4th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
No- Confidence Motion
Debate resumed from 28th September (vide page 927) on motion by Mr. Deakin -
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.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the report of my last night’s speech published in this morning’s Argus, these words appear -
He would be in favour of this proposal if there could be obtained from the unionists to whom it was granted some guarantee that they would not join other unionists in a strike.
It is possible that I may not have expressed myself as clearly as I should have done, but nothing was further from my thought than to give vent to the opinion attributed to me. The whole tenor of my speech was that no condition would justify preference to unionists in the disposition of Government funds.
– The action of the Leader of the Opposition in providing by his motion for the full and formal discussion of the policy of the Ministry has been thoroughly justified.
– A week of the country’s time has been wasted.
– The Government of which the honorable member is a Minister has this year wasted nine months of the country’s time, and even since the reassembling of Parliament it has been compelled to ask the Senate to adjourn for a fortnight because it has not provided work for that Chamber to do.
– There will never be any work to do while things go on as at present.
– The House and the country have the right to complain of the manner in which Ministers have treated the all-important subject under discussion, but I am pleased that the honorable member for Maranoa last night fully explained the Government attitude towards the manifesto of the Minister of Home Affairs, and its policy regarding preference to unionists. The explanation should, of course, have come from the Prime Minister. The Minister of Home Affairs in giving direction for the granting of preference to unionists openly and in the light of day acted more straightforwardly than other Ministers in carrying on this pernicious system secretly for months without Parliament and the country knowing what was being done. I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa that there can be no quibbling as to the meaning of the Minister’s direction, which is as clear and terse as the English language can make it. Although in the earlier stages of the debate there was an evident desire on the part of some honorable members opposite to get away from the plain meaning of the Minister’s direction, the honorable member for Maranoa put the position fairly when he said that no other interpretation than that placed on it by the Director-General of Public Works was possible. He said that he spoke for every member of the Labour party in making that statement. There were at the time three or four Ministers in the Chamber - a most unusual thing - not one of whom took exception to what he said, and in view of that, and in the absence of any authoritative statement by a Minister, his explanation must stand. But is it not fair to ask why no Minister has had the courage to announce the Government policy in this matter?
– There has been no case to answer.
– Then why have honorable members occupied a week in explaining their position?
– We have been doing propaganda work.
– Then why charge the Opposition with wasting . time ? It has been said that the Minister of Home Affairs has been too unwell to make an explanation, but I think that if the caucus gag were removed he would be able and competent to explain. In a letter which he has sent to the committee representing the Mount Lyell miners, who unfortunately are on strike at the present time, he showed his real mind. Writing untrammelled by trade unions or caucus, he said -
The workers are only fighting for equality of opportunity, for limitation of monopolistic despotism, and privilege for none.
There is not a member on this side who will not indorse the statement that there should be privilege for none. The opposition of honorable members on this side to the action of the Government is on the ground that Ministers are creating a specially privileged class. Although they have not had the courage to say so openly, they have allowed a supporter to declare that their policy is stated in the memorandum issued by the Minister of Home Affairs. What does that mean? It means the creation of a privileged class in Australia. If there is one body or party who ought to be the last to attempt to introduce privilege and preference, it is the party of honorable members opposite. The whole struggle of the workers in every country in the world has been against privilege and preference - preference granted by a privileged class either as a reward for favours bestowed or in the hope of gain to follow. In the Home land the whole struggle has been against what is termed the two curses, or the two P’s - privilege and preference. The people have had to fight against just what it is now sought to institute in Australia. From the very inception, the whole progress and freedom of the people in every country in the world, and particularly in the Home land, has been achieved in the face of privilege and preference. The people have had to fight baronies, monarchs of all kinds, churches and creeds, and Parliaments, in order to obtain what we have in Australia - absolute equality of opportunity, and, as the Minister of Home Affairs has stated in his letter to the Mount Lyell miners, privilege to none. We start in this new country free from all those hereditary taints which have held the people in bondage elsewhere. No sooner, however, are the shackles struck off than honorable members opposite attempt to forge other manacles on to the workers of Australia, saying to them, as has been said from the very inception, “ Recant or burn “ - join a union or starve. No more brutal decree has ever been put into operation in any country. It is an attempt to force men into unions with the alternative that they, their wives, and children may starve. The honorable member for Maranoa delivered an eloquent speech last night, and I heard him deliver almost the same speech here in 1904. Then, however, his memory was keener for details ; and I was very much struck with the graphic description he gave of the condition of himself and others who were black-listed by the pastoralists of Queensland. That speech was delivered on 24th June, 1904, and it described how the pastoralists treated men whom they were trying to force into a rival union. The honorable member said -
When a man who was on the black-list asked for a job, he was met with the reply by the station manager : “ I am very sorry, but my, list is full.” “ Put us on the emergency list,” said the man who was looking for work. The answer came, “ But I have sixty or seventy men on the list now,” and the man goes on to the next station, only to meet with the same answer to his request for employment. The consequence is that some of the best shearers in Queensland are hunted down, and have to go to some other State, or seek employment in some other industry.
Every honorable member, I think, sympathized with the honorable member. Now, however, that the Labour party have gained a majority in this House, that which they cursed when applied to them, they are now applying to others. I do not think that we have quite recognised yet the importance of this question. During the next few years from ,£15,000,000 to ^20,000,000 will be spent by the Commonwealth on what is largely casual employment. There is the construction of the railway from South Australia to Western Australia, the railway from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, the railway from the Federal Capital to Jervis Bay, and the work in the Federal Capital itself; and every pound of the money for these great works will be spent under the conditions that have been laid down by Ministers so long as they remain in office. In the case of a railway, for instance, the ganger or boss must be a good unionist or he would not occupy the position ; and if fifteen unionists and five non-unionists come along seeking work, he will have to give preference to the unionists, “ all things being equal.” That “ all things being equal “ is one of the most hideous of hypocrisies. The preference to unionists has to be absolute, and what test has the boss or ganger to apply ? Are the men to strip and work for a day in the cutting in order to prove which are the better? The idea is absurd on the face of it. The phrase “ all things being equal” is a mockery, meaning nothing; it is used for propaganda work, and in an effort to minimize the unfairness and injustice of the order. The honorable member for Maranoa said last night that he was glad there are no non-unionists employed by the Department of Home Affairs.
– This order has been in operation for more than nine months.
– “ all things being equal.” Events are working very satisfactorily, apparently, for the trade unionists. If we consider for a moment the work of erecting telegraph lines in country districts, we know that in many of those districts there are no trade unionists to be found.
– That is because until quite recently, as I know for a fact, a man would get the sack if he joined a union !
– The honorable member is not speaking in the Domain now ; such remarks would pass very well there, but here we have to appeal to reason. There are many districts all over Australia in which there are no trade unions ; and work of this kind is very largely carried out by small farmers, who have taken up land in the neighbourhood. Such casual workers are, I believe, supposed to be taken on for only six months, though I fancy that regulation has been set aside to some extent. At any rate, three or four months’ work of the kind is of considerable assistance in enabling these men to pay the instalments on their land. Now, however, under the policy of the Labour Government, these men must stand down so long as unionists from the city, who follow these works, apply for employment. Such preference is brutally unfair, oppressive, and unjust. I have just been reminded that one honorable member opposite declared that in at least three-fourths of Australia no trade unions existed, and that, therefore, ‘ this proposed preference should be granted. But what is likely to be the result? In the whole of the electorates surrounding Hobart no local man can obtain a situation if a man who happens to belong to a particular union comes along from Hobart and applies for it. It is useless to try to conceal the fact that every man seeking casual work on our railways, our telegraph lines, or at the Federal Capital works will have to join a union, if this preference be allowed, in order to secure employment. Honorable members of the Labour party will be able to boast, as one of their number did last night of the Department of Home Affairs, that there is not a non-unionist employed in connexion with any of those public works.
– And the fact that there are no non-unionists in the Department of Home Affairs is the result of preference to unionists.
-It is. Two reasons are given, either directly or in directly, for this grant of preference. More by way of interjection than in any. set speech, members of the Labour party have said to the Opposition, “ You are only getting back a bit of your own.” “ Your crowd has been doing this for years,” and so on. Are we to understand from these interjections that this is an act of revenge on the part of the Government? Has this system been introduced because they think, rightly or wrongly, that trade unionists have suffered in the past owing to undue preference being extended to non-unionists and extended to them not by Governments but by private individuals responsible only to themselves? Is there not a remarkable difference in this respect between the position of a Government and that of a private individual? I have always taken exception to the blackmailing of trade unionists, believing that it is unjust and inhuman, and that it cannot be justified from any stand-point. But even if there hasbeen any blackmailing of unionists in the past by men who have been spending their own money in their own way, is that any justification for a Government who have sworn to be honorable trustees of the public funds of Australia, granting a preference to a class for whom they admit they have been specially returned to legislate? This is one of the most important subjects that has ever come before any Parliament in Australia. Whatever may be the reason actuating the Government - whatever may be the pressure responsible for their action in granting preference to unionists - there can be no doubt that it means opening the door to the very worst forms of corruption that could enter into our public life. It is bad enough to bribe with your own money; it is worse to bribe with the money of those who are supporting you; but it is absolute corruption for a Government to use public funds either to grant rewards for political services rendered, or to drive others into the fold to give them further political assistance. After all, this action on the part of the Government will not have the effect for which they hope. They cannot do this thing. History shows us what has become of strong Governments and strong men who have attempted it. The honorable member for East Sydney said last night that the introduction of preference to unionists by means of administrative act was no innovation, that the same course had been followed by Mr. E. W. O’sullivan when Secretary for Public Works in New South Wales. But do not we know that on the day on which Mr. O’sullivan introduced that system he dug his own political grave? What became of him and of those who indorsed his action at the first appeal to the country which followed it? They suffered exactly that which is going to happen to the men who are supporting this principle to-day.
– That is what the honorable member would like to happen.
– And it will happen. The moment the Government set about the creation of a privileged class consisting of their own political supporters, that moment they dig their own political graves both wide and deep. When we look at what has happened to the Government of any country, the members of which have resorted to this sort of thing, we find that the sponge of the ballot-box has simply obliterated them from the pages of history. They serve only as milestones to mark the path of advancing civilization and to mark the growth of the freedom and independence we have enjoyed until, with the advent of a Labour Government, we have an attempt to grant this privilege and to bring to Australia that from which we have been hitherto free. I do not think it can be said that any Government in Australia has ever set itself either to buy political support-
– Order !
– Am I not in order, sir, in saying that I do nqt think it can be asserted that any Government in Australia has ever set itself to purchase political support?
– As long as the honorable member does not go beyond that statement, he is in order.
– With all respect, sir, I think that I can be called to order only for what I say, and not for what you think I am going to say. Whatever differences of political opinion there may be, it is to the credit of Australia that its Parliaments and Governments have been singularly free from that corruption which has entered into the political life of other countries, and more particularly the political life of the United States. There the whole of the public offices are farmed out to political supporters, and we find in existence
Avhat is practically an eternal fund to enable those who are out of office to get a turn of the political wheel in order that they may come in and enjoy all that comes of the principle of “ the spoils to the victors.”
– That used to be so, but Roosevelt brought about a change.
– Roosevelt succeeded to a small extent, but that does not justify some one else attempting to take up the dirty work when it is stopped elsewhere. Australia has been, happily, free from anything of the kind, but if this system of preference is tolerated it will grow and spread until it becomes a very cancer in the political life of Australia. I am confident, however, that it will not be permitted, because where the strong men - the Napoleons and the Cromwell s - and the strong women - the Marys and the Elizabeths - failed, these tinselled Neroes are not going to effect their will. I invite honorable members to cast their eyes over the range of Ministers on the rare occasions when they are all on the front Bench, and to ask themselves whether they are the type of men to succeed where strong men have failed? Where the strong men of the world have failed, they are not the type of men to forge manacles to be placed on the people of Australia, and to bring them back to the dead level of past ages in the old world.’ They will fail as others have failed.
– They are only human.
– Their conduct is inhuman. There has been a good deal of talk as to why the mandate has been publicly issued by the Minister of Home Affairs. I give him the greatest credit for doing in a manly way what others were doing secretly.
– The honorable member will admit that Napoleon never organized a Department as I have the Home Affairs Department.
– With all Napoleon’s faults, I have a great admiration for him. Why has this question been precipitated now? You will remember, sir, the exceedingly strong speeches that were made by some honorable members opposite, and by none more loudly than by the Honorary Minister, regarding the awful secret Conference that was held three years ago between the Prime Minister of Australia and the Premiers of the different States. The walls of this Chamber, and every platform in Australia, rang with the tale of the enormous iniquity of the then Prime Minister in meeting the Premiers of the
States to consider the financial arrangements to be made between the States and the Commonwealth.
– It was the iniquitous outcome to which we objected.
– The honorable member’s memory is bad. I think it was the honorable member himself who coined the phrase that the members of the Conference were so careful that they even burnt the blotting paper. But what about the secret Conference between the Prime Minister and the trade unions, and their endeavour to take the whole control of the casual labour of the Departments out of the hands of the Government?
– They are Christians and the others were pagans.
– The Minister’s definition reminds me of the well-known description of orthodoxy and heterodoxy. We have heard that, prior to this public announcement of the policy of preference to unionists, representatives of the Trades Hall waited upon the Prime Minister in private.
– I am having a report of the interview typed.
– A summary, revised and brought up to date !
– Any honorable member can see the whole of the report. I have not corrected a word of it.
– It would be much more satisfactory if such conferences were held in public, and the full text given, and not any revised edition that may be issued afterwards from a Ministerial office. Our trade union friends are modest. The Prime Minister says he told the deputation that the Government were prepared to give a general preference in all Departments, but that they would not engage the men through the union secretaries and officials as was suggested. What a mild suggestion - that fifteen or twenty million pounds of the money of the people of Australia should be spent in the next few years, and that the only men employed to earn it were to be engaged through the union secretaries.
– Does the honorable member say that so large a sum of money will be spent in the next few years?
– We have already made considerable progress with a measure - the overland railway to Western Australia - that will entail the expenditure of about£5,000,000, and, much as some of us may regret it, there is every probability of it being passed into law this session. The whole of the work on the railway in question will be casual labour, and our trade union friends suggested that all the appointments in connexion with it should be made through them.
– The honorable member can nearly always rely on 99 per cent. of the navvies being trade unionists.
– It depends on the part of Australia.
– You can always get a navvy into a union. The harder the worker, the better unionist he is.
– If all the men were trade unionists, would that be any reason why the whole of the appointments should be made through the trades union secretaries? I was glad to see that the Prime Minister drew the line there for the’ present, whatever pressure may be brought to bear upon him afterwards. This debate has shown clearly that Ministers are not running this country, or the Government Departments, or this House. Not one of them has had the pluck to rise and announce the Ministerial policy. Poetry was quotedlast night, but a writer with a much greater historic name describes the situation better -
But those behind cried “forward ! “
And those before cried “ back !”
Ministers have given no explanation-
– What more definite statement does the honorable member want than that of the Prime Minister?
– Did the Prime Minister give a straight-out answer when asked a straightforward question whether the minute of the Minister of Home Affairs expressed the Government policy? Did he not say, “ The matter will be considered “ ? Considered, when this thing had been carried out secretly for months in the Departments !
– The Prime Minister made a definite statement that, all things being equal, preference would be given in all cases.
– I have already pointed out that the use of the phrase, “ preference, all things being equal,” is one of the greatest acts of hypocrisy ever committed in any Parliament of Australia. How, for instance, would the honorable member propose to test a gang of navvies? Would he put them in the cutting, or would he get them to settle it beforehand in the old-fashioned way?
– There would be no difficulty in deciding such an issue.
– I can quite understand that there would not be the slightest difficulty in settling it. It has been most effectually settled by the Minister of Home Affairs. We were told last night by an honorable member, who was allowed to get up and say what the Minister of Home Affairs was not allowed to say - that not one single person who is not a trade unionist is employed among the casuals in the Home Affairs Department.
– That is a very creditable record.
– It is, from the stand-point of honorable members opposite, but it shows what hollow hypocrisy it is for them to use the platform phrase, “ All things being equal “ - because it is only a phrase for platform use. The policy of the Government is being most effectually dictated from the steerage. The only straightforward announcement of it has come from members sitting behind the Government, very much to the annoyance of some of their colleagues, to judge by their faces. I do not intend to labour the question, but I repeat that the debate has been thoroughly justified. It has shown the people in a most pronounced way what is the deliberate intention of the Government. I shall conclude by saying that I think this House and the people have a right to protest against the action of the Government throughout the debate. Not one Minister has got up, or been allowed to get up, I do not know which, to state the policy of the Government. The Prime Minister did rise, but did not do so, owing to the failure ofhis voice, which I am sure we all regret. We have not had a single statement from a responsible Minister to show whether they indorse or disapprove of the circular issued by the Minister of Home Affairs.
– Could the Prime Minister or any other member of the Ministry say anything that would satisfy the honorable member on that point?
– When the policy of the Government is challenged on a deliberate act of administration or maladministration, it is the duty and it should be the pleasure of responsible Ministers to get up and announce the policy of the Government.
– The Prime Minister did so.
-The honorable member must know that he did not do so. He must have heard the right honorable gentleman express his regret that he was unable to conclude his speech. Did not the Leader of the Opposition put certain fair questions to the Prime Minister, and didnot that honorable gentleman fence them all deliberately and successfully? Every question put to him was fenced in the most approved Coronation manner. Was not the chorus around him, “ Do not be drawn” ? And did not the right honorable gentleman refuse to be drawn into a straightforward, honest, and honorable explanation of the intention of the Government in dispensing the funds of the people ? It would have been much more creditable to the Prime Minister and his party, and very much more satisfactory to the people if he had stood up like a man, and said, in answer to the questions put to him, “ Yes, the circular issued by the Minister of Home Affairs represents the policy of the Government, and we stand or fall by it.”
– So he did.
– He did not, and what is more, he would not permit the Minister of Home Affairs to get up and say it.
– Nonsense. He never spoke to me about such a thing.
– The honorable gentleman made no statement, and I feel sure that if the caucus muzzle had been taken off him he would have got up and said it.
– I stand on my circular, and nothing else.
– Of course, the honorable gentleman must do so. But does he stand on the word “ absolute “ ? The honorable gentleman did not do so the other night. The Government said that “absolute” did not mean “absolute.” The honorable member for Maranoa has since said that the Government must do so, and they will. We have heard a good deal about “the order of the boot.” Ministers will stand by the word “absolute,” because they have received their orders from the steerage to go full speed ahead. The Prime Minister was ringing out, “ Go slow, dead slow.” He said, “ Let me carry this business out in the way we have been doing. We shall give you all you want, and there will be no talk and no fuss about it. Go slow, O’Malley, and don’t give the show away.” But the instructions have come from the steerage, “ Full speed ahead,” and in the circumstances I sympathize with the Minister of Home Affairs. The Coronationacquired accents are drowned in the thunderous orders of the honorable member for Maranoa.
– No fear ! I am the rock of ages. Don’t worry about me.
– The honorable gentleman was a very shaky rock on the word “absolute.” He discovered that, even according to the definition of the most approved American dictionary, the word does not mean absolute. I sympathize with the honorable gentleman, because he had ringing in his ears the order from the Prime Minister, “ Go dead slow, O’Malley. You are giving the show away.”
– No fear !
– But later and stronger orders are issued : “ Full steam ahead, or you get the boot,” And the Government run right up to the collar. The honorable member for Hunter must be congratulated upon making one of the straightest speeches on the real aspects of unionism that has been heard in this House. Coming from a man who is in the game and knows it, the honorable member’s remarks were very interesting to me. He led off by saying that his side are out for preference, and mean to get it. While the Prime Minister was saying, in feeble Coronation tones, “ Go dead slow, O’Malley,” instructions were given by the honorable member for Maranoa, evidently representing the Caucus, and the Minister of Home Affairs and his colleagues, the Ministers, have been given to understand that his order means every word it says, and that no other interpretation is to be placed upon it. The honorable member went on to say that he was speaking for every member on his side of the House when he said that the Ministerial order meant exactly that the most absolute preference was to be given to unionists for employment in the Public Service, and that the Minister’s black list meant that non-unionists must go.
– Is the honorable member aware that unionism started in the Garden of Eden?
– The unionism that started in the Garden of Eden was adopted by the Minister of Home Affairs only very recently indeed. I warn honorable members opposite that the people of Australia will not stand this. Surely the memories of our friends of the Labour party must be very short, because the echoes of the referendum have scarcely passed away. Tens of thousands of people who voted to give the Labour Government a show to carry out their policy told them at the referendum in unmistakeable terms, that they had gone too far. But what they met at the referendum was only a trifle to the verdict which awaits them at the general election. The avalanche of the referenda was but a tiny ripple compared to the cataract of indignation that will sweep them off the Ministerial benches when the people will be asked to express a deliberate opinion upon this introduction into Australia of one of the very worst features of politics in the old world.
.- I regard this motion as an important one - not that it is likely to be carried - because it has introduced the discussion of a principle which is equal in importance to the principle of manhood suffrage, or any of the other great cardinal principles which have moved mankind during the past century. Honorable members opposite have, I think, made a mistake in imagining that the people of Australia will support them in their protest against preference to unionists, which has been decided on by the Labour party. They are greatly mistaken in thinking that the only people who are in favour of trade unionism are the members of trade unions. There are hundreds of thousands of people in the Commonwealth who are not, and cannot become, members of trade unions but who are, nevertheless, in absolute sympathy with trade unionism. One cannot judge of the strength of unionism by the number of registered unionists. There is a vast difference between the ideals of honorable members opposite and those of the Labour party. We do not claim for a moment that the working classes throughout the ages have furnished all the heroes who have done anything for the progress of humanity. We know perfectly well that the aristocracy has supplied some of the greatest champions of reform. When we declare that there are idlers and loafers amongst the rich we do not imply that there are no idlers and loafers amongst the poor. But we do claim that the great mass of the people who stand between the idlers and loafers amongst the rich and the idlers and loafers amongst the poor keeps civilization going. We claim that the great majority of the community when they understand unionism will support it, and do their best to maintain it. Honorable members opposite have asserted that they have no objection to unionism. But was that the view which their party held twenty years ago? I have no hesitation in saying that twenty or twenty-one years ago that party deprecated trade unions, and refused to meet their representatives in conference. The great strike of 1890 was the result not so much of a demand for better wages as of a claim for the recognitioh of unions. On that occasion the employers refused to meet the representatives of the trade unions in conference. They declared that they had no quarrel with their employes. That supercilious statement was made after they had discharged a number of unionists and put non-unionists in their places. It was then that the press advised the unions not to resort to strikes, but to seek a remedy for their wrongs through the Legislatures of the country. I repeat that honorable members opposite have different ideals from those of the Labour party. Some of them - as, for instance,’ the Leader of the Opposition andthe honorable member for Parramatta - are quite prepared to make certain concessions to the working classes -to the “steerage,” as the honorable member for Franklin described them.
– That expression was not used in reference to the working classes.
Mr.HIGGS. - The honorable member for Franklin staled that the Labour party did not control the Government of the country because they were controlled from outside. If we are to’ be deemed the “ steerage,” I wonder in what compartment of the ship of State the honorable member would place the men outside who are held by the honorable member for Richmond to be uneducated and uncultured.
– I have never made such a statement, and I do not think that they are uneducated and uncultured.
– A former Leader of the Opposition stated on one occasion that the Government of the country was not being directed from the bridge of the vessel of State, but from the sterrage. That honorable member thought that his expression would cover our party with ridicule, and thus ‘enable him to grasp the reins of office. It is quite a common impression abroad that the working classes of the country constitute the “ steerage,” and that they ought to be kept in their place. The wealthy fear that if the working classes emerge from their present position the former will have to say good-bye to their finely-furnished houses, their garden parties, their receptions, and their balls.. That is an entirely erroneous view. The better the position of the working classes the betterwill at be for the so-called society class of the community. Wherever we look we shall find that intelligent persons have banded themselves together in a union. Honorable members opposite object to granting a preference to unionists, but I would ask them, “” Do not the bankers of this country who are organized into a union grant preferences?” Is there any bank in Australia which could venture to conduct its business upon nonunion principles?
– In what way are bankers unionists ?
– I will explain to the honorable member. I understand that at one time he was employed in a bank, and therefore he will be able to say whether my statement is - correct. Are not the banks organized into a union which declares the rate that shall be paid for advances? Does not that union declare that the discount rate shall be from to 6 per cent. per annum?
– The Commonwealth Bank, when it is established, will have to enter into a similar arrangement. That is merely a business arrangement - it is not a union.
– As a matter of fact, there is no arrangement at the present time.
– The bankers’ union has also fixed the interest to be paid upon overdrafts at from 6 to 7 per cent. per annum. If one goes to a bank he must pay these rates, otherwise he cannot obtain any accommodation. Similarly depositors receive for money deposited for six months from to 2 per cent. per annum. Upon deposits for a year from2½ to 3 per cent. is allowed, and upon deposits for two years and upwards from 3 to per cent, is payable. These are the terms upon which the banks will do business. It is a business arrangement. Now, what is a trade union? It is merely a business arrangement between its members, just as a business arrangement exists between bankers, as to how they will deal with their labour, which is the wage-earner’s “capital.” We know very well that there are no non-unionists among the bankers. If there happened to be a non-union bank, the other banks would very soon crush it out of existence. No one among the banking fraternity is so foolish as not to believe in unionism. No one of them would be so ridiculous as to try to be a non-unionist. Then, again, when the shipping companies in Australia were unorganized, freights and passenger rates were very low, whilst the wages of seamen and firemen were much less than they are now. The ship-owners entered into a trade union - or “ business arrangement,” as the honorable member for Richmond puts it - and brought passenger rates and freights into something like a payable condition. Since then , the firemen and seamen have been getting better wages, and the shareholders of the companies have been receiving fair dividends on their investments. Sometimes we have made objections to these combines, and we shall do so still whenever they go too far. We should also object to trade unions if they went too far. But I shall show later on how impossible it is for them to do so. Take the case of the farmers and dairymen. Many of us remember that about forty years ago the consumers had to pay half-a-crown per pound for butter of very inferior quality. Nevertheless, the position of the dairy farmers was not a good one. They did not obtain fair prices for their butter or for their cream. Nowadays, owing to combination, they obtain reasonable prices. Take the collieries. We know that the proprietors are banded together in a trade union which fixes the price of coal. Occasionally they go too far. When they succeed in eliminating competition, then we say that the time has arrived for the Government to step in and manage such industries on behalf of the whole community. The flour-millers are combined in a union to fix the price of their commodity. The Bakers Union works in with the millers, and they charge a certain price for their bread. Up to a certain standard, there can be no objection to the bakers receiving fair remuneration for their labour and capital. In fact, we offer no objection to the union of millers and bakers, or bankers, or ship-owners, who combine in order to fix the price at which they shall supply their goods to the people. I might instance a number of other trades to which the same remarks apply - the jam makers and confectioners, amongst the rest. These business people have all made “business arrangements, “ the results of which have been to secure proper rewards both for labour and capital. But, as I have said, there is a difference between the ideals of honorable members opposite and those of honorable members on this side of the House. The friends of the Bankers Union, the Shippers Union, the Millers Union, and the rest, only want trade unionism for a class. They are afraid that if the working classes secure too many privileges they will be deprived of their profits, and will have to transfer their energies to different occupations. As I have said, however, the trade unions cannot go too far, because a labour union is one into which the whole of the people are permitted to enter. Honorable members speak of the wage earners as a class. But when I speak of wage earners, I mean not only those who work in various forms of more or less uncongenial industry, but also those who are engaged in mental labour. Our friends the doctors, the lawyers, the architects, the pressmen, and many others whose work is mostly of a mental character, are properly to be included in the great working class. That class is not, strictly speaking, a class of the community at all. . As a matter of fact, as some one has said, the working class is the nation. What happens with trade unions ? A union, whether it be one of labourers, compositors, or carpenters, decides what its members consider to be a fair rate of wages. Honorable members opposite have no conception of the amount of time and thought that is devoted to these questions by the representatives of labour, who never appear in the limelight, as we do, but meet night after night in their own homes, or little rooms in trades halls, or elsewhere, to try to arrive at some means of bettering the condition of their fellows. Is that the object of the Bankers Union, and the unions of other employers? Do they meet for the benefit of the whole nation? They know that they do not. They are perfectly satisfied as long as the benefits which they derive from their manipulation are absorbed by their particular class. There was a time when the working classes were inarticulate. They were uneducated in economic matters, and though they had ideas they could not express them effectually. Honorable members opposite and their party do not know what is going on amongst the working classes. That is what is the matter in the Old Country. The people who have been ruling in England have no idea of the movements amongst the working classes. They still believe that the working classes are uneducated, and honorable members opposite, as I say, are also of that opinion. But, owing to the fact that the schoolmaster is abroad, the working classes of Australia, at any rate - indeed of the Old Country - are being educated, and have, I dare say, in many cases, acquired as good a general education as have many of their employers, or, as some persons call them, their masters. Was it possible fifty years ago to come across a trade union with a set of rules such as the rules of the Australian Workers Union, which is composed mostly of shearers and station hands, or, as they are sometimes called, rouseabouts? This is the preface with which that union issues its rules to the public.
– I very nearly read it last night.
– I wish that the honorable member had, because I am sure that it would have enlightened some of his supporters. I ask the attention of honorable members to this portion of the preface -
Daily, as the various and widespread sections of the human family are being insensibly drawn into closer touch with each other, it becomes clearer that men should become co-operators - mates - instead of antagonists. “ No man liveth to himself.” We are all mutually dependent one upon another. Under the existing order of things, however, each is forced into warfare with his fellow, and life is made a struggle in which the success of the winner means that those whom unjust conditions have forced into a fight are crushed back into hopeless misery. So long as man depends upon his fellow man for leave to toil, so long will the lives of the great mass be one continuous struggle, rendered more keen and uncertain by every scientific and mechanical appliance brought in to facilitate wealthproduction. Nature’s storehouse holds ample supplies to gratify the needs of all; but so long as the few are allowed to hold possession the many must starve. The doors, of the storehouse must be thrown open to all and the toll-bar of monopoly be broken down ere justice can be done. Production must be for use and not for profit before robbery of Labour will cease and the fear of poverty be for ever banished. With the disappearance of enforced poverty, crime will gradually cease. With machinery put to its proper use - that of contributing to the happiness of mankind - the increased leisure will give opportunities for the cultivation of all those higher faculties latent in man, but now repressed by the pressure of a social system which makes the satisfaction of mere material wants an allabsorbing struggle.
I ask honorable members whether they can, to use a common expression, “ fault “ that preface. Is not the fact as stated - that the more complex character of our civilization is making it more necessary that those engaged in industries should be united? Is it not a fact that every mechanical invention which is a success displaces human labour and renders the problem of the distribution of wealth more difficult than ever? We do not object to the employment of machinery, although we know that every machine which is a success will displace labour. We do not take up that attitude. We have advanced very considerably since a hundred years ago, when the pressman in the newspaper offices of the Old Country broke up the printing machines, believing that their use would deprive them of their labour. We have advanced considerably beyond that stage. Since we have educated the working classes, they must be allowed some privileges. It is of no use for honorable members opposite to think that educated working people throughout Australia are going to submit to toil from morning to night throughout the year without some of the enjoyments which my honorable friends and the party they represent are able to enjoy.
– Which they have always enjoyed.
– Which they have nearly always enjoyed. There have been intervals when, as in the time of the French Revolution, they did not enjoy themselves very much, but generally speaking they have always enjoyed great privileges. The working classes understand the production and the distribution of wealth just as well as, perhaps a little better, than do some of my honorable friends opposite, and some persons in the Liberal Association who want to maintain things as they are. The working classes have got to know that, with the advance of science and invention, it is now possible to produce sufficient wealth if properly distributed to enable every one to live a better and fuller life than was the case 100 years ago. They are determined to try to realize that ideal, and this party has been placed in Parliament for that purpose. That is at the base of our determination to grant preference to unionists. The men who stand outside the unions - the blacklegs, as the honorable member for Wentworth called them the other night, and the scabs, or the shirkers, or as the honorable member for Parramatta has called them, the skulkers - these are the people who stand in the way of the realization of the ideal of the working classes.
– The honorable member for Parramatta was only quoting the Prime Minister when he used that term.-
– There are persons in the community who do not understand trade unionism. There are wage-earners who do not understand trade unionism, and have not learned anything about it. We can make an allowance for these workers, but there are other workers who know what the objects of trade unionism are, but who are too selfish, too mean, and too contemptible to pay the IOS. or 15s. per year to belong to a trade union. Their ideas of life are very low ; their comradeship is of such a narrow character that they will not join their fellow-men in standing out for a reasonable wage. Where the trade unionist says that the wage should be 8s. for eight hours, the non-unionist wants liberty to offer his labour at 7s. for nine hours. He is too selfish to understand, that if he would only join with his fellows, the employers would be compelled to pay that which the majority have decided is a reasonable wage. I do not see how the Minister of Home Affairs can get out of granting preference to unionists^ It is eminently fair from every point ot view, that when he calls for tenders for the construction of a building, tenderers shall be placed on something like an equal footing with regard to the labour to be employed. What is the . position of the man who tenders for the construction of a public building? In considering what the enterprise will cost him, he has to ascertain what he will have to pay in wages to carpenters, bricklayers, stonemasons, plumbers, labourers, and others. In dealing with organized labour, he knows exactly what rates will be demanded, and when all labour is organized, contractors are all on. the same footing. On the other hand, when labour is not organized a tenderer does not know the basis on which others may compete with him for the contract. A fair man may be ready to pay ios. for a certain class of work for which an unfair man would pay only 8s., and where there is no standard rate demanded by a union the unfair man will undoubtedly get the contract, because his prices will be lower than those asked by his competitors. Even honorable members opposite are sufficiently well educated now to know that it is a good thing to have standard rates of wages for the various artisans employed in the building trade, but they say to the Government, ‘’ You must not give preference to unionists.” They believe that their positions will be more secure so long as men will stand out of trade unions, and they can get the assistance of the “blackleg,” the skulker, the shirk, and the scab. Members of trade unions are not selfish. The majority in a union will not allow the minority to be selfish. Although a union asks for a reasonable rate of wages for its members, it is also prepared to assist another union in demanding a fair rate for its members. There was a time when in Australia class pride existed among union artisans. I remember when the compositors union, to which I belong, was too proud to associate with the wharf labourers union, and, twenty or thirty years ago, the shop assistants union would not join with the carpenters union. Those unfortunate individuals, the clerks, who never soil their hands except with ink, were too superior to associate with artisans. But to-day the trade unions are all associated, and are endeavouring to raise the status, not only of unionists, but of the whole community. Honorable members opposite-
– There is only one member of the Opposition present.
– The Opposition must have little hope of carrying its motion, or impressing the country with the need for it, when only one of its members thinks it worth while to remain in the chamber during its discussion. We ought not to be surprised that the members of the Opposition are the champions of the nonunionists, blacklegs, scabs, and skulkers, because their leader said some time ago that the party consists of the remnants of other parties, including the black-labour party. But I ask them, do they not prefer the condition of things obtaining in Australia to that in the Old Country, which is just where we were industrially twenty-one years ago? Conditions are so bad in Great Britain that of the railway men 100,000 able-bodied adults receive only j£i a week, and 600,000 only 25s. a week. Many of them keep wives and families on those wages. Only a small number are trade unionists, but they have none the less found it necessary to revolt. The comparatively peaceful methods of settling industrial disputes which are followed in Australia are unknown in Great Britain, where there is at present almost civil war. The large strikes which we have had here were as nothing compared with the recent social upheaval in the Old Country. We, on this side, contend that if preference to unionists were given by the State and private employers, disputes in the Old Country would be settled by the methods which we are endeavouring to apply in Australia. Honorable members can get a true idea of what is taking place in Great Britain by reading the accounts and looking at the pictures published in the illustrated papers which arrive every week. I have here a newspaper which shows a picture of rioters firing and destroying buildings. It is stated that offices were fired and destroyed, the damage to property being extensive, and the rioting exceeding anything known for years. Another picture shows a scene where, after venting their fury on the trains, the mob scattered the contents all over the line. The troop trains were a special object of vengeance, and the work of destruction was absolutely completed in their case. Pictures bring these events vividly before the mind, and show the temper of the unorganized workers. It is stated that before the troops fire on the mob, the front rank kneels, as a signal that desperate measures are to be adopted, and to enable a steady aim to be taken. There is a picture of what took place at Llanelly under such circumstances, with fatal results.
– In Russia r
– No; Llanelly is in Wales. The honorable member for Flinders said last night that the action of the Government was subversive of British traditions, but what did he mean by that? British workmen have declined to accept any longer starvation wages, and finding that they cannot get fair play from Parliament, are beginning to overturn things. The employers have refused to recognise the unions, and there have been riots, such as we once had in Australia, when ships were cut loose, sheds burnt, and other unlawful outbreaks occurred. Do honorable members prefer that state of affairs to the peaceful evolution which is taking place in Australia ? I dare say some honorable members opposite would prefer the other method. I should like, now that reference has been made to the speeches of Mr. Cohen, of the Trades Hall, and of Senator Rae, to place on record the speech by Mr. Wetherspoon, M.L.C., of New South Wales. The Melbourne Herald of 17th July last contained the following : -
The Farmers’ and Settlers’ Conference to-day carried a motion totally opposing the claims of the Rural Workers’ Union as to hours of labour and wages asked.
As I would like to see a division, I think that this is a very fitting time to terminate my address, and I shall simply say that I have much pleasure in opposing the motion.
.- I rise to support the motion, not only because of its comprehensiveness, but also- because of its specific references. These latter constitute four clear and incisive indictments. The first is that the action of the Minister of Home Affairs is unjust and oppressive. The question naturally arises, in what respect is the action unjust and oppressive; and the answer necessarily is that it is unjust and oppressive on all those who are outside the unions. Of course, I know that the answer of my honorable friends opposite is, “ Let them join a union, and become one of us.” That, however, is just the point where the unjust aspect of the case presents itself. In many cases men are outside the unions because they object to the political character of the unions. If men become members of a union they of necessity .sink their rights political, and become subservient to the dictation of a majority of those who constitute the union. Further, they have to pay certain levies imposed by the union. It matters not, for the purpose of argument, whether the levies are heavy or otherwise; it is sufficient that they have to contribute. True, they may object to pay; but if they do, well, in the language of unionists, they become “ blacklegs.” In the case of a proposed strike, although their judgment and wisdom may lead them to take an opposite view, once the majority determine on a strike, then a strike must take place. It was notorious at the time of the harvester strike in Victoria that it was undertaken without any proper determination or any proper opportunity being afforded for the majority of the members of the unions to say whether or not the step should be taken. It was currently understood, and I believe it is true, that thosewho’ decided on the strike were the more’ irresponsible section of young men, without family obligations, whilst those who would have opposed it were those who had solid interests and responsibilities. As further exemplifying the injustice of the Government’s proposal for preference, we have, the statement made by the honorable member for East Sydney last night. That statement amounted to an admission that at least three unions made a charge to men before permitting them to become members. That is a very important admission, coming from that side of the Chamber, because, if these three unions act in that way, other unions may be doing the same. It is an undeniable injustice that those who, as members of unions, are receiving preference from the Government, should be able to say that, before they will receive a member, so that he may qualify himself for engagement in the Public Service, he must pay an entrance fee. I am not aware that the Government are making any effort to prevent that sort of thing. Indeed, the evidence is all the other way; and there is an obvious disposition on the part of Ministers to bow their neck to the yoke, and submit more and more to the dictation of outside influence. I have here a most important document, which I think has to-day been made public for the first time. It was this morning presented to members of this Chamber by the Prime Minister, and it purports to be a summary of the representations made by a deputation from the Trades Hall Council which waited on the right honorable gentleman on Monday, the 18th of this month, at the Commonwealth Offices, Melbourne. I shall not read the whole of the document, although I can assure honorable members that it contains most interesting matter. I shall confine myself to that aspect of the case which proves my contention that the motion now before us is absolutely justified in describing the action of the Minister of Home Affairs as unjust and aggressive. The summary contains the following : -
The points urged by the deputation were -
That in connexion with Commonwealth work, preference be given to unionists : i.e., that in cases where workmen were required by Commonwealth Departments, such men should be engaged through the Trades Hall.
Thus the Government of the day were asked to abrogate their right to determine who should be employed by them, and to vest that power in an outside authority - the Melbourne Trades Hall. The Trades Hall would be the masters of the situation if that position were conceded. We glance with eagerness at this report, to learn what reply the Prime Minister made to this outrageous demand, which, if agreed to, would be positively destructive of government, and we find that the right honorable gentleman said -
In regard to your representations in favour of preference to unionists, that is the policy of the Government. As to hiring the men through the Trades Hall, so far from being antagonistic to the proposal, I am decidedly in favour of it.
Have we ever heard before of such a willingness on the part of a Government to bow its neck under the yoke of one section of the community? Every man has an equal right to secure employment in the Public Service, seeing that all men are called upon to pay the same rates of “taxation; yet the Prime Minister said, in effect, that he was in favour, not only of limiting the rights of some men, but of allowing the Trades Hall, an outside authority, to select the men to be employed on Government works.
– That is absolutely wrong. The Prime Minister said he would leave the selection to the Director of Public Works.
– The Prime Minister, according to this official summary of the proceedings, said -
As to hiring the men through the Trades Hall, so far from being antagonistic to the proposal, I am decidedly in favour of it, subject to this limitation, that no restriction should be imposed upon the person employed on behalf of the Government to take men on. That is to say, he would not be restricted to only take people on through the Trades Hall. Other persons applying for work, he would be entitled to ask them if they were unionists. Supposing a unionist came from the back country, I would not agree to make him register at the Trades Hall in his union before he could get work under the Commonwealth.
What a gracious concession ! How far is this decision from justice? What a clear indication it is of how far this Government has gone in the direction of submitting to the dictation of an outside authority. A Government that takes up such a position really abrogates those high traditions of liberty that have always been the pride of our nation. We sympathize with the great nation of France in the loss she has sustained by the destruction of the battleship Liberie, but the present Government are absolutely sacrificing in this way the liberties of the people of Australia. Our wage earners are being compelled, in the most unjust manner, to do that which their judgment tells them is improper and unwise; and the Labour party are thus forging conditions which abrogate government of the people by the people for the people, and set up government by a particular institution which the Ministry represent. In the motion before us, it is declared that the action of the Minister of Home Affairs in granting preference to unionists is prejudicial to the public interest.
– Why did not the honorable member let us get a vote just now?
– Because I had something important to say.
– The honorable member deserves a medal.
– I deserve a prize for having brought down very suddenly an honorable member who is tedious in the extreme. I indorse the views expressed in the motion, that this action on the part of the Minister is prejudicial to the public interest. It is one of the functions of a Government to lead the people in a right direction, and whilst my honorable friends opposite will argue, of course, that the granting of preference to unionists is a right and proper thing to do, we have to determine whether it is right or wrong by the happenings incidental to present-day conditions. It matters not to me what a man said twenty or twenty-five years ago, for the conditions then prevailing perhaps were entirely different from those existing to-day. In order to show the extent to which a good deal of the legislation that has been passed, at the instance of the Socialistic element of the community, may be prejudicial to the public interest, let me cite a case in point. About the 15th October last, Mr. Justice Heydon, of New South Wales, was called upon to hear a case in which two men - Messrs. T. J. and J. Fitzpatrick, of Erinvale Station, New South Wales - were proceeded against under the State Arbitration Act for employing their station blacksmith to mend a wheel instead of employing a member of the Wheelwrights’ Union to do the work, and for this they were fined £10.
– It served them right.
– That is not the argument. The point is that, if laws of this kind are being placed on the statute-book at the instance of the unions, it is futile te hope for any progress in the Commonwealth. If such legislation stands there will be no such thing as the employment of labour. It is utterly impossible for those engaged in rural industries to employ one man for one job. Such a law as that under which -these men were fined means that a man on the land cannot hope to hold his own, and I claim that this action on the part of the Government is undoubtedly prejudicial to the public interest. The Government lead the van in the direction of preference to unionists; they assert that the principle is a good one; the Prime Minister stakes his reputation on it, and by showing the community that they believe it is a good thing to do, Ministers incite unionists to go a great deal further than they would otherwise do. Will any one say that this action on the part of the Government is in accord with common sense, reason, and justice? Look for a moment at the outrages in South Australia and in other parts of the Commonwealth. Every one of those outrages was a flouting of a Labour or Socialistic Government, yet we have this determination on the part of the Minister of Home Affairs, which means bringing the Government under the control of the very unions which in the cases I have cited have assumed an attitude of rebellion. If these union conditions are applied to rural industries-
– They surely will be.
– If the Labour party are determined upon doing that it will prove to be their undoing at the next election. The moment they impose the conditions of labour of which a list was published in the newspapers two or three days ago, I venture to predict that not a single vote will be given for a Socialistic candidate by those who are supporting this side of the Chamber.
– It is the arbitration award, and not this party, that imposes those conditions.
– But it is the outcome of the strong political position which the unions occupy. The support given by the Government to political unionists strengthens the unions outside, and enables them to go a great deal further than they otherwise would. The motion states further that the action of the Minister of Home Affairs is prejudicial to the Public Service. Of all the things which are requisite for the control of large bodies of men, the most essential is discipline. Without perfect discipline no army can reasonably hope to succeed. No great army of employes can be successfully handled without it. But what will be the effect of the action of the Minister of Home Affairs upon the Public Service of the Commonwealth? It will create an organization so powerful, so politically insistent, so determined to carry its point, that, no matter how strong the Minister may feel himself to be, he will have to bow to their dictation and submit to their will rather than carry out his own judgment. That is the dangerous position before us. We see the effect of the work of the unions in everyday practice. They make a demand to-day, and that demand is granted, but that does not satisfy them. Every success merely stimulates and whets their appetites for a fresh demand. Up to a certain point we are all sympathetic with the masses. We know that the welfare of the community is wrapped up with the welfare of the masses, but the moment we go beyond what is fair and legitimate we prejudice instead of helping the interests of the workers. Millions of pounds would have been invested in labour-giving concerns in Australia had not the present dangerous political conditions existed. Men are frightened to invest their money in large labour-giving concerns in the Commonwealth.
– I will find the honorable member any amount of capital if he can show me a good investment.
– The honorable member puts his money into houses, and no doubt has a fine rent roll. He has not told us how far he intends to go in this matter. All we know is that an edict ‘for” the giving of absolute preference to unionists has been issued by him. Amongst the matters controlled by the Home Affairs Department is the conduct of elections. Thousands of men are engaged at every election to conduct the affair properly. Does the intention of the Minister go to the extent of saying that every man employed under the Electoral Department must first produce his union ticket?
– Give two years’ notice of the question.
– There is no need to do so. All that is requisite is to direct public attention to the enormity of the prospect. If there is one thing that ought to be pure and unsullied and beyond the breath of suspicion it is the conduct of elections. Men who are absolutely free from political bias, so far as they can be obtained, ought to be appointed to do this important work, but apparently it is the intention of the Minister of Home Affairs, before appointing a man as returning “officer or deputy, to insist on his being a member of a union. How are the rights of the voters to be safeguarded?
– Did I do so in appointing the census collectors?
– The Minister has failed to tell us how far he. intends to go, and therefore we are justified in saying that he will go as far as his own political welfare permits- It must be remembered that a Clerks’ Union exists, and that electoral work is essentially clerical. If that union gains political strength as other unions have done its members will assert their rights, and say, “ According to the authority of the Minister of Home Affairs, no one but a unionist is to be employed in casual work. We are applying for casual work under the Electoral Act, and are entitled to preference because we are unionists.” Where do the hopes of our party lie? Where do the hopes of people who have solid vested interests in this country lie?
– The principle will apply to returning officers and poll clerks.
– It applies to the whole retinue. The whole electoral system is jeopardized by the unheard of, unprecedented action on the part of the Minister of Home Affairs in giving unfair and preferential advantages to one section of the community over another.
– The honorable member has still’ the ballot-box.
– I am not afraid of the ballot-box.
– The figures of the honorable member’s party are not reassuring.
– The figures at the referenda were all that we could desire, representing for our party a majority of a quarter of a million of the people. The motion asserts further that the action of the Minister of Home Affairs is prejudicial to the relations between Parliament and the public servants. Parliament is supposed to legislate for the best interests of the community. The votes of the great bulk of the people outside of the labour organizations are generally cast apart from any direct personal interest, but in this case the action of the Prime Minister is offering a direct bribe-
– The honorable member must withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it unconditionally, but the position is that the members of the unions are now having offered to them an inducement to support a certain political party. If they do that, they will receive beneficial treatment over and above that which will be enjoyed by other people. Does that not justify the last clause of the motion? The honorable member for Grey told us that there is a tendency amongst unions to work more one within the other. It has certainly not been observable to outsiders yet. The attitude adopted over and over again by unionists has been to prevent men belonging to one union joining another or taking up employment usually undertaken by the members of another.
– That is not correct. There is an interchange of tickets among unions.
– That must be very recent. I remind honorable members that as a result of this action by the Government an entirely new union is going to be brought into existence. It will be a union of casual employes under the Government. They will not be tied up by any legal obligations in framing their rules, and if they are as cute as the members of other unions have been, they will safeguard their interests by refusing to receive into their ranks the members of other unions. As a consequence, only those who are members of the “Casual Employes’ Union” will be able to secure employment in the Public Departments. I wonder if that will commend itself to the general body of persons who seek casual employment under the Government from time to time. If there is one thing which has been asserted more loudly than another in this Chamber, it is that the unions will never give up the right to strike. The Government,, ;by Executive act, and not by any process of law, are giving preference to unionists who insist upon retaining as their chief weapon the right to strike. Let us assume that they carry this proposal into practice. A union of casual employe’s is formed ; the Government do something which is unsatisfactory to the members of that union. As a result, they go out on strike. In that strike, either the Government or the casual employes’ union must win. Are my friends opposite in such a case going to support those who are in opposition to the Government in order that they may win? If they do win, the result will be that the Government will be defeated, not by a vote in this House, but in a vital place, and in a way destructive to their existence, and to the whole Constitution under which we are governed as a free people. That may be one of the serious outcomes of the Government proposal. It is a consideration which will lead to the overwhelming defeat of the party opposite at the next general election, because the enormity of it must force itself upon the minds of the electors.
– We will resign now.
– I hope the honorable member .will not do anything desperate. I do not wish him to resign, but, all the same, I should not mind if the general election were to-morrow. The claim that unionists must have the right to strike, and will never give it up, assumes a more dan gerous aspect in view of other actions on the part of individual members of the present Government. During the harvester strike, the Prime Minister appeared on the scene as an arbitrator-
– He never did.
– No; he offered to do so.
– The right honorable member sought to do so; but, when he found that he could not get from one side everything that the other side demanded, he ceased to be an arbitrator, and became a contributor to the strike fund. I do not know whether he was wise in so doing. He contributed a paltry £10 to the strike fund, but I say that in the high position he occupied as Prime Minister he should have contributed at least ^100 if he really supported the strikers, and wished to put himself in line with the men whose wives and children were suffering as the result of the strike.
– Order ! Is the honorable member going to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair?
– I shall have no difficulty in doing that, and will do it in a moment. My point is that the Government, who are responsible for this preference determination, have been lending themselves in a way I think injurious to the best interests of the country, to the section of the people who are to be benefited by- the action they have taken in this matter. I maintain that my argument on that point cannot be gainsaid.
– The honorable member must not follow that line of argument.
– I have no desire to continue on . that line. I have dealt with the various aspects of the matter. The motion receives my warmest support. In every detail it is absolutely justified by the facts surrounding the case. The Government proposal is absolutely against the best interests of the country, and opposed to the welfare of the people. I leave the subject now. It matters not to me what the vote on the motion may be. I know we are bound to be defeated, but the registration of the vote will have a marvellous effect in bringing the electors back to sound reason and common sense when they next have an opportunity of expressing their views through the ballot box.
.- This debate, which is now dragging its weary length to a close, has, up to the present, proceeded upon two distinct and parallel lines. I understand that it is a principle of Euclid that two parallel straight lines, however far they may be produced, can never meet. One line is that which was clearly laid down by the Leader of the Opposition when he cautiously moved this motion, recognising, as he did, the delicate ground upon which he stood. The other line is that which was adopted by a number of his colleagues who have availed themselves of this excellent opportunity to make a general attack upon the principles of unionism.
– Have there not been two parallels upon the other side?
– Yes. There have been those who set themselves the task of replying directly to the matters referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, and those who, like the honorable member for Maranoa, entered into a discussion upon unionism generally, in reply to those in opposition. With other honorable members who have spoken from this side of the chamber, I feel that it is worth while, even at this late hour, to emphasize the fact that we are not being attacked upon any new question of policy, but upon a question of principle which we have asserted from every platform. We are not being assailed upon a policy which we have now promulgated for the first time. Not only have we asserted preference to unionists as a matter of principle, but that principle has been just as consistently used on the public platform by honorable members opposite for the purpose of damaging us politically.
– It has been the policy of Victoria since 1879.
– Consequently, whether we received what the honorable member for Fawkner was pleased to describe in his picturesque way as a “ facer ‘ ‘ on the 26th April last is quite immaterial. If we did receive a “ facer” on that occasion it must be consoling to honorable members opposite to reflect that we did not then advocate preference to unionists in a more, rather than in a less, aggressive way than we did on the 13 th April of last year, when we did not meet with a “ facer.” Therefore, honorable members upon this side of the House cannot be charged with having been guilty of any breach of trust.
– Can the honorable member mention the name of any honorable member opposite who ever suggested on the public platform that public money should be expended in granting a preference to unionists ?
– I must ask the honorable member to allow me to develop my argument in my own way. I paid particular attention to his remarks last evening, because we had a right to suppose that the full strength of the position against the edict issued by the Minister of Home Affairs would be stated by him. I recognise that some honorable members opposite entirely dissociate themselves from the principle of preference to unionists. Some of them make no secret of their hostility to it, and make only a very feeble attempt to conceal their antagonism to unionists generally. Nevertheless, the Opposition as a party is committed to the policy of granting a preference to unionists. I hold in my hand a copy of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act, and upon its forefront I find that one of its objects is, “ To facilitate and encourage the organization of representative bodies of employers and employes, and the submission of industrial disputes to the Court by organizations, and to promote representative bodies of employers and of employes to be declared organizations for the purposes of this Act.” It cannot be too often asserted that there we have the whole body of Australian law relating to industrial matters, with all that is involved in the definition of the term “ industrial matters.” No Australian has a right to appeal to Australian law “upon industrial questions unless he is a unionist. That is my starting point. Consequently I say that preference to unionists is the deliberate policy of this Parliament, and not only of this Government, and that we are now taking up a stand which in its essence is no different from that which was taken up by the honorable member for Maranoa. In the picturesque history which he gave us last night he said that his policy was to “ woodheap “ the man who would not join a union. The whole fabric of Austraiian law is built upon the principle of preference to unionists. We “ woodheap “ non-unionists in another way. It is quite immaterial for the honorable member for Kooyong to declare that many workers stand outside of unions. That is altogether beside the point. The fact is that the policy of this Parliament is to induce those workers to join unions in order that they may obtain the benefits of Australian law. As the honorable member for Flinders truly remarked, we shall not achieve industrial peace or anything approaching it until we get as nearly complete an organization of capital and labour as it is possible to obtain. It may be well for us to recollect that one of the objects which we must attain by that means is the abolition of the strike, strikes being forbidden to those who come under the Act. I know that honorable members upon this side of the chamber are regarded as fomenters of strikes - as persons who encourage them. Yet we are here upholding the policy that our Government is promulgating - a policy by which alone strikes can be rendered impossible.
– We are pledged against strikes.
– Of course we are pledged against them. Naturally we recognise that in applying this principle of law and order the individual in many cases is likely to suffer. Under every law there are bound to be cases of individual hardship. But in this, as in other applications of legislation, we say that the right of the individual mus.t be subordinated to the general well-being. And that is what is being done.
– Is that the honorable member’s justification for the Ministerial action ?
– I am giving my justification as well as I can, but I have not completed it. We say that a condition precedent to the adjustment of claims is the industrial organization of the working and other people who desire to have their claims heard. It simply means disorder giving way to order. In spite of the eloquent speech delivered by the honorable member for Wilmot in support of the cause of disorder, organization must take the place of disorganization, and good rule, straight and honest rule, must supplant anarchy and strife. That is the summing up of our position as I conceive it to be.
– Then the honorable member does not believe in striking when the decision happens to be against the employes ?
– Certainly not. I believe, after all the trouble we have had in erecting a Court of this kind - I believe implicitly, I say - in abiding by the decision of the Court; and I have not heard any honorable member on this side who has advocated anything to the contrary.
– They never denounce those who will not obey an award of the Court.
– Does the right honorable member suppose that it is the duty of a legislator to spend his time or the time of this House in denouncing the utterances of every irresponsible person who may associate himself with our cause? It has been said that by this action of the Government we are making an incursion upon human liberty which is parallel to a discrimination by the Commonwealth in regard to religious matters. That argument was used by the Leader of the Opposition. Is it not sufficient to say that religious discrimination is forbidden on the forefront of the Australian Constitution, whilst, on the other hand, inindustrial discrimination is invited, if indeed it be not insisted upon, by the law of the land? That, it appears to me, is the vital distinction. So much for the general principle of organization and order upon which this policy is built. Now we come to the arena chosen by the Leader of the Opposition in which to fight this battle. He selected that arena with caution and astuteness, realizing the delicate ground upon which he stood - an astuteness and a caution which were not appreciated by honorable members on his own side of the House, who have used this debate for their own purposes. The Leader of the Opposition told us that he had no quarrel with unionism. He cleared the ground at the beginning by saying so much. He cleared the ground further by saying that he had nothing to urge against the principle of preference to unionists. But here, he said, was a revolution in the application of the principle of preference.
– So it is.
– My honorable friend agrees with his leader. Many of his supporters do not. He also said - I regret that I cannot put the point as picturesquely as the Leader of the Opposition did, nor can I put it in the matter of language so succinctly - that while the Court properly has the right to grant preference to unionists with due safeguards and after sufficient inquiry, we here propose to allow gangers and foremen, unknown persons with unknown qualifications, to give preference wherever they may think fit. Here, the honorable /member said., is something given by an administrative act behind the backs of the people and behind the back’ of the Court. My answer to that in a word is this : As a matter of fact and at law, the section of the Act dealing with the grant of preference under circumstances of that kind is a section dealing with an exceptional set of circumstances. It contemplates, indeed, a case where industrial unrest has developed to the point of litigation; and the Judge in industrial matters is, like a Judge in all other cases, bound to hold the scales of justice with mathematical precision between the contending parties. Is it to be argued that a Government which has received a direct mandate from the people as to preference to unionists cannot by the processes of its administration fulfil the command which it has received from the people by giving preference, unless it happens that contending sections or individuals are at each other’s throats? Are the Government not entitled - are they not bound - to apply this principle to an area which is left untouched by the Courts, and may not be touched by them? Is it conceivable that those exceptional cases are the only instances in which the Government is to exercise its undoubted powers, and to perform its undisputed duties? I think not. No honorable member during this debate has shown that the iron of sorrow has entered so deeply into his soul as the honorable member for Wilmot ; and he has said that this policy smacks of Tammany. I liked the expression so much that I took a note of it. “ It smacks,” as has been said in another place, “ of the possibilities of corruption.” Tammany? Corruption? I thought that corruption worked in secret. This Government had power, as any other Government would have power, to do this thing’ secretly. They might have done it without giving cause to the Opposition to challenge them with a no-confidence motion. But this Government said, and said courageously, “This is our policy. It is a policy initiated in the first place by the Leader of the Opposition, indorsed by the Watson Government, put on the statutebook by the Reid Government, and we are not afraid to paint it on the moon, and to make an accomplished fact what you have made a statutory fact.”
– The honorable member is confusing an administrative act with the judicial act.
– I understand the honorable member for Richmond to refer to the fact that the unions of our day are political organizations?
– Oh, no.
– Well, if I did not understand the honorable member to refer to that now, he certainly referred to it last night.
– Certainly I did.
Sitting suspended from i to 2.15 p.m.
– When the sitting was suspended I was endeavouring to show that preference to unionists, as a principle, has been accepted on all sides of the House, and that it remained for the Leader of the Opposition and his supporters to prove that there was some such violation of administrative propriety involved in this recent edict, as it has been sometimes called, as entitled them to challenge the Government. I put the view that the Government, in applying the principle, should not be limited by actual cases in litigation; that is to say, where industrial unrest has come to that stage when parties are at each others’ throats. But granting, in the first place, that the Government has received this mandate from the people, and that it has been given to all parties in the House at one time or another, they are not only entitled, but bound to give expression to the principle in their administration. Therefore, if there has been a revolution, as the Leader of the Opposition expressed it, it is not one which has been perpetrated by the Government within the last week or two, but it is simply the outcome, in a natural, orderly way, of the change in public opinion which first led to the introduction of an Arbitration Bill into this Chamber. I take the view, and I think it is one which cannot be considered too seriously, that if the principle of preference to unionists is good in law, it must be good in fact, and, no matter how wide its application may be, it cannot become vicious if it is good and wise in its essence. It has been said that by the promulgation of this ukase, the Ministry is offering a premium to its own friends and supporters. I would remind the House that not all unionists are pledged politically, and that it is not proposed by any means to give preference to those unionists alone who have chosen to pledge themselves politically. As a side-light on the history of this question, I can say that if all unionists had voted for Labour at the last general election, honorable members on the other side would have had the very doubtful pleasure of seeing me a member oi the House just about ten months before I was returned, and I dare say a few others also. As at the present time it is not a fact that all unionists are Labour supporters, so in the future the tendency will be for them to be less so. Of course, the great body of trade unionists, it may be the great majority of them, vote Labour because we are championing a principle which we believe to be right and the rectitude of which they naturally assert also. But as time goes on, and as the policy of organizing the workers becomes more general, the effect must be that the whale of the workers, when we reach that ideal pointed to by the honorable member for Flinders, will be organized. It will be no exception to be a member of an organization then ; it will be the rule, and the tendency will be for parties to divide on quite other lines. So much I desire to put, and it is all I have to say on the question as laid down by the Leader of the Opposition. He narrowed the debate in the w.ay he submitted his motion,, and, if I may venture to say so, I think that he properly narrowed it, knowing what his own attitude has been in regard to preference to unionists. But much has been said on the other side outside the scope of the motion. One thing which has been said, and often repeated! - and I mention the honorable member for Richmond as one who insisted upon it in his well-reasoned address - was that the unions, as we know them to-day, are essentially political organizations, political engines. My only comment on what the honorable member said is that he has stood there shoulder to shoulder with the honorable member foi Grampians, the honorable member foi Wimmera, and the honorable member foi Echuca as the champion of freedom of action. They have appealed to the British tradition of the right of men, within the law, to act as they please, to enter unions or go out of them at their own sweet will. I ask them on th~at basis how they can justify their attitude in denying to peaceful organizations, the unions, the right of Britishers, if they will put it so, to organize, to use the political engine for securing their industrial rights if they so will.
– But we do not deny it, and I stated so specifically last night.
– The honorable member does not in effect deny their right because he is sufficiently astute to see that that would be inconsistent with his argument in favour of freedom of speech and liberty of action. But he did say yesterday on the floor of the House that one of the essential differences between the principle of unionism as adopted in the Arbitration Act of 1904 and the Act as it stands to-day was that unions may act politically if they please, and still get the benefit of the arbitration law. I desire to know how he can complain of them having that right as free men, if they desire to exercise it in their interests, and conceive that their interests lie in that way. It has been the experience of this House that many of our Acts have been found not to give expression to the will of Parliament or to the will of the people. I do not blame honorable members opposite - far from it, no doubt they did their best - nor do I blame the distinguished lawyers on the other side who were associated with the introduction and passage of those measures and said that they were within the Constitution. I am not with those who, on the platform or elsewhere, attack the profession to which I have the honour to belong. But, since the application of the intentions of Parliament has been limited, no doubt rightly, by the Court, should we further limit it by curtailing the administrative powers of the Government of the day? To those who failed to address themselves to the motion, and attacked unionists and unionism generally, I say that they claim freedom of action, and deny it to those of whom they complain. They insist upon purity of administration, and ask that opportunity may be given to do secretly, and in camera, things which we take the responsibility of doing publicly, as part of our deliberate policy. They pose as the champions of organization and order, but they are trying to prevent the organization of the great body of labour. They have had nothing to say about the coercion of employers ; about the action of the banking corporations, which prevent their employes from entering into matrimony until they are in receipt of a certain salary ; about the despotism of the mining corporations, which insist that their employes, coming tired from work, with clothes bespattered with mud, shall march to the changing house to be searched, lest they should lose a speck of precious metal adhering to their garments. Honorable members opposite have had nothing to say against the action of the Melbourne Tramway Company, which, in defiance of the spirit, if not of the letter, of the law, causes inquiries to be made as to whether a man seeking employment is a unionist, or intends to join a union. The company cannot pillory those of their employes who are unionists, but it endeavours to prevent unionists from getting work. We know what the fate of the motion will be. It rested on the Opposition to prove that the Government had been guilty of some such violent departure from policy as required the exposure of their conduct, but honorable members opposite have failed to show that Ministers have done more than carry out, in a natural and orderly way, the mandate given by the people to them, as well as to the Administrations which preceded them.
.- As honorable members desire a division before 4 o’clock, I shall make my remarks exceedingly brief, and confine them to the statement of my own position. The Leader of the Opposition said that his followers had resolved to confine themselves to the motion, and to reduce their speeches to the minimum. He declared, too, that preference to unionists in its general aspects was not involved in the discussion. Unfortunately, with the exception of the honorable member for Flinders, not one of his followers has done what he said they would do. The debate has arisen out of a paragraph in the Melbourne daily newspapers of the 19th instant, stating that the Prime Minister, after an interview with representatives of the Trades Hall Council, had agreed to give preference to unionists. On the day that the paragraph appeared, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister to define the Government’s policy, and he received a reply which, according to the Age, showed that the Prime Minister had acquired an art which was peculiar to Prime Ministers, and one in which his questioner excelled, that of making long explanations which did not explain anything. Next day the Opposition asked a set of questions, upon notice, to which the Prime Minister gave fairly definite replies, and the subject was discussed at some length on the motion for the adjournment of the House. Next day another question was asked, without notice, but the Prime Minister would not commit himself. Then came the lamentable circular of the Minister of Home Affairs, which was discussed during the grievance debate, on the motion to go into Committee of Supply. During the debate, the Leader of the Opposition asked the Prime Minister if the memorandum of the Minister of Home Affairs had been issued with the consent of his colleagues, and the Prime Minister replied, “ I shall take the matter into consideration.” The Leader of the Opposition said, “ That reply suggests that the matter has not yet been considered by the Govern ment. Under the circumstance*. I hope that it will receive immediate attention.” Next morning the right honorable member for Swan asked if the Government approved and took full responsibility for the memorandum. He was requested to give notice of the question, but later asked the Prime Minister if he could make a statement before the conclusion of the sitting, to which the reply was given that the Government would take the House into its confidence at the earliest possible moment. That reply showed that no definite statement would be made until Tuesday morning, and had not the Opposition been eager to secure a party advantage, it would have waited until then for an explanation of the Government’s position. Instead of doing so, the right honorable member for Swan, for the leader of the party, gave notice of a motion on Friday afternoon, which the Government accepted as one of want of confidence. Since that was done, Ministers have been on’ the defensive. The motion which is now the subject of the debate reads -
That in the opinion of this House the preferences in obtaining and retaining employment recently introduced into his Department by the Minister of ‘Home Affairs are unjust and oppressive
What is the practice? First of all, leaving out the reference to the hours and rate of wages, the Minister’s memorandum runs -
Absolute preference to unionists. Please furnish a list of non-unionists employed.
Then follows a circular from the DirectorGeneral of Works to the departmental officials based on that memorandum -
Please note that the Minister has directed that absolute preference be given to unionists. See that this is given effect to in any future engagement, and in discharging any present men discharge non-unionists first. The Minister desires to be furnished at once with a list of nonunionists employed.
I entirely agree with the remarks made last night by the honorable member for Maranoa, that the circular sent out to the officers was absolutely justified on the Minister’s memorandum. The Minister, however, says that the circular was not justified, and does not say what he meant. The honorable gentleman contends that his memorandum means something different - that, amongst other things, he did not mean the discharge of non-unionists in the public employment at the present time. The Minister’s statement, to me, rather suggests the way in which many of the churches are dealing with some of their standards; for some reason the churches will not repeal those standards, but they pass declaratory Acts affirming that they do not mean what they say. I do pot approve of that practice ; and I cannot understand why the Minister, when he saw that the circular did not carry out his intention, did not withdraw it and issue another stating exactly what he did mean. The Prime Minister has stated that there are various other conditions ; and, by the way, we get some very material details of the conditions in to-day’s newspaper - much more material details than we have ever been given before. But we have practically nothing in writing to vary the memorandum of the Minister of Home Affairs ; and it appears to me that what the Minister says and what he does are very material. He has, on more than one occasion, taken the opportunity to assert that he has as much power in the Government as any single member, and can act on his own responsibility.
– I have never known him to do so !
– He has said so.
– I have never known him to do so !
– The Prime Minister was away when the dispute arose between the Minister of Home Affairs and the AttorneyGeneral, as Acting Prime Minister, with reference to the proposed purchase of land in Sydney. The Minister of Home Affairs, on that occasion, said that the Attorney-General was no more in the Cabinet than he himself, and that he was going to have his own way and refuse to be sat on by the Attorney-General. And when the matter was discussed in the House during the grievance debate the Minister of Home Affairs made use of a very singular remark. When the Leader of the Opposition used the words I have already quoted, suggesting that the matter had not yet been considered, and expressing the hope that, under the circumstances, it would receive immediate attention, the Minister of Home Affairs made this remarkable interjection -
This is absolutely a Home Affairs matter.
That is the reason why I am not at all satisfied in regard to what the Minister proposes to do. Taking the circular as it stands, I have no hesitation in stating that I am utterly opposed to it. I do not think that this memorandum can be defended in any possible way. In regard to preference in Government employment, my views are very much in accord with those which were given voice to last night by the honorable member for Flinders. I am not able to see that preference to unionists in private employment stands on the same footing as preference in Government employment. As has been stated before, the funds out of which Government employes are paid are contributed by everybody alike, and I do not think that at the present stage, in the disposal of those funds, we have any right to say that employment shall be confined to one class only. I quite agree with the remark of the honorable member for Perth that this preference is not going to be exercised to any great extent; in fact, he was the only honorable member opposite who used words conveying the impression that in his opinion this is very much in the nature of a storm in a teapot. The honorable member said he thought that the preference would not affect many, and that it would be exercised in the gentlest possible way. Personally, I think that more is being made of this preference than is really necessary. This motion has no doubt been submitted for party purposes. We know what party politics mean to-day. It is one of the unfortunate effects of the party system that Oppositions - I do not say this Opposition only - are always out more to make capital out of anything the Government of the day may do than to really protest against any particular action of the Government on its merits. Although, as I have said, preference to unionists in its general aspects does not arise in this matter, there is no doubt a great deal to be said for the claim which unionists put forward for preference. That claim has been expressed on more than one occasion. The honorable member for Parramatta, who is now strongly opposed to the Labour party, speaking in 1904, used words which, though they have already been quoted, I shall take the liberty to quote again -
I have no sort of sympathy with the man who will work alongside another man and see that other paying every week of his life into an organization to protect his rights and to maintain his position whilst he himself is skulking and deriving the benefits for which the other is paying and working.
Although those words were uttered seven years ago, we must not forget that the honable member for Parramatta held the same views then as he does to-day. These were not opinions expressed when he was a member of the Labour party ; and, despite his separation from the Labour party, he could not help expressing his sympathy, as I think everybody would, when the claim for preference was put forward. Preference to unionists has been commented upon twice from the Judicial Bench, and the references were quoted by the honorable member for Darling Downs the other evening at the request of an honorable member on this side of the House. As I desire the expressions of opinion to be incorporated in my address, I quote the following from Mr. Justice Higgins in the engine-driver’s case -
Now, there is much force, one must confess, in the position taken by the claimant here, and by Cohen, J., in his judgment in the Trolly and Draymen’s case (1905 Ind. Arb. Rep., N.S.W., pp. 44-45), that the union men have to fight for non-unionists, as well as for themselves, in the efforts to obtain better terms from the employers; that the unionists have to pay subscriptions and levies, sacrifice time and energy, and (not infrequently) their employment ; and that the nonunionists often assist the employer against the unionists in the struggles, and yet come in and enjoy the fruits of the unionists’ exertions and sacrifices. All the union asks is that, where other things are equal, the employer should be ordered to take a unionist in preference. A priori, one would think that, as between two men of equal qualifications, one a unionist and the other a non-unionist, an employer would be inclined, after a struggle in this Court or elsewhere, to employ the non-unionist, as being more docile and helpless, and as not being protected by the award, and that he would be inclined to punish men who have been active for the union.
We see that, even from the Bench, there have been expressions of sympathy with the claims of unionists; and I myself have always a very strong feeling of sympathy when those claims are put forward, and for the same reason. Therefore, I supported, without hesitation, as I should do again, the amendment made in the Conciliation and Arbitration Act last session, striking out many of the restrictions that were embodied in the original Act in connexion with preference. I felt that we were perfectly safe in leaving the matter in the hands of the Judge of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court, and His Honour’s action in the particular case that I have quoted shows that he can be safely trusted to do what is right under the circumstances. I desire to make one reference to the objection which has been raised by members of the Opposition to unions acting for political purposes. Those honorable members contend that unions were prevented by the original Act from entering into political matters. I have not the Act by me, but if honorable members consult it, they will see that some six or seven subjects are excepted from the definition of political purposes, and that unions are allowed to deal with them. These subjects, I think, cover every political question with which a unionist is likely to concern himself; so that it is really a matter of tweedledum and tweedledee. I was greatly impressed with the views uttered last week by the honorable member for Flinders, and referred to last night by him, as well as by the honorable member for Maranoa. I agree with the honorable member in believing that -
Those who look for the establishment of something like industrial peace in the future of this country will find it in some development - a greater development than we have ever yet seen - of organizations both on the part of employers and employes. I think that is likely to be the inevitable course of events ; that, in order to control the improper actions, so far as they are improper, of combinations of capital, as well as of combinations of labour, both will have to be organized in a way that will enable them, not only to properly voice the aggregate opinion of both sides, but will make them both responsible for obedience to the law of the land.
All ‘these organizations of employers and employed will have to be controlled and regulated by law. The Prime Minister himself apparently recognises the necessity of something of the sort, since in his speech on this motion, as well as in a statement appearing in to-day’s newspapers, he declares that one of his demands is that the unions shall afford reasonable facilities for people to join them. That must be one condition, and there must also be amongst many other necessary provisions at least one that a man shall not be expelled from a union unless he has committed some grave offence. It would be greatly to the advantage of industrial peace if the various Parliaments which have jurisdiction in this matter set to work practically to force all parties on both sides info organizations, controlled and regulated by law, and capable of dealing with each other in the various industrial conflicts that arise. When we reach that period, the question of preference to unionists in Government employment can be dealt with on a wholly different footing.
.- I shall not occupy the attention of the House for many minutes, since I know that it is the desire of honorable members to proceed without delay to a division on this question. It seems to me, however, that three standards have been set up for temporary employment in the service of the Commonwealth Government, and that those standards are, to a very large extent, relied upon in dealing with those who seek employment in our public Departments. These are that they shall work under an arbitration award already existing, under a Wages Board decision, or in accordance with trade union rates of pay. I do not think that even the Opposition will take exception to any one of these standards being applied to men who are seeking temporary employment in our public Departments. In every State to-day we have certain standards set up. In every contract for Government works certain labour conditions are imposed, and in many cases it is insisted that trade union rates of pay shall be received by all engaged in carrying out work for a Government Department. In endeavouring to talk to a school like the Opposition, one finds oneself confronted with pupils who, owing largely to the training they have, or have not, had. are rather difficult to deal with. I do not know of any member of the Opposition, save the honorable member for Parramatta, and, perhaps, the honorable member for Perth, who has passed through what is known as the unionist school ; and unless a man has passed through such a school, I am afraid that he approaches a subject like that of preference to unionists lacking that sympathy which is found in the heart of every one who professes unionist principles. A well organized society or community is easily governed, and I contend that trade unions, friendly societies, and like associations, have contributed, and are contributing at the present day, to make the government of the country much easier than it would be in their absence. They certainly inculcate that discipline which is so necessary in every community. The honorable member for Echuca, who referred to the question of discipline, has had some experience, I believe, of unions on one side of our industrial life, and he must know that discipline is rigidly insisted upon in connexion with them. The honorable member says that he is not now a member of the Flour-millers Association, but if he was a member of it at any time, he must know that its rules and regulations are quite as strict and as binding as any ever insisted upon by a trade union. As bearing on this matter, I shall quote from the State Hansard certain information in reference to the rules of the General Carriers and Cartage Contractors Association of Melbourne, and no one will say that that is a union identified or associated in any way with the Trades Hall. Here are two of its rules -
Members must give preference to association members wherever possible when requiring teams to assist them in their work.
Members must also refrain from assisting or employing non-associated carriers who are known to be working adversely to the interests of the association.
Thus, if a horse, being driven by a poor non-association carter, fell down in a public street and broke its leg, no association carrier could come to the owner’s rescue. The Opposition have dilated very considerably on the way in which unionists treat non-unionists ; but here we have a rule under which an associated master carter is prohibited from assisting a non-association carter, no matter how sorry his plight may be.
– But the members of that union are dealing with their own money.
– I am quite aware of that. Here is yet another of the rules of this association -
In the event of members being asked to tender for cartage (such cartage at that time being done by another member of the association), they must refer to the present contractor who must acquaint them with the net rates he intends quoting; they are then at liberty to quote the same rates, but not lower even should such rates be lower than the association rates.
Talk about binding rules - what have the Opposition to say of a rule of this kind -
But if, when asked for a quotation, an immediate answer is required, and there is not time to refer to the existing contractor, then association rates must be given.
Members are at liberty to quote association rates without reference to any existing contractor.
Members are not tied to association rates when competing for business done by a non-associated carrier.
It appears that the rules laid down by the Master Carriers Association are of an exceptionally binding nature.
– It is their own money.
– Why then do members on the other side, particularly those who have gone through the school of unionism, complain when the trade unionist, who has only his union to defend him - for it is only by combination that he can get a fair deal in society as it at present exists-
– Because in this case it is Government money with which the Labour party are playing.
– Then apparently the honorable member for Franklin contends that if the members of the Master Carriers Association are tendering for Government work, they are quite justified by arrangement in attempting to extract as much as they can from the public purse. That is practically the rule laid down by that association, and I presume the honorable member agrees with it.
– I do not.
– -Perhaps the honorable member would like to learn what is done by the Melbourne and Suburban Timber Merchants Association, as he probably has some butter factories in his district, and is interested in fruit-growing. A certain timber merchant made application to join the association, being desirous of widening the area of his business. I shall quote the letter he received, as showing the exclusive unionism that sometimes exists on the employers’ side. Having applied to join the association in terms that were entirely in accord with its rules, he received the following reply -
I beg to advise you that your application for membership to this association came before my committee on Thursday last, when it was decided that it could not be entertained.
The hatters, wharf labourers, and coal lumpers have been characterized as unions that insist on such big entrance fees that there is no possibility of the ordinary individual getting into their ranks, but here we have a case of the employers, when they think they have the field to themselves saying to an individual, “ Vou cannot come into our association.”
– That is a striking instance of it, but I should like those who insist on unionists doing certain things, to preach the gospel in their own camp, and make converts there before they set out to make converts in other areas.
It has been said by honorable members opposite that those who belong to or are likely to join the Free Labourers Union should have the same rights and privileges as members of other unions. Iam glad to know that the membership of that body is very insignificant at present, and that it is not likely to grow ; and I quite agree with those honorable members who have said that this debate has supplied us with the finest possible arguments for platform work to advance the cause of unionism . By whom was the Free Labourers Union conceived, and who had a hand in the framing of the rules at the first meeting called in the Equitable Building, Collinsstreet? One of those who attended that meeting was no less a person than Mr. Blackwood, the president of the Employers Federation of Victoria. The free labourers have, therefore, been given the political stamp of the Employers Federation, and are working in their interests to a considerable extent.
– Mr. Blackwood also belongs to the Pastoralists Union.
– That is true, and he is one of the gentlemen who sat in the room at the Equitable Building, in association with Mr. Packer and others, who formed the Free Labourers Union, and I do not know how far he assisted in drawing up the rules.
It has been claimed that, because we are giving preference to unionists, every unionist throughout Australia is in our political camp. I wish that I could say it was so, but it is not. There are at present no unions associated with the Melbourne Trades Hall. We ask all the unions, by joining the Political Labour Council, to assist in what we call the political side of the Labour movement. Each union has to decide by a majority of its members whether it will take up the political side of the movement or not, but only 50 of the no have joined the Political Labour Council. Therefore, more than half of our unions, so far as Melbourne is concerned, are outside the political Labour movement. Whether their members support the movement individually or not, it is a fact that their unions have not done so, and that they have perfect freedom in exercising their votes. Preference to unionists will mean that many unionists who vote against the Labour party will have equal chance with those who do. I have much pleasure in opposing the motion submitted by the honorable member for Ballarat.
The only member in this Chamber to whom we can look as the mouthpiece of the Government in expressing the Government policy or the policy of the party, on a big plank like this, is the Prime Minister himself. He, in no uncertain terms, has announced to the House, and through the House to the country, that, all things being equal, preference will be given to unionists. He also said most emphatically, in answer to a question, that he did not intend to discharge non-unionists to put unionists in their places. His statement was a fair, straight-out, and manly one, and the Opposition in their criticisms have been simply setting up men of straw and knocking them down again. I hope that, as we are engaged in the work of encouraging those who are helping so materially in the good government of this country, we shall be found, whenever occasion offers, all things being equal, giving employment to unionists in the temporary work of the Government service.
Question - That, in the opinion of this House, the preferences in obtaining and retaining employment recently introduced into this Department by the Minister of 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 Service - put. The House divided.
Majority … … 10
Question so resolved in the negative.
Talk about revenge. He would tell them frankly that revenge was rampant in his heart when he came into that Parliament.
I do not find fault with that as far as it goes, but with the fact that a great deal of what I said has been left out of the Age report. I find from the Hansard proofs of my speech last night that what I really said was -
Talk about revenge, should there not have been a spirit of revenge? I 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.
That the temporary transfer of Mr. Jackson to the Lands Department was made regularly and in the ordinary way.
The Committee also reported -
In the opinion of your. Committee the Minister of Lands was not guilty of the improper conduct charged against him by the Honorable J. H. Graves, M.P., as reported in Hansard of 12th September, 1899, and of 19th September, 1899, in regard to the transfer to the Lands Department on the 19th May, 1896, of J. R. Jackson, and his subsequent retention in that Department.
That was the finding of the Board of which my accuser was a member. I repeat that I treated the charges made against me in the most contemptuous fashion, knowing as I did that the whole thing was trumped up for political purposes only. I merely desire to add that since then I have had the honour of being returned for the Senate on two occasions, and that I occupied a seat in that branch of the Legislature for a period of ten years. At the last general election I polled 214,000 votes, and was defeated by 1,100. Since then I have been returned by an overwhelming majority for Kooyong. These facts indicate the confidence which the people of Victoria repose in me. In addition, I have been twenty-two years in public life, for a considerable part of that time I have occupied the office .of a Minister, and I challenge any man, either in this House or outside of it, to hold up the finger of scorn or reproach at me in regard to any public act. If any man can do that, the resignation of my seat is at his disposal.
The honorable member for Corangamite, who has just resumed his seat, strove to display great indignation because the Leader of the Opposition indicated what is known to everybody - that several of the leaders of the Labour party have been deliberately inciting to violence, and going so far as to incite to murder.
I never want to be a member of a political party which will do anything of that kind, and I felt the honorable member’s remarks most keenly. In regard to the allegations which were made against him, it is true that the Select Committee which was appointed to investigate them did absolve him from all blame. I had intended - but I was prevented from doing so because my remarks would have been out of order - to read to the House the finding of that Committee. My object was to show that if anything was ever done in the direction of putting persons into positions in the Public Service for which they were not qualified, it was done in those days.
Mr. Jackson’s administration of the office made him the laughing stock of the Department. His administration was a source of discontent amongst the officers of the branch.
Mr. Jackson’s administration of the office made him the laughing stock of the Department.
The Committee found -
His administration was a source of discontent amongst the officers of the branch.
The next charge was -
The Department was demoralized.
The Committee found -
The officers of the branch were dissatisfied.
The next charge was -
And Mr. Morkham was appealed to by the senior officers. Mr. Markham said, “ It is so ; you have my sympathy.” All the sympathy they got was his statement.
The Committee found that that was “ correct.” Why did the secretary express his sympathy for the officers if there was not some power over him which prevented him from doing what he would have liked to do?
– The honorable member is exceeding the limits of a personal explanation.
– I was trying to bring out how this matter arose.
– The honorable member will see that if he is permitted to make lengthy quotations from the report, and some other honorable members make further quotations in reply, it is difficult to see where the matter will terminate.
– If you rule, sir, that I am not in order, I shall content myself by quoting one more charge and the answer to it. The charge was -
And that he is not fit for the position which he fills.
The finding was -
He was not fit when placed in the position, but is now said to be fairly efficient.
I will content myself with that. My point was not so much that a charge needed to be made against the honorable member for Kooyong for having been guilty of improper conduct, as to show that in the time to which I was referring inefficiency existed in the Public Service, and that certain influences were brought to bear-
– Disgraceful I
– Of course, it is true that the Committee absolved the honorable member. It appears to me, however, that we on this side can be charged with inciting to murder without such statements being withdrawn, but that when we retort we are doing wrong.
– Does the honorable member know that itwas the Public Service Board that transferred the officer from the General Post Office to the Lands Department, and that I had nothing whatever to do with the matter ?
– The honorable member knows that the Public Service Board was appealed to twice in relation to the transfer of this very officer from the Post and Telegraph Department, and that they turned down the application on two occasions.
– But I knew nothing about that.
– I do not say that the honorable member did ; but I was showing that this kind of thing had been done before the advent of the Labour party to power. Of course, I accept the honorable member’s assurance, because the report of the Committee was in his favour. I accept his statement, also, that there was not a scintilla of foundation for the charges.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
Imperial Conference, London,1911 - Papers laid before the Conference.
Uniform Railway Gauge - Paper by Mr. W. P. Hales, M.Inst.C.E., in regard to Uniform Railway Gauge, also a memorandum by Mr. Henry Deane, M.Inst.C.E., Consulting Railway Engineer.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulation No. 51 Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1911,No.141
Northern Territory Aboriginals Act - Regulations for the Licensing of Persons to Employ Aboriginals.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Auburn, New South Wales - For Commonwealth purposes.
Bulli, New South Wales- For Defence purposes.
Cottesloe, Western Australia- For Rifle Range purposes.
Croydon, New South Wales - For Commonwealth purposes.
Guildford, Western Australia - For Commonwealth purposes.
Public Service Act - Regulation No. 198 Amended - Statutory Rules1911, No. 140.
The Clerk laid upon the table ;
Disasters (oversea) - Money Voted - Return to an Order of the House, dated 19th September,1911.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I desire, if honorable members will bear with me for a moment, to refer to the matter which has just occupied the attention of the House. There is a personal reason, inasmuch as I was a member of the Committee the report of which has been quoted. I wish to read the final clause of the report, which was moved by myself, and carried unanimously by the Committee. If the honorable member for Hunter had read the whole report, he would have found in this paragraph the explanation of the very matters to which he has called attention. The paragraph clearly explains the anomalies which then existed in the Public Service. It says -
Owing to the public necessities of the Colony during the past few years, and the policy of retrenchment which they have required, there has been a paralysis of promotions and an accumulation of anomalies in the service, to remedy which a reclassification board is now concluding its inquiries.
The honorable member for Hunter was apparently of opinion that the anomalies were the fault of a single Minister, whereas the demoralization in some of the branches of all the State Departments is expressly found by the whole Committee to have been caused by the enforced retrenchment and the accumulation of anomalies in consequence. The report proceeds -
These circumstances no doubt largely explain the delay in dealing with the difficulties occasioned by Mr. Clarke’s absence from the Lands Office after December, 1896.
That was one of the principal causes of the whole inquiry.
Nevertheless, your Committee are of opinion that-
Then it went on to distribute the blame -
So that the cardinal facts are that the Minister had nothing whatever to do either with the transfer of the officer to the Department, or with the handling of the complaints against that officer. After the inquiry the responsibility for the blunders was saddled, first upon the retrenchment, next upon the Secretary, and last upon the Public Service Board, and not in any way upon the honorable member for Kooyong.
– Did not Mr. Morkham in his evidence say that the Minister had nothing whatever to do with the matter ?
– Yes. This report is signed by every member of the Committee, including the member who made the original charges.
.- Had I had an opportunity I should have explained in full what the Leader of the Opposition has said. But I desire to point out that there is just as much warrant for associating the honorable member for Kooyong with these charges as the honorable member himself had for associating honorable members on this side of the House with inciting men to murder, with which we had nothing to do. I, for one, repudiate strongly the charges made against my party.
– The honorable member for Hunter has, I think, again done me an injustice. . To the best of my recollection I never made any charge against the Labour party as a party inciting men to murder. What I did was this. I referred to certain things that had been done at the Trades Hall, and I said that a Vice-President of the Trades Hall Council had made a certain statement, which in effect was a justification of acts of violence against non-unionists. I also . said that the Labour party were to blame for not repudiating those statements.
– Did the Employers’ Federation repudiate what Walpole said ?
- Hansard will speak for itself ; but the honorable member is under a wrong impression if he says that
I stated that the Labour party, as a party, had incited to murder and violence. I never made any statement of the kind.
– There was a great deal of that kind of thing throughout the debate. It was a cowardly line of debate.
– I am only responsible for what I said, and what I said I repeat.
– There were half-a-dozen honorable members on this side who repudiated the statement referred to.
– I spoke before the honorable member. I was alluding to allegations made against my leader, and I said that it was useless to wax so indignant about the matter, because one of the leaders of the Trades Hall had himself said so-and-so. I also said that the Labour party was to blame, and would suffer discredit by reason of their not at once repudiating this conduct, and I went on to say that similar language had been incidental to many more of the important strikes.
– My attention has been drawn to the fact that the name of one gentleman has been mentioned in connexion with the proposed Sugar Commission, and I wish to know if thePrime Minister is in a position to make a statement to the House.
– TheGovernment are not yet in a position to announce the personnel of the Royal Commission, and no announcement will be made, either authoritatively or otherwise, until we are ready to give the whole of the names.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 3.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 September 1911, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1911/19110929_reps_4_60/>.