4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed, from 26th September (vide page 814), on motion by Mr.
That, in the opinion of this House, the preferences in obtaining and retaining employment recently introduced into his Department by the Minister for Home Affairs are unjust and oppressive; prejudicial alike to the public interest, to the Public Service, and to the relations between’ Parliament and the public servants.
.- So far as it has gone, the debate has shown that the Opposition lacks a case, and has, therefore, been forced to build up its charges against the Government on assumptions. Although the Prime Minister definitely stated that preference to unionists is to be applied only in the employment of casual labourers, members opposite are trying to get the public to believe - no doubt for party ends - that the Labour party intends to remove from the Public Service generally every person who is not a trade unionist.
-Who said that?
– Two or three honorable members have suggested that that will happen. The right honorable member for Swan spoke of the step which has been taken as the introduction of the thin edge of the wedge, and expressed the opinion that in the future the principle would be applied to permanent hands. The inference which the public is expected to draw is that the Labour party intends to dismiss from the Public Service all who are not unionists. An Opposition, ‘in making an attack, ought first to make sure that it is on sound ground! Honorable members opposite have had the Prime Minister’s declaration of the position of the Government in this matter, but they ask, “ Why, then, has the Minister of Home Affairs directed that a list shall be furnished to him giving the names of employes who are not members of unions?” Any Minister has the right to ask for a return showing who in the employment of his Department are unionists, and who are non-unionists ; but the asking for such a list does not justify the assumption that the intention is to dismiss non-unionists. That assumption, however, has been made by every honorable member opposite with regard to the action of the Minister of Home Affairs.
– His officers seem to think that his minute means the dismissal of non-unionists.
– We are concerned, not with what they think, but with the facts.
– What are the possibilities? All the safeguards surrounding the application of preference to unionists were removed from the arbitration and conciliation law last year.
– Although when I commenced my speech the members of the Opposition evidently resented my statement that they wish the public to believe that it is the intention of the Government to dismiss every non-unionist from the Public Service, their interjections show that I was right. As a matter of fact, the policy made public last week applies only to the casual labour employed chiefly in manual work. Furthermore, it is not the instruction of the Government that none but unionists shall be employed. Over more than five-sixths of the area of Australia there are no trade unionists, and if works are carried out there the officer in charge will engage the non-unionists who apply to him for employment. All that the policy of the Government means is that where a man is wanted for casual work, extending over one, two, or three months, and a trade unionist applies, he shall have preference, all other things being equal.
– Why do not Ministers tell us this? Why is it left to the honorable member to make explanations?
– The Prime Minister has told the House what I am telling it. All last week the Opposition was fishing for information on which to found a motion of censure, but being unable to get it, honorable members have been driven to use a circular issued by the Director-General of Works, all the instructions issued in which, as the Minister of Home Affairs has stated, did not emanate from him. Honorable members would have done better to wait for something definite. Notwithstanding the assistance which the Opposition is receiving from the daily press of Victoriay the public sees that there is no case against the Government, that Ministers are doing nothing more than they always said they would do, namely, granting preference to unionists where opportunity offers. It has been objected that the Government might have granted preference to unionists in the arbitration law when it was amended last session, instead of leaving the matter to the Court, but when the honorable member for Flinders was speaking, the AttorneyGeneral interjected that to grant preference to unionists would be unconstitutional, and the honorable member replied, “ I am not too sure about it, because I have not considered the matter, but it might be unconstitutional.” Obviously, then, there is a doubt as to our constitutional position, and the Leader of the Opposition yesterday said that we had gone further than, from his point of view, we were entitled to go. Had we made it mandatory in the Act to grant preference to unionists, we might have found that the provision was unconstitutional. That, however, is not a reason why, when everything is equal, Ministers should not give preference to unionists.
– They are doing by a Ministerial act what the Constitution forbids.
– There seems to be a difference of opinion among legal men as to what our constitutional powers are in this matter, and consequently it would ill become me as a layman to offer an opinion on the subject.
– Why are the designs for the Federal Capital being prepared by blackleg architects?
– I know nothing of that.
– Are they being prepared by blackleg architects?
– Honorable members opposite say so. The architects in question are non-unionists.
– The policy of the Labour party is to grant preference to unionists. What has led up to the adoption of that policy? Every honorable member opposite has declared his belief in unionism, but none of them is willing to allow the employment of unionists in the Public Service if a non-unionist is ready to accept whatever positions are vacant. As the honorable member for South Sydney pointed out yesterday in his brief review of the history of industrial unionism from the early days, collective bargaining by means of unionism pn the part of the employes forced the employers also to combine. The day came when it was a case of one powerful combination playing off against another. The employers having got into combination, found they could supply a certain commodity from certain industries under their control, and at the same time keep certain other industries idle, with a view to enforcing their demands. As the result of that it was found necessary, at any rate in Australia, to pass legislation in an endeavour to regulate the conditions. It can be clearly shown that the Commonwealth Parliament has already established the principle of taking cognisance of trade unions. That is the only means that we have of regulating the industrial concerns of the community. Why, then, should we in any way assist to break down those combinations by encouraging non-unionists?
– No encouragement has been offered to non-unionists.
– I will show that there has been, and that preference is given to a brand of unionism that is not the real unionism. Those are the brand of unionists that many honorable members opposite like to assist. This Parliament passed a Conciliation and Arbitration Act. I am surprised to hear honorable members opposite contending that since that Act was passed there have been more strikes than there were before. If they were as conversant with the working of the Act as they ought to be, they would find that a large number of disputes where interruptions of work have taken place are due, not to strikes, but really to locks-out. The honorable member opposite who laughs shows his ignorance. He doesnot understand the question.
– The community will laugh, too.
-The community will not laugh. It is only those who have not sufficient knowledge, and do not care about learning, that will laugh. The following is the definition of a lock-out in the Act : - “ Lock-out “ includes the closing of a place or part of a place of employment, or the total or partial suspension of work by an employer, with a view to compel his employe’s, or to aid another employer in compelling his employes, to accept any term or condition of employment.
Any man who cannot contrive a lock-out without bringing himself under that definition must be very foolish. Any employer can bring about a state of affairs which will cause discontent among his workmen, without needing to close any part of his industry or to assist another employer to do so. He can do certain things which his employes will be forced to kick against, and which will make them stop work. Then it is called a strike, and so honorable members opposite say that it is the workmen who are responsible every time. I can point out several cases where interruption of work has occurred, and which were really locks-out. The proprietors in certain collieries even reduced the price due to the men. They said, “ We do not lock you out; the mine is open, but you must accept these conditions.” Was that treating the men equitably and fairly ?
– That is a lock-out within the meaning of the Act.
– My contention is that under the definition in the Act it is not a lock-out. The trouble comes in when the men refuse - and rightly so- to accept the reduction. They say, “ If the law of the land professes to regulate industrial disputes between you and us, that law should apply equitably. If you want to reduce wages, and we will not agree, you should go to the Court and get a decision.” But the employer says, “ My mine is not closed, and you can cut the coal at a certain tonnage rate.” Then the men stop work, and the papers from one end of Australia to the other cry out about the men striking, when, as a matter of fact, a lockout has taken place. If we added to that definition the provision that no alteration of existing conditions of employment shall take place without it being mutually agreed upon or decided by the Court, the Act would operate fairly and equitably between master and man. As now worded, it does not, and the men are often forced in defence of their rights to refuse to accept certain conditions which are offered to them, and then they are accused of striking. Honorable members opposite need never expect anything else until they gave a greater measure of fair play to the industrial unions which come under the Act. If I had time I could cite many cases where what I have described has happened. This has been the means of breaking down the faith of unionists in arbitration and of leading to the state of affairs which existed previously, and which is not good for employer, employe, or the community generally. Then honorable members opposite say, “ What about the freedom of the employe? He should be given the utmost freedom to do what he likes; we are in favour of trade unions, but every man must have the utmost freedom to do what he pleases.” That is a revival of the old cry of freedom of contract. In days gone by it was alleged that the individual ought to be able to do what he liked. Does any honorable member opposite contend that it would be in the best interests of the community to give every one the utmost freedom? Do not we pass laws with a view to curtailing the freedom of every individual ? Is it not in the public interests that their freedom should be curtailed ? Would not many people do things that were opposed to the best interests of the community if it were not that the law placed certain restrictions on their freedom? As can be seen in friendly societies or any other body, the freedom of the individual must be curtailed when it reaches a certain point. No man can be given unrestricted freedom. Whilst my honorable friends talk so much about freedom, 1 cannot help remembering what has been occurring in another place. There a certain individual took it upon himself to exercise his freedom, and objected to any limitation o£ it. He said, “I am a free man and will do what I like.” In consequence he has been howled almost out of existence by the members of a party who claim to be the champions of freedom and individual liberty. I do not want to mention another Legislature, but the name of the individual in question happens to be Willis. Every one knows the treatment that that man is receiving.
– Order !
– Is the honorable member defending him?
– I am only replying to the contention of the honorable member and others that every individual should have the utmost freedom to do what he likes. Honorable members opposite say that there should be no preference of any kind, but some of those who are loudest in their advocacy of that policy have the strongest possible preference in connexion with their own professions. The legal profession, for instance, have one of the strongest unions known, and they have preference beyond a doubt. The honorable member for Wilmot smiles, but what is the position ? He talks about the poor labourer outside not having the chance to get employment unless he is a unionist, but if I thought the honorable member was the ablest man for my purpose, and wanted him to defend me, and if I desired another member of that profession who was senior to him to appear to instruct him, the honorable member’s union would not permit it. I would not be allowed to have my choice. Therefore I would have no freedom in the matter. Whilst honorable members argue in this way against the granting of preference to trade unionists, they practise the strictest preference to unionists in their own professions. They regard the workers as quite a different class of people; and, viewing them as ordinary labourers, they seem to think that it does not matter about them. Their policy is to look after themselves, and there is no doubt that this doctrine of selfishness influences a great deal that is said and done in this world. The same remarks may be applied to the medical profession. Their union is so intolerant that if a medical practitioner is not prepared to join it, he has, so far as they are concerned, no right in the community at all. They absolutely refuse to recognise him in any way.
– Such things could be dealt with by legislation.
– Everything might be dealt with by legislation.
– The Government are not proposing to deal with this matter by legislation.
– They are giving effect to the policy always advocated by the Labour party. Honorable members opposite take no exception to the preference demanded by members of the medical profession. I am not saying anything against it; but I say that if it is good for one class of people it should be good for another. If honorable members opposite uphold preference to unionists in the case of the professions to which I have referred, and we all know they do, it is only right that they should extend the same liberty to persons connected with trade union organizations, although they happen to be working men. We are told that, whilst all our friends are in favour of trade unionism, it has now gone beyond its legitimate scope in identifying itself with the political machine. I contend that the day has arrived when trade unionism must be connected with the political machine. The political and industrial objects of trade unions should be combined. It is of no use for workmen to continue as theyhave done in the past, and confine themselves solely to industrial efforts, while they allow other people, by the legislation passed in Parliament, to undo all that they have been able to accomplish. It is necessary for trade unions to combine political with industrial efforts if they are to help the great masses of the people. After all, it will be freely admitted that trade unionism has done much to help them. We know that the standard of living of the people is to-day much higher than it would have been but for the work of industrial combinations. If that be so, it is right that industrial unions should be able, by political activity, to give effect to their aspirations for the betterment of the people.
– Is the Newcastle union now associated with the Political Labour League?
– That union is today holding a ballot, with the object of severing its connexion with the Political Labour League, and, so far as I know, the proposal will be carried.
– Because the political action of the League is not fast enough for them1.
– It is political connexion the union is severing. It is not severing itself from political action.
– The union is severing its connexion with the Political Labour League.
– With a view to pursuing political action on its own part.
– On that aspect of the question I may answer some statements which were made last evening, to the effect “ that all unionists support Labour men, by saying that they do not. It is for this very reason that the Newcastle miners are taking action to sever their connexion with the Political Labour League. Their complaint is that Labour men do not go far enough for them. There are a number of men in that union who would not support a Labour candidate. They would as soon support an honorable member on the other side as me.
– What must be their mental condition?
– The honorable member may be surprised, but I have stated the position. What I was contending was that trade unionism must go hand in hand with political unionism. Trade unionists have battled for centuries to improve their conditions, and have now reached the stage when they come under the law as organizations, and they are therefore bound to endeavour to send men into Parliament who will be prepared to look after their interests. What was the position in the past ? Labour had no representation in Parliament, and the laws were made by one party only, a party that always looked after vested interests. If trade unionists continue to work outside the halls of Parlia ment while there is a power above them in Parliament making the laws to which they must submit, they can do no effective work. Their only hope now is to elect their own representatives to Parliament who will do what is possible to realize their aspirations by placing on the statute-book the necessary legislation to better the position of the toilers of the country, and secure for them the rights to which they are entitled.
– Is it a political union such as the honorable member has described, that he suggests should be given this preference ?
– Yes j I am going to suggest that. I have here a work by Isador Ladoff dealing with this very question, from which I shall make a short, quotation. The writer says -
If this is true in respect to the exploiters of labour, can it be otherwise in respect to the exploited labourer? If politics prove to be the mightiest weapon in the hands of the capitalists, would it not prove suicidal on the part of Labour organizations to keep out of politics? “ Politics are corrupt,” claim the simon-pure trade unionists. Granted that this is true, we still ask these venerable advocates of nonresistance to political evils the following pertinent questions : Is the fact that a weapon is misused by some miscreants an argument against its rational and beneficial use? Should we refuse the use of a sharp knife Ibr cutting bread, because some criminal uses a sharp knife for cutting his victim’s throat? Are not the exploited labourers committing an offence of omission in refusing to become a factor in politics because the capitalist and his retainers are guilty of a crime of commission in using politics as a means of perpetuating and intensifying their dominion over labour? But the “pure and simple “ trade unionists are ready with the_ retort that they are not objecting to the exercise of civic duties by the labourers as individuals, but as members of a Labour organization. The flimsiness of this sophistic distinction without a difference is too obvious to need further elucidation.
Later on, he says -
But political action, far from being a menace to trade unionism, is as a matter of fact its most reliable support. The real foundation of trade unionism is skilled labour, as was the case with the guilds of the middle ages. The most successful unions are those whose craft demands the highest individual training, and it is hardest to organize unions among ordinary labourers. The tendency of our modern industry is to do away as far as possible with the necessity for skill on the part of the labourers, la other words, the tendency of modern industrialism is in the direction of undermining the very foundation of trade unionism. It is only _ by conscientious and systematic exercise of political action that the labourers may expect to battle successfully for their economic rights.
I indorse what is said in that work. I say that labourers cannot hope to secure their rights unless they take political action. This community will never be free from industrial troubles without the representation of industrial bodies in this Parliament to secure legislation in keeping with the demands of Labour. Quite a number of honorable members, in speaking yesterday, appeared to be without ammunition to sustain the charges made against the Government. As a consequence, they resorted to what I consider very unfair means in prosecuting their attack. I allude chiefly now to the honorable member for Kooyong. Dealing with the question of preference to unionists, the honorable member went so far as to say that it means “ the spoils to the victors,” and “ corruption.” He made another statement in which he charged the Labour party deliberately with inviting violence, and said, further, that they incited to murder.
– That was done deliberately in this Parliament.
– Does the honorable member indorse the statement? I wish to say that, even in a censure debate, it is playing it rather low for an honorable member to make use of a statement of that kind by an individual, as an excuse for charging the Labour party with inciting to murder.
– It was done in the Senate.
– It is a mean and contemptible act for any honorable member to be guilty of. Are we to be publicly branded as men who are prepared to go to the extreme of corrupting our Government Departments ? Are we to be assailed with the accusation that we are likely to incite persons to murder ? In connexion with certain statements made by some honorable members opposite, I would be equally justified in retorting that the party to which they belong are responsible for those statements. But I know that all the members of that party do not approve of them. They do not approve of revolutionary bloodshed. Yet some honorable members on the Opposition benches have the temerity to charge us with inciting persons to murder, although they know perfectly well that the statements upon which their accusation is based are not approved by this side of the Chamber.
– What about Senator Rae’s declaration?
- Senator Rae can look after himself. I am merely speaking on behalf of the Labour movement, and I say that the history of that movement proves that it is one of the cleanest that has ever been known to the politics of Ausralia. The honorable member for Kooyong ought to be the last man in the world to level the charge which he did against the Labour party. I have always endeavoured to do what was right - to act conscientiously - and I will not allow such an accusation to pass unchallenged.’ I say that any man who makes a charge of that description against others should be clean himself. He should first put his own house in order. He should not allow it to be stated inferentially that when he was in a position of authority he was guilty of certain things. What do we find in connexion with the honorable member? I hold in my hand the report of a Select Committee in regard to the transfer of a Mr. J. R. Jackson from the Post Office to the Lands Department of Victoria, during the period that the honorable member filled the office of Minister of Lands in this State. That report shows that the Secretary of Lands applied to the Public Service Board for the permanent transfer of this officer on the 22 nd February-
– Order ! Does the honorable member propose to connect his remarks with the motion which is before the chair ?
– I am going to connect my remarks -on this matter with the assertions which were made by the honorable member for Kooyong against the Labour party. I propose to show that, according to the evidence obtained by a Select Committee in Victoria, corruption was practised-
– Order ! The honorable member is now going beyond the scope of the motion, and I cannot allow him to do that.
– I quite admit, sir, that my remarks are outside the scope of the motion, and I have no desire to come into conflict with your ruling. I merely wish to say that if ever there was anything bordering on corruption in a public Department it was to be found in this particular case. A man named Jackson was employed in the Victorian Postal Department, whence he was transferred to the Lands Department whilst the honorable member for Kooyong occupied the position of Minister of Lands. Here he was promoted to a position over the heads of many officers who possessed considerably greater experience.
– Order ! The honorable member is now attempting to evade my ruling.
– I do not wish to do that, but I would recommend honorable members opposite to read the report in question and the answers given to certain questions which were put by members of the Select Committee. They will then see that the honorable member for Kooyong ought to be sure that he is clean himself before he presumes to asperse the character of others. I recognise that my honorable friends opposite are not in favour of granting a preference to unionists. They go so far as to say that the number of unionists in Australia is very small. The right honorable member for Swan declared that they did not exceed 25,000, and thereupon another honorable member interjected that according to Mr. Knibbs they numbered about 150,000. But if honorable members will take the trouble to read Mr.. Knibbs’ Year-Book they will see that he distinctly points out that it is impossible to ascertain the number of unionists in Australia for the simple reason that no returns are supplied.
– But he gives certain figures.
– In New South Wales, however, it so happens that under the Trades Unions Act the number of unionists must be supplied from time to time to the Registrar. According to the figures furnished for 1909, which are to be found in Part VI. of the Statistical Register, the unionists of that State alone number 127,402. I think it is fair to assume that Victoria boasts an equal number of unionists. Western Australia, I imagine, contains a still greater number of unionists in proportion to her population, while South Australia probably contains as manyunionists as New South Wales relatively to her population. A similar remark is applicable to Queensland. ‘ Consequently the unionists of Australia total a very large body indeed, and if their numbers were multiplied by five, so as to represent the number of persons who are dependent upon the wage-earners, it would account for a very large’ proportion of the population of Australia.
An Honorable Member. - About two and a half millions.
– I dare say it would be. If accurate information could be obtained it would doubtless be proved that the unionists of Australia are numerically much stronger than honorable members opposite suppose. But another organization has recently sprung into existence, known as the Free Workers Union. It has been created by the Employers Federation for the express purpose of breaking up industrial unionism. If the members of this new organization are going to compete with the unionists of the Commonwealth we shall have constant industrial difficulties.
– We have no such troubles now.
– This union of free workers has issued a journal in which its aims are thus set out -
No needless cessation of work; no loss of wages.
No burdensome strike levies to pay.
No anxiety or strain upon home life, or per,,sonal domestic financial obligations.
No personal humiliation after defeat.
No straining of personal friendship.
No extreme Socialistic agitators to pay and support:.
Those aims are quite in keeping with the desires of my honorable friends opposite. They represent exactly the doctrine which they preach. These free workers are docile men who are prepared to accept any conditions that may be imposed upon them. They have a man named Packer travelling from one end of Australia to the other for the purpose of organizing their union. Evidently somebody must be finding the money necessary for the purpose of organizing free workers to enter into competition with industrial unionism, and thus, if the members of unions resent this treatment, promoting conflict and suffering. Honorable members opposite uphold that sort of thing. I say that the time has arrived when we must put it “down. We shall not do our duty as a Legislature unless we provide for preference to unionists, without extending that privilege to men who are not genuine unionists.
– Are they not unionists ?
– They have simply been organized to assist the employing class against the best interests of the workers. Let me quote a little more -
Workmen engaged in any manufacture, trade, or industry may become members of this society, and be under the banner of “ New Unionism,” providing that they are “ Free Workers,” i.e., not connected with any union attached to the Trades Hall, or who, if at present members of the latter, are opposed to the present-day tactics of that body, and desire to shake off the shackles of bondage and resign their membership - are also eligible to join the society of Free Workers.
Let us get back to the conditions of the mediaeval ages ! Let us go back to the times when the worker could not call his soul his own, when his very life blood was ground out of him ! Honorable members opposite are prepared to assist this newlyformed association, which is running counter to the Acts passed by this Legislature. My honorable friends contend that preference for unionists is only for the advantage of members of trade unions. I shall show that the men forming the new union to which I have referred, and whom honorable members opposite will not disown, will get more preference than the members of any unions in Australia to-day. Listen to this -
The Society’s Labour Bureau secures to “ Free Workers “ employment in the best workshops and factories, free and willingly.
There is to be no trouble for these people as to obtaining employment.We have an instance of that in connexion with the Sunshine works. 1 am sorry that there should be trouble there now. But when you force genuine unionists to work alongside free labourers there is bound to be trouble. The same has occurred at Lithgow. The two classes of men cannot work amicably side by side.It must be remembered that trade unionism to-day is too strong to be overthrown. Men have become wise enough to realize, not onlythe importance ofindustrial organization, but of political combination, so as to return sufficient members to the Legislature to look after their interests. Of course, the object of the employing class is to break up unionism. Having realized the impossibility of breaking it up at the ballot-box, they have introduced this new system. The men who give their support to “ the new unionism” will be able to get employment at any time and in any place. They will secure preference over the old unionists by assisting the employers to break up unionism. But are the men who have stood the brunt of the fight, the men who have paid their contributions year by year to trade unions, the men who have done their utmost for the uplifting of their fellow workers, to have their standard of living lowered by the introduction of this element? I say, without fear of contradiction, that the trade-union movement has done a vast amount of good work in this country. The working classes would not be in so good a position asthey are to-day had it not been for united action. ‘But all the advantages that they have secured will be brought to nought if this new movement, which is running counter to the recognised trade-union move ment, is to prevail ; and if honorable members opposite are going to support these men, and to claim employment in the public service for them in preference to bona fide trade unionists, I have not the slightest doubt that they will find the people of Australia against them.
– Has the honorable member any proof that the employers are behind this new movement?
– The honorable member must be dull; I did not think he was so thickheaded.
– There can be no escape from this fact - that if my honorable friends are opposed to the granting of preference to unionists, “ other things being equal,” they are holding out assistance to those who are concerned in this new movement, which, if successful, will bring about disaster in the Commonwealth. For that reason, and that alone, there is sufficient justification for the action the Government have taken. No one can reasonably censure them’ for insisting on the principle of preference to unionists in connexion with casual employment under the Commonwealth. This principle does not affect the permanent employe’s at all. They are governed by the Public Service Act, which is administered by the Public Service Commissioner. On Sunday last, when I was reading a book in the public gardens,I overheard a conversation on the part of two men, who appeared to be permanent employe’s of the Commonwealth. These men spoke of the danger of being dismissed in consequence of this granting of preference to unionists. One of them said, “ Have you not read the leading article in the Age, which says that this applies to us?” I am very much inclined to think that the people of Australia, and especially of Victoria, are too ready to pay attention to articles which appear in the daily newspapers. After all, an article is merely the opinion of one individual, namely, the editor of the newspaper in which it appears. The party to which I belong never had any such thought, and honorable members opposite, if they would do us justice, are well aware of that. They know that the Public Service Commissioner has to deal with all the permanent em ployes of the Commonwealth, and that there is no proposal to interfere with them. Since the Labour Government came into office, there has not been a single charge laid at our door of an attempt to interfere unduly with the permanent employes of the Commonwealth.
– Honorable members cannot.
– That is an admission that what I say is correct. But people outside, influenced by what they read in the newspapers, are inclined to believe that the Government intend to apply this principle to the permanent employes. I say that we are going to do nothing of the kind.
– The Government would if they could.
– I can assure the honorable member that there is such a sense of fairness permeating the members of this party that they would always insist upon justice being done to all.
– Provided they were unionists.
– We could alter the Public Service Act to-morrow if we liked.
– I appeal to honorable members to cease these interjections. They are disconcerting to the speaker, and prevent him from pursuing his argument.
– The honorable member for North Sydney took up a very peculiar position last evening. He argued that the members of the party supporting the Government were sent to this House mainly by one particular class of workers, namely the Shearers Union and the rouseabouts. Unfortunately for me, I have no members of the union referred to in . my electorate. I wish I had. I would very much like to represent such a body of men as shearers and rouseabouts. But the honorable member went on to say that the Shearers Union does not number above 50,000 persons, and yet has been able to place the Labour party in their present position. I would ask him how 50,000 men could return a sufficient number of honorable members to govern this country? I think that he must admit, on calm reflection, that there is some other reason for the attainment of our position.
– The honorable member misunderstands me. I did not say that.
– I can assure the honorable member that he did make the statement. Indeed, he went further, and said that only about one-sixth of the electors are trade unionists, and that the remainder are outside the trade unions, and have always supported the Liberal party. If, as he says, we have one-sixth of the electors on our side, and his party have the remainder on their side, I do not understand why he and his associates are not controlling the affairs of the Commonwealth. It all goes to show that the Shearers Union is only a small factor in connexion with the political machine. Certainly, the Shearers Union embraces politics, and is affiliated with the Political Labour League, as are many other unions. There are some unions which are not so affiliated. My contention is that trade unionism must embrace politics. It cannot be content to go along in the old groove’, because the combinations against trade unions are to-day too strong. The combinations on each side have grown to such an extent that we must legislate to control them. We must try, as far as possible, to get some machinery to mete out evenhanded justice to all. That is what we on this side are trying to bring about; that is why we were returned here by the people of Australia, and not by any particular trade unions. If I had to depend upon the support of trade unionists only, I would not be here to-day. I do not suppose they represent more than 4,000 or 5,000 out of 15,000 votes polled.
– The unions have a very strong executive power, though.
– The Collieries Employes Federation always has able men at the head of its affairs. I contend that, in connexion with all trade unions, we find the cream of men in the position of executive officers. They had to show that they possess some ability in order to attain the offices. They are not paid agitators, as is often claimed here, but men who are honestly trying to do their best in the interests of the whole community. They are not desirous to have any upheavals, but are anxious to get legislation of a satisfactory kind, in order to prevent such things, and think that preference to unionists mustberecognised in connexion with any particular legislation, before it can gain their approval. The proposal of the Government is not mandatory at all. If I were sure that it was permitted by the Constitution, I would vote to-morrow to make preference to unionists mandatory ; and in doing so, I would consider that I was doing my duty not merely to my constituents, but to the whole of the people, inasmuch as I would be taking such action as was necessary to prevent industrial upheavals which would be detrimental to the best interests of Australia.
– But the honorable member knows that the Public Service Act goes as far as it is possible to go.
– That is what I have always argued.
– Why are you trying to get around the Act in this way ?
– We are not. The Commonwealth is the direct employer of this particular class of labour. It requires certain work to be done. Its administrative heads have to control the employment of men in that work, and consequently they are entitled to employ unionists if they think fit. That is a fair position to take up, and the Government would not be acting up to their principles, and the people would have a perfect right to send us about our business if we did not grant preference to unionists wherever it is possible, believing as we do that it is in the best interests of the people of Australia as a whole that that principle should be observed.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta) £3.20]. - The honorable member who has just resumed his seat reminds one of nothing so much as one of those matutinal champions which flap their wings morning by morning and tell us what a good day has dawned for mankind. He has claimed for his party all the virtues : they are honest, fair, and just, and will do nothing wrong to any man. That may be admitted. But thank goodness that to-day as far as Parliament is concerned, all parties are honest and upright and reasonably fair in their dealings, as regards the public institutions of the country.
– Then over goes the charge that this proposal will lead to corruption.
– I hope that my honorable friend will not be so hasty in his logic. Nothing that I have said so far justifies him in making a hasty inference of that kind. Rather is it necessary that we should guard our purity of administration, our standards of justice, and, our sense of fair play, and do nothing that would tempt us into paths which would lead us otherwise. The honorable member for Hunter never once touched the question under review. He spoke in an abstract way of the virtues of trade unions. He nought to fasten upon honorable members on this side statements which they have not made. He attributed to them motives which they have never conceived; and, altogether, he did himself little credit by his presentation of the case this afternoon.
For instance, he said, among other things, that we accused his side of a desire to discharge all non-unionists in the Public Service. Who has made that statement?
– The right honorable member for Swan stated last night that it would be only a short time before that course would be taken, and I said that it was too broad an inference to draw.
– Let it be understood that these are the honorable member’s inferences, and that we must judge them accordingly. He taunted us with professing to believe in trade unionism, but, at the same time, desiring to give preference to non-unionists in the Public Service. Who has made such a statement during this debate? Who has made any statement which could be the basis for an inference of that kind? The honorable member charged us, again, with being in favour of some new workers’ unions which have sprung into existence recently. I know nothing of these unions, nor do I know who does on this side. It is a statement which the honorable member ought not to have made, unless he had some justification for doing so. We cannot pretend, to serious argument, if this be the attitude of honorable members opposite. Let us get down to this motion, which is a protest against the decision of the Government to give preference to casual and temporary employes in the Public Service if they should happen: to belong to unions of any kind.
– :Not “of any kind.” -
– My honorable friend is quite right. Only if they happen to belong to the particular union which is associated with the work that is offering in the Public Service. That is a very severe limitation of the opportunities of trade unionists, as well as of free labourers, as I shall endeavour to point out.
This motion has already justified itself - our friends the Government are “ on the run “ already. “ Absolute preference “ has been taken out of the shop window for the present, I presume ; and the black list has been removed and stowed away somewhere; at any rate, it is no longer to be seen.
– Who said there is a black list?
– That is one of the “ inferences “ of the honorable member for Parramatta.
– I refer to the list of non-unionists for which the Minister of Home Affairs called.
– Which is the black list?
– I should imagine the Minister intended that to be a black list in view of the fact that he had just promulgated a ukase that “ absolute preference” was to be the rule in a Government Department.
– Not a bad idea, either !
Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- Then why are the Government running away from the idea?
– They are not running away from it !
– The Government are running away. They say that “ absolute “ does not mean absolute; in short, the Minister says that he does not mean what he savs.
– It is apparently a ukase on this side, and a bad case on the other !
Mr.JOSEPH COOK.- What the honorable member really means is that honorable members opposite have no case. I should like to know why the Minister who has caused all this trouble has never been permitted to open his mouth on the floor of the House. Are the Government afraid to let him loose?
– That is unfair, considering the state of health of the Minister of Home Affairs. The honorable member knows that the Minister is not at present capable of making a speech.
– What? The Minister of Home Affairs?
– Yes; as the honorable member knows, and as also the newspaper knows, which this morning referred to him as putting his hand to his mouth. Why did the Minister put his hand to his mouth? Because of the terrible affliction he has recently suffered.
– All I have to say in reply is that this is the first time I have been made aware there is anything at all the matter with the Minister of Home Affairs. If the honorable gentleman is not well, I can only say that he is displaying remarkable vigour for a sick man. Whatever may be the state of his health, no one would ever know he was suffering the slightest disability, having regard to the enterprise he is putting into the performance ofhis duties outside the House, and the remarkable virility and vigour of his language. If illness is the reason the honorable gentleman has made no speech on this occasion, this is the first time I have heard of it. I do think, however, it is most peculiar that the Minister of Home Affairs has never been allowed to justify his attitude in the matter. He could do this without speaking in the House, and he has done it to a certain extent - to the extent, for instance, of saying that “absolute preference” was not intended to be absolute, but that it related to future employment, and that no men are to be discharged, and, I presume, no list of non-unionists is to be tabulated. My honorable friends opposite, having got so far away from their original propaganda, now seek to cover up their tracks like the cuttlefish, which escapes under cover of an inky fluid of its own creation. This the Government do by referring to something that my friend, the Leader of the Opposition, and myself are supposed to have said seven years ago. The quotations made last night concerning the Leader of the Opposition and myself were very unfair. Stripped of their context, they conveyed a totally different impression from the one intended. Let it be understood, once for all, that neither the Leader of the Opposition, nor myself, has one word to say against trade unionism, or any advantages that unionists may win for themselves by reason of their industrial organizations as such. We part company with honorable members opposite when they seek to turn industrial organizations into associations for the purpose of carrying out a purely political propaganda.
The honorable member who quoted me last night as having made certain statements regarding a particular organization known as the Coalminers’ Union, forgot to tell the House, or deliberately abstained from telling it, that I was in the midst of an argument demonstrating that, in my judgment, preference ought not to be granted to any man unless he observed certain conditions, such as the abstention of his organization from politics, unless conditioned by a majority request of the union itself, and by other safeguards surrounding the funds of the organization. I have always in this House been against an unconditional grant of preference to unions in this country.
– The honorable member would have a means of summary jurisdiction?
– Perhaps I had better explain. My honorable friends opposite so twist and maul about a man’s words, that they need some explanation.
– We shall have to quote the honorable member’s words again - he will not believe his own words !
– I have no objection to my words being quoted again. I said then, as I say now, that a trade unionist is entitled to all the advantages he can legitimately win by reason of his union, so long as the union is conducted on legitimate lines, and so long as it honours the voluntary principle. When, however, unions require the safeguards of the State, the State has a right to inquire what the objects are; and if it be found that unions are being used for political propaganda, and wrested away from their original objects, the State has a right to make such stipulations as will safeguard those objects and put the unions in their proper place in the community. When unions ask for special advantages, the State has a right to enforce certain safeguards, so that the unions may keep to their industrial sphere, and may not use their funds for the purpose of carrying on political propaganda. That has always been my attitude in this House, and that is the attitude of the Leader of the Opposition, and, I believe, of every honorable member on this side of the Chamber. We are not against trade organizations, and we are specially favouring some free-workers’ organization, which is said to have sprung into existence. All the statements made in this connexion have not one tittle of truth in them, and they are intended to mislead and deceive the people outside.
– The honorable member’s colleagues do not say that !
– I simply say that we are not here to advocate the claims of any union or non-union organization in connexion with the subject matter of this debate.
– The honorable member was in favour of preference to unionists in 1900.
– I think the honorable member is absolutely wrong as applying to Government employment.
– I will produce a report to prove it.
– The honorable member may produce any report he pleases. I wish to make just one reference to the kind of organization to which my remarks relate. The coal-miners union of New South Wales to-day - and I ask the coalminers’ representatives, if there are any here, to correct me if I am wrong - makes no condition whatever in regard to obtaining employment.
– The coal-miners at Lithgow have a provision for preference to unionists in their own award.
– I know they have, but that does not touch my point. Those within the organization - those who are in work already - have been granted preference to unionists by the Court, but coal-miners are never asked, before they are set to work, whether or not they are unionists.
– They are always asked by the check weighman.
– Before they start work?
– On the first morning they go to the pit’s mouth they are asked by the check weighman whether they belong to a union. The check weighman who does not put that question to them does not do his duty.
– The question is not whether the check weighman puts such a question to them, but whether the manager does. I say that the manager makes no stipulation as to their being in a union before he sets the men to work.
– The honorable member was talking about what the unions themselves did.
– I am speaking of what takes place in New South Wales to-day, and I repeat that no coal-miner in that State is ever asked, prior to his receiving employment, whether or not he is in a union. It is quite true that after a man has been given employment he may have questions put to him by the check weighman, but his being a unionist is not made a condition of his obtaining employment. As a matter of fact, what happens is that a coal-miner, having obtained employment, is asked at the end of the first fortnight - when he receives his fortnight’s pay - to pay a fortnight’s contribution to the union. I do not know whether an entrance fee is now charged, but there used to be no fee. The doors of the union are wide open. Any one may join, and any one may obtain employment without first joining it.
– What would happen to a man who refused to pay a fortnight’s contribution to his union?
– So far as I recollect nothing has ever happened, because I have never known a man to refuse at the end of the first fortnight to join the union. If he did not pay the contribution I expect that, as I have already said, he would be summarily dealt with. In other words, the union representatives would call the attention of the boss to the fact that he would not join a union. That has been the rule, I believe, in all coal-mining associations in the Old Country for the last 200 years, and there has never been any trouble on that score. The miners there have won these advantages for themselves by their own voluntary organization. They have never come to Parliament to ask that this kind of thing should be done for them. If a union can, by voluntary effort, while acting within the law, win for itself these advantages, more power to it; but that is altogether different from the proposition that unionists should ask Parliament to direct that a man, before being given employment, shall produce a union ticket.
– They have come to Parliament. They sent the honorable member to Parliament to try to alter some of the other conditions.
– I am glad to say that I did alter some of them. Amongst other things, I helped to frame the first law that gave the coal-miners the right to be paid according to the quantity of the mineral they got out.
– But the honorable member said that the coal-miners never went to Parliament.
– I do not know that I made any such statement. I simply said that they had never gone to Parliament to ask for preference to unionists. The honorable member may not be able to understand my plain language, but that is not my fault. I can only give him the facts ; I cannot supply him with the capacity to grasp them.
– Do not the coal-miners of England pay their own representatives in the House of Commons?
– So far as I know, the coal-miners of England, and especially the sturdy North of England miners, will have nothing to do with enactments of the kind under discussion. They have always been opposed to the Eight Hours Bill.
– They work six hours a day.
– And they won the six hours a day principle by their own voluntary organization.
– They pay their own members of Parliament.
– Of course they do. The statements being made by my honorable friends opposite only emphasize the point I am trying to make. They serve to show the distinction between voluntary organization, working legitimately-
– Where women and children are employed in the mines.
– Here is another misstatement of the facts. That does not apply to the North of England.
– The honorable member talked of what the coal-miners had done during the last 200 years.
– I ask the honorable member for Bass, as well as others, to cease interjecting. I have already had to prefer such a request this afternoon, and I hope that honorable members will try to restrain themselves.
– The honorable member for Bass, and a few more of his party, have not done much for trade unionism. The loudest mouthed among them have done nothing for the cause; but they talk as if they had been life-long martyrs for trade union principles. Those who have most to say, it would seem, have done the least for the genuine trade unionism of Australia.
– I was in the first miners’ union formed in Tasmania, and was working in a gold-mine when I was only eleven and a-half years of age..
– Then I can only say that the honorable member has done very well. The point I am endeavouring to make is that I have never been associated with a union which has aimed at securing, as a condition of employment, the production of a union ticket, or any proof that the applicant for employment belongs to a union.
The Prime Minister told us yesterday that in connexion with their proposal to give preference to unionists they would take no notice whatever of a man’s political opinions. Such a matter, he said, did not concern them as a Government. I have no doubt that the right honorable member made that statement bond fide. The point is that he need not trouble about a man’s opinions at all ; others will do that for him. I shall show before I sit down that unionism! as worked to-day must necessarily pay attentionto the political opinions of the unionists.
– Does the honorable member question the secrecy of the ballot?
– Then how can a man be forced to vote for any candidate?
– That is not what I am talking about. The Prime Minister declared that no man would be asked’ whether he was a unionist or non-unionist, but let me read what was stated the other night in the Victorian ‘Legislative Assembly by the Leader of the Labour party there. Discussing the question of preference, he said -
If trade unionists did not mind politics, they might as well close up their trade unions. They must insist on every one having a vote.
What for? To mind trade unionism; to mind politics !
A penalty ought to be inflicted on every member who did not have a vote.
And who did not, with that vote, “ mind “ the politics of the trade unions.
– That is what the honorable member says.
– I submit that nothing else can be read into Mr. Prendergast’s statement. While the Prime Minister declares that men will not be examined concerning their political opinions, it is certain that Mr. Prendergast will know, when he grants any unionist a preference, that the preference will be used in a way which will suit the party in power. If it means anything, the step which has been taken means that certain men will get a preference from this Government, and must give it a preference in return. If they do not, they ought to be heavily fined. That is the unmistakable meaning of Mr. Prendergast’s statement. A man must vote for the Labour party, or be penalized.
– Is not that a straining of the language used?
– What else can it mean?
– The honorable member objected to the drawing of inferences.
– Only to the drawing of wrong inferences. My inference is inescapable. Although the Prime Minister declares that he will not inquire into a man’s political opinion before giving him employment, Mr. Prendergast says that no man should be eligible for employment in the Public Service unless he gets a vote, and uses it. If he does not get a vote, and use it in a particular way, a penalty should be inflicted on him. This leads me to the inquiry - to what kind of unionists is preference to be granted?
– The honorable member’s certificate of purity given to this Government does not amount to much. What he now suggests means corruption if it means anything.
– It is proposed to look after the supporters of the Government, and they will be expected to look after those who assist them. I admit that the tendency is to political corruption, the adoption of “the spoils to the victors” principle.
How are some of the unions conducted? We know that the Hatters Union exacts an entrance fee of £20 in Victoria, of £21 in South Australia, and of, I think, £40 in New South Wales. In Adelaide, a man was permitted to pay the entrance fee by instalments. If the imposition of such conditions is not to be condemned in a free country, what is?
– The union provides old-age pensions for its members.
– It is cruelty to require a man who does not possess twenty? one pence to pay£21 before permitting him to accept work. The tendency of many unions has been to shut their door’s against those seeking employment. The maritime unions used to charge entrance fees of£5 and£6 until the Court levered their barriers down.
– The Prime Minister says tliat preference will not be given in such cases.
– He cannot prevent it. This is a matter in which the Court has jurisdiction, and it is bound only to inquire how the public interest is affected, whatever that may mean. Formerly the Court was directed not to grant preference to unions whose rules were unfair, but that safeguard was struck out fast session.
– The Prime Minister says that preference will not be given to unions which prevent men from joining them.
– How is that to be enforced?
– Unionism today is almost purely political. Since the Courts have taken over the organization of industry, the registration of unions, and the determining of conditions, union officials have been free to devote themselves to politics, and a political propaganda is proceeding throughout Australia.
– Why not, since in the past politicians neglected this section of die community?
– I am glad to have that acknowledgment. .Ministers are like oysters, but the rank and file always blurt out the truth.
– When the honorable member was on this side, he had the whole House gagged.
– The party to which my honorable friend belongs has pretty effectually gagged the whole of one House of another Parliament. The Prime Minister says that in the giving of preference there is to be an open door for a man to join a union.
– Let me tell the honorable member that the Australian Labour Federation has reduced the fees more than any other organization in any part of the world.
– The Prime Minister has his eye on the trade unions of Australia - the men who are members of organizations, and are actually paying into their funds - but I hope the honorable member, as the head of the Government, will look at the whole of the workers of Australia. It is his duty to do so. There are men to-day in employment where there are no unions, and never have been any.
– There will be, though.
– Then, I presume, this is the lever to force them into unions ?
– This sounds nice from the honorable member.
– I wish my Honorable friend would not repeat that, but would listen to what I have to say.
– I feel sorry for the honorable member:
– I do not need the honorable member’s sympathy or sorrow .
– The honorable member is too hardened.
– I hope I shall never have so much gush and bluster about the working man as the honorable member has. I do not know that all his gush means anything. It is really only wind, which will not fill any man’s stomach or put sixpence in his pocket. I wish to point out the condition of things which has to be met, and all my honorable friend’s gibes will not alter the facts. I hope even the honorable member for Maranoa does not object to men living and working where there does not happen to be any union.
– God forbid that I should !
– That is the case I am putting. The honorable member for Corangamite said last night that there were not 300 trade unionists in the whole of his electorate.
– I did not mention any number.
– Then some one mentioned it for the honorable member. The honorable member at any rate told us that he was not returned by a trade union vote. Clearly, therefore, there are a large number of workers in the honorable member’s electorate to whom no union applies, and who are, consequently, outside the pale of unionism. Take my own district, for instance. The orchardists have no union.
– They ought to have.
– That is quite another matter. There are thousands of them, and there is no union in their case. If any of those men go to the Prime Minister and ask for work as temporary employes in the Government service, he will coolly tell them, as he must under this edict, that they have no claim for consideration until every unionist in Australia who cares to apply is satisfied. How is he going to meet a case like that?
– Let them join a union.
– What union?
– Any union.
– Is that the answer? Let us get down to bedrock in this matter. Here is another case. Only a month ago an old friend of mine came to see me - a lifelong staunch trade unionist from Lithgow, and a man who believes in Cook. He has not lost faith in his old member. He has been engaged for many years past at other occupations than coal mining. He has not been in the union for some years, and has looked after himself a little. He wants now to try to get a job under the Government. I had to ask him, “Are you a unionist?” He said, “ No, not now, but I was a unionist all my life when I was where there was a union.” I said, “Then you cannot get employment under the new regime. The present Government will not employ you until you have joined a union
– The honorable member knew that that was not correct.
– I did not.
– “ All things being equal.”
– Of course, but this man is the equal of an ordinary good workman, and I say that he cannot get a. job under the Government.
– We will prove this tomorrow morning. I will take the honorable member down, and both of us will get on, the honorable member being a nonunionist and I being a unionist.
– It is a long time since I did any hard work of the kind the honorable member mentions, and we had better leave that very interesting experiment for some future time. The honorable member and I are doing very well here, and had better let well alone. I am not anxious to try conclusions with the honorable member in that regard, but I am pointing out that preference,’ as proposed to.be carried out, does mean exclusion. The honorable member for Corangamite denied that the other day to his constituents. It has been denied by the Prime Minister. It has been denied by nearly every speaker opposite, but here are the facts. A man who is not fortunate enough to belong to a trade union cannot get a job under the Government when there is a tradeunionist offering for it. He must stand outside and pay the taxes so that another man may get a job from which he is debarred, not because he is a non-unionist in principle, but because he happens to be in a district where there is no union for him to join.
– When there is no union, there is no preference.
– The honorable member evidently has not considered this matter. If a man wants employment under the Government, as a carter or driver, he must produce evidence that he is a member of the carters and drivers’ organization before he can get a job.
– No, he has first to produce his qualifications as a driver.
– I am assuming all through this argument, that other things are equal. You cannot begin to test the principle until that is assumed. Therefore, before a man can get a job as a carter or driver under the Government, he must first produce a certificate that he is a member of the Carters and Drivers Union. Similarly, if he wants a job under the Government as a labourer, he must produce a certificate that he is a member of the
Labourers’ Union. So long as there are members of unions offering for this work, every one else is shut out, although it may not be a man’s fault that he is not a unionist, and though he may have been a unionist long ago. So I say that this proposal of the Government penalizes some of the straightest and best unionists, so far as the principle of unionism is concerned, that ever existed on this planet. It does not mean only the ruling out of non-unionists who do not believe in unionism, but individuals who are unfortunate enough to reside in a place where there does not happen to be a union which they can join. It means something further. It means, I take it, so far as its interpretation by the Government is concerned, that a man may not transfer from one union to another, in order to secure employment. If a man is a member of one organization he may not apply for a billet under the Government in a Department which is controlled, as to its labour, by anotherorganization. He must confine his application to positions strictly within his own particular sphere as a unionist, so far as Government work is concerned.
– That has never been stated. It is purely inference.
– It is involved in this grant of preference. Does the honorable member say that if one man is a member of a carters’ union, and is applying for a labourer’s job, for which a member of a labourers’ union is also an applicant, the former will have as good a chance of getting the job as the latter?
– I should like to hear the Government corroborate that statement.
– It is not proposed to give a preference to one unionist over another.
-I guarantee that there will be wigs on the green at the Trades Hall if anything of the kind occurs.
– The tendency at the present time is tomake union tickets interchangeable.
– Where has that occurred?
– It has occurred in the case of a number df unions. In the case of the Australian Workers’ Union and Railway Workers’ Union.
– The honorable member mentions two unions covering the same class of work.
– No; one is a shearers’ union and the other a railway workers’ union.
– They are both general workers’ unions. Is a ticket interchangeable, for instance, between a carpenters’ union and a labourers’ union?
– There would be no clashing in that case, because a labourer could not do carpenter’s work.
– If a carpenter applied to-morrow for a labourer’s job, I say that an applicant who held a labourers’ union ticket would get preference under the Government scheme.
– Because other things would not be equal in that case.
– Who is to prove it ?
– The point in this case is, that the man who is to prove it is a man who may not be entirely disinterested. Here is a very radical departure from the proposal, as laid down in the Act, which leaves this matter to the determination of a Judge, whose bona fides and impartiality are guaranteed to us by the system under which we live.
– Who is the honorable gentleman making a charge against now ?
– I am making no charge unless it be that I am charging the honorable member for Gwydir with being a believer in his union and the Labour propaganda.
– The honorable gentleman says that this will be in the hands of men who are prejudiced.
– I say that this matter will be in the hands of men who may not be quite impartial.
– That is the same thing in other words.
– I say further that if we trusted the matter of granting preference to the honorable member for Gwydir, I can tell him quite candidly that I know the direction in which his choice would lie. If a point were to be strained, the honorable member would naturally strain it-
– For the best man offering.
– Of course, and the honorable member’s idea of the best man would be the man who supported him every time.
The Constitution under which we live forbids preference of any kind. Throughout its web and woof preference or discrimination of any kind is absolutely and strictly forbidden. We are told that the Commonwealth must not discriminate as between State and State in respect of trade. There is to be no preference of any kind so far as trade, transportation, and religion are concerned. There is to be no preference as between individual States, or so far as their relations to each other are concerned. And, further, there is to be no preference of any kind within a State between individuals of a State. All these things are laid down clearly in the Constitution. Time after time the words “preference” and “discrimination” occur, only to be ruled out as being outside the pale and purpose of the Constitution”. I therefore say that this Government, representing the whole people, ought not to indulge their fancy in these respects, and grant preference to individuals. They ought not to do within the Public Service what is expressly ruled out by the Constitution as applied to what may be done outside the service. Equality before the law is a fundamental principle, not only of our Constitution, but of our general political life. For the first time this fundamental principle is being ruled out by this Government. Whilst all are to be equal before the law, all are not to be considered equal before the makers of the law.
– Not for the first time. The honorable member supported preference for unionists in 1904.
– I supported a Government who decided to give preference under certain very strict safeguards. I remember how heartily I was denounced by my honorable friends opposite for insisting on those safeguards. Is it not a little too thin, therefore, to contend at this time of day that I supported them on a former occasion? That is what the honorable member for Werriwa seeks to convey in that unvarnished and unqualified tale of his. He knows very well that, in common with many others, he denounced me heartily because I insisted that preference should be given only under certain conditions.
– I was not here, but I should have done so if I had been here.
– I speak of the honorable member now as typical of his party. He is a good party man, and his party denounced me. Because a concession was made to them in respect of that little union at Lithgow, they now detach the matter from its context, and seek to make it appear that I then advocated something which I am not advocating to-day.
I have said that every man should be equal before the law for the reason that every man pays taxes, and is obliged to defend his country. These obligations are laid upon every man irrespective of social or political organizations. They are laid upon all alike in respect of their manhood, and unqualified in any way. Every man is charged alike for services rendered by the Government. Letters and telegrams are delivered to men whether they are unionists or non-unionists. Every man may use the telephone under the same conditions, whether he be a unionist or a non-unionist. There is no preference to unionists in carrying out these services and charges. We can make no distinction, no discrimination, no qualification of any kind as between individuals, so far as the general functions of government are concerned. While we deal out fair play to every man with respect of those vital things which affect his standing in the community, it is now proposed to depart from that rule, and to treat unionists differently from other persons. Moreover, this departure seems to me to be doing despite to the spirit of that law which was passed only last session.
Honorable members will recollect that the Government brought forward a Bill whichprovided for the granting of an unqualified preference to unionists, and that they were obliged to remodel it because they found that their proposal was unconstitutional. We all remember how, ultimately, they decided to leave the granting of a preference to unionists to the discretion of the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court. Now they are going behind the decision of Parliament, and are attempting to do something which departs considerably from the spirit of its action.
Then the Public Service Act prohibits the granting of a preference of any kind. It lays down the hard and fast rule that there shall be one standard for entrance into our Public Service - the standard of efficiency and good conduct. And if the Government are going to grant a preference to unionists in the case of casual employes, why not extend the principle to the permanent officers of the service? Why should they be debarred from participating in this preference - men who have established themselves in the good opinion of the Public Service Commissioner, of this House, and the country - men who have shown that they are equal to the faithful discharge of their duties? If we are going to be logical, why not carry the matter still further, by providing that promotion within the service shall be preferential? If preference to unionists is a good thing, why should it not be made a condition of promotion within the service, as well as of the securing of casual employment? Why is this preference desired ?
Here are some of the statements made by honorable members opposite in this connexion : At a meeting the other night, the Minister of Trade and Customs referred to the Lawyers Union, and affirmed that lawyers had to pay £50, and subject themselves to other forms of discipline and organization, before they were permitted to practise at the Bar. Of course, there is no analogy between the two cases, inasmuch as the lawyers themselves do not make these stipulations. The law of the country gives the Chief Justice the right to impose these conditions, purely in the interests of clients. A standard of em.ciency is required-
– The standard is no proof of efficiency.
– In my ignorance I always thought it was.
– Some lawyers who have reached the standard are not making bread and butter.
– Unfortunately that is so. But as we cannot make a rule to fit every case, we have to do the next best thing. By requiring lawyers to reach a certain standard of knowledge, and to be possessed of experience and ability, clients are guaranteed that the advocates whom they employ will be qualified for the work which they are called upon to perform. But what has that to do with the granting of preference to unionists in the case of casual employes? The Minister of Trade and Customs also stated that the doctors had a union, and that the members of that union would not work with non-union men, and insisted upon union rates of pay. I believe that is the case. In many parts of Australia the British Medical Association has recently laid down a scale of fees to be charged by doctors to friendly societies. The doctors affirm that those union rates are reasonable. The Minister of Trade and Customs state’d the other night that he approved of the doctors having their unions. I should like to know whether he thinks the scale of fees which the doctors seek to charge is a reasonable one?
– I was not dealing with” that question at all.
– I think that the Minister was dealing with it, and it is my duty to tell him that a very large number of unionists in Australia are in revolt against the union fees which the doctors have seen fit to impose. Strikes are actually occurring amongst the doctors throughout the country in consequence of the’Ir endeavour to enforce these fees.
– I did not deal with doctors.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the unionists or the non-unionists ?
– I should like to ask my honorable friends opposite where they stand. If my memory serves me aright, there is a strike of doctors at present in the city of Goulburn. Does the honorable member for Werriwa support the doctors in their demand for union rates and for the granting of a preference? Is he with the doctors in defence of their unionism, or is he with the men who decidedly object to the union rates which the British Medical Association has laid down ? Really, my honorable friends ought to leave these parallels alone, because they have nothing whatever to do with the particular case which we are considering.
At the same meeting the honorable member for Batman said - -
The Government was only applying to its own employes what the law insisted should be applied to others.
I have never known of a more direct misstatement of the facts than that. Does the law insist upon the application of a preference to unionists? The honorable member ought to know better. If he does not, the lookout for him, as a lawyer and a legislator, is a poor one indeed. The law insists upon no such thing. It simply declares that the President of the Arbitration Court may grant a preference at his discretion. Thus, my honorable friends will not tell the people outside the facts of the situation. They continually slur them over, and tell their hearers fairy tales which are miles distant from the facts.
Then the honorable member for Corangamite declared last night that preference to unionists was required to prevent that class from the possibility of victimization when an award had been given. How can that apply to the proposal of the Government? Is it suggested that if preference to unionists be not granted the Government Departments will victimize a man ? Have we come to that under labour rule in the Commonwealth? Do unionists desire protection from the victimization of these Departments ? It would appear so from the statement of the honorable member. I repeat, are we to infer that unless a preference be granted to unionists men in the Public Service will be victimized under the Labour regime. The honorable member went a little further and said that preference to unionists really meant protection for unionists, and did not mean that non-unionists should be dismissed or refused employment. I think I have shown cases in which that must be so - in which non-unionists must be refused employment whenever there is a unionist to take it. And remember, always, that non-unionists may very often be so by reason of their circumstances and surroundings, and should not be condemned simply because they do not belong to unions. No one has insisted upon that distinction more than the honorable member for Darling, who is now on the high seas.
– Did he not say that a non-unionist was not entitled to Christian burial ?
– He was then referring to what he called a “ scab,” who would take another man’s place; but he made a distinction between such a person and a non-unionist who had not had facilities for joining the union.
– We all do; it is an insult to a mere non-unionist to assert that he is anything like a “ scab.”
– I am pointing out that the non-unionist will be denied employment under this Government preference scheme as long as there is a man actually in a union who can take the job.
– That is merely what the honorable member thinks.
– The same provision was in the Act of 1904.
– 1 believe that a strong argument of my honorable friends opposite has been that preference was applied under the 1904 Act under such conditions as to make the granting of it practically useless. I have heard that argument used from the front bench - it has been described as “ preference under impossible conditions.” Why, then, does my honorable friend suggest that what is now being done is the same as has been granted since 1994? Then we have been told that preference is required so as to protect unionists who have worked for and paid into their unions. By parity of reasoning, that is an argument against the Government grant of preference at all, because all men pay into the Government union. All men in this country are in the great general Government union. All men, if they are good citizens, work for the Government in connexion with the various social institutions of the country. If preference is to be granted to unionists because they work for unions, and pay into them, by parity of reasoning the Government should not grant preference to individuals in their service, because all have to pay, and because all good citizens work for the maintenance of the union. The very argument offered by honorable members as a reason for granting preference outside is a reason why it should not be granted by the Government themselves.
Then what has become of the “equality of opportunity “ which has been the watchword of reformers for ages past, and especially of my honorable friends opposite? They have demanded equality of opportunity for all men. Here is a direct blow at that principle. The breaking down of caste and privilege, a work of almost superhuman dimensions, has been steadily sought to be accomplished throughout the length and breadth of this country, and, indeed, in every other country. Trade unions, I believe, have done immense service in times gone by in the direction of breaking down such privileges, and confirming the principle of equality of opportunity. But now, having broken down almost the last vestige of privilege, having made every one equal at the ballotbox, having made every one free as far as the expression of his opinion goes, having respected every man’s mode of worship, ‘ having abolished every semblance of favour in connexion with the laws and the Public Service of the country - now, forsooth, my honorable friends are seeking to set up another kind of privilege under the aegis of the Government. They are seeking to impose new barriers against the free expression of opinion. They are declaring at this time of day - in this twentieth century - that Government preference shall be given to men who work in their political unions, who contribute funds to support a particular political party, and that no others need apply so long as vacancies can be filled by unionists.
– Are we doing any worse than the honorable member advocated doing when he was secretary to a union at Lithgow ?
– The honorable member knows nothing about it.
– Only what the honorable member has admitted.
– I am now referring to the honorable member for Nepean, who made a certain observation. He was not at Lithgow at the time. He has not been there many years. He knows nothing about the old days up there.
– Do I not ?
– No; the honorable member does not.
– He has done very well.
– He has done very well indeed. He is the luckiest man in this House. Yet he is one of those who would sit here and try to make men believe that he has been a martyr for trade unionism.
– He does not try to make any one believe anything of the kind.
– The honorable member knows nothing about the old days in Lithgow.
– Does the honorable member deny that the miners first put him into Parliament?
– I can tell the honorable member this : When I was first returned to Parliament there were, I think, about 300 miners in Lithgow, including a few who were then at the iron-works. All the unionists in Lithgow would not have numbered 400, and I polled 1,100 votes. I may add that I did my best to keep out of politics. I was literally pushed into Parliament. I did not want to enter politics at all.
– The honorable member is doing his best to keep in now.
– The honorable member had better believe that I am. But if ever there was a man who tried to keep out of politics it is the humble individual who is now addressing this House. However, I have nothing to complain of in that respect.
– Except for Mr. Smaile the honorable member would not have been in politics.
– The PostmasterGeneral is quite right. If a certain reverend gentleman had not been taken ill and gone to bed I should not have entered politics at that time. All that I want honorable members to understand is that I did my best to keep out of politics. I always tried to the utmost - and I was always successful in my efforts, too - to keep out of the union every tinge of politics and the influences which were sought to be insinuated into the union from the political organizations in Sydney. I believe that there was no political labour league at Lithgow until a few years ago, so that when honorable members taunt me with having belonged to a Political Labour League, and all that kind of thing, they do not know the circumstances of the case. However, let us get away from that matter. My point is that’ we have broken down all those vestiges of preference and privilege which have marked the evolution of our history, and that honorable members opposite are beginning to set up another kind of privilege. They are departing from the old-time system of voluntary trade unionism. The new unionism has come, and, being purely political in its objective, it is seeking to part from the old-time voluntary collective bargaining ‘ methods by which all the real good which they have to-day was achieved. My honorable friends are embarking on a course which, I believe, will yet prove their undoing, and lead to disaster in this country. At any rate, I, for one, will not consent willingly to the erection on the old solid basis of trade unionism - which has stood so well to the workers in times gone by - of a system of tyranny and class privilege which, I believe, will be a bane to the workers themselves, and lead, if carried to its logical effect, to the undoing of this great country.
– I have always listened with pleasure to the honorable member for Parramatta; but I must say that this afternoon he has gone further out of his way than usual to misrepresent the case. Of course, in argument, misrepresentation may be a strong weapon, and it may be almost a waste of time for me to refer to any points in the honorable member’s speech. It might be better, perhaps, for me to commend the speech to the workers of Australia, especially to those who were responsible for sending him to Parliament. I am not one of those who join in the interjections which are usually fired at the hon orable member in regard to having been elected as a Labour member, and that sort of thing. I think that the trade unionists who elected him are quite sufficiently punished for their actions when they see where hp stands to-day. But in his speech there are one or two things which I must rebut from our side of the question. He would lead the public to believe that no man can enter a trade union without the payment of a huge sum. No honorable member knows better than he does that that is not true. The men who have always fought for preference to unionists have inscribed on their banner the principle that no unreasonable bar shall ever be put in the way of a man wishing to join a union. In New Zealand, where preference to unionists was first carried into practice in the Australasian Colonies, Mr. Seddon, when he was asked by the unionists to make preference compulsory, laid it down that the imposition of high fees to join trade unions must be swept away, and a rule was agreed to, and embodied in the law, that any man could, on the presentation of 5s., and other things being equal, join his union. I shall never support any other system. I think it would break down the whole system of trade unionism in this country if we were to allow any union to put up a big barrier against outsiders becoming unionists. I admired the honorable member for Parramatta when he was so frank as to state that he would allow trade unionists to organize, but would refuse them political liberty. That is honest, anyhow, and trade unionists now know where they stand in regard to the ‘Opposition.
– I said no such thing, of course.
– The honorable member said that he would allow unions to form and organize, but would not allow them to have any politics. He would refuse them liberty in politics, and yet on top of that he prated about the great liberty which has been gained by unionists. I would also remind the honorable member for Parramatta that our public servants have not forgotten that they did not have full civil rights as citizens of Australia until a Labour Government granted them to them. Not only is this Government the friend of unionists in fighting for political liberty, but it has conferred full civil rights on the public servants. Previously “they were pilloried every time they dared to take the least prominence in political warfare by those honorable gentlemen who to-day are fighting preference to unionists. Of course, honorable members may go back, and quote their attitude on such-and-such a date, and show that they did agree to preference at a certain time. But we are so used to honorable members on that side - to the Leader of the Opposition in particular - painting the glorious ideal there might be, and practising something totally different, that I take very little notice indeed of what they did in 1904, or any other year. Another beautiful misrepresentation by the honorable member for Parramatta was his statement that if a nonunionist went to the Prime Minister he would get no chance of being employed until every trade unionist in Australia was satisfied, or had employment. He would imply by his remark that if there were some unionists at Cape York, no nonunionist would get employment in Melbourne until they were brought down all that way.
– Oh, no !
– The honorable member is aware of the extent of Australia. He knows how far men are distributed apart, and also the intention of the Government, as stated by the Prime Minister, as well as their practice. He knows as well as we all do that where there are no unionists to take the jobs non-unionists get them. Where men are required by a Department, and there is no union in the particular industry affected, non-unionists will be employed because there are no unionists. I only want the honorable member to be fair, and not to misrepresent the position. I have always maintained that we are delighted and willing, through the press, from the platform, and in this House, to fight a fair, square, honest battle on our principles, but we do not desire misrepresentation. I give credit to any honorable member on the other side who will oppose trade unionism- or preference to unionists, compulsory or otherwise, if he does so honestly, without misrepresenting the facts. I see that the daily newspapers have drastically misrepresented the Minister’s proposal. In fact, when I glanced at a newspaper and saw what he was alleged to have done, I came here prepared to repudiate him. I would not support any Minister, even though he were a Labour Minister, who would do such deliberate acts of injustice as were alleged in the daily press. It seems to me that the Op position is so short of real matter to bring up that they must follow the ridiculous fight which they put up a week or so ago when they erected a scarecrow about disloyalty merely in order that they might knock it down. So empty are they of genuine argument that their whole battlecry is one of misrepresentation. The honorable member went on to say that we had gained for the Australian workmen “equal freedom before the law.” That sounds all right; and the honorable member is, in that regard, a worthy lieutenant of the Leader of the Opposition. The fact is, however, that there is no position in life where men are more unequal than before the law. Equality before the law means equality of cash ; the man with a big purse gets well ahead every time. 1 can well understand those who belong to the wealthy classes objecting to arbitration and preference to unionists, or to workmen consolidating so as to obtain the benefits of the law on more reasonable terms than hitherto. It is only by combination of this kind that workmen can hope for at least some equality in the future. However, I shall not waste further time on the remarks of the honorable member, but turn my attention to the Leader of the Opposition. I had not intended to speak on this subject of preference, but proposed to leave it to honorable members who are more directly interested in trade unionism than I am. My constituency is one of very mixed interests, containing a large number of raw producers on the land. Those men I have always urged to form unions, so that they may conserve their own interests, as do other wageearners in the community. I hope that every department of industry will be organized. Why should the man who works independently, and sells his produce in the market, not combine with others of similar occupation? Why should these men not fight for their own interests against those by whom they are robbed? If these producers would only take a leaf out of the book of the shearer, the carpenter, and the miner, they would get much more for their productions. Last week I paid a visit to a large farming centre, where I was met with the statement that a member of the party on this side of the House had said that trade unionists should be prepared to shed blood if necessary. The Leader of the Opposition insinuated, in the course of his speech, that the Labour party indorsed that sentiment; but I desire to give it the strongest repudiation.
Those who oppose preference to unionists are really preparing bloody revolution, instead of arbitration and peace, as a means of solving industrial difficulties. We see the spirit that is moving men in London and Liverpool, and also on the Continent. What is that spirit? It is the spirit of revolution - the weapon of the strike. What these men desire is not arbitration, or any peaceable arrangement, but rather a repetition of the French Revolution, in order to cut away the fetters that now prevent their obtaining justice. And our friends opposite are helping that movement when they oppose preference to unionists. What is the good of saying that there is freedom and fair competition amongst workmen? God help the unfortunate “ free worker” when he has a wife and family at home wanting bread ! He is at the mercy of the employer, and always will be, until he joins his fellows in a union that will not only fight his battle, but, if necessary, provide him with food. But this union is just what honorable members opposite, whether knowingly or otherwise, are opposing - they are, as it were? crucifying the weak. Much has been made of the return for which the Minister of Home Affairs asked as to the public servants who belong, and those who do not belong, to trade unions. I should like to see another return, showing by what preference members in the Public Service have gained their positions, especially those who have not passed through the ordinary channels of examination and promotion by merit. If there is to be such a noise about the return requested by the Minister, let us have a return showing the preference given in the Public Service since Federation began.
– Would the honorable member support a motion for such a return?
– I should be only too pleased to do so. I believe in purity of administration, and no Government, Labour or otherwise, shall have my support unless its administration is pure. Last night the, right honorable member for Swan quoted the following words of President Roosevelt - 1 believe in corporations; I believe in trades unions. Both have come to stay, and are necessities in our present industrial system. But where, in either the one or the other, there develops corruption, or mere brutal indifference to the rights of others, and shortsighted refusal to look beyond the moment’s gain, then the offender, whether union or corporation, must be fought; and if the public sentiment is calloused to the iniquity of either, by just so much the whole public is damaged.
That is quite right, but the honorable member is unfortunate in the quotation, seeing that, in America, the brutal combination of wealth has actually created conditions which, I am afraid, can only end in revolution. The right honorable member is only too willing to quote Roosevelt in regard to the combination of working men, but he omits any quotation in regard to the combination of wealth. In the United States the private employer, as a person, has been practically abolished. In no country in the world is the worker further separated from his real employer. So greatly have the trusts organized industry, that the people are asking why they should not form one unified trust, consisting of the whole of the people, and take over all industries in that country. Honorable members opposite pretend to be very much afraid of this matter of compulsion. Listening to the Leader of the Opposition one would imagine that the Government were proposing a complete innovation, and that in every other respect the people of .Australia had absolute freedom to do as they pleased. I suppose the honorable gentleman will not admit that a father is compelled to register the birth of his child, and that there are such things as compulsory insurance, compulsory voting, and the compulsory payment of taxes.
– A man is even compelled to register his dog.
– That is so. Every law passed by the Legislature practically means compulsion in one direction or another, yet a storm is raging over our proposal for compulsory preference to unionists. We have in force the system known as compulsory training, under which men are compelled to join a union known as the Australian Army and the Australian Navy, in order that we may defend ourselves against foreign aggression. Shall we then deny the right of working men to organize an industrial army in order to defend themselves from internal foes, who would rob them of their bread? Shall we not make war on poverty, on misery, and the possibility of revolution in this country ? No. We must have compulsory military training in order that our manhood may be fitted to stand up against a possible enemy ; but it is altogether wrong to favour compulsory preference to unionists in order that we may have an army of able-bodied working men to fight the foes that beset them - the foes of low wages, miserable homes, and abominable conditions such as should bring the blush of shame to the cheeks of Christian men. It is cruel, we are told, to allow unions to be formed, and to provide for preference to unionists. We should allow absolute freedom to sweat and to continue miserable conditions of labour.
Mr.Atkinson. - That is wrong. We do not say that.
– Then why does the honorable member come here as a servant of those who fly that banner?
– I am not the servant of any one. I am not caucus-bound.
– This is a war of Titans. On the one side we have the great organizations of capital ; on the other we must have a great organization of labour, so that the two parties may meet, not in bloodshed, not in revolution, but on an equal footing to discuss their differences in an intelligent manner. I propose to make a short quotation from the Lords of Industry, a recent work in which the writer, H. D. Lloyd, deals trenchantly with the law of competition as being allowed to solve questions of this kind. Honorable members who fight against preference to unionists really desire that the law of competition amongst starving men shall prevail -
New facts, like the union in one person of the common carrier and the owner of the highway, are baffling our statesmen. A few individuals are becoming rich enough to control almost all the great markets, including the Legislatures. We feel ourselves caught in the whirl of new forces, and flung forward every day a step farther into a future dim with the portents of struggle between Titans reared on steam, electricity, and credit. It is an unfortunate moment for the breakdown of the science that claimed to be able to reconcile self-interest with the harmony of interests.
He refers there to the old theory of political economy in regard to supply and demand. Later on he writes -
Equally beyond the reach of this competitive science is the Socialistic drift of modern government, which forbids self-interest to commit murder by the sale of adulterated food, which taxes property by a majority vote for the education of the masses and the regulation of their plumbing, and which in Great Britain offers to pay at the national expense the arrears of hundreds of thousands of Irish tenants. The labour question is the appearance among working men
Of the same spirit of combination that has given us railroad pools, the telegraph consolidation, the oil monopoly, and countless smaller “ corners,” and it cannot be solved by a science of competition.
Honorable members will admit that the day has come when we must frankly face this question. There has been much backing and filling, much dodging, and much resort to subterfuge; but I would give nothing for the integrity of the man who would seek to dodge this question. Let the employers be frank and straightforward. Let them tell us openly that they are organized, and determined to maintain the organization with which they fought the proposals which we submitted at the recent referenda with a view of securing for the Parliament power over trusts and combines. Let them honestly meet us, fighting as we are for the right of the people to meet them on an equal footing. We are willing to rely on the people in carrying on that fight. We are willing to be put to the test on election day, but we are determined first of all to clear the track of the deliberate misrepresentation from which we have suffered. I desire to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition upon the new role he has assumed : that of a leader of anarchistic thought. His speech yesterday embodied some of the finest ideals of anarchy of which I have ever heard. “ Eliminate all restrictions,” he said in effect, “eliminate everything that restricts the people, and let them do as they please.” That really is the ideal of the anarchists - “ No law and no compulsion.” I compliment the honorable member upon his attitude. It is a phase of his political life that deserves some consideration from the House, and we should watch it carefully. I am thankful to the Opposition for raising this question, and am very pleased that they have cleared the atmosphere. There were various canards as to what the Ministry intended to do in regard to preference to unionists, but to sum up the whoie position, we find that they are actually going to commit the crime of declaring that if two men of equal ability apply for temporary employment in the Government service, the man who is a unionist shall be given the preference. Further, they propose that where no unionists are offering non-unionists shall be employed as long as they are otherwise suitable. That is a terrible crime. I congratulate the Ministry upon practising what they preach. They have always preached preference to unionists so far as private employers are concerned, and I am glad that they have the backbone to stand up for preference to unionists in connexion with temporary employment in the Government service. ‘The way to keep peace in an industry and in the Public Service is to have all the men employed on the same footing. Let them be either unionists or opponents of unionism. Unionism, however, has made such strides that it is impossible now in any employment to have only non-unionists, and those who desire to prevent squabbling and strife should stand solidly behind the Government, and support the policy of granting preference to unionists. Those who believe in Christianity know that preference to Christians has always obtained in countries where the Christian religion is followed. When honorable members speak about the way. in which unionists have treated non-unionists, I would call to their minds the treatment that has been meted out to atheists by Christians in bygone days. Thank God, to-day, the Christians, because of the preference given to Christianity, have no need to talk about preference, and in a very few years every working man in the Commonwealth will be a member of a union. When that day arrives an end will come to the abominable industrial strife between unionists and nonunionists.
.- Our friends opposite- are trying to fasten’ on us some quarrel with unionism, but I, personally, have no such quarrel, because I know that unionism has done much to improve the condition of the workers. Our quarrel is with unionism run mad.- I am sorry that the Minister of Home Affairs is not in his place. I told him that I intended to praise him, and I cannot praise a man so well behind his back as before his face. There is a good deal to be said in excuse foi him. We must remember his environment in early life in the great Republic whence he came. We know how things are done there. “ Spoils to the victors “ is the settled law, though its disadvantages are generally admitted by trie community. In the United States, when one Government is succeeded by another, almost every member of the police force, and of the Public Service, is removed from office, and his place filled by a supporter of the new Administration.
– I thought that Roosevelt altered that.
– Many people would like to alter it, but it is difficult to do so. When a man has been waiting for years for a change of Government in order to get a place, he objects to an alteration just when’ he thinks that the change is coming. Naturally the Minister of Home Affairs, having had his early training in the United States, thinks that “ spoils to the victors “ is the proper policy to put into force here, and, therefore, under his instructions, a circular was issued by ,the Director of Public Works which, after settling certain rates of pay, says that absolute preference must be given to unionists. The debate has toned down that declaration of policy to a great extent. The circular also says that in discharging present men nonunionists must be discharged first. It is claimed that the Director of Public Works, in giving that instruction, went too far, and I accept the statement, though had such a mistake been made in connexion with a minute issued by any member on this side, the p.arty would have been condemned unreservedly from one end of Australia to another. The director states, too, that the Minister desires to be furnished at once with a list of the non-unionists employed, and he asks that the necessary inquiries be made, and the information supplied at once. No doubt the intention is to prepare a black list, or to give opportunities for the approaching of non-unionists with a view to compelling them to join unions.
– The Minister has denied that.
– I did not hear the denial. Certainly the compilation of a list will make it possible to do what I have suggested. I do not see why the names should be supplied, and hope that the Minister will withdraw the instruction. In the United States the application of the “ spoils to the victors “ system has given the most dreadful results. Even Judges lose their positions, and are replaced by others of a different political faith, whenever changes of parties occur. Consequently, there is not the impartial administration of justice there that we have in all other Englishspeaking communities. Lynch law prevails, and murders are frequently committed with impunity. Dynamite outrages are not uncommon, and there are depots where dynamite is stored for use in industrial disputes. Under the Minister’s ukase, a man must be a unionist or starve. If the unions were perfectly fair in their treatment of their members, the position would not be so bad, but, as it is, many men conscientiously object to joining unions. Are we going to compel such men to join unions? Recently a Mr. Packer inaugurated what is known as the Free Workers Union.
– It is subsidized by the employers.
– Nothing of the kind ! If it were, I should know. I understand that Mr. Packer lives in my district, but I have not met him, or, at least, not since my return from England. I have been informed that he was forced to leave his union because he made a speech in which he stated that he hoped that capital and labour would be reconciled, and industrial peace established. -
– That is a mild way of putting it !
– I understand that that is the reason why Mr. Packer was hunted out of his union, and yet this country has been striving for industrial peace for over twenty years. If honorable members opposite know better it is for them to say so on the floor of the House. I have here the Free Workers’ Gazette, and notice that one of the statements of the Society of Free Workers is that “ free workers stand for the brotherhood of man, which every time does claim the very best wages, but it also claims the very best work from the individual.” I have heard it repeatedly stated in this debate that the best :workers are the unionists. If they are, why do they want preference, seeing that other things will not be equal? If a unionist is a better man than the other he will get the job without preference being required. A very dangerous principle is creeping into the unions of this country - that is, they are limiting the work. I have been told by many a unionist that he is not allowed to do a fair day’s work nowadays.
– That is not so.
– I will give the honorable member an instance. Several years ago a firm that I know of used to have five loads a day carted from the wharfs to their warehouse; now only three loads are carted in a day. One of the men tried to do more, as it was a very easy day’s work.
– What constituted a day then?
– Eight hours, the same as now. They cautioned him first that if he did more than three loads a day they would deal with him. He did not discontinue, and after a very little time they hit him on the head with a brick, and laid his skull open; The honorable member may laugh, but it is a very serious practice that is creeping into many industrial unions, and many unionists do not like it, because they want to do a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay. It is for honorable members opposite, if they object to the practice, to raise their voices against it. If the principle introduced by the Government is to be the law of the land, we must have the unions run on fair lines. I have heard several honorable members complain in the House of that horrible speech of Mr. Cohen’s, and I hope to hear them say something about it outside as well. It is most scandalous and disgraceful that a man at the head of a union should say publicly that free labourers ought to be shot. I hope that Mr. Cohen will be properly dealt with by his union. Can you really ask a man to join a union, an official of which says that certain citizens of this country ought to be shot - I suppose without trial? The public of Australia have been trying for over twenty years to get industrial peace. In 1890 and 1891 there were two fearful strikes - the maritime and the shearers’. After they were over, it was felt that, apart from the employers and employes in the industry, who were, of course, both injured, those who were really most hurt were the traders of the community and the public generally. The people agitated amongst themselves, and got their members to bring before their Parliaments the desirableness of introducing industrial machinery to make strikes a thing of the past. Now, after all that we have done to do away with strikes, I am sorry to hear several members in this House say that the right to strike must be preserved. I was pleased to hear the honorable member for Corangamite say last night that he was against strikes.
– What would the honorable member say in the case of the enginedrivers who went to the Court and obtained an award, and their bosses had it upset?
– At any rate, I hope that we are not going back into the brutal reign of strikes, but that every member in “this House will discourage them in every possible- way. I feel sure that, whatever party differences we may have, the great bulk of the people of Australia desire to see the industrial question “settled in a lawful and orderly way, and not by that Brutal method. I am afraid that the application of the principle of preference to unionists will again mean enormous industrial turmoil. That is one reason why I am so much opposed to it.
– The honorable member’s sleep will not be disturbed at all.
– I shall show the honorable member that people will be tremendously disturbed by it. During the year ended 30th June last, we had seventyfive strikes in different parts of Australia, beginning with the Brisbane Gas Company’s employes. I shall not read the whole weary list; but fancy that result in a country where we have been striving for over twenty years to provide industrial machinery and secure industrial peace !
– And there have been more Labour Governments in Australia than ever Before.
– I cannot understand it.
– And there has been more prosperity in the country also. It is a sign of the economic conditions.
– r am sorry to hear that prosperity leads to strikes. They used, at one time, to be put down to want of food. A good many of these strikes have been actually conducted after the award of the Court, or the Wages Board, was given. Many of them have been actually conducted in spite of the law. On 13th January last the timber workers of Western Australia struck. There is in that State a proper Arbitration Court, before which those workers were asked to bring their case. They declined to do it, preferring to retain the right to strike. It is very disheartening, after all the endeavours of the public to secure industrial peace, that we should appear to be as far off it as ever.
– Through the want of recognition of unionism; that is the cause of all of them.
– If we recognised unions, there would be some other cause. A suggestion was made in this State that the builders’ labourers should be brought under a Wages Board; but what does Mr. Hannah, their secretary, say to that?
During the day Mr. H. Hannah, secretary of the Builders Labourers’ Union, received a letter from Mr. H. Stevens, Assistant Chief Inspector of Factories, stating that a request had been received by the Department from the Master Builders Association pf Melbourne for the appointment of a Special Board for builders’ labourers, and that it would be duly considered. Mr. Watt had, he wrote, directed him to say that he would be glad to know the views of the union regarding the matter. The management committee of the organization has directed the secretary to reply, stating the reasons why it is opposed to a Wages Board.
I should like honorable members to listen to these reasons, because my reason seems to reel when I read them -
They are, that a Wages Board does not recognise a union.
Therefore, before we can have industrial peace, we must have every union recognised, and that means preference to unionists throughout the land. That is a clear stateme’nt that we must have preference to unionists before we can look for industrial peace.
– The explanation of that is that people who are opposed to unionism can get an award from a Wages Board.
– I do not see why they should not do so. If they are honest, decent men, why should they not have the same privileges as unionists? The second reason is that -
It does not deal with the whole of the conditions appertaining to an industry.
Then we are not to have industrial peace until Wages Boards are empowered by law to settle every condition appertaining to an industry. Will honorable members consider for a moment what that means? I suppose that it means that a Wages Board should have the right to settle what, for instance, shall be the profits of an industry. In these circumstances, industrial peace would appear to be like the willo’thewisp ; the nearer one gets to it the further away it appears to be. These are two of the conditions which, according to Mr. Hannah, must precede the millennium of industrial peace.
– What is the honorable member quoting from?
– A copy of Mr. Hannah’s letter which appeared in the Age of 23rd September. The third condition which is to precede industrial peace is seen in the objection -
That the determination of the Board only applies to certain portions of the State.
So that before Mr. Hannah’s trusty men will approach the tribunal established for the settlement of their disputes, every single man in the State must be brought under the Wages Board system. The next objection to the Wages Board is -
That considerable time is taken up in arriving at a determination.
That appears to me to be a most ridiculous objection. I would ask what time may be taken up in arriving at a determination by means of a strike?
– It takes two or three years to get an award from some of the Wages Boards.
– Then I say that if that be so, the awards when made should be retrospective. However, I am sorry to say that these are merely excuses to conceal the fact that there is no desire for industrial peace.
– Did the honorable member not oppose Wages Boards at one time?
– No ; I never opposed them. Another reason given by Mr. Hannah is that -
No guarantee is given that the determination will be properly administered.
That is, of course, merely a reflection upon the Government of the day. It would appear that what the country desires is further off than ever. The right to strike is again asserted by unionists. Some honorable members opposite assert it, whilst others do not.
– Very few honorable members on this side assert it.
– I am very glad to hear that, and I suggest that honorable members opposite should deal with those who do. That is a matter in connexion with which the Caucus should enforce its powers to the utmost limit, in order to secure industrial peace. Honorable members should see that those who wish to adhere to the old brutal method of strikes should be turned out of the unions if they wish decent men to belong to them.
– What about the case of employers who refuse to abide by a decision of the Arbitration Court?
– I do not know of any such case.
– The Mount Lyell Company are not paying engine-drivers in accordance with the award of the Arbitration Court.
– There is a remedy in the Arbitration Court itself for every such case. The Court can always deal with employers, whose plant and capital can be attached. The Court can always make the employer obey its awards, though it is not always able to enforce obedience upon the workers.
– Did the Court compel the Broken Hill Proprietary Company to carry out its award?
– I am not very familiar with the case to which the honorable gentleman refers; but I still contend that the Court can enforce its awards upon employers.
– It did not do so in the case I mention.
– Does the honorable gentleman say that the Court made an award, and would not see that it was carried out?
– The Court made an award, but the authorities of the Proprietary Mine closed down the mine, and declined to continue working it.
– I think the honorable member must be inaccurate in his statement. If the Court makes an award, it is bound to see that it is carried out, or enforce obedience by fines or imprisonment. I may say that I have the greatest objection to a penalty of imprisonment for any industrial offence. I have no wish to see fresh criminals made in this country. I am not afraid to make suggestions, and if honorable members desire a suggestion for a remedy in this matter, I am prepared to make one which, I think, would lead to industrial peace. I hold the opinion that organizations of employers or employes who may appeal to the Conciliation and Arbitration Court should be compelled to keep a certain sum of money to their credit, which might be forfeited if an award of the Court were not obeyed.
– That has already been done by a union with which I am connected. It has put up ^1,000.
– I am very pleased to hear it. The adoption of such a course would, I believe, lead more quickly to industrial peace than anything else that could be done.
– What the honorable member proposes is the establishment of an indemnity fund.
– I am sorry to say there are many cases in which awards made by a Wages Board or an Arbitration Court have been simply ignored by workers’ unions, and a strike has continued. I say that that is a state of things which cannot be permitted to continue. I have said that I object to imprisonment for in,dustrial offences. I feel that it does a great deal of harm; and my remedy is that every union that desires to be in a position to appeal to an Arbitration Court, or a Wages Board, should be compelled to keep a certain sum of money at its credit, so that if it does not obey an award the money may be forfeited, or dealt with as the Court or the Board may think fit.
– Or may be used to liquidate a fine?
– No, there would be no fines; but the union would lose its money if, in the opinion of the Court, or the Board, its members did not obey the award. The honorable member for South Sydney told us last night that a great deal of industrial unrest arises from the fact that under existing conditions few people can ever become employers. In this connexion, I have made a suggestion, which I now repeat. I ask what is to prevent our friends of the Labour party buying shares in these big industrial concerns, if they think they are so profitable? The honorable member knows perfectly well that if the workers chose they could soon own all the property in this country.
– They will do so when they become more intelligent.
– I have always held that it was a bad day when the small manufacturer was superseded by these large concerns.
– It was inevitable.
– The remedy which I suggest is that the workers should purchase shares in these concerns.
– They will take charge of them by-and-by, and will do so in an honorable way.
– I am very glad to hear that. I am surprised that the small body of registered unionists in Australia should endeavour to obtain this measure of protection which, as a matter of fact, they do not require. After all, they number only 170,895.
– Those figures are inaccurate.
– I took them from page 1049 of the Commonwealth YearBook. Knibbs sets down the population of Australia at 4,449,495, the factory employe’s at 292,138, and the miners at 104,368.
– All the miners are unionists.
– Not all of them. A good many of them are, no doubt. Knibbs estimates the number of agricultural and pastoral employes at 538,685, and the number of hands employed in various industries who are not reported as unionists at 635,642, making a total industrial population of 1,570,833. The estimated number of unionists, registered and unregistered, I take to be about 300,000, so that the non-unionists would number 1,270,833.
– That is inclusive of females.
– Inclusive of females on both sides. Is it fair that the whole country should be thrown into a state of turmoil for the sake of 300,000 unionists?
– There will be no turmoil.
– There will be the greatest possible turmoil. Already the building trade has been completely disorganized by the circular which was issued at the instance of the Minister of Home Affairs. First of all he raised the wages of the men employed in Government Departments to the level of those paid by private employers. Then he increased them to 10s. per day for both wet and dry weather. What has been the result ? When employes engaged upon private contracts found that the Government stroke men were receiving more wages than themselves, it was only natural that they should become dissatisfied. Consequently, the contractors have already had to enormously increase wages.
– Have these remarks any relevance to the motion which is under consideration ?
– I would point out that the circular issued by the Minister of Home Affairs is upsetting the industry of this country.
– It is only fair to the Minister to say that he merely pays the current rate of wages - either the union rate or the rate fixed by an award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– He pays more than that. The rate of wages paid in Melbourne by private employers in the building trade is 9s. per day. That is the wage of the ordinary labourer, whereas the Government wage is 10s. per day.
– No, no; excuse me.
– If a man in the employ of a private contractor has a holiday, he does not receive 9s. for it, but if he is in Government employ he does.
– Only for eight days a year, which are specified.
– Do I understand the Postmaster-General to say that the wages paid by the Commonwealth Government are the ordinary wages paid under contract ?
– They are either the rates fixed by Wages Boards, or the union rates.
– That is not so.
– Well, I am a member of the Government, and I ought to know.
– But the Government do a lot of things of which the PostmasterGeneral knows nothing. Only yesterday a builder informed me that several of his men had left him and gone to work on a Government job, because they could get is. per day more.
-They can not.
– At any rate, the Government pay the men in their employ for wet and dry weather alike.
– If a man starts work in the morning, we pay him for that day. That is only a fair and reasonable thing to do; and that is the only difference which exists between the Government and the private employer. The wage paid is exactly the same in both cases.
– The PostmasterGeneral admits that the Government pay for wet and dry weather alike.
– Does the honorable member object to that?
– No; but I object to this ukase being issued by the Minister of Home Affairs without a moment’s warning. As a result, private employers who have undertaken big contracts have been compelled to increase the wages of their workmen to match those which are paid by the Government.
– Cannot the honorable member accept my assurance that that is not so?
– I am sorry that I cannot. 1 can bring forward plenty of evidence to prove what I say. A complete turmoil has been caused in the building trade by the issue of the ukase in question, and the cost of public works which are being carried out by day labour has been increased enormously.
– Just now the honorable member admitted that it was only fair, if men started work in the morning, that they ought to be paid for the day.
– Yes ; but his wage would have to be regulated accordingly.
– Such a man is not at liberty to go home. He has to remain under our control the whole day, and his services can be utilized in any way that we may think fit.
– I repeat that the practice adopted by the Government has enormously increased the cost of public works which are being carried out by day labour. I know that the estimate of ex cavating work at the Williamstown rifle butts was about 2s. 6d. per yard, whereas the actual cost, under this system, is 9s. per yard. I am very much surprised, indeed, that this new departure in the direction of preference to unionists has been made, afterthe party opposite received such a tremendous facer at the recent referenda. The Government asked for extra powers, one of which was to be control over the wages and conditions of labour in any particular industry or calling. That, of course, meant that the Government intended to grant preference to unionists throughout the country. But what did the electors do? They replied “No” by 250,000 votes. And they will say “ No “ every time. The public declared that they did not want to give these extra powers to the Federal Government. In face of this fact, it is most remarkable that the Government did not read the writing on the wall - that they did not understand that the people of this country want freedom, and insist on having it. They want freedom for their religion, they want freedom in their politics, they want industrial freedom.
– They do not want freedom to starve.
– That is the only freedom the worker has now.
– The people of this country want freedom in every direction, and do not want preference to be given to any particular class.
– I notice that things are not going very well with the honorable member’s Free Workers Union.
– The point that I wish to make is that our race has been fighting for freedom throughout the ages. We have built up common law rights - that is to say, rights which are beyond dispute - in the course of that struggle. This principle of preference outrages those rights. No man can be called a free man if he can be compelled to join a union. . I should feel, if I had to join a union before I could get work, that I would rather starve than do it.
– Does the honorable member belong to the Employers’ Union?
– Yes, I do.
– The honorable member joined that all right!
– Yes, I did, because it is properly conducted. I admit that the old Adam in me has been tempted occasionally. I have felt inclined, many a time, when a man would not join our union, to try a little moral suasion on him:
– What does the honorable member mean by moral suasion?
– The difference between me and honorable members opposite is this - that I have never yielded to that temptation, whilst my honorable friends, by this very measure which they are insisting upon, have yielded to it. They are using the forces at the command of the Government of this great country to compel men to join their unions, and to contribute to their funds. That is the compulsion to which I object, and I shall always object to it. The barons extorted Magna Charra from King John because they were fighting for the freedom of the individual to buy and to sell as he chose, and to enjoy a measure of freedom. The battle of freedom has evidently not yet been won; but, despite this Government, I have no hesitation in saying that Australians never will be slaves.
– I cannot help contemplating, with some degree of satisfaction, the circumstance that this Government has been in office for eighteen months, and that this is the first attempt that has been made to challenge its administration. Nearly every Government makes some mistakes, and leaves itself open to censure on some points. I cannot but believe that the Opposition in this Parliament has done its duty as an Opposition well. Honorable members opposite have watched with microscopic observation everything that the Government has done. After the Government has been in office for a year and a half,, the Opposition now come along with a motion of censure on the single ground that Ministers have shown themselves in favour of preference to unionists. The Opposition in another Parliament in Australia have not waited eighteen months to find a cause of blame. They find fresh causes every day. But so successful has the Commonwealth Government been in the conduct of public affairs that it has practically escaped censure, except on account of this one subject. I had not the pleasure of hearing the speeches delivered from the Opposition benches yesterday, but I have heard the speeches made to-day, and have particularly paid attention to that of the honorable member for Fawkner. I cannot help thinking that the great bulk of what he said is very much like “the flowers that bloom in the Spring.” It had “nothing to do with the case.” The honorable member referred to the carrying out of Government works by day labour, as contrasted with contract labour. No doubt it was a very interesting subject to pursue; but what it had to do with this question I cannot understand.
– The honorable member also referred to King John.
– He referred to quite a number of matters that were quite beside the case. I have tried to focus the idea in relation to which the Government are being censured. What is it that they have done? Honorable members opposite have taken a great deal of trouble to tell us that they do not object to trade union’s as such. There is nothing wrong with the unions. Of course any man, unless he were blind to the teachings of the last century, would admit so much. They also say that they do not object to preference to unionists.
– Who said that?
– Every one who voted for the Act of 1904, which gave preference to’ unionists, said so.
– Some of us were not here then.
– If the honorable member for Fremantle had been here we may be quite sure that he would have gone with the party with which he is associated. Every one who was here at that time supported the principle of preference. The honorable member for Parramatta has quoted a number of sections of the Constitution to show that that instrument is against preference. But if the principle of the Constitution be against preference now, it was against it in 1904 when the honorable member supported the embodiment of the principle in an Act of Parliament. He told us that he did not object to preference under proper safeguards. Now, the difference between honorable members on this side of the House and honorable members opposite on this matter is this. They say that they do not object to preference to unionists if it be obtained through the Arbitration Court.
– They do not object to it if it is ineffective.
– -They do >not mind as long as the workers go to the Arbitration Court and get preference from it, but they object to ifs ‘Being given by the Government as employers. But honorable members opposite know, as every one in this country knows, that for the workers of this country to go to the Arbitration Court and get a judgment is a matter of the expenditure of hundreds of pounds, and even then it is doubtful whether judgment can be obtained within a reasonable time. Mr. Justice Higgins himself used the phrase that in order to approach the Arbitration Court to-day one has to pass through a “ Serbonian bog of legal technicalities.” The difference between us, therefore, is that honorable members oh this side want to give preference in reality, while honorable members opposite want to send the workers into a Serbonian bog of legal technicalities. That is the true distinction. I want to point out to honorable members that an appeal cannot be made to an Arbitration Court without there being a quarrel.
– It must be an InterState quarrel, too.
– Yes. The very idea of arbitration is to get a settlement of industrial disputes. It has been said, not once, but T suppose a score of times, by the Chief Justice of Australia that you cannot get to the Arbitration Court by merely having the appearance of a quarrel, by a secretary to a union merely writing a few letters demanding certain terms.
– Is that the question before the House?
– That is the only answer which we have had from honorable members on the other side. They have said, “ We do not object to preference, provided that it is got through the Arbitration Court.” 1 desire to show that, in making that statement, they really meant that they do not want preference to be given to unionists in any circumstances. They might as well get up and make that admission as pretend to be in favour of a preference which they know can never be made effective. The Chief Justice has continuously said that in order to get to the Arbitration Court there must be, not merely a paper dispute, not merely a demand by a number of workers^ or their secretary, for different conditions, but a real and substantial dispute existing.
– A strike.
– Something which would nearly culminate in a strike - not merely a strike in one State, but a strike extending throughout the Commonwealth.
– But that does not apply to Wages Boards.
– The honorable member knows that under the Constitution we have no power to create Wages Boards.
– All the States have them.
– The State which sends the honorable member here has not.
– It has Wages Boards, and it amended its Act only the other day
– It is very lately that Tasmania, has had Wages Boards.
– It has three altogether.
– That is beside the question as to whether this Parliament, in dealing with the men who are to come under its control, shall give to unionists preference or not. We have no power, I repeat, to create Wages Boards, and honorable members on the other side know that, apart altogether from the Court, preference to unionists is continuously granted by the employing classes. When a union has a quarrel and it is settled without recourse to arbitration, very often it gets preference to unionists. What is the contention on this side? Here is a Government which believes in carrying out certain projects which in times gone by were carried out by means of private enterprise. The Government proposed to build the transcontinental railway, when, by the way, the honorable member for Swan intervened and tried to block its construction by giving notice of a motion of censure?
– Order !
– If we were to allow that railway to be constructed by contractors every contractor would have a perfect right to make a bargain with the unionists whom he employed ; to lay down the terms and agree with them to give preference.
– Does the honorable member think that the difficulty, in getting to the Arbitration Court is a sufficient justification for the Minister usurping its power ?
– The Minister is not doing that. The Court’s power is to settle a dispute. If, for instance, there is a’ dispute about wages, you go to the Court, and it settles that question.
– - The proposal of the Minister refers to the employment of casual employes.
– Yes. Does the. honorable member say that, in order to fix fair wages, the Minister should go to the Arbitration Court? He knows very well that every term of employment may be settled in a friendly way if that can be done, and that, otherwise, the matter will go to the Arbitration Court.
– This is a question of preference to unionists, and not a question of fixing rates ot pay.
– It is one of the ordinary questions which every employer of a large body of men, whether it is the Government or an individual, has to face from time to time. If we choose to proceed in the old way, and have official clothing made in private factories, then their owners will have it in their power to make a bargain with the Clothing Employes Union, and, if it suits them, to grant preference without ever going near the Arbitration Court.
– And they have the right to give preference to non-unionists if they like.
– If it suits them, they have the power to give preference. But honorable members on the other side want to take from the Commonwealth, as an employer, a right which every private employer possesses, and that is the right to bargain with unionists if it thinks fit.
– Or with non-unionists.
– Yes. Take the position of those who are the keenest critics of this proposal. Do the proprietors of the Age, the Argus, the Sydney Daily Telegraph, and the Sydney Morning Herald go to the Arbitration Court and ask whether they shall grant preference or not? Not at all. If a man from America goes to the proprietors of any one of those newspapers and asks for a position as a typo, the first question he is asked is, “ Are you a member of the union ? “ and if he is not, he is told to become a member before they will consider his application. Yet these men criticise the Commonwealth Government because they claim the right to do what every private employer has the power to do.
– Does the honorable member think that there is a proper analogy between a private employer and a Minister, who is charged with the duty of holding the scales of justice equally between all members of the community?
– I do. I think that production, whether it is done by the Commonwealth as a whole, or is left to private enterprise, must proceed along the same lines. If the Government of the Commonwealth seeks to do what private enterprise may do, it must also have the same right to bargain with unionists. The Postmaster-General could, if he chose, allow all the work for his Department to be done by contract, and the private employers who did the work would have the right to give preference or to withhold it. Surely the Minister, when he undertakes to do any work, ought not to be denied the same right to bargain, with the object of securing industrial peace.
– He is the employer.
– What about the people ? The Minister is only an agent.
– We are the people.
– The Postmaster-General is just as much the employer in a matter of this kind as is the manager of a limited liability company when he undertakes to carry on business for its shareholders.
– There is no analogy at all.
– Honorable members have spoken as if this demand for preference to unionists were a new thing, whereas it is as old as the history of unionism. I propose to show where similar demands were made as far back as 174 r. In his History of Trade Unionism, Webb says -
In 1741 it was remarked that the woolcombers “ had for a number of years past erected themselves into a sort of corporation (though without a charter) ; their first pretence was to take care of their poor brethren that should fall sick, or be out of work, and ‘ this was done by meeting once or twice a week, and each of them contributing 2d. or 3d. towards the box to make a bank, and when they became a little formidable they gave laws to their masters, as also to themselves - viz., That no man should comb wool under 2s. per dozen; that no master should employ any comber that was not of their club.
That sounds like a demand for preference -
If he did they agreed, one and all, not to work for him ; and if he had employed twenty they all of them turned out, and oftentimes the members were not satisfied with that, but would abuse the honest man that would labour, and in a riotous manner beat him, break his combpots, and destroy his working tools ; they further support one another in so much that they are become one society throughout the kingdom.
– Was that before the advent of the Labour party in Parliament?
– It was, undoubtedly.
– But this preference is in Government Departments - it is “ spoils to the victor.”
– As a matter of fact, Government Departments are doing to-day what private enterprise did in times gone bv.
– This is public money, which has to be spent wisely.
– Quite so; and how can money be spent more wisely than in following the ideas of private employers ?
– If we had given this preference, honorable members opposite would have had something to say !
– I do not think we should have said anything. We should have been speechless with surprise. I know that honorable members opposite point out how dreadful it is that the political power of the workers should be used to secure this preference for which they have been fighting so long.
– For a few 1
– For all who like to join a union. When honorable members opposite, or any other persons, can show to us a union which will not admit all workers, they will show a union to which this Government would not give preference. When honorable members have something to complain about, it is time enough to complain ; their trouble is that at present there is nothing to growl about. Twenty years ago, when I was only a lad, I remember well, after the big maritime strike, how the workers were told that they ought not to take such extreme steps, but ought to send men into Parliament to voice their views. Well, here we are, following that advice, and yet honorable members opposite growl.
– It was good advice, too !
– It was good advice, which [ hope the workers will never forget. The question has been raised as to the right to strike. For my own part, I am against strikes, and do not think much of the right to strike. My main objection is that the wrong man usually wins - the man with the biggest purse, and the best filled cupboard holds out the longest. Honorable members opposite endeavour to make out that the effect of preference will be to upset the industrial affairs of the Commonwealth. They try to show that this new ukase, as they call it, in the Department of Home Affairs, is going to make some material difference to employers. But if those honorable members had not accidentally happened to heat about this preference, they would not have Known of any effect on industries outside. As a matter of fact, this is no new principle in Government Departments. It has existed in the Defence Department for months. I have here a memorandum signed by the Postmaster-General as far back as last May, dealing with the very subject. If one gentleman opposite, or any one of the constituents of honorable gentlemen opposite, can show that anything untoward has happened in consequence
– Did the PostmasterGeneral give preference to unionists?
– I shall read what the Postmaster-General said.
– Was this memorandum made public at the time?
– I do not think it was. What I am saying now is that, if it had not been for . the newspapers, honorable members would not have known, from any effects, that preference was given.
– Surely the honorable member does not approve of a secret system of administration?
– Read the memorandum !
– The memorandum by the Postmaster-General was, I think, subsequent to a similar order given by the Minister of Defence. The PostmasterGeneral said, on 19th May, 191 1 -
In connexion with employment of day labour on the work of undergrounding telephone cables, Stc, in Sydney and suburbs, I should be glad if preference can be given to those who are members of the union. It is claimed that better conditions of employment and better wages have been secured through the action of the unionists, and the men feel that some preference should therefore be given.
I feel that there is something in the contention, and should be glad, everything else being equal, for unionists to have the preference.
– Does the honorable member know of any preference granted on that memorandum?
– I know that the PostmasterGeneral
– Did that order extend throughout the States?
– That order refers to Sydney and suburbs only, but I have no doubt that the Postmaster-General’s ideas are not confined to his own State.
– The honorable member had better be careful, or he will supply material for another vote of censure!
– There is no reason why there should not be a vote of censure for an action in last May. The facts only, show how insincere the protests of honorable members are when a similar order was given last May, and they knew nothing about it.
– A gross dereliction of duty on their part !
– When did the honorable member first hear of preference being granted ?
– It is not very long ago, I confess.
– “ A gross dereliction of duty !”
– If we desire industrial peace, let the Minister make bargains of this kind, and we shall never know anything about them except from some pressmanufactured cry. Surely we should have seen some of the predicted evil effects ere now ?
– There has been hardly time to study the effects.
– I have had many opportunities of studying the effects of preference to unionists.
– I mean the effects of this order of the Government.
– I have no doubt that when the Government do work which was previously carried out by private enterprise, they will find it pay very well to bargain in this way, just as private employers have always claimed the right to do. I wish honorable members to consider for a moment the reasonableness of the demand for preference which is made to-day by the unions. Whatever may be said as to modern unionism, and its efforts to become a political force, no one will deny that in its day unionism has done a great deal, not only for the workers, but for the community as a whole. For my own part, I am prepared to support the idea of the unionists using their greater power by calling to their aid political effort to back up their industrial effort. Men who are seeking anything have a perfect right to use the best weapons at their hands to secure it. The best weapon the unionist has to secure what he wants is the ballot-box, and so long as he relies upon it as the best weapon to his hand, so long is he likely to achieve the best results.It is to be remembered, however, that the great bulk of the workers in industries where fair wages and tair conditions of labour are observed owe a great deal to the unions for the position they occupy today. In every industry in which there is no union will be found a tendency to depress wages, and to keep the workers in a very wretched state. 1 look, by way of illustration, to the boot trade. There we have the male section of the trade organized in unions, but the female section unorganized, and-
– What unions does the honorable member propose these casual and temporary hands shall join?
– The unions immediately affected. If, for instance, two men applied for labourers’ work, one being a member of the Labourers Union and the other a non-unionist, the unionist should receive the position.
– But what rule would the Minister follow? That has not been settled.
– The rule is plain. The limitations are sufficient, and the instructions are definite. If two men apply for a position, one being a unionist and the other a non-unionist, the unionist, other things being equal, is to secure it. In every industry in which the workers are not organized, we find conditions under which it is impossible for self-respecting people to pay their way and live. Take the position of the boot-trade workers to-day. In that trade the men are well organized. They have put their money into unionism, and have spent a great deal in industrial fights and legal fees. It has cost them some thousands of pounds to go to the Courts of the country ; but on the whole they have obtained fairly good value for their money. Indeed, the value they have secured is as goodas that which they could have obtained in any other way. They have substantially improved the lot of the average worker in the boot trade ; but where women are engaged in the trade, and are unorganized, it will be found that it is most difficult for a self-respecting young woman to earn sufficient to enable her to pay reasonable board and living expenses.
– Can they not get a Wages Board?
– The workers have to be organized to take action.
– In Victoria, the women engaged in the boot trade belong to the men’s union.
– And the men in the boot trade in another State are now spending some hundreds of pounds in an effort to organize the women, so as to secure for them better wages than they are receiving.
– In Victoria there are five Wages Boards for women engaged in the apparel trade alone.
– That may be; but in order to raise any business from the condition of a sweated industry to that in which a decent, self-respecting man or woman engaged in it can live, unionism is necessary. Sacrifice, also, is necessary on the part of those who form the unions ; and, to say the least, those who have borne the burdens should obtain some of the benefits when they come along.
– The honorable member says that virtue is not its own reward.
– It is not in this case. Those who deserve well should receive the rewards that are going; and trade unionism has certainly deserved well of the people. Look at its history since its earliest days, and wherever you find men forming a union you invariably find them called upon to make sacrifices in their effort to elevate the lot of their fellowworkers. At one period in the history of trade unionism, in England, very often the mere fact of membership of a union resulted in a man being sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.
– We have had the same thing in Australia.
– Those laws passed away nearly a century ago ; but the employer today has many methods of penalizing the ardent union advocate. Take the case of the honorable member for Maranoa himself. There was a time when he was not game to call himself “ Jim Page.”
– Hear, hear.
– There was a time when the honorable member had to tramp through the country, under an assumed name, looking for work ; had he used his own name, it would have gone hard with him. Honorable members of the Opposition may laugh, but it is no laughing matter to the man who has had to suffer in this way in the cause of unionism.
– And my wife and kiddies were wanting bread at the time.
– That is the kind of sacrifice a man has to make when he associates himself closely with unionistic enterprises. The honorable member for Maranoa fought for his co-workers, and helped so to improve the rates of pay and conditions of labour in the shearing industry, that it would be hardly recognised to-day as the Industry in which he worked in years gone by-
– I have shorn at 10s. a hundred; now the shearers receive 24s., and are to get 25s. a hundred.
– I understand that is so.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to7.45p.m.
– Seeing that unionists spend so much time, money, and energy in organizing the workers in the industries with which they are connected, and in raising the standard of living, it is not unreasonable in them to expect to reap such rewards as the preference to which honorable members opposite take exception. In every industry in which conditions have been improved, large financial sacrifices have had to be made at one time and another by those who have been instrumental in organizing the workers, and the leaders of every movement for reform have been more or less victimized in consequence of their efforts to help others. Men such as the honorable member for Maranoa have suffered personally because they have assisted to improve the condition of those following the same occupation. Almost invariably union leaders have to forego chances of promotion. Foremen are required, men to take charge of operations are needed, and an employer in making promotions naturally chooses those who have always fought for his interests, and puts on one side those who have fought for the interests of their fellow-workers.
– Can the honorable member instance specific cases?
– Any one who has been connected with the Arbitration Courts or with industrial enterprises knows of innumerable cases. Such cases often come directly under my notice in the practice of my profession, and did so previously, whenI was in the employment of others. A man who to-day is a Minister of the Crown in New South Wales, while working at the same employment as myself, saw less worthy men put over his head, because he was an ardent member of the Painters Union.
– Who is to judge of the merits and work of persons promoted ?
– If the honorable member were appointing a foreman, would he choose a unionist who had fought against him? It is not likely.
– I should choose the best man available, without regard to his position in a union.
– The best man available in the honorable member’s eyes would be the man who had fought for him, and against the workers. In the ordinary business of life, men are called upon to pay for the benefits they receive as a result of other men’s organization and effort. When a municipality is created, it is useless for any property-owner in it to say, “ I object to being taxed for the improvement of the streets, because I did not desire the creation of this municipality.” If a man took that position, he would be told that he was getting the benefits of municipal government, and would have to pay for them, whether he liked it or not. Similarly, when men, by putting their hands in their own pockets, and by personal exertion, have created an organization which has improved the lot of all working in any industry, those who benefit should contribute. So long as every artisan can join the union of his trade by paying the ordinary fees of admission, justice will be done by giving preference to unionists.
– Men are practically prevented from joining some unions.
– If the honorable member can prove that any union does not allow the workers to join it on reasonable terms, its members will not get preference from this Ministry.
– What about the Hatters Union ?
– Its members do not ask for preference. They are strong enough to command it.
– The Ministry has not given preference to members of the Hatters Union. When it does, the Opposition may have a genuine cause of complaint.
– A man cannot enter the Hatters Union until he has paid ^20.
– That may be a bad thing, or a good thing, but until Ministers have given preference to the members of that union the Opposition has nothing to complain of. The policy of the Government is fair. There is no reason why unionists should be compelled to go to the Courts to get the preference which is their right. If a man claims from me £10 to which he is entitled, 1 pay the money.
– But the honorable member does not pay away other people’s money.
– If I were the manager of a company, as Ministers are managers of the affairs of the Commonwealth, I would settle fair claims without compelling creditors to take me to Court.
– That is not the point.
– If the Ministry think it fair that unionists should have preference, they should not force them to go to Court to get it. Every member of the House believes in preference to unionists under certain circumstances. Efforts have been made to drag in questions affecting religious and political liberty.
– Is there no such thing as industrial liberty?
– I regard what has been said about liberty as due to the desire to manufacture high-sounding sentences and fine’, perorations. It has been suggested that in giving preference to unionists we are set-; ting up unfair distinctions of the same character as if we gave preference to men of one particular religious belief over those, of another. That suggestion came from the Leader of the Opposition himself.
– There is a lot in it.
– If honorable members believe that, let them test it in this way :’ They voted to give a Judge of the Arbitration Court power to give preference to unionists in certain circumstances. Will they give the same Judge the power to grant preference to, say, Roman Catholics in certain circumstances? They know very well that they would not. The two cases are entirely different, and there is no analogy whatever between preference to unionists and the suggested religious preference. Honorable members opposite believe in preference, on conditions, the conditions being those mentioned in the Act of 1904. We believe in preference to unionists, on conditions which were set out-
– The honorable member’s party believed in unconditional preference, and, as they could not get it, they got as much as they could.
– I suppose in politics, as in religion, it is always a good thing to let a man state his own beliefs, and not to have them stated for him by those who are interested in misrepresenting them. We believe in preference, on conditions, the first being that other things are equal, and the second that the union which gets the preference shall allow all the men in the industry to join that union at a reasonable figure, if they want to. With those safeguards no evil can arise from giving preference to unionists. The action of the Ministry does injury to nobody. It certainly does no injury to the community as a whole, because if 500 men are wanted to do a certain work, and there are 600 men in the industry ready to take it, 100 of them must be out of work, and it does not matter to the community at large whether the 100 happen to be the unionists or not. The community is not concerned about them. They have to do the best they can for themselves. The non-unionist need not suffer one day longer than he cares to do so* He can join the union and pay up for the benefits he is getting, as others do. If he is too mean to part with his money for that purpose, it is good enough for him to run the risk of remaining unemployed, when other men, who put up their money to benefit the trade, are offering themselves for the work that is going.
.- It has been said outside the House by honorable members opposite that this debate is a waste of time. I do not view it in that light. It is a very necessary debate, and the more one listens to the arguments adduced, the more necessary it seems to me that we should apprise the people of the very peculiar move that has been made by the Ministry. I hope I shall be able to confine my remarks to the motion. I do not propose to discuss the question of unionism, or preference in the abstract. Every man can join a union if he thinks fit, and so the question of unionism is really not raised by the motion at all. It is a motion censuring the Government because they have now indorsed the action of the Minister of Home Affairs, as. shown in his circular, and are introducing preference by Ministerial act. We have already settled the question of preference to a certain extent. It is embodied in an ‘Act of Parliament, which was amended by honorable members opposite on that very point. They wanted to make the provisions as to preference more drastic than they are now ; but they found they could not do so. They had the numbers, but, unfortunately for them, their first draft would not have stood the test of the High Court. They, therefore, put in as much as they possibly could in the direction of preference. The Judge of the Arbitration Court is ordered to jive preference, if certain conditions set out in the Act are, in his opinion, fulfilled; but now we find that a Minister can do more in the direction of preference by a stroke of his pen than can the Judge, even with the powers conferred upon him by the Act. That is a very serious departure, and is altogether against the traditions of British administration. The preference given by the Act is judicial, and we know where we are under it. Whether we agree with it or not, we have to obey it, because it is the law of the land ; but Ministerial preference, as now practised by the Government, is a very different thing, and opens up vast possibilities for Ministers to exercise the power, if they like, in a corrupt way. The whole thing smacks of Tammany, and although I have nothing to say against the bona fides of present Ministers, who will, no doubt, act honorably, we have to look at the possibilities. After these Ministers have left office, as they must in time, we may have people in office doing all sorts of corrupt things by Ministerial act, and so the. fair name of Australia - and it is a fair name, so far as the administration of Government Departments goes - may be brought into the disrepute that attaches to certain methods in the United States of America. We do not want that to happen in this country. We have heard a great deal on the other side about people paying into union funds, and about unionism in general ; but all that is really beside the question. The Government have not given us a straight answer to the charge levelled by the motion. We have learnt from them that they intend to grant preference, other things being equal ; but “other things being equal” will not stand the non-unionist in much stead. I am afraid he will have a poor chance of being considered equal to the unionist. The Minister of Home Affairs has led the way in this matter. A few days ago he took the bit in his teeth, bolted with the Ministerial coach, and carried the Prime Minister far beyond where the right honorable gentleman would like to go. He issued a circular instructing his officers to give absolute preference to unionists. He comes before us now and says that the word “absolute” does not mean absolute, that it means “other things being equal.” I have no doubt whatever that, in giving his instructions, the Minister intended that an unconditional preference should be given to unionists. I am sure that the phrase “other things being equal,” was not then in his mind.
– Has the honorable member seen the Minister’s explanation in to-day’s Argus?
– I have, but I am not satisfied with an explanation of that kind given three or four days after the honorable gentleman’s instructions were made known. The Minister said that his ukase was to apply only to the Home Affairs Department, and he gave no explanation of it until its terms were made public. I remind honorable members opposite also that the honorable gentleman has said, that he has been giving this preference in his Department since August of last year. If they look at the order which he issued then they will find that it is an instruction to give preference, “ other things being equal.”
– Then what is the honorable member growling about?
– I wish to know if any action was taken in the Department on that order of August, 1910. That is a question Ministers should be able to answer. I think it is probable that no preference was given in the Department after August, 1910, because some months after that date, we found the Trades Hall speaking very ‘disrespectfully, and very disparagingly of the Minister of Home Affairs. We know that there have been communications between the Trades Hall and the Ministry in the last week or two. Then we get this order for “ absolute preference,” and after it is given, we find the Trades Hall authorities passing a motion commending the step taken by the Minister of Home Affairs. Though the honorable gentleman denied that that was his intention, his officers received the impression that his order to give “ absolute preference “ involved the dismissal of nonunionists first. It seems to me, taking these things together, that prior to the tabling of the motion now under discussion, it was the intention of the Ministry to give absolute preference to unionists, and to make the test for employment not merit or efficiency, but membership of a union. We have been told that the Government and honorable members opposite have been preaching this preference to unionists for the last twenty years.
– Longer that that.
– I shall show that the honorable member does not know what he has been preaching. We have been informed that, as it has been the policy of the Government for years, they have now applied it to the temporary employes in the Government Departments. We are told also that it is on the Labour party’s platform. I ask honorable members opposite to say whether or not it is on their platform.
– Has not the honorable member a copy of the platform?
– I have not a copy by me, but I have an extract from it, which will suit my purpose as well. I say that this. preference to unionists is not on the platform of the party, and it was not mentioned even during the referenda campaign. Honorable members opposite have never preached any more than arbitration for the settlement of disputes with preference to unionists through a legislative and judicial channel. They have never preached such preference to unionists as we are now discussing, and it is not on their platform.
– I have a copy of the platform here.
– I shall read the reference to show that honorable members opposite do not understand their own platform. Plank No. 9 of the fighting platform of the party is -
Arbitration Act Amendment.
Then if we refer to the general platform we find in clause 9 these words explanatory of that plank -
Arbitration Act Amendment : To provide for preference to unionists and exclusion of the legal profession, with provision for the inclusion of State Government employes.
Why have not honorable members opposite passed a Bill to secure these amendments? Though they have not done so they permit the Government to do in an underhand and insidious way what the law, as it stands, will npt permit a Judge of the Arbitration Court to do.
– Order. The honorable member must not impute motives.
– I was not imputing motives.
– The honorable member said that the Government were doing something in an underhand way.
– I said that honorable members opposite are helping the Government to do this thing in an insidious way.
-Order. The honorable member used the word “ underhand “ distinctly.
– Well, I withdraw the word.
– Say “above-board.”
– I will not say “ above-board.” I wish to show how little there is in the contention from the other side that they have been preaching this preference to unionists for the last twenty years. They have never preached it. If the Labour party had been successful in carrying their referenda proposals, and so widely extending the powers of this Parliament, we might have expected something like this. But the people turned down the referenda proposals, and yet the Government do what the people have said they should not do. They disregard the mandate of the people. They flout the electors, and misrepresent them in this matter. The Leader of the Opposition very rightly said that history shows that great struggles have taken place to secure religious, political, and industrial liberty.
– The honorable member should leave religion alone.
– The honorable member for East Sydney leaves it severely alone, and I wish he would leave industrial liberty alone in the same way. The proposal we are now discussing is an infringment of industrial liberty. The Government are not holding the balance equally between all parties in the community when they offer to a certain section a definite reward, or to those who do not belong to that section a bribe to induce them to join it as soon as possible if they wish to secure work in the service of the Government Departments. If that does not lay Ministers open to a charge of adopting the principle of “ spoils to the victors “ - if it does not frighten people into the belief that corrupt practices may follow such a procedure, and that we may get what is known as “Tammany “ rule in another part of the world, I should like to know what would. If Ministers have a right to extend a preference to unionists, what is to prevent a succeeding Government from extending a preference to non-unionists? Is a political fight to be waged every now and then over this preference question, merely because a particular Government happens to be in power? Is that the position which is to be set up when we have a country to develop, and our position to consider in the international race? Are great elections to be decided upon issues of that kind ? Yet it is easily conceivable that such a state of things may be brought about. If one party is prepared to extend a preference to unionists, why should not another party arise with a banner inscribed “ Preference to non-unionists?” Seeing that we cannot get a direct statement from any Minister as to how far this principle is to be applied, I would like to know if it is intended to grant a preference to unions of employers when they tender for contracts? The action of the Government also exposes us to another danger, in that it does away with what should be the proper tests for employment in our Public Service, namely, experience, merit, and efficiency. Hitherto we have prided ourselves upon the fact that under our Public Service Act promotion was to be by merit. But now we are going to say to 19,000 casual employes, who are sometimes without bread and butter, “ You shall have a billet if you can show your union ticket, but not otherwise.” If we are going to reduce Australia to that level, we shall do a most improper thing, and one which the Prime Minister in his heart does not indorse.
– The honorable member ought not to be so impertinent.
– If I am impertinent to the right honorable gentleman, I apologize.
– The honorable member ought to do so.
– I do not think that the Prime Minister quite understood me. I merely said that in His heart he does not indorse the state of affairs which I have pictured. The Government are extending this preference to unionists at a time when it is not required, and when there is no strike to settle in regard to the temporary employes in our public Service. Owing to the new unionism which has arisen, there have been too many strikes in Australia of late. There were no less than seventy-five during the year ended 30th June last. That is a fine record for a country which is striving for industrial peace. There is no need to differentiate between the 19,000 temporary employes of the Commonwealth. The principle of granting a preference to unionists is an unfair one to apply to them. It savours of taking advantage of their necessities. They are not in the strong position of a first-class boilermaker, or of any other unionist outside our Public Service, who can always get a good job if he is a good man. It has been urged during this debate that unionists are always employed in preference to non-unionists because they are better workmen. If that be so, where is the need for this preference? I repeat that this is not the time when the principle should be enforced, because we are undergoing a period of industrial unrest. The day has passed when the old unionists fought for something in the shape of principle. At present our workmen are required to labour for only eight hours a day, and under proper conditions. In the States there are Wages Boards, and in the Federation there is the Arbitration Court, to insure that fair wages are paid to the employes in any industry.
– All those benefits were won by unionist agitation.
– I do not object to that statement. I say that the old unionists rendered a distinct service to the people as a whole. But do the unionists of the present day strive to uplift the masses? No. In nine strikes out of ten we observe that the unionist objects to work alongside the non-unionist.
– It is a great pity that the honorable member did not live in the good old days.
– I wish that I could live 200 years hence when this legislation will have ceased to have effect. The Government have chosen a very inopportune time to extend a preference to unionists without qualification, because at present we are not enjoying industrial peace. To take advantage of a man’s necessities by compelling him to become a unionist is distinctly unfair. We have been told that by paying into a fund the unionists have secured certain benefits, and that, consequently, other individuals, who have not paid into it, ought to be compelled to do so. But that is only one side of the picture, and it is the lesser side. Although some people may be a little mean in staying out of unions which confer benefits upon them, that is not what we have to consider. I say. that a far more dangerous thing is done if the Government infringe in this way the liberty that so. much blood has been shed to obtain. That is the other side of the picture. Last May, the Postmaster-General gave an intimation to the Postal officials that he would like to see preference to unionists established in connexion with his Department.. In August, 1910, the Minister of Home Affairs issued a circular instructing his officers to give preference to unionist painters, “other things being equal.” After that, the Trades Hall had nothing to say for the Minister for a few months. Then there was a secret meeting of representatives of the Trades Hall with the Prime Minister, after which it was announced that preference to unionists was going to be the policy of the Government.
– There was no secret meeting; the papers are on the table.
– It was a secret meeting, because the Prime Minister informed us that the secrecy was not in accordance with his wishes. After the issue of these Ministerial edicts, the Trades Hall passed a resolution approving Of the action of the Minister of Home Affairs, and” we find the Government galvanized into action, and introducing preference in this insidious manner. What has been done constitutes a grave danger, and leaves the Government open to serious attack on this ground alone. They know that their strength comes from the Trades Hall. They know that unionism is the backbone of their party. They know that they have to obtain the nomination of unions before they can stand for Parliament. The whole Labour party is supported tooth and nail by unionists. But the Government, having been beaten at the referenda, have been whipped up by the unionists, and now intend to prey on the 19,000 necessitous people who are doing temporary work for the Commonwealth, to make them become unionists, and swell the Ministerial army. If a Minister can, by a stroke of the pen, do that sort of thing, the possibilities of corruption are very grave indeed.
– The Government have shown their business capacity.
– I wish the honorable member would show his. The charge is not against unionism, nor is it against preference in the sense in which it has been preached hitherto, and is embodied in our legislation. The charge is against granting preference by a Ministerial act. That is the reason why this no-confidence debate has been initiated. We want the people outside to know what their present masters are prepared to do. When in this House we were considering a site for Com.monwealth offices in London, we insisted that the Government of the day should not be allowed to close a bargain until Parliament Had had a say in the matter. That was not nearly so serious as is this question. Nevertheless, we would not permit the Minister to take action “ off his own bat.” It is still more necessary to prevent Ministers from doing this sort of thing, which means far more to the community than the selection of a site in London. It is too big a thing; too many people are involved, no fewer than 19,000 being affected by this decision, which also attacks the living principles of liberty and justice - to give a Minister a freehand in this way, without Parliament having a chance to consider the matter. The Government say that they are managers for the people. No manager who studied the interest of his employer would do such a thing as this without giving his employer the right to express his opinion. Who are the Government employers? They are simply agents for the public. They are not spending their own money. They are not spending the money of their party. They are spending the people’s money. They occupy office under the Constitution, which requires them to hold the scales evenly and fairly, and to do justice to all. I do not deny the right of unions to do their best for the attainment of their own principles. They have a perfect right by all legitimate means to do so. But that is quite a different thing from the central Government, which represents all the people, taking action in’ the interests of a mere class. The non-unionists who will be affected by this decision will have to pay their taxes just the same as the unionists. But simply because some of them may have grit enough to stand by their own conscientious objections, they will be denied employment by the Government. Of course, that does not trouble honorable members opposite. They have no pity for the working man. They only study the interests of the unionists. They come here mouthing about what unionism has done, and the privileges which it has won for the workers. We admit that it has done something. But Liberalism throughout the ages has done far more to secure those benefits which the working classes enjoy to-day than any union has done.
– Is the honorable member going to connect these remarks with the motion before the House?
– Certainly, Mr. Speaker. It is through the efforts of Liberalism in the past that we enjoy the measure of freedom which is ours to-day. We have whittled away privilege in every direction. Now the Government are going to reverse the process, and to set up another privileged class. The unionists are to be the aristocrats of the future. They are to be the privileged people of the community. We are going to set up an aristocracy of Labour. We have heard much declamation against tyranny and cruelty. What is the difference between tyranny practised by an hereditary aristocracy and tyranny practised by a trade-union aristocracy? It is tyranny just the same. Indeed, it is likely to be much worse, because, being inexperienced in the use of power, the new tyrants will not know how to exercise it wisely. The chances are that we shall see in the future much more cruelty, tyranny, and short sightedness than has been witnessed in the past. The Trades Hall, Melbourne, recently passed a commendatory resolution concerning the action of the Minister of Home Affairs in extending preference to unionists, to the temporary employes of his Department. It was carried with loud cheers. Then a gentleman named Mr. L. Cohen, VicePresident, in seconding the motion, said -
The Minister for Home Affairs, Mr. O” Malley, was deserving of the highest commendation of the council. The Federal Ministry was carrying out the platform of the Labour party.
I have shown that this principle was never on their platform, and that they had never preached it -
The members were elected to give preference to unionists.
Certainly in accordance with their platform, but not in this way -
Non-unionists should be put ofl the face of the earth. Senator Rae had said that any violence done to non-unionists was justified. ‘He agreed with that view. (Dissent.) If they were shot or put to death it was no more than they deserved.
This statement was made the other night at the Trades Hall to a body of men, who, for all practical purposes, are above the Government.
– You admit that there was dissent when Mr. Cohen made that remark.
– I do not suggest that this is a fair statement of the views of honorable .members. I do not say that every or any member opposite would- be guilty of using such un-Christian terms in respect to anybody, and I cannot understand how Senator Rae, after taking the oath of allegiance to obey the King’s laws, which is imposed on every member of Parliament, could find it in his conscience, or anywhere else, to give utterance to such a barbarous sentiment. I do not say that all honorable members opposite are tarred with the same brush. I do not mean to suggest that they applaud such statements ; but this Ministerial preference is introduced at a time when too much of that sort of language is indulged in. It tends to show that the old trade unionist - the man with some manliness and some principles - has passed away, and given place to a set of demagogues or agitators, who, having no principle to fight for, must stir up strife in order to keep themselves secure in better billets than they ever had before. If we have come to that pass in the community it is time that we took cognisance of the action of any Minister who gives aid to a movement of that sort. The Ministry cannot help themselves because they are under thf thumb of the trade unions. It was noi until the trade unions intervened the other day and hurried things up, that definite and immediate action was taken by the Government to put this policy into operation. Would the deputation from the Trades Hall have waited on the Prime Minister if the Postmaster-General’s intimation of May last were being acted upon in regard to the thousands of employes in his Department? Would these gentlemen have visited the Prime Minister if the Minister of Home Affairs had been giving absolute preference in his Department? There has been a great stirring up of this question of preference by Ministers since the Trades Hall intervened. That ought to show the community that we have not a free Ministry, but a Ministry which is dictated to, and can be compelled to do the bidding of the trade unions.
– Order ! A moment ago I asked the honorable member not to impute an unworthy motive, and I ask him again not to do so.
– I hope, sir, that I was not imputing any motives. I was trying to describe the position in which the Ministry stand in respect to trade unions.
– I understood the honorable member to say that the Ministry were under the domination of some bodies, and must do certain things because they were compelled. That is imputing an unworthy motive, which the honorable member must not do.
– I withdraw the imputation, sir. The remarks I have made should make thoughtful persons pause before they consent tq allow Ministers to do practically as they like. If a Minister can, by a stroke of the pen, authorize a departure which affects all sections of the community, and strikes at a man’s freedom of conscience, where are Ministerial acts going to stop? They could introduce all manner of things, and then say that they were contained in their platform, although it made only the slightest mention of them on such platform. They have introduced a principle which is not included in their platform, and they are acting in a way which is altogether opposed to the best traditions of British administration, and which, thank heaven, was never resorted to by any other Government in Australia before them.
.- The honorable and learned member who has just resumed his seat indulged in a fine arraignment of the Trades Hall, which, I may inform him, has no power over the actions of the Labour party in this House.
– It does not look like it, does it?
– The honorable mem-‘ ber has wasted a lot of breath and time.
– The Political Labour Unions have. They are all of the same kidney.
– The Leader of the Opposition has moved a motion of censure on the Government for an administrative act. I challenge honorable members on the other side to show one instance where the Ministry have attempted, during the last eighteen months, to put one of their number, or any supporter of their party,, in a high public position. I regret that the honorable member for Ballarat, when he was leading the House, did not follow, the course which the present Prime Minister is pursuing. He was not game enough to come straight out and say that he intended to give preference to unionists as the present Minister has done, but he gave preference to members with whom he intended to fuse. In order to bring about a fusion, he allied himself with those who had been opposing him, and gave ‘the Leader of the Opposition at that time the position of High Commissioner.
– The best man in Australia for the position.
– That does not matter.. The honorable member for Ballarat, in order to bring about a fusion, gave a preference to the Leader of the Opposition a* that time so that he should be silenced in this Chamber. Did he offer the billet to a non-unionist? Did he call for applications from high and honorable gentlemen for the position? No; he selected the most-
– Suitable man.
– No; he selected the most bitter opponent he had in the Chamber. The fusion could not have been brought about, and the Right Honorable Sir George Reid left out of the Ministry, unless some promise had been held out to him.
– That is absolutely incorrect.
– There is not a word’ of truth in the statement.
– Order ? I called the honorable member for Wilmot to order for imputing an unworthy motive, and I ask the honorable member not to do so.
– I withdraw the words, Mr. Speaker. I say, however, that the Leader of the Opposition never said straight out that he would give preference to unionists, but he quietly offered a position . to a bitter opponent of his in this Chamber.
– There is no justification for that statement.
– The position was accepted.
– Sir George Reid was challenged before he left, and he did not deny it.
– This Government is charged with giving preference to unionists outside Parliament, but we have had Ministers giving preference to their opponents in Parliament?
– Where is the analogy?
– There is one thing anyhow with which the Labour party cannot be charged. In all their eighteen months of office not one public position has been offered to a friend on this side of the House.
– Every Commonwealth Administration has been clean in that respect.
– What is the difference between giving preference to unionists outside, and giving preference to opponents inside? Which is the better?
– It is not true.
– There is a great difference between giving preference to unionists, and Ministers giving preference to themselves. Ministers have never given, even unionists, if honorable members like, a chance of any high position, but Ministers in past Governments have absolutely given preference to themselves. Take Sir Edmund Barton and others who have held the office of Prime Minister, and have given themselves positions, in other words, given preference to themselves.
– The honorable member is surely thinking of the present Government !
– No, I am not. We should not be worthy of holding the Treasury benches if we were not game enough to give preference to unionists. Had we remained in power for three years,_ and then gone to the electors in 19 13, without giving such preference, we should have been told, and justly so, by our opponents that we were afraid to do so. Our opponents would have been entitled to say that we had preached something we did not believe in, or were not courageous enough to give effect to it. I say, without hesitation, that the Ministry have done what is right in the opinion of the Labour Caucus.; Who have built up Australia ? The unionists or the non-unionists?
– The non-unionists every time !
– Is that so? Compare the position of the working classes to-day. with their position twenty years ago. They are now receiving rates of wages for which they have fought, and are thus enabled to maintain decent homes. Can it be said that the non-unionists have brought that about ? It is the 100.000 or more of united men who have made things better for the working classes.
– What about the capital and brains that found employment for them ?
– No man in Australia is fool enough to put capital into an investment unless he hopes to make a good bit out of it.
– But they often lose, you know !
– In the past employers of labour have practically intimidated the workers in factories and other places, and told them that if they studied theirown interests they would not have anythingto do with unions - that if they desired to keep in employment they would avoid unions.
– Has , the honorable member ever been intimidated ?
– Yes, more than once; but that was a few years ago. It is a well-known fact that a certain section of employers in the Commonwealth hold out inducements to one or two of their employe’s to go about, as it were, and intimidate their fellows, so that they may not join unions or attempt to better their industrial conditions. What have we found during the last few years? Wages have gone up, and the very men who have fought for these rights, for decent homes, decent clothes, and sufficient food, are not receiving the rewards they deserve from their employers. If an employer to-day can advance a non-unionist he will do so.
– The honorable member is forgetting that the subject before us is preference to unionists, and not unionism generally.
– But the question of preference suggests the argument I am using. A motion has been launched censuring the Government for giving preference to unionists within the Commonwealth service. It must be patent to every honorable member that, if we are to retain the confidences of those who have sent us here, we should, without fear, put into operation that principle about which we have talked so long on the platform. It has been said, especially on the election hustings, that if the Labour party got into power there would be preference to unionists. Honorable members opposite have told that to the farmers of Australia.
– Was it understood that preference would be given to unionists in the Government employment ?
– The Government have a perfect right to give preference.
– But was that contended on the: public platform?
– The Government certainly said they would give preference if they had. power under the Constitution.
– By a Bill Parliament could give the Government power to do what they have already done; why not pass a Bill?
– In my opinion, there is nothing in the Constitution to prevent the Government giving preference as an act of administration. The Government have as much right to give preference to unionists as Ministers in the past have had the right to give preference to themselves in regard to big billets.
– If it is such a natural thing, can the honorable member explain why it was kept so secret by Ministers during the past year? It is claimed that preference was given in August, 1910?
– If so, how has it been kept secret?
– That is what I want to know. Why was it necessary to keep it secret ?
– It was not necessary.
– It was not necessary, but it was kept secret.
– If the honorable member had been “game” enough to ask a question, he would have had an answer.
– I am not a thought-reader, and could not know of the preference.
– When did the honorable member for Bass first know of this preference being granted?
– Now the honorable member wants to know all about the Caucus. We find that the Free Labourers’ Union is being subsidized by the capitalists of Australia.
– The honorable member cannot prove that.
– I can. That union no sooner came into existence in Melbourne than we saw published the names of certain employers of labour who had sent cheques for £20, £50, and ,£100 towards its funds. Would those employers send like cheques to trade unions in Australia? If we ever have trouble in Australia with regard to industrial matters, the way to it will have been paved by the action of these gentlemen in subsidizing free labour.
– Is the honorable gentleman going to connect these remarks with the question before the Chair?
– Certainly. The Conciliation and Arbitration Act provides for preference to unionists under certain conditions ; yet we have in this Commonwealth gentlemen who are subsidizing the .Free Labourers Union, which is out practically to fight other unions that are recognised by the law. When capitalists proceed to set working men against working men, the time must be coming when we shall have industrial troubles; and if ever blood does flow along the streets of Melbourne, or any other city in the Commonwealth as the result of industrial disturbances, it will be because of the action of capitalists in subsidizing one set of workers to fight another set of workers for their food, their clothing, and their homes. I am proud to be associated with a Labour Government that is prepared to come out and to grant preference to those who are trying to build up the Commonwealth. I am proud that the Government are prepared to give preference to those who join together in an effort to provide, in a proper way, homes and decent food and clothing for their wives and children, and if that happy result can be brought about by industrial unionism, then this Government is certainly right in recognising anything in that direction that will tend for the good government, peace, and well-being of Australia.
.- It is to be regretted that during this debate most of the speakers on the Ministerial side of the House have dealt with preference to unionists, applied in a general way, as part of the policy of successive Commonwealth Governments. That is not the question before the House. The question we have to consider, in the terms of this motion, is whether it is not an abuse of Ministerial power for the Government to discriminate in favour of any one class of the community, seeing that it holds office as a custodian of the public money and of the public patronage of the Commonwealth. This last step on the part of the Cabinet - this determination to use their Ministerial power in the interests of a particular class - is one which, if carried to its logical sequence, will mean the overthrow ot all power, authority, and discipline in this Parliament.
– For the reason that if the Government use their power in the interests of one particular class, they will be able to bribe that class, in return for certain services, in a way that will bring about a condition of demoralization and corruption in Australia. In connexion with this proposal, we ate confronted with the further serious danger that the Executive power of the Commonwealth is, apparently, to be used to force public servants to join unions, so that those unions may become affiliated with outside organizations in a way that will enable them not only to grip the policy of Departments as outside organizations have done, but to grip the administration of this Government. We have already declined in the general ethics and morale of politics in Australia, since we have in power a Government that is admittedly under the control of organizations outside Parliament altogether.
– Who admits that?
– It is admitted by every one in the community who has studied the question, save those who are under the control of these organizations and who, necessarily, are unable to admit it.
– That is a quibble; it is denied.
– We know that the policy of the present Government is formulated at a Conference of representatives of labour organizations ; that those organizations actually select the candidates for Parliament in the interests of the Labour party ; and that they tell the people for whom they are to vote at the ballot-box. When their candidates are returned to Parliament, they constitute a Caucus party, the members of which are the vassals of these outside organizations, and have to obey their behests. What is the position at the present time? We believed that, so far, the control of these outside organizations had been confined to the policy of this Government; that the Government would seek to give effect to its policy through the statute-book of the Commonwealth, and that it would be directed by the Constitution and by the legitimate constitutional majority votes of this Parliament. We never anticipated that these outside organizations would have the power-
– Why, the honorable member’s own father was-
– Personalities in this House are unworthy of any man. I repeat that it was never anticipated that these outside organizations would grip the administration of Australia and direct this Parliament as to the way in which the public moneys should be expended, seeing that those moneys had been subscribed by the whole of the people. It is not difficult to see that if these outside organizations, and organizations of public servants, were pooled into one general body we should have substituted for our present free democratic institutions a kind of oligarchy that would expeditiously overthrow power, authority, and high-toned administration within this Parliament. The destruction of parliamentary authority, and the undisciplined bureaucracy that would be substituted for it, must bring us closer to disaster than most people imagine, unless it is nipped in the bud. It has already been stated this afternoon by the honorable member for Fawkner, that we have 1,400,000 bread-winners in the Commonwealth.
– Where did the honorable member obtain his figures?
– From the Commonwealth Statistician. We have a population of 4,500,000 people, and nearly one-third of the population of the Commonwealth consists of bread-winners. Of this number only 300,000 are members of registered and unregistered unions. Under the ukase of the Minister of Home Affairs, which apparently has the sanction of the Cabinet, the executive powers of government are to be used to force the 150,000. members of the Civil Services of the States and the Commonwealth to affiliate with these unions, and thus control the community at large. There is a further possibility that the Trades Hall councils, representing the industrial organizations, may greatly influence the policy of the Government. Large works, such as the transcontinental railways, are foreshadowed, and others like the building of the Federal Capital, are in progress. They will give employment to thousands and tens of thousands of workers. This expansion of the Public Service makes the position more dangerous. In an article entitled The
Growth of Bureaucracy, which recently appeared in the Age, a writer says -
We are rapidly drifting into the same conditions here, for the grown up family that has not- a boy or a girl in a Government billet is a rarity. Some families have extraordinary luck in providing candidates for public employment, and it is no unusual experience to hear a proud mother explaining how well James_ is doing in the Police, John in the Railways, William in the Commonwealth, and Jane in the Education Department.
By the affiliation of our immense and rapidly-growing Public. Services with the watertight industrial organizations outside, there may be established a power which will control the Ministry and Parliament, and do. great injury to the interests of Australia. Although I am a Democrat, and believe that we have in Australia, in many respects, the highest development of Democracy yet known to civilization, I hold the opinion that Democracy is on its trial. It has yet to be proved that free people are prepared to respect the authority which they have created. Preservation of the safety and regard for the welfare of the community are the highest functions of Parliament. The people look to us to set the highest example in matters of equity and justice, and an enormous executive power is given to Ministers to be exercised in the interests, not of one class only, but of the whole community. But under the conditions which have been set up, the people may look in vain for that just administration without which State affairs cannot be safely conducted. It behoves us, as the makers of laws and the custodians of the public peace, as those who should set the highest example in ethics, to do nothing that will shake the confidence of the public in the right administration of their affairs. We should so shape our legislation, and so watch our administration, that the confidence of the people in the Parliament will increase, and we shall be sure of their respect in the exercise of our supreme authority. The people should be taught to feel that legislation, as well as the administration of the laws, will be always directed to the public interest, and that every class will be treated with fairness. But patronage such as the present Government seeks to provide for might easily lead to corruption, and the overthrow of the authority and prestige of Parliament. The Minister of Home Affairs has admitted that he instructed the permanent head of his Department to provide for absolute preference to Unionists, and called for a list of the non- unionists who are employed. He says that he did not give the instruction that the nonunionists now employed shall . be the first to be discharged, but that was a reasonable and logical interpretation of his minute, and the honorable member for Cook has been straightforward enough to acknowledge it. Absolute preference to unionists carries with it, as a corollary, the discharge of non-unionists first. No other interpretation is possible. By way of indorsement of the Minister’s minute, we have the Prime Minister’s statement that preferference is to be given, all things being equal. The permanent head of the Department, or the manager, or foreman, or officer in charge, will find a great difficulty in discriminating between unionists and nonunionists, when called upon to decide in the face of that instruction. In fact, it will be almost impossible for him to do so. The Prime Minister, in reply to a question by the honorable member for Parramatta, also stated that “ the Public Service Commissioner is not under the direction of the Government, but I think he will recognise the principle, and apply it as far as possible.” We want to know whether, in connexion with the permanent employes of the Commonwealth, if the Public Service Commissioner declines, in his high, judicial, and independent position, to carry out that desire or instruction of the Prime Minister as the responsible head of the Cabinet, it will not be necessary for the Cabinet, under the same influences as have already been brought to bear upon them, to bring in a Bill taking away the powers of the Public Service Commissioner, and placing the whole of the Public Service under the direct control of the Administration.
– Who gave any instruction to the Public Service Commissioner?
– I am only stating the effect of the reply of the Prime Minister to the honorable member for Parramatta. I take it that the Prime Minister was then referring only to temporary or casual hands, but his statement was nevertheless a declaration of the policy of the Cabinet. If the Public Service Commissioner is not inclined to carry out that wish or instruction of the Cabinet, will they not find it necessary to introduce legislation such as I have indicated?
– Does the honorable member think that my language implies coercion of any kind ?
– I am simply stating that the principle of preference, as applied in one Department to the temporary hands, is an absolute preference, and is the beginning of something that may easily lead to a kind of patronage, and to use of the public funds that belong to the whole community in the interests of one particular class.
– Will the honorable member say whether he considers that the language I used regarding the Public Service Commissioner was in any way coercive?
– I do not consider it so. I merely say it is a declaration of the policy of the Cabinet. We want to know whether, if that declaration of policy is not complied with by the Public Service Commissioner, the Cabinet will not be forced, under the same influences as have already been brought to bear upon them–
– What influences?
– Influences coming from the organizations which really control the Government policy, and which have now gripped the administration of the affairs of this Parliament. This motion has one strong and powerful indictment in it against the Government. The question of the general principles of arbitration and of preference to unionists is not germane to the debate. It has already been decided by two or three Parliaments, and is embedded in an Act. The principle of preference to unionists, under that Act and its amendments, is vested in the impartial authority of a High Court Judge. It is therefore the law of the land, administered by the proper judicial authority, but what we complain of is that in the administration of this Department the judicial powers of the High Court Judge are being usurped, the Minister, who is supposed to act for the whole of the people, and safeguard the interests of every section of the community, having arrogated to himself the right to say that unionists shall be first employed, although they are only a minority of the breadwinners of the Commonwealth. The present “Government have a perfect right to carry their policy into effect, having had the indorsement of the people at the elections, but I am sorry that they have allowed that policy to be introduced into their executive administration, which ought to be quite apart from policy. A policy can be car-
Tied out only by Statute law, passed in a constitutional manner by the majority of the members of the House. I hope that the Government, having seen the possible evils of their act of maladministration, as I consider it, will recognise the wisdom of withdrawing the instruction, in order that this Parliament may preserve its traditions unsullied, and, as the supreme authority of the land, always command from the community that measure of respect which is necessary by discharging its highest functions in a fair, impartial, and courageous manner.
– Before discussing the motion I should like to refer to some of the arguments advanced by the honorable member for Wimmera, who gave us a long dissertation about the tyranny of unionism. Those remarks come with a very bad grace from him, because if there was any one who should not have given utterance to things of that kind, it was the honorable member. He should have a very keen recollection, as some others in this chamber have, of the fact that his own father, good Democrat that he was, was made the victim of a form of tyranny that has never been equalled or surpassed by any union.
– Does the honorable member think this is good debate?
– -However much the honorable member may dislike it, 1 feel it is my duty to state these facts, because he was railing against the very thing of which a relative of his was made the victim. As is well known in Victoria, the honorable member’s father was the first to form a miners’ association at Creswick, and because he did it he was boycotted-
– I rise to order. There is nothing in my family transactions that I am ashamed of, but I would ask if the honorable member for Indi is in order in bringing personalties into the debate.
– The form in which an honorable member submits his argument is purely a matter which he must decide for himself. I listened to the honorable member for Indi very carefully, and up to the time the point of order was raised I heard nothing from him which would have justified my interference.
– I am merely following the course pursued by honorable members opposite since the inception of this debate. I was mentioning an instance of tyranny against a unionist which the honorable member for Wimmera did not like to hear about.
– I made no attack upon unions.
– I was speaking of the man who formed the first miners’ association at Creswick. It is almost unnecessary to mention who he was ; but I know him as a good Democrat, and he was boycotted out of the place because he was brave enough to stand up for his principles.
– That is wrong and untrue.
– The honorable member knows that it is true.
– It is untrue. He lived there twenty years, and worked all the time.
– I ask the honorable member for Wimmera not to interject.
– References to matters of this kind are unpleasant to me, and to honorable members generally on this side; but since the inception of this debate honorable members opposite have been quoting persons who have no place in this House, and asserting that they have been agents of tyranny. When I was afforded an opportunity like this to show that tyranny has been practised on the other side, I think I had . a right, in defence of this party, to bring it forward. The honorable member quoted largely from the Age newspaper, but he did not quote from that journal when it took a certain attitude on the financial agreement which he advocated, and for which the Age described him as a “bogus Protectionist.”
– Is the honorable member going to connect these remarks with the question before the House?
– When the honorable member at the last election took up a certain position on the national policy of the country, the Age was very uncomplimentary to him.
– The honorable member must not try to evade my ruling after I have called him. to order. I ask him now to confine his remarks to the matter before the Chair.
– We heard some other remarks from the honorable member for Wimmera, and this is the last to which I will refer. He spoke of a certain family having a strong interest in the Public Service. I do not know whether the honorable member referred to his own family, because he has one brother in the Police Force, and another in the Lands Department. I wish to state, in as few words as possible, what I believe to be the Ministerial attitude in connexion with the ukase or edict which has been issued, and to explain why I shall vote as I intend to do on this motion. It seems to me that neither the Ministry nor any member of it is guilty of the charge involved in this motion. The motion reads -
That, in the opinion of this House, the preferences in obtaining and retaining employment recently introduced into his Department by the Minister for Home Affairs are unjust and oppressive.
I claim that in their answers to questions put by the Leader of the Opposition in this Chamber, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs have repudiated that charge. The Minister of Home Affairs could not have been giving preferences in the retention in employment of officers of the Public Service unless he took up the attitude that he was going to dismiss officers at present engaged in order to give preference to some persons outside the service who are unionists. What fuller answer could honorable members opposite want than is contained in the explanation given by the Minister of Home Affairs which appeared in the Argus of to-day? I quote the following : -
The Minister for Home Affairs (Mr. O’Malley) last night offered a further explanation of the minute issued by him a week or two ago, and which he has stated was exceeded by his officers when they issued the instruction to works officers on Thursday last that in discharging hands non-unionists should be discharged first.
The honorable gentleman made it clear that the officers misinterpreted his minute. He also said -
He had not expected his officers to interpret it in the way they had. The circular issued by the Department last Thursday to works officers need not be recalled, as it became non-effective, lt had not been in accordance with his instructions.
In reply to the question put by the Leader of the Opposition on the subject of the application of the principle in regard to retaining employment in the Public Service, the Prime Minister answered that it was not proposed to interfere with any one at present employed in the Public Service. The Leader of the Opposition, in submitting the motion, made use of the following words -
We have no intimation yet as to the methods or machinery which have been devised for the application of the proposed preference to unionists, and we must wait till we get the Prime Minister’s reply for light to be thrown on all the dark corners of the question.
The honorable gentleman admitted in his opening remarks that he did not know anything of the methods or machinery to be devised for the application of the proposed preference, and said he must wait for light to be thrown on the subject by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister has replied to his questions, and the explanation of the Minister of Home Affairs has appeared in the Argus. I wish to know what further explanation honorable members opposite require to show that we do not propose to do the things we are accused of desiring to do. The only honorable thing to have done, in the circumstances, was to have withdrawn the motion, seeing that Ministers cannot be proved guilty of the charges laid against them. It appears to me that honorable members opposite have been bayonetting an imaginary foe for the last two days. They have been attempting to breathe the breath of life into the nostrils of their dead motion. They appear to be very angry and ill at ease, because Ministers have not admitted just exactly what they wished them to admit. The Leader of the Opposition said -
Under the new order of the Minister for Home Affairs we are to have a number of temporary employes of the Commonwealth Public Service selected on a new plan by preference to unionists, to be put into their positions without regard for the qualifications required for the positions.
That was a most unjust interpretation to place upon the action of the Minister of Home Affairs. The Minister distinctly stated that preference was to be granted to unionists, other things being equal. How, then, could the Leader of the Opposition affirm that a preference was to be extended to them without regard to the qualifications required for” the position? The honorable member for Ballarat also asked -
Will non-unionists appointed on the ground of greater personal qualifications or capacity be liable to be displaced in favour of unionists applying for appointment ?
In reply to his question, the Prime Minister stated -
No alteration in the present method will be made in these respects.
Here was a complete answer to the two points raised by the Leader of the Opposition. Yet honorable members upon the other side of the Chamber are not satisfied. If a unionist and a non-unionist ask for temporary employment in the Public Service, according to the edict issued by the Minister of Home Affairs, a preference will be granted to the former, other things being equal.
– Only one of them can get the job.
– Exactly. If my honorable friends opposite take up the position that the non-unionist should get it, are they not seeking to extend a preference to non-unionists? The Labour party are committed in their platform to the granting of preference to unionists. All we ask is what has been agreed to by the right honorable member for Swan and the honorable member for Parramatta. The former admitted last night that he was a member of a Government which adopted the principle of preference to unionists.
– Not as regards employes in Government Departments.
– The principle is the same.
– It was to be administered bv the President of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court.
– The honorable member for Parramatta does not deny that he was an out-and-out supporter of this principle some time ago. There are other gentlemen whose names I could mention in this connexion. One of them is the present High Commissioner, Sir George Reid. He was the greatest opponent of unionism, and yet what was his opinion of it? He said -
I know what I would do if I were in the position of a worker. I should join a union. I do not care what the unionist gets so long as he does not obtain it with legal sanction.
– He did not say thathe favoured the granting of preference to unionists in the case of Government employe’s.
– The Leader of the Opposition also said -
Not only preference does the issue involve, but the encouragement of unionism as well for the purpose of settling industrial disputes.
– He left office rather than extend a preference to unionists in the case of State employes.
– No, he left office on an altogether entirely different matter affecting railway servants. I have quoted the very words used by the Leader of the Opposition himself. I suppose that, if the honorable member were on this side of the House, and dependent upon the support of the Labour party, he would not only give preference to the unionist, but he would send a motor car around to take him to his work. The reason why so many honorable members opposite are not very happy under the gibes which have been hurled at them is that at one time or other they have committed themselves to the principles of unionism. Last night the honorable member for Kooyong said -
Unionism is not necessary to arbitration. 1 would like to know how many honorable members on the other side of the Chamber will indorse his statement. The honorable member for Ballarat said, in effect, that unionism is a form of tyranny. Has he gone back on the principle of arbitration? In my opinion, it is impossible to secure a settlement of industrial disputes without arbitration, and a body of workers cannot be cited before the Arbitration Court unless they are members of a union. Consequently, I cannot understand his statement that unionism is not essential to arbitration. I now wish briefly to summarize my position in regard to this motion. Quite unlike some honorable members opposite, who have made unbecoming charges against the Labour party, and against certain members of outside organizations wHo advocate strikes, I wish to say that I do not think that strikes are good, either for employers or employes. I look upon strikes and industrial turmoil as the greatest curse from which this community can suffer.
– Strikes are very bad for tEe Labour party.
– They are bad for all, and I wish to see some effective remedy for them. My belief is that the best way of preventing them is by arbitration. But how can you obtain arbitration unless you have means of citing both sides to a dispute? You cannot arbitrate unless you can deal with the parties collectively. The employes must be formed into a union before you can bring them into a Court. Seeing, therefore, that workmen are prepared to make sacrifices by subscribing to a union in order that they may easily be cited before an Arbitration Court, and seeing that they do this in the public interest in order that peace may be secured, I contend that the public owe them something. They can best be rewarded for the sacrifices they make by granting them preference. As the Opposition are against rewarding unionists in this manner, it is not too much for me to say that our opponents are not very sincere when they talk about the evils brought upon the community by strikes, and of the necessity for devising means to prevent them.
– The Government policy will promote strikes worse thai* ever.
– I guarantee that the honorable member will not be able to show any method of dealing with industrial disputes better than the establishment of Arbitration Courts.
– I agree with arbitration.
– How are the employes to be brought before a Court unless they are formed into unions ? Some harsh things have been said by members of the Opposition, who have accused Government supporters of advocating strikes. A senator has been named in this connexion. If we are to descend to that level of argument, I can quote more than one member of the Opposition in this House who, during the present debate, has announced himself in favour of strikes. I have no sympathy with rash statements, whether they are made by supporters of the Government, or by members of the Opposition.
– The honorable member’s party should bridle those who make rash statements.
– Let the honorable member begin by bridling some of his own party. Last night, the honorable member for North Sydney said, “ I am in favour of strikes as long as they are in the best interests of the people.” “
– That was in answer to an interjection.
– The honorable member was simply “pulling the leg” of the Government party.
– Nevertheless what I have quoted were his words. When a Government supporter says the same sort of thing it is not described as “leg-pulling.” I also wish to quote some remarks made by the honorable member for Wentworth, who said the other day, “ Those who talk about “-
– Is the honorable member about to quote from a speech made in a previous debate?
– I was about to quote from notes which I made at the time the honorable member for Wentworth was speaking.
– In a previous debate?
– In a debate on this question.
– The honorable member for Wentworth has not spoken upon the present motion. It is not customary to allow a quotation from a previous debate in the same session even upon the same subject. The honorable member will not be in order.
– I shall conclude by saying that I have no sympathy with such remarks as members of the Opposition have attempted to saddle on this side of the House. I have no sympathy with those who advocate strikes in this country. I say emphatically, however, that if such a meaning can be read into the action of. Ministers in issuing this edict for the granting of preference, as honorable members opposite have sought to read into it - if it were capable of such an interpretation - I should be just as strong in condemnation of such a policy as they are. But the points that have been raised have been effectively answered by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Home Affairs. The charges outlined in this motion of censure, that the Ministry are giving preference to those in the Public Service, without taking into account their qualifications, and also giving preference in the retaining of employment, have been denied. The Leader of the Opposition said that he would accept the Prime Minister’s word. The Prime Minister absolutely denied that the Government have any such intention, and 1 am prepared to accept his assurance. In supporting their proposal, we are only supporting what is on our platform. All things being equal, we propose to give preference to unionists, and in doing “so, we shall be simply carrying out the pledges which we made to the people of this country eighteen months ago.
.- I think that at this stage of the debate we can sweep aside certain issues which, so far as the motion is concerned, may be described as false issues. In the first place, it does not call in question at all the wisdom of unionism. It is admitted, so far as most of us are concerned, that unionism is, and has been, an essential means of improving the condition of the workers. In the second place, it is not a question of whether unionism has, or has not, helped on the matter of industrial reform; that is admitted. Further, it’ is not a question of whether organizations are, or are not, necessary for the purpose of Arbitration Acts, It is conceded that they are necessary.
And, lastly, even the principle of a discretionary preference - that is, a preference which is administered by a Court exercising a judicial discretion in the matters before it - has not been called in question. What, then, is really the issue that the House is called upon to decide? It is one particular form of preference only, and that is an absolute preference. The House is asked to say whether, in its opinion - the preferences in obtaining and retaining employment recently introduced into his Department by the Minister for Home Affairs are unjust and oppressive; prejudicial alike to the public interest, to the Public Service, and to the relations between Parliament and the public servants.
That is the real censure which is brought against the Government. All the other matters on which hours have been spent in debate are so much dust, as far as we are concerned. What we are condemning the Government for is that they are introducing, not a discretionary preference, but an absolute preference. The proposal is, that where two persons of equal ability apply for employment - temporary employment, so far - in the Public Service, other things being equal, preference must be given to the unionist. That is a mandatory preference, an unconditional preference.
– The conditions being equal.
– What are the conditions ? If the two men are equal, and one is a unionist, and the other a non-unionist, there is to be no selection between them ; but the matter is to be determined by the one fact,, that one of the men is a unionist. There is no other condition. In such a case the mere fact that a man is a unionist is to give him an out-and-out preference as regards employment.
– That is an exaggeration.
– I am glad to hear that it is an exaggeration.
– Membership of a union is a certificate of character, and a very high one, too.
– It is a new idea that when two persons are equal in point of ability, the Public Service of Australia is to bow to the mandate of a union, and to accept its ticket as a certificate of character.
– How would you decide the matter?
– If I were asked to give a decision, I would decide the matter as it has been decided for the last ten years in the Public Service - appointments should be independent of party-political considerations, and merit alone should tell.
– That is not so with casual hands.
– The Prime Minister himself admitted here that, as regards the Public Service, no charge can be brought against the cleanness of any Administration.
– No one is bringing a charge.
– The honorable member did when he suggested just now that political discriminations have been made.
– Political influence has been brought to bear.
– That has not occurred.
– The “honorable member’s leader wanted to prove it yesterday, but we prevented him.
– The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I think that the last occasion was when the honorable member for Parramatta made an officer of a man who had not passed the “ exam.”
– Honorable members on the other side cannot cite an instance of any person having been appointed on account of his political views to any public position in the Commonwealth. That practice is to be altered. What is to be the position? The Government are not to exercise a discretion, but are to grant employment to persons of a certain class. Pre.ference, so far as it is to be a matter for Government officers’ discretion, does not come into the question at all. The Government, or their officers, must give employment in certain cases. That is the position. The employer is the Government, representing the organized people, the nation, and expending taxpayers’ moneys in the employment of public works. ,What persons are to be employed by the Government ? All taxpayers ? No ! A certain section of the taxpayers are to be discriminated against. And, as regards all public works, which are to be paid for out of the general funds raised by taxation levied indiscriminately upon all persons in the Commonwealth, certain persons are to be selected for employment, and paid out of those funds. All taxation should, so far as we are ‘ concerned, be free from unjust discrimination. But when we come to expenditure, a discrimination as regards persons is to be introduced.
– That is not a correct statement of the facts.
– The point is, that, while all persons contribute to the general funds of Australia, and out of those funds employment is given on temporary works, certain taxpayers, if they are not unionists, are, other things being equal, to be excluded from employment if unionists are applicants also for the same works. That is the plain position.
– It is not.
– The honorable member will have an opportunity to follow me and put me right. I do not want to evade any point. What reasons have been given for granting preference to unionists, other things being equal, in connexion with the temporary service of the Commonwealth? Four reasons have been advanced in this House.
– The honorable member could get many more, if he wanted them.
– Yes; but, apparently, honorable members do not want more reasons, because they have not advanced them. The first reason, according to the Prime Minister, is that that preference is necessary to encourage industrial organization. The second reason is the appeal that unionists shall be rewarded on account of the splendid services which unions have rendered. The third is that unionists have been unfairly treated in public employment. The fourth reason is that private employers have penalized unionists. What I want honorable members to do is to consider the weight of each reason which has been advanced. Take the first reason the Prime Minister put, that industrial organization should be encouraged. He said that there can be no liberty without industrial organization; that we must have the whole of Australia industrially organized. What is the object behind that policy ? It is that every class of citizens must be industrially organized; otherwise there can be no liberty. That has nothing whatever to do with Government employment per se and the duty of putting a man into a public position where he has to carry out efficiently public works for the people. The only objective is To get the whole of Australia industrially organized. What does that mean ? We are to give preference to unionists in Government employ - to give billets in the temporary positions of the
Public Service to individuals - in order to accomplish an end - not something for the good of the Public Service, but for some other purpose outside, a political object, namely, the industrial organization of the whole of Australia.
– What is wrong with that?
– The principle is bad. We are going to use the public offices of the Commonwealth, not for the purposes for which they were legitimately established. We are not going to employ the best men, irrespective of creed, class, colour, on the ground of their efficiency only; but we are going to use public positions as a means of carrying out some political object.
– That is the difference between us - we draw the line at colour !
– I will leave out “colour” and say creed and class. Is it denied that my statement of the position is correct? The Prime Minister has told us, and I take it that honorable members opposite admit, that the object is to secure the whole industrial organization of Australia.
– What is the honorable member driving at?
– If we on this side were to use the public positions in the Commonwealth for the purpose of carrying out some ulterior object, we should very properly be subject to a severe attack.
– Does the honorable member not know of any instance of that being done?
– I am not aware of it having been done in the past ; but, in any case, it is a most improper thing. All I know in this case is that the Prime Minister says it is going to be done.
– The Prime Minister did not say so.
– The Prime Minister told us that “ until society is industrially organized, there can be no freedom.” What I am urging is that the giving of these billets, not because a man is a good workman, and entitled to reasonable remuneration, but for some other object, is to reward men for entering industrial organizations. I am not complaining of legitimate methods of encouraging industrial organization or the contrary; I say it is a good thing to have such organizations.
– No one on that side has the courage to take up that position !
– It is refreshing to hear that from a recent member of the House, who has not been called upon to make any sacrifices for his cause. We are not now making personal taunts ; all I ask the honorable member to do is to consider ideas, principles, and measures. We raise no objection to legitimate methods; but there are certain duties we require the public servants to fulfil in the interest of the taxpayer. The first consideration is efficiency. The honorable member for Corangamite gave a most eloquent discourse on the virtues of unionism, and what it has accomplished. He almost shed tears over sacrifices made - not by himself, by the way, but by others - in the cause of industrial unionism. It is perfectly true that industrial unions have done a great deal in improving the condition of the workers in Australia ; and we all rejoice at the fact. At the same time, it must be conceded that this has been brought about not alone by trade unionism, but a great many sympathetic men of enlightened judgment also have done much to enable unionism to succeed, and to further industrial progress. We are told, however, that because of the past services of trade unions, unionists are to be rewarded by means of preference in public employment.
– That is not so!
– That is the argument used.
– What odds if it is ?
– That plainly is the position; the principle in the future is to be that the public offices of the Commonwealth are to be given as rewards to those who have done some political service in the community.
– Does the honorable member call that a fair interpretation?
– It is a fair reply.
– I say that it is a most unfair interpretation !
– The argument is that, after what the unions have done for the community, unionists are entitled to preference. Has that argument not been used over and over again by nearly every speaker opposite? The honorable member for Corangamite and the honorable member for Bass both took that line of argument ; indeed, the latter pleaded that he, with his eighteen stone weight, had been starved into submission !
– The honorable member for Bass worked in a mine when he was eleven years of age !
– Then all the more credit to him. I am not finding fault with the honorable member on that account.
– Oh, yes, you are !
– If the honorable member for Maribyrnong takes that view, I can only give him up as hopeless. I think every candid member opposite will admit that the argument advanced by Ministerialists has been that, seeing the unions have done so much, unionists ought to be rewarded. The honorable member for Hunter was very clear on the point ; and he is to be congratulated on the plain honest way in which he put his case. The honorable member contended that the unions must be political, with political objects, and he pointed out that in the opinion of some unions the Labour party are not going fast enough for the unions. The honorable member went on to point out that the unions desired their own members to be selected to serve in Parliament in order to carry out their policy, because the unions, which were political, ought to have political representatives. Under all the circumstances, it is quite clear that some honorable members regard these public offices as rewards for services rendered in the cause of unionism. The third reason for preference was given by the Prime Minister himself, when he referred to the administration of the State Government of Queensland, between the years 1893 and 1899. The right honorable gentleman said that, in Queensland at that time, public servants dared not express themselves in favour of the Labour party. If that was so, it was a shocking state of affairs, and I have no sympathy with it.
– I think the honorable member can recall to mind, if he chooses to do so, one of those little incidents.
– I do not justify anything of the kind ; but what I ask the honorable member to do is not to repeat the offence. The Prime Minister finds fault with the Government of that time, because it penalized servants who dared to favour one section of the political parties of the State. He is entitled to credit for the stand that he takes up in that Tespect, but his remedy for theevil is not to do away with political influence, but to give a preference to unionists who may happen to be of one political complexion. He does not recognise that, as the result of this action on the part of the Government, men on this side of the House will be able to say later on that, during the years 1911- 1912 - not after 1913 - no man desiring work in the Public Service dared declare that he was a non-unionist. Is that the remedy for the evil which the right honorable gentleman deplores ? What is the evil at the bottom of the Prime Minister’s charge? It is, in effect, that men occupying public positions, intrusted with the administration of public funds, under the obligation of their office to act justly as between man and man, absolutely fail in their duty when they give preference to one particular class. Men who do that are certainly worthy of the severest censure. The Prime Minister declares, however, that hitherto the administration, of the Commonwealth” has been clean. That is our record up to date. Are we going to endanger it? If the Government think that there is a danger in this respect, what is the proper course for them to pursue? Is it not to pass a law that any person administering the public affairs of the Commonwealth and occupying either a chief or a subordinate position-
– And handling public money.
– And handling public money shall, in making temporary appointments to the Public Service, discriminate on no ground other than that of merit. A heavy penalty should be provided for any breach of such a law. If the Government wish to meet the evil that they say exists, would not that be a straight way of meeting it ?
– Such a measure would not be worth the paper it was printed on.
-I have more confidence in the Government which the honorable member supports. I believe that if such a law were on the statute-book Ministers would honestly obey it.
– I have no doubt about it. They are obeying all the laws.-
– I believe they are. I do not know whether the honorable member is sarcastically implying that they are not.
– Name one law that we are not obeying.
– I believe that the Government are obeying every law; but does the honorable member for Adelaide, by implication, suggest that they are not?
– The honorable member knows that Ministers, as individuals, do not interfere in regard to the appointment of any one to the Public Service.
– Of course, they do not. I am now speaking of temporary appointments to the Public Service, and the whole position in that connexion is that Ministers are now interfering by giving a preference to unionists. If the Prime Minister wishes to prevent the exercise of political influence in either one direction or the other he can do so by making a statutory prohibition against it.
– Was the honorable member in the House when the Prime Minister said that he had never even recommended any one for employment in the Public Service? Could the honorable member have anything more direct than that?
– I fully accept the right honorable gentleman’s statement, and have not said one word to question it. He pointed out, however, that, in one State, preference had been given, and adherents of the Labour party were endangered in the expression of, their views. His remedy for this state of things is that the Government should give preference to unionists. That, however, is not a remedy appropriate to the evil. Instead of preventing one side from exercising political influence the Government are giving a preference to unionists.
– That is the honorable member’s own interpretation of what I said.
– Did not the right honorable gentleman say that, in Queensland, from 1893 to 1899, a public servant dared not express opinions in favour of the Labour party?
– Is that the evil under which we are suffering in the right honorable gentleman’s opinion in the Commonwealth?
– No, preference to unionists has nothing to do with that. That is an interference with the freedom of public officers.
– What is this direction as to preference to unionists but an instruction with respect to the duties of public officers to be exercised in a certain way ? Is it not a direction to public officers that, in making temporary appointments to the service, they shall select applicants from only one class?
– Preference to unionists relates to an industrial matter. The other was a subversion of a man’s individuality and his mind.
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s position. But surely a man in an industrial position has convictions of his own, just as much as any other man has, and surely this direction as to preference to unionists will mean the subversion of a man’s individuality and his mind.
– The honorable member would not have been daring enough had he been a public servant in Queensland at the time of which I spoke to utter a single word against the State Government.
– I was not in a public position, but I went on a public platform and spoke against the Government.
– The honorable member was not in the Public Service.
– I was not in a public position, but I certainly did express my opinions in opposition to the Government of the day. The Prime Minister alleges that public servants in a State for a certain time dared not express their political opinions in favour of one party in the State. His remedy is that as regards temporary employment under the Commonwealth, no person shall be appointed unless he holds certain convictions.
– That is not the case.
– ft is.
– I do not know whether the honorable member is wilfully doing it, but he is certainly misrepresenting me. The statement I made was in answer to one made by the Leader of the Opposition.
– The right honorable gentleman said that in Queensland at one time a public servant dared not express a certain opinion. With such a state of affairs no one on this side of the House, is in sympathy, but the Prime Minister is now introducing a new position. Is he proposing something that will give every one freedom to act, as well as to express his political opinions ?
– What is this administrative act of which we complain but a declaration that when two persons of equal ability - a unionist and a non-unionist - present themselves at the Commonwealth Public Works Office only one shall be entitled to employment, and that person the unionist. Is that the position?
– The Prime Minister says “ Yes,” and the honorable member for Adelaide says “ No.” I take the Prime Minister’s statement.
– I am afraid that he has not detected the subtlety of the honorable member’s reasoning.
– I have no desire to be subtle. I desire to be straight. I always am; but the honorable member’s ways are his own. The fourth argument is that, in private employment, some persons unjustly discriminate between unionists and nonunionists, and will employ a non-unionist in preference to a unionist. That is the charge made against private employers. But if private employers do take up that stand is that any reason why the Government should take away from themselves the right to discriminate - the right to pick and choose between the best men.
– To pick the best.
– To select the best. Because a private employer has in this way done a wrong, then the Government - the agents of the people, the representatives of the nation, the trustees of the public moneys - are also going to do a wrong. Because private employers, according to the Government, give a preference to nonunionists, the Ministry are going to employ only unionists.
– Who says that?
– Several honorable members of the Labour party have declared that unionists are often treated unfairly by private employers of labour. Those four are the main reasons which have been advanced, none of which justifies this action. It is to be regretted that the Prime Minister, because of indisposition, for which we all are sorry, was unable to make a full statement of the position ; but he promised that one of his colleagues would supply reasons for it.
– I did not say so.
– That was my understanding of the honorable gentleman’s statement. At any rate, although the debate has lasted two days, no Minister has explained the full purport and effect of the policy of the Government. We have not been told why this new rule has been introduced, nor how it will be applied. Today we heard, for the first time, that the Postmaster-General gave effect to it in May last, thoughthe honorable member for Werriwa said that he did not know when it came into operation.
– The Minister of Defence gave effect to it in March.
– We have not been informed why the rule was introduced, nor have we been told the area in which it is proposed to apply it. We have not heard from the Minister of External Affairs whether it will be applied to all the public works which are to be carried out in the Northern Territory, to the large railways and harbor works which are to be constructed there. In this matter, I would like to ask if the provisions of the Public Service Act have been complied with. Section 40, sub-section . 1, of that Act says -
Whenever, in the opinion of a Minister of a Department, the prompt despatch of the business of a Department renders temporary assistance necessary, and the Commissioner is unable to provide such assistance from other Departments in the State in which such assistance is required, the Permanent Head or the Chief Officer shall select in such manner as may be prescribed from the persons whose names are upon the prescribed register in the State in which such assistance is required such person or persons who are available as appear to be best qualified for such work.
The conditions have to be prescribed, and the selection has to be made in such manner as has been prescribed. Prescribed means “ prescribed by regulation made by the Governor-General in Council.” I have not considered the legal position, but I would like to ask the question : Has any regulation been issued in this case? If not, why is there no regulation? If a regulation is contemplated, what are to be the terms and conditions under which the rule is to be applied?
– The Act says that the man best qualified is to be appointed.
– That can be got over by declaring that the applicants have equal qualifications. Possibly, it may be that a regulation should be framed to give effect to the Government policy; and I ask whether Ministers have looked into this requirement of the Act, and whether they consider it neecssary to issue a regulation.
We have been given to understand that there is to be absolute preference to unionists, other things being equal. That policy has . been condemned as unjust and oppressive, as likely to operate against the public interest, and to prejudice the relations of Parliament with the Public Service. Parliament, in establishing an Arbitration Court, determined that it was necessary to organize the parties coming before the Court, so that cases might be properly presented; and agreed that it is fair, where the Court has given consideration to all the circumstances, to allow a preference to be granted to unionists. The Court may grant a preference where it thinks that course justifiable, but it may also decline to do so. That, however, is a different thing from what is now proposed. In a book entitled, State Experiments in New Zealand, by Sir W. P. Reeves, the writer, quoting the case of the Christchurch engineers, which arose in 1888, cites the judgment of Mr. Justice Edwards : -
The claim of the union to a preference of employment, in my opinion, necessarily fails when it is ascertained that the union is not really representative of the greater number of the workmen employed in the trade, and the claims of the union have not resulted in any practical benefit to the bulk of the workmen.
– A Court always inquires whether the union contains a preponderance of the members of the trade which it represents.
– My honorable friend, who has been a member of an Arbitration Court, says that a Court always asks whether a union represents the majority of those employed in the trade or calling which it stands for. This Government is not going to ask any such impertinent question.
– The Minister is going to find out.
– Is he? We now see the benefit of the debate. We are beginning to obtain information. We find that this preference is not to be absolute, that there is to be a modification. If a union does not represent a majority of persons connected with a trade, its members will not get a preference.
– Words again.
– The honorable member says that the Minister is trying to find out. What is he trying to find out?
– Which way the cat will jump.
– To continue my quotation -
Not the least important matter for consideration in each case must be whether or not the union is practically open to every person employed in the trade who desires to join it.
No regulation has been framed which makes that a condition of employment in the temporary positions of the Public Service. Are we going to have a law framed to give effect to the policy of the Government, and is it proposed to regulate the unions of Australia, requiring them to fulfil certain conditions laid down as necessary to be complied with before preference will be granted? If a union does not fulfil those conditions, a judicial tribunal, acting upon equity and good conscience, refuses to grant preference. Sir W. P. Reeves says in his work that -
A union which may not strike, and may not shut out any decent workman in its trade who wishes to join it, is a union left with little power for mischief, however much it may do, legally and peaceably, for its members and their fellow-workmen by organizing, probing grievances, negotiating, arbitrating, and watching the observance of awards.
One gentleman who was exercising the judicial office said from the Bench, when not guided by any political bias or any party judgment -
We, who believe in preference, say this : - “ We do not desire to have any undue advantage over the non-unionist; we desire to have a free equality, but where preference is not given to unionists, it is our belief, all things being equal, that some at least of the employers will prefer non-unionists to unionists, and, consequently, we ask for preference, with a view to preventing unionists being the victims.”
That was said by the honorable member for South Sydney in the Arbitration Court.He said, ‘ ‘ We ask for preference with a view to preventing unionists -being the victims.” That is the point. Does any one in this House say that the Commonwealth Government are making victims of any unionists, or have ever done so? According to the honorable member for South’ Sydney preference is justified in order to pevent unionists being made victims. If that is the reason the whole foundation for Government preference goes.
– Are the Government going to victimize unionists ?
– Some of the officials may.
– Then the way to deal with that is to punish the official who does the wrong.
– You must give him instructions to do the right. He must do one or the other.
– He must be given instructions to act fairly and squarely. If an official is victimizing unionists or nonunionists he surely ought to be punished. Would an order to employ only unionists deal with a case like that?
– There is no such order. The order is preference to unionists as against preference to non-unionists.
– Exactly, and the honorable member for South Sydney justifies preference to unionists on the ground that without it they are going to be victimized, and the honorable member for Gwydir echoes that sentiment. I should be very sorry to say on any public platform that I believed that this Government, if left in office with a duty to administer the laws fairly between man and man, would victimize either unionists or non-unionists.
– Exactly, and so we give an instruction.
– Precisely, an. instruction to victimize the non-unionists.
– The honorable member is dodging the real Issue.
– Doubtless, the honorable member foi Boothby will explain it to-morrow. I could quote the different cases in which preference has been granted or refused. In the case of the Laundry Employes Union, the Court refused to grant preference to unionists for certain reasons, one of them being that the number of employes in the industry was about 1,200, and the number of unionists 250, so that they stood in the proportion of four non-unionists to one unionist.
– lt is a ridiculous reason anyhow.
– It may be, but preference was refused. Another reason, which particularly applies to temporary employes, was given in that case in the following words -
Except so far as the small proportion of the employes are concerned, there is no constant employment. … It might occur - I suppose it would occur very frequently - that a hand would be required immediately
That is the case the honorable member for Parramatta gave this afternoon -
It may not infrequently happen that an employer carrying on his business some distance from Sydney might require an employe immediately; and the majority of the Court does not consider that it would be right to impose on an employer the inconvenience, and it may be the great delay, in applying to the headquarters of the union in Sydney for an employe before work can be proceeded with.
That was the judgment of Mr. Justice Cohen and Mr. Wright. Where you have casual employment, and the registered office is miles away from where the work is being carried on, owing to the impracticability of carrying on operations, prefer,ence has been refused. That is a fair and proper thing to do, but in this case no such condition can arise. The officials cannot put on a non-unionist at any distant place. They must wait and see if other people are available, and then, things being equal, preference is to be given to the unionist. And yet we are seeking to govern a vast continent.
– They would do that if the honorable member was in charge of the gang.
– If I were in charge I should try to obey the Minister’s instruction implicitly. Let us ascertain how the principle has been administered under the Commonwealth law. Mr. Justice O’Connor, in the case of the Australian Workers Union, said, on the question of the granting of preference -
The granting of preference to members of the union puts a limitation on the employer’s freedom of choice in selecting his workmen, it also places at a disadvantage in obtaining employment all persons exercising the same avocation who are not members of the union. The Act recognises rights in the latter class of persons, and makes it necessary for the President before hearing the application to notify by advertisement all persons and organizations interested and desirous of being heard, and directs the Court to hear all such persons and organizations applying or represented.
Further on he said -
The claimants, however, have failed to put before me any reason for exercising my discretion in favour qf granting preference. Mr. Reid, relying on the legal position that I was bound to make the order, has abstained from urging any argument in support of my exercising my discretion to grant it.
He therefore felt that he could not grant preference. In that case we have a Judge in the exercise of his judicial discretion deciding that, in certain conditions, preference ought not to be granted. He then dealt with the question of the political objects of the union, as follows -
There is no suggestion throughout the rules that the political ends aimed at are to be limited to the subjects set forth in the proviso to section 55. In the face of these declared objects of the union, it is impossible to hold that the rules of the union do not permit the application of its funds to political purposes. Apart from any other consideration, therefore, the rules themselves make the granting of the application for preference impossible.
– The Judge in that case was acting under the 1904 Act.
– That is so. He points out that, because the unions had distinct political objects, he was unable to give preference, and could not do so under the law, hut he adds that quite apart from that he would refuse to grant preference.
– No ; he said that no reasons had been put before him.
– Exactly ; he said so because reasons must be given; but what I am pointing out is that in all these cases, so far as the Courts are concerned, the matter is one for judicial discretion, and that there are cases in which the Judges in the exercise of that discretion have thought it an improper thing to grant preference to unionists. They give their reasons for arriving at that conclusion. I. refer honorable members now to a case which occurred this year, and was heard before Mr. Justice Higgins : the case of the Federated Enginedrivers and Firemen’s Association, Mr. Justice Higgins, on 1st May, 1911, gave his judgment in that case.
– No, he said what he proposed to do.
– I am reading from the official record, and the statement is made that-
The President, Mr. Justice Higgins, delivered the following judgment.
The honorable member for Werriwa may think he knows better than the official record. This was the judgment of the President -
The Act, section 48, contemplates clearly the granting of preference in proper cases ; and as I read the Act, the subject of preference need not even have been one of the subjects in dispute. But what is a proper case? On what principle is preference to be granted or refused? The Act gives me no direct guidance, but the main considerations that appeal to my mind would be (1) is the order necessary or conducive to industrial peace; and (2) will it aid the Court by encouraging unionism or by preventing injustice to unionists?
Then, among other considerations, he referred to the judgment of Mr. Justice Cohen that, in giving preference, it is a fair thing to bear in mind the fact that unions have sacrificed funds in order to get a judgment. That is a consideration which may have weight where men spend a lot of money in securing evidence to present their case. That cannot be said of a man who merely walks up to a public office and asks for employment. The President of the Court went on to say -
But I am very loth to interfere with the employer’s absolute discretion in choosing his employes without the employer’s consent or some very strong necessity.
– The honorable gentleman has jumped over a very important portion of the judgment.
– What I have omitted has only been so omitted to save the time of this House.
This absolute power of choice is one of the recommendations of the minimum wage system, from the employer’s point of view - he can select the best man available when he has to pay a certain rate.
– It is most regrettable that the honorable gentleman should have omitted certain statements made by the Judge which are published between the passages he has quoted.
– I am prepared to quote the whole of the judgment.
– I wish the honorable gentleman had done so.
– I have stated that the Judge referred to Mr. Justice Cohen’s judgment in the Trolly and Draymen’s case, and said that where men had gone to expense in putting a case before the Court they are entitled to consideration.
– The honorable gentleman did not quote the part that did not suit him, and it would have been much better if he had quoted the judgment fairly.
-I will read any line of the judgment which the honorable member asks me to read, but he is a free subject, and he can read it himself if he pleases. Perhaps honorable members will permit me to state my own case in my own way. The President of the Court continued -
This freedom of choice tends to the efficiency of the industry, bracing up the men to show their powers. Moreover, I find in this case at present no disposition or wish on the part of these employers to discriminate as against unionists. There is a general desire among the employers who have given evidence to be fair, and to get the best men that they can at the price. The burden of proof lies on the claimant to show that preference ought to be granted, and that burden has not yet been satisfied.
That was Mr. Justice Higgins’ view when asked to give judgment, and he refused the preference asked. That is a strong case for refusing preference, and should appeal to the minds of the Government when they are asked to give employment in the Public Service. The honorable member for Adelaide asked me to read the statements of Mr. Justice Higgins, published between the passages I quoted. I am prepared to do so. Mr. Justice Higgins said -
It must not be forgotten that one of the objects of the Act is to “ facilitate and encourage the organization “ of unions of employers and employes (section 3) ; for without such organization - at all events on the side of the employes - the arbitration system and the industrial agreements are unworkable. The Act does not allow individual employes to present to the Court their grievances ; and it makes the funds of the union liable for breaches of the award. It may seem very shocking in some quarters, but it is my clear duty in obedience to the law to treat unionism as a desirable aid in securing industrial peace. Now, there is much force, one must confess, in the position taken by the claimant here, and by Cohen, J., in his judgment in the trolly and draymen’s case (1905, Ind. Arb. Rep.,. N.S.W., pp. 44-45), that the union men have to fight for nonunionists, as well as for themselves, in the effort to obtain better terms from the employers ; that the unionists have to pay subscriptions and levies, sacrifice time and energy ; and (not infrequently) their employment ; and that the nonunionists often assist the employer against the unionists in the struggle, and yet come in and enjoy the fruits of the unionists’ exertions and sacrifices. All the union asks is that, where other things are equal, the employer should be ordered to take a unionist in preference. A priori, one would think that, as between two men of equal qualifications, one a unionist and the other a non-unionist, an employer would be inclined, after struggle in this Court or elsewhere, to employ the non-unionist, as being more docile and helpless, and as not being protected by the award, and that he would be inclined to punish men who have been active for the union. This morning’s newspapers afford an instance of alleged discrimination against such men. The claimant wants to check any such practice; and its fear is by no means unwarranted. Preference has been conceded in a guarded form by the southern and western colliery proprietors, and several others, and by the Newcastle collieries award (not for miners), and by other awards.
Is that enough for honorable members opposite ?
– That puts an entirely, different complexion on the judgment.
– Not in the slightest degree. I have given all the reasons for preference; I have shown that the Judge considered every one of them - and what did he do then ? He declined to give preference to unionists. Now what is the position of the Government? In this case a man, as a member of the Engine-drivers Union, took his case before a judicial Court j all the evidence was heard, the greatest impartiality was shown, and he was told that he could not get preference. He goes away from the Court, and applies to the head of a political Administration, and what he has been refused by the Court he is granted by the political Administration. All these men have been refused preference in a judicial Court, and they have now got, by the exercise of political effort, what they could not get by judicial means.
– Let the honorable gentleman read the last sentence of the Judge’s remarks on preference, commencing, “ Circumstances may change “-
– Of course circumstances may change, and if they do preference to unionists may be given ; but it is not said that in future it will be given in all cases. I have fairly stated the whole case, with all the reasons which would actuate the Court in granting preference, and those which would actuate the Court in refusing, it. I have shown that the Court refused it, and it will be a very serious thing if a political body grants it where the Court has refused it. Honorable members who have spoken in this debate on the other side have suggested that the Conciliation and Arbitration Act has been of little or no benefit to unionists. I made inquiries on the subject this morning, and I find that sixteen cases have been brought before our Industrial Court. Awards have been granted in those sixteen cases. Six other cases have come before the tribunal under the conciliation power, section i6a. Who introduced the sixteen cases? Every one was brought before the Court by an industrial organization, and as the result every one of the unionists secured improved conditions. My honorable friends will see that we have already accomplished a great deal for industrial organizations. When they say that unionists are asked to give up everything and to come under the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, they forget that that Act confers upon them very great privileges. It takes away from the employer the right to lay down his own rates of wages, and to prescribe the conditions of employment. The unionists on the other hand have sacrificed the right to strike. I believe thoroughly in this system of arbitration, and I hope that .the industrial unrest which we are now experiencing is merely the discontent that is inevitable during the transition period. I am not going to lose faith in this method of securing industrial peace. If both sides will approach it in the spirit in which it ought to be approached, that is the true arbitration spirit of giving and taking, we shall ultimately make the scheme a success. My honorable friends opposite forget that, under the Act, unionists may obtain permanent advantages. They have the right to go before the Arbitration Court, and no non-unionist has that right. Further, the employer is bound by an award for many years. He cannot alter it of his own volition, and the Court can bring its whole power to bear upon his property to enforce that award. In addition, unions are permitted to enter into private agreements with employers, and those agreements are just as binding as is an award of the Court. Eighty-six private agreements, representing about twenty different cases, have already been made under the Act.
– In most of those agreements, a preference has been granted to unionists.
– That is very likely. This Parliament is doing its best to encourage industrial peace, and it has given to unionists something which is not a shadow, but a solid substance. Are we going to condemn the whole system by saying that we cannot accomplish all the industrial organization that we desire without degrading our Public Service? One cannot help thinking of history in this connexion, and realizing that it is repeating itself. On page 232 of Vol. II. of May’s Constitutional History, I find the following
It has been noticed elsewhere, that while the number of places held by members of Parliament was being continually reduced, the general patronage of the Government had been extended by augumented establishments and expenditure. But throughout these changes, patronage was the mainspring of the organization of parties. It was used to promote the interests, and to consolidate the strength of that party in which its distribution happened to be vested. The higher appointments offered attractions and rewards to the upper classes for their political support. The lower appointments were not less influential with constituencies. The offer of places, as a corrupt inducement to vote at elections, had long been recognised by the Legislature, as aa insidious form of bribery.
That is the history of the Old Land.
– It is the history of the honorable member’s party.
– I wish to save the honorable member’s party from that history. That is the history of party government in other lands. It is not so in Australia. We are proud of the institutions that we enjoy. We have brought from the Old Country all our traditions of administration. There our forefathers fought the evils of bribery and corruption by public patronage, and put an end to them. When the Commonwealth was established, it was the proud boast of every member of this Parliament when he returned to his constituents that we had passed a Public Service Act which abolished political patronage. We all claimed .that there was only one qualification recognised for entry into our Public Service - that of merit and ability. We ought to be careful to safe: guard the sacred traditions that we then established. I was indeed surprised to hear the honorable member for Hunter openly declare that unions are political, that they must be political, and must not only secure social reform, but become an active force in the State by returning their representatives to Parliament. He affirmed, “ Every member who joins a union must be supported.”
– That is a misquotation.
– Honorable members opposite say, in effect, that in temporary employment in the Public Service, preference must be (riven to the members of the unions who sent them here. The funds of trade unions are to be applied to political purposes. In such circumstances, if a man join a union, he may have to contribute to a fund for the purpose of returning to Parliament a person who may advocate different views from his own. The Prime Minister has said that no political distinctions are to be drawn - that an applicant for Government employment will not be asked whether he is a Free Trader or a Protectionist. But the test is to be applied to him when he is asked whether or not he intends to join a political organization. This is not a new question here. When it was before Parliament in 1904, I fought hard to enable a fair preference .to be granted to unionists. I even went so far as to say that if a union chose to be political in its objects, we could not find fault with it. The right of association is sacred, and we must protect that right. I declared that if a union which was political in its purposes went before the Arbitration Court, and asked for a decision on an economic question relating to wages, I would not exclude it, because of those purposes. It would be entitled to a fair hearing on its economic complaints. But when they asked for preference for a political union, the effect of which would have been to compel a man to join a body with whose political principles he might not agree, that preference should not be granted. We gave perfect political freedom to the unions, but we laid it down that when a union claimed a preference, which meant compelling other people to join against their convictions, the sacred rights of liberty should not be interfered with. The party opposite voted with us in support of that contention.
– -We were a misguided crowd then !
– Honorable members opposite were then actuated by considerations of justice and fairness.
– That is not a fair way of putting the position. We had to accept what was proposed or get nothing.
– That is quite possible; but honorable members did accept it.
– The honorable gentleman may hold a different view now.
– We had to accept it.
– I am pointing out the righteousness and justice of the decision then arrived at.
– Righteousness ?
– Yes j because when you compel men to join you in a union, you do not leave them free as far as political purposes are concerned. The position is perfectly, clear today. I say that this preference which the Government has introduced is, to use the words of the motion submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, unjust, because it discriminates between man and man, between taxpayer and taxpayer, between citizen and citizen. It is pernicious, because it rests employment in public works upon other grounds than fitness and merit. It is oppressive, because it compels men, if they want to secure temporary employment in the Public Service, to sacrifice their liberty of judgment and their freedom of conscience. It is prejudicial to the public interest, because it excludes the consideration of ability as the sole claim for appointment, and substitutes the consideration! of party allegiance. It is further prejudicial, because it creates in those engaged on the public works of this country a division of party strife. It is likewise inimical to good government, because it seems to be the first step in the introduction of that pernicious system which all civilized nations have swept away - the system of partisan appointments in public administration.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Hans Irvine) adjourned.
House adjourned at 11.9 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 September 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19110927_reps_4_60/>.