4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Debate resumed from 27 th September (vide page 876), 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.
– My only reason for speaking to the motion is to endeavour to enable the country to realize the evils which are likely to follow the adoption of the pernicious practice of giving preference to unionists in appointments to the Commonwealth Public Service. Honorable members on this side have stated that this is the introduction of the American system of spoils to the victors a criticism to which honorable members cannot fairly take exception, because the Minister of Home Affairs himself hassaid that he thinks it only right and proper that the members of unions should receive some recognition for returning the Labour party to office. Parliament, however, must deal with administrative acts, not from the point of view of party advantage, but as they affect the national interest. Even members of the Labour party realize that a false step has been taken, and many of them, if free men, would object to what has been done. I have great respect for many of the Labour members as individuals, but 1 am sorry for them as nominees of the Political Labour Councils of Australia. Every man on the Government side is bound to vote as a duly constituted majority of the Caucus may determine ; not one of them is able to give his support freely to all legislation which he may think will benefit the community. The party is obliged to vote for class legislation, not for legislation having in view the national welfare and the development of the country. Australia has a population of about 4,500,000, of whom about 1,500,000 are bread-winners, and, according to officialfigures, there are fewer than 200,000 registered unionists. I have said before that the unionists, all told, registered and unregistered, do not number 300,000. Is the community to be ruled and dominated by this small minority ?
– Certainly not.
-The unions dominate the party to which the honorable member belongs. He and his fellows represent the Political Labour Councils of Australia, and are forced by their pledges to support preference to unionists. They cannot speak and act as free men, as we can. Each one of them is bound to support the decisions of the Caucus. My constituents allow me to exercise my own discretion in supporting or opposing legislative proposals, as I consider them advantageous or harmful to the public interest, but honorable members opposite are not free to do likewise. Could the honorable member for Corangamite oppose the granting of preference to unionists, which has been introduced at the dictation of his masters, the Political Labour Leagues of Victoria ? On the platform he and others were careful to say nothing about this.
– Can the honorable member support preference to unionists?
– No, because I do not believe in giving preference to anything but ability. Ministers should not have regard to the interests of one class only, and favour that class to the detriment of the taxpayers as a whole. Neither they nor their supporters are free men.
-I am willing to allow the honorable member considerable latitude, but he may not impute improper motives.
– I am merely sympathizing with the members of the Labour party. Like the fox inAEsop’s fable, having lost their tails, they want us to cut off ours. They would make the Commonwealth a close borough for Labour. My object is to broaden their views, so that they may pay regard to national as apart from class interests. I desire honorable members of the Labour party to consider for a moment what must be the effect of legislating for a class interest. Their political labour unions comprise only a minority of the people. It was said last night that the Labour party represents the trade unions of Australia, and I wish to say at once that I have nothing to say against trade unionism, conducted on fair lines, although I have at all times something to say against political unions. The present Administration - whom I always describe as a Socialistic Government - claim to be a Labour Government, but they do not represent labour as the Opposition do. We represent those who have to find the capital wherewith men are kept in continuous employment, and it is upon this employment that trade unions have been founded. I favour trade unions, but am opposed to the political unionism which dictates to the Labour party, and insists upon their so providing for preference to unionists as to prohibit free men from obtaining a livelihood. As the result of this Ministerial ukase, all avenues of employment under the Federal Government will be closed to the non-unionist - the free labourer.
– The honorable member cannot refute my statement. The Minister of Home Affairs in his official memorandum directed that the preference must be absolute. He may twist and distort his words as much as he pleases, but he knows what was in his mind when he- issued that circular, and he knows that it was intended that the preference should be absolute. In that memorandum he also directed the preparation of what has been correctly described as a black list - a list of non-unionists in the employ of the Government. Why did he ask for such a list? Was it not that the free worker should not get a straight deal? Think what has happened in connexion with strikes in Victoria alone since the Labour Government came into power. For the twelve months ended 30th June last, there were seventy-five strikes in the Commonwealth, and since the present Government have been in office we have had in Australia more industrial disputes than ever before.
– How does the honorable member arrive at that?
– I do not desire to deal with the honorable member. If I did, I should say something regarding the offensive allusions he made last night to the honorable member for Wimmera. “He ought to have had a little more sense, and to have shown better taste. I wish, however, to confine my remarks to the question of preference to unionists. Honorable members of the Labour party know how they have been forced into this policy of preference to unionists against their own better sense. I appeal to them to endeavour to induce their masters, the Political Labour Leagues, to reconsider the question, and to agree to their withdrawing the order issued by the Postmaster-General and the Minister of Home Affairs - and probably a similar direction has been given by other Ministers - in regard to preference to unionists. Is this what Democracy has. brought about ? When the people a’ little over ten years ago agreed to federate, did they imagine that Australia would be captured by Socialists who would introduce class legislation. I admit that one of the planks of the Labour platform is “ preference to unionists,” but I never heard it discussed in Victoria. In not one instance was it discussed on the Labour platforms in this State at the last general election.
– How many Labour meetings did the honorable member attend?
– Four or five.
– Did the honorable member interject at any of those meetings ?
– No. I knew that if I did, I should be treated as many of the free labourers were at Sunshine and in connexion with other strikes. I knew that I should be taken by the back of my neck and ejected, and that probably a lump of iron would be thrown at my head. By means of preference to unionists - by means of coercion and compulsion - the Labour party are seeking to force all free labourers into unions. The honorable member for Corangamite, who is supposed to represent a rural constituency, knows that when the present Minister of Trade and Customs held office in a previous Administration, a deputation from the Trades Hall urged him to impose an export duty on wheat, and that the Minister said that his sympathies were with the deputation.
– Order !
– I wish to show that this question of preference to unionists must affect the growing and exportation of wheat.
– The honorable member will be out of order in following that line of argument.
– 1 wish to show that those who represent, or misrepresent, rural constituencies-
– I am satisfied that the farmers who voted for Socialism last year will not vote for it in 1913. I am confident that some honorable members opposite who are opposing the progress of rural industries will know this Chamber no more after the next general election.
– I have called the honorable member to order several times, and I ask him now to confine his remarks to the motion before the House.
– I have been drawn aside by interjections. We are today a free people, but shall we continue to be if honorable members opposite continue to obey the behests of their outside organizations? If they do we shall be deprived of our liberty and freedom. The Labour party should remember that the freedom, the liberty, and equality which we all enjoy were won for us by our forefathers, and were handed down to us as a priceless heritage to cherish and uphold. But by granting preference to unionists in the way they are doing Ministers are placing a bar sinister on the escutcheons of nonunionists, and seeking to keep them out of the Public Service. Other people appreciate their freedom and equality even if the Labour party do not. Honorable members opposite would reduce the people to the level of serfs by means of this preference to unionists. By coercion and compulsion they desire to bring all into the fold of the unions. In a free country any man who cherishes his freedom should be allowed to do as he pleases-, and merit, and not membership of a union, should count. I have nothing to say against unionism. I believe in it. Let me tell the honorable member for Corangamite that nearly thirty years ago I was one of the first men to introduce the eight-hours principle in a large business in which I was one of the partners, and that stands to my credit to-day.
– But the honorable member has changed since; he does not practise it to-day.
– I have not changed. If the honorable member goes to my place where my men are working he will find that they have an eight-hours day, and are paid time and a quarter for anything over that period. That has been my custom for years. My motto is freedom and not coercion. These are facts that cannot be denied. The party opposite must consider that they are legislating for the whole of the taxpayers. I have never yet asked a man or woman in my employ how they vote. Those whom I employ do not believe in .political unionism, but unfortunately honorable members opposite do. In fact, they have to, because they owe their positions to it.
– How does the honorable member know?
– I know probably better than the honorable member does. If he wants it I can read him the pledge thathe signed before his nomination was accepted. I know all about that pledge. There are probably three semi-independent members on that side, but the rest of them have taken the pledge.
– Exactly the same as the honorable member’s pledge to the People’s party.
– I do not belong to the People’s party.
– I will read the pledge that the honorable member signed.
– I have never signed a pledge in my life. The honorable member can read it as much as he likes, but if he says it is mine the statement is false.
– I have repeatedly asked honorable members .to cease these continuous interjections.
– In the mind of ‘ every honorable man who stands for liberty, freedom, and equality of opportunity, preference to unionists means the thin end of the wedge of corruption . It means offering a premium to men to become unionists in order that they may help to return honorable members who are supposed to represent the labour interests of the Commonwealth. While honorable members opposite say that they represent the great bulk of the electors of Australia as a whole, they know as well as I do that they represent only a section, and that by their pledges they can represent no one else. F reference has been insisted on in their case, and was part and parcel of the pledge they gave to their party. They are now obeying the behests of that party, as its nominees. Speaking from this bench as a free man to men who are not free, I ask them to consider the fact-
– I rise to a point of order.-
-Order ! On two occasions I have called the honorable member to order for a similar remark. I ask him not to repeat it.
– Those remarks were called forth by interjections. I did not mean to repeat them, and now withdraw them. I want honorable members opposite to realize whither they are taking Australia. Their action must eventually mean chaos. Preference to unionists on the lines adopted by the Minister of Home Affairs must mean absolute preference and the black-listing of all the men employed in the Public Service who are outside of the ranks of unionism. We have been told by the Public Service Commissioner that there are between 18,000 and 19,000 temporary employes in the Government Service. Are all the non-unionists among those men to be coerced into unionism by the policy of preference ? Are they to be forced to surrender the freedom they now possess? I hope not, but I think they will be, because they must desire to retain their positions. One of the chief objects of preference to unionists is to make Australia a close borough for labour, and to still further strengthen the position of the party by the adoption of a policy which has been called by members on this side “ spoils to the victors.” I hope there will be offered a general equality of opportunity, that the preference to unionists order will be waived, and that the Government will rise superior to the occasion. I am satisfied that that is what the people want. They do not want this whittling away of the Constitution, on the lines attempted by the Government last session in connexion with the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. The provision for preference’ to unionists in the Act of 1904 was inserted practically as a quid fro quo because the unionists were to give up their right to strike. We have heard honorable members opposite say since then that they will never give up their right to strike. There have been more strikes since 1904 than at any previous time in the history of Australia. In connexion with the preference to unionist provision which was placed in the Act by the united wisdom of .the House, the people of Australia have been practically sold like bullocks at Newmarket. I do not think that 95 per cent. of the electors of Australia know to-day that that section was inserted in the Act, although it was put there for a reason, and provided that preference could be given only on the direction of a Judge of the High Court. As soon, however, as the present Government took possession of the Treasury benches, they swept all those safeguards to one side, and on the 26th April of this year they took a referendum to ask for enlarged and extended powers. The people, as they well know, denied those to them by an overwhelming vote. I do not want to impute motives, but in all probability Ministers are now trying to do all they possibly can in the interests of political unionism before this Parliament expires by effluxion of time in. 1913. After taking away all the safeguards surround- ing the preference to unionists section in the Act of 1904, they have now done by administrative act ‘what the electors pf Australia said at the referendum that they were not to be trusted to do. Last year, in connexion with the amendment of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, they brought down an amendment to the effect that “preference shall be given to unionists.” After honorable members on this side had pointed out that that proposition was unconstitutional, a hurried caucus meeting was held, and the amendment was made to read that ‘ ‘ preference may be given to unionists.” These are facts which no honorable member opposite can deny. Preference was given in 1904 only on certain conditions with a view to allaying industrial trouble, but instead of that effect being achieved, the party opposite are extending industrial strife. We know what happened recently, and what happened at the Sunshine Harvester Works, and other places, just before the referendum vote’ took place. To-day, through organized effort, ill-feeling is being created, and now this proposition for preference to unionists is brought in. I want to see that feeling of unrest and distrust allayed, and legislation introduced in the interests of the people as a whole, and not in the interests of a section. I appeal to honorable members opposite, although they are pledged and bound, to meet in conference those whom they represent - that is, not the electors, but the Political Labour Councils of Australia - and tell them what evil results are likely to ensue from their recent action.. They know that what I am saying is correct, because they have threshed it out in the Caucus, and many of them agree with my remarks. Unless something of that kind takes place, as surely as night follows day the year 1913 will see those benches vacant so far as that party are concerned.
– We will take the risk.
– Honorable members opposite have taken their chance already. To me it matters not one whit which party occupies the Treasury bench, so long as it legislates with fairness, justice, and equity to the people as a whole. I am certain that that is the feeling of all honorable members on this side. I have no desire for place or power, but I do wish to see the spirit of fair play characteristic of the British race displayed by the party opposite towards those who are outside unionism.
– The honorable member is asking for something that is impossible.
– It may be improbable, but it should not be impossible. I wish honorable members opposite to consider that they are supposed to represent majority rule in a Democracy, but they believe in majority rule only when they are
Themselves in the majority. To-day let me tell them that they represent a minority of the people of the Commonwealth, and their advocacy of this principle of preference to unionists has alienated the support of many thousands who believe in many of their ideas, but object to their methods. Speaking in reply to the Leader of the Opposition, the Prime Minister said that their methods and principles were the same. 1 should blush for the Leader of the Opposition if that were so. Honorable members opposite believe in coercion and compulsion to force non-unionists into unions, whilst the Leader of the Opposition has suggested that if men are to be induced to join unions it should be by an equitable and proper method - that the objective should be the interests of the people as a whole. That is the difference between the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, and it is the difference between Socialism and Liberalism. We on this side desire to do what, according to our lights, we conceive to be right for the benefit of the people as a whole, whilst honorable members opposite are prepared to do anything to retain place and power on the Treasury benches.
– Is that not offensive?
– I do not mean it offensively, because I admit that in advocating and practising preference to unionists honorable members opposite are doing only what they are pledged to do.
– Why should we not do what we are pledged to do?
– If honorable members valued their freedom as their forbears did, they would not pledge themselves to do what is wrong or unjust. They must know that preference to unionists denies equality of opportunity to the great bulk of the workers of Australia. The Labour party represent the strongest and best organized combine in the Commonwealth, and I appeal to them in their strength to fee merciful, and deal out even-handed juslice to non-unionist workers. We can do nothing at this stage but inform the misguided electors who Voted for Labour.
They did so without knowing Labour’s objective of Socialism, nationalization of industries, the abolition of capitalism, and the nationalization of land. The electors never anticipated that this principle of preference to unionists would be enforced as honorable members opposite are attempting to enforce it to-day, against, the wishes of the great bulk of the people. In dealing with this question, I should like to say that regard must be had for our primary producers. Honorable members should recognise that in years to come we shall be the largest grain and meat producers in the world, and that in the disposal of our produce we must compete in the world’s markets. If we cannot make a profit on our productions, we cannot develop our industrial resources as we desire, and continue to enlarge the avenues of employment open to Labour. The enforcement of this principle in our industrial life will tend to industrial stagnation rather, than to industrial progress, and must result, in calamity. Honorable members must be aware of the fact that twenty-five years, ago £1 would purchase more than £2 will, purchase to-day. That can be proved by the statistical records in all of the States, and if we adopt a course which must in-, crease the cost of production, how can we hope to progress? I wish honorable members to consider these matters, and deal out even-handed justice to the people as a. whole.
– I do not think that even the most ardent friends of the honorable member who has just resumed his seat will claim that he has said much that is germane to the subject under discussion. The question is one of preference to unionists as adopted by this Government in their administration. They are assailed on the ground that they are adopting methods which are unjust and oppressive in their operation. Well, if that be true, this is not the first time it has been done. This is not something that is new.
– Does the honorable member mean to say that the Government should have been unjust and oppressive in. their administration?
– I say that if it be so it is nothing new, since a previous Government adopted the same principle.
– Which previous Government?
– The Government of which the honorable member for Ballarat was at the head.
– As applied to the Public Service?
– I did not speak of the Public Service.
– It is the application of the principle to the Public Service that the Leader of the Opposition objected to.
– The honorable member for Ballarat told us that there were three parties in this Parliament, each of which accepted the principle of preference to unionists. Their only condition was that it should not be unrestricted, that the principle should be safeguarded and surrounded with limitations and restrictions.
– Restrictions against licence.
– But the principle was there.
– In the hands of a Court.
– And it was either so limited and so restricted as to be a mockery to those upon whom it is capable of being conferred, or it did really operate within the circle of those who cared to comply with the conditions laid down. The honorable member who just resumed his seat said that one of the conditions was that unionists should give up the right to strike ; another that their operations and objects should be non- political. But providing they gave up the right to strike, and were not political in their objects and operations, preference was to be given to unionists. It was either, then, a mockery or a fact. If it was a mockery it was a piece of political sham on the part of the Government who professed to confer it. If it was effective, then all the misery, iniquities, and inequalities which are now denounced as involved in the principle were there within the scope and ambit of its operation. What, then, have honorable members opposite to complain about? If it was effective, all its essential qualities were there. If it operated to the advantage of only one union, the moment it was applied, whether by a Minister of the Crown or a Judge of any Court, the effect would be the same. What could be the difference? It was either just or unjust in its effect; and if unjust, the injustice was the same whether the principle was applied to one or all of the unions, and whether it affected a hundred or a million persons.
– The honorable member’s premises are bad, and therefore his conclusions are bad. .
– Ah, the honorable member for Wakefield is no doubt a good judge of the matter !
– In any case, the previous Government are responsible for the premises.
– That is so. They laid down the principle.
– The principle is not the same.
– There is no need for me to affirm it. It is admitted to be the same by the honorable member for Ballarat. All the honorable gentleman says is that the principle was limited in its operation under certain conditions.
– The principle is not the same.
– Then the honorable member for Richmond is .in conflict with the honorable member for Ballarat, and not with me; and it is for the honorable member and his leader to settle the dispute between them.
– The honorable member is not quoting the Leader of the Opposition correctly.
– Probably the honorable member for Ballarat is better able to speak for himself and interpret his own thoughts than is the honorable member for Richmond. In any case, the principle is admitted. A new Government comes into office, and, as members ‘of a particular party that has always - ‘for certain reasons which may hereafter be discussed - adopted certain views, extended the principle. If there be anything wrong with the attitude of the Government upon this question, it is not that they have extended the principle of preference to unionists to their own employes, but that “they did not extend it to them the very day after they assumed office. All honorable members recognise the principle, and if it be a good one there can be no limits to its operation.
– We do not all admit it.
– That is because the party to which the honorable member belongs is a party of such diverse opinions that its members cannot agree upon anything. The Government have granted a preference to unionists, and honorable members opposite at once anticipate all sorts of evils. They feed upon their imagination. They assume corruption, and by innuendo declare that honorable members upon this side of the chamber sit behind a body of men who are corrupt, and who are inciters to murder. When I look at those who confront us, who pride themselves upon their intellectual superiority, and who exhibit such exquisite culture and manners upon all occasions, I am impelled to ask what are their methods of conducting political warfare. They are not content to discuss the pros and cons of this question - they must make affirmations concerning the motives of those who” have given effect to the principle for which we are contending. The honorable member for Kooyong, for example, spoke of corruption in this connexion. Such words fall trippingly from the lips of honorable members opposite, but most trippingly from those of the honorable member for Kooyong. In my judgment, corruption should be the last word that he should use: unless he has become a repentant sinner. Then, the Leader of the Opposition spoke of us as inciters to murder. Have we wild men of the woods amongst our adherents ? Who are the gentlemen who have declared that upon this question a minority would appeal to an armed revolution against the decision of the majority? ‘Honorable members opposite say that we have not reprobated certain statements, but I would ask them whether they have denied the allegations which have been made by some gentlemen within their own ranks ? They do not appeal to reason. The first question they ask is, “ Who said it? “ and the next, “ Who did it?”
– Give a specific case.
– A responsible representative of the people, in the person of Mr. Wetherspoon, distinctly stated that he would arm himself against the law.
– Who is he?
– Where have honorable members opposite denied his statement?
– Name anybody upon our side who has said that he would arm himself against the law.
– I have given a name already - I have quoted a specific instance.
– Is the statement true?
– The press which supports honorable members opposite published it as being true.
– A most outrageous statement.
– All parties in this country have men within their ranks who make indiscreet statements, and who do indiscreet things, and no party should be held responsible for them. No church could stand alone if it were to be condemned by the improper acts of some of its adherents. Christianity itself would fail if it were judged by the infamies of some persons who have spoken in its name. What, then, can be thought of the action of honorable members opposite who, both inside and outside of this chamber, descend to such tactics to accomplish their ends? But they do not stop there. In this connexion, I would remind them that even the savages take their womenfolk out of the battle-field. But my honorable friends do not even spare the womenfolk of Ministers. The honorable member for Parramatta has affirmed that his side never appeals to prejudice. Yet its members drag even the wives of Ministers into the fighting arena. They discuss the dresses which they wear - these gentlemen of culture and good taste.
– Is the honorable member referring to me? Does he say that I ever did that?
– These are the methods which are adopted by honorable members opposite. I say that what I allege was done.
– The party organ of the Opposition did it at the recent referenda.
– Not content with that, photographs were taken of the Prime Minister’s residence, and these were published abroad. Do honorable members opposite desire him to live in a humpy? Do they wish his wife and children to be clothed in rags?
– Who did this?
– The whole of the honorable member’s party, without exception. They declare that a man named Schopenhauer, who lived in Germany fifty years ago, was a Socialist, and that because he committed bigamy, therefore, all Socialists are bigamists. That is the line, of argument which they pursue.
– Does the honorable member call this argument?
– It is the line of argument which is followed by the honorable member’s party. It is the infamous policy which they adopt in discussing public questions.
– Certainly, the Leader of the Opposition adopts it. He said, “ Here is a member of the Trades Hall Council- “
– I never said anything of the sort.
– He said, “ Here is a man who incites to murder. He belongs to your party, therefore you are all inciters to murder.”
– This is the veriest caricature. Let the honorable member read Hansard, and see what I really did say.
— The statement of the honorable member for Bourke is true. He has illustrated the kind of argument we have been hearing all through this debate.
– That is scarcely fair.
– Why, honorable members opposite’ would crucify Christ to serve their political ends if they had an opportunity.
– Is that remark in order, sir?
– I admit that it is not, and consequently I withdraw it. Let me mention another argument which has been put forward in opposition to the granting of a preference to unionists. The honorable member for Kooyong, and the honorable member for Grampians, both spoke of a period prior to the advent of the Labour party - of those glorious halcyon days when peace and contentment reigned throughout the land. I shall show that these honorable members and those who share their views, when they drew such fancy pictures, were living, as they have always lived, upon affirmation and assertion.
– That is what the honorable member is doing.
– I shall show what were the conditions of labour in this country prior to the advent of the Labour party, and that the attitude of the Government is justified by the necessities of the hour. I shall demonstrate that if we were not prepared to do what the Government are doing to-day we should be unworthy of the name and the cause to which we stand pledged. Infinitely better would it be that this Government, and those who stand behind it, should go out of political existence than that we should hold our places in this Parliament by an ignominious sinking of the principles of the cause to which we have devoted ourselves. The Labour party in this country came into existence for certain definite reasons. The honorable member for Ballarat was a member of the Government in this State at that time. Our organizations were few, and they were -very weak. A heavy burden rested on the shoulders of the men who carried the banner at the head of the movement. It was found necessary in the year 1882 in this
State of Victoria to make an examination into the condition of the working classes.* A Royal Commission was appointed. That Commission reported to Parliament in the year 1883 that there were 20,000 persons in Victoria who were subjected to grievous hardships. It was reported that under the system then prevailing there was forced labour which was “ repugnant to every sense of justice and humanity.” There was no Labour party then, but there was a very strong and powerful Government in existence. The report stated that -
In many places employes were obliged to work for periods beyond the limits of human endurance.
These were the conditions under which 20,000 working men and working women lived in this State prior to the advent of the Labour party ! The Commission reported -
That hundreds of young girls were employed at work daily from 10 to 15 hours. That journeymen bakers usually worked 15 hours daily. That tailoresses have to work 14 to 16 hours a day to earn a livelihood, and that similar conditions prevail in other trades. That there was an absence of due regard for the division and classification of the sexes, and even of those arrangements which common decency demand. That labour was carried on under both physical and moral disadvantages, resulting in premature debility and disease. That in many places young girls were kept during the busy season all night at work, and no appreciable extra remuneration given for the work done during over hours.
– What Commission was that, and what Government appointed it?
– It was appointed by the Government of the day.
– A Labour Government?
– No. The Commission was appointed as a concession to public opinion. Then, as now, we had to fight against men who were ready enough to make professions of principle, but never sought to realize their professions in legislation.
– That was a recognition that public opinion could make itself felt.
– The public feeling was created by the working class unions, supported by their hard earned contributions. They were determined to end those conditions of labour which were “ beyond the power of human endurance “ j but the honorable member for Ballarat was one of the men in the powerful Government of the day that did nothing to assist them.
– I was a member of the Royal Commission, and not a member of the Government at that time.
– That Government did nothing.
– I brought in the first Factory Act in this State.
– A Factory Act in name and nothing more.
– It was the most advanced Factory Act in Australia at that time.
– It did nothing to cure these evils.
– It did; and it was the basis upon which the Factory Acts of today are founded.
– The honorable member was a member of a Government later than that, in conjunction with the reactionaries Service and Gillies, and when that Ministry went out of office the A.ge summed up its history by saying: “This Government which has ended its career has left a million deficit, a host of unemployed, vast areas of unutilized land, and a legacy in misery and disaster for which the inhabitants of Victoria will curse or mourn for many a day.” What have we as supporters of a Labour Government to lose in comparison with Governments that preceded us? If we turn to the conditions that prevailed in another State, that of Queensland, we may well ask what were the circumstances existing there prior to the Labour party coming into being. They were conditions full of horror and atrocity. Black labour supplemented white, murder stalked abroad in the land, and it was impossible to secure justice against those who perpetrated iniquities. I shall read merely one fraction of evidence in connexion with the labour conditions of Queensland at that time. Here are a few items from the diary of a man whom the Queensland Government refused to prosecute. Speaking of the kanakas, under his control, he said -
Brutes will not work- had to thrash them. . . I ran amuck yesterday. Loaded up the gun with coarse salt and shot it into them.
It made the b- s hop. . . . Got Connell to make me a new cat - a proper one. He made me a beauty. It has five tails done up hard, and with strips of lead let into the strands. The old one had only three, and was worn out. There was no hold in it - no bite. Triced up six of the wretches and thrashed them. Their skins are thick. . . . Men I flogged last night very sore, but very quiet.
The next item will show to what this sort of thing led -
The wretches that I flogged are all dying. Nunergoh died at 4 this morning. I gave Var Vai a purge, but he died at 7 ; Tamarich followed at 2 p.m., and an hour later Baimow coughed his last. At 7 p.m. Marrow died. I gave Malla.rout ten drops tincture of iron, but he rolled over on his stomach and died. He was a big powerful man. He seemed to stand the flogging well. Perhaps I did flog him too much. The others are all crying, but very quiet. “ Very quiet “ - that is how honorable members opposite like them ! They were “ very quiet” indeed ! One is reminded of the remark of the Russian General who stood amongst the ruins of Warsaw. “ Are they at peace?” “Yes, your Majesty; they are dead.” The Queensland Government, as I have said, refused to prosecute this man, and the Imperial Government had to notify the Colonial Government, through the Earl of Derby, that they themselves must take action against this shameful miscarriage of justice. In 1884 they sent H.M.S. Raven up the Brisbane River as a protest against these proceedings. That is a page from the past to which some do not like references to be made; but I have thought it necessary to make them, on account of remarks concerning the glorious times which prevailed preceding the advent of the Labour party. Our organizations were not powerful in Queensland or Victoria then. But by the contribution of funds, and by earnest efforts directed to a common end, it was seen that it would be possible to organize the working class in such a manner as to bring effective influence to bear upon Parliament. The Labour movement of to-day is not confined to the presence of a few men on the floor of this House. Outside it is a political and organized factor. It leaves its impress on the men who sit in Parliament, and its past is stained with the cruel records of men who fought year after year in the cause, and were blacklisted from one end of Australia to the other with the inability to secure jobs. It has been laid down as a principle - and it is part and parcel of our platform - that wherever a Labour Government has the opportunity, it shall prevent the old system of discrimination against men because they were unionists. The Leader of the Opposition stated that what the Government proposed to do was absolutely without a precedent ; and when an honorable member pointed out that, in the great city of London, with a population of 7,000,000, the same principle had been applied, he asked, “ What analogy is there between a vast city, with a population of seven millions and a quarter, and a continent with a population of only four millions and a quarter ?” Whenever we prove there is a precedent he says, “No analogy” ; and when we prove that there is an analogy he says, “ No precedent.” He proceeded to another thing, and started to quote an illustration. He said, for instance, that this principle does not apply to insurance ; and when an honorable member pointed out that there are discriminations and preferences to those who insure, and apply for public positions, he hopped from that branch to another ; in fact, he hops from branch to branch, saying that there is no analogy. No matter how he may hop from one position to another, he is still in the one place, because he is in the one tree. That is his life story. It was the same thing in connexion with Sir George Reid, when the honorable and learned member took the headship. I have a little story to tell. When a person remarked, “ It was very good of you, Mr. Deakin, to speak so com.plimentarily of Sir George after all you had said against him.” He replied, “ I never said anything in favour of him.” “Oh, but you did,” said the other person. The honorable member replied, “ Read the newspaper. What I did say of Sir George Reid was that it was said that he sang songs in many keys and tones, but I did not say he sang them. What I did say was that a large number of people were favorable to the appointment of a fit man; but I did not say that Sir George Reid was a fit man.” We can never catch or trip the honorable and learned gentleman. He appealed to the glorious principles of religious and political liberty. Goodness gracious !
– The honorable member is an artist in fiction.
– Well, I would have to take a lesson from the honorable member.
– I hope so. I wish that the honorable member would.
– The honorable member appealed to the glorious principle of religious freedom. Goodness gracious ! Has it any application in any form 01 shape to the question before the House? Who fought for religious liberty? Who realized religious liberty? Was it the men who maintained the laws of intolerance, or those who combated iniquitous laws?
– The Liberals in all ages have done so.
– That is not my question. According to the honorable member, the Liberals have discovered everything.
– .There are just as liberal men on this side as on the other.
– Hear, hear. We are not arguing that point, but the question of religious liberty.
– The honorable member is pretending to do so, but he is not.
– I quite admit that no one ever argues, but the honorable member himself.
– It is time that the honorable member came to the question.
– What am I dealing with if I am not dealing with the arguments which have been put forward from the other side?
– Lord knows ! I do not.
– The honorable member ought to know. Honorable members on his side have been drum-beating and flagwagging over the question of individual liberty. They have been flagwagging over the question of religious liberty, and trying to draw some analogy between that question and the issue- before the House. They have affirmed that there is some relation, but I deny that there is. The principle of religious liberty was fought for by those who combated the laws of intolerance and the world approves largely the men who upheld those laws, while the men who fought and suffered for religious liberty are mouldering in unknown graves. Who, for instance, maintained the principle of the liberty of the press? Was it men like Castlereagh, with his six gagging Acts, “ whose dry bones rattle,” as some one has said. Or was it the Leigh Hunts, and such men and women as Richard Carlile and his wife, who, for twelve long years, went to and from prison. Honorable members on the other side talk of law and order, but they fail to see that the men who won the priceless liberties which we enjoy to-day were not so much those who maintained the laws as those who struggled to improve them against the obliquities of their time. Who else fought for industrial liberty? The honorable member for Parramatta knows as well as I do that the history of the struggle for industrial liberty is written on prison walls, rather than on monuments. Every fight which has been made, whether it was for religious or political, or industrial liberty, has to be continued. And what is the last stage at’ which we have arrived ? It is the freedom of men and women from the brute struggle for existence, so that there shall be evolved a higher plane of civilization.
– For all men, not for unionists only.
– Just so; I shall come to that point. In this new Australia we have laid down in our Defence Act the principle of preference. It provides that a man shall defend his country, and that if he stands on the basis of individual liberty, and claims the right not to shoulder a musket, then it imposes upon that man penalties of all descriptions. It excludes him from the service of his country, and, in his old age, it precludes him from a pension. In that Act Parliament laid down the principle of preference to the man who will take responsibility for the defence of his country, and imposed penalties on the man who prefers to stand outside and to take all the assistance of the armed forces which his fellow-citizens may give him. In a like manner the essential principles of a free Democracy are that it shall be organized for the maintenance of these great liberties. So that, if it gives up one particular portion of its liberties it may achieve another. And the main thing which the working classes need to win is the freedom to earn their bread in the sweat of their brow - not in the sweat of their brow getting no bread, as was the old system.
– Why does the honorable member want to deny it to nonunionists ?
– Do not the servants of the Commonwealth get well paid? There is no question of earning bread involved in this motion, but the question of preferring one class to another, or driving all into one class.
– The only way by which working men and working women have emerged from the dens of savagery, and secured what modicum of human liberty and freedom they possess to-day has been through the power of organization.
– By voluntary organization.
– By resistance to the old system of bludgeoning and armed force on every hand. Everywhere it is essential that we shall demand that if a man is desirous of improving his condition he shall not be, as the honorable member for Parramatta said, skulking in the rear, either in the industrial or in the national struggle. I may here point out that the word “skulking,” as used in the newspapers, was not the Prime Minister’s expression, but the quoted expression of the honorable member for Parramatta. If it is obvious that organization is essential - if we see that in every country the working classes are the better off where they are the best organized - it is the duty of the Government to assist organization in every possible manner. There can be no objection to this policy in a country where the principle of compulsory training is laid down; indeed, there must be recognised the principle of the organization of the working Democracy. The last argument used by honorable members opposite is that the party behind the Government is a class party. What if it is? In the past, Governments have been class Governments in the interests of property, and not of human beings. The Government which legislates in the interests of the working classes is essentially a democratic Government, seeing that the working classes constitute the majority of the community. A Government cannot possibly be a democratic Government unless it recognises its duty to persistently lift up the lower strata of society to a higher level. A Government to be truly democratic must remove the abuses of society until every man who is willing to work shall find himself free from the brute struggle for existence, and thus enabled to attain his true development on a higher intellectual and moral plane.
– - The speech of the honorable member for Bourke is one of the most remarkable I have ever listened to in a deliberative assembly. I do not intend to refer to the utterance in detail ; but when I listened to the blood-curdling, abominable episode, the particulars of which he submitted, with the evident intention of conveying the impression that it was characteristic of what this side of the House would desire, I could not help thinking that he himself must be conscious that he was appealing to a very simple lot of ignoramuses elsewhere. The honorable member has followed the example of several honorable members opposite by trailing a “ red herring across the track.”
– It is a pretty big “ red herring ! “
– It is the biggest “red herring” in my experience; and it was for very obvious reasons that it was introduced. Very few honorable members opposite have really addressed themselves to the question, because it is for them an exceedingly difficult task. The honorable member for Bourke condemned honorable members on this side for doing that which according, even to his own statement, they never did, and then he committed the very offence which he laid at their door. I desire to say a word or two about the honorable member’s reference to the struggles of the poor and oppressed, in the direction of freedom and better conditions of life. The emancipation of the people in different parts of the world has been due very largely-
– To the bosses !
– Has been due very largely to the Liberals - the leading men of the Liberal party, not only in Australia, but in the older countries. These men have given immense assistance in placing the Labour party in the parliamentary position they occupy to-day.
– The honorable member cannot possibly connect his party with the Liberals to whom he is referring.
– I can connect it in a very pointed way if the honorable member so’ desires. The Labour party of Australia possibly owe more to the men they are scandalizing than they do to men in their own ranks, in respect of the industrial legislation that has been placed on the statute-books of the various States. It is the free, independent, untrammeled Liberalism of the last fifty years that has brought about the great reforms which bless humanity in every direction to-day. On the question of preference I do not intend to occupy any great length of time. T may say at once that, in my opinion, this preference is the strongest expression of class privilege ever known in any Australian Legislature. As has been said over and over again, the Government, at the direction of the power outside, have sought to bring about by administrative act what was absolutely impossible by means of legislation, and what was distinctly made impossible by a verdict of the highest Court in this country.
– We have the numbers here to carry an Act !
– If the Government have the majority behind it to enable it to carry such an Act, they ought to use that majority and power with discretion, and not abuse it. The majority of the Labour party was never secured to carry out anything like the preference to unionists now proposed. I know very well that the Government have a Socialistic majority, and that while they are in power they may do what they like. This Government is using its power in such a way as to offer a challenge to the people of Australia, the acceptance of which will give honorable members opposite a very busy and anxioustime.
– Another prophet.
– It does not need much of the prophetic spirit to know that what I am saying is an absolute fact. The Labour party will haveto appeal to a higher tribunal. If, in itslegislation and administration, it is marching ahead of public opinion, its power cannot last long. The reply to the referenda was an absolute and positive refusal to allow the Labour party to go further indie direction in which it is now trying togo. I do not think that the Government have voluntarily allowed this matter to come into the daylight, nor do most of its supporters desire that it should be generally known that the party supports the vicious principle of giving preference to a privileged class. The real position is that the party in power is, by its administration, granting a privilege to itself; boiled-‘ down, the action of Ministers means neither more nor less than preference to theorganized Labour party. The Prime Minister, replying to the Leader of the Opposion, said that it was intended to organizesociety industrially, as far as they could; that preference to unionists was the policy of the Government, and would be carried out. That means that the Labour party- intends to organize industrially at the expense of the taxpayer. Some of its members have admitted that they did not know when the principle of preference was first put into practice in the Commonwealth service. We have been given to understand that it has been in force in the Department of Home Affairs in certain States, but we have not been told why it has been in force in some States and not in all. The Postmaster-General, too, told us yesterday that, in respect of some underground telephone work in Melbourne and Sydney, heexpressed to his executive officers, in writing, the desire that preference to unionistsshall be made applicable. That announcement came as a surprise to many honorablemembers opposite. The instruction of theMinister of Home Affairs on the subjectwas characteristically emphatic, and, without qualification ; the preference was to be absolute. During the debate, that absoluteness has been whittled down considerably. I leave the House and the people to say whether obviously the intention was not to proceed quietly in. this matter of giving preference, and whether it was really intended to give effect to the limitations spoken of by the prime Minister. I admit that the Labour party had a mandate to enforce - unconditional preference to unionists - at the earliest opportunity ; but why has the system been introduced secretly, even in the Department whose Ministerial head comes from a country where there is a great belief in advertising, and who is himself a great advertiser ? Why did not he let the taxpayers know what was being done? Why, too, has the policy been put into force in some of the States, and not in all? We wish to know whether the future policy in connexion with the employment of casual .workers will be on the lines laid down by the Prime Minister, or whether the preference to unionists is to be absolute and without reservation? I have not the slightest doubt that the preference is to be made absolute, and that it will get beyond the control of any particular Minister, and of the Ministry itself. How far is it to be extended? Is it to apply only to manual labourers, or is it to apply to every division of the Public Service? According to to-day’s newspapers, the Melbourne Clerks Union, at a recent meeting, passed unanimously the following resolution -
That this union desires to express its admiration and support of the action of the Federal Government in their determined altitude on the question of preference to unionists in Government employment.
I suppose that this principle, if applied to casual workers, must apply to every class, both clerical and manual.
– Why not?
– It would be iniquitous if it did not. If it applies at all, it must apply all round, and the policy of the Government is at the first opportunity to extend it to the whole Public Service.
– The honorable member says that is right.
– I say that if it is right to apply it to one class it is right to apply it to every class ; but I do not believe in the principle at all. It is all very well for Ministers, to carry on this organizing work - for it is nothing else - at the expense of the taxpayers ; but I should like to know what it is going to cost. We must be guided by our experience of Labour Administrations, and whilst that experience does not cover many years, either in connexion with the Commonwealth or the individual States, it teaches us that it is most difficult for a Labour Government to properly control and effectively maintain the big public Departments employing manual labour. We have evidence of that in South Australia extending over, not days or weeks, but many months. Almost continuously during the last eighteen months, the South Australian Labour Government has been all but powerless to properly control and maintain efficiently the big working Departments of the State. And why ? Because’ the very people outside, to whom these Labour Administrations owe their existence, are enforcing their will upon them. It should be the first aim of the Government, not only to maintain efficient administration and equality of opportunity for every one of every colour, but to hedge about their administration by proper safeguards.. Instead of doing so, however, they are removing safeguards and encouraging, if not inciting, interference by these outside forces which control the destinies of Australia to-day. The Prime Minister has twice pointed out that no complaint has been made against the administration of the present Government ; but the session will not be much older before distinct and very emphatic attention will be turned to the administration of the spending Departments of the Commonwealth. We shall want to know - and this is wrapped up with the very kernel of the vicious principle that is being applied by the Government - what the public works of the Commonwealth are costing. We shall want to know how day labour is panning out.
– It is panning out so well in New South Wales that the Government brick-yards are turning out bricks at about half the previous cost.
– The honorable member’s judgment is a little premature. It is little more than a few days since the State brick-yard commenced operations, and I believe that within the next three or four years, if the present majority in Federal politics continues, bricks will cost three or four times more than they are now doing.
– Surely the honorable member has no doubt as to our remaining in power.
– I have not. I am sure that there is going to be a wholesale clearance in order that we mav secure Government administration on commonsense and sound commercial lines. I am not. going to be prophetic, and. to say what my honorable friend’s pet brick-yard is going to be in the future, but I am confident that many of the public works undertaken by the Commonwealth at present are costing from 50 per cent. to 100 per cent. more than did the same class of work two vears ago.
– “ Tripe !”
– If my statement is “ tripe,” then let us have a full, critical, and unbiased investigation of the whole business.
– What is the honorable member’s trouble?
– My trouble is that the administrative work of this Government is responsible for the enormous burden that the taxpayers have to bear - the burden of increased cost of public works that ought never to have been put upon them.
– This does not seem to have much to do with preference to unionists.
-It has much to do with it. I am showing that by applying preference to unionists te the biggest bodies of unionists, the Government are putting into the hands of their supporters - indeed, they have it in their hands to-day practically - the control of the administration, as well as of the politics, of the Commonwealth.
– Are not the Government entitled to attend to the administrative work of the Commonwealth?
– They are if they administer their Departments effectively. But they are not entitled to introduce in connexion with public works an era of irresponsibility - an era in which administrative officers carrying out the various works of the Commonwealth have little or no authority. The authority of these men, even if it be exercised in the most distinct manner, is overridden by administrative acts. These men are humiliated.
– Where ?
– In the Commonwealth, and as things are drifting to-day, wherever a Labour Ministry obtains.
– Name any of these men.
– It is unnecessary to name them to the people outside. In South Australia, the very men to whom the Government are granting a preference - these organizing agitators - are running about the public works of the State disorganizing work, and enforcing their will upon the administrative powers for the time being. The enforcement of their will and the demoralization of the service in this fashion was responsible for the Rundle-street strike, and also for the drivers’ strike in Adelaide. These, and the strikes that have been occurring, if not daily, very nearly weekly, for many a month past, are the natural outcome of the controlthat is exercised over administration by irresponsible bodies outside this House.
– I want to inquire into those cases, if the honorable member will only name them.
– I would not give one rap for the value of the Minister’s inquiry, unless it was impartial. It would be of no use to make inquiries among the men to whom the Government are giving preference, who are the supporters of the Government, and who are responsible for their existence in this House and on the Treasury bench. We could not expect, from an inquiry of that sort, any report in which the people of the country would have confidence.
– Why does not the honorable member get to the point, and let us know what he is talking about?
– What I am saying is all point, and the honorable member does not like it. The honorable member and those associated with him dare not give us an inquiry, but we are going to get it as far as that is possible. The Prime Minister recently congratulated himself that the question of the administration of the Departments by the Government had not been referred to unkindly, or had not been touched upon at all, but it is going to be touched upon, particularly in view of the Government’s open declaration of the policy of preference to “ the people who prefer us and support us,” because, in 90, if not 95, per cent. of the instances, that is what their preference absolutely means. I want to know again what preference to unionists in this form is going to cost the Commonwealth, not only in respect of the public buildings in the cities and big towns, where everything goes on under the eye of the public generally, but in the construction of the Western Australian railway and other works of that kind, which are right away from the public eye, and where the responsible officer of the Department has to be depended upon for the proper execution of the job. This vicious principle is going to demoralize the Public Service-; they have already been demoralized under Labour administration in some parts of Australia. If the authority of the responsible officers, who are paid liberally to control the men and secure a fair deal both for them and the Government who employ them, is to be whittled away as it has been, it means that these big concerns are going to be managed from the bottom, and not from the top. The people of Australia realize that, and realized it, too, when the referenda were put to them. They said, “ We are not going to give the absolutely unlimited powers asked for.” This question is not going to be ended to-day, or with this debate. This is only the beginning.
– Are we to have this ad libitum 1
– We are going to have it morning, noon, and night for the next eighteen months, until the people from end to end of Australia know just how things are going on.. We want them to know the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, and it will stagger them when they do know *it. This question is altogether wider-reaching than the Public Service, although the principle is intended to operate within the service. If the operation of the principle is going to have a demoralizing effect on labour inside the service, it will have the same effect on labour privately engaged outside the service, and also on the industries of Australia. Honorable members on this side of the House believe sincerely and earnestly in seeking all proper and necessary constitutional means for the protection of the worker, and the development and protection of Australian industries, but, personally, I am against preference root and branch, except the preference to efficiency. Any other preference means demoralizing the character and the stamina of the workers, and will have a very bad effect. on the future of the Commonwealth. Are honorable members opposite in earnest when they say they want to bring about industrial peace ? I believe that two or three of them honestly do desire it, and would subscribe to a thoroughly exhaustive attempt to make the exercise of our present powers as effective as possible, but one cannot help being impressed when other honorable members declare, in effect, that they are more for war than for peace - that they will not give up the right to strike, but intend to continue to exercise the privilege of striking very frequently indeed.
– We shall get peace when the lion swallows the lamb.
– We shall get it when the lamb is inside the lion, and not before, if a good many honorable members opposite have their way. We on this side believe in doing everything that . is humanly possible by legislation to bring about industrial peace on a fair and equitable basis, but we do not believe in the methods now adopted by the Federal Go?vernment. The introduction of the principle of preference to unionists - preference to a class or section of the community - means, not peace, but the very reverse. We want peace and equality of opportunity, and, above all else, we ought to preserve the imperishable principles of freedom and liberty of action, to every citizen of the Commonwealth.
– I have listened most attentively to honorable members on the other side of the House, but I have yet to learn why this adverse motion has been tabled. We have not heard one argument to show why it was necessary, or to prove that the action of the Government is unjust or likely to be oppressive to any man in the community. Why, then, should the time of the House be taken up with the motion at this stage of the session, when we have just ended the debate on the AddressinReply? The Opposition have launched it for what purpose? For the purpose of wasting the time of the House, and not for the good of the country.
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it if it is out of order, but the facts so appealed to me that I could not help uttering my protest. The honorable member for Wakefield asked what the cost of granting preference to unionists is to be. Have we not found, throughout the annals, of history, that the Government have been able to carry out works for themselves at far less cost than when they let them bycontract? I think I am quite correct in assuming, therefore, that the cost will not be so high as it has been in the past, when tenders were called for, and great public works were dealt with in the old way. The Leader of the Opposition says, in his motion, that the Government policy is unjust. Unjust to whom? Is it an injustice to give preference to the men who have borne the cost of establishing the unions? It has surprised me to hear honorable members opposite say that they are in favour of unionism and sympathize with unionists. I should like to ask what sort of unions they favour ? They would be only such as they could hobble and keep in subjection, like that which the honorable member for Parramatta led. As soon as the members of unions began to think for themselves our friends opposite decided to put them in their place. They would have nothing to do with what they, considered mock unionism. Recently I have been in a country where there is no unionism at all, where the workers have freedom of contract, and individualism is carried to an extreme. I refer to Ceylon, where men with scarcely any clothes on and who have to beg for a drink of water to quench their thirst, can be seen at work coaling the mail steamers at wages of about 1½d. per hour. That is individualism. That is the system honorable members opposite desire. It is because they desire the establishment of such a system that we find them opposing the preference to unionists which the Government propose to extend to deserving men to-day. What have the Government done in this matter? In my opinion, they have, by their action, averted a great strike, not only in Melbourne, but, perhaps, in other parts of the Commonwealth. The majority of the men who are working in the Government service to-day as casual hands are unionists, and do honorable members opposite believe that they are going to work side-by-side with non-unionists ? Of course, they will not. Unionists will strike to compel their employer, whether it be the Government or a private individual, to employ only unionists. All the big companies operating in Australia at the present time give preference to unionists. I belong to that great union, the Waterside Workers of Australia, and represented the union in conference with the members of the Ship-owners Union. What did we do in conference to bring about industrial peace ? One honorable member on the other side has told us that during the year ended 30th June last there were no less than seventy-five strikes in Australia. I can inform him that if we had not conferred, as we did, with the ship-owners of Australia, there would have been another, and the seventy-sixth would have been one of the biggest strikes that ever occurred in this country. We deliberated day after day and secured an agreement which was satisfactory to 10,000 men in the Waterside Workers Union, and also to the ship-owners of Australia. We secured practical preference to unionists, because the shipping companies would not dare, at the present time, to give employment in the unloading of any of their ships to non-unionists. When so good an example is set by private companies, surely the Government can do no wrong in following it. I was not supported during my election campaign with the money of any recognised union, and, so far as I know, unionists did not contribute a shilling towards my electioneering expenses, though I admit that unionists were members of the political party supporting me; yet I stated from the platform that I was in favour of preference to unionists, and that I had no time for the men who would stand out of a union, and allow their fellow-workers to fight the battle for better wages and conditions, and then step in and reap the benefit of their efforts. I said that the action of these men reminded me of the Canadian who went into the far west and took an excellent woman with him. One day in winter a huge bear approached the cabin as the couple were eating their dinner. The man climbed a ladder to a loft and left the woman to get up as best she could. After some time the man induced the woman to go down the ladder again, and she seized a pitchfork and put the bear to flight. A friend, arriving at the time, congratulated her upon her courage. By this time the man had climbed down from the loft, and turning to his wife he said, “ Did not we do it well, Betty ? “ When the unionist has fought the battle and secured improved wages and conditions, the non-unionist turns to him and says, “ Did not we do it well?” Honorable members opposite talk a great deal about the liberty of the individual. What is the liberty of the individual ? When, under our economic system, lands, machinery, tools, and every means of production are in the hands of the capitalists, what is the liberty of the individual ? He has liberty only to starve. We cannot see that in this bright Australia of ours. But what has individualism done for the people of the Old World? We are told that unionism has been kept clear of politics in the Old Country, but what has unionism been able to do there? It has been able to help but a very few indeed of the great population to be found there. As a re- suit of the individualistic system, advocated by our honorable friends opposite, we find, in Great Britain, such men as the late Sir Henry CampbellBannerman, Mr Balfour, and Mr. Bryce, the “British Ambassador at New York, disputing as to whether 8,000,000, 12,000,000, or 13,000,000, of the workers in that country are always on the verge of starvation. Our honorable friends opposite talk of liberty, and ask us to leave things as they are. Why? Because they desire to take from the worker the product of his labour. Two hundred years ago Adam Smith wrote in book 1, chapter 8, of his great work, The Wealth of Nations-
The produce of labour constitutes the only recompense or wages of labour.
We are’ asking for a recognition of that at the present time, when, under our economic conditions, the capitalist is taking twothirds of the produce of the unfortunate worker. The worker can only look for redress by joining a union. He will do so if he is shown the benefits of that, and the only way in which they can be demonstrated is by giving preference to unionists. That will bring men into the unions, and then we can hope for industrial peace. Those who support the. capitalistic system are naturally opposed to unionism, because by that means the worker may hope to get something near what he is entitled to. This is so because the capitalists make their fortune by taking the produce of the toil of the worker. 1 admit that we have captains of labour, but we also have the capitalist. It is that capitalist to whom I am opposed on every occasion. It is that capitalist who is behind honorable members opposite, who claim to enjoy such liberty and freedom. They speak aS if riches were absolute. As a matter of fact, the art of growing rich under their system consists, not merely in accumulating the guineas, but in keeping the workmen poor. They wish to have two men always running after the one sovereign, so that they may be able to make that sovereign more valuable by getting more work done for it. That is the problem with which we are confronted at the present time. It has been said that we wish to bludgeon the capitalist, and that we do not desire industrial peace. But, if honorable members will refer to page 841 of Hansard of last session, they will find that the pioneer of unionism in Australia, in the person of the honorable member for Darling, has affirmed that the strike is a barbarous method of settling industrial grievances. Every unionist leader to whom I have listened has always desired industrial peace. That is why the first Industrial Arbitration Court established in New South Wales, upon which the honorable member for South Sydney occupied a seat, was such a pronounced success. The members of that Court possessed all the requisite facilities for acquiring the knowledge necessary to enable them adequately to discharge their functions. That tribunal expired by effluxion of time, after having been in existence for six years. It possessed a power with which our Wages Boards are not armed, namely, the power to call for the production of the books of a firm with a view to ascertaining its profits, so that it might .be in a position to decide whether or not that firm was doing justice to its employes. That Court was a complete success. Not one of its awards was ever questioned. But the Government of New South Wales wiped it out of existence, and the result is that to-day we have strikes all along the line. I believe in the principle of preference to unionists, and I shall support the Government, because I recognise that they are merely giving effect to one of the planks of our platform. I credit them with being too wise to attempt to do something which is unconstitutional. If the granting of a preference to unionists in the case of temporary employes of our Public Service be not unconstitutional, then the Government have a perfect right to introduce that principle. I regret to say that one honorable member libelled those employes last night by affirming that they would retire from their work the moment an ordinary shower occurred. Let him go to the building which is being erected at the rear of the Treasury, and he will see that his statement is wrong. Why do not unionists cease work the moment a shower comes on? Because they realize that they are shareholders in this great Commonwealth - because they recognise that if they rob it they will suffer. Their leaders teach them that if they get short hours and good conditions they must do a good day’s work in return, otherwise the entire fabric will fall to the ground, and they will suffer even more acutely than will the capitalist. It has been urged that unionist leaders advocate strikes for the purpose of bringing about a civil war. Do honorable members opposite recollect the coal miners’ strike in New South Wales, when the Attorney-General stood almost alone, and when his efforts prevented that trouble from extending to the whole of the waterside workers of Australia ? Does not that incident serve to show that unionism is a good thing for the country, and that preference to unionists is also a good thing? The only way in which men can be got into the unions is by granting this preference. I have met many employers who prefer to deal with a union rather than with individuals. As a result of unionism I have been able to turn down every man who has approached me with any grievance since I have been a member of this House. I have been able to say to him, ‘ 1 Send your complaint along through your union, and I will look into it.” What prompted me to adopt that attitude ? The recognition that a union would not send along any twopenny-halfpenny grievance - that it will make representations on any matter only if there is substantial reason for doing so. It has been argued that the granting of a preference to unionists would inflict injury upon men who wish to secure temporary employment in our Public Service. I contend that it will do no such thing. The Minister will not know the applicants for employment individually. His responsible officer will only require to be told whether they possess their union tickets. Will honorable members opposite tell me that, under the old system, a man who was without political influence had just as much chance of securing a job as did the man who had political influence? Certainly not. I am in possession of facts which, if related to the House, would astonish honorable members.
– Remember what was done in New South Wales.
– Yes. A gentleman told me that he had been simply a casual hand under a Conservative Government in New South Wales. He retired from the service, and contested a seat in the State Legislature. Being defeated, he returned to his job, and was engaged by the foreman. But a few days later the foreman received instructions to turn him off. Why? Because the man had insisted on the exercise of that political freedom which the Labour party, as soon as they got into power, insured to the public servants. I know of another case in which a gentleman in Tasmania was chiefly instrumental in bringing out a candidate. When that candidate got into Parliament, he went back upon his principles, and the man who had brought him out opposed him at the next election. He was a contractor. The Braddon Government came into power in Tasmania. Contracting work was stopped, and the system of daily Government work was commenced. This contractor gave up his business, and was engaged as an officer under the Government, holding an important position. He did good work and remained in the service between fifteen and twenty years. When the gentleman to whom I have referred came into office - and I am sorry to refer to him, because he has gone from this world - he did not dismiss this man ; but he gave a hint to the head of a certain Department, and that official never rested until the man was pushed out of the service.
– Why not bury this motion ? It is dead.
– I quote this case to show the kind of thing that occurred under the old system, which honorable members opposite hold up as perfect, but which, as a matter of fact, was far inferior to the system that the Government are carrying out at the present time. I have very great pleasure in supporting the Ministry, notwithstanding all that has been said by honorable members opposite.
.- The last two speeches which have been delivered from the Government side of the House are fairly typical of the attitude adopted by what appear to be the two parties within the Ministerial ranks in relation to this matter. The honorable member for Bourke is absolutely uncompromising. He takes up the extreme position adopted by the Minister of Home Affairs. The honorable member for Denison, on the other hand, is of the other party, and keeps as far away from this ticklish subject as he possibly can. Not a single member on the Government side, with the possible exception of the honorable member for Bourke, has thrown very much enthusiasm into the discussion of this matter. They have all been rather apologetic, rather diffident, in coming to close quarters. As a matter of fact, they have talked at large on matters relating to unionism in general rather than about the particular issue indicated by the motion of the Leader of the Opposition. I do not think that any one who has any knowledge of industrial history has a word to say against trade unionism as it has been developed in the past. Those acquainted with that history must know that unionism was created, not so much by the working classes themselves, as by the efforts of those who belong to another class altogether. Some of them gave their lives to this work in order to enable the working classes to obtain that power by which they could combine without incurring penalties under the law.
– Who were they? Name them.
– I do not wish to go into details upon this point; but probably the honorable member will recollect the name of Francis Place, and others of the school of Radicalism which flourished in his time. These were the men to whom the beginnings of unionism, at all events, were due-
– That is what I do not understand.
– We have advanced a very great distance, indeed, from the time when poor wretches were sent to penal servitude for attempting to combine for the purpose of raising wages. This development of unionism is due in a general way to the evolution of what I may call the social conscience of the community, which has been characteristic of modern civilization. It was because the community as a whole sympathized with the efforts of the workers to improve their position that unionism has gained its present strength. The Labour movement in Australia has attained to power, not on account of unionism pure and simple, whether industrial or political ; but on account of the active sympathy which it received from those who have been - industrially, at any rate - outside the Labour movement altogether. The present Government were put into power largely by the votes of electors who believed that they were establishing a Government that would be true to the best traditions of the Labour movement - that they would act altogether apart from class considerations - that they would do that which was best for the community in general, and would not favour any particular section more than another. The Government, and the party behind it, have chosen to disregard those expectations. There is no doubt whatever that the next general election will make a very great difference indeed in the representation of the people in the Federal Parliament.
– That will please the honorable member, will it not?
– I do not say that it will please me altogether. I should be sorry to see some of my honorable friends opposite absent from this House. I am quite satisfied that when we deal with matters that are to some extent apart from party politics, there is none of the honorable members who support the Government but can render good service indeed to their country. Honorable members opposite profess that the action of the Minister of Home Affairs is a step in the direction of strengthening trade unionism. I wish to point out that there has been, with one or two insignificant exceptions, a very remarkable silence on the part of trade unionists as a whole. We do not hear of any enthusiastic meetings having been held, or any great number of resolutions having been passed, approving of the action of the Government. There has been a resolution passed here and there; but if I know trade unionism at all, and do not misrepresent the minds of the men with whom I have been associated for many years, even a majority of them look with a considerable amount of hesitation and alarm at this last action of the Labour Government. To the activity of unionists, in politics I do not think that any one- can offer an objection. To political unionism there can be no exception taken, so long as it is carried on in a legitimate way.
– Ah ! Legitimate way !
– I am going to explain to honorable members what I consider is fair and legitimate in this connexion. We have undoubtedly the most democratic franchise that the world has yet known. Each adult in the community has equal power; each adult has an equal right to use that political . power in a method which has been arranged for him under Federal legislation. It is perfectly legitimate for a unionist, or a number of unionists, to put proposals before the country in the ordinary way, so that they may be either accepted or rejected. It is usual at election time, when any matter of moment is in the minds of people, that it shall be made public, and criticised or defended, as the case may be. I have made a careful inquiry in connexion with the last election, and failed to discover a single instance in which the question of giving preference to unionists by administrative act in the Public Service was even so much as hinted at. Why was it not brought forward by the Government in the usual way ? Why was not some proposition moved? Why were the Parliament and the people of Australia kept in the dark on the subject ? Very much to the surprise of all honorable members in this House, we find out, as the honorable member for Werriwa let us know last night, that other Ministers besides the Minister of Home Affairs have taken action in this direction. Why was it done in secret ? Why was it kept from the public? Why was it that even, apparently, members of the Labour party knew nothing nt all about the matter? These things carry their own condemnation with them. I feel sure that, had Ministers no doubt about the propriety of their action, it would have been made public and above-board in the usual way. Neither to the press nor to the Parliament was any indication given regarding the action of the Postmaster-General. It is highly significant that such should have been the case.
– The honorable member is getting very much publicity now ; what more does he want?
– There is no doubt that thi* matter is getting a fair amount of publicity, and an amount of publicity, too, which my honorable friend and his colleagues, do not like.
– We do like it.
– I feel sure that most of the members on the other side, in their endeavours to cover up the tracks of the Minister of Home Affairs would be only too glad if they were something else. I ami not one of those who regard this matter of itself as being of very serious import to the welfare of Australia. I do not think that an v Minister, even if he took this power to himself, would dare to use it in any but the very gentlest fashion. I am quite satisfied, indeed, that if extraordinary pressure had not been brought to bear on Ministers, they would not have touched the matter at all. It is just here where we put our finger on trie sore. It is just here where the danger to the community lies. Ministers - not in consultation with the members of their party, but by reason of certain influences brought to bear on them - took this step which, we can see perfectly well from their apologetic attitude, none of them half likes..
– The honorable member knows that, it was on our platform at the last election.
– No. I deny that this particular matter was on the platform of the Labour party at the last election, or was even discussed. “ Preference to unionists “ on their platform has reference merely to preference under an Act of Parliament, and has nothing to do with the power taken in this secret fashion by Ministers without letting the Parliament or the people into their confidence. This is. something entirely different from any preferencewhich in the past has been talked about;, or even suggested, in connexion with the Labour movement. I do not think that I would put this action down even to trade unionism. I do not believe that, if trade unionism had been left without certain sinister influences which are operating upon it, the average trade unionist would have asked for anything of the kind. It is because trade unionism is being made a cat’spaw by certain individuals for ends and purposes of their own that we are discussing this matter. It is a fact that trade unionism, having become a political power, is sought to be used by certain individuals who desire to be in a position similar to that which is occupied by honorable members on the opposite side.’ We can easily understand that where a man has designs on trade unionism in a political sense, where a man wants to utilize that force for his own advantage and glory, he makes himself as popular as possible with those whose assistance he will want by-and-by to secure a nomination to Parliament. Accordingly, it is not trade unionism - honest trade unionism - that has brought about this action by the Government. It is due to the few who seek to use trade unionism in a manner which is neither honest nor admirable, and which, taken in its essence, is highly objectionable to the best interests of the Commonwealth. We can remember that the Ministry were not in office very long before certain individuals professing to represent trade unionism approached them with a suggestion that something more should be done to place some of their supporters in positions. There was not very much said about the matter at the time. I do not think that Ministers, publicly, at any rate, gave these people much encouragement. But a little while ago there was a meeting, which was not open to the press, between Ministers and evidently some persons of that type, and I suppose that this movement on the part of the Minister of Home Affairs is the upshot of the meeting ; at least, we may fairly conclude that it is so. We have no knowledge of what transpired then ; but I feel certain that, had not these influences been brought to bear upon Ministers in this particular .fashion, we would not be discussing this motion. I do not desire to take up much time. The subject has been approached from nearly all points of view; and I can only express my regret that Ministers have gone out of their way to bring about a new departure in the Labour movement. For many years that movement was supposed to be a fight against the influence of class, both in legislation and in administration. It was taken by men like myself as a movement of the broadest humanitarian character. But this departure is highly significant, and will, I believe, be so regarded throughout the length and breadth of Australia, of the fact that Labour has fallen in the slough - the very slough that, in the past, Labour people have pointed out as something we ought to guard against. The movement has become, as the honorable member for Bourke nakedly and unashamed declared on the floor this afternoon, a class movement - the Labour Government is a class Government now. The action of Ministers referred to in the motion we are now discussing is proof of that fact; and I am sorry that this is so. Th’is is the beginning of a process of demoralization and ruin which will overtake the Labour movement in Australia. It is the introduction of the methods of Tammany into Australian politics; and I do not believe that the people of Australia will tolerate it.
.- It is not often that I take up the time of the House, and I do not intend to take up much today. I feel, however, that I must declare my attitude in relation to the motion now before us. Let me say at once that I support whole-heartedly the proposal of this Administration to give preference to unionists. The honorable member for Perth referred to the possibility of a slough, or some decadence in the industrial life of the country, or in the Labour movement of Australia. I feel perfectly satisfied, however, that there is nothing in the nature of a decadence or a sloughing in connexion with the proposal now before the country. I say unhesitatingly that since the introduction of the Labour party and the labour element into the politics of Australia, whether in Commonwealth or State, the whole political atmosphere has been purged, cleansed, and purified.
– Is this preference going to keep it pure?
– I venture to say that it will keep it pure.
– Will it make it more pure ?
– Imbued as we are with a desire for purity in public life, I feel that the proposal of the Government will tend to make public life more pure. I need not refer to the motion ; but there are one or two other matters dealt with in the speech of the honorable member for Ballarat to which I desire to call attention. That honorable member said -
The motion is specific and direct. There can be no question as to its terms or the grounds on which I shall commend it to honorable members. It will not be necessary for me to detain the House with any consideration in respect to trade unions as such. They are accepted by all parties in the country as necessary portions of our industrial machinery.
I accept that ; and the moment it is accepted, we discount the position of the nonunionist outside. How has trade unionism become a necessary portion of the industrial machinery of this, or any other country? Who has conceded that position to trade unionism? No one. Never in the history of trade unionism, when any efforts were made to benefit the interests of the workers, has there not been most persistent and determined opposition? To-day, however, when, by force, we have formed our organizations - when we have obtained our object in spite of all opposition - it is recognised that trade unionism is a necessary portion or adjunct of the industrial life of the country. Then, according to the Age, with which, I believe, the Leader of the Opposition was associated for many years, the honorable gentleman spoke as follows -
Their indispensable character is recognised all the more clearly because they are only indispensable, and really only fruitful, when strictly confined to their legitimate sphere.
This utterance, I observe, was greeted with Opposition cheers. But what is the legitimate sphere of any body of men who choose to combine, as a trade union, or in any otherway? We may, of course, in an academic way, split up our social life into affairs of hygiene, eugenics, politics, industrialism, education, or religion, and we may apply our intelligence and ability to the examination and understanding of each. But with our English traditions of trade unionism, are we to be hampered in our industrial sphere ? Does the Leader of the Opposition claim to be in a position to determine precisely the sphere of trade unionism? The separation of the affairs of life in the academic way I have suggested is something entirely apart from the rights of an organized body of men, who, with the traditions of their race behind them, are face to face with the increasing complexities of modern life. We cannot be limited - that is the point. Society is now so complex that we cannot say that there is here or there any clear-cut line of demarcation..
Trade-union’ matters, industrial matters, and political and economical matters blend and merge into one another. This is an expression of an evolutionary growth which makes a clear line of demarcation impossible. The honorable member for Ballarat said, that, unless there were a division, political or industrial, evil would arise. I forget his exact words, but that was his meaning.
– Hear, hear !
– I feel that ‘that is not so. The wider the association of industrial organizations, the broader the sphere of operations, the greater the extension of functions and the development of mental processes the better. The spiritual effect of trade unionism will not be evil, and it will not be ml. On the contrary, it will be of great value to the community.
– A trade union for industrial purposes, a political union for political purposes, a religious union for religious purposes !
– I differ from trie honorable gentleman. Industrial and. political questions are so closely interwoven that they cannot be dissociated. Honorable members opposite would like to establish a divisional line, but that is impossible. Those whom we represent know it to be impossible. They are travelling on the path which leads to success.
– To specialize, and not to confuse, is a necessary condition of development.
– Is specialization in opposition to confusion? May there not be coordination? We are co-ordinating the industrial and the political, throwing them together, and utilizing them for our own purposes, along democratic lines. In addition to specialization there is coordination. The study of sociology, and the general understanding of social conditions, shows that co-ordination is at the base of the national life, and of the association of nations which makes a civilization.
– Unless you have separate industrial and political unions, you have nothing to co-ordinate. The Labour party is confusing what should be separate.
– I do not think so. Today the old trade-union methods are not enough, and we realize the need for reform. I have been connected with a union for twenty-five or thirty years, and know that to-day, despite Conservative influences, there is a movement towards the combination of political and industrial ends which cannot be checked. It is asked, “ Why should preference be given to unionists ? !! That is the essential question which we are discussing, to which I shall address myself directly and briefly. I view a unionist as an individual who has trained himself in the art of mutual aid. He is a man .associated with his fellows, and, in the best possible sense of the term, a citizen.
– A good citizen.
– A very good citizen. In the individualist, on the contrary, I see the anarchist, the selfish - I shall not say the soulless - person, the man lacking a sense of order and proportion, not recognising the need for regulation to which Parliament gives expression in making laws for the good government of the country. How, then, can exception be taken to the giving of preference to unionists ? We have heard, in connexion with the scheme of Imperialism - to which, let me say at once, I object, though I hold to Empire association - the statement made repeatedly by public men. and in the press, that we are part and parcel of the Empire, and it is asked. “ Can we receive from Great Britain the assistance and the defence which she offers, and give nothing in return ? ‘ ‘ The whole spirit and purpose of the answer is, “ No. We are prepared to give something in return. We are prepared to associate with you, to combine with you, for a common result that will benefit the whole Empire.” Is not that precisely the position of unionists? We have borne the heat and burden of the day, not for years, but for a century or two. The non-unionist who follows the same trade or calling takes advantage of every effort put forward by the unionist, but assists in no way, makes no pecuniary sacrifice, and is ready always to become a tool in the hands of those opposed to unionism. For over twenty-five years I have paid about £5 a year, as a member of a trade union. For what ? To improve the conditions of the trade at which I work, and, further than that, to improve the conditions of all who work for their living.
– Is it a reason for compelling every man to join a friendly society that I have paid into the funds of a friendly society for many years?
– If the honorable member has paid into the funds of a friendly society, he, and he alone, will reap the benefits which the society offers. But when I pay into the funds of a trade union, every non-unionist lives on my brain and my purse, and benefits by my efforts and sacrifice. I have paid into the funds of a. trade union, for what ? To benefit myself ? Undoubtedly. To benefit the members of my organization? Undoubtedly. Further than that, I have paid to benefit all trade unionists, and, still more, to benefit those who are not trade unionists, but ought to be. Week after week, and month after month, I have made efforts to get these people to recognise that their interests lie in a closer association with their fellows, and that organization on the one side and organization on the other offers the best way to attain, not peace, but betterment, where betterment is necessary.
– And the betterment the honorable member and his party have secured for them has come from all sections of the community.
Mi. HOWE.- I simply beg to differ from my honorable friend. I have done this, and what have I found? To show the type of men one has to meet in connexion with this work, let me cite a recent experience. About two years ago, I went to Newcastle and took up the cases of about thirty-four non-unionists. I won twenty-five, with the result that the nonunionists whom -we had lifted from 8s. to about 10s. per day were the very first to demand, when I was paying their expenses, 10s. instead of 8s. a day. When subsequently I held a meeting at the expense of my society, and urged these nonunionists to join our ranks, out of about 200 present I succeeded in inducing the magnificent number of ten to throw in their lot with our organization, which had spent about ^250 in defending them and in increasing their wages. In the face of such conditions, what can be said against preference to unionists? I put it that preference to unionists is neither more nor less than a payment for services rendered. I make that statement deliberately, and on that conception of the position I am voting to-day. Trade unionists are the one body of men in the industrial world who have built up the ideal of collective bargaining. As the result of their efforts, an individual, instead of having to approach an employer with his cap off his head, shabbily clothed, unclean in every aspect, and almost begging for the right to exist, finds that he has some status. As the outcome of trade unionism, we have to-day an organized body of workers, every union known by its name, every union boasting dignity and self-respect, and every member of a union observing the rules, regulations, and principles underlying it. They stand to-day fine specimens of humanity, clearer-brained and more purposeful than ever before. In doing this we have done the best that could be done in connexion, with the great development that has taken place. It is useless for any one to speak to-day of individual effort in connexion with employment. This is a day of collectivism on the one side as well as ora the other. Employes must associate with employes, employers with employers, and if, in the course of time, we are confronted with situations that cannot well be met, that demand some further analysis, ‘ we have perforce to adopt other methods. We are here to-day face to face with that situation, and, inasmuch as we, as trade unionists, have borne the heat and burden of the day, inasmuch as we have paid, through the long years, for this collectivism in our industrial life, it is fair and reasonable that we should have, even in connexion with the administration of the country, some preference when work is to be done. I have heard honorable members in this House speak of industrial peace. I am concerned, not with industrial peace, but with industrial justice. If I cannot get that, I am out for industrial strife. That is my declaration, clean cut and clear marked. If I can by conciliation, or arbitration, or by. any other lawful process to prevent strife, attain what we desireat.tain some measure of justice, some measure of decency - I will accept it. But, if I cannot, then I am out for some other method whereby I can attain it.
– Attain it honestly.
– Honesty is on this side all the time; dishonesty has been for centuries on the side represented by the honorable member and his party. We are honestly entitled to that which we claim to-day. We are out to fight for it, and this is one of the first steps we have taken. I stand by the proposals of the Government, and I shall be glad to fight for them in some other situation if that should prove necessary.
.- I deprecate very much some of the language that has been used during this debate. If there is one thing that I have tried more than another to avoid during the whole of my life, it is the stirring up of strife as between employer and employ^. But, from both sides of this House during the present debate, there has been used language that would tend to cause a renewal of that hatred which in industrial matters I should like to see swept completely away. It would ill become me, after some quarter of a century spent in trying to organize a section of the community, to say anything detrimental to industrial unions. I believe that every body of persons having identity of interests have a right to unite in order to better their position in a reasonable way; but when unjust means are resorted to, one has a right to complain. It appears to me that the Government, in their present attitude, are resorting to compulsion Trade unionists have preached and advocated the benefits of unionism for a number of years. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat says that he has done so for the last twenty-five years. The unions have invited the whole of the industrial classes of Australia to partake of their great feast of unionism ; but, finding that they are not making the headway that they ought to do upon their own merits, they say to the Government, “ You must give preference to unionists, and in that way force people to join unions.”
– Unionism has made more headway than any other organization during the last ten years.
– In view of the most recent figures obtainable - and I admit that it is very hard to secure reliable figures on this question - I am inclined to doubt the honorable gentleman’s statement. The figures show that about one-third of the industrial workers of the Commonwealth belong to unions.
– The strength of our party should be a good indication of the figures.
– The strength of that side is no criterion whatever. If the heads of those who put them there were counted it would be found that they were in a minority.
– How then did we get here ?
– More votes were cast for honorable members on this side than on that. The Government, by their action, appear to be going out into the highways and hedges, and compelling all sorts and classes of people to enter unions, which, up to the present, I have always regarded as industrial or trade unions, into which men were admitted, either because of their identity of interests, or by reason of their capabilities as tradesmen. I hope the day will never come in Australia when the standard of any trade union will be reduced because of the deficiencies of its members. By some marvellous twist on the part of the Government we have been given a new definition of the word ‘ ‘ absolute.” In his circular the Minister of Home Affairs said that “ absolute preference “ was to be given to unionists, but the Prime Minister has since told the House that the Minister of Home Affairs meant exactly what he did - that preference was to be given “ all other things being equal.” If the Government are going to force the working classes to become members of unions, with which they do not, perhaps, desire to associate themselves, I fail to see how they can complain of what they are pleased to term combines, on the . other side, when employers of labour happen to unite to protect their own interests. Such unions are described by members of the Ministerial party as combines or monopolies, or other names are applied which are calculated to hurt the feelings of those who belong to them. I have not a word to say against the right tactics of unions. One might find fault with some of the actions of trade unions, just as it is quite possible to find fault with many of the actions of employers. I contend that men should be allowed to exercise the utmost freedom.
– They must obey the law.
– We must all obey the law, but if the law is wrong, the first duty of members of this House is to make it right. I think honorable members opposite will admit that coercion is often used by industrial bodies, so that a fair expression of opinion is not always given by those who are interested. Not long ago there was a strike of builders’ labourers in Brisbane, and the whole of the building trade of Brisbane was paralyzed in consequence. The unions were asked to take an open vote as to whether they should resume work or not. In putting the question the chairman said, “ All those that are good unionists go to the left, and all scabs go to the right.”
– Was the honorable member present at the meeting?
– No, but it was the President of the Master Builders that told me this. The meeting was not a caucus one, but was open to the public, and I vouch for that having taken place. The Government, before granting preference, might well look into the question of whether union funds are properly administered. I have been a member of a friendly society for about thirty years, and in that time have paid in contributions in order to obtain certain benefits in the shape of sick pay and medical attendance. During the whole of that period the friendly societies in every State of the Commonwealth have been subject to the control of the law, and their books have been open for inspection. On one or two occasions our contributions were raised in response to a demand from the Registrar of Friendly Societies, but the unions can go on imposing any penalties they like, and charging any entrance fees or subscriptions that they please, their books not being open to any inspection.
– They make a return to the Registrar in New South Wales.
– Are their books audited by a Government inspector?
– The books must be kept and audited in accordance with the direction of the Government inspector.
– I am pleased to learn that that is so in at least one State, but before this partisan administrative act is put into force, we should see that the whole of the unions’ funds are properly audited- by a person authorized for the purpose. The books’ of all industrial unions, whether of employers or employes, should be open to a thorough inspection. We should separate political from industrial unions. I do not object to honorable members opposite having their political unions. We, on this side, have ours, and they do good work for us, and honorable members opposite have theirs, which do good work for them. The honorable member for New England the other night referred to the farmers and agriculturists and other rural employers uniting. I am very pleased to see that the trend of affairs at present is towards co-operation amongst agriculturists and dairymen. One of ray last acts in Queensland was to take the chair at a meeting at which a number of farmers formed a union for their own protection. It is a rural employers union, and no doubt a little later on we shall hear that it is bumping up against a rural workers union. But it is only fair that the rural employers, as well as the rural workers, should unite. I notice that since this union was formed, some of the leaders of the party opposite in Queensland have made reference to it at gatherings of their clans, and have directed the attention of their friends to the fact that the farmers were uniting, not only to defend themselves against any action which might be taken by rural workers, but actually ‘’”’ in order to put up prices.” As soon as the rural employers unite, a howl goes up from the workers, and they complain that “ these monopolists “ have united for the purpose of putting up prices. If there i; any one who deserves consideration, it is the man who toils, net eight hours a day, butoften from daylight to dark, in order to make a living from the land. I deprecate very much the glorious gospel of discontent that is so often preached by members of the Ministerial party, when men are doing well, and have no cause to complain.
– What does the honorable member mean by “doing well”?
– Most men know when they are doing well. I do not object to any one trying to better his position, no matter what it may be. I should not object to the honorable member for Capricornia trying to better his present position by seeking employment elsewhere. I should, in fact, be pleased if the honorable member succeeded in doing so, so long as he did so in a straightforward and honorable way.
– Which, of course, goes without saying.
– I certainly should not. like to. accuse the honorable member of any dishonorable action.
– I think the honorable member for Moreton is doing well.
– I have always been satisfied with my lot. I have done what I could to improve my position, but have always acted in an honorable and straightforward way. I have never taken an advantage of a man merely because I felt I had some power over him. I hope that a proper spirit in these matters will influence not only members of this House, but members of the industrial community. When I see nien striking because their employer is in a fix, I consider their action most contemptible. I think there should be some sense of honour amongst workers, as there is amongst most employers, and that they should not ask for better conditions when the “ boss “ may be forced through circumstances to concede them, but at a time when he would be able to make provision to meet their demands.
– Then the honorable member thinks, also, that the “ boss “ has no right to reduce wages when he finds two men offering for one job?
– I do not think the Minister has any right to try to put such words into my mouth.
– I asked whether the honorable member believes in that?
– I believe that the “boss” has a right to get the very best labour he can. I am very pleased to say that the trend of affairs now is not so much in the direction of unionism, as understood by our honorable friends opposite, as in an entirely different direction. I believe a new era is likely to develop from present industrial difficulties, when the employes will become members of the firms conducting the industries in which they are engaged, and will themselves have an interest in the success of the business. That is the kind of unionism I advocate.
– Yes, co-operation ; a system under which the employes may share the benefits of production with the employers.
– The honorable member ought to come over here.
– I have weighed the matter carefully, and have decided that over there is no place for me at present. The movement to which I have just referred is taking definite shape, even in Queensland, at the present time. Only a day or two ago I was speaking to a gentleman from Brisbane who was over here making inquiries in connexion with the matter. He told me that it is his intention to turn his business into a limited liability company, giving all the employe’s who have been with his firm for a certain period an interest in it; and that he hopes to step out of it in the course of a few years.
– The trouble with the workers as a rule is that they cannot get a fair share of the profits of a business.
– I fail to see how the action the Government are taking in this matter will give the workers a share in the profits. It seems to me that it will only serve to introduce into the service a partisan spirit, and is the beginning, I will not say of corruption, but of something which is as near as it possibly can be to the political corruption which we understand is very rife in America as a result of the adoption of the doctrine of “spoils to the victors.” Another important question has to be decided in connexion with this matter. We should decide whether the business of the Commonwealth is to be carried on in this building in Spring-street, or in a building in Lygon-street. I have noticed that no definite move was taken in this matter until directions were received from the Trades Hall. Then the Government began to move in the matter.
– The Postmaster-General made the move in last May.
– Then he must have received instructions to do it before last May. I do not wish to introduce a discordant note into this debate, but I do regret that the Government have exhibited anything in the nature of a partisan spirit. They can scarcely complain if their action is bitterly resented, as I am sure, it will be, by a large number of persons who favour individual freedom. I have no sympathy with the man who seeks to better his position at the expense of unionism, but who obstinately refuses to contribute to union funds. If unions are conducted as they should be, I am sure there will be ample inducement offered to good men to join their ranks. But if the principle of preference to unionists is to be put into general operation - I am not now referring to its probable effect on the temporary employes of our Public Service-
– Nobody will be injured by its application at present.
– If that is to be the policy of the Government I have no hesitation in saying that it will result in a lowering of the standard of efficiency. Personally, I have never belonged to a union of any kind. I have had to submit to a little squeezing on the part of employes, and to a fair amount of squeezing on the part of employers. I have had experience of both sides of this question.
– Which is the better?
– There is not much to choose between them. The employer will squeeze a man for his own benefit, and the employes will squeeze him from pure cussedness. In conclusion, I am entirely opposed to the granting of preference to unionists in any shape or form, and therefore I shall vote for the motion.
– I do not quarrel with the Leader of the Opposition for desiring to test the feeling of the House upon the wisdom or otherwise of the action of the Government in granting a preference to unionists. Nobody will deny that I have had a lifelong connexion with trade unionism. I have never regretted that circumstance. I hold that trade unionists are the only persons who have sought to emancipate from thraldom the workers of the world. Unionism is not confined to Australia. There is no place in the civilized industrial world in which it does not play an active part. Unionists are the true teachers of humanity, and they have always been in the forefront of every movement for bettering the condition of the people. They are the most unselfish persons on the face of the earth. There is not one movement with which they have been connected which has not benefited all sections of the community. The general prosperity of the world is a factor which improves the position of the millionaire, in addition to diminishing poverty. During the course of his remarks the Leader of the Opposition gave us some very sensible advice, and made certain statements to which no possible objection can be urged. But what struck me most forcibly was his admission that trade-union organizations are indispensable to our civilization. He was good enough to tell us that the old trade unionists were real men, whose example we might well emulate. He declared that unions in those days were not political organizations. I beg to differ from him, and make bold to say that he knows nothing about the question. In the year 1866 a big fight was waged in England in favour of granting a preference to unionists. At that time an outrage occurred, the importance of which I did not then appreciate. The great principle, the assertion of which was responsible for that outrage, is the principle which we are discussing to-day. The Sheffield grinders refused to work with non-unionists, and their action resulted in the appointment of a Royal Commission. There is no matter which has been the subject of so many Royal Commissions as that of the settlement of industrial disputes. Not one of those bodies has been able to solve the problem, or to do anything to check the onward march of the trade-union movement. Why do individuals become members of trade unions? They become members of unions to protect their trades - to make their occupations sure means whereby they could earn their own living, and provide for the support of their families and all those dear to them. I hold in my hand a little book written by a man who is hostile to unionism, but he gives an account of the Royal Commission to which I have referred, from which it will be desirable for me to quote. The
Commission embraced some of the master minds in Great Britain at that time. They included Sir William Erie, the Earl of Lichfield, Lord Elcho, who took a very active part in the political life of his time; Sir Edmund Walker Head, a great brewer, and a well-meaning man as well as prominent Church of England supporter; Sir Daniel Gooch, Mr. Herman Merivale, Mr. Roebuck, whose name is well known to all who have rea3 the history of modern England; Mr. James Booth, Mr. Thomas Hughes, Mr. Frederic Harrison, an eminent social reformer; and Mr. William Mathews. The object of the Commission was to solve some of the social problems with which England was then confronted. One of the witnesses examined was Mr. Charles Williams, general secretary of the Plasterers Society, which included over 8,000 members. Some of the members of the Commission wanted to know why working men joined trade unions, and accordingly the witness was examined by Mr. Roebuck, as follows -
What do you mean by “protection of trade”? -Protecting it in the same way as I would protect property.
That explains nothing - what do you mean? - Making the best of my property f can by all legal means.
That is protection of property, but what is “protection of trade ?”- Simply seeing that there are no undue encroachments upon it.
What do you mean by “ undue encroachments upon trade?” - A man taking away from me something he has no right to.
But I want to know, without illustrations, what your property here is? - 1 have learned a trade, that trade is my capital, and I have a right to protect .it.
Is there any capital in labour? - Is there nol? It is my capital.
That is as concise a statement of the position as can be found. A man’s trade is his capital. He combines to protect his trade. When a boy is apprenticed to a trade, he knows that that is to be his means of livelihood throughout life, and that it is his first interest to protect its interests. In just the same way a young man who enters a profession, whether he be an architect, a journalist, a lawyer, or a medical man, should recognise that it is his duty, as far as he can, to make it a dignified calling. Mr. Frederic Harrison examined the witness on the same point as follows: - “ Do you mean by ‘ protecting trade ‘ maintaining the old advantages, and endeavouring to acquire new advantages for the operative plasterers?” To which Mr. Williams readily replied, “ Yes, as near as that is possible.”
That passage shows how necessary it is for men to join organizations to protect their occupations. Throughout society, we find that the best of our citizens belong to organizations which concern, themselves with the trades and professions.
– We ought to have a Member of Parliaments union.
– I do not think that the honorable member wants a better union than that to which, as a lawyer, he belongs. The result of the report of this Royal Commission was that Liberals and Conservatives alike were very anxious to secure the assistance of trade organizations for their own political advantage.’ When the unionists discovered that an endeavour was being made to use them as tools by either side, they realized that the time had arrived when they should send their own representatives into Parliament. The result was that at the next Trade Union Congress, when nearly 2,000,000 members were represented, a Parliamentary Committee was established. Since 1869, some of the brightest intellects who have adorned the House of Commons have sprung from the working classes. These men did more to promote the interests of the people than had ever been done by the British Parliament. The Leader of the Opposition and honorable members on his side have been continually telling us that, in the past, labour unions were not political. They were forced to become political bodies when they discovered that they were being made tools of by both parties in the British Parliament. What was one of the chief reasons which led labour unions to form that resolution ? It was the recklessness of ship-owners in sending coffin-ships to sea. It was only with the greatest difficulty that Samuel Plimsoll succeeded in inducing the House of Commons, of which he was a member, to pass a provision requiring a load-line to be put on every ship going to sea. In my boyhood, I often heard Samuel Plimsoll address meetings of seamen in the East End of London, and expose the rascality and the brutal conduct of the ship-owners. It was only with the aid of the men whom the trade unions returned to the House of Commons. that he was able to secure that humanitarian legislation. He was assisted by men in whose honour, if they were passing down the street to-day, I would raise my hat. I refer to men like Burt, Fenwick, and Arch, who endeavoured to get the Parliament to pass a law preventing women from carrying coal-baskets on their heads. I have often seen women, with babies not a fortnight old at their breasts, employed in welding links foi small chains. Can honorable members forget the name of Mr. Broadhurst, the first secretary of the Parliamentary Committee in Great Britain? When I was secretary to my Council, in Sydney, in 1880, I opened up a correspondence with that gentleman, which I maintained for a number of years. We did our best to assist his efforts, because, at that time, he had a very small fund at his command. I, and those who came out with me to Sydney in the early seventies, knew Mr. Broadhurst, Mr. Fenwick, and the other men who laboured in England in the cause of humanity.
– Was there anything in the correspondence about preference to unionists ?
– I shall tell the honorable member something about preference, if he will wait a while. The great disputes in Australia and England have had no relation to wages. The leaders of trade unions; the men who, like myself, filled the positions of secretary and president for a number of years, never worried about a question of wages, because it could always be overcome. We concerned ourselves with matters of principle, such as eight hours for a day’s work, the proper protection for scaffolding and improved social conditions’. Above all things we detested having to work alongside a non-unionist. The greatest amount of forbearance has to be exercised by unionists when they find themselves associated with a non-unionist. The most serious trouble of all is the presence of a non-unionist on a job or in a shop. If a journeyman is working in a shop, he cannot look with any respect upon a man who will not associate with him and join his organization ; who will do nothing to better his condition. A non-unionist, to describe him properly, is nothing better than a mental abortion. It is not long since the men in the galleries who report our speeches found it necessary to organize and establish the “ Writers and Artists Association.” Can any honorable member think for a moment that the members of that union do not treat a unionist with greater respect than they do a non-unionist? When they retire from the galleries to their own rooms, will they not naturally desire to assist a man who has become a member of their union? It is not reasonable to expect that they would do anything else. The honorable member for Richmond asked for some information about the question before the House. The Fisher Government is not the first one in Australia which has carried out the principle of preference to unionists. It was carried out in New South Wales by a Government which included the late Honorable E. W. O’sullivan, and there is no person in the State who does not respect his memory. His first act when he became Minister of Public Works was to send for his officers and tell them that employes to carry out public works were to be members of trade unions, and that no one in the Department was to get less than 7s. per day. Some of those who sit on the other side of this House would, if they could have had their way, have howled Mr. O’sullivan out of public life. He carried out public works with day labour, and yet no disaster befell the State. It is admitted fey all persons that the Public Works Department got better value for its money during his regime than it obtained at any other period.
– This Government will meet with the same fate as the Government’ of which Mr. O’sullivan was a member met with.
– In the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales to-day there are men sitting on the Opposition side who would like to find another E. W. O’sullivan. Any one would imagine, from speeches delivered by honorable members opposite, that preference to unionists applied only to the ordinary labourer. The other day, however, a dispute as to a matter of accounts had to go before a Judge in Chambers, and I advised one of the parties interested not to go to law, because lawyers were such wretches that they were sure to “ take him down.” I ascertained that this person was prepared to make a compromise; and I then suggested that he should engage two chartered accountants who, as members of the Accountants Association, would prove perfectly satisfactory to the Judge. In another case having reference to the construction of a building, it was necessary to have the evidence of an architect, and, of course, on the principle of preference to unionists, the evidence of that architect was accepted. If there is one thing more than another on which a man in public life ought to pride himself, it is consistency. The other day I heard that the honorable member for Parramatta, when addressing the House, was making anxious inquiries about me ; and it struck me at the time that that honorable member had some years ago given evidence before a Royal Commission on the subject of trade unionism. The following is an extract from the evidence given by the honorable member before a Royal Commission of New South Wales in 1890 -
Are the western miners in a better position now then they were ten years’ ago? - Yes.
They have better wages and better hours? - Yes; better conditions generally.
Has that been due to the action of the unions? - Yes; entirely due to them.
That evidence was given on oath, and the honorable member for Parramatta was at that time secretary for the Lithgow Miners Association. We can well understand that the evidence was given from the bottom of his heart - if he has one - because there is no man in Australia who ought to be more thankful to the miners of this country than should the honorable member.
– Order !
– The honorable member was at that time in a very delicate state of health, and, on that account, was appointed check weighman.
– Order; the honorable member is going beyond the question.
– At any rate, the honorable member for Parramatta at that time stated that the benefits and improved conditions then enjoyed by the miners were solely due to the unions, and one of the duties of the position he then held was to see that every man before he started work was a. member of a union. That is not the attitude assumed by the honorable member to-day. It is no use our trying to burke the question of preference to unionists. Unionists will not work with non-unionists ; we might as well try to mix oil with water. They cannot amalgamate, and cannot have any mutual respect for each other. In fact, a non-unionist cannot become a good citizen. A unionist is able to debate, and see both sides of an industrial question, and deal with it in a judicial frame of mind.
Silting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I have here the report and minutes of evidence of a Royal Commission which sat in Sydney twenty years ago, before whom the honorable member for Parramatta gave his testimony as secretary to the Lithgow Miners Association. The honorable gentleman was crossexamined by Mr. Curley, a member of the Newcastle Miners Association, who was held in great respect. In reply to the questions put to him, the honorable gentleman gave answers which expressed his views concisely and directly, answers which were a credit to him. At the time he was watching the interests of those who were toiling for their living, and was well acquainted with their needs. I have no wish to prolong the discussion, but this evidence is so relevant, and so strongly supports the position of the Government, that I must read it. No doubt honorable members opposite will be electrified to ]earn that one of their number was a consistent trade unionist. The quotations which I propose to make will show how much they are in error in condemning the Government for what has been done in the present instance -
Are there any mines worked exclusively by non-unionists? - Not one. There is not a nonunionist in the district, except day wages men.
And it would not be allowed in any mine for a non-union man to work? - No, decidedly not.
We can imagine the emphasis and vigour with which that reply was given -
That would be a cause of strike? - Yes.
Did you ever know a dispute about working with non-unionists settled by a Conference? - No, I never saw the thing come to a crisis.
Do you think it might be settled by Conference? - I do not think it could.
Yet the honorable member now contends that a Court of Arbitration can settle all disputes and rectify all industrial wrongs -
Then that is one difficulty that lies outside the possibility of conference to settle? - Yes, that is where we draw the line.
We, on this side, say that, if preference is not given to unionists by the Government, they will not obtain employment in the Commonwealth service. As I said before, water and oil will not mix -
And even if there were a Government Board of Conciliation and Arbitration you could not settle that? - I am afraid not.
The honorable member knew that a unionist miner would not work with a nonunionist miner, because he would not have confidence in him. Could a miner be expected to work in a dangerous, gassy mine with a man in whom he had not confidence? Of course, he could not. Similarly, in other callings unionists will not work with non-unionists -
Except for that, all the minor conditions might be settled peaceably? - That is how it presents itself to my mind.
How do you think it is possible to settle it? - By making the non-unionists unionists.
To-day it is easier than it was twenty-one years ago to make non-unionists unionists. The opinions which I have just read were stated calmly and deliberately, and given, on oath ; they were not merely the statements of a man addressing a .meeting of miners. The people thought, when the Labour party got into power, that it would give effect to its principles. Bankers and other prominent citizens, who have met me in the street, have told me that, although they voted against Labour candidates, they .expect the Labour party to give effect to the’ principles on which they were elected. Here is another sentence -
Then, all men must come for employment through the unions? - Yes.
Ministers have not gone so far as that, though they would if I had my way. When the late E. W. O’sullivan -was Secretary of Public Works in New South Wales, he introduced the day-labour system, and saw that none but trade unionists were employed. If men were wanted by his Department, his officers rang up the union secretaries, and informed them of their requirements. There is no doubt that the best work ever done in New South Wales in connexion with the Public Works Department was that carried out whilst Mr. O’sullivan held office as Minister of Public Works. He was so certain that the best interests of the State would be served by placing in charge of such works as the new railway station officers of his Department, who belonged to a union, that he took care to appoint a unionist clerk of works. ,He knew that if the officers were with him, the men would get a fair deal. He had the work carried out under the day-labour system, and, in order that all concerned should get a fair deal, and that the building should be constructed as it ought to be, he always engaged his men through the agency of a union. The honorable member for Parramatta, in the report from which I have just quoted, said that all the men must go through the unions. Here is another extract from the evidence then given by him -
Then all men must come for employment through the unions?- Yes, but understand why I object, it is simply because a man offering himself at lower wages than those ruling menaces my position.
So in self defence you object to any man taking less wages than you? - Naturally.
If you would go so fat as to interfere with the man taking 9s., would you go so far as to use coercive measures to prevent him ?
To the last question, he replied -
I do not like coercive measures, but it is a fact that people get desperate sometimes.
We can all draw our own conclusions as to what the honorable member had in his mind when he said that the people were sometimes desperate. No doubt he was thinking of an occasion when something more than kid-glove measures were necessary. The position could not be better put, and I am glad that my memory was so good as to enable me to place my hands on this evidence, and to bring it before the House. All this is sworn evidence, and I am confident that the honorable member spoke the truth. All who know him will readily admit that in such circumstances he would speak nothing but the truth.
– The quotation which the honorable member has made is a fairly accurate description of things as they existed at that time.
– Certainly. I am not going to fall out with the honorable member about it. During this debate, reference has been made to the question of freedom of contract, a principle to which I strongly object. Let me put before the House the views expressed by the honorable member for Parramatta when giving evidence before this Commission upon that very question. His statement is precise and to the point. He was asked -
Do you think it necessary that the organizations of labour should not concede freedom of contract ?
He replied -
It means that if they conceded it in the form in which it is sought to be imposed, and as we understand it, no unionism could exist.
The honorable member then admitted that with freedom of contract in the form then proposed, and which honorable members opposite have been so heartily supporting, no unionism could exist. Freedom of contract means freedom to starve. The honorable member went on to say -
A contract is virtually no contract where a man has no say in the making of it and has simply the option of rejecting it.
No one could take exception to that statement, and it should be interesting to those who have convened a meeting to be held in the Melbourne Town Hall within the next few days to discuss this question. I am prepared to lend the conveners of that meeting a copy of this report, in order that they may learn for themselves what freedom of contract, according to the honorable member for Parramatta, actually means. This great city, which has made very rapid strides, is a credit to the people and the State, and trade organizations have taken an active part in bringing it to its present state of perfection. The honorable member for Parramatta had this further question put to him -
Do you see any fairness in a rouseabout going up to a squatter and seeking employment, and the squatter telling him his terms, which the man, having no food and no money, dare not refuse - can you conceive any equity in any contract that they may enter into?
To this he replied, “ No, there is not any.” The honorable member is quite right. Here, in two or three words, we have the whole position summed up. Reading these views, we must admit that the honorable member, when he uttered them, had a sound mind and a clear brain. I ask honorable members not to get excited about these quotations, for there are more to come. The honorable member was asked -
Do you believe that a man ‘in contracting with an employer is greatly influenced by the amount of money he has at command?
His answer was, “ Yes, and the state of his stomach.” There we have the position in a nutshell. The stomach is “the fellow that kicks.” It is the stomach that exercises the coercion. I do not know how many inches of stomach we have, but when our food supply gets very low, “the stomach kicks very hard. I think the honorable member had that fact in mind when he made this reply. We must all be glad that, as the result of the action of the Leader of the Opposition, his followers have had so many opportunities, thus early in the session, to fill the pages of Hansard with their views on the question of preference to unionists. We have to look to the future ; we have to keep an eye on the elections; and we cannot have too much of this talk about the “tar-barrel politician.”
– Is the honorable member going to connect these remarks with the motion before the Chair?
– I am, sir. I think we cannot have too much matter to educate the people as to the reasons why we have declared for preference to unionists. It is all very well for the Opposition, to talk about the tar-barrel, gin-case, or tailofthecart politicians, but the greatest educator of public opinion is the public platform.
– The honorable member is now going beyond the question before the Chair.
– I have no desire to do so. The honorable member for Parramatta, when before this Royal Commission, dealt with so many phases of industrial life that
I am afraid it would be futile for me to attempt to quote his remarks at any length. If I did, I might be ruled out of order. But there is one expression of opinion on his part which serves to show, in my opinion, what a fine stamp of man he must have been in those days. His wife must indeed have been proud of him. The miners of Lithgow were certainly proud of him when he said, in the course of his evidence, that the greatest curse we had was land monopoly.
– The honorable member is now trying to evade my ruling.
– Then. I shall close up my little history-book. I thought it my duty to bring these facts before the House, because we cannot have too much education on a question of this kind. As the representative of East Sydney, I have no hesitation as to the way I shall give my vote. I shall give the vote which the people of East Sydney expect me to give, because in every address I delivered to them I made no secret of the fact that, so far as I was concerned, preference would be extended to unionists. Those who have watched my life in East Sydney know that since my first entry into trade unionism I have never been severed from the Trades Hall. I have always advocated trade unionism on the platform in New South Wales; and I assisted the movement on the platform in Victoria in the early eighties. I therefore give my vote without fear, and am confident that I give it with the full approval of my electors. Certain unions have been accused during the debate of not permitting men to enter their ranks, or of. charging heavy entrance fees. The honorable member for Wentworth, who is not now present, has made interjections to that effect ; and it will not be out of place for me to give honorable members, the facts. There have been in the Commonwealth only three unions that have at times imposed extraordinary entrance fees. The first is the Coallumpers Union, the second the Wharf Labourers, and the third the Hatters Union, with which the Minister of Trade and Customs was connected. One feature of the Hatters Union which I admire, and regard as an essential safeguard for any union - and in this connexion I may recall the remark which I made during the debate, that if the Government is going to employ unionists they should be able to produce a credential of respectability or capability - is the fact that they allow no one to become a member of the union unless he has first served his apprenticeship to the trade. Where any exception is made to that rule, the applicant who has served no. apprenticeship is charged a heavy entrance fee. Then there is the case of the Wharf Labourers Union. After the strike of 1890 - I was a member of the Maritime Council at the time - the Wharf Labourers Union was so flooded with labour that it was utterly impossible to find work for all its members. Only sufficient work was available to give each member of the union about one hour’s work per week, and consequently something had to be done to stop new members coming in. Another point was that if any man got into trouble, the first thing he did when he came out of the place where he had to suffer for his offence, was to run down to the Wharf Labourers Union and join it. The union tried to stop that sort of person getting in - a very commendable action on their part. Those were the reasons why the entrance fee was raised in that case. The justification given by the secretary of the Sydney Coal-lumpers Union for charging a heavy entrance fee was that, on joining the union, a member became entitled to certain benefits, such as sick pay. or paymerit to relatives after his death, and, in certain circumstances, a share of the funds of the union. Consequently, the man who paid £5 to join became entitled to benefits worth much more. In giving evidence to the Royal Commission on this subject in 1891, the secretary stated that- -
The object of a high entrance fee was’ principally because so many men deserted from their ships, and all wanted to join the union. By so doing they would participate in certain benefits, such as £10 to the widow in case of death, and, on retiring from the union, an equal share in the funds, which, three years ago, when the 5-guinea fee was first adopted, amounted to over j£6 per head. Then, in case of accidents or distress a member would receive a sum not exceeding £3 at a time, and further assistance if he required it till he had recovered. For these substantial benefits we charged an entrance fee of 5 guineas, besides levying a toll of 6d. a week. Taking into consideration the amount then standing in the bank to the credit of each member of the union, and the benefits to which himself or widow would be entitled in case of accident or death, I consider that the men would be getting good value for their 5-guinea fee.
I am sure that no honorable member will doubt my knowledge of these matters when I assure them that those are the only three unions where the entrance-fee has been made heavy, in spite of statementsmade by honorable members opposite, who know nothing about trade unions. Of course, no one would expect honorable members opposite to have any knowledge of that subject, except the honorable member for Parramatta, who has given us a great deal of good information upon it. Other honorable members have simply cast aspersions on the unions ; but I can assure them that all those honorable members on this side who have been connected with trade unions have endeavoured to make them a credit to Australia. I can assure the House that the most progressive and prominent members of the trade unions are men who lead sober, honest, and upright lives. It is to those qualities that they owe their positions. They are good citizens, and a credit to the Commonwealth. I hope that when matters of this kind are again discussed, we shall not have to listen to these aspersions from people who speak without knowledge. I shall always be prepared to defend unionists against these accusations. I am sure that the honorable member for Parramatta will agree with my statement that the men occupying the best positions in unionism are amongst the most valuable citizens of the Commonwealth. Another statement which has been drummed into our ears by honorable members opposite is that trade unions in the past were not political. Again, our honorable friends have been speaking without knowledge. Since the Royal Commissions of 1867 and 1869 in Great Britain, and since 1874 in Australia, or at least in New South Wales, trade unions have interested themselves in politics. The honorable member for Dalley will bear me out when I say that the funds of the Amalgamated Society of Engineers and the Amalgamated Society of Carpenters cannot be used for any purposes other than the benefits they provide for as friendly societies. But they have taken a strong interest in politics, and every penny they have spent upon political movements has been raised by special voluntary levies.
– That is quite true.
– In 1874, in New South Wales, some of us paid from 6d. to is. per week, before the introduction of payment of members, to keep certain gentlemen in the State Parliaments. I may mention the names of Jacob Garrard, Ninian Melville, and Charles Jardine Don. The latter was a marvellous man. He was a stonemason, and while working on the building of this Parliament House used to knock off work, put on his coat, and walk into the Legislative Assembly Chamber, of which he was one of the brightest ornaments. Then there was Mr. Angus Cameron. All these men were paid for some time, but I regret to say that when, in the case of some of them, the contributions fell off, they “turned dog on us.” We kept up the payments as long as we could, but there came a time when we could not afford to keep them up any longer, and Mr. Angus Cameron subsequently got in with what some people call the “ boodlers.” though I must say I dislike the word. He got in with persons interested in financial institutions, who made a “ guinea pig “ of him by getting him appointed to the board of directors of some financial concerns, and we had to turn him down because he betrayed us. Later, there was our friend, Mr/ E. W. O’sullivan, and others. It is clear, therefore, that when some honorable members opposite tell us that in the past trade unions took no hand in political matters, they speak without knowledge, because I know that they have done so for the last forty years. The honorable member for Darling Downs last night gave us a very long address. It must have taken him much time, and the honorable gentleman must have worked hard, to get up all the information he had. But he went to New Zealand for some of his illustrations. What is the use of quoting New Zealand in such a matter when the conditions in the Dominion and in the Commonwealth are not analogous? The honorable member might just as well have given us the opinion- of the Emperor of China on the question whether an egg’ should be boiled or fried to be good for the digestion. That would, in fact, have been more interesting. The decisions even of our own Conciliation and Arbitration Court do not affect this question, because in this matter the Government are in the same position as a private employer. They can employ whom they please, and there is nothing to prevent them giving preference. There is nothing to prevent a private employer giving preference to unionists. There is no law to prevent me doing so, and I know that my foreman would not take on a nonunionist. When honorable members tell us that the Government cannot give preference to unionists for employment in the Public Service, let me tell them that Mr. E. W. O’sullivan did so as a member of the Government of New South Wales. He went to the unions to get his foremen as well as his workers, and if he could do that, the members of the Commonwealth Government can do the same. We have often heard that the King can do no wrong, and in this case the Government, representing the King, can do no wrong. I am satisfied that the electors of East Sydney know very well how my vote will go on this motion. It will be in keeping with the platform which we put before the people at the last election, and on which they returned us to power. Is there a single individual in the community who believes for a moment that when we made the change of Government we did not intend to alter things? The Leader of the Opposition has admitted that he knew there would be changes. He told the people that they must expect changes if the Labour Government were returned to power”; and I say now that preference to unionists is as much a part of the Labour platform as is land taxation. If we did not give preference to unionists, our honorable friends opposite would say to the electors, 1 ‘ Did they not tell you that if you put them in, they would give preference to unionists? Well, they have not done it.” If that could be truly said of us, the electors would kick us out, and we should deserve our fate; but we do not intend to give our friends the opportunity of saying any such thing. We are here to carry out to the letter every political pledge we made. I am prepared to do so, and if I am not again returned, I shall go back to work, where 1 came from, and I shall not cry about it either. -When I was defeated the last time, I did not cry. Every one came round after the contest, and expected to see tears in my eyes. But they said, “ Jack, you are just the same, as ever ; you have not altered.” I am satisfied that the course the Government are pursuing in this matter is the correct one. I have no wish to say anything that would offend the Prime Minister, but I am prepared to ad- mit.that when the Government proposed to make a change of this kind, they should have let the Leader of the Opposition know what they intended to do.
– They should let the country know.
– I think the Leader of the Opposition is entitled to the information. There may have been a little omission on this occasion, but I do not think there was any intention to slight the honorable gentleman in the matter.
– Did the honorable member know, until the other day, that the Government intended to grant a preference to unionists?
– I know that I almost worried them to death, because I desired that preference to be granted. Nobody can dispute that labour under control is better than labour under no control. Even medical practitioners have formed a union of their own, and have decided how much they will charge for examining each candidate for enrolment under our Defence Act. If we require legal assistance we go to the legal union, which has laid down certain definite charges. Whenever we employ a member of any association we have to be bound by its regulations. Why cannot we apply the same principle to mechanics? I hope that the youth of Australia will be educated to understand that it is honorable for them to enter trades and callings which people have hitherto been prone to despise. The only way in which we can command respect for those trades and callings is by upholding their dignity, and by preserving their rights, and privileges. For these reasons I am glad to vote in favour of extending a preference to unionists. Upon every occasion that it has been my lot to employ a professional man I have always employed one who was a member of an organization which was endeavouring to improve the condition of his fellows. That is the only way in which we can make this world brighter and happier than it is.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. The honorable member who has just resumed his seat has sought to make it appear that I ought to be supporting the action of the Government in extending a preference to unionists.
– The honorable member is now going beyond a personal explanation.
– I am not. I have not got anywhere yet.
-The honorable member has said that the honorable member for East Sydney made a certain statement.
– The honorable member will be in order in making a personal explanation, but he must not go beyond that. ‘
– I intend to supply the facts which the honorable member for East Sydney omitted to state. The honorable member has “ peacocked “ certain statements made by me.
– The honorable member is now going beyond a personal explanation
– In what way ?
– The honorable member has distinctly charged the honorable member for East Sydney with having “peacocked ‘’ certain statements. As far as I understand the term “ peacocked, “ it means that the honorable member for East Sydney has in an unfair way picked out certain portions from the document which he quoted, and has omitted other portions.
– That is quite true.
– Then the honorable member is laying a charge against the honorable member for East Sydney. In doing so he is not in order. He has a perfect right to explain matters, but he is not in order in making a charge against another honorable member.
– The occasion referred to was twenty-one years ago. I wonder when my honorable friends will cease their rummaging amongst the dead past.
– The honorable member has a past.
– So has the honorable member for Riverina. A grand trade unionist he has always been. He joined a union about twelve months ago in order to get back to Parliament.
– The honorable member for Parramatta is seeking to make a personal explanation, and I must ask honorable members not to interrupt him. These interruptions are not fair to him nor to the House nor to myself.
– Upon the occasion in question, in speaking of the constitution of an Industrial Court, I said -
My idea of a Court would be this : - I am halting between two ideas - one would be a sort of Conciliation Board consisting of two or three from each side.
Twenty-one years ago therefore it is clear that I was in favour of the establishment of Wages Boards on a purely voluntary basis. I proceeded -
In case they could not settle a dispute, then I would be in favour of one from each side, and these two to elect an independent man, but all three to have the facts referred to them, and to have something to say in the decision.
A little later the question was put to me -
Have you seen the Bill that has been drafted by Mr. Kingston, of South Australia? to which I replied -
Yes, I have seen that.
My examination then proceeded -
What opinion have you formed with regard to it? - I think there is the nucleus of what might be a good scheme, but there are certain objectionable features. I do not like the idea of enforcing the awards of the Court by a heavy monetary penalty. I should abject to that most strongly. Then, as to the composition of the Court, I am afraid that it would be slightly unwieldy. It consists of seven members on each side, and that is too many.
Is there not something said about the parties having the right to nominate their own representatives? - Yes; they are nominated by the parties affected, except the chairman.
And to whom would you leave the right of nominating the chairman? - I would not absolutely object to the Government, but would leave it to the Government as a final matter in case the parties could not agree to elect a chairman themselves. If it came to a deadlock, and the deadlock continued, then I should be in favour of some outside party appointing the chairman.
Do you believe in having one principal Board to adjust all trade disputes, or would you have several Boards? - I would have the Colony divided into sections for that purpose, having a Board for each of the three districts, western, northern, and southern.
That would be for miners? - No, for all disputes.
You mean that the same scheme would apply in regard to other occupations? - Just so.
With regard to the awards that may be made by these Courts, do you think that they should be binding? - Yes, I think they should be binding.
Do you think that the award would be respected? - I do, most emphatically. I think it is probable that the force of public opinion alone would be quite sufficient, without any compulsory enforcement.
Honorable members will see that I was against the principle of compulsory arbitration, as all the members of the Labour organizations were at that time.
– What has that to do with the question now before the House?
– I should think that it has a great deal to do with the question. I was further examined asfollows -
Would the western miners accept the decisions of a fairly constituted Board of Conciliation? - Yes; I think they would.
– Order ! It appears to me that, under cover of a personal explanation, the honorable member is distinctly combating statements made by an honorable member on the Ministerial side of the House. The honorable member is not in order in doing so. I do not know how much more of the report the honorable member proposes to read, but it seems to me that he is going beyond the proper limits of a personal explanation.
– I shall read only two or three more of the questions put to me -
Suppose the Government were to establish a Board, do you think it would be fair if the employers said, “ We will take our quarrel there,” that you should be compelled to go ; or, if the workmen said they would appeal to the Board, ‘ it would be fair to employers to compel them to ‘go, or would you .have the consent of both parties before a dispute could be taken before the Board?- It would be better if they went by mutual consent.
But if you could not get the consent of both parties, if the Government were to say, “You must go into Court and the Court shall decide “ ? - I think the men would consent to it.
But if the employers were willing to go, and the men did not want to, would they then accept the decision? - Yes, I think they would.
Then, if it was a Government Board, would you make the decision compulsory? - I do not like the idea of decisions being enforced at all.
All that I wish to make clear is that, at that time, I was in favour of a Board of Conciliation, not set up by the Government at all, but set up by the miners and proprietors, to adjust their disputes amicably amongst themselves. That is the tenor of the evidence.
.- I do not propose to follow the honorable member for East Sydney through the various devious pathways that he has trodden in the course of his speech. There was very little in the deliverance of one hour and a half with which he has favoured us that touched upon the real issue raised by the motion of the Leader of the Opposition. The honorable member said, however, that this Government was put in office to make changes. They certainly have made changes ; and their last change, to my mind, at all events, marks a distinct epoch in the history of the Commonwealth. Never before have we had a Government stating clearly and distinctly that it intended in future to give preference to political partisans in matters of administration and employment. We have never had a Government in Australia that contemplated such a thing. It may be that the late Honorable E. W. O’sullivan did what the honorable member for East Sydney states. Birt that does not affect the assertion that no party supporting a Government has ever ‘ before in the history of this Commonwealth come out clearly and stated that it intended in future to give preference to political partisans. I believe that it is the desire of this House to take a division to-night, and I shall, therefore, be as brief as I possibly can in expressing my views regarding the important issue raised by the motion. Perhaps there is no better way of putting that view plainly than to place the action of the present Government in juxtaposition to a supposed action by some other Government. Suppose - to draw on one’s imagination for a little while - that, instead of the honorable members on the Ministerial side sitting on the right of the Speaker, they were on his left, and that they were in a minority ; that then the Government of the day issued an order that none but non-unionists were to be employed, and that they were to be given preference on Government works and undertakings. My imagination fails to picture the scene that would be enacted in this Chamber by honorable members opposite if such a thing were done. There is no word of opprobrium, no epithet of scorn, no expression of contempt, that, in my opinion, would be sufficiently severe to characterize the action of a Ministry that was guilty of such conduct. Yet, Mr. Speaker, that is exactly, in principle, what the present Government Has done.
– The honorable member is becoming severe.
– No. I am only putting the case clearly and distinctly. There is absolutely no difference in principle between the suppositional case which I cited and what the Government have done. The principle underlying such an action as I have supposed and the principle underlying their action are identical ; there is no difference. Can honorable members imagine themselves for a moment in the position of this side with a Government having done what the present Government have done in the opposite way ? I do not think that they can. I do not believe that they can imagine the scene which would be enacted here’, and I am sure that no word-picture could adequately portray it.
– Do you not think’ that it would be orderly ?
– Do you think that we would follow Mr. Wade’s example?
– I believe that if it were possible to be more disorderly than the Opposition in the New South Wales Assembly has been of late that would eventuate.
– Order !
– Honorable members opposite, in the attempts which they have made to justify the action of the present Government, have talked a very great deal about preference to unionists. The principle of preference, to unionists, as it has Been understood up to the present time, is not for one moment involved in the question of giving preference to employe’s by the Government. The two kinds of preference are absolutely distinct and dissimilar. As far as the east is from the west, so far is the character of the preference which was embodied in the Act of 1904 removed from that of the preference which the Government are extending to their employes. They are as dissimilar as light is from dark. There is no relation between them - good, bad,, or indifferent.
– Are you not going to’ point out the distinction now that you have gone so far?
– Yes. I think that honorable members on the other side must be fully aware of wherein that great distinction lies. In the Act of 1904, which was introduced in this House, and which, as has been stated several times during this debate, was indorsed by three successive Governments, a preference was to be extended to unionists only by a duly constituted Court which was divorced from political unionism, and that is wherein the great difference lies.
– I think that that is the trouble.
– I admit it willingly, because it makes all the difference. The moment my honorable friends associate politics with unionism, and give preference to unionists, they give preference to political partisans.
– What is the use of talking like that?
– Perhaps the honorable member does not like it.
– Do you admit the secrecy of the ballot ?
– What has that to do with the case I have stated?
– It has everything to do with it.
– Nothing. The moment my honorable friends associate the two things they distinctly give preference to political partisans. It does not matter a scrap which way they vote ; that is not the point. I do not say that every one will vote in a particular direction, but we do know, and honorable members on the other side have willingly admitted it over and over again in this debate, that they owe their position on the Government benches to the political support which they received from the unions. As a consequence, the moment they give preference to unionists they give preference to their political partisans, and therein lies the great difference between the preference which was contemplated in the Act of 1904 and the preference which we have in the action of the present Government. I do not want to use more than a few words instating my views on trade unionism. I believe trade unionism or industrial unionismto be a thoroughly beneficial thing to the community at large. I have always advocated it, and wherever the conditions allow trade unionism or industrial unionism to be extended I shall always be an advocate of its extension, because I believe that it is only by such means that it is possible to bring about industrial peace, insure the general prosperity of the people, obviate the grinding poverty which exists in other parts of the world, and give people generally decent conditions of life. I am sure that there is not one member on this side who does not advocate trade unionism in those aspects. The whole forces of Liberalism have been directed towards helping on that movement and promoting those objects which industrial unionism, itself, really has in view. This afternoon the honorable member for Dalley, in the course of a speech, a great deal of which it was a pleasure to listen to, said that it was impossible for political unionism and industrial unionism to be carried on side by side without becoming amalgamated. He talked a good deal about co-ordination but as the Leader of the Opposition pointed out by an interjection, you must have two things to get co-ordination. You cannot have coordination where you have amalgamation. The two things are quite dissimilar. Our great objection to preference to unionists is that our honorable friends opposite insist upon the amalgamation of political unionism and industrial unionism.
– The unions do that themselves.
– I dare say that they do, and I have no objection to any unions combining for political purposes ; they have a perfect right to combine. But what we hold is that an industrial union should not necessarily be a political union. It is the insistence of my honorable friends opposite, and their supporters, that these two things shall come together, and shall be identical, that we object to. That is wherein the great danger lies of the action which the Government have taken.
– Do you object to the right of the unions to say so?
– Precisely, I do object to the unions saying so, because there it is a case of majority rule, and the moment you get majority rule you override the minority in regard to a subject on which there should be the most perfect individual liberty. That is where the great difference comes in.
– Do you object to majority rule?
– I object to majority rule in politics, so far as it means dictating to any person as to the free exercise of a political right. What I am endeavouring to point out is that, whilst I fully believe in industrial unionism, whilst I admit the fullest liberty in regard to political unionism, there should be no amalgamation of political unionism with industrial unionism, because you cannot get that amalgamation without overriding the individual liberty of members of your industrial unions in regard to their political views. I desire to show, as briefly as possible, the manner in which industrial unions today have become political unions. When the Australian Workers Union originally went to the New South Wales Arbitration Court for an award,” it was an industrial and a political union, with rules which were binding on the members in regard to certain political matters. The members were obliged to subscribe to certain political funds, and also to the newspaper of the party. Before the union t.ould get an award, these rules had to be taken out of the articles of association. When the Act of 1904 was passed by this Parliament, those rules were kept out, but the moment the Government pf the day, last year, removed those provisions in the Act- provisions which prevented unions from being political organizations - the rules were re-incorporated-
– That is not correct.
– I have the rules here, and I shall read them. Rule 11 is as follows : -
Annual contributions - shearers, cooks, machine experts, 15s. ; all other classes of labour, 10s. Provided that the member shall further be subject to such levies as may from time to time be determined upon by the annual conference or the executive council. Five shillings from each contribution received by the southern branches shall be set apart exclusively for the Southern Worker newspaper ; and such sum from each contribution received by the northern branches as they shall agree upon, shall be set apart exclusively for the Northern Worker newspaper.
– That has always been the rule.
– What is wrong with it?
– A portion of the rule was taken out.
– Not a word of it.
– Rule 48 reads thus-
When any branch, by a two-thirds majority or plebiscite, has authorized the expenditure of any sum not exceeding is. per financial member per year for political purposes, the Committee thereof from time to time, as it shall think fit, shall set aside from its general funds, and place to the credit of a parliamentary fund, such amount as it shall deem necessary for the purposes of political organization, and for securing the return of Labour representation -
– We do not deny that ! I plead guilty, anyway !
– It is distinctly partisan in character, and can be applied to only one political party in Australia.
– Does the Minister of Home Affairs employ shearers?
– The rule continues- to Federal and State Parliament, provided the amount so set aside shall not exceed the aggregate amount of is. per year per financial member from the time of the last appropriation. The Committee, if in its opinion an active political Labour organization exists -
– We grant all that.
– Yes, but I am going to read the rule - within the branch boundaries, shall appropriate from such fund a sum of 6d. per member per year on such number of members of this union as may be agreed upon by the Committee of the said branch and the said political Labour organization, and pay the same to the said political Labour organization.
– What a terrible tax - 6d. a year !
– There is one thing the honorable member has forgotten; we have levied £1 a year for the last two years for a daily newspaper.
– The rule goes on-
The parliamentary fund shall be available only on behalf of duly-pledged Labour candidates who have also been approved by the union, and who are possessed of the qualifications prescribed for members of the State Legislature, and also of the qualifications prescribed for members of the Federal Parliament.
Honorable members will notice that a certain amount of the funds of the unions has, though not necessarily, to be set aside, for political labour organizations, within the scope of the branch of the unions.
– Hear, hear !
– That does not prevent the union from using its funds for its own propaganda work; it does not prevent that propaganda being of a purely political character.
– They do it.
– They do it- the honorable member admits it ! I have heard honorable members opposite say that it is a very small sum which is subscribed to political organizations. But the funds which unions subscribe to political organizations are subscribed to organizations outside themselves, leaving the union organization intact.
– Not at all.
– The honorable member admitted, it just now.
– No ; it all comes out of the 15s.. as I shall tell the House when I get up, ‘
– The honorable member will not deny that there are a good many members of political labour leagues who pay their 2s. a year, and who are npt members of unions at all.
– Hear, hear !
– That proves my point that there is an organization outside the trade unions, which is assisting the. trade unions to carry on one great political movement.
– Hear, hear !
– That proves the point I raised at the beginning, namely, that the trade unions to-day are purely political. They are industrial; but the political elements have been so amalgamated with the industrial that we can say to-day that the trade unions of Australia are purely political.
– There are many unions which are not political.
– But they will be after this debate !
– I should say that the trade unions are practically political, and are pledged to support my honorable friends opposite.
– Not necessarily.
– And not individually.
– Not necessarily; but the whole force of the unions, and the whole funds of the unions, could not be devoted to any other purpose outside their own individual concerns except that of keeping my honorable friends opposite in power.
– Is there any crime in that ?
– No; but the crime comes in when it is these unions to which the Government say they are going to give preference. I have a few figures here which show to what extent this movement has advanced in Australia. When the honorable member for Hunter was speaking the other day, he said that Mr. Knibbs’ figures as to the number of trade unionists in Australia were far from correct. The honorable member contended that, although New South Wales was the only State in which the whole of the trade unions were registered, and the number of unionists known, it afforded a fair indication of the number of unionists in the Commonwealth. I think that that contention is perfectly fair, because, speaking generally, we may take it that the same proportion of unionists to the population will be found in the other States. I have taken the figures for 1909, given in the Commonwealth Year-Booh, the latest procurable, and, assuming that the proportion of unionists to the general population is the same in the other States as in New South Wales, I have found that the total number of unionists in Australia is 343,000, the number in New South Wales being 127,000. The total amount subscribed by those unionists, apart from the amount subscribed by the political labour leagues, is £395,000 a year.
– There are about 390,000 unionists in Australia.
– In that case, the funds probably amount to ,£450,000.
– If the unionists are spending so much in promoting the interests of Australia, they deserve some recognition from this Government.
– The members of the Labour party never tire of speaking about the enormous sums spent by the Liberal party on political organization, but what ever is spent by our supporters is nothing in comparison with the amount spent by the unions to .keep the Labour party in power.
– Much of the money of the unions goes to provide funeral expenses, out-of-work allowances, and other benefits. Many of the unions are practically friendly societies.
– I admit that the disbursements to which the honorable member refers amount to a considerable sum, but I have figures which show how greatly the funds of the unions are swallowed up in expenses of administration, and management, and how large is the sum expended on the furtherance of political ends. According to the twenty-fifth report of the Queensland Registrar of Friendly Societies, Building Societies and Trade Unions, the expenditure of the registered trade unions - there are also unregistered unions, in regard to which no information is obtainable - for 1909 amounted to .£16,256, of which only £2,532 was paid away in benefits. The sum of £8,398 went to pay the expenses of management. It is very dear management that costs 50 per cent, of the total expenditure of the concern which is being managed. Of the balance, £5,326 went in assistance to other unions, legal and political expenses, and” contributions to the Labour newspaper.
– How much went in political expenses.
– A very large part of the sum I have mentioned, though great care is taken to leave us in the dark as to the expenditure for political purposes. Large as the sum is - and it amounts to, at least, one-fifth of the total subscriptions - there must be added to it the expenditure of the political labour leagues.
– What is the honorable member’s point?
– That the unions use their funds very largely to keep my honorable friends in power. That is why the action of the Government in granting preference to unionists is indefensible.
– How much of the £5,000 is spent for political purposes?
– If only £2,000 is spent for political purposes, and, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong suggests, £450,000 is subscribed by the unionists of Australia-
– I did not say how much is subscribed.
– The honorable member for Dalley told’ us this afternoon that for twenty-five years he has subscribed no less than £5 a year to union funds.
– The Newcastle Miners Association, which is the largest union in Australia, with the exception of the Shearers Union, does not pay a penny to any political fund.
– My point is that the unions use their funds for political purposes; whether the amount so spent is large or small is immaterial. The unions are pledged adherents of the Labour party, and the Government, in granting preference to unionists, is granting preference to its own partisans. For that there is absolutely no justification. If the Government believe that this kind of preference to unionists is sound in principle, why do they not embody it in a Bill ? Why do they not place it on the statute-book of the Commonwealth, where it would remain until the people returned representatives to repeal it?
– The position is the same from an administrative stand-point.
– There is a great principle underlying the whole proposal, and effect should not be given to it by administrative act. It should be done by the act of the people themselves through their Parliament. I challenge the Government to embody the principle in a Bill, and to submit it to this House.
– I take it that by negativing this motion of censure, this Parliament will show that it is in favour of .the principle.
– The Government are not game to attempt to place this principle on the statute-book.
– Then why do they not take action? If they are prepared to embody the principle in a Bill, let them do so at once. The only other point I wish to make is that, since the Prime Minister spoke, we have not had from one honorable member opposite a pronouncement as to whom this preference is to be applied, and as to how far it is to extend. If the Government intention is perfectly clear and above-board, let it be expressed in a Bill, and placed on the statute-book, so that we may know exactly where we stand.
.- At the outset, I -wish to define my position with regard to this motion by stating that T am quite in accord with the opinion expressed some time ago by the honorable member for Flinders, that there is going to be no perfect system of conciliation and arbitration until the whole of the workers, as well as the whole of the employers of labour, are organized. I hope the day is not far distant when that will be brought about, but until it is I sincerely trust that the unions will never’ give up their right to strike. That is the only weapon that remains in their hands, and if they part with it, Heaven knows what will become of them.
– They have already parted with it by law.
– My advice to those who secure an award of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court as at present constituted is to obey it to the very letter. I have always given that advice.
– The honorable member means that those who seek an award should obey it.
– If I give a concrete example of what I mean, the honorable member, perhaps, will understand me. I have not the good fortune to have had such an education as he has had ; but I am understood by the commoner, and, if the honorable member is too superior to understand what I say, the loss is his, not mine. The Australian Workers Union is to-day before the Arbitration Court, and that union, as well as the Pastoralists Union, has spent thousands of pounds by way of law costs in an effort to secure industrial peace. When the award of the Court is given, I, as a parliamentary representative of the people, as well as one of the leading lights of the Australian Workers Union, will advise that it be implicitly obeyed. Notwithstanding all that has been said by the Opposition, we on this side of the House stand for unionism, and preference to unionists. We are all pledged right up to the hilt in that respect. Despite what the honorable member for Wilmot said last night, every member of my party has signed a pledge to do his best to bring about preference to unionists.
– The honorable member and his party signed a pledge to bring about the preference to unionists mentioned in their platform ; not the preference now proposed.
– We have reached a strange pass if we have to go to a barrister of the honorable member’s calibre to secure an interpretation of our platform. No honorable member of my party will deny what I have said, and I hold that we are only carrying out our pledge in supporting this preference to. unionists. This brings me to the order issued by the Director-General of Works, which the Leader, of the Opposition and every member of his party has condemned. Let me say at once that no other interpretation could have been given to the minute of the Minister of Home Affairs than that placed upon it by the Director of Works. Absolute preference to unionists means absolute preference, and preference every time, and the first men to be dismissed under the Minister’s minute would be non-unionists. I am pleased to say, however, that there are no nonunionists working to-day in the Department of Home Affairs. The honorable member for Grampians should be the last to talk about coercion, and I shall tell him why.
In doing so, I shall have to make a slight personal reference to an old and valued friend of mine in this House - the honorable member for Fawkner - whom I hope I shall always be able to describe in that way. We two engaged in one of the most serious industrial disputes that has ever taken place on the Australian continent. He was on one side of the river, and I was on the other. Starvation lost us the day, but although we were beaten on that occasion, we are the gainers to-day. Look, at the result of the tyranny of the Pastoralists Union within less than twenty years ! We went down badly, our union was disorganized, our funds were depleted. It was a case of “ save himself who can ; get in where you can.” The other side brought up free labourers, or, as they were commonly called then, “white wings.” They had the Queensland Government at their back, and poured them in by trainloads. They brought out all the police and military that it was possible to get to overawe the unionists in the- different parts of Queensland. If some of them had had their way, like one gentleman in Brisbane who signed himself “ Phlebotomy,” they would have done more. He said, “Why do not the Government exterminate them as they would other vermin? Why use a watering can? There must be some” blood-letting.”
– And there was, too.
– If so, I have never heard of it before. There might have been had it not been for the man who conducted the police operations during the trouble. He is dead now. These things happened twenty-one years ago, but they are as vivid before me to-day as if it were only last week. The gentlemen .to whom I refer was John Ahern, Inspector of Police in Queensland, familiarly known as JackyJacky. He knew the material the bushmen were made of, and handled them accordingly, and thanks to him no one was shot on either side.
– But no thank’s to the Government of the day.
– The pastoralists had the Government at their backs. They had their military, they had their magistrates, they had their Judges, they had their gaols. They took our men, who did nothing but stand up for liberty and freedom, dragged them through the streets of Clermont, along the railways of Queensland, through the town of Barcaldine, and through the city of Rockhampton, chained together like a lot of bullocks. Then people wonder at our resenting these things ! One needs only to have been in them to know, the electricity that is put into one’s body when these thoughts are aroused. No one remembers those critical times better than yourself, Mr. Speaker. When they had no charge to make against unionists, the other side even went so far as to manufacture them, and, for the information of the legal gentlemen in this House, let me tell them that they manufactured against one man in the Winton district a charge of being a person of ill-fame. They tried him, and re-tried him, and eventually had to let him go. They had the military at Dag worth, where it was said that the unionists were going to take the place by storm, and I remember that there was bloodshed on that occasion - a fact that will interest the honorable member for Moreton. The military, and police, and station hands, and “ white wings “ rallied round, all being armed. They kept up a fusillade all night, and i:i the morning it was found that the destruction had been terrible - the whole of the station’s prize rams were lying dead ! The serious side of the question was that many on our side were dragged to gaol, and did three years for conspiracy. But it was the best advertisement that we could possibly Have had for unionism - and by the way, this debate will have the same effect. Our men suffered their three years in gaol without asking for one day’s remission, and came out. There were only four men in the Queensland Parliament who had a good or kind word to say for those men at that time. One of them, I am pleased and proud to say, was the father of the honorable member for Darling Downs, another was P. J., or “ Paddy “ O’sullivan, a third was Mr. Hoolan, the member for Bourke, and the fourth was ex- Senator Glassey, then member for Bundamba. The other side, including the honorable member for Fawkner, gave us certain advice when the strike was over, and everything was going along swimmingly except for a few, whom they tried to hound out of the country. But to-day those few men, whom they tried to deprive of the opportunity of earning a living in Australia, and whose wives and children they attempted to sacrifice, are occupying high positions in the State and Federal Parliaments. Talk about revenge; should there not have been a spirit of revenge ? 1 candidly admit that that feeling was rampant in my heart when I entered this Parliament. I said, “ I will give Mr. Squatter a go from this out.” Let me tell honorable members what they advised us to do - but it did not eventuate. We are to-day occupying some of the proudest positions that any country can confer on its members, and I venture to say that - giving them in the honorable member for Ballarat, the honorable member for Flinders, and the right honorable member for Swan - we can, man for man, hold our own in debate, either here or on the platform, with the other side of the House. They advised us then to take a certain course, the honorable member for Fawkner being one of those who tendered us that good advice. They said, “ The strike has been a loss to the country,” which I admit, “ and it has been a loss to us “ - and by the same token, let me tell honorable members that, in my view, every sheep, horse, cow, or calf in Australia is not an asset of the Pastoralists Union, or of any particular selector, but a national asset, and that is the consideration which has driven the spirit of revenge out of me. Since coming into this Parliament, I have taken a broader view of things than I did before, and I am now, like the honorable member for Indi, a nationalist.
– Would the honorable member, in fairness, tell the House what they did to me in the streets of Clermont?
– Yes; but the honorable member came off all right. He had all the police to protect him, and one inspector swore in the Court that he “ surrounded “ the men. They took the horses out of the honorable member’s buggy, but those were stirring times, and men were excited.
– Did they not try to kill us?
– They tried to turn the trap over into the lagoon. They were only using a little moral suasion. I do not wish to hide anything, although it is so long ago now that the trouble is all forgotten by both sides. We were advised to take a certain course. Those opposed to us said, “ Why do you strike? Why do you not put your men into Parliament to alter the laws which you say are oppressive. Then you can have all things your own way.” Well, we tried. A Mr. Murphy, who was one of the owners of Northampton, Ravensbourne, and other stations in Queensland, and was member for Barcoo at the time, happened to die, and we put up one of our men, T. J. Ryan, the secretary of the union, to contest the seat. We won. but we had no pledge then. At this time there was some trouble in the Labour ranks in New South Wales, and the movement towards Labour solidarity was started. I believe that it was then, or very soon afterwards, that the honorable member for Parramatta reached the parting of the ways. However, we sent T. J. Ryan to Parliament, and were quite satisfied when he came back to us twelve months later. But he said then, “ The cushions are too soft, the whisky is too strong, the squatters’ friendship is too great, and I shall have to turn it up.”
– Does the honorable member propose to connect these remarks with the question?
– Yes, I am leading up to the reasons for the action taken by unionists. The honorable member for Richmond attacked the Australian Workers Union. He has spoken of the way in which that union spends money, and charges its members with being political, and I wish to refute his arguments. We took the advice of the pastoralists, and then the first thing the party behind them did was to bring in an amendment of the electoral law, which made it impossible for men engaged in nomadic occupations to get their names on the rolls. We continued the fight, and, in passing, I may say in connexion with the referendum and its result that we are made of the stuff to meet such rebuffs. We fought on until we got to the Treasury benches. On one occasion our opponents struck hundreds of names off the rolls, and we lost many seats for which we tried, until we went to the Supreme Court for a definition of ‘L-residence.” Mr. Justice Chubb said that the definition of “residence” was wherever a man resided, even though it were up in a gum tree. From that time we have been gathering force in Queensland, until to-day we send six representatives to the Federal Parliament, and we hope to send the ten before long. .After the shearers’ strike broke up, we came together as unionists, and desired to improve our position, but we found, directly we went to look for work, that there was a black list.
– And now honorable members opposite are going to make another.
– No, we are not. Yesterday evening I challenged the honorable member for Parramatta to go down the street with me, and try to get a job. I went down yesterday evening to secure a job for the honorable gentleman and myself, and got it. We can start work on Monday morning, irrespective of whether we are unionists or not.
– I am not on.
– Well. it is no good to me without the honorable member for Parramatta, so it is off with me, too. I have said that a black list was issued by the pastoralists. I do not happen to have it in my possession now, but I used it in 1904 on the introduction of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act. It may interest honorable members who were not in this House at that time if I gave a resume of it. I do not pretend to say that that black list justifies a black list in connexion with this proposal. I want to make it clear that, thanks to the Arbitration Court, and the good sense of the Pastoralists Union of Australia to-day, there is no black list in operation in the industry now. The pastoralists take a man on on his reference, and if he does not suit he is hung up, and that is all there is about it. I wish to show the tribulations and trials which, as unionists, we have had to go through, and I say it behoves us at this time of day, when we are successful, to carry out the planks of our platform, without fear or favour. I came into this House pledged to preference to unionists, and I venture to say that there is not an honorable member on this side who does nol approve of what the Minister of Home Affairs has done in this case. The honorable member for Richmond asked where this was to end. He tried to fix some blame upon the Australian Workers Union on the ground that they subscribe funds for political purposes. There is no secret about the matter, and I. may as well tell honorable members that the contribution towards the political fund is rs. per member per annum. If there are 50,000 men. in the Australian Workers Union that makes 50,000s., and it is not a difficult matter to calculate what that amounts to. Of the 15s. subscribed to the union in Queensland by a shearer 3s. goes to the Worker fund, and for that contribution every member of the union gets a free copy of the Worker.
– Is there not a funeral fund also?
– No, I am speaking of Queensland. In some of the States the union has a funeral and sick fund, but in Queensland there is a contribution of 15s. per head per annum demanded from every shearer, and ros. from every general hand. We have struck a levy of £i per head for shearers, and ros. per head for rouse.abouts, for the daily newspaper fund, and in the last letter I got from the secretary in Queensland, he says “ Jim, they are all paying up like toffs, and want to know whether we want any more.” This is for the daily newspaper. The recording angels in the press gallery here are a fine lot of men, and every one of them is a unionist. Yet they have to write the trash and tripe that we see dished up in the morning newspapers of this city. The leader-writers, are the only men employed upon their staffs who are outside the union, and they have to write to order, or out they would go on their pink ears. I would just like the Age and the Argus to give the recording angels in the press gallery a free hand for one day only, to see how they would write and whether they would denounce the granting of a preference to unionists. In the composing-rooms of the Melbourne newspaper offices to-day, every man is a unionist. A non-unionist could not get there. These newspapers themselves grant a preference to unionists, and yet they are the very loudest in their denunciation of the principle of Labour coercion. If there can be anything more Gilbertian than that, I cannot conceive of it. It is a pity that that grand comic opera writer is dead ; otherwise, he might construct a nice comic opera upon the actions of honorable members opposite. I wish now to say a word or two to the honorable member for Parramatta. Assuming that he were defeated at the next election, or that force of circumstances compelled him to follow his former occupation as a miner, would he be prepared to advocate open pits for unionists and skulkers alike? Would he affirm that unionists should pay all contributions and levies, and that the skulkers should pay nothing, and would he then have the temerity to turn round and address the miners as brothers ? I put the question to him more in sorrow than in anger, because I recognise what he did for unionism in the early days of that movement in New South Wales, when to be a unionist was an abominable crime. I was exceedingly sorry yesterday to hear him denouncing the very terror - 1 say it in a whisper - that he advocated when he was a union secretary, namely, the extension of a preference to unionists and not to skulkers. I applaud his former sentiments. Unionism alone has made it possible for him to occupy the position that he does to-day. Does it become any man who has risen from the lowest rung on fortune’s ladder to boot the men who put him there?
– That is an infamous statement for the honorable member to make, and it is absolutely untrue.
– Order !
– It is not untrue. I have merely stated what took place here yesterday.
– The honorable member has not done that.
– The honorable member denounced the principle of preference to unionists.
– Who did?
– The honorable member did, with a big “ but.” He denounced it except it was administered through legal formalities.
– This is a tissue of misrepresentations .
– If I am misrepresenting the honorable member, I hope that, at the close of my remarks, he will rise and point out how I have misrepresented him. If he can do that, nobody will apologize more quickly than I will. I have no desire to do him any injustice whatever. I sat here the whole time that he was speaking, and it was more in sorrow than in anger that I heard him say what he did. The right honorable member for Swan during the course of his speech, and the Leader of the Opposition by an interjection, asked, “ What about those who are advocating murder?” I expect that they were referring to the statement made by Mr. Cohen at the Trades Hall. I would not like to associate either the Leader of the Opposition or the right honorable member for Swan with all the sins that have been committed in the name of Liberalism. Would I fasten upon them responsibility for such attacks as that which’ was made by Mr. Waddell upon Mr. Justice Higgins ? When a man makes an attack of that description, he must stand upon his own ground. I ask the Leader of the Opposition in all seriousness whether he thinks that I would murder a man because he was not a unionist?
– The honorable member has never denounced the statement of Mr. Cohen.
– I have never heard the right honorable member denounce the state-: ments made by Mr. Waddell in reference to Mr. Justice Higgins. But I embrace the first opportunity I have had to say that’ every one of my colleagues in this Parliament repudiates Mr. Cohen’s statement. At the last election I was confronted at the town of Chinchilla with a slip of paper which set out that some irresponsible individual in Adelaide had said, “ To hell with the farmers.” The organizers of my opponent actually went round the town and told the electors that I had made the statement, and I was charged with it upon the public platform. My reply to the electors was, “ If you believe that I made the statement attributed to me, record your votes in favour of the other candidate, but I can assure you, on my word of honour as a man, that I have too much sense to say such a thing, even if I thought it.” I do not charge honorable members opposite with the misdeeds of the Liberals in New South Wales, who are always raving about law and order. Until the other day, there was never an occasion in the history of Australia upon which the services of the police had to be requisitioned to quell a disturbance amongst these law-and-order gentlemen.
– There has never been a case where the Speaker was bought.
Mjr. PAGE. - When the honorable member for North Sydney was speaking, he hurled a disgraceful charge against honorable members on this side of the House.
– Order !
– Well, I will say a very bad charge. He said, “ Are we to be controlled and governed by shearers, rouseabouts, and skulkers?” A few minutes before that the honorable member swelled with pride, like a bullfrog on a log, when he told us that he had started at the bottom rung of fortune’s ladder, at £32 a year, and to-day is, as he said, Colonel Ryrie of New South Wales. If ever there was a man who weighed himself in the scales of vanity it was that honorable member. He told us that he was against trade unionists, that he supported everything that the Leader of the Opposition had said against preference, and that, even if he had to play a lone hand, he would be against the policy of the Government. Yet he admitted that he was a scab on his own union.
– Order ! The honorable member must withdraw that remark.
– I will withdraw the remark, and say that the honorable member was a white wing on his own union.
– Order !
– Well, Mr. Speaker, what is a white wing ?
– I have asked the honorable member to withdraw the remark he made, and he must withdraw it without qualification.
– Out of deference to you, and to the Chair, sir, I withdraw the remark without reservation. I can quite understand the honorable member for North Sydney being against all unionism and all preference. He spoke as if he were the. hub of the universe, and as though he considered that he was the only man in the Federal Parliament fit to govern. In fact, he ignored all the rules of parliamentary procedure, and practically rebelled against his own leader. The Leader of the Opposition will have to crack the whip over the honorable member, or he will have a little cave growing up in his party. The fusion is not complete even to-day. We have the honorable member for Parkes sitting apart, and now we have the honorable member for North Sydney joining him.
– Is the honorable member going to connect these remarks with the subject?
– Yes, sir, because I am replying to what the honorable member for North Sydney said. I venture to say that if the shearers and rouseabouts have not brains enough to look after themselves politically, they had, at any rate, brains enough, as members of the Bushmen’s Contingents, to go to fight the- battles of the Empire in South Africa, where they distinguished themselves by their capacity and individuality in helping to bring the war to a termination.
– Where were the colonels then?
– I have nothing to say against them. Some of the officers were the bravest of the brave. Others I would rather say nothing about. I think it illbecomes that honorable member to cast any aspersions upon the bushmen of this country, whether they are members of the Australian Workers Union or not. I will deal now with another little bit of preference. A Bill was introduced into the State Parliament of Victoria yesterday by Mr. Mackey and Mr. Bowser. This was a double-barrelled arrangement. The Bill was one to amend the Supreme Court Act. Honorable members opposite are against preference to unionists, but I will ask them in all seriousness - particularly the honorable member for Flinders - what this means -
Every person who (not being a barrister and solicitor of the Supreme Court) either directly or indirectly for or in anticipation of any fee gain or reward draws or prepares any instrument relating to real estate or any proceeding in any Court or before any Judge Magistrate or Justice shall be guilty of an offence. Provided that this section shall not extend to any person authorized by law to draw or prepare such instrument or proceedings or employed merely to engross or copy the same or to any public officer drawing or preparing official instruments in the course of his duty.
– The meaning seems clear, I should have thought.
– What would the honorable member say that the meaning was?
– What it says.
– I know very well what is in the mind of the honorable member, and will not press the question. As a layman, I shall put my own interpretation upon it, and if that be wrong the legal members can tell me so. I say that it is preference to unionists, pure and simple.
– It is absolute preference. And, I do not hesitate to say, more power to the lawyers. I am not one of those who cavil about the union or association of lawyers. It is a grand thing, and we are going to try and copy it as far as we possibly can. Some honorable members on this side of the House have found fault with the British Medical Association, but I believe in every man being a member of some association. I am with the honorable member for Flinders all the way, and if, at any time, a chance occurs of putting his advice into practice, I shall be one of the strongest champions on his side. With regard to preference generally, I say that - the blackleg worker is a non-combatant in the industrial army, yet he does not hesitate to take the gains the fighters in the ranks obtain.
My experience of blacklegs is this : When any of these gentlemen are brought along to break a strike, what happens? No sooner is an agreement made with the unionists than the free-labourer is looking for a job. The honorable member for Richmond must know that the Australian Workers Union will not gain one pennyworth of benefit from this edict issued by the Minister of Home Affairs. The Commonwealth does not own even a cow, and if it did the Australian Workers Union would not shear the animal. We may own a few horses, and the tails of some of them have been docked, but I can assure the House that they were not shorn by members of the Australian Worker’s Union. They would never have done such a thing. I can also tell the honorablemember for Richmond that there is not a man in this Parliament who is a member of the Australian Workers -Union but is proud of it - not one of us ! It is an organization that has done much, not only for us as individuals, but for Australia as: a nation. I will say candidly, for my own part, that if it were not for the Australian Workers Union I should not be here today. The honorable member has referred to the amount of money spent by the Australian Workers Union on political work. We are going to spend ten timesas much in the future as we have done in the past. And, as I said before, we are quite willing to pay our tax for unionism, because the union of the honorable member for Fawkner is paying it.
– I thought that we were only allowed to spend £100 apiece.
– I am not saying anything about what we are allowed to spend. My election last year cost me £8, and I have an electorate as large as New South Wales. Can the honorable member say the same?
– How much did the union pay for you?
– I have not the slightest idea; and I never inquired.
– They could not have paid your hotel expenses.
– No; they always put me up free. If they do not know when they have a good man, I know when I have a good constituency. The honorable member for Swan made some references recently to the question of election expenses. I may say, in passing, that I entirely agree with what he said. What is the use of our making restrictions in that regard if we do not carry them out? The honorable member for Parramatta has stated - and the honorable member for Richmond repeated the statement to-night - that every member of the Australian Workers Union was politically roped in by the union.
– I made no such statement.
– Did not the honorable member say that we made unionists of men for the purpose of getting them into the political union?
– I do not think that my words can be interpreted in that way. That was not the line of my argument.
– What did the honorable member say ?
– I am not going to make a second speech.
– I will make a speech for the honorable member. It is of no use for honorable gentlemen to throw dust into the eyes of the people of Australia by saying one thing and meaning another, by talking with their tongues in their cheeks. I maintain that our Courts are pure, and, as far as I know, our system of balloting at elections is pure. I have the utmost faith in the ballot system and in the Courts. How can the secrecy of the ballot be maintained if, as honorable members opposite have told us repeatedly, every man who takes an Australian Workers Union ticket is going to vote for Labour? Let me tell honorable gentlemen a little yarn, and the honorable member for Fawkner will know what I mean as I proceed.
– Did you ever ask a man how he was going to vote?
– No; but the organizers do occasionally.
– Exactly; and that is just the point.
– I never ask a man how he is going to vote; nor do I ever ask a man for a vote. But I start out with about 5,000 votes in. my pocket, if that is information for the honorable gentleman. In the Australian Workers Union we have a peculiar way of working preference to unionists. The Courts will not give it to us.
– Have you not a lot of peculiar ways?
– Yes ; we are like the Chinese.
For ways that are dark
And tricks that are vain, political organizations are peculiar. That applies to both sides. I admit candidly that in the Australian Workers Union we have a peculiar way. Perhaps some of the honorable members opposite might gain a little from our experience, though the honorable member for Fawkner may know as much as we know.
– There is not much that he does not know.
-I admit that ; but we know a little more sometimes. We have a method of getting a man to take a ticket, particularly when he says, “I will see you in Jericho first.” The organizer simply goes to the cook and says, “ Jim Page will not take a ticket.” “ Well,” the cook replies, “ I will not cook for him; put him on the wood-heap.” The man goes up to the store and gets his bit of tucker. He comes down and cooks for himself, but only for one meal. When the time for the next meal comes round he goes up to the delegate and gets a ticket.
– That is how you “ cook “ the returns?
– No; our returns will stand investigation, and have done so. The honorable member for Richmond, though he is a juggler with figures, could not juggle the £5,000 to his own satisfaction and that of the House. A lump sum of £5,000 is neither here nor there when you have not much.He told us that £5,000 was being expended in sundry ways. Do honorable members opposite know that the legal profession got the bulk of that sum?
– The other union.
– Yes. That is what we had to pay for preference to unionists. To-day in the Courts we are spending several thousand pounds to get an award. Not only are we doing that, but the pastoralists unions, too. We expect to spend some more thousands when they take us on a question of jurisdiction to the High Court. Both of us are prepared to spend a little more. Our outlay is 15s. per member, and £1 for the daily newspaper, and we are prepared to spend another £1 if it is wanted. We intend to have a daily newspaper, in spite of the Age and Argus in Melbourne, the Herald and Telegraph in Sydney, and the Courier and the Daily Mail in Brisbane. That is one of the levies that we make.
– Order !
– I am treading on very thin ice now, and, like the Leader of the Opposition, I must get back to earth. I have a lot of other matter, but I do not intend to deal with it to-night. So far as I am concerned, with regard to our war in the past, bygones are bygones. I can say, without fear of contradiction, that some of my firmest friends in Queensland to-day are persons who were opposed to us in the strike of 1891. I have only a few more words to say. In the language of the poet -
Lift the Labour banner high,
Shake its stars against the sky ;
Freemen give your battle cry”;
Cheer your flag unfurled.
Put the hand to Labour’s plough,
Set the crown on Labour’s brow ;
Labour’s cause is God-like now ;
Labour rules the world.
– In the course of a very interesting speech, the honorable member for Maranoa did me the honour to refer to certain words which I uttered a few nights ago; but he appeared to me to lay a good deal of stress on one-half of what I said, and to throw the other half into a decent obscurity. The words which I uttered then were not lightly spoken; they were the result of much thought on the subject to which they related. I said then, as I say now, that I believe that the path to industrial peace lies, and lies only, through extended organization on the side both of labour and of capital. I believe firmly that, with the conditions always growing more complex, and more difficult to deal with as time goes on, not in this country only, but throughout the world, the industrial problem will never be solved so long as both sides are split into a state of disintegration. There _must be organization. But this is a part of my statement to which I think the honorable member did not give, perhaps, quite as much weight as to the other : I ventured to point out that the only kind of organization that could possibly achieve that end, or take any steps towards it, is organization which not only obeys the law, but gives substantial guarantees for an effective obedience of the law. Without that, such organization would not tend in the direction of peace, but in the other direction. One reason why I object to the step which has been taken by the Minister of Home Affairs is that, to my mind, it will have exactly the contrary effect to what the honorable member for Maranoa expects from it. In the first place, it is not a recognition of the kind of association to which I referred, but is giving a reward and premium to members of associations that are not bound, either by law or by their own expressed intention, to refrain from the worst forms of industrial warfare.
– Please say that again !
– I shall say it in another, and, possibly, better way. I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa in the very manly statement he made, as coming from that side of the House, that there can be no beating about the bush or question as to the meaning of the Minister’s statement. It is, as he said, as plain as possible. There is no use in the Government, while apparently indorsing the statement, not having the courage of their convictions, and saying so whole heartedly. It is a plain and distinct statement to the Director of Public Works- “ Take on unionists when you have the chance; send out non-unionists when you have the chance.” That is the plain, unadulterated, simple meaning of the statement. We are left in the dark, however, so far as Ministers are concerned. I have waited during the whole of . the debate, now I think approaching a close, to see if we could not get some utterance, apart from the indistinct, vague utterance of the Prime Minister, defining what the position of the Government is in regard to the matter. No such utterance has been made. Whenever we use argument, we are confronted by statements made by irresponsible supporters of the Government, instead of by definite statements from responsible Ministers as to their attitude in reference to the acts of their colleagues. The reason why I object to the formal and official order issued by the Minister of Home Affairs is that, when viewed rightly, it strikes a blow at the very foundations of responsible and democratic government. We have over and over again heard the argument from the other side during this debate that this House and Parliament have recognised preference to unionists - have recognised the right or duty on the part of private employers to give preference to unionists - and that, therefore, the Government should give similar preference. The answer to that is plain and simple. Private employers are masters of their own money, whereas the Government of the day are intrusted with the control of the funds of the public. Part of the public are those very people on whom a ban is being placed by this order ; and they are a large part of the people who ought not to be, by any order of the Government, prevented from having their fair share of public employment according to their merit, and not according to the accident of whether they have become members of unions or not - who ought to have a full right, and an equal right with others, to a chance of Government employment. This order has the effect of deliberately imposing a black mark and a disability on those persons whom the Government, in the administration of the public funds, and in the carrying on of the affairs of the Departments, ought to regard as beneficiaries for whom they are trustees. We have often laughed with the Minister of Home Affairs, and possibly sometimes laughed at him, when he introduced the American eagle here. But it becomes a much more serious matter when he introduces some American methods.
– He has the courage to do openly what others are doing privately !
– He has had the courage, or recklessness, to do something which has placed his colleagues in a seriously embarrassing position. I was not present when the Prime Minister made his speech; but after a careful perusal of it I can only say that we are left with the one thing unexplained, unwithdrawn, and unqualified - the statement contained in the minute of the Minister of Home Affairs himself.
– Where is there any doubt about it? The Prime Minister has said that, other things being equal, preference will be given in all cases to trade unionists.
– “ Other things being equal !” I have never heard any suggestion of preference to unionists under Act of Parliament except with the condition “ other things being equal.” Is not that condition laid down in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act? But when we have an order to be administered by the servants of the Minister who issues it, what is going to become of this “ other things being equal” ? Is it not as plain as possible that we have an order from the Minister, “ When you have a chance, turn out the non-unionists ; and when you have a chance, take on unionists?” The Minister of Home Affairs and his colleagues ought to have the courage of their opinions. Those who support them are not afraid; at any rate some of them are not. I do not intend to speak at any length on this question, because I think the arguments have been fully put. I have listened to many of the speeches, and read most of the others ; but I have as yet failed to find any argument brought forward on -the other side in reply to the arguments of the Leader of the Opposition and those who followed him. We have heard a good deal of argument, and very eloquent argument in some cases, in favour of unionism, and in favour of the application of preference in certain cases. But we have not heard one argument justifying the action of a responsible Government, having control as the trustees for the whole of the people of the funds of the country, in deliberately issuing an order - for that is’ the practical effect - that members of voluntary and irresponsible associations, not even registered under any Act imposing any obligation on them, and. which claim to retain the full right to strike on all occasions, shall have preference over all other citizens of the community in obtaining public employment. There is another aspect of the matter, and a grave one, about which I wish to say a few words.- Under orders issued by the Minister, preference over all other applicants will, as I have said, be ‘ given to members of all unions, including those which, not being registered under the Arbitration Act, are not prevented by law from striking in furtherance of what they conceive to be their interests. In directing Government officials when making appointments to give preference to members of unions, which have not been deprived of the right to strike, do not Ministers, in effect, acknowledge the right of public servants to strike against the authority of the State? I ask the adherents of the Government - because I despair of getting any definite answer from a Minister - if any one of them is ready to claim on behalf of the public servants that they possess the right to strike against the Government, which represents the community at large. Has any honorable member opposite the courage to say that the members of unions to whom preference is to be given should be permitted to join in a strike with fellow members of unions, which, not being registered, are not prevented by law from striking? It is rather an important question.
– The honorable member is not now in a Court of Law.
– For that reason I cannot compel an answer, but I ask if the question is not a fair one. Honorable members say, “ In administering the public funds,” which should be held for the benefit of the whole people, without distinction of class or creed, “ we are going 10 give preference to members of unions which claim the right to enforce their demands by a weapon which has not been declared unlawful - that of striking,” and I ask, Do they claim for the men who are so appointed to the Public Service the right to join their fellow unionists in a striker Perhaps before the debate is closed, an answer will be given to the question. Apparently, no honorable member opposite is prepared to say that the unionists to whom preference is to be given are entitled to strike against the Government which employs them. I see no reason why Government employment should not be given to unionists on the condition that it be clearly understood that, although they are members of unions, they are not to take part in any strike involving them in revolt against the constituted authority of the community.
– If they are well treated they will not have any cause to strike.
– The honorable member is now touching on a matter which will be of the greatest importance when we are considering the proposal of the Government to bring the employes of the Commonwealth under the Arbitration Act. There will be a good deal to say about it when that measure is before the House, but at, present it would not be in order to discuss it. The question which I have put is immediately connected with the action of he Minister of Home Affairs. If you effectively recognise the unions, you can do so only by recognising the right of those to whom you give employment to join their fellow unionists in any action they may deem necessary to further or protect their interests. I do not wish to repeat the numerous arguments which have been offered to the House, but as reference has been made to the proposal of the Government to make the Public Service subject to some tribunal other than Parliament, let me say that it must be intended either that the Arbitration Court shall be directed by Parliament to give preference to unionists, or that it shall be empowered to do so. If it be intended to empower it to give preference in suitable cases, I ask why should we not go further and direct it to do so?
– The Constitution would prevent that.
– Not having seen the measure, I do not know vhat constitutional objections there may be to its provisions, but from the point of view of policy, suppose the measure contained a provision that the Arbitration Court “ shall “ give preference to unionists, would honorable members be prepared to agree to it.
– No one suggests that.
– No; and yet honorable members opposite say that preference shall be given to unionists by a mere administrative act. They do not give to any person the right to discriminate and to perform the functions of a Court. They issue the peremptory mandate that in ap pointments to Government employment preference shall be given to unionists. But the Leader of the Opposition has dealt with that matter much more fully and better than I can. The point I rose to make is that, no matter how the question is looked at, it must be admitted that the Government of the day has departed from the traditions which have always prevailed in British communities. Instead of regarding the powers and moneys of the public as a great and sacred trust to be held in use for the whole people, it is using them for the benefit of a particular section, and one which has accorded them political support.
– I am rather surprised at the attitude taken up by almost every member of the Opposition during this debate. Had they admitted at the outset that this motion was submitted with a view of making certain political capital, and to discredit the Labour party before the country, I could have understood their position. But when they prate about their desire to protect individual liberty, and assert that their sole object is to preserve the right of the blackleg, one feels inclined to doubt their sincerity. Most of the Opposition have attacked the memorandum issued by the Minister of Home Affairs as an attempt to do away with the liberty of individuals who will not join a union.. We all know, however, that the wage-earners never enjoyed as much individual liberty as they have had since the establishment of unionism. There is no individual liberty for a man working in any establishment unless there is a union behind him. Let me put before honorable members the position of the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company, which years ago broke up a union formed by its employes, and persisted in treating those men in the most inhumane manner. They paid them as little as they pleased for twenty years, and no man in the employ of the company could say that he enjoyed any real liberty in the matter of his employment. Only within the last few months have the men risen in revolt, and formed a union, and only since then can it be said that they have had any individual liberty. The Opposition talk of the unfairness of the Government in giving preference to unionists, altogether ignoring the fact that those whom the Opposition represent have always given preference to non-unionists.
– That is a rather wild mis-statement.
– It is true. I have received instructions before to-day not to put on a unionist.
– I repeat that every member of the Opposition has been returned on the votes of men who have always given preference to non-unionists. The class of men who for centuries persecuted those who sought to band themselves into unions so as to secure individual liberty are represented by those who sit on the Opposition benches to-day. A free labourer - a “scab” - in the employ of the Melbourne Tramway and Omnibus Company may commit any crime short of manslaughter while in charge of a car, and receive no worse punishment than being ordered to stand down for twenty-four hours. Practically, that is the severest punishment that a free labourer receives. But if one of the unionists in the employ of the company overruns his mark by two feet, he receives his walking ticket next morning. Those who band themselves into unions to gain certain legitimate industrial objects take up a manly attitude, but the same cannot be said of the individuals who are forming themselves into non-union unions, or what are described as unions of free labourers. Every one must recognise that their sole motive is to ingratiate themselves into the goodwill of their employers, so that their shortcomings will be overlooked. It is surprising to hear honorable members opposite expressing great consideration for those who have “ scabbed “ for years, and will continue to do so; it is surprising to hear them express their solicitude for those who have always refused to pay anything for the benefits secured by trade unions. Why do they not admit that all that the wage-earner enjoys to-day has been gained by unionism? The Opposition’ know very well that nothing but the worst that can be said can rightly be hurled at the blackleg. Even some employers, after making use of “ scabs “ during an industrial dispute, speak of them as blacklegs when the strike is over, and say they do not desire to have them in. their workshops, since their presence only causes trouble. The Opposition think they see in the memorandum issued by the Minister of Home Affairs an opportunity to put the Government in an unfavorable light before the people. They assert that they are attempting to protect these individuals - the “ scabs “ - who are already well protected by their employers; and when they declare that preference to unionists, as proposed by the Government, is wrong, we knowthat they cannot be sincere. I .have no desire to prolong the debate, but it does seem peculiar to me that the Opposition, who have been returned to this House as representatives of the people, should express consideration for only one section of the people in the industrial world, and that section the least deserving of consideration. Even the right honorable member for Swan, whom, I suppose, we may regard as one of the most illiberal members of the Opposition, would have no consideration for the individual who blacklegs on his fellow-workers, or for the individual who wishes to gain, without any payment, benefits which have cost his .fellows much to secure.
– That is all very well, but it is not the point. The point is that the Government are using trust money for the benefit of a particular class.
– The right honorable member gives away his case in making that statement, since he must know that there is nothing to prevent a man joining a union. In showing consideration for the unionist we recognise that section of thecommunity which, from an industrial standpoint, has done the most for Australia. Let: the right honorable member propose tocommence operations in any industry, and-, he will find that the men most worthy of his consideration - the men who will give him the best return for his money - are not the individuals whom the Opposition are so anxious to protect, but the unionists. Honorable members know how I shall vote on this question, so that there is no reason for me to explain my position. It is time, however, that the Opposition put this question in its proper light. The real question is whether the man or woman who pays for something has not the right to receive it in preference to the individual who tries to get a benefit, not by paying for it, but by sneaking and crawling and doing things in an underhand manner. That is the question, freed from all the legal technicalities which the honorable member for Flinders may try to introduce, and from all the verbiage of the honorable member for Ballarat.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mcwilliams) adjourned.
House adjourned at 10.47 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 28 September 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19110928_reps_4_60/>.