seriously desire to make the Bill unworkable. I had hopes that -I was wrong in that opinion, but those honorable members who are openly opposed to the Bill are seemingly in high glee at the prospect of getting in this clause as it stands. I appeal to the more liberal democratic members, who desire to see the measure made efficient, to accomplish the object that they have admitted to be desirable for the purpose of securing industrial peace and fair consideration to all parties concerned. The proposal of the leader of the Opposition is extremely fair, and should be received in a very different manner from that which is manifested towards it. We are told that the Government supporters are ready to divide. We know what that means.
– It means that this question was discussed for days and days before.
– It has never had a chance to be discussed. We never went into Committee to consider it formally. The late Government was turned out on the question of going into Committee, with the object of considering this very point. The Prime Minister having got into power, and having become well glued ‘to the Treasury bench, ought to adopt a very different attitude. We ought, not to debar thousands of working men from getting justice, simply because certain considerations have assumed a party significance. No question of change of Government is now involved. The Ministry at present in power does not take anything as vital.
– They do not talk about it, an,how
– I ‘Strongly urge that the consideration of the amendment should not be complicated by what happened in previous debates. We should consider -it on its merits.
– And we should try ‘ to meet the Senate.
– It is a fair thing to endeavour to meet the second Chamber. We ought to pay that respect to the second Chamber to which it is entitled when it sends amendments to us. I cannot help feeling that it is unfair to the very large body of men who are anxiously looking forward to seeing this Bill made workable, that this attitude should be assumed by honorable members opposite. It is not creditable to the Government, or to the Prime Minister, and it is not in keeping with the attitude which the ‘ right honorable gentleman has previously assumed. I believe that he has assumed a different attitude on this occasion, because the question is associated with the incident which gave him office. I am asking that honorable members opposite should now forget that incident, and should deal with this proposal entirely on its merits. I suggest that honorable members opposite should be given that degree of freedom which is usually accorded in Committee, and should be at liberty to vote as they please upon a provision which may be regarded in the nature of a compromise, without their loyalty to the Government being questioned. When introduced, it was supposed that this was not a party measure, and it certainly should not be made a party measure in its final stages. There can be no doubt that it has played an important part already in Commonwealth politics in bringing about changes of government; but in its final stages we might look for some consideration for honorable members who desire that it should be made a workable measure. If the Government persist in their present attitude, upon them must rest the responsibility of imposing upon the public a deceptive measure, and of pretending to give the mass of the workers of the Commonwealth some real measure of conciliation and arbitration, while withholding the means of making it effective to carry out the object we have in view.
– I have npt pre,viously spoken on the question of preference, except in dealing with the interpretation clause, in the early half of the present session. I can assure the honorable member for Darling that I do not oppose this proposal because of any factious objection to the provision, or of any desire to oust or put in a Ministry. The honorable member for Bland has suggested that what has now been proposed should be regarded as a compromise. I regret to have to say that I think it cannot possibly be regarded as a compromise, because it involves verv serious differences of substance. The honorable member for Darling is thoroughly well up in all matters relating to unions, and in the history of union agitations at Home, and he will remember that after the decision ‘in the Taff Vale case, the colliers decided to incorporate in their rules a provision that there should be no strike except by the consent, not of a substantial majority, or of persons substantially representing them, but of a specific proportion of the total of those actually in work. They provided in one rule that there should be no strike’ unless it were consented to toy two-thirds of the persons actually in work.
– Hear, hear; the majority of the members of the union, which is very easily ascertained - not the majority of” those affected.
– That is the distinction between the clause as it now stands, embracing the amendment’ which was moved by the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and the provision which the honorable member for Bland asked us to substitute for it.
– If that were all, we should be quite .satisfied.
– They do not consult those outside their union. ‘
– On the score of clearness, the amendment proposed by the honorable, member for Bland is not in it when compared with that which was moved by the present Minister of Defence. The one amendment provides, as do the rules of the unions in England, that there must be a specific number consenting, whilst the other leaves it open to the Court to determine the matter, by considering the organization which in point of numbers and competence represents the industry.
– Is the honorable and learned member prepared to accept a majority of those in the union asking for preference. That would make the analogy complete.
– We are not now dealing with unions, but with organizations.
– The honorable and learned member quoted a particular instance.
– As the question is subject to some limitation, I think the best way is to prescribe something in form to the Court, and to provide that there shall be a specific number in favour of an application.
– The honorable and learned member is shifting his ground. He just now quoted the rule made by the colliers after the Taff Vale case as an analogy.
– I was dealing with the rule introduced by the colliers after the Taff Vale case, and it is in line with the provision in this Bill as it now stands, because it prescribes a specific number of those in work, and they are practically all the men engaged in the industry.
– Of the unionists who are in work ?
– Of all those who are in work. The honorable gentleman corrects me from memory, but I think it will be found that I am right. There is a substantial difference between making a prescription in an Act of Parliament of a specific number, and leaving vague words such as these to guide the’ Court. I invite honorable members to consider the words used here. What is the meaning of the term “ substantially represents” ? It is a principle of the construction of Acts of Parliament that we must take the whole of an Act for guidance as to the meaning of particular terms. These words are not used generally. They are used in relation to a specific- provision of the Bill, and in this Bill I remind honorable members that we have already decided that an organization substantially represents an industry if it is composed of a minimum of 100 members. If honorable members will look at the provisions dealing with the organizations which can be registered under this Bill, they will find that we have already decided that in point of substance, and also in point of competence, an organization represents an industry if it is composed of a minimum number of 100 members. And any Court looking at this amendment might say that the variation to be allowed is governed by the number we have already fixed for ourselves. We have fixed 100 members as the minimum to represent an organization which will represent an industry, and we cannot upon that have a variation of thousands. The Court might very well say that it would be consistent with the Bill to allow of a slight, but not of a very considerable, variation. So that in one way, it might very well be contended that in point of substance, with respect to numbers and competence, these words are largely restricted by the interpretation we have already given in previous clauses of the Bill. If they are not so limited, they are very vague, and it should not be the desire of the Committee to hand over an Act of Parliament to a Court to be construed with these vague terms embodied in it. I only regret that some honorable members who have expressed themselves as anxious that this Bill should be passed did not see their way to accept a reasonable suggestion upon the basis of which preference would have been possible, and could have been supported. There is nothing objectionable in the principle of preference in itself. It is really a part of the essence of the Bill, but it is objectionable, by granting preference to unionists, to force men into organizations created for purposes apart from the purposes of this Bill, and mixed up with several other matters of which they might not approve. I wish to make my position on this question perfectly clear. If the organizations were formed purely for .the purposes of this Act, if they were skeleton organizations dissociated from all purposes apart from this Bill, I should say that every person following the particular industry it represents, should be obliged to be a member of the organization. But what we are asked is to say that by preference it shall be possible to force men into organizations which are formed for various purposes other than the purposes of this Bill, and. for instance, into friendly societies to which they must subscribe for the purposes of those friendly societies, although they may be already subscribing to some other friendly society. If organizations were formed for the specific purpose of bringing this Bill into operation, I could see no objection in principle to the granting of preference, and I say that the onus of rejecting the principle of preference must rest upon those honorable members who have declined to work the Bill on the basis of purely industrial organizations.
Mr. SPENCE (Darling).- The honorable member for Angas has quoted as an illustration the rule of colliers’ unions in England, with respect to the vote which must be taken before there can be a strike. I can assure the honorable and learned member that some unions are so particular that before they consent to a strike they must have a two-thirds majority of their members in favour of it..
– Hear, hear ; there must be a two-thirds majority of the coal-miners of Australia in favour of a strike before it can be declared.
– That is so, and there is really no analogy between the case the honorable and learned member for Angas has quoted, and the provision insisted upon by the Government. The honorable and learned member for Angas is aware that the proposal of the Government involves the approval of the application by a majority of those affected by the award, but that does not mean the majority of the union. The difficulty is to know what the proposal does mean. A law to take a vote of a union would be, in some cases, readily complied with, but the Government are asking for something which we, as experienced men, know is not possible. I have shown that, as regards one union, there is no chance of carrying out the strict letter of the law to be observed by the Judge, if the latter is to go by evidence in the ordinary manner. Such evidence would mean mathematical accuracy - it would mean a majority, and some method of arriving at numbers. The Minister of Defence pointed out that the Judge is supposed to be guided by earlier clauses of the Bill, which give him considerable power; but the Judge must have his mind satisfied according to law. We are not lawyers, but we know enough to appreciate the fact that “majority” means a majority in numbers, and it will have to be proved that the particular application is supported by a ma jority. We say that such proof is impossible.
– Have the wool-sorters to be consulted about the shearers?
– That we cannot know until we ask the Judge. A lawyer’s business is to place difficulties in the way of the other side, and to so twist a case as to obtain a favorable verdict for his clients. But in such a case as we can imagine, no twisting will be of any avail, because it must be shown that a definite majority approve of the application. The honorable and learned member for Angas must have been shutting his eyes to the attitude of the Government, whose whole object is to consider non-unionists who are non-existent. A proposal previously indicated by the honorable and learned member shows that he does not take the view favored by a number of honorable members opposite. I was pleased to hear the honorable and learned member say that he had no objection to compelling men to belong to a union.
– I have a clause drafted for that very purpose.
– I remember that very well. Except in cases which are not worth noting, I have never heard of any coercion, and there is no doubt that nonunionists will join unions all the more readily because of the patent advantages. No honorable member has laid before us any objections raised by non-unionists, and no complaint of the kind, either by employers or others, has been laid before the Courts in New South Wales or New Zealand. Why all this effort to obtain the consent of unorganized bodies, which, as the honorable and learned member for Angas recognises, have no standing under the Bill ? The Government submit an unworkable clause, in which they will permit no alteration.
– Does the honorable member think we shall finish before Christmas?
– I do not care if we stay here until the Christmas following, because I regard this as a very serious matter. The Minister of Defence, speaking last Friday, said he had been waiting for some amendment. I do not know whether there is any conflict amongst the members of this double-barrelled Government, but the note sounded by the Prime Minister on every occasion shows that no compromise will be entertained - that the clause must pass as the Minister of Defence originally framed it. There must be something unusual underlying such an attitude. If we concede the principle, there should be no difficulty in framing a clause. Even the Minister of Defence admits that the Judge must strain a point - that he must interpret this clause by a previous general guiding principle.
– I did not say that at all ; I did not say the Judge had to strain anything.
– Last Friday the Minister of Defence, bv interjection, referred me to a previous clause in the Bill, and said that the Judge would have to satisfy himself on the point. I was claiming,. at the time, that the clause is mandatory. .
– What I said was that the evidence on which the Judge would come to a decision would be obtained in the manner pointed out by clause 25.
– That is what the honorable and learned gentleman said, admitting that it was not a question of the exact wording - that there must be absolute mathematical precision.
– I was pointing out that the ordinary rigid rules of evidence would not apply in this Court.
– That is what I have just now conceded. I can understand that the Judge might take evidence, which indicated a sort of guess at the probable number connected with the industry. The information which I could give as to the pastoral industry might not amount to mathematical proof, but I could understand the Judge being prepared to take evidence of the kind. The next question would be whether there was proof that the majority approved of the application, and that involves the question of numbers. Whilst the Judge might accept evidence of a somewhat guess-work character, numbers must still be given, or how could there be de- cided the question of the majority ?
– There would be the whole of the union to start with.
– So far as regards) the majority of the unionists, that would not much matter, but when we come to the majority of those affected in the industry, I contend that the proposal of the Government is unworkable, and is not on all fours with anything connected with the work of organized bodies, with rules more restrictive than the honorable member for Angas indicated in his remarks.
Mr. WEBSTER (Gwydir).- The amused attitude of the Prime Minister when any one rises to defend a principle tends to convey to the public that this Parliament is fast becoming a laughing-stock.
– Only certain individuals.
– That impression is induced by the frivolous attitude which is always assumed by those who occupy responsible positions. On questions of grave importance, involving the practicability or otherwise of a measure so far-reaching in its effects as this one, the right honorable gentleman should exhibit some degree of sincerity, rather than act in a frivolous way, as he does whenever a proposal is submitted by the Opposition.
– The honorable member should deal with him quite severely.
– The Prime Minister will only need to speak to the honorable member in order to keep him quiet.
– I question whether it would have that effect upon the honorable member.
– The question before the Chair is the amendment.
– I realize that, sir, and if these interjections had not been made I should not have been drawn aside in that way.
– I ask honorable members to refrain from interjecting.
– Like the previous speaker, I fully expected the Government to treat this amendment in a rational way. Now that they are secure in their offices, I anticipated that when we offered to compromise they would recede from their position to some extent, and endeavour with us to produce a practicable measure. Surely we have riot come here to carry out party feeling to such a degree as to place upon the Statute-book a law which would be unworkable ! We, as reasonable men, ought to devote our efforts to making the measure as effective as possible, irrespective of any effect which its operation might have upon the parties in the House. When it was formerly indicated by the honorable member for Bland, we had no opportunity to discuss this amendment. The Prime Minister has said that it was fully discussed for two or three days; but I maintain that we had no opportunity to discuss it. The amendment was given notice of by the honorable member for Bland, and the Opposition at that time, being anxious to seize the reins of office, practically prevented him from discussing the relative merits of his amendment and that of the honorable member for Corinella. We were absolutely boycotted.
– I would draw the attention of the honorable member to the fact that the amendment is now before the Committee, and can be discussed.
– I am perfectly aware of that fact, sir.
– Why does not the honorable member discuss it?
– Order !
– It is not palatable to the Government for me to refer to these episodes, but still I am entitled to show the reason why this saving amendment was defeated and discussion burked. Why does the Prime Minister insist upon forcing upon the Statute-book an impracticable measure? Had he wanted to prove to the country that he was in favour of the establishment of an Arbitration Court to act on lines of equity and justice he could not have better illustrated his insincerity than by trying to carry an impracticable amendment and opposing one which would secure the effective operation of this legislation. Some honorable members on the other side are so lost to a sense of the responsibility and dignity of their position that they act like cockatoos on a fence : they shift from perch to perch, and betray their manhood as well as their representative position. All I can say is that it ill becomes them. I realize that there are only a few men in this large body who would stoop to such practices. Why do I ask the Prime Minister to consider this matter?
– That is what I wish to know.
– I shall try to indicate the reason why I do.
– The honorable member said that long ago.
– I intend to repeat the statement if necessary. I realize it would be very difficult to convince the right honorable gentleman against his will. In this instance the professed supporters of a practicable law are in reality its deadliest opponents. How is it possible to convince honorable members who act in that way? Here we are asking the Prime Minister if he cannot reasonably accept our version of this matter.
– More iced water, please.
– That is exactly what we see imitated by the small fry in the House.
– It is the only way of keeping cool while the honorable member is speaking.
– This tomfoolery is introduced by a man who ought to know what the dignity of his position demands.
– Order !
– It is not only a matter of public talk, but a matter of public ridicule, that serious legislation is treated in this light way.
– It is the only way to keep alive.
– I am not very anxious to keep politically alive by those methods. If the right honorable gentleman cannot accept the assurance of the Honorable member for Darling and other honorable members with knowledge and experience of the working of trade unions, I would appeal to him to try to do that which he would advocate at any other stage in his career, and that is to treat with respect the amendments of the other House, which has practically co-equal power with this House.
– Hear, hear.
– You can “Hear, hear” as much as you like in. that mocking tone, but it will not break me up.
– The honorable member should address his remarks to the Chair.
– While .1 am interrupted by these mocking “hear, hears,” I cannot proceed with my speech.
– The honorable member is complaining of being interrupted by other honorable members. I have already asked that interruptions shall absolutely cease, and if honorable members persist in interrupting, I shall be compelled to exercise the powers which are conferred upon me by the Standing Orders.
– The Senate has, in its wisdom, struck out the proviso inserted by the Committee on the motion of the honorable and learned member for Corinella, and we ought to pay some respect to its opinion on a matter of this kind. What it did was not done jocularly, but with the intention of making the Bill more effective. If the Senate’s amendment is not agreed to. or some amendment similar to that of the honorable member for Bland is not inserted, the Bill will not be effective. The honorable and learned member for Corinella, with that subtlety for which the members of the. legal profession are distinguished, while contending that the Court must be’ satisfied that a majority of those affected by an award are asking for preference, did not tell us how it could be satisfied on that point. To provide that the Court shall obtain a knowledge of the opinions of the majority of those connected with an industry when there is no means for numbering those outside unions, or for the expression of their opinions, and to tell us that that requirement is intended to. improve the Bill, is to mock at those for whom we are professing to legislate. The Government would do well to accept, even at this stage, an amendment which would give an assurance to those who will come before the Court that, if necessary, they may obtain preference. They are the only men who can come before the Court, because none but organizations can appear before it. Every unionist and every employer knows that the best men in any industry are members of unions; and in New South Wales and other places where unionism has been in existence for many years, the unionists almost guarantee the competence of their members. It is this fact which has enabled the unions to retain their hold upon the working classes, whose position to-day is not due to anything that has been done for them by the Legislature. What they have gained has been won by united effort. The unionists have educated their fellows up to a recognition of the advantage of united action, and to the need of a Court for the rational settlement of disputes, instead of the barbarous methods of strikes and locks-out. Preference has been given to unionists by the New South Wales and New Zealand Arbitration Courts, although the principle is not specifically affirmed by the legislation under which those Courts were established, and the effect has been to encourage the increase of unions to a marvellous extent. The Prime Minister went into ecstacies of delight when speaking of the wonderful work which has been done by unionists. He put himself forward as a great champion of unionism, and then began to plead for the poor non-unionist, who, he says, is a human being, like the rest of us. His remarks were so much flapdoodle, or political claptrap, intended merely to catch votes, and to split up the labour organizations, whose friend he professes to be. But when the public outside understand this refusal of preference to unionists, to the men who have done so much to uplift humanity, and to improve the lot of the workers by making their conditions of life more like those of reasonable human beings than of slaves, so that they can, by educating their children, place them in better positions than they themselves occupy, they will recognise what a hollow pretence the professions of the Prime Minister are. The non-unionists have always reaped the advantage of the labours of the union ists, without bearing the obligations and burdens which the unionist’s have had to bear. Yet the Prime Minister’ would give preference to the non-unionists, and refuse it to unionists.
– The honorable member must address himself to the amendment-.
– I am pointing out that trade unionists have certain rights under State legislation, which, would be denied to them under this Bill, that they will be brought within the scope of a law of a retrogressive character, and that honorable members are endeavouring to force upon the Statute-book legislation’ which will be ineffective, a delusion, and a snare. They propose to take away from the unionists the right to strike, and the right to claim preference. Ihe unionists are being asked to give up all their liberties, to submit to be handicapped, and to be bound hand and foot. When they are within the toils they are to be exposed to the sneers and jeers of those who have put them there. It is proposed, under the amendment, that the Court shall be satisfied that the -applicants for preference substantially represent, in numbers and in competence, the majority of those engaged in the industry. Surely, in spite of all the arguments by the honorable and learned member for Angas, that should be sufficient. The . honorable and learned member, in common with all lawyers, is clever at twisting language in whatever way it suits him. I do not say that the honorable and learned member, has acted dishonestly upon this occasion, but by the very nature of his training, his practice, and his every-day associations, he has become so accustomed to the distortion of facts that he has been led astray upon the present occasion. The amendment proposed by the honorable member for Bland has become necessary, because we regard the proviso in its present form as impracticable. We are anxious to give the Judge something that he can intelligently apply.
– He will be only a lawyer - this poor Judge.
– I have a great respect for some of the old-time lawyers,, and many of the young members of the legal profession will have to show great improvement before they can attain to the standard reached bv their predecessors. I regard the word “’ substantial- “ as conveying a reasonable instruction to the Judge.
– The ‘honorable member wants the competence of each man to be proved to the satisfaction of the Court.
– I wish to adopt the principle, now applied in the New South Wales Arbitration Court, under which the Court requires to be satisfied that the circumstances are such as to warrant the granting of preference. The Minister of Home Affairs evidently regards the present proposal as a new one, but if he had made himself acquainted with the decisions arrived at by the New South Wales Court with regard to preference he would know that the honorable member for Bland has followed upon lines which have already been approved. My experience shows me that a fair and equitable employer always endeavours to get the best menhe can, and to pay the best wages; furthermore, that the best workmen are generally found associted with unions - with the organizations that itis proposed under this legislation to place in a secondary position. I know that it always pays an employer to engage this class of workman.
Mr.Reid. - Will the honorable member excuse me for directing his attention to the time?
– Does the Prime Minister wish to adjourn ?
– Shall I be at liberty to continue my remarks to-morrow ?
– Most certainly.
House adjourned at 10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 6 December 1904, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1904/19041206_reps_2_24/>.